martes, 27 de diciembre de 2011

Los SANTOS INOCENTES

De los sermones de san Quodvultdeus, obispo

Nace un niño pequeño, un gran Rey. Los magos son atraídos desde lejos; vienen para adorar al que todavía yace en el pesebre, pero que reina al mismo tiempo en el cielo y en la tierra. Cuando los magos le anuncian que ha nacido un Rey, Herodes se turba, y, para no perder su reino, lo quiere matar; si hubiera creído en él, estaría seguro aquí en la tierra y reinaría sin fin en la otra vida.

¿Qué temes, Herodes, al oír que ha nacido un Rey? Él no ha venido para expulsarte a ti, sino para vencer al Maligno. Pero tú no entiendes estas cosas, y por ello te turbas y te ensañas, y, para que no escape el que buscas, te muestras cruel, dando muerte a tantos niños.

Ni el dolor de las madres que gimen, ni el lamento de los padres por la muerte de sus hijos, ni los quejidos y los gemidos de los niños te hacen desistir de tu propósito. Matas el cuerpo de los niños, porque el temor te ha matado a ti el corazón. Crees que, si consigues tu propósito, podrás vivir mucho tiempo, cuando precisamente quieres matar a la misma Vida.

Pero aquél, fuente de la gracia, pequeño y grande, que yace en el pesebre, aterroriza tu trono; actúa por medio de ti, que ignoras sus designios, y libera las almas de la cautividad del demonio. Ha contado a los hijos de los enemigos en el número de los adoptivos.

Los niños, sin saberlo, mueren por Cristo; los padres hacen duelo por los mártires que mueren. Cristo ha hecho dignos testigos suyos a los que todavía no podían hablar. He aquí de qué manera reina el que ha venido para reinar. He aquí que el liberador concede la libertad, y el salvador la salvación.

Pero tú, Herodes, ignorándolo, te turbas y te ensañas y, mientras te encarnizas con un niño, lo estás enalteciendo y lo ignoras.

¡Oh gran don de la gracia! ¿De quién son los merecimientos para que así triunfen los niños? Todavía no hablan, y ya confiesan a Cristo. Todavía no pueden entablar batalla valiéndose de sus propios miembros, y ya consiguen la palma de la victoria.

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2011

HOY CELEBRAMOS EL NACIMIENTO DE JESÚS CON NOSOTROS


Santo Evangelio según san Juan 1,1-18 

En el principio ya existía la Palabra, y la Palabra estaba junto a Dios, y la Palabra era Dios.
La Palabra en el principio estaba junto a Dios.
Por medio de la Palabra se hizo todo, y sin ella no se hizo nada de todo lo que se ha hecho.
En la Palabra había vida, y la vida era la luz de los hombres.
La luz brilla en la tiniebla, y la tiniebla no la recibió.
Surgió un hombre enviado por Dios, que se llamaba Juan: éste venia como testigo, para dar testimonio de la luz, para que por él todos creyeran.
No era él la luz, sino testigo de la luz.
La Palabra era la luz verdadera, que alumbra a todo hombre.
Al mundo vino, y en el mundo estaba; el mundo se hizo por medio de ella, y el mundo no la conoció.
Vino a su casa, y los suyos no la recibieron.
Pero a cuantos la recibieron, les da poder para ser hijos de Dios, si creen en su nombre.
Éstos no han nacido de sangre, ni de amor carnal, ni de amor humano, sino de Dios.
Y la Palabra se hizo carne y habitó entre nosotros, y hemos contemplado su gloria, gloria propia del Hijo único del Padre, lleno de gracia y de verdad.
Juan da testimonio de él, y grita diciendo:
«Éste es de quien dije: "El que viene detrás de mí es superior a mí, porque existía antes que yo"».
Pues de su plenitud todos hemos recibido gracia tras gracia.
Porque la Ley se dio por medio de Moisés, la gracia y la verdad vinieron por medio de Jesucristo.
A Dios nadie lo ha visto jamás: el Hijo único, que está en el seno del Padre, es quien lo ha dado a conocer.

miércoles, 21 de diciembre de 2011

IV Domingo de Adviento

Santo Evangelio según san Lucas 1, 26-38 



En aquel tiempo, el ángel Gabriel fue enviado por Dios a una ciudad de Galilea llamada Nazaret, a una virgen desposada con un hombre llamado José, de la estirpe de David; la virgen se llamaba María.
El ángel, entrando en su presencia, dijo;
-«Alégrate, llena de gracia, el Señor está contigo».
Ella se turbó ante estas palabras y se preguntaba qué saludo era aquél.
El ángel le dijo:
-«No temas, María, porque has encontrado gracia ante Dios. Concebirás en tu vientre y darás a luz un hijo, y le pondrás por nombre Jesús. Será grande, se llamará hijo del Altísimo, el Señor Dios le dará el trono de David, su padre, reinará sobre la descendencia de Jacob para siempre, y su reino no tendrá fin».
Y María dijo al ángel:
-«¿Cómo será eso, pues no conozco a varón?».
El ángel le contestó:
-«El Espíritu Santo vendrá sobre tí, y la fuerza del Altísimo te cubrirá con su sombra; por eso el Santo que va a nacer se llamará Hijo de Dios.
Ahí tienes a tu parienta Isabel, que, a pesar de su vejez, ha concebido un hijo, y ya está de seis meses la que llamaban estéril, porque para Dios nada hay imposible».
María contestó:
-«Aquí está la esclava del Señor; hágase en mí según tu palabra».
Y la dejó el ángel.

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2011

COMUNICADO DEL PRIOR PROVINCIAL APOYANDO A LOS FRAILES EN CHIMBOTE Y A LOS TRABAJADORES DE RSD

COMUNICADO

El Prior Provincial, Fr. Juan José Salaverry Villarreal, OP, y los frailes de la Provincia Dominicana de San Juan Bautista del Perú, manifiestan públicamente su respaldo a los hermanos que laboran en Radio Santo Domingo de Chimbote  frente a la agresión sufrida por las declaraciones del Presidente de la Región Ancash, Sr. César Álvarez Aguilar.

Somos conocedores de la  vida religiosa de los hermanos que conforman actualmente nuestra Comunidad en Chimbote, del actual Director de Radio Santo Domingo y de los que han ocupado dicho oficio en estos últimos años. Por ello, la declaración calumniosa sobre la vida moral de nuestros hermanos nos resulta inaceptable. De la misma manera que no aceptamos las opiniones vertidas sobre Mons. Luis Bambarén, Mons. Ángel Simón y el clero de la Diócesis de Chimbote.

Desde que los frailes dominicos se hicieron cargo de la señal de Radio Santo Domingo, en el año 2003, no han dejado de mantener informado al pueblo de la Región del Santa sobre los principales sucesos de la realidad local, haciéndolo con veracidad, objetividad y con el único ánimo de favorecer al pueblo para que conociendo sus derechos pueda manifestar su voz gracias a las ondas de nuestra emisora.

La labor de nuestros frailes en Chimbote, es histórica (1962) y siempre ha sido testimonio de entrega generosa y de predicación auténtica de la verdad, desde las misiones en la tierra chimbotana el trabajo con la familia, la Justicia social, los medios de comunicación social, el trabajo en la educación especial, las Parroquias, cooperativas, desde el inicio de la Prelatura, hoy Diócesis de Chimbote, el trabajo con los pescadores en el puerto, desde el púlpito de la Iglesia hasta los micrófonos de nuestra emisora, llegando a los hermanos del campo y de la sierra ancashina. Por ello, no podemos permitir que el trabajo de tantos años sea descalificado por unas declaraciones infundadas que manchan la honra de la Iglesia, de la Orden de Predicadores y de nuestros hermanos de hábito.

La trasmisión de la verdad es uno de los fundamentos de nuestro carisma dominicano y   muchas veces esto puede disgustar a algunos, pero no da el derecho para agredir e insultar de la manera tan baja con el propósito de hacer silenciar a un medio de comunicación.
Volvemos a reiterar nuestro apoyo a los hermanos dominicos en Chimbote, a los periodistas y trabajadores de Radio Santo Domingo, al trabajo Parroquial en San Pedro, al Obispo de la diócesis y a todos los sacerdotes que conforman el clero diocesano.

¡UNIDOS EN NUESTRO PADRE SANTO DOMINGO POR LA VERDAD Y LA JUSTICIA!


Fr. Juan José Salaverry Villarreal, OP
Prior Provincial

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2011

Vivimos en una cultura que...

