The Dominicans are almost 800 years and 1 month old. Tomorrow the Order of Preachers officially concludes its 800th Jubilee Celebration on the anniversary of the second bull issued by Pope Honorius III concerning the friars, which granted additional privileges and protections to the new religious community he had established a month earlier on December 22, 1216. Eight hundred years is a long time, and this long view of the entire 800-year history of the Order shows many ups and downs. This helps put our contemporary challenges and successes into a proper perspective and also shows the wisdom of the expression, “the Church thinks in centuries.”
Taking the long view means that our actions can have an importance that is only relative. We can do a lot of good work, but it also can be destroyed in an instant by an act of nature or man. Very little of what we do is ours because we do not live isolated from the greater world. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and our families. Entering the Order of Preachers, we have the great ones who came before us—both the known and unknown saints. Upon our work, the next generation will build, and when we die, we leave our projects to others who may or may not take them up as their own. Ultimately, we accomplish very little on our own. The things that we store up for our own use are given to another when the hour of death comes.
At the same time, our actions are of the greatest importance. When Mother Teresa of Calcutta emphasized that God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful, she was merely repeating what many saints throughout the centuries have declared. Faithfulness in the small aspects of our life gives us the strength to be faithful when we are asked to do something great. If we are faithful to God’s commands, His plan to draw us back to Him Who created us will come to fruition. Jesus reminds us that “one sows and another reaps” (Jn 4:37). We do not know the ultimate end of our work, but we do know that if we do not sow the seeds, there will be nothing to reap. For God, the time between the sowing and the harvesting is not important because “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pt 3:8). Hence, we should think and act like Rome—not only in centuries but in terms of eternity.
As we look forward to, God willing, the next 800 years of Dominican life, please pray for us that we may follow ever more closely in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and the way of life He gave through Our Holy Father Dominic.
God, Father of mercy,
who called your servant Dominic de Guzman
to set out in faith
as an itinerant pilgrim and a preacher of grace,
as we prepare to celebrate the Jubilee of the Order
we ask you to pour again into us
the Spirit of the Risen Christ,
that we might faithfully and joyfully proclaim
the Gospel of peace,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Holy Father Dominic and all your brothers and sisters, Dominican Saints and Blesseds, pray for us.
Image: Bernadette Carstensen, Beloved Dominican Saints. Copyright © 2015 Dominican Province of Saint Joseph.