Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Publication: 'The Dominican Way'

I have just finished reading a new book 'The Dominican Way' edited by Lucette Verboven with an introduction by English Dominican Timothy Radcliffe OP. It is published by Continuum, runs to just over 200 pages and is reasonably priced in Ireland at €12.95.

The author is a Flemish writer and film producer and interviewed 17 contemporary Dominicans both male and female about their lives as members of the Order of Preachers. It is a fascinating read, because almost all who are interviewed give an account of their reasons for joining the Order. Some are well known - Timothy Radcliffe, Jean Jacques Perennes, Kim en Joong, Helen Alford - others less so. But it is the contribution of Irish Dominican nun Sr Breda Carroll of the Dominican community at Siena monastery in Drogheda that caught my attention more than most. When asked in the interview for this book what her greatest joy is, she responds 'The joy of being here (in Siena monastery, Drogheda). If I had to start over, I would choose it again. The words that come to my mind are those of Blessed Reginald, quoted by Blessed Jordan of Saxony in his book the Libellus that tells the story of the foundation of the Order. He says that he had no merit because he experienced such joy in the Order. I can identify with those words: I love liturgy, Eucharistic adoration, community life. Living in community which hasn't always been painless, has brought me a great joy because we are basically a united community. I often wonder why God chose me from an insignificant family and an insignificant background to enter a monastery. I can only marvel at God's goodness to me.'

Sr Breda's contribution above in many ways mirrors those other Dominican men and women interviewed for this excellent book. It is a timely reminder for those interested in joining our way of life that there are a thousand reasons for wanting to be a Dominican but there is only one reason why we ultimately stay.

This book will now become essential reading for all new enquirers to the Dominican way of life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Upcoming vocations documentary on BBC television

Readers of this blog, especially those in Ireland and the UK, might like to know of an interesting vocations documentary to be shown on BBC1 on Tuesday next at 22.35.

Entitled Young Nuns, the documentary follows the stories of two women in their mid-twenties who are considering becoming nuns. The producer/director of the piece, Vicky Mitchell, gave an interview recently to The Tablet in which she gives some background and insights to those she interviewed in the making of the programme. She noted that one of the reasons for undertaking the project was because of a study by the National Office for Vocation of the Church in Engalnd and Wales in 2010. That study revealed that a small but significant incresase in the number of women joining contemplative communities. Ms Mitchell states: "I am ashamed to admit that when I started the project I had all sorts of preconceptions about the type of women who would choose to enter a convent, and conversations with colleagues and friends revealed that I was not alone. Most people assumed they would be either women who had led enormously cosseted lives or (and this was by far the most common myth I encountered) that they must be suffering from a broken heart or some other such trauma and looking to somehow escape the world. Both of these stereotypes were well and truly undrmined as soon as I started to meet the women in question."

During her research, the producer spoke to approximately 15 women who were actively discerning a vocation to reigious life. Ms Mitchell says that, without exception, they were all bright, independent, sociable and had great career prospects. Their backgrounds varied significantly - some were cradle Catholics, some were converts. When she asked the women what they were looking for in a community, they explained that, rather than fulfilling a list of their own criteria, it was about working out where God wanted them to be.

Those interviewed admitted that some congregations were more attractive than others. The majority wanted to wear a habit as a sign that procalimed their commitment, and they wanted to be part of communities that had an emphasis on daily community prayer. In trying to discover why women would make this radical choice in 2011, Vicky Mitchell concludes that these women feel called by God to devote their lives to him and that in so doing they will find a deep happiness and fulfillment that transcends all that they have given up.

Vicky Mitchell's interview in the preparation and promotion of the documentary gives me some hope that it will not set out to stereotype entrants and discerners to religious life at this time. I look forward to watching it.