 A DÓNDE IR
Vivimos en una cultura que se caracteriza de manera muy particular, por la decadencia de valores morales; donde el “consumismo” y el “egocentrismo” son cada vez más los pilares de la juventud y, por supuesto, la rebeldía como algo infaltable; entre ellos encontramos a la mayoría de los jóvenes que son rebeldes sin causa, ya que se centran en exigir sus derechos y se olvidan de sus obligaciones.
Como consecuencia  de todo esto el mal uso de su libertad;  pasando a un segundo plano la libertad verdadera que ofrece Jesucristo: “…conoceréis la Verdad y la Verdad os hará libres” (Jn.8, 32.33); de este modo, la libertad que nos ofrece Jesucristo se convertirá en libertinaje.
Como producto de este libertinaje encontramos a jóvenes despistados sin rumbo alguno, malgastando sus valiosas etapas de su vida, sumergiéndose en el mundo de las drogas, alcoholismo, sexo, etc. Mi pregunta es, ¿que tipo de personas serán mas adelante? Es algo lamentable el solo hecho de pensar, pero también cabe resaltar que muchos jóvenes saben escoger entre lo bueno y lo malo, a pesar de que vivimos en una cultura Light, y el “facilismo”: donde todos quieren engañar y nadie quiere ser engañado.
Pues es una alegría que no se dejen arrasar por todo lo malo, aunque el resto los consideren como personas que no están con la nueva era, les ven como bichos raros. Alegraos pues porque esos pocos son los verdaderos sabios y los verdaderos herederos del cielo, porque saben lo que eligen y aman lo que hacen,  porque hasta el Hijo de Dios fue considerado como loco por decir la Verdad. Jesús tenía razón en afirmar: “ancha es la puerta y espaciosa la senda que lleva a la perdición y son muchos los que por ella entran. Qué estrecha es la puerta y qué angosta la senda que lleva  a la vida y cuán pocos los que dan por ella”. Y como elección de lo bueno nos da la recompensa, en las bienaventuranzas, que son un LLAMADO hacia la perfección, y a la ESPERANZA  para quienes lo cumplen; ya que la esperanza es la hija de la fe y la caridad es la hija de la esperanza.
Estos pocos son los verdaderos rebeldes porque hacen lo que más les cuesta hacer y dejan de hacer lo que más les gusta hacer (satisfacer sus necesidades pasajeras).
Entre ellos hay un grupo muy reducido, que es escogido de manera muy especial por Dios, para entregar sus vidas por completo al servicio de su amado.
El llamado que sentimos los jóvenes en lo más recóndito de nuestro ser, para seguir a alguien que te pide que seas cada día mejor y que busques la perfección de alguna u otra manera y que tu amor no quede redundado entre Dios y tu, sino que sea fruto para dar a los que no tienen y no conocen a Dios, ósea nos llama para ser sus mensajeros entre Él y los  hombres; un claro ejemplo: tenemos a santo Domingo que nos dice “contemplata allis traedare”.
Teóricamente esto suena interesante y decimos esto es mío, es lo que estuve buscando. Y ese fuego pequeño que arde dentro de nosotros se hace aún más grande y nos impulsa a cambiar de dirección, y nos abrimos un nuevo horizonte donde apreciamos el lugar endémico que tanto anhelamos llegar; de inmediato con el impulso del Espíritu Santo, remamos mar adentro en busca de nuestro tesoro.
Pero al momento de partir sentimos el primer golpe de la elección, ya que tenemos que abandonar todo, así se repite la historia del joven rico que le pregunta a Jesús. “…Maestro bueno que he de hacer para alcanzar la vida eterna…” (Mc 10,17). Preguntándole y escuchando su repuesta le dice: “una cosa te falta, vete vende cuanto tienes y dalo a los pobres y tendrás un tesoro en el cielo, luego VEN Y SIGUEME”.
Así como el joven muchos no quieren desprenderse de sus bienes, de sus planes y de sus hogares,  prefieren quedarse en la orilla.
Pero somos muy pocos los que subimos a la barca a pesar de que nos duela abandonar lo que tenemos, y en muchas ocasiones ni siquiera aceptan nuestros padres; pero Jesús dijo “el quien quiera venir en pos de mi, niéguese así mismo tome su cruz y sígame”. (Mt. 16,14). Fieles a la invitación que Dios nos hace nos abalanzamos.
Los que logramos subir a la barca tenemos una peculiar característica de que de inmediato queremos remar mar adentro, queremos avanzar lo mas rápido posible ya que queremos experimentar de pleno la misión que Dios no llamo. Sin darnos cuenta de que hasta Jesucristo siendo Hijo de Dios, avanzó pacientemente hasta llegar a una edad madura para dar a conocer el reino de su padre y al mismo tiempo hacerse conocer como Dios. Con esto no quiero negar la divinidad de Jesucristo dividiéndolo en etapas, porque en el evangelista San Lucas nos cuenta, que Jesús cuando tenia 12 años, sus padres le llevaron a Jerusalén en la fiesta de pascua, acabada la fiesta sus padres pensando que estaba en la caravana, se fueron buscando y preguntando a sus familiares, luego de buscar desesperadamente volviera a Jerusalén, después de 3 días le hallaron en el templo en medio de los doctores, oyéndolos y preguntándoles (Lc 2,40.47), solo quiero mostrar que Jesucristo fue tan humano como nosotros y verdaderamente Dios. Pues no solo bastó que llegara a una edad adulta, sino que para iniciar con su vida pública se internó durante 40 días en el desierto. (Lc4, 1.13).para demostrarle a su padre de que nadie podía desviarle de su misión.
El echo de ponernos una venda por las ansias de ser ya (sacerdotes o monjas), no nos permitió ver que en el barco había más personas, de alguna manera nos alegramos porque vamos a tener compañía en nuestro viaje, y tendemos a tratarnos como héroes que sobrevivimos y nos esforzamos en llevarnos bien, hacernos amigos de todos y pasarlo todo chévere, todo lo vemos como bueno, pese a que este mal, como no queremos discusiones lo tomamos como bueno, nos convertimos en avestruces que metemos la cabeza debajo de la tierra, pero también hay los leones que se creen los reyes aprovechándose de la inautenticidad del otro que no le dice nada.
Y sin que nos demos cuenta de que el volcán que supuestamente lo dejamos en la orilla esta apunto de estallar; en realidad lo que hicimos fue hacerle dormir, y ahora se va despertando con cada golpe que recibimos, y los rencores que estuvimos guardando dentro de nosotros.
Seguramente no escuchamos algo muy importante, en la invitación que Jesús nos hizo. “…toma tu cruz y sígueme”. (Mt. 16,24.25). Lo que escuchamos solo fue SIGUEME. A consecuencia de esto he escuchado decir a muchos que mi vida va cambiar estando acá en el convento, voy a ser distinto-a; esto es el error mas grande, por que el ser humano no cambia, puede mejorar, menos puede desaparecer nuestro pasado, porque en nuestro pasado se encuentra el proceso de nuestra formación como personas que somos, que nos hace distinto de los demás. Así como la cebolla, cuanto más grande es,  tiene más capas; es casi similar con los hombres, sus años vividos lo han moldeado, por eso cada cicatriz es parte de nosotros y parte de nuestro pasado, que viene a ser un  misterio para los demás. Nuestra vida es una constante superación de nuestro pasado.
Si nos damos cuenta nuestro barco está a punto de explotar, por que va cargado de volcanes activos, a esto lo llamo bomba de tiempo.
Uno de los principales motivos para que nuestro barco se convierta en bomba de tiempo es que nosotros los tripulantes, no nos hemos dado a conocer tal y como somos. Ya que nuestra relación es a través  de máscaras idealizadas de nuestro yo real, y por el mismo hecho de que nunca hay  verdadera comunicación y, si lo hay, es una comunicación comprometida, con la finalidad de no caerle mal, de esa manera nos engañamos más y sobre todo que  hemos cambiado, y nos convertimos en víctimas de los que se aprovechan; creyéndonos santos o mártires.
Acá viene a tallar un aspecto muy importante, que los problemas o defectos que vemos en nuestros hermanos, muchas veces es el reflejo de nuestros propios problemas.
Esto se da a conocer en nuestras relaciones diarias, por el mismo hecho de que vivimos en un ambiente casi público, donde todo es de todos sin ser de nadie; donde existen personalidades, culturas, caracteres, distintos; sobre todo, porque cada uno de nosotros, somos personas con diferentes personalidades y muchas veces preconcebidas  con las que siempre solemos relacionarnos, y estando acá encontramos personas distintas a nuestra concepción mental y, a de primera vista, nos ponemos en el camino,  una barrera que dificulta las relaciones.
Por lo tanto es necesario ser auténticos, mostrarnos con nuestras dificultades y nuestros talentos. Y la única manera eficaz de encontrar nuestras dificultades y nuestros talentos, es navegando hacia nuestro mundo interior.
A muchos de nosotros nos da miedo enfrentarnos a nosotros mismos, nos da miedo destapar la caja de nuestro pasado, solamente, así podremos descubrir en realidad quiénes somos y en realidad qué es lo que buscamos.
 Es necesario crecer bebiendo del pozo de nuestro pasado, para conocernos y darnos a conocer tal y como somos, y ser un verdadero instrumento de Dios; un claro ej: tenemos el proceso de desarrollo de los árboles; ya que desde el momento en que es plantado en la tierra, lo primero que desarrolla son las raíces, que penetran a lo más profundo de la tierra, en busca de aguas subterráneas para que no se muera en tiempo de sequía, y en la medida que las raíces están creciendo, se va desarrollando como árbol, adquiriendo tallos, hojas y así se convertirá en un árbol frondoso y en el hogar de la aves.
Antes de empezar a remar mar adentro, es necesario reparar nuestro barco personal y el barco comunitario.
Hijo  mío,  si te das al servicio de Dios, prepara tu ánimo a la tentación. Ten recto el corazón y muéstrate firme, y no te dejes arrastrar al tiempo de la adversidad. Adhiérete a Él y no te separes, para que tengas buen éxito en tus postrimerías.
Recibe todo lo que te sobrevenga, y ten buen ánimo en las vicisitudes de tu humillación. Pues el oro se prueba en el fuego, y los hombres gratos a Dios, en el crisol de la humillación. Confíate a Él y te acogerá, endereza tu camino y espera en Él (Ecl. 2.6).


