St Dominic 800th Anniversary: There Are Tears at The Heart Of Things
By Sr Alison Munro – Over a hundred Dominicans gathered on Zoom because of the Covid 19 pandemic on 30 January 2021 for a celebration marking the jubilee of the 800th anniversary of the death of St Dominic. Most participants at the meeting live in South Africa, but others joined from England, Switzerland, Australia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Spain.
Fr Martin Badenhorst gave the main address “There are tears at the heart of things” (from Virgil’s Aeneid) and quoted by Pope Francis in Fratelli Tutti:
If everything is connected, it is hard to imagine that this global disaster is unrelated to our way of approaching reality, our claim to be absolute masters of our own lives and of all that exists. I do not want to speak of divine retribution, nor would it be sufficient to say that the harm we do to nature is itself the punishment for our offences. The world is itself crying out in rebellion. We are reminded of the well-known verse of the poet Virgil that evokes the “tears of things”, the misfortunes of life and history.
“There has”, said Fr Martin, ”been a far too narrow reading of the fundamental blessing of our creation.” What is forgotten, and not often mentioned in Christian teaching is that the blessing of fecundity fulfilled is replaced by the blessing of Torah, allotting new responsibilities to humanity: the inheritance laws imply the limiting of progeny, the laws of kashrut limit the eating of animals. “Our unloving attitude leads to disconnection, thus exploitation and degradation,” said Fr Martin. The problem was understood by Thomas Aquinas who noted that what gets in the way of our responsibility for the good of all things in nature is the fact that we desire not what is good for everything, but rather what is good for me.
“The requirements of responsibility and rational and truthful investigation are dishonoured in our global village of instant conspiracy theories, political capital, exploitative capitalism, and sheer selfishness.” Fr Martin pointed to the challenges facing global health which cannot rely on cooperation among countries and peoples, and which therefore struggles to deal with a global pandemic; the health of each one member rises or falls with the health of others (cf Laurie Garrett). Participants were reminded that we depend on nature and nature depends on us for the balance giving rise to well-being, the so-called ‘doughnut economy’. In such an economy it is important that there is a global change of mind, from autonomy to community, from indifference to passion.
St Dominic is presented in the Mascarella painting (above) as a saint in fellowship, as a companion. A heresy of our time is the capitalism of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the doctrine of limitless profit comes at the cost of human community and the planet’s resources. And so we are called to live in a state of pandemic until there is a just balance between our human needs and the resources available to us. There is a need for community to stand together in mutual nurturing and protection, not in the free-for-all of everyone for him/herself.
Fr Martin reminded the gathering that the General Chapter of the brethren of 2019 identified three manifestations of the dis-ease in our communities: growing individualism, the fragility of community life, and the obstacle of excessive apostolic activism. On the other hand, to be ‘experts in communion’ means to work hard at the synergies of our lives.
We have as Dominicans a response to the needs of our times which is as pertinent as it was in the time of St Dominic: to love the world, one another, and our place at the table of creation.
Dies Natalis Sancti Dominici
O God, Our Creator, Redeemer, Paraclete, in prayer, we lift up our praise, our blessing, our preaching. Eight hundred years ago, you called Saint Dominic to enter into eternal life and to join you at the table in heaven. As we celebrate this Jubilee, feed us and fill us with grace so that we may realise our mission of preaching for the salvation of souls. Help us to nourish your people with your Truth, your mercy and your Love, until the promised day when we are all united with the blessed. We ask this, as one Dominican Family, through the pleas of Mary, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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