from International Preaching Commission
To the Brothers and Sisters in the Order of Preachers
from the Preaching Commission of the Order:
A Report on Work in Progress
Following a petition from the General Chapter in Bologna (1998),
and a report on the progress of the survey on preaching throughout
the Order at the Krakow General Chapter (2004), the
Preaching Commission was set up by the current Master, Brother
Carlos Azpiroz Costa, to take forward the work of examining the
question of the charism of preaching for men and women of the
Order. The Krakow Chapter recommended discussion on two particular
questions: 1.Is collaborative preaching by Dominican women and
men, lay and ordained, essential to our witness to the Gospel?
2. How does profession in the Order of Preachers imply a commission
to preach as a participation in the essential mission of the
Order? The Chapter further recommended, ‘before the next
chapter, a small meeting of theologians, historians, pastors
and canonists be held to evaluate responses, continue the reflection
and propose future steps to be taken’ (ACG 108-112).
We, the Preaching Commission of the Order of Preachers, met at
Santa Sabina, the General Curia of the Order, from 11 to 14 February
2007. This is our report of work in progress to all members
of the Family.
Address from Bro. Carlos, Master of the Order
When Bro. Carlos met with the Commission, he reminded us that
the grace of preaching had been given by the Holy Spirit to the
entire family for the renewal of preaching in the Church and world.
He said: ‘In his time, St Dominic saw the effect of the
lack of preaching of the Word of God on the Church and world of
his day – the disciplinary reform of the Church was not enough.’ Bro.
Carlos put to us the following questions: What does the grace of
preaching mean today? How do we bring about the renewal of preaching
in the entire Order as essential to our common vocation? Within
that context, how can we open and widen institutional authorisation
to preach? He concluded that this was not a task for the friars
alone but needed the reflection of the whole family if the Order
was to grow in all its branches.
The starting point for the reflections of the Commission was the
survey from friars, sisters, nuns and laity from around the world
on the Dominican charism of preaching. The compilation of the survey,
completed by Bro. David Rocks OP of the Irish Province in July
2006, gave us the foundation for our deliberations and we are immensely
grateful to all who took part. We hope that this report will inspire
those who did not respond to do so in future.
There are many other documents and exhortations from General Chapters
and Congresses on Mission, letters from the Masters of the Order,
preaching and addresses to gatherings of the family throughout
the world. We therefore did not see it as our task to add another
document to this rich heritage. Rather, we wanted to take account
of where we are as an Order in responding to the grace of preaching
and to underline the challenges we face. Our most basic challenge
is rediscovering that preaching is at the heart of our vocation
and identity. That requires of us a greater dedication to study
and finding new modes of preaching in today’s world.
Preaching in Collaboration and Formation
We began with an analysis of our current reality related to our
preaching charism in the Order, looking at the internal strengths
and weaknesses and the external obstacles and opportunities. We
are greater witnesses to the spirit of St Dominic when we preach
together as the Dominican family. As the message from the members
of the international commissions of the Dominican Order, meeting
in Fanjeaux in May 2006, stated – we commit ourselves to
finding spaces to preach together as Dominic’s family. We
note the differences in theological education between the various
branches of the Order and consider theological formation to be
essential for everyone in the Order, lay and ordained. We note
with regret an occasional lack of emphasis on the preaching charism.
We need to re-appropriate the original inspiration that preaching
should inform every aspect of Dominican life. Our houses,
whether priories, convents, monasteries or homes of the laity,
have to become a Holy Preaching.
Words of Hope leading into the Mystery
We affirm that our world is one hungry for the Word that says ‘yes’ to
life and all creation; that tells the truth instead of lies; that
gives meaning to being human; that puts dignity before greed; that
proclaims hope, especially to the poor and excluded, that, in short,
preaches Jesus Christ.
Our preaching is a participation in the mission of the Spirit
of God who extends the horizon of our concern to all of humanity,
to the good of Creation and to a dialogue with those of all cultures
and faiths. Jesus preached not just through words, but through
his liberating lifestyle. Our lives need to reflect the Gospel
we preach. Preaching has to be given priority in the Order and
in the Church at large. It is our specific responsibility, not
only to witness to the Gospel, but to proclaim it explicitly. We
need to rediscover that zeal for the Word that liberates and gives
meaning to God’s creation.
We believe that all preaching should lead people to the mystery
of God. This should be made manifest by our spirituality of joy,
hospitality, contemplation, option for justice, the ongoing search for
truth and a passion for life.
An Invitation to All
We recognise and celebrate the collaboration that already exists
among the branches of the Order in many parts of the world. They
include: joint preaching ventures, collaborative theological institutes,
networks on justice and peace issues, media, joint catechetical
teams, collaborative formation, itinerant preaching teams, pastoral
ministry. We invite you to share with us your own experiences of
collaboration and your hopes, difficulties and dreams of how we
can work together more fully in the future.
We invite you to continue this reflection on how we as individuals
and communities make preaching the priority that structures and
animates our Dominican life: contemplation, study, community
life and ministries. We urge you to share with us models for making
our houses a Holy Preaching.
Challenges and Tasks
Two of the challenges that face us are: (1) the Fundamental Constitution
of the friars of the Order in relation to our present historical
reality as Dominican family and (2) the authorisation for preaching
by the non-ordained in the liturgical context. We recognise that
we wrestle with these questions in different contexts but consider
them fundamental for the preaching. We also began to discuss the
need for a Constitution for the Dominican Family. As a Commission,
we have begun to discuss these questions but they require prayer,
study and disputation of the entire Family. We invite you to join
in this project and share with us the fruits of your contemplation.
Our future tasks include: finding new forms of preaching as a
Dominican family, gathering suitable resources, emphasising specific
formation for the Holy Preaching in every branch of the Order,
stressing justice and peace as an integral part of evangelization
and therefore of our preaching, and in particular the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) as a justice focus. Our international
commissions meeting in Fanjeaux-Prouilhe in 2006, committed themselves
to taking the MDGs on board as an issue for the whole Order. How
do we preach them? How do we make the whole family more aware of
the centrality of preaching to their being Dominican and especially
the laity? How do we encourage study not for its own sake but as
an evangelisation of the intellect?
We recommend to all branches of the Order in their upcoming congresses
and meetings to put these issues on the agenda and to discuss them
as daughters and sons of St Dominic and to share their insights
If, after this first meeting, we will have stimulated debate
in the Order about the centrality and the modes of preaching, then
we are on the right track to renewing Dominic’s dream of
praising, blessing and preaching. We look forward to hearing from
all branches of the Order so that we can continue our work in a
participative way as the Dominican Family.
Signed by all members of the Commission:
Mary Catherine Hilkert, M Viviana Ballarin, Blanca Guerrero
Gomez, Duncan MacLaren, Allan White, Sidbe Semporé, Daniel
Cadrin, Felicisimo Martinez Diez, Marcio Couto, Chrys McVey [Petronille