sábado, 26 de noviembre de 2011

QUIERO INVITARTE A FORMAR PARTE DE LA VIDA DOMINICANA


FORMA PARTE DE NOSOTROS, VIVIENDO EN COMUNIDAD, ORACIÓN Y ESTUDIO

CONDICIONES DEL PREDICADOR: LA ESCUCHA Y LA COMPASIÓN

CONDICIONES DEL PREDICADOR: LA ESCUCHA Y LA COMPASIÓN

¿Cuáles son las condiciones de un buen predicador? Y ¿Qué debemos predicar?
Para predicar, más importante que la boca, son las “orejas” y el “corazón”. Predicar no es posible, además, sin compasión y empatía. Si recordamos la famosa leyenda de la conversación durante una noche de Santo Domingo con el hospedero, su actitud no fue hablar, sino escuchar en forma “compasiva”. Es importante rescatar los valores comunes desde la diversidad.
Lo que tenemos que predicar primero que nada, es la gracia de Dios, el amor de Dios, la dignidad de una persona única, la libertad de todas formas de esclavitud y la compasión de Dios.
PREDICANDO LA ESCUCHA Y COMPASIÓN
No hay que confundir entre COMPASIÓN y LÁSTIMA
La compasión de Jesús estaba profundamente marcada por las miserias, los dolores y las carencias del ser humano, nos parece totalmente lógica porque sabemos de su inmenso amor hacia nosotros.
Entre compasión y lástima hay todo un abismo de sentimientos y de actitudes, es mucho más fácil el sentir lástima que compasión, porque cuando sentimos compasión, podemos ponernos en los zapatos de la otra persona y experimentar lo que siente, podemos empatizar (meterse en el pellejo de, ponerse en el caso de, sentir empatía, sentir empatía por) con ellos, comprenderlos y por lo mismo, estos sentimientos nos llevan a la acción, al deseo de hacer algo por aliviar ese dolor. La compasión nace de nuestro espíritu y nos motiva a dar lo mejor de nosotros para aliviar al que sufre.
En cambio lástima, es simplemente una emoción momentánea, nace y muere mientras dura el impacto de la emoción, es pasiva, no busca soluciones y en forma inconsciente descalifica y rebaja a quien provoca la lástima, lo hace sentir inferior y el ser humano lo percibe, es conocida la frase “no quiero que me tangan lástima”.
La compasión de Jesús y la que deberíamos tener nosotros es esa preocupación por comprender y por ayudar a solucionar los problemas de los otros como un verdadero gesto de fraternidad empatía y de amor, porque sin duda que “conocer a nuestros hermanos, en desgracia, entender sus problemas y aprender a amarlos es una de las experiencias supremas de la vida”.
Jesús introduce en medio de esta sociedad una alternativa que lo transforma todo: “Sed compasivos como vuestro Padre es compasivo” (Lucas 6, 30). Es la compasión de Dios y no la santidad el principio o el “ethos” (ética…proviene del griego ethos, que significa análogamente “modo de ser” o “carácter” en cuanto forma de vida también adquirida o conquistada por el hombre. Así originariamente ethos y mos, “carácter” y “costumbre”, hacen hincapié en un modo de conducta que no responde a una disposición natural, sino que es adquirido o conquistado por hábito) que ha de inspirar la actuación humana. Jesús no niega la santidad de Dios, pero lo que cualifica esa santidad no es la separación de lo impuro, el rechazo de lo santo. Dios es santo y grande no porque rechaza y excluye a los paganos, pecadores o impuros, sino porque ama sin excluir a nadie de su compasión. Por eso, la compasión no es, para Jesús, una virtud más, sino la única manera de ser como Dios. El único modo de mirar el mundo, de sentir a las personas y de reaccionar ante el ser humano de manera sana, como Dios.
Esta compasión no es un mero sentimiento sino un principio de acción que desafía los esquemas de actuación convencionales. Consiste en interiorizar y hacer nuestro el sufrimiento del otro para reaccionar y hacer por él todo lo que podamos. Jesús lo sugirió de manera provocativa en la parábola del buen samaritano (Lucas 10, 30 -36). Jesús habla de un hombre asaltado y abandonado medio muerto en el borde de la acera, de un camino solitario. Afortunadamente, por el camino aparecen dos viajeros: un sacerdote y un levita. Vienen del templo, después de realizar su servicio cultual. El herido los ve llegar esperanzado: son de su propio pueblo; representan al Dios del Templo; sin duda, tendrán compasión. No es así. Los dos dieron un rodeo y pasaron de largo. Por el camino aparece un tercero.
No es sacerdote ni levita. Ni siquiera pertenece al pueblo elegido. Es un odiado samaritano, miembro de un pueblo enemigo. El herido lo ve llegar atemorizado. Se puede esperar lo peor. Sin embargo, el samaritano “tuvo compasión”, se acercó al herido e hizo por él todo lo que pudo hasta salvarlo (Jesús utiliza el mismo término para describir la acogida del padre del hijo prodigo y la actuación del samaritano  “se conmovió”). La parábola rompía todos los esquemas y clasificaciones entre amigos y enemigos, entre pueblo elegido y gentes extrañas e impuras ¿Será verdad que la compasión nos puede llegar, no del Templo ni de los canales religiosos oficiales, sino de un enemigo proverbial? Jesús miraba la vida desde el borde de la acera, de la zanja, con los ojos de las víctimas necesitadas de ayuda. No había duda. Para Jesús, la mejor metáfora de Dios era la compasión con los heridos. Y la única manera de ser como Dios y actuar de manera humana era actuar como aquel samaritano. La parábola de Jesús introducía un vuelco total. Los representantes del Templo pasan de largo junto al herido. El odiado enemigo es el salvador. Con la compasión caen las barreras. Hasta un enemigo tradicional, renegado por todos, puede ser canal de la compasión de Dios. ¿Habrá que olvidar prejuicios y enemistades seculares, los odios y sectarismos? ¿Habrá que reordenado todo desde la compasión?
Una última parábola en la que no es fácil llegar hasta el relato original de Jesús, nos permite captar la revolución que introduce en la historia (Mateo 25, 31 - 6. Se la llama tradicionalmente la parábola del «juicio final» o «las ovejas y cabras separadas por el pastor).
La parábola es en realidad una descripción grandiosa del juicio de todas las naciones (ante el rey y pastor comparece «la asamblea de las naciones»). Allí están gentes de todas las razas y pueblos, de todas las culturas y religiones, generaciones de todos los tiempos. Se va a escuchar el veredicto final que lo esclarecerá todo. Dos grupos van emergiendo de aquella muchedumbre. Unos son llamados a recibir la bendición de Dios para heredar su reino; a otros se les invita a apartarse. Cada grupo se dirige hacia el lugar que ellos mismos han escogido. Unos han reaccionado con compasión ante los necesitados; otros han vivido indiferentes a su sufrimiento. Lo va a decidir su suerte no es religión ni su piedad. No han actuado por motivos religiosos. Sencillamente, unos han vivido movidos por la compasión, otros no.
En la parábola se habla de seis situaciones de necesidades básicas. No son casos irreales, sino situaciones que se conocen en todos los pueblos de todos los tiempos. En todas partes hay hambrientos y sedientos; hay inmigrantes y desnudos; enfermos y encarcelados. No se habla de grandes como “justicia” o “solidaridad”, sino de comida, de ropa, de algo de beber, de un techo para resguardarse. No se habla tampoco de “amor” sino de cosas tan concretas como “dar”, “acoger”, “visitar”, “acudir”. Lo decisivo no es la teoría, sino la compasión que lleva a ayudar al otro cuando está necesitado. El verdadero progreso, la salvación de la humanidad está en atender a los desgraciados del mundo. Su perdición, por el contrario, en la indiferencia ante el sufrimiento. El mensaje proclamado y vivido por Jesús hasta el final fue este: “Sed compasivos como vuestro Padre del cielo”.
La compasión como principio de actuación:
Jesús no habla nunca de un Dios “indiferente” o lejano, descomprometido de la vida de los humanos o interesado sólo por su honor, su gloria o sus derechos. En el centro de su experiencia no encontramos la imagen de un Dios “legislador” intentando gobernar el mundo por medio de leyes, al tiempo que amenaza a sus criaturas con castigos terribles o trata de seducirlas con premios maravillosos. Tampoco experimenta a Dios como un ser “justiciero” irritado o airado ante nuestros pecados.
Para Jesús, Dios es compasión; “entrañas”, dirá él, “rahamim” (regazo materno). Es su imagen preferida (el término sugiere diversos matices: “dar vida”, “alimentar”, “cuidar”). La compasión es el modo de ser de Dios, su primera reacción ante sus hijos e hijas, su principio de actuación (obrar). Dios siente hacia sus criaturas lo que una madre siente hacia el hijo que lleva en su vientre. Dios nos lleva en sus entrañas. Las parábolas más bellas y conmovedoras que salieron de labios de Jesús y sin duda las que más trabajó en su corazón fueron las que narró para hacer intuir a todos la increíble misericordia de Dios (empleo indistintamente los términos de “misericordia” o “compasión”. En general, prefiero hablar de “compasión” pues sugiere mayor cercanía. “Tener misericordia” puede hacer pensar en una relación que establece con quien está más abajo). Esta experiencia de un Dios compasivo fue el punto de partida de toda la actuación revolucionaria de Jesús y le condujo a introducir en la historia de un nuevo principio de actuación: la compasión.
Compasión
La compasión es parte de vuestra misión, que perpetúa el carisma de Domingo “para con los pecadores, los pobres y los afligidos, llevándolos en el sagrario íntimo de su compasión” (LCM 35 § I). El Dios de Domingo es un Dios de misericordia. Compasión significa ir liberándose de esa dureza de corazón que se manifiesta en el juicio sobre los otros, despojarse de la armadura que mantiene a los demás a raya, aprender la vulnerabilidad ante el dolor y desorientación del otro, escuchar su grito de ayuda. Esto lo aprendemos ante todo en nuestras comunidades. ¿Nos atrevemos a conmovernos por el sufrimiento de la hermana que está a nuestro lado? ¿Osamos arriesgarnos a oír sus peticiones de ayuda a medio expresar? Si no, ¿cómo podemos encarnar la compasión de Domingo por el mundo?
Compasión es más que un sentimiento, es abrir los ojos para ver a Cristo entre nosotros todavía sufriente, como Las Casas vio a Cristo crucificado en los indios de La Española. Es una educación del corazón y de los ojos lo que nos hace estar atentos al Señor que está con nosotros en los agobiados y heridos. La compasión es, así, verdaderamente contemplativa, clarividencia. Como dice Borgman, “Conmoverse e impresionarse ante lo que sucede a la gente y lo que esto significa para ellos es un modo de percibir la presencia de Dios. Compasión es contemplación en el sentido dominicano” Compasión contemplativa es aprender a mirar a los otros desinteresadamente. De este modo está profundamente unida con la pasión por un mundo justo. El compromiso de la Orden con la justicia se queda fácilmente en ideológico si no nace de la compasión contemplativa. “Una sociedad que no entiende la contemplación no entenderá la justicia, porque habrá olvidado cómo mirar al otro desinteresadamente. Se refugiará en generalidades, prejuicios, clichés egoístas”.
La compasión nos lleva más allá de nuestras propias divisiones. El monasterio de Rweza en Burundi está rodeado por la guerra. Las hermanas proceden de diferentes grupos étnicos que están en lucha, y todas han perdido miembros de su familia. Cuando se las preguntó qué es lo que las mantenía unidas, dijeron que la unidad es un don de Dios que nunca podrían agradecer suficientemente. También dijeron que escuchan juntas las noticias por la radio, por más que sea doloroso. El compartir ese dolor las hace uno.
Por consiguiente, la compasión implica un conocimiento de las necesidades de la Orden y del mundo. He visto que en los monasterios florecientes hay a veces un deseo de saber de la Orden y de sus necesidades, lo mismo que Diana importunaba a Jordán pidiéndole noticias de sus misiones. “¿Para qué quieres que recemos?”. Existe una sed de entender lo que sucede en lugares de guerra, tales como Argelia o Ruanda. Por eso el monasterio necesita tener acceso a la información y a un análisis real, más bien que a noticias que simplemente entretienen, para que podáis llevar a Dios las necesidades del mundo.
Oración
La compasión se desborda en oración. Los primeros frailes siempre estaban pidiendo a las monjas que rezasen por ellos porque tenían poco tiempo. Raimundo de Peñafort se quejaba a la priora de Bolonia de que estaba tan absorbido por los trabajos de la corte papal que “a duras penas soy capaz de alcanzar o, para ser del todo honrado, incluso de ver desde lejos la tranquilidad de la contemplación… Por eso es una gran alegría y un enorme consuelo saber que me siento ayudado por vuestras oraciones”. Jordán escribe a Diana: “Reza por mí con frecuencia y con fidelidad al Señor, pues lo necesito más que nunca a causa de mis muchos defectos, pues raramente rezo”.
Esto podría dar la impresión de que los frailes y las monjas están empeñados en dos actividades totalmente diferentes, los frailes en la predicación y las monjas en la oración, lo mismo que en una casa la esposa puede hacer la comida y luego dejar al marido que friegue los platos, ¡si tiene suerte! Pero en la predicación compartimos la palabra que se nos da. Por ello orar esa palabra es parte del acto de la predicación. No precede simplemente a la predicación, como el cocinar precede al fregado de los platos. Es parte de la venida de la Palabra, y por eso las monjas están muy íntimamente envueltas en el acto de la predicación. “La misión de las monjas consiste en buscarle en el silencio, pensar en Él e invocarlo, de tal manera que la palabra que sale de la boca de Dios no vuelva a él vacía, sino que prospere en aquellos a quienes ha sido enviada” (LCM Fund. I § 2). Para Jordán son las oraciones de Diana y de su comunidad las que hacen su predicación poderosa y las que atraen una riada de vocaciones.
Para Santo Tomás de Aquino la forma más típica de oración es la intercesión y la acción de gracias. Pedimos a Dios lo que necesitamos y le agradecemos cuando se nos concede. Esto puede sugerir un modo infantil de estar en el mundo, como si fuésemos incapaces de hacer nada por nosotros mismos. En realidad, es la madurez de los que comprenden que todo es gracia. En el mundo del consumismo, donde todo tiene un precio, pedir se considera un fracaso. Pero, si vivimos en el mundo real, creado por Dios, pedir lo que necesitamos es ser auténticos, es el reconocimiento de que Dios “es el autor de todos nuestros bienes”. Más aún, es contestando a nuestras oraciones como Dios a veces actúa en el mundo. Dios quiere que pidamos, para que él pueda darlo en respuesta. La oración no es forzar a Dios para que cambie de opinión. Pertenece a la amistad que Dios nos dé lo que pedimos. Por tanto, con vuestras oraciones participáis en la acción de Dios en el mundo.
La compasión
es una pasión despertada por el dolor ajeno,
una reacción de simpatía
de un corazón salido de sí y vuelto hacia el otro,
una emoción que deriva del hecho
de sentir y sufrir con el pobre.

La compasión era el motor que impulsaba a Jesús
a dar pasos concretos y prácticos
hacia la solidaridad y misericordia.
Utilizaba su poder,
mediante intervenciones extraordinarias,
para eliminar o solucionar aquel mal que tanto le apenaba,
transformándose de esta manera
en un liberador de todo sufrimiento,
en un redentor de todo dolor.



