This summer, five Central Province Dominican student brothers participated in the Lands of Dominic Pilgrimage in celebration of the Order’s 800th Jubilee. Along the way through France, Spain and Italy, they documented the trip on a GoPro Hero 3+. Enjoy the video here! Special thanks to Br. Samuel Hakeem, OP, Drew Anderson, Br. James Peter Trares, OP, Br. Raphael Christianson, and Br. Vincent Davila, OP.
By: Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
I don’t think I’m being paranoid (of course, paranoid people never think they are being paranoid), but I think I’m being followed.
As a Dominican, I’m on the road a lot in my vocations and fundraising ministries asking people for either their money or their life. Well not quite like that…I’m not an old gunslinger from Dodge City. But lately, no matter what priory or rectory or hotel I stay in around the country, the same commercial comes on the T.V. for some restaurant I’ve never heard of called The Golden Corral. Yes, I’m being followed by a commercial! After an appetizing, sumptuous spread of mouthwatering foods, it’s seductive, sound bite suggests: “Help Yourself to Happiness.”
That advertising tagline, “Help yourself to Happiness,” could be a summary slogan for this season of Lent. Now at first glance, what this liturgical season brings to the table doesn’t strike one as very appetizing or alluring. First we are smeared with ashes and reminded we begin as a pile of dust and will end as a pile of dust. We’re told to fast; to confront petty preoccupations, jealousies and judgments, our superficial attachments; to repent of sinful and selfish ways. Let’s be honest: are we having fun yet?! However, in our Eucharist Preface we pray: “Each year you give us this joyful season.” Come again? Did I hear that right? The clue to this conundrum is a few lines later: “As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us.” Lent is an annual call to re-embrace the life of the Risen Christ in us as the definitive gift of God’s friendship to us and to renew that friendship as our deepest joy, our greatest happiness. After all, we are told from the very beginning from the inspired Word itself, from the book of Genesis that we are the very image of God Himself. This is not then, a dour season of gloom and doom. This is not a season to beat up on ourselves or anyone else for that matter. It is a time to receive from the always outstretched hand of God that which will really quench our deepest thirst and satiate our abiding hunger. It is a time to reexamine how we pursue happiness in our words, choices and actions and redirect our efforts from so many things, to the one Someone that really matters!
Our first reading is the precursor to those great events. Israel’s ritual remembrance is a celebration of all “God’s doing” on their behalf. Yes, the gift of a land of abundance, and certainly, the Exodus; the arduous 40 year journey from slavery to freedom, spiritually, every bit as geographically. But even more significant, the graced realization for Israel of who they are before God, their identity as a chosen people, a beloved nation, not through any of “their doings,” but “God’s faithful doing.” Moses’ instruction functions as a vehicle for the people to acknowledge the gratitude owed to Yahweh for His past fidelity; a vehicle, if you will, with shiny rear view mirrors. You see, it was only in looking back that Israel came to know in her heart that “objects in the mirror are closer then they appear.” Israel saw how near God was when He appeared to be the most distant. Isn’t it so often the same with us? We look back through the rear view mirror of our lives and see a Divine Friend unwavering in his faithfulness to us. Lent hits the “liturgical pause button,” serving as our yearly ritual of remembrance so that, like Israel, we’re reminded of God’s fidelity even amid our infidelity and gratefully, consciously, recover our original identity as the beloved of God, as the cherished friend of God.
As it says in our Opening Prayer, “you formed man from the clay of the earth and breathed into him the Spirit of life.” What an original picture that paints! One spiritual author vividly places us at the scene of what he calls “the pristine moment of creation” where we “find God, his hands still smeared with clay, hovering over us, breathing into us his own divine life, smiling to see in us a reflection of Himself.” It is the task of recovering that original identity of ourselves before God as a mirror reflection of the “Divine Doing” and embracing its implications for our lives that is the joyful task of Lent. By God’s doing we know who we are, yet we are relentlessly tempted to construct who we are out of our own doing. This is the inner spiritual warfare portrayed in today’s gospel. “Help yourself to happiness,” after all, could also be Satan’s slick slogan!
