Brothers – Pastor’s Reflection (July 31, 2016)
Summer brings the joy of the young. Our two Priories of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena have together received ten young Friars this season. Their presence encourages us on several levels.
First, they share with us the bright excitement of learners. Their seminary summers figure as part of their training, and ideally they feature a progression of experiences leading up to the final deacon summer before ordination. A typical first summer will mean “direct service.” Some of the Brothers assigned to New York have worked with Mother Theresa’s Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity, in the Bronx. Their second summer might find them working in a hospital. This year three of the Brothers took part in the internship program sponsored by the Dominican Friars Health Care Ministry of New York. Two of the seminarians from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie joined them in this work. Work in hospitals ranks high among formation experiences because it demands that the minister enter into situations that carry emotional significance and defy pat answers. Other summers might be more intellectual in nature. One of the Brothers usually has an internship with the journal, First Things, another works with our Dominican Foundation, and yet another studies Spanish. We hope that these assignments work together to foster well rounded priests or solemnly professed Brothers. Of course the man himself has to put all these pieces together, and that takes time.
The younger Brothers also share our life. Their company enlivens our routine for two months each year, and their singing enhances our worship. We, meanwhile share with them our pattern of Dominican life. I write “our pattern” rather than “the pattern” because each of our houses has the responsibility of structuring a life according to our Rule and Constitutions, but also congruent with its size and circumstances. Each group lives Dominican life. But when 80 men are living it in a seminary setting, it looks and feels quite different from the way seven men live it in a setting with multiple ministerial demands, as is the case at St. Catherine of Siena Priory, where I live. How important it is for the young to have a concrete perception of this truth, so that they can prepare for a lifetime of adaptation.
During these summer months our communities are entrusted with the formation of the young. Such a charge serves to renew our own focus, and our commitment to sustaining a coherent and credible way of life in the situation Providence has handed us.
In a quiet moment I can also perceive a deeper gift of the young Friars to me. Their commitment shows me God at work leading us into a future, and this allows me comfortably to take my own place in the procession of life. When I sit at dinner at St. Catherine’s, at the table with me are Fr. John Farren, and Fr. Joseph Allen who were both part of my training. Also with me is Fr. Jonah Pollack whose formation I oversaw during the year of his Novitiate. There also are Br. Timothy Danaher and Br. Joseph Hagan, whom Fr. Jonah supervises for the summer in the hospitals. Here are four generations of fraternal care that make the Order a living thing. Such continuity manifests to me God’s fidelity in time to the gifts He inaugurated in a founder like St. Dominic. To look at life in this way puts a whole new spin on middle age.
By the time you read this, most of these Friars will have left to visit their families and then to resume the round of their academic life. I will have sent them off with thanks for their great preaching at the Wednesday evening Holy Hour. Passages from the Book of Revelation challenge the most seasoned preacher and they met the task with alacrity. They have also served and read at Mass with serene generosity.
It has been a pleasure indeed to have the diaconal ministry of Br. Edmund McCullough this summer. He has served both in the hospitals and in our two pulpits, and has brought to this process a real confidence and ease.
Remaining with us through August is Fr. John Sica. Newly ordained, Fr. Sica serves in the hospitals and in the parish so that the regulars can get a summer break. His generous and talented presence comes as a blessing in an extraordinary time. Please make Father welcome among us.
Now for us, life gets very quiet. May these weeks give all of us the recollection that is summer’s special offering.