ACTITUD CONTEMPLATIVA DEL ACOMPAÑANTE

Otra característica importante de quien acompaña desde lo psico-histórico-espiritual, es la actitud contemplativa que brota de la experiencia de la gratuidad de quien sabe reconocer que las cosas no son producidas por sí mismo(a), sino que son recibidas.
La experiencia de la gratuidad que permite la actitud contemplativa, nace en quien acompaña desde lo psico-histórico-espiritual, de la conciencia de descubrir toda la fuerza del inconsciente: “…todo lo que había en mi inconsciente negativo y positivo, y yo no lo sabía. Así ha sido mi proceso. Yo no sabía de mi pozo, yo no sabía de mi herida, yo no sabía mi consigna, yo no sabía todo lo que había en mí…”. Es decir, contemplar con asombro y gratitud lo que ha sido el propio crecimiento personal, dispone al(a) compañero(a) a asumir esta actitud contemplativa-admirativa ante la otra persona, siempre a la expectativa de todo lo que puede brotar desde dentro de ella misma. Y es esto lo que catapulta a la experiencia de la gratuidad.
El compañero, la compañera psico-histórico-espiritual sabe ser expectante, sabe hacer presencia serena ante el ritmo del proceso de la persona que está acompañando. No es ansioso(a), no se precipita, no presiona los ciclos, sabe esperar, sabe ser activamente pasivo(a).
Y esto le es posible porque ha experimentado en sí mismo(a) la gratuidad de quebrarse, de darse, por la persona que acompaña sin esperar respuesta, y por tanto, acoge la reacción de quien es acompañado(a) como don que supone lo inusitado porque no sabe cómo va a responder, apareciendo siempre cosas inéditas. Es la actitud contemplativa que permite el asombro ante el fruto de lo sembrado “al aire”, pues éste siempre será sorpresa, rompiendo el esquema causa/efecto, donde quien acompaña sea la causa.
Esta actitud contemplativa se nutre de reconocer en el dolor de la otra persona a Cristo sufriendo en la humanidad de hoy. Siente- pero como regalo-, no sólo sabe que Jesús está realmente en quien sufre, y lo sabe reconocer y contemplar también –eso es lo específico- en la persona que está acompañando.

viernes, 19 de agosto de 2011

...DÍAS DE PREPARACIÓN PARA EL EXAMEN Y PRONTO PARA LA ORDENACIÓN PRESBITERAL!!!!


...El tiempo se avecina, toca a la puerta de mi vida y hay que abrir para dejar entrar el tiempo cumplido y necesario para servir a las necesidades de mi Provincia y del pueblo de Dios.
Estos días en el Convento de San Alberto me han servido para retomar algunos estudios que fueron desde hace mucho tiempo atrás, guardaditos en los estantes de la biblioteca personal y de la casa. Creo que más ha sido el empaparme de temas de formación humana para acompañar jóvenes en formación y hoy es el reverso de un lugar en mi vida que necesita afianzar a la vocación-opción de vida que desde hace buen tiempo ha marcado y sigue marcando la vida DOMINICANA.
Me encanta las llamadas de atención recibidas de parte de los frailes del Convento de San Alberto y de algunos amigos por el tiempo ya necesario de arrancar motores en los espacios necesarios en mi Provincia. Suena así: "MI PROVINCIA", recuerdo que a los hermanos siempre les he dicho que es este el lugar donde reside mi vida, es decir, ser farile me hace ser feliz aunque se cuesan habas, papas y camotes. Las dificultades están tocando la puerta pero si me he preparado en mi vida personal, creo que las dificultades serán yugo llevadero en la vida de Cristo.
Recuerdo a mi familia por las constantes pinceladas que han dado a mi vida, a los hermanos mayores de las diferentes comunidades, en el Convento de Santo Domingo, en la casa Beato Jordán, en Cusco, Arequipa, Chimbote, Trujillo y Chiclayo, cada una cumpliendo la misión que se les ha encomendado, riquezas que me encantan y que aún me faltan por descubrir.
Hacer una lista de detalles sería imposible escribirlos porque el blog se atoraría y sería difícil la descarga, pero los detalles se viven a cada instante como la vida existencial de Jesús entre nosotros.
y soy conciente de lo que soy y todo ello en su totalidad para emprender este camino que aún falta por recorrer.
Nunca existirá en la vida palabra alguna o forma alguna de agradecer por las circunstancias vividas entre nosotros, los frailes, y lo bueno que no me quedé en las dificultades, sé salir de ello porque en ellos se encuentran siempre las soluciones apropiadas para deliberar y enfrentarlas.
Jóvenes que vienen y que van y que optan otros caminos que quizás sean las indicadas o no o se vieron forzados dejarnos porque vieron en nosotros que hemos perdido el sentido de la vida religiosa o no colmaron sus expectativas.
Saben: me inquieta la idea de una Provincia más unida en donde se pueda confiar, emprender en las diferencias, de oportunidades y de aceptar los cambios que hoy tocan las puertas de nuestras casas y conventos...esos están en las universidades, en los colegios con criterios y modelos cristianos dignos de aplaudir.
Te agradezco desde ya por orar por mis intenciones y las que vendrán más adelante. Gracias por ser como son y que ayudan a crecer!!!!!!
BENDICIONES!

sábado, 22 de enero de 2011

DOMINICAN FAMILY COLLABORATION AND MISSION


DOMINICAN FAMILY COLLABORATION AND MISSION
Quirico Pedregosa, Jr.,O.P.


I—WHAT COLLABORATION IS

Collaboration is not a straightjacket term. It does not have a singular meaning and form of doing it. But, I suspect some imagine it in the opposite way. It would be liberating to take a second look at collaboration and discover that it is, in fact, a pluriform process that takes different stages and shapes.

Description of Collaboration

When speaking of collaboration, it is more productive to begin with a description of it rather than with a definition. A definition can be very limiting. The verb collaborate is taken from two Latin words, cum, meaning with, and laborare, to work. Collaboration literally means working with another. Taking off from that basic meaning, collaboration can be described as a mode of relating and working together, freely entered into by individuals or groups of persons, mutually tapping the gifts of all the participants, for a common goal or mission.

From this description, we see some characteristics of collaboration. First, it is a highly practical thing; it operates on the level of relating and working between at least two parties. The best way to understand it is to see how it happens. One common block to getting people to collaborate is the desire to have first a tight and neat definition of collaboration before starting it. Second, it is a free choice. One enters into it voluntarily; it cannot be imposed from the outside. This allays the fear of anyone being forced to collaborate. Third, it thrives on gift giving. Its life-blood is the mutual giving and receiving of gifts. It is a way of releasing the potentiality and complementarity of gifts. Fourth, it is not an end in itself. It is a means, an instrumental value, for a common activity, project, goal or mission. It is a kind of social or cosmic virtue at the service of a common good.

However, in practice, there is not one singular way of realizing in concrete such description of collaboration. Nor it is possible for the participants to fully realize collaboration as described. It takes time and different bodies of participants realize it in various ways and degrees. Thus, collaboration is pluriform in practice.

Though some people tend to define collaboration in the way or in the degree that their own respective group does it, there is not one form or mode of collaboration. That such is the case makes us approach collaboration as a dynamic and open-ended process. It is open to changes. It evolves from one level to another and from one pattern to another. Instead of speaking of one definitive form of collaboration, it is realistic to speak of levels of collaboration (degrees of achieving collaboration) and patterns of collaboration (patterns of relating and working together among participants).

Levels of Collaboration

I find the levels of collaboration identified by Loughlan Sofield and Carroll Juliano, in their book, Collaboration: Uniting Our Gifts in Ministry , as illuminating and helpful in understanding the how and development of collaboration. They identify, in the field of pastoral ministry, four levels of collaboration, namely: co-existence, communication, cooperation and true collaboration. These four levels evolve in an increasing order in a dynamic process.

Co-existence: at this first level individuals or groups identify with one another in a general way by way of common history, mission, or membership, but, existing separately and without mutual expectations or accountability.

Communication: this level comes about when individuals or groups begin some mutual interaction and dialogue, by sharing information (calendars, programs, activities) and members coming together in meetings and workshops to discuss matters of mutual interest. Such interaction and sharing of information leads to sharing of ideals and values from which a growing sense of bondedness develops.

Cooperation: this level occurs when participants begin to work together or cooperate in joint projects extending mutual support to one another and moving toward interdependence. Oftentimes one participant takes a leading role with the support of others.

Collaboration: interdependence paves the way for true collaboration, which happens when a group: “acknowledges, articulates, and experiences a sense of ownership of a common mission; achieves a sense of unity accompanied by a desire to work together for a common goal” and “decides to identify, value, and bring together the various gifts” of each member.

It would be interesting, using these four levels, to ask at what particular level does the collaborative group to which you belong find itself? It is fine to discover or locate at what level one’s group is. What is crucial is whether the group would desire to grow or develop to the next level? It seems to me that the best way to begin or develop further collaboration is to let the group find its own level, that is, the level at which the members of a group would be committed to start or to develop into.

Patterns of Collaboration

No less illuminating and helpful in understanding the process of collaboration, are the patterns of collaboration, presented by Vera John-Steiner , focusing on the form of mutuality and interdependence among participants. With her own collaborators, John-Steiner has identified, in the field of creativity and sciences, four patterns of collaboration, to name: distributed, complementary, family, and integrative. There is no hierarchy among these patterns as collaboration may begin with any pattern and may shift to another in the course of time.

Distributed: this pattern of collaboration, as for example, in an e-mail network, is “characterized by informal, voluntary roles, similar interests and spontaneous and responsive working methods. Participants exchange information and explore thoughts and opinions. At times they engaged in arguments or in co-constructing new positions.” Activities and participation follow an unpredictable and shifting distribution.

Complementary: in this pattern, the participants “negotiate their goals and objectives” and in order to accomplish them, they “rely on division of labor based on their complementary expertise, disciplinary knowledge, roles and temperaments.” This is the most widely practiced form of collaboration.

Family: occurs when roles and responsibilities in a complementary partnership, like what takes place in a family, become more flexible and with members taking over for each other and helping one another to grow in expertise. A good example is the partnership of the couple Will and Ariel Durant, co-authors of the multi-volume “A Story of Civilization.” The younger, less educated Ariel, from earlier being a helpmate later became an independent researcher and fully engaged partner to her husband’s work.

Integrative: a pattern of collaboration characterized by dialogue, risk-taking and shared sense of mission, which through a long period of committed activity brings about a dynamic fusion of gifts of participants to the point of achieving a common vision or single “voice” in their joint endeavor. A prime example of this was the partnership between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque who together created the style of cubism in painting.

Looking at these patterns, it is liberating and exciting to know that collaboration has many patterns and it is up to the participants to strike a pattern of their own choice according to their level of mutual openness, trust and commitment to enter into some joint activity or project. We can also ask ourselves in which pattern of collaboration are we engaged in the present or to which pattern are you attracted if you were to collaborate in a venture.

To sum up, collaboration covers a wide and open spectrum of relating and working together in partnerships. It is a dynamic process that a group of participants can freely enter and grow into depending upon their mutual agreement, conviction, commitment and giftedness.

II—WHY COLLABORATION

Why the Dominican Family has to collaborate?

