Return to Formation Main Page
In 2004, the Province requested the Chapter to comment on a preaching document The Dominican Charism of Preaching: An Inquiry, put together by a panel of Dominicans at the request of an earlier General Chapter of the Order, seeking comments about preaching and its role in the Order and in the modern world. The document sought comments about some valid issues, but there were comments in the document on preaching that revealed a bias towards opening the preaching during the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass to non-ordained religious or lay people. The document noted that it was an effort to read the "signs of the times," and with a faint reference to inequality between the various peoples, the Chapter rejected these statements, and the Chapter summed up its thoughts in the idea that, "Without regard to differing views, or political, social or worldly agendas, the priest who preaches Christ crucified does not become a stumbling block for the faithful," and that, "we support preaching by well-formed and qualified Dominicans and laypeople and religious in any venue, but not on the altar or at the ambo during the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass." The Chapter's comments on the preaching document and the issues raised in that document follows below:
BLESSED MARGARET OF CASTELLO, OP
CHAPTER IN FORMATION
Boise, Idaho 83704
Monday, June 7, 2004
Re: The Dominican Charism of Preaching
To the Members and Observers of the Lay Provincial Council:
Thank you for the opportunity to review the document entitled The Dominican Charism of Preaching: An Inquiry, dated May 2001, and the cover letter from the General Curia at Santa Sabina in Rome. At a duly-called Council meeting on Monday, June 7, 2004, we discussed this matter, and have concluded the following:
We endorse the idea as recommended in the Vatican Council II that the lay people be more involved in the Church. We do so because, when done properly, it does not hinder the task of the Church with the goal of the salvation of souls.
Preaching is a special charism of the Order of Preachers. Each part of the Order has its special venue for preaching. Preaching is not singularly teaching, admonishing, and spreading the Word of God by mouth, but it is also through an act of commission or omission that we preach. Indeed, we are constantly watched by those about us for how we preach by our acts and not our words. This we share in the universal priesthood of believers. We also share special venues for preaching at work, at play, and at home. We also share in parish life, and in community among the faithful in our chapters and elsewhere.
The ministerial priests have a special canonical and Scriptural role of passing on the Word of God. Relying on the education, formation, and experience of teaching from the pulpit, the consistency, constancy and persistence of teaching the Word of God is gloriously seen in any orthodox priest or prelate. Without regard to differing views, or political, social or worldly agendas, the priest who preaches Christ crucified does not become a stumbling block for the faithful. 1 Cor. 1: 23. The dignity of the priesthood is very high, as he has the power to forgive sins as granted by Christ (John 20:23), and for the converting of bread and wine on the altar to the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The priest is called to the vows of poverty and chastity to avoid division between ecclesial and material and familial duties. He focuses on his education, his training, and after ordination, his congregation. As St. Paul says, “An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife[.].” 1 Cor. 7:32,33. After all, some persons have renounced, “marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19: 12. There is no scandal or inequality to believers when preached to by ministerial priests who have been called of God.
Preaching is for all of us, especially in the world where we live and work, but also in our formation in our individual chapters. Participation in good formation is a beautiful way to preach to one another. We clearly have different roles and offices. It is our place to humbly go forth and preach the Gospel where we are in our respective states of life.
Our Chapter worries that for some in the Church today; it is not the preaching that concerns them, or the salvation of souls; but the position and power that come from doing the homily at Mass. In other words, it is political in nature, seeking temporal position and power, not the charity that comes from the salvation of souls. We oppose any use of lay people, non-ordained men and women at “liturgical preaching” or, in other words, at Mass during the homily. If laypeople or non-ordained people are allowed this position, then we believe the faithful will suffer. They will suffer from inconsistent messages, poor scholarship and exegesis; or from people who may be qualified and gifted, but who have a political or social agenda that do not always meet the goal of preaching: the salvation of souls. Frankly, our collective experience has been where there is a political or social agenda involved, whether noticeable or not, the faithful suffer, as well as the Church.
We believe that the Church will suffer what the Protestants suffer from presently. They have rejected the call of the ministerial priesthood, and are hammered repeatedly by individuals who teach, preach, and prophecy in isolation from magisterial or ecclesial authority. They divide the Word of God into an endless cascade of personal interpretation, congregational division and strife. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are taught, and it is the Church that holds this fullness of teaching, for there is no prophecy in Scripture that is subject to personal interpretation. 2 Peter 1:19. As we live now, we believe there are those groups and people who would seek the position and power of the priesthood, or otherwise subdue it and make it yield to worldly designs. We cannot acquiesce to such credulity, for the injury to us all would be too great.
In the end, at Mass, the priest properly focuses on the teaching of the Church and is her teacher to the faithful.
Human history develops. Events change. New political ideologies and agendas arise and fall. Nations and empires come and go. Technology grows and changes the way humans live. Human nature does not change. From Eve’s first temptation to today, this nature has not changed. There are men and women called daily to the ministry, whether to the priesthood or religious respectively. The “signs of the times” do not change what is relevant. Truly, only one sign endures: the salvation of souls through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew 16:1-4.
Often the problem with the call of young men and women is that the local Church may not have people answer such a call with proper instruction, encouragement, sustenance, and community to support them. Here in Idaho, the priests no longer live in community, and they remain distant and alone, often cut off from the fellowship of other priests. There are those who are answering the call from God. We need to be there with temporal resources and encouragement, and community, not a downhearted statement that there are not enough priests. Even in this post-industrial period, God has not ceased calling men and women to the priesthood and the religious life. Given the right formation in our parishes, in homes, and in Catholic schools, the call to the priesthood and to the religious would result in a long queue of young men and women. There are people who will answer the call, including the virtue of celibacy for they, by the grace of God, will make “themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:12. These men and women simply need the diocesan structure of support and encouragement and capital support from the laypeople.
The sisters and nuns of the Order preach as well. They preach in the classrooms and seminars, and in get-togethers. They evangelize by action and most especially in the expression of good sense and wisdom in a world caught by up by a gospel of temporal salvation, political agendas, material liberation, and misguided people. They educate one child at a time in the Gospel, forming children that will change the world. Indeed, here in Idaho, the lack of sisters and nuns as teachers have left many Catholic students spiritually and educationally impoverished.
The lay people have a very special role, leading the way from parish to the office, from the factory to the farm. Emboldened through proper formation and with the goal of the salvation of souls of family, friends, and neighbors, the lay people have become ambassadors in a foreign lost world.
There is a veiled agenda by some, to change the Church to conform to their own worldly secular vision, and not the vision of Christ. The dignity of the priesthood is not affected by true lay involvement. If anything it is bolstered and supported. Unfortunately, the priesthood is under siege by those that would neuter its vitality, would make it irrelevant, and would reduce (and are reducing) its numbers in the world. We support preaching by well-formed and qualified Dominicans and laypeople and religious in any venue, but not on the altar or at the ambo during the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
In the final analysis, collaborative preaching means that we all participate in the Order’s charism, but in our respective roles, properly preaching the Word of God, after carefully formation, study, and community. Members of the Order, whether priestly, religious, or lay, are not called to preach in all venues, but in separate venues that match our respective states in life and for which we have been called by God.
The Order of Preachers can aid the local bishop and the diocesan priest with our prayers and sacrifices, our study and our community, as well as any logistical support as necessary, and to help fulfill the role of being faithful members of the Order of Preachers.
Thank you for your time. Most sincerely,
In our holy father St. Dominic,
Members of the Council, Blessed Margaret of Castello, OP Chapter in Formation