Dominican Joy (with Our Latest Video)!
A young woman recently completed her aspirancy with our community. As she was nearing the end of her month-long stay, one of the sisters asked her, “Has anything surprised you during your time here?” The young woman smiled and exuberantly responded, “You’re all crazy – in a good way! I didn’t expect you to have so much fun!”
She’s not the first to be surprised by our Dominican joy. While Dominicans cannot claim to be the only joyful religious (thanks be to God!), it is something that marks us in a special way, just as it marked Our Holy Father Dominic. Why is this? Christmas and the origins of our Order can give us a few clues.
We are familiar with fairy tales where Prince Charming swoops in and rescues the beautiful maiden from a life of hardship and poverty. But what if the poor maiden was bound to that life in such a way she couldn't just be swept off to the castle? Would Prince Charming set aside his crown and riches, roll up his sleeves and toil and sweat for the love of the maiden? God did, only infinitely more. That first Christmas…after thousands of years of waiting, in the fullness of time, God gave us His Son, born tiny and helpless and poor. God became man. In the midst of our suffering and darkness, God became one of us, one with us, so that we might become one with Him. Our suffering became His suffering. And His joy becomes our joy… His peace, our peace… His love, our love.
Fast forward a little over 1,000 years later to Midi-France. Saint Dominic and his bishop Diego encounter a particular poverty and darkness: the rich seem only interested in their wealth and the poor were suffering immensely with little hope. To make matters worse, a group of people are spreading beliefs which include the teaching that the physical world was created by an evil “god” and that Jesus did not really suffer with us, for us. It seemed to them too unbelievable that God, a good God, would have any part of sin and suffering. There are many consequences to believing this, and here is one: we know the proof of love is the willingness to set oneself aside and endure hardship and suffering for the beloved. If God did not actually become Incarnate, did not actually die on the cross and rise again, but it was all "just a show", where is love? Where is hope and redemption? It was to these suffering poor that Diego and Dominic, and a growing number of others, sought to offer hope and joy of the Good News – God is with us! He is one with us – with our work, our suffering, and He came to give us hope and love.
Like our Holy Father Dominic, we Dominicans are exuberant in rejoicing in this Good News – it is all grace! A free gift of love from God! His answer to our suffering was not to keep His distance, or simply pat us on the head with a slightly patronizing “There, there.” His answer to the deepest suffering, the darkest night of humankind was to become Emmanuel. How can this Good News not cause us to leap up and shout with joy?
But Dominican joy has one more facet – we are compelled to share the reason for our joy with others and to invite, urge them, to share our joy! We must preach, we must proclaim to others this Good News. How we do this varies with our specific vocation – friar, nun, apostolic sister or laity – but do it, we must. And so, in proper time and measure, we fast from the good things of God and mortify ourselves in various ways so as to proclaim that “we do not live by bread alone,” and to make evermore room for Him in our hearts. But when the time comes to feast, there is no celebration like a Dominican celebration!
In honor of Christmas and the reason for our hope and joy, we are delighted to share with you our latest video. The chant, “Verbum Caro” is part of our Vigil Office as we wait and pray in preparation for the Christmas Mass at Midnight.
Merry Christmas and may God bless you throughout the New Year!