Collaboration is not merely an organizational principle but a theological one. To start with, for us as disciples of Christ, “collaboration is a means of becoming who God wants us to be.” He calls and gathers his disciples into a community. Our Christian calling is communitarian in nature. It is rooted upon and is a reflection of the mystery of the Trinity: a communion in life and mission of the divine Persons. It is to the community of his disciples, the Church, to which Jesus entrusts his mission, in which every member has a role and responsibility to play in carrying it out. To each baptized Christian a gift of the Holy Spirit has been given for some benefit (1 Cor 12:7) of the community and her mission. Thus, it is a common calling for Christians to put together their individual persons and gifts, in all their diversity and richness, in the service of the fulfilling the mission given them by the Lord. By their call to community and mission Christians are called to collaborate. By means of collaboration Christians together become what they are called to be: a community of disciples working together in mission.

In a special way, collaboration belongs to our identity as Dominicans. The Dominican Order has been specifically founded for the mission of preaching the gospel. It pertains to the whole Order to carry out that mission. It is a communitarian responsibility in which every member is expected to collaborate according to the needs of mission and one’s gifts and talents. Thus, in our Dominican tradition, the mission of preaching the gospel is entrusted to the whole community. It is the community that preaches. For that reason, the Dominican community had been traditionally referred to as “sacra predicatio”, holy preaching.

Sharing in the mission of the Order, the fundamental identity of every Dominican is that of a preacher of the word of God. But, no Dominican is a preacher in isolation. He or she belongs to and preaches as a member of a Family of Preachers. Preaching is the common mission to which each and every Dominican is called to contribute and participate according to his or her gifts. If indeed, we are Family of Preachers it is not enough for us to be in communion with each other but also to be in collaboration with each other. Hence, as the 1998 Bologna General Chapter puts it: “the most complete manifestation of our total identity is in our collaboration with one another.”

Also the imperative to collaborate underlines our conviction, in the words of Vincent de Couesnongle, “that our charism cannot develop fully within our branch of the Order…Rather it needs the help of everyone else if it is to grow and produce fruit. The effective collaboration of all will multiply the richness of every branch.” In other words, collaboration is not only a demand of fidelity to our identity but a call to mutual development and fecundity in mission.

Moreover, increasing our collaboration in mission has been one of the principal objectives aimed at by the recent General Chapters of brothers and the international and regional structures of the brothers and of the Dominican Family. The challenge is to bring about more concrete ways of collaboration, at the level of respective branches and more importantly at the level of the whole Dominican Family. Collaboration has been identified as a necessary means of building the future of the Dominican Family. As the 2000 International Assembly of the Dominican Family at Manila declares: “Collaboration is our best way forward into the new millennium”, namely, to create our future together as a Family of Preachers.

To sum up, collaboration is an essential mode of our being in mission, of preaching together as Christians and as Dominicans. It is the best way forward for us into the future if we are to become a Family of Preachers, not only in name but also in action.


III—LEARNING TO COLLABORATE

More than a gift, being collaborative is a qualitative capacity that every Dominican has to learn. The process of learning has to take place in every person. The change is from within the person. The question is: what does it take to develop a genuine capacity to collaborate? While learning appropriate skills is needed and important, I would rather emphasize learning the values that will help us develop a capacity to collaborate.

Jesus stands in the gospels as a model of collaboration. He shows us the way to become collaborative. Right from the start of his public ministry he invites others to be part of his life and mission. Mark explains that Jesus chooses “the twelve” in order to be with him and also to send them out to preach (cf. Mk 3:14). His trust in them is astonishing as he sends them out with very little training. He takes the risk of letting them grow with him on the road of preaching the good news. He wants them to desire and to pray for more laborers, for the harvest is great (cf. Mt 9:37-38). He appoints also other seventy-two disciples to go ahead before him to places where he intends to go (cf. Lk 10:1). For Jesus to do mission is to invite others to participate in mission. In fact, he makes his disciples share in his life and work not as paid servants, but intimately as his equals and friends. “I no longer call you slaves but friends, for a slave does not know what his Master is about. I call you friends because I have revealed to you all that I have learned from my Father” (Jn 15: 15-16).

From all these, it can be said that for Jesus collaboration is a means and strategy of preaching consistent with his message of the kingdom of God: the gift of communion between God and people and between the people themselves. Hence, learning to be collaborative is first a question of authenticity—living out the message of communion one preaches in the sphere of doing things. .

Humility leads to the path of becoming collaborative. It creates a space and freedom in one’s heart to see one’s gifts but also one’s limitations. It removes the blinders from one’s eyes to see the giftedness of others and have a realistic appreciation of one’s own. It motivates one to welcome and tap the gifts of others, to make room to their necessary and due participation. It ushers the awareness of one’s need for and interdependence with others in developing one’s potentials and gifts at the service of a common project or ministry. On the practical level, humility teaches one to do things with others in interdependence, in co-responsibility. Thus, learning to be humble is a sure foundation to be collaborative.

Service born of gratitude is a fertile ground for a collaborative spirit to arise. It motivates one to give back something to life; to return a favor, to put in one’s contribution, no matter how small it can be, for the good of others. It urges one to join every good cause, to do whatever one can do to contribute to the good of the community. It impels one to join his gifts with those of others for the sake of a common good, or goal. In effect, one learns in practice to cooperate or collaborate with others, for the sake of service.

Care for the growth and development of each and every person leads to collaboration. In corporate or industrial settings, people set their eyes to the “bottom lines”, that is, on the figures of net profit. As Christians and Dominicans we can do no less but care about the “bottom lines”. But, the bottom lines for us are not figures but people; they are the members of the organization or of the community, especially those at the lowest level. This means that we do not treat them like pawns simply meant to serve the sheer purposes of our community or organization. Rather, we respect and relate with them as free, autonomous and interdependent persons. We care that they develop and grow in their persons; that they grow in their particular gifts and skills as they carry out their designated tasks in the service of the community and its mission. In other words, we take them all, without any exception, as responsible partners, collaborators in the pursuit of the common mission. We take care to empower them to become our collaborators-friends.

IV—LEARNING HERE AND NOW

Where and when to learn to be a collaborative? The answer is to begin now and where one is. The level and context of one’s role or task in the community’s mission does not matter. What matters is to learn not by talking about it but by doing it in practice. Until a group of people initiates a collaborative project or ministry no one learns to do it. Certainly, collaboration is not a smooth process but a messy one. Conviction and commitment are not enough. It requires capacity building: developing readiness and skills among its participants. There can be obstacles or glitches along the way. But, unless one soils one’s hands, plunge into a concrete common project no practical learning takes place. One handy way to do it is by participating in concrete group works, or joint projects. In these structures, one learns by first-hand experience the essentials of a collaborative process: formulation of vision and objectives, identification and discerning of gifts, clarification roles of participants, and the development of requisite skills for collaboration.

In the gospel according to Luke, Jesus describes his message of the reign of God, the gospel, as “fire.” “I have come to throw fire on the earth and how much I desire to see it burning.”(Lk 12:49) As his disciples, our challenge is to be fired up by the gospel that we proclaim it together, as one whole Dominican Family. It is the work of the Holy to set us on fire and to work as one body of Christ. Our role, as brothers and sisters is to recognize and tap the gifts of each one and unite together all our gifts in the service of mission of proclaiming the gospel.


viernes, 21 de enero de 2011

Dominican Leadership

Dominican Leadership
Allan White, O.P.


The word ‘leadership’ in the context of religious life is very much in vogue at the moment. This is probably because religious are trying to get away from notions of the rigid application of authority, which ensures that initiative and direction in a congregation come only from above. In England certainly the language of superiority is fast disappearing, as is the role of the superior in many religious communities where there is no superior but everything is decided communally under a chairperson who is often called a Moderator. There is no evidence that this works any better than previous arrangements and the danger is that it allows bullies in the community more scope. As we all know, there is always a ‘superior’ in the community even if they do not have the title. In the Anglophone world we have the expression ‘congregational leader’ and not superior general or provincial, and we have ‘leadership’ teams instead of provincial councils. All of this suggests a general distrust of authority and a lack of certainty as to how the ministry of authority can and should be lived by modern religious. It seems odd to me, given the history of the twentieth century, that religious should have chosen the term ‘leader’ since it is quite clear what leaders such as the Fuhrer and Il Duce were responsible for in the past.

In our system our ‘superiors’ are understood as executives who are given a wide margin of discretion and freedom to interpret their role. If there is a leadership role it is not to be exercised purely by the ‘superior’ but is expressed at two levels. The identity and purpose of the Order is interpreted by the General Chapters, it is made available to us in the legislation of Chapters which form a deposit of law. The Master of the Order is to execute the programme of the Order as it is presented in this body of Law and custom, just as priors provincial are to do the same with the legislation of provincial chapters. There is nothing in the LCO which cannot be changed. All is open to review in the light of experience and the challenges presented to us by the world in which we live and minister. We are obedient to a person, a ‘superior’ in the shape of the Master of the Order but according to the Rule and Constitutions.

It is not necessarily the case that our superiors will be very charismatic people. Some are dull, plodding, unimaginative and unadventurous, which is probably the reason why they were elected. As you know, elections are very strange things communities often go into paroxysms of doubt and anxiety thinking they are not going to be able to find anyone to elect, but in the end they always manage to find somebody. Some friars are elected for their flair, their evangelical enthusiasm and sense of adventure, but these are a minority. Most communities, in my experience, want ‘technicians’ and good ‘managers’ as priors. In some elections an individual is chosen not so much because of their qualities but in order to stop somebody else being elected. Dominicans, it seems to me, are suspicious of the notion of charismatic leadership. One of the worst criticisms of a Dominican superior is that he behaves like an ‘abbot’. We are not monks and we have only had one abbot in the Order, Matthew of France, who, as Blessed Jordan tells us, was the first and last abbot in the Order.

Our superior general, to use a modern and inappropriate term, is called ‘Master’ which is to be understood in terms of Teacher, and our local superiors are called ‘Prior’ which means first among equals. Priors are ‘first’ in the fraternity. All offices are held for a time only and may only be extended or continued in certain circumstances. We are not meant to have an officer class or a kind of aristocracy within the Order, the keynote is fraternity in a school of disciples whose one teacher is Christ. We live according to the LCO but there is another code to which we must conform ourselves and in which our LCO are rooted and that is the Gospel.

Unlike in the monastic tradition the superiors in our Order do not take the place of Christ, as with the Abbot in monasteries. Some might think that our superiors act like God and think they are God but they are certainly not to be confused with Christ. St Dominic was never presented as an alter Christus in the way that St Francis was for example. Similarly, the authority exercised by Dominic over his Order had a different expression to that of St Francis. Dominic developed a tight legal structure for his Order by 1220, until then he exercised strong personal control, but once the system was defined he attempted to resign from the Mastership. He insisted that the brethren as a whole had full legislative authority. The friars would not let him resign on that occasion and he obediently accepted their will, but it was clear that they were free to disagree with him, as they did on the question of the co-operator brothers having financial and administrative control of the Order so that the clerics could be free for study and preaching.

This tells us that neither Dominic’s will nor the first institutions of the brethren are normative in any binding sense. The founding brothers set us an example but in principle they are no more influential than the brethren who made Solemn Vows yesterday. With Solemn Vows comes active voice: the right to participate in shaping the mission and identity of the Order in response to the challenges presented to us by providence.

