From far away we come,
And farther we must go.
How far? How far,
My crystal star?
These lyrics begin the song introducing the Magi in Giancarlo Menotti’s Christmas Opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
A member of the Dominican Laity and graduate of our Dominican high school in the Chicago area, Fenwick, wrote recently that he played Amahl when he was 12. The production was to benefit one of his fellow voice students who had contracted Leukemia. Our alum shared that even after all this time, he could close his eyes and still hear Caspar’s sweet tenor, the anchoring bass of Balthazar, and the unshakable leadership of Melchior’s baritone.
While officially leaving the Christmas Season behind, I hope we don’t spiritually. I hope we can all close our eyes and still hear its most poignant sounds. I hope we can still hear the sweet tenor of Advent’s poetic, joyful foreshadowing of an impending Savior for the world and the anchoring bass sharing the Christmas message that Divine love was so passionate, it overflowed and took on human form. I hope we can still marvel at the unshakable and humbled leadership of the Magi in reminding us all that life is a sacred and sacramental journey following the crystal star revealed in the Epiphany.
At the dawn of a New Year, we Christians sing “From far away we come, and farther we must go. How far? How far, My crystal star?” That is the inexhaustible epiphany we take with us into this new moment; something more profound than mere New Year’s resolutions to follow. We have a person to follow. After all, Epiphany, from the Greek epiphaneia, means: “appearance or manifestation of God.”
We have celebrated the humble appearance of God’s presence in the vulnerability of a poor child; a presence we follow in the year ahead like a star whose light, life and love unfailingly guides us. For those who have “the eyes to see, the ears to hear” and the heart committed to follow, epiphanies of that Divine Presence at work among us occur again and again.
This was particularly evident in the first week of the new year here in Chicago at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) Conference.
Over 8,000 students from around the country attended. With several other provinces, we staffed a booth to promote the Order and meet potential candidates interested in Dominican religious life. Together, the friars collected over 50 names of young men interested in attending a Come & See weekend. The friars were also joined by Dominican Sisters from Nashville, Ann Arbor, the Hawthorne Dominican Sisters in New York, and the Polish Dominican Sisters in Justice, Illinois. It’s not polite to brag, but I can’t help myself. We easily outnumbered every other religious group at the conference with over 30 Dominicans!
In addition to the thousands of students that visited our booth, each day we had crowds of young people join us for vespers and compline. Students from every one of our campus ministries were present at the conference, as well as a few Fenwick alumni. The conference’s goal was to empower college students with a deeper understanding of the faith so that they would go back to campus to serve those most in need. At the end of the conference, one of the last keynote speakers, retired baseball player, Mike Sweeney, even called the students to be like St. Dominic, “setting the world on fire.”
One of the privileges of this ministry is to be a witness to the epiphanies that occur in the discernment journeys of young people. These courageous young men and women leave the comfortable shores of conventional cultural conversations to following another more important conversation whose voice beckons: “farther away [you have] come, father away [you] must go. “They are willing to go on the sacred and sacramental journey of finding the meaning of the crystal star’s light in their life. Epiphany is not over for them. It is just beginning. But as someone once said in a homily: “There can be no epiphany without wise people; people looking up, being attentive.”
Thank you so much for the wise, attentive people you have been for us, supporting and encouraging us to keep “looking up” to the purpose for which we were founded. Preaching the life, light and love of the one the crystal star illuminates even today.
Please continue to give of your prayers and financial support. Both provide sustenance for the journeys of our candidates and each of our young men in formation. Without these, light for the journey would diminish and the Gospel would be less served.
A blessed and graced New Year,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P.
Director of the Society for Vocational Support & Vicar of Mission Advancement