Beginning with the reassuring words “Filled with the Holy Spirit” Luke seems to lull an unsuspecting audience (you and I) into a psychological ambush: The same Spirit, who just affirmingly, majestically descended on Jesus at His baptism, is now leading him into the dry, dark, dangerous desert to a confrontation with Satan. Interestingly enough, while Matthew in his gospel parallels Luke’s comforting opening of the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert, Mark declares in stark terms: “the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert.” Friends, the Spirit of God sometimes leads, sometimes drives us into that place we don’t want to go, but must go if we are to wake-up to our true happiness: the daunting desert of our own demons; extremely tough because we live in a society that is determined to pursue pleasure and avoid pain at all costs, even if it kills us spiritually. But we go into that inner desert this Lent with the courageous example of Our Lord, trusting that the same Spirit who protected Jesus is there to protect us.
Just as Adam and Eve’s fall to temptation challenged not simply God’s authority, but God’s intended role for human beings, so we see the same classic dynamic in the three temptations Satan puts before Jesus; the temptation to immediate gratification, letting one’s momentary appetites rule rather then wait on God to provide, the temptation to self-glory: to make a name for himself with his wonder-working; the temptation to personal power: demanding proofs of God’s promises by testing His fidelity. All are variations on the same theme; different colored apples with the same inner core: the temptation for Jesus and for us, is to create our own program for happiness rather then trust and obey God’s program for us. Notice, Satan never questions Jesus’ calling as Messiah, but tempts him to live it out in a way differently then God has precisely planned, a way that circumvents the cross that will lead to new life for him and for us.
Jesus’ struggle with temptation and ours is not meant to be suffering for the sake of suffering, but a radically different answer to the question that has kept philosophers employed since time memorial: What is the nature of true happiness and how do people achieve it? People want to be happy…how they hope to get it is an ongoing debate. Jesus, in rejecting Satan’s slick suggestions is rejecting today’s standards for pursuing success and happiness: immediate gratification, self-aggrandizement and personal power; as spiritually, a dead-end.
Lent’s ultimate meaning is not merely to give something up or do something additional, but to rediscover Someone. It is to shock our system; to sober us up; to challenge us to take stock of how we are helping ourselves to happiness and if that path to happiness is real or the wasting of our precious life. If the latter, Lent is the time to just stop, and decisively turn it around. As the philosopher Kierkegaard said: “So much is written about wasted lives, but only that person’s life is wasted who never …in the deepest sense receives an impression that there is a God and that they themselves stand in this Gods’ presence.”
So if you want to help yourself to happiness…, no problem. But will it be of your creation or of God’s creation?
When Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, we may face several questions: What are you giving up for Lent? Why don’t you eat meat on Fridays? Do you have dirt on your forehead?
We may even have questions of our own: Why are we supposed to give something up for Lent? Where did these ashes come from?
Take a few minutes to watch the VIDEO below, in which Fr. Andy McAlpin, OP answers some of the most commonly asked Lenten questions.
Catholics are called to spend the next several weeks focused on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Learn more about these three focal points of the Lenten season here.
What should you give up for Lent? Or is that the wrong question? As we approach Ash Wednesday and Lent, Central Province Vocations Promoter, Fr. Andy McAlpin, OP discusses what (if anything) you should give for Lent.
As we enter this new liturgical moment we call Lent, let me share a few thoughts inspired by a conversation with my 19 year-old nephew, Alex.
I asked Alex what he was going to give up for Lent. He replied without hesitating, “Oh Uncle Andy, I don’t want to go the negative route, but do something more.”
A common and increasingly fashionable misinterpretation as we enter these forty days of Lent is that the traditional practice of “giving something up” is a negative approach. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
This season is not about doing more, but doing less; not about addition, but subtraction. Its spirit goes against a relentless cultural conditioning that promotes the idea that we are all better off the more we have, the more we do, the more we achieve, the more we are known. This season teaches us to say “No” again to the kind of societal brainwashing that suggests we have too little and to reassert our freedom in the Christian message of “Yes” to having more than enough in Christ.
We specifically give things up to exercise our freedom and practice our “no” to those compulsory attachments to things, people and activities that we unthinkingly turn to instead of the one thing necessary: loving God and each other as God’s own son and daughter.
Now Lent does ask something more of us: to fast, pray and gives alms to the poor without fanfare. This is “the more” of Lent we need to concern ourselves with, the built-in scriptural additions. But to remember to eat more moderately, pray more consistently and give to the poor (not just materially, but emotionally, spiritually or socially), we need “a daily trigger,” as it were; a reminder that this time is not like any other time of the year. It can be as simple as taking that routine, daily cup of coffee without sugar or cream these 40 days or without both. Or is can be as challenging as saying no to certain favorite T.V. programs or to T.V. altogether during Lent. But this is only the beginning of our Lenten effort. The trigger is for the real work of Lent: turning to God in our hunger instead of the next cookie, turning to God for conversation instead of our cellphone, next text or Facebook update; turning to God disguised as our impoverished brother and sister, rather than saying, “not my responsibility” or “I shouldn’t get involved.”