Incidentally, in my eleven years as vocations director, I have been approached by a number of documentary makers who wanted to do something similar to this BBC programme. Unfortunately, religious orders in Ireland found it very difficult to consent to such requests. I am not sure of the reasons but one can speculate that there is a fear in exposure, a fear that religious would be shown in a negative light and an overarching fear that religious would not be able to control the content of the outcomes of such programmes. That is such a pity. I wish a similar type of documentary could be made in Ireland if for no other reaon than to put to bed the lie that those joining religious life and priesthood today are mad!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dominican nuns in Cusco, Peru - solemn profession video

The video above is of the celebration of the solemn professions of two cloistered Dominican nuns in Cusco, Peru. I was taken by the elaborate nature of the ceremony - something that we are not quite used to in our western culture. Also, the music accompanying the video caught my attention - the 'Flower Duet' - appropriate to the video.

Solemn profession in the Dominican tradition is the giving of oneself through the vows of povery, chastity and obedience to God in the following of Saint Dominic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Irish National Vocations Director and team

 Newly appointed National Vocations Director Fr Willie Purcell, Bishop Donal McKeown and Fr Paddy Rushe.
Fr Willie Purcell of the diocese of Ossory has been appointed head of the new 'leadership team' of the National Conference of Dioceasn Vocation Directors in Ireland. He and his team take over from Fr Paddy Rushe (Armagh diocese) who has held this post for the past five years. Fr Willie will be assisted by Fr Eamonn Bourke (Dublin), Fr Ignatius McCormack (Killaloe), Fr Muredach Tuffy (Killala) and Fr Rory Brady (Raphoe).

In wishing Fr Willie and his team all the best in the years ahead, Irish Dominican Vocations would like to pay tribute and offer thanks to Fr Paddy Rushe the outgoing national director. Fr Paddy has done an excellent job in the promotion of vocations during a very difficult period in the life of the Irish Catholic church. His enthusiasm was vital during the Year of Vocation which took place during the middle of his term and the success of that venture is in many ways due to him. He has fostered strong links and deepened the relationship between the dioceasn vocation directors and the religious vocation teams in Ireland. It is fair to say that the Irish church owes him a real debt for his sterling service.

Roscrea Cistercians celebrate solemn profession

 Br Malachy during his profession in the Cistercian monastery Roscrea
In an era when vocations to the contemplative religious orders of men in Ireland are scarce, the news that the Cistercian community at Mount Saint Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Co Tipperary have celebrated their first solemn profession in nine years is heartening.

On Saturday last (October 15th) Br Malachy (Paul) Thompson who is originally from Finglas in Dublin made his final (solemn) profession in the presence of the Cistercian community and his family and friends. A sales manager for twenty years, Br Malachy entered the monastery in 2006 at the age of 41. Speaking after the profession ceremony, he said that despite his good career the question of vocation never left him. 'I battled it for years, but it kept coming back. It was a slow realisation that God was calling me to the monastic life.' Br Malachy's vocation story should give some encouragement to those men in their thirties and forties who feel that they have a vocation to not give up. It is clear that the Lord calls not just the young, but at various stages in life.

Irish Dominican Vocations congratulates Br Malachy and the Cistercian community at Roscrea and prays that more vocations will flow from this commitment.

Vocations 'App' launched by Irish Diocesan Vocation Directors

A new 'vocations app' that can be downloaded to a mobile device such as an Iphone has just been launched. This 'app' which is considered to be the first of its kind was launched yesterday by Bishop Donal McKeown (chair of the Vocations commission of the Irish bishops conference). The app was designed by Fr Patrick Rushe, the outgoing national vocations director and developed by a media company in Dublin. The purpose of the 'app' is to enable access to other social networking sites, to contact details for vocations directors in all the dioceses in Ireland, to test potential candidate's knowledge on vocation, to give answers to many frequently asked questions regarding vocation and to provide a news feed to the parent site of the National Conference of Vocations Directors in Ireland. For more information, click on this link.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, Bishop McKeown said that the 'app' was '...not just a church gimmick that will try to give the impression of modernity to something that is passe, a vain attempt to market something that belongs to yesterday.......but I hope that it will help some little groups of believers to exercise a prophetic role in the footsteps of Jesus who walked in the market place.'