We can contrast this with the early Franciscan experience. There were constant and bitter quarrels amongst the Franciscans over the true vision of St Francis and his continuing influence on the Order. In his own lifetime Francis ordered the friars not to make any changes in the Rule and cursed those who were tempted to do so. In his view the Rule as he devised it must remain permanent and inviolable. Against this background it became important to seize control of Francis’ identity. St Bonaventure drew up his official biography and in the General Chapter of 1266 ordered all other lives to be destroyed. The Giotto fresco cycle in Assisi was based on Bonaventure’s life of Francis and is an apology for it. In 1277 the Franciscan General Chapter ordered the construction of ‘many strong prisons’ in friaries to accommodate the dissidents. There was widespread disgreement about how faithful the Order was to its founder’s vision. At the same time, Francis came to be presented as alter Christus especially amongst the Spiritual Franciscans. Some of their writers and apologists make this explicit by assimilating the life of Francis to that of Christ. So we read for example that Francis had the stigmata and 12 disciples, as with Jesus and the college of the twelve apostles. Interestingly, in the Dominican tradition it is Catherine of Siena who has the stigmata and resembles Christ together with her band of followers.

The Dominican Order appeared when many religious Orders were being created or reformed. Two had influence on us in particular: the Premonstratensians in terms of legislation and the Cistercians in terms of architecture and style. Cistercianism is really the invention of Benedictinism since their intention was to follow the Rule to the letter. New Cistercian foundations were to be made with an Abbot and 12 monks, again mirroring Jesus with his twelve disciples. The Abbot is seen as alter Christus. Interestingly the Primitive Dominican Constitutions state that when a new foundation is made twelve friars are to make it. In monasticism the presence of Christ is made visible in the person of the Abbot and in his relations with the monks. For us Dominicans the invisible presence of Christ is made visible in the community of ‘evangelical men’. These evangelical men follow Christ as their supreme teacher and guide and continue to exercise his mission. The whole life and ministry of our community is meant to be a commentary on the Gospel. Nobody took the place of Christ; nobody was strictly the ‘leader’ because Christ is our leader.

An illustration of this is seen in the fresco cycle of Fra Angelico in San Marco in Florence. St Thomas, in his treatise on the Incarnation in the Summa, presents the mysteries of Christ’s life in four sections. Firstly, how he came into the world, that is the mystery of the Incarnation; secondly the mysteries of his earthly life, his teaching and miracles; thirdly his departure from the world in his crucifixion and death and fourthly his exaltation in the ascension and resurrection. Looking at the San Marco fresco cycle you can see that three of these four are presented by Fra Angelico but one is missing. The cycle of the mysteries of Christ’s life, that is his earthly apostolate, is not there. Why is that? It is because it is being enacted, continued by the friars in their mission of reconciliation through preaching and teaching. The mission of Jesus is being made visible and incarnate in their life. The fundamental focus of the Order is not on the Rule and Constitutions but on the mission which these are meant to serve. In our tradition the state of perfection does not come about from following a Rule but from following a person. The focus is always upon Jesus. For St Dominic and for St Thomas Aquinas, who articulates in a coherent theological structure the fundamental insights of Dominican life, Jesus is the teacher in our school of discipleship. The fundamental rule is the following of Jesus. Apostolic obedience as Dominic lived it and Thomas defined it is of far more account than any precept or Rule, principle or system, all of which must give way to the following of Christ in our thinking, in our action and the interpretation of our experience. Obedience to Christ is the highest form of perfection (Supp. Matt. 19:21, n 1598) The fulfillment of the call of Jesus Christ does not consist ‘per se’ in exterior perfections such as poverty, virginity and such like unless these things are instrumental to charity’ (Supp. Matt.4:20 n 373). This accounts for St Dominic’s insistence that the Rule and LCO do not bind under sin. St Dominic did not wish his brethren to take their eyes from Christ to focus on a Rule as a substitute for Christ and the Scriptures. The Rule and the LCO are meant to enable the mission. We can see St Thomas giving a theological articulation of this in his Commentary on John. There Thomas argues against John Chrysostom’s interpretation of John 10:1-3 which uses the metaphor or door or gate through which the sheep must enter. Chrysostom says Scripture is the gate but Thomas says Christ is the gate, one enters the gate towards truth, Scripture is a witness to that truth and it is on that account true, but is not that truth in itself (Comm. In Jn. 10:2 n 1370-71).

The validity and justification of our way of life, according to St Thomas, is that it most closely resembles the life and ministry of Christ. In Chapter 11 of St Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says to his disciples: learn of me for I am gentle and lowly of heart. You could also translate this; join my school, become my students. The Dominican Order is meant to be a gospel school in which Christ is the teacher. When St Thomas Aquinas talks about the life-style of Jesus he shows Jesus as the supreme preacher and how the ideals of preaching are fulfilled in his life. He gives three reasons why Jesus led a public life: it was for the preaching of the truth; for compassionate solidarity with sinners; and for making himself accessible to people. He says that preachers must abound in contemplation, they must be enthusiastic, expansive contemplatives who do not cling to retirement but who make the truth accessible in the world through their standing four-square beside sinners showing how God is present in to fractured human experience. He goes on to give a description of the way of the preacher, which bears a striking resemblance to the Dominican way, and says at that end this is why Jesus chose this way of life. He comes close to saying that Jesus was the first Dominican!

What should the life of a friar look like? He should be poor, because Jesus sent out poor people to preach, being encumbered by possessions inhibits our usefulness. Possessions root us to place and preachers must always be ready to move. Preachers should be compassionate, the point of their preaching is not to improve the intelligence of their congregations but to deepen their conversion so that they may be reconciled to Christ the true shepherd of our souls. They should be companionable and draw close to people so that they may see through the preacher to the mystery he preaches. The vocation of the preacher is to be transparent; people should see through him and they should see only Jesus.

How do we come to be able to preach that Word? In order for people to arrive at the perfect vision of heavenly happiness they must first of all believe God, as a disciple believes the master who is teaching him. (ST IIaIIae.3) They must be docile/teachable, prepared to listen and to learn. His preaching, especially Sermon on the Mount, contains all that is necessary for the Chistian life (ST IaIIae 108.3) His most concentrated and normative form of teaching occurs on the cross. There God’s wisdom is lifted up for all to see, the laws and precepts of the OT reach their fulfilment, and all the virtues of the Christian life are displayed to perfection (ST IIIa46.3) There the Son displays his loving obedience to Father.

The primary recipients of Jesus’ teaching were the disciples. He chose small group to continue his preaching and teaching. Jesus taught them ‘face to face’ in the most accessible and concrete way. He spoke in his human nature. The apostolate is like an army assembled by a king to make war against devil. In order to expel the devil from kingdom the weapon is preaching (Super Matt 4:23 n 383). Jesus made sure that the army was well trained by sending it off to preach when he was still with them.

Preaching is always preaching on the Christian Scriptures for these were written by the apostles as part of their obedient witness to Christ. If you look at many the frescoes of Fra Angelico you will see Jesus or Saint Dominic holding open the Book of the Scriptures. In this way the friars preachers are showing their obedience to the Word, this is the subject of their preaching. Also, they are following in the Lord’s footsteps as he opened the Scriptures to the two disciples who were on the way at Emmaus. The friar preacher’s responsibility is to open the Scriptures to those who are on the way so that they may recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and so that their hearts may burn within them. We must by taught by Jesus through the Scriptures. Therefore to follow Christ obediently our obedience must be apostolic in form.

In our profession formula there is list of those to whom we promise obedience beginning with God and progressing through Blessed Mary and St Dominic before we arrive at a living person. In other words our profession is made in the context of the general obedience we owe to God and against the background of our tradition. Each friar is bound by a vow of personal obedience to the Master of the Order. It is probable however, that the Master will never if hardly ever actually ask for an obedient service from many friars. I think it was true to say that when I was Provincial in England the Master and his Curia did not feature much on our provincial landscape. Occasionally there were visitations and the brethren were always glad to receive the visitators and welcome them. We found that their visit brought an opportunity for us to get together and meet each other, but if you were to ask many of the brothers what the visitation was for not many of them would be able to tell you. One of the revelations to me as Provincial was that the friars actually liked it when the Provincial visitated their communities. For roughly the same reason. I think that most of the time in our Province and certainly when I was Provincial we had very little occasion to ask Santa Sabina for anything. It is the same with some other provinces. There are entities which need more help and support the difficulty for us is trying to provide it given our limited resources, but perhaps more about that later.

The Master of the Order is a significant figure and every friar is bound by a vow of personal obedience to him but that obedience is very rarely directly demanded. In fact, what I have found is that the Master, sometimes like Provincials, has to negotiate and even implore support from the Provinces for projects which are under his jurisdiction or which report to him directly. Sometimes it is extremely difficult for him to find brothers or to find Provincials who are willing to release some of their brothers for service in the wider Order. In theory the Master’s powers are wide but in practice they depend on the co-operation of the brothers to be effective, just like a provincial’s powers. In theory provincials can assign any brother anywhere within the territory of the province but in practice it is not always so easy, other factors intervene. The odd fact at the centre of our legislation is the respect that is accorded to the Master of the Order, or should be! I am sorry to say that I have sometimes been shocked to see the way the Master has been treated by some brothers and edified by his humility in accepting it, so at the centre of our system is the Master but his powers are not unlimited even in terms of the Constitutions.


The supreme legislative body for us is the General Chapter.

The General Chapter can depose a Master and has full authority to remove provincials and any other officers and to intervene directly in the affairs of any province. In the earliest days of the Order Chapters were held annually but there were no fixed terms for office bearers. It was not until 1502 and the pontificate of Julius II that fixed terms were introduced for religious superiors. The Master continued to be elected for life until the nineteenth century. He could only cease to be Master through being ‘absolved’ by the Chapter or by being deposed by the Pope or through ill health or incompetence. The emphasis was that this office too was accepted in obedience and could not be lightly surrendered. Priors and Provincials remained in office in the same way until they were ‘absolved’. We should not then think that elections were always frequent or regular. They occurred when it was thought necessary. Our present system is very much conditioned by the regular terms of the office bearers and often for the last six months or more of your term of office you will have the feeling that people are looking over your shoulder thinking of a possible successor.

One of the principle forms of asceticism in our way of life is having to submit one’s administrative and personal record or the conduct of one’s provincialate to the scrutiny of the brethren. A long established custom in our Order is the tractatus. We do not put ourselves forward for office but our names are suggested. We are then invited to leave the room whilst we are discussed and our merits considered and our failings examined. I wish this always occurred charitably but I am afraid it does not. If you are a provincial in office and your first term has ended then it is quite possible you will be considered for a second term. This process of the ‘tractatus’ will happen to you. There is nothing new about this, it was present in our system from the earliest days.

The more primitive form of appointment or election to office was in some ways more brutal than ours. In the past, before fixed terms were established before somebody like a provincial or a master could be absolved from office, there had to be a sufficient body of opinion against him to allow for his effective deposition. This was a much more harsh system than ours. Now all we need is a discussion and a vote. Politics does unfortunately intrude but in a more discrete way. At every Chapter in the past it was theoretically possible for the Master to be deposed. At every General Chapter his record was subject to scrutiny and a decision taken about his continuance in office. In the primitive constitutions the procedure for the examination and correction of the Master is laid down. After the Diffinitors have accused themselves of their faults the Master, in a place apart, is to accuse himself of his and anybody who has any accusations against him is to make them. When the accusations have been heard he is to leave the room so that the Diffinitors can discuss and decide how to correct him in his absence. If they decide that he is damaging the Order in a serious way they are to ask him to resign, if he refuses then they have unrestricted power to depose him.

