It’s a blessing to have our Dominican priests and friars over at the Priory.
This young generation of the Order of Preachers is one dedicated crew. They walk a good balance of traditional reverence and strong principles, along with energetic adaptable good nature.
First, it’s nice to see that they wear full habits. Naturally, there are outstanding people in holy orders who show up in whatever work clothes will get the job done, no question. Some of them need to dress for an inconspicuous fit with the people that they serve. But around our church, it’s heartening to see the men work hard and beeline around in all weather, maintaining all those layers of white vestments and scapulars and cowling and hoods, with their rosary at their belt.
When I was growing up, families and altar boys and housewives rang the Rectory doorbell calling on priests for all kinds of parish business, and families invited the priests over for little picnics or barbecues, or just iced tea and a slice of pie. Those were special occasions, and great excitement for the kids. But here at our church when I tried to bring our Dominicans a plate of homemade cookies after Mass, one Father gave me his heartfelt thanks, but explained that due to the nationwide priest shortage, this Priory team pledged to keep up their health by not indulging in any sweets or treat foods or beverages. The Priory has a guest parlor for religious education, but it’s a locked cloister. For celebrations they’ll invite the parish and open their enclosed garden; the priests and brothers stand inside the second story windows calling greetings and pleasantries while volunteers on the lawn cook up hot dogs and scoop ice cream for all. Otherwise, the community simply don’t set foot off the grounds to socialize with the parishioners. One exception is the two who lead theology discussions for the campus ministry on Sunday afternoons at the student pub. Another exception was one young priest who would bring his guitar out to the park to sing a few hymns and talk with the young teens there, who would end up coming to church; when he died so many people grieved that his family took him to two funerals in two states and two languages.
Naturally, the priests are around for confessions and counseling. They’ll visit if a parish member is in the hospital or nursing home and needs the sacraments. And you can stop one of ours to talk after Mass; but he will start (and end) by suggesting that you both dedicate that talk to Our Blessed Mother by reciting a Hail Mary out loud together. That’s a good way to uplift a social interaction before it even starts, especially when someone waylays the Fathers while feeling discouraged or upset.
On Friday nights they’re praying in the church until 11:00 pm for Adoration. With the pandemic the church started live streaming the devotion over You Tube. It’s a good start for the weekend: finish the Friday night chores, and then tune in for a few prayers before bedtime, safe at home, seeing that the priests are there taking turns at the altar in silent vigil.
Last week I was late logging in to the computer, and so decided to get my blanket roll and pillow all ready on the floor, and to stay awake for the end of vigil and to pray until the close of devotions. That made for a peaceful rosary hour. It was very edifying to tune in and see our serious young pastor facing away toward the altar, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, completely rapt in prayer. At the end of my rosary hour he still had not stirred at all. What a moving experience to see someone so devoted, absolutely motionless, as if he had forgotten the world (and that leather kneeler, which had to be getting uncomfortable). With a heartfelt sigh, I asked God whether I too would some day attain such a state of profound recollection.
While struggling to keep either eye open, I was slow to realize that by 10:45 Father should be starting the Latin closing hymn. Finally it dawned on me that the candle flames were perfectly still, not flickering at all. Was that even possible?
Sure, because the live stream on my computer reception was frozen. It was 11:35. I’d been staring at the same visual frame this whole time. In 3-D earthly reality, Father had long finished chanting and put the Host back in its tabernacle and blown out the candles and turned out the camera and locked the church and walked home next door, and was hopefully getting some rest. Yet here I sat, stupefied with sleepiness, deeply moved by a stalled video image. (One of our priests has an unusually light sweet sense of humor. If he read this he might say “Sounds like this dear lady has a frozen image of us all the time!”)
I shut down for the night and turned in. It did my heart good to fall asleep laughing away at my own state of pious confusion.
The Order of Saint Dominic. Since 1216 AD, still showing up as an edifying public example, long after they’ve left the building!