Fr. Roger J. Landry
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, NJ
Votive Mass of St. Dominic in Anticipation of the Gala Dinner for the Dominican Nuns
October 20, 2016
Is 52:7-10, Ps 98, Lk 10:1-9
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
What a Gala!
How beautiful it is that tonight we begin our Gala festivities here in the Monastery praying with and for the Dominican Nuns who never cease to pray for us. No matter how great the speakers will be later on this evening at the Summit Grand Hotel, none will compare to Isaiah, David and Jesus Christ who have just addressed us. Despite the extraordinary training and genius of the chef and staff in the kitchen across Springfield Avenue, no cuisine can compare to the menu of the Last Supper that we will have the privilege to receive within minutes, the true food and drink that contain the nutrients of eternal life. Notwithstanding the great gifts and fittingly ascending bids that will be placed in the Silent Auction, no item matches up to the pearl of great price offered here, nor the cost of the starting bid, which is the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to the Lord, our spiritual worship. Just as even the most extravagant wedding receptions pale to the significance of the nuptial Mass that unites man and woman in one flesh to each other and to God, so tonight’s Gala Dinner, even as beautifully prepared and joy-filled as it will be, will always remain like a dessert to this main course, because it is here that we celebrate in the most fitting and powerful way of all the indispensable mission of our cloistered Dominican Nuns.
The One Thing Necessary
There’s a famous scene in the Gospel very dear to the nuns when Jesus went to the house in Bethany of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Martha, as we remember was busy with all of the details of putting on a great dinner, while Mary remained at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Martha, burdened with much serving, approached Jesus and asked, “Lord, you do not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me!” And Jesus told her that she was anxious and worried about many things, but only one thing was necessary. Mary had chosen the better part, he declared, and it was not going to be taken away from her. Martha, of course, loved the Lord very much and everything she was doing she was doing with the heart of a Good Samaritan. But Jesus gently and mercifully upbraided her because she was missing the point of his visit: he had come not principally to be fed, but to feed, not to be served but to serve, and it was Mary who realized this and as he said chose the better part.
Applied to our situation, we could say that as much as the Sisters appreciate the work of an extraordinary team of Saint Marthas of Summit who have labored tirelessly doing so many things to make the Gala Dinner successful and help the nuns raise the money to make possible many urgent renovations and necessary improvements in this house of God, what they are even more grateful for is our joining them here in their home so that we can sit with them at the feet of the One whom they love, listen to Him, thank Him, love Him, and let him bless and serve us. They want this monastery to be a Bethany for each of us and are so happy we have joined them tonight, not just so that Jesus can give us what he knows we need in response to our love and generosity to them in his name, but so that they can share with us the fruits of their contemplation in the way they pray, sing and live joyfully the Mass. And so we echo St. Peter’s words on the Mount of Transfiguration, “Lord, how good it is that we are here!”
St. Dominic, the Dominicans and Mercy
The Sisters have chosen to have us celebrate a votive Mass of St. Dominic, not just because the temperatures of the past few days may have gotten some of us thinking of their holy founder’s feast day at the beginning of August, but because this year the Order of Preachers is celebrating the octocentenary of its approval as a religious order in 1216. The fact that in God’s providence this 800th anniversary is occurring within the celebration of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis is an even greater reason for joy. Saint Dominic spent his long days carrying out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially preaching the faith, calling everyone to conversion and holiness, instructing those who were hungering for the truth, and counseling those tempted to fall away from the faith to various rigorous or lax substitutes. He spent his short nights, however, in prayer, asking the Lord repeatedly, “My God, my mercy, what will become of sinners?” “My God, my mercy, what will become of sinners?” That mercy that he incessantly implored and indefatigably dispensed was one of the chief characteristics of his life. And it’s one of the foremost features of the life of his “firstborn daughters.” When they make their vows, the Prioress asks each of them, “What do you seek?” And prostrated, with their faces humbly toward the floor, they faithfully reply, “God’s mercy and yours!” Each of the nuns comes here in search of God’s mercy, not just for themselves but for the world.