It is always difficult to have one’s record examined and discussed by the brethren. We are all conscious of making mistakes and sometimes we make errors of judgment with regard to people or in our dealings with institutions. Unfortunately, it is clear that mistakes and errors, the things we do badly, seem to last longer in the minds of the brothers than the things we do well. We may sometimes be tempted to try and justify our actions, but this is always a mistake unless we are specifically asked why we did something. Often we cannot justify or explain what we did in certain circumstances because we are bound by confidentiality or loyalty to a brother, or are bound to defend his reputation so we cannot say everything we know. It is never easy to be the victim of misjudgment but I think it is not unusual for provincials and even the Master to be victims in this way. Sometimes, when I was provincial people would be puzzled by a decision I took, especially with regard to a brother, they would leap to the wrong conclusion. I always used to say that sometimes ‘the brothers think they know more than I do about particular cases, but nobody knows as much as I do and even I do not know all there is to know.’

A system like ours has many dangers political and spiritual. The early legislation of the Order is clear about the dangers. What they stress must be avoided is division and factionalism. In the case of the deposition of the Master of the Order the strictest injunctions are given that the brethren must observe confidentiality and secrecy. They must not tell others why the Master has ceased to hold Office. Anyone who engages in this kind of behaviour is to be considered as suffering from the gravest fault. When the grave faults are listed the last very grave fault is if the brethren form conspiracies or plots against their superiors. If any of them do form a faction and try to bring down lawfully constituted and elected superiors they are to be severely punished and for the rest of their lives to take the lowest place in rank, have no right to speak in Chapters except to accuse themselves nor are they allowed to hold any office in the Order from henceforth.
The danger in a system which allows change through election is that it becomes excessively political and subject to faction. We often boast of the democratic character of our Order but it is precisely in modern democracies that the system of party and faction flourishes, in a sense democracy could not continue without party. Yet, this is not our kind of democracy. Fr Vincent de Couesnongle points out in his collection of letters Courage for the Future:

‘The fundamental law of democracy is majority rule, but it is not the same with us, in spite of our frequent voting. Our law is unanimous rule…the prior should not look for a quick vote, but should try to have the question thrashed out so that everyone has his say; and a common debate will lead to an agreement which is as near unanimous as possible.’

In the middle Ages at elections of priors and provincials a final vote was often held once a candidate was elected, this was to give those who had voted against him the chance to vote in his favour. In this way the election would be unanimous or be the result of consensus so that the person elected would be the superior of all and not just of a faction. Our system to function properly requires great maturity. Decisions are not to be made and people elected by the cobbling together of coalitions or agreements amongst factions; they are to be an expression of the common search for the will of God. They are not merely political exercises but spiritual exercises. Once a person is elected it is the duty of all to support and sustain him in office for the good of the whole community. As I say, this requires a considerable degree of maturity in the religious life. Sometimes we have to be prepared to vote for people who are not our friends or whom we might not like very much in order to serve the mission of the convent or the province. It is occasionally difficult for those who are young in the Order or those who are voting for the first time to realize this. It is very important that friars be educated in our pattern of democracy.

An anxiety expressed at the Providence General Chapter in 2001 was that the granting of active voice with Solemn Profession was seriously unbalancing life in the formation communities. It was quite possible, and even not unknown, for the student brothers to outnumber the fathers and for the juniors to outnumber the seniors in the Chapter. When elections or confirmations of officers occurred the younger brothers, sometimes manipulated by the senior brothers who should have known better and have shown better example, were treating the election as a purely political exercise and voting for people who they thought would serve their interests better or else voting others out as a punishment. In our system votes are not merely counted they need to be weighed. We need to understand what a particular vote says.

Where the ‘weighing’ of votes affects provincials most is in votes for profession in formation houses. Some candidates are very divisive and manage to split chapters in formation houses. They may achieve a positive vote narrowly and the provincial will then be within his rights to accept them for profession. This, in my view, is sometimes a mistake. Votes for candidates should be as near unanimous as possible, if the formation community itself is mature. If the formation process has been conducted properly then there should not be contentious votes. Sometimes, as provincials we have to be careful in using our power. It is within our power to accept candidates but it is not always prudent to use that power. It is the same with cassation of priors.

It is within the power of the provincial to cassate any election. He must have a good reason to override the vote of a community. In general, unless the good of the province as a whole was going to suffer I always confirmed elections. I only cassated two elections in my eight years as provincial. In my view the decision of the brethren had to be taken seriously and they also had to be allowed to live with the consequences of their own decision. Sometimes I wondered about the wisdom of their choices and would not have voted for the person elected myself, but that was not what I was being asked to do. As I said, I only ever cassated two elections, one because the person elected was on sabbatical and it was well-deserved and I knew he could not bear the burden of another priorship just yet. The other occasion was when a priory elected, perfectly sensibly, a good pastor but who was fully engaged in the same work in another house and who could not be free at that particular time without grave damage to his house of assignation.

A provincial is supposed to ask the advice of the ‘grave fathers’, as we always put it in our province, before confirming or cassating an election. I did not always ask the members of the provincial council, or only them, but sometimes asked those outside the council their opinion. In my second term as provincial I had a number of young friars on my council. Some younger friars who were elected to priorships were of the same generation of some of these young councilors. When I asked the opinion of the young counselors as to whether their contemporaries could function well as priors the answer was interesting. They often urged me to cassate the elections because the friar in question would find the burden of office to great to carry. I soon saw that, in the ‘popular mind’, the priorship was being presented as an enormous challenge which only certain people were strong enough to carry. The office was being built up too much. I, of course, ignored the advice and the young friars made excellent priors. So, we should remember that while we may be bound to ask advice we are not obliged to take it.

In our system there is a strong legislative and juridical structure, there are no office holders for life and we are all to a certain extent accountable. Yet our Constitutions also give considerable powers of dispensation and discretion to our superiors. The novelty of Dominic’s introduction of the principle of dispensation into the life of the Order is often pointed out in our histories. Previously religious might be dispensed from certain aspects of the observance for reasons of ill-health or personal weakness. Dominic introduced dispensation in favour of the mission. Religious could be dispense by a legitimate superior from observances which might impede the mission. The legitimate superior is not supposed to give permission in the same way as the principle of a school might give permission to a pupil to have a half-day holiday from school. It is not a bureaucratic exercise. The superior is meant to be attuned to the apostolic life and mission of the house, he is meant to be intimately familiar with it and from his knowledge and through the exercise of his prudential judgment, he discerns how the mission might be best served in a particular case. He is, if you like, in giving dispensations, exercising apostolic stewardship. He is the steward of the mission. Needless, to say in my experience as a superior or as provincial some of the friars, especially one or two of the younger ones appealed to the principle of dispensation to account for their unjustified absence from community duties, but I had to point out that the principle was not of ‘self-dispensation.’ We do not dispense ourselves, we are not judges in our own cases, we do not determine the parameters of our own mission but accept that they are part of the wider conventual mission.

The aspect of the ‘attunement’ of the superior to the mission of the house is also applied to the Provincial and Master of the Order at their level of jurisdiction and responsibility. Even though the behaviour of the early Masters was closely scrutinized, much more so than it is now, it was accepted that the Master could dispense from legislation if it proved to impede the mission of the Order in some way. Similarly, while provincials cannot change the legislation of provincial chapters they may give an interpretation of it. It is important for us to know the Constitutions, firstly because every friar should know them and secondly so that we can see both the limitations on our authority and what the law actually allows us to do so that we may use it positively in favour of the mission. Finally, it is important to know them because somebody in the province will always know them well. It is probably that this ‘helpful’ brother will not hesitate to point out to us our failures in interpretation of the Constitutions or worse still the fact that we have got them wrong in a particular case! If you have a legal expert in your province only ask him a question when you already know the answer! His opinion is useful as a check on your won reading of the LCO.

So, our Superiors are important, without them our communities could not function. From the earliest times the Masters were treated with great respect but it was also pointed out to them that they were stewards of the mission and not its proprietors. The Order did not belong to them but they belonged in it. They were to live in the same way as the brethren, to eat the same food and to sleep in the same dormitory etc. When we turn to the Order’s Constitutions and the section on Government we see that after the general norms on government, we begin not with the Master of the Order but with the priory which is the fundamental unit of government within the Order. We do not start at the top and work down; we start at the bottom and work up!

The traditional word for a Dominican house, conventus, means a gathering. Those who form it have been convoked, called together, called for a purpose. We did not call ourselves. You cannot call yourself for the service of God, you have to be summoned, convoked. Convocation, vocation, does not automatically create an instrument of evangelical purpose and religious witness. The word conventus has another nuance, it can also mean a legislative assembly. The framework of the house is not the timber, stone and plaster of which it is built. What regulates our life together, what helps to make us into the house of St Dominic is the deliberative and ordered style of our government. The regular life will be formed by a devout and courteous listening; there has to be attentiveness before there can be proclamation. An Order of Preachers is concerned with the Word, but good preachers must begin and remain as good listeners. The fundamental strain running throughout all of our legislation is the importance of attentiveness and engagement in dialogue. A convent is not just a unit of strategic planning, a residence for clergymen, or an enterprise which is governed by the principles of management. A convent is not an aggregate of individuals who subscribe to a particular set of rules which is arbitrated by authority with the aim of lessening conflict and securing a degree of harmony so that the brothers can live together without killing each other. It is a communion of brothers engaged in a common mission. This common mission is the work of the Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that our Constitutions refer to our convents as ‘Holy Preachings’; a title which is disputed by the Historical Commission of the Order incidentally. In other words it is a spiritual enterprise. This is confirmed in LCO in the description of the duties of a prior who is amongst us as one who serves, who promotes regular and apostolic fraternal life and should be concerned that the brothers fulfill their personal obligations. He should also regularly preach the Word of God to them. In other words the prior’s task is not essentially managerial but spiritual.

If the province is to function properly the priories much function properly. In order for them to function properly they need good and effective office bearers who will carry the mission forward. In assessing the apostolic and evangelical challenges it faces the convent should elect someone who can satisfy these expectations. It is of vital importance that the prior should be supported by and work with a syndic who is competent and energetic. What problems do provincials face in ensuring the vitality of priory life?

The first problem is that it is often difficult for communities to find priors. Aging provinces, or provinces in which there is a small middle age generation, a smaller and inexperienced younger generation, or a large number of priories, sometimes make if difficult to find suitable people. Those who we would like to become priors are either priors already or else engaged in valuable work from which it is difficult to detach them. Some who are suited to the service of prior are reluctant to take it up because it takes them away from work they enjoy or which they find fruitful and confines their freedom and apostolic energy. Some are afraid of responsibility or of being confined to the house. In some places, due to aging communities, the prior finds he has to assume a heavy burden in the support of the brothers. He must supervise their medical care, drive them to hospital and doctors’ appointments. In a community which has a large number of external works, say with brothers working outside the house, teaching or in chaplaincy ministries, he may find that he is left at home and is heavily burdened with the domestic management of the convent. He is the one who has to ensure the house is locked up at night. He has to be at home when tradesmen or workers call. He has to ensure the trash cans are put out. He has to be perpetually available to ensure that when brothers forget to say Mass, or neglect to fulfill their obligations he can step in and take them on. Rather than being an apostolic, spiritual, evangelical figure, he comes a combination of nurse, handyman, tradesman, liturgist and janitor. In other words he becomes a managerial figure.