So far from being negative, the season of Lent is always about the positive: the positive retrieval of our God-given freedom to choose what really fills us and to detach ourselves from the superfluous pursuits that leave us in the long run increasingly unfree and imprisoned.
A blessed and fruitful Lent,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P.,
Director of the Society for Vocational Support &
Vicar for Mission Advancement
By. Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
You came alive spiritually at the moment of your baptism. Your parents made that decision for your spiritual well-being as they made so many other decisions for your physical, mental and spiritual well-being. That decision was confirmed by you. Lent is a time to renew what both of those moments were really all about: Developing the most important relationship in your life–even more important than a wife husband or friend–your intimate friendship with Christ. How can you develop any relationship if you don’t talk to the person on a regular basis? How can you develop a relationship with someone you don’t listen to, who may speak to us through other human voices or the intuitions of our hearts or our feelings?
Fasting involves knowing the difference between needs and wants. We live in a society and a contemporary culture that is excess-oriented—we can never get enough and this is what the advertisers want us to think. Have you seen the advertising for Sprite: Obey your Thirst? Lent is all about stepping back and reflecting for a moment on whether or not I am rewarding my deepest curiosity or obeying my deepest thirst. O lord, our hearts were mad for you and will only rest when they rest in you! That is the meaning of life. That is the deepest meaning of your identity; you made by God sent here to do a specific unique work that no one else can do but you and one day you will return to God and say this is what I did with the life gifts and talents you gave me to make the world a better place. You see, we do have to account to God for what he has give us, but not like going to an IRS representative and accounting for each fault committed, but like going to a parent or teacher and saying this is what I did with what you taught me, the values you gave me the challenges you offered me along the way.
As Dominicans we follow the Rule of St. Augustine as a way to govern our religious life. It’s the set of the ideals we always want to live by as community members committed to Jesus’ mission in today’s’ world. As far back as the 4th century, St. Augustine prayed: “Oh, God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts will not rest until they rest in you.” After a long journey to God with a lot of mistakes along the way, Augustine realized that what he really wanted deep down was God. He was looking, like the old song goes, for love in all the wrongs places. If he wanted to know God the way one knows and loves a close friend, like a soul mate, he would have to start doing something different in his life, something that would put that friendship front and center. He sold what he had and gave it to the poor, began to pray every day and fasted not so much from food like we may think of it but from all those impulses in his life that took him away from the one thing he wanted more then anything; to know God as his intimate friend.
Jesus offers us that same map that will lead to an intimate relationship with God. He says when you gives alms, an old fashioned way of saying when you give to the poor, do it not for your self by showing off and bragging about it, but as a measure of your desire to love God. And go to your room and pray, knowing that God hears and treasures every word of yours. And finally, fast. But do so cheerfully, not with gloomy faces. What worth is a gift that is given begrudgingly? What does this mean for us today in the 21st century: Are there not those poor among us in shelters and soups kitchens and out on the streets, some obviously without all the material things we have. Perhaps, more important are those who are emotionally poor among us, who we know struggle with difficult relationships with their parents, or some physical liability—how do we treat them?
Continue to follow the white habit throughout Lent. Send us your questions, and share this series with your friends and family.
God bless you!
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, OP
Fr. Chuck Dahm, O.P., Archdiocese of Chicago Director of Domestic Violence Outreach explains our role in addressing domestic violence.
The Catholic Response to Domestic Violence
Homily on Domestic Violence
By: Br. Patrick Hyde, O.P.
The wood of the desk is the wood of the Cross.
One of the brothers told me this Dominican maxim when I came on a Come and See weekend. As a teacher and lover of learning, this was a particularly enticing and intriguing way of looking at the spiritual side of study.
Study as the spirituality of a religious community might seem odd, even counter-intuitive. How can we be contemplative, sacramental, liturgical, prayerful, poor, chaste, and obedient when our noses are stuck in books? The answer is simple: We study God. We plumb the depths of his inspired words in Scripture. We carefully study the Sacred Tradition and Magisterium of the Church. We root ourselves in medio ecclesiae and explore the riches of the Sacred Sciences, theology and philosophy.
As a Dominican student brother, I, and my fellow student brothers, take seriously the model of study exhibited by St. Thomas Aquinas. Thus, we go about our studies in order to use our reason and faith to explore, understand, and explain the divine truths revealed to all men by God that are necessary for the salvation of souls.