And how much mercy God regularly gives them here. As many of you know, the sisters have experienced an incredible manifestation of God’s merciful love for them by the great number new sisters that have entered this monastery in the past 12 years. In response to our prayers and theirs over many years for vocations — what Jesus mentioned in tonight’s Gospel — God the Harvest Master has responded. Our persistence has borne great fruit. Today the novitiate has three novices and one postulant coming from not only from the United States but Canada, Ireland and Singapore! And God continues to draw many to inquire about becoming sisters here in search of God’s mercy in a life in which they perpetually offer to God the eternal Father his dearly beloved Son’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, together with Mary, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
The Sisters’ Preaching of Christ’s Message of Mercy
The Lord’s loving mercy provides us a key to unlock the beautiful mystery that continues to unfold behind the grille. When a young woman crosses the threshold of the enclosure to embrace this life of prayer she does so, not just in response to the Lord’s calling her, but because she has fallen totally head-over-heels in love with God, the Bridegroom who loves her despite all her weaknesses and failings, seeks to cleanse her by water and the Word and wants to adorn her with his own virtues! Nothing other than that love received and reciprocated would make it possible for her to leave her country, her family and friends, the things she enjoys and loves to live a life that remains incomprehensible to so many. But what each Sister discovers is that that love that drew her here doesn’t remain static as she crosses the threshold. It grows and matures, as through sharing in the spousal love of Christ, she discovers and embraces in him and in imitation of Mary her vocation to spiritual maternity as a mother of souls. It’s here, as she grows in union with Mercy incarnate, that she begins to share in his Mission for the salvation of the world, praying and interceding for all of us that we, too, and the members of our families, our communities, especially those who are most lost, abandoned and downtrodden, might come to know the inmost sanctuary of God’s compassion, return to the Father’s house, and live in the Father’s love.
St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers eight centuries ago for “preaching and the salvation and souls” and their spiritual maternity is a particularly eloquent form of sacred preaching. The Sisters are not sent out physically in pairs as lambs among wolves, carrying no purse, sack and sandals, as the disciples were in the Gospel. No one says exclaims about them what was said about the Lord’s heralds in the Prophet Isaiah, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings!” But that does not mean they do not preach. They preach in a particular way through their silence, through their presence, through their spoken and sung prayer, through their counsel in the parlor, through their websites, through the sacred scents of Seignadou soap — which is more pure through their prayers than 99.4 percent clean Ivory soap! — and through their lives as spiritual mothers. They preach by their priorities what Isaiah proclaimed, “God is king!” They comfort God’s people. They raise a cry. They shout for joy. They put today’s Psalm into perpetual action, constantly singing a new song to the Lord, literally with the harp and melodious lyrics. In application of today’s Gospel, they don’t move about from one house to the next, but stay where they are welcomed, eat what is set before them, receive the peace Christ offers and announce to each other and to all of us, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you!” In season and out of season, in winter when their boiler breaks and in summer when they seek the cool of the shade, they try to share with others the fruits of their contemplative life and as spouses of Christ seek to fulfill their Bridegroom’s desire so that “all might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” And all of us are here because, in the regular cacophony of our life, we have heard the preaching of God’s word through them, as they have announced to us, in one or many ways, the “good news of great joy” about the merciful love of God that has ravished them and that they are praying will likewise enthrall us.
This monastery is an oasis of God’s mercy for them and for us. On Sunday, Catholics across the world heard the story of Moses on the hilltop, with his arms raised in prayer while Joshua led the Israelites against the Amalekites in the plain below. As long as Moses kept his arms raised in prayer, the Israelites were triumphing; when his weary arms began to droop, Israel’s enemies had the upper hand. So Aaron and Hur sat Moses on a rock and at his side supported his uplifted hands in prayer, which led to Israel’s definitive victory. That’s a two-fold image of what happens here on this hilltop the world calls Summit. First, the Sisters, like Moses, never stop praying for us in the midst of the battlefield between good and evil that is raging in the world and in our country. More than ever we need monasteries like this with nuns dedicated to the “one thing necessary” so that they can be beacons of light in an increasingly dark world, and be living reminders for us of God’s presence, help and mercy.
But they can’t do it alone. They need us as their Aarons and Hurs, supporting them in their life of prayer for us and for the world, praying with them, praying for them, imploring the Harvest Master for vocations, and giving them the material support they need so that they can continue to implore God’s mercy on their behalf, on our behalf, and for the whole world.
Tonight we join them here at this Gala of Galas, taking place in this modern Bethany at the Summit, to thank God for the gift of the nuns’ presence in our life, in our Church and in our community. We ask God to bless them with the merciful love they seek, especially in this holy double-Jubilee. And we ask God, through them, to continue to bless us all.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Is. 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, Announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” 8 Hark! Your watchmen raise a cry, together they shout for joy, For they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion. 9 Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.
Psa. 98:1 A psalm. Sing a new song to the LORD, who has done marvelous deeds, Whose right hand and holy arm have won the victory. 2 The LORD has made his victory known; has revealed his triumph for the nations to see, 3 Has remembered faithful love toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. 4 Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth; break into song; sing praise. 5 Sing praise to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and melodious song. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the LORD. 7 Let the sea and what fills it resound, the world and those who dwell there. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands, the mountains shout with them for joy, 9 Before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. 3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. 5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ 6 If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. 8 Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’