The legislation of General Chapters and the letters of the Masters have emphasized the importance for us of itinerancy, finding new apostolates and not being confined to traditional ministries. Stress has been placed on the importance of a community project. Convents are to meet at regular intervals to assess their life and ministry and to examine their response to the evangelical challenges which the world in which they live faces them. Yet, if you read the reports of provincials, visitation letters and the self-reflection of provinces, you will find that it is precisely the idea of the Common Project that is most difficult to implant in our system. In the Constitutions and the legislation of the General Chapters the dangers of individualism are always being pointed out the development of the idea of the Common Project is proposed as part of the remedy for this. The momentum of our system seems to draw us away from this and often the Provincial finds himself caught between demands by some of the brethren, by the Masters of the Order and the General Chapters for a greater sense of evangelical adventure and the needs of the convents and houses that make up the province.

Convents have histories of engagement in a local Church. They have inherited ministries. Some have grown up as a result of individual choices by certain brethren at a point in time. Others were important and valuable at one time and are less so now. The demands coming from the houses are always for more friars. ‘We must have friars to assume responsibility for our ministries.’ Often in local communities there is not always a proper assessment as to whether these ministries are still necessary or valuable, neither is there an examination as to whether they should be continued in the same way. Where a house of diocesan priests in a pastoral setting might have two priests assuming responsibility particular ministries a Dominican convent might have five or six friars for the same number of engagements.

Convents then come to see the provincial as a personnel manager. He is there to ensure a regular supply of friars to ensure that a convent can continue in the same way indefinitely. Convents can thus become inherently conservative institutions. They expect personnel from the provincial and in some cases they elect a prior who will exercise a certain personal and pastoral care for them, who will maintain stability in the house and who will be a good manager. Brothers who can display these skills are likely to be elected in different houses in succession. What then develops is a body of priors who go from one house to another, exercising the same skills, doing valuable work but not always developing or advancing the apostolic enterprise of the convents. It becomes more difficult to shift the province in the direction of change because roughly the same people are elected to provincial chapters and serve on the provincial council, the dominant tone can then become managerial and bureaucratic dominated by a concern with personnel.

Those who are inclined to feel the burden of this are the younger friars. We do not always recognize the different character and concerns of the different generations. I will have something to say about younger friars later on if we have time. However, what is clear is that it is not always possible to simply feed younger friars into established ministries after the studies. Enough has been written about the importance of the firstr assignation and enough concern expressed about the requests for dispensation from the priesthood by the newly ordained for me not to speak about it here. These do point to real difficulties. The priories want personnel to help them in the mission in which they are engaged, they sometimes see the anxieties and hesitations of the young in assuming responsibilities for the traditional or historic ministries of a province as self-indulgence and lack of commitment. The young feel that their own personal gifts and limitations are not recognized and that they are simply being fed into some ‘machine’ which is not fired by evangelical enthusiasm. They have higher expectations of the quality of community life and liturgy fostered by their formation. They find it difficult and frightening to assume responsibility for a ministry for which they have not always been adequately prepared and in which they are not always properly supported and supervised; anxious about the isolation and the responsibility which might fall to them in ‘the mission field’ they then begin to feel that the moment of engagement should be postponed for as long as possible. They begin to think of further study, which can be open-ended in duration. Life in the study or formation house becomes attractive. The prospect of a fuller conventual life can be realized in the study house, teaching offers a definite job and status and automatic involvement in a common project so assignation to the study house and further study is a popular request. This would seem to be an experience common to many provinces.

If you have a centre of institutional studies in the province the Regent or the Moderator, like priors and non-academic communities, will always be asking the provincial to provide more lectors and professors. A similar process develops as in the ‘pastoral’ communities. Vacancies need to be filled and there needs to be planning to ensure that brothers are properly qualified to teach and to be engaged in the ministry of formation. A house of formation and studies is a big investment for a province demanding a lot in terms of personnel and money. The investment can be worth it for a number of reasons.

A centre of studies, depending on how open it is, gives a province contact with a wider intellectual world. It can be an intellectual and resource centre for the local Church of a region or nation. It is a centre of research and of intellectual and cultural dialogue. If it is confident in its identity and ministry and represents well the ethos and character of a province it is a good environment in which younger members of a province can acquire that character and identity. It is there that they will learn the habits of fraternity and co-operation that they will need in later life. In the studies they will feel themselves part of a group. The members of this group will all spring from the same ‘cradle’ and they will come to know those people with whom they will be working and living during the remainder of their lives. Centres of study are a good if costly investment.

What are the difficulties with a study house? As I was saying, the Regent or the Moderator always needs more lectors and professors. It is rarely realistic to think that all of these will come from the province itself. Many provinces are now looking to the international Order to help with the staffing of their intellectual institutions. There is a growing interchange of professors and students amongst them. This is extremely positive in developing the international consciousness of the Order, but what about the formation of new professors? Often the Regent or Moderator is looking for likely candidates for higher studies when students are still quite new to study. If the discipline is specialized then the student will have to be formed in a particular way and acquire certain skills before he can begin. Proper preparation and identification of talented students is good and necessary. However, the provincial has to be careful to ensure that a student is not forced or perhaps guided too early into a speciality so that other aspects of his character or of his Dominican life are neglected or are not allowed to be expressed. It is also important that there is no hint of ‘patronage’ in the system so that some students feel that they are favoured and others are not. Once a professor is formed and returns to the centre of studies to teach the investment has to be realized and he must teach and research. A professor must be allowed to teach for some time, certain stability is necessary in his life. A provincial cannot move a professor without good cause since that would be to devalue the investment the province has made in him and also to undermine his own ministry and sense of self-worth. A relative stability of personnel in the study house must not lead to a two-tier structure in the province between professors and others, academics and pastors, students soon notice such a distinction and from an early stage in their formation begin to situate themselves in terms of one identity or another. The more sensitive can see themselves as accepted or rejected, favoured or neglected, depending on which side of the divide they fall. So, how can some of these difficulties be faced and if not entirely eradicated or solved at least be ameliorated or made less threatening?

Dominican legislation pre-supposes responsibility and human maturity. It is built around chapters, councils and elections. A sign of final commitment is the grant of what is called in English ‘active voice’ followed later by ‘passive voice.’ In our system the casting of a vote is or should be the last stage in a process of discussion, dialogue and discernment. When we make our vocal contribution to a discussion we are assuming responsibility for the entire enterprise. Even if on this particular occasion we might not be the ones to carry out the policy, we assume responsibility for it. This responsibility may be expressed at the level of the convent or the level of the province or at that of a General Chapter. The genius of the Order, its mission and character, is obvious at every level, the process is the same. I do not have my individual mission I have my part in our common mission. It is important to find ways to ensure that common sense of responsibility is made clear and expressed. How does that work?

With regard to the brethren of the province first of all: the provincial needs to be able to inform them as much as he can of what he does and of the policies and ventures of the provincial council. If the brothers are informed they are less likely to imagine things which are not the case. It is often a good idea to compose an account of the meetings of the provincial council reporting the substance of the business that is not reserved or confidential. The provincial can also give an account of what he has been doing and what his concerns are. News of individual brothers, assignations, distinctions and achievements can also be given. When the provincial is on visitation of the houses he may also have a general informal meeting with the brothers in which they can ask him any questions about the province or his individual ministry thus provoking a general discussion about the province and the Order. If the brothers are informed it is much more difficult for them to disclaim responsibility for the mission of the province because being informed they have an opportunity to make their views known either directly to the provincial or during a visitation.

A visitation is a good chance to come to know and understand the brothers better. Many of us might not have known all of the brothers in our province before we were elected, or if we did know them we did not know them well. I found that the brothers liked when the provincial visited them. It made them feel more involved in the life of the province and the Order and it gave them a sense that their common life and individual ministry were valued. On one occasion after a visitation I was late in sending the visitation letter and an anxious plea came from the prior of the convent saying the brothers were wondering where it was. They like to be given a reflection by an interested outsider on their life and their concerns. I always found it important in the visitation letters to begin with praising and appreciating what was good before going on to propose changes or outline areas of the conventual life and ministry which needed examination or consideration. Generally, these were welcomed and acted upon.

In the formation houses the visitation process was more formal. At the end of the visitation we would meet in the Chapter Room there would be prayers and I would choose a passage of the Gospel and preach a little homily to the brothers before giving my visitation charge. Some brothers did not like this thinking it was too formal and that I was too ‘abbatial.’ They would have preferred a more informal meeting in the community room in which I reflected with them on the state of the house. I always resisted this because I thought it was too much of surrender to the managerial model and once more saw the provincial as a personel manager or a management consultant. The idea of a visitation was not to make a house more efficient but to see if the brethren are persevering in peace, assiduous in study, fervent in preaching, and faithful in regular observance (LCO 341, 2). It was also an opportunity to invite the brothers to reflect on the role of the study house in the life of the province. The formality was partly strategic. In formation houses some of the aspects of our life have to be made more explicit so that those who are in formation may see their significance. A formal conclusion to the visitation, which might not have been appropriate in other smaller houses, was desirable in the study house in my view to communicate that a visitation was not simply about management and efficiency, but about religious conversion and prompting the brothers in a house to situate themselves in terms of the mission of the entire province and Order.

The last phrase is an important one; the provincial has to ensure that the relationship between the province and the houses functions well. It is true that priors guard the interests of their house and Regents and Moderators do the same for the study house, but it is important that they also assume responsibility for the good government of the entire province. Their general responsibilities in this sphere are made clear in the Constitutions. The conventual priors have voice and vote in provincial chapters. They are there to legislate not just for their own houses but for the entire province seeing their convent in the context of the provincial mission. Sometimes the good of the provincial mission must come before the individual good of the individual convent. Similarly, the Regent is an ex officio member of the Provincial Council. He, the former provincial and the socius of the provincial are the only ex officio members. The ex-provincial is to provide something of the historical memory of what went before and to give the benefit of his previous experience prudently and discretely. The Regent’s presence is a sign of the Order’s commitment to the intellectual apostolate. To be honest there is plenty of scope for conflict between the Regent and Provincial. It is disastrous for the good of the province if this develops into open conflict or disagreement. Study in the Order is not an end in itself but is at the service of the Mission, the ultimate responsibility for coordinating and service of the mission of the province belongs to the provincial. The Regent and the Priors, at the level of provincial chapter and provincial council respectively, have to be encouraged to accept responsibility in their own spheres of activity and authority for the mission of the province. Sometimes a provincial can feel extremely, isolated as the burden of ‘filling gaps’, providing the ‘narrative continuity’ of the province and holding it together in some sense. This is a dangerous position to find oneself in since, if we begin to feel as if we are the only ones to care about the province and that the whole burden of its government falls on us, then it soon will do since others will leave us to get on with our self-appointed task.

What are the remedies for a sense of isolation? The Constitutions in their wisdom give a very good aid to the provincial in the office of the socius. The socius is not necessarily the provincial’s deputy but is meant to be his confidante and advisor. It is important to have the support of such a brother, to share experiences, to consider difficulties and sometimes just to let off steam in the sure knowledge that anything you say will be kept confidential. The Constitutions give an important place to this role. The socius is to live in the same house as the provincial, if possible, and not to occupy the office of prior or any other important position which would compromise his responsibility to aid the provincial. I have to say that in my time as provincial I had three socii. The first, the former provincial, became a bishop, the second became procurator general and the third was elected prior and moved to a convent six hundred miles away. In many ways the office did not work for me. I think this was a big lack. It is always possible to ask advice on the telephone or by e mail but that is not the same as being able to go into the next room or to an office along the corridor when something comes up. My socii were a help to me but there was not that ease of contact which is envisaged by the constitutions.


I have not given a complete view of the function of the provincial’s office and much of what I have said has been marked by my own experience. There remain many other areas which I have not explored but I hope that what I have proposed for your consideration has been of some use.