Our study leads us deeper in the life of contemplative prayer, community, and preaching that we, as Friars Preachers, are called to live.
As a student, I have had the opportunity to study ancient Greek and, with the guidance of professors at Aquinas Institute, I have used that study to broaden and deepen my understanding of Scripture and the Church Fathers. In turn, this study has led me to know and love God in newer and more profound ways.
The wooden cross of Christ opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. My wooden desk opens my heart, mind, and soul to know and love my Savior all the more.
Before joining the Dominican Order, Br. Joe Trout, O.P. spent a year and a half teaching middle school math in rural Indiana. Several of his students had special needs and others came from very difficult socioeconomic backgrounds. Some had parents in jail. Often his biggest challenge was convincing 7th and 8th graders that math mattered in their lives.
In many public schools, teachers aren’t allowed to bring up religion. But if students ask any questions, teachers are free to answer. When Br. Trout left a rosary or a bible out on his desk, questions would often arise and conversations would follow.
Fast forward to this fall. Now solemnly professed in the Order of Preachers, Br. Trout is teaching freshman and sophomore Theology at Fenwick High School (Oak Park, IL), one of the most prestigious Catholic college prep schools in the country. He reads a Scripture passage from the Book of Genesis, chapter four. Within minutes, more than half of his students eagerly raise their hands. One student connects the reading to a discussion of John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. The book is barely visible on Br. Trout’s desk.
Students attend Fenwick for an excellent education, a safe environment and a warm community. But even Br. Trout admits many of them are not interested in faith, whatsoever. In one of his classes, at least a third of the students aren’t Catholic and a good number aren’t Christian. Some are agnostic or atheist, and others are actively questioning what they should believe. But they aren’t being graded on their faith. Rather, students are graded on their ability to discuss faith, speak intelligently about what they believe, and have a conversation with someone else rather than simply being reactive—and the non-Catholic students challenge both their teacher and fellow students.
“You can’t take the approach you can in other subjects where you say we all believe this matters. We can’t begin on that assumption,” Br. Trout said.
Theology is a required course at Fenwick, like math was in his previous teaching role. While his current students are highly motivated by good grades, Br. Trout is still working to help students see why the classroom content matters outside Fenwick’s stone walls.
“No matter where you stand on these topics, these are some of the most important questions you’ll ask in your life,” Br. Trout said. “Is there something out there? Is there life after death? Is there something you can have a relationship with? What is the point of life?”
“The students are more interested, in some ways, than I was expecting,” Br. Trout said. “They have big questions and they are very honest about them.”
“Having students who are wondering and asking questions adds something enjoyable to my classroom,” Br. Trout added. “Sometimes the students with less religious backgrounds have more probing questions because it’s new to them. It adds something dynamic to the room. The Catholic students can’t give as simple of answers all the time because they’re aware that other people in the room don’t agree with them. You can’t just say, I believe this so that’s the way it is.”
Students in 9th and 10th grade seem more open and curious about their place in the world. They care about their faith and they want to know more. At Fenwick, students are challenged to intellectually engage their faith in the true spirit of the Dominican Order, as friars dressed in the traditional white habit provide a visible witness to religious life in the hallways and beyond.
“We have a whole different experience of the world that filters into everything we do,” Br. Trout said. “A number of us teach Theology, but some are teaching in different settings. Seeing us in different lights gives students a glimpse into the breadth of what it means to be a religious in the Church or a Christian, in a sense.”
Also on staff in Fenwick’s Theology department, Fr. Doug Greer, O.P. and Fr. Nick Monco, O.P. represent the crop of recently ordained friars. But, Dominicans do much more than teach Theology. The school’s president is Fr. Rick Peddicord, O.P., who taught Br. Trout while he was in graduate studies at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. In Institutional Advancement, Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P. has served Fenwick for years. Brother Paul Byrd, O.P. teaches English and Fr. Mike Winkels, O.P. teaches Art, and is the school’s Technology Director, as well as assistant hockey coach. Central Province Vocations Director, Fr. Andy McAlpin, O.P. coaches baseball, and Fenwick Campus Ministry Director, Fr. Dennis Woerter, O.P., also coaches soccer. In total, there are nine Dominican Friars having an impact at Fenwick, making it likely one of the largest religious faculty and staff of any Catholic secondary school in the country.
To learn more about Fenwick High School, visit www.FenwickFriars.org