Well done to all concerned! I downloaded the 'app' to my own phone yesterday and it is an excellent resource.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Interview with the Master of the Order - fr Bruno Cadore OP

 Master of the Dominican Order - fr Bruno Cadore OP
Some weeks ago, the Master of the Order fr Bruno Cadore OP gave an extensive radio interview to Radio Veritas. The interview is interesting because fr Bruno gives an insight into his vocation and how he came to be a Dominican and reflects also on the Dominican vocation today. The vocational aspect of the interview is well worth listening to and might resonate with those considering Dominican life at this time. fr Bruno was elected head of the Order just over a year ago at the General Chapter in Rome and will serve a nine year term

Radio Veritas is a Catholic radio station based in South Africa with a significant Dominican influence. You can listen to the interview by clicking the 'play' button in the box below.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dominican nuns in Drogheda offer vocation weekends

Sisters Mairead, Teresa, Kathy and Breda.
The contemplative Dominican nuns at Siena Convent, Drogheda in County Louth are offering the opportunity to women to experience their life, prayer and community living at two scheduled vocation weekends in the near future. The dates are 14th to 16th October 2011 and 11th to 13th November 2011.

These weekends are designed to assist women interested in Dominican contemplative life by means of conferences, opportunities for personal prayer and communal prayer, reflection and the chance to speak about vocational discernment with some of the sisters.

The sisters at Siena convent are the only community of contemplative Dominican women in Ireland. While the main focus of the community is prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, they are also engaged in other activities to assist with the upkeep of the community. The sisters have in the past year had two solemn professions and currently have one novice. For more information on the life and work of the nuns, please visit their website and blog. If you would like to avail of a contact form for these weekends, please click here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Irish Dominican friar is honoured by the Order

 Fr Paul Murray OP
A friar of the Irish province is to be honoured by the Dominican Order with the conferring of the Master of Sacred Theology.

The international website of the Order in announcing the news states that "On September 20th, 2011, the Master of the Order, fr Bruno Cadore, with the unanimous agreement of the General Council, promoted Bro. Paul Brendan Murray OP to Master in Sacred Theology. Bro. Paul belongs to the Irish province.....and is president of the Institute of Spirituality and lecturer in Spritual Theology at the Angelicum in Rome. In his letter announcing the decision, the Master of the Order writes: 'The promotion to STM (Master in sacred Theology) is a simple, family way we have in the Order of saying to one of our brothers who has laboured hard in the theological field "well done good and faithful servant" and a way of encouraging him to continue to do so. Paul Murray is a model for the young generation of how we can make theology really responsive to the big questions arising from the spiritual searching of our contemporary world.'

Irish Dominican Vocations joins in the congratulations to fr Paul on this excellent news. The Irish Dominicans have benefited greatly from his wisdom, fraternity and good humour. In the realm of vocations, I regularly give to enquirers fr Paul's book on Dominican spirituality The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality - A Drink called Happiness (Continuum, 2006) because it is in my opinion one of the best expositions of Dominican spirituality that I have come across.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feast of our Holy Father Saint Francis

October 4th is the feast of Saint Francis Assisi. It is believed that during the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome in 1215 that Saint Francis and Saint Dominic met. Both saints would go on to found a new form of religious life which would be both apostolic and mednicant - the friars. Traditionally members of both Orders call both saints 'Holy Father'.

For hundreds of years, there has also been a custom where the Dominicans invite a Franciscan to preach on the feast of Saint Dominic, and likewise the Franciscans invite a Dominican to preach on this feast-day.

Irish Dominican Vocations joins with the many who would like to wish all Franciscans and members of the Franciscan family every blessing on the feast of our Holy Father. With these best wishes is a prayer for an increase in vocations to the various entities of the Franciscans.