Celebrating 800 Years of Dominican Life
About 150 guests celebrated the Feast of St. Dominic with the
Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation at Sinsinawa Mound Aug. 8. Sister
Green, OP, preached the following to all in attendance:
The Order of Preachers*one of the few religious movements known
by its mission rather than by its founder. That is so like Dominic,
always about the mission. We are so blessed to be identified as
the Order of Preachers*people who spend our lives proclaiming good
news. God knows, the world needs to hear good news. We all need
to know that we are light for the world, salt for the earth. We
need to know that in spite of all the pain around us there is hope.
There is truth. We need to be reminded over and over again that
God entered into our world and became one of us and walked among
us and laughed and cried and suffered and died for us because God
loves us more than we can imagine*and that’s good news, isn’t
Dominic must have been a remarkable person to have grasped all
that and shaped that intuition into an Order that for 800 years
has carried on his extraordinary mission.
Dominic was so human. He was our brother. He came from a loving
home where prayer and service and study and community, those four
pillars that later became essential elements of his Order, were
ingrained in him at a very early age. He was the kind of person
who seemed destined for great things so it isn’t surprising
that from his home in Spain he ended up in southern France fighting
against the Cathar heresy with the weapon of preaching the Word
Some of his first converts were women, nine women who turned away
from Catharism and came to him in 1206, because they had no where
else to go. Their families wouldn’t accept them and they
had no resources. They were to become the first community in Prouilhe.
What did Dominic have in mind when he gathered these women, along
with two other Catholic women, in that lonely place in the middle
of nowhere? Prouilhe was already a sacred space, not unlike Sinsinawa
Mound, even in appearance. It was a shrine made holy by centuries
of devotion to Our Lady of Prouilhe, a site well known for spiritual
and physical healing. It was to become the cradle of an Order not
The place that eventually became the Monastery of Prouilhe grew
rapidly and reached its highest point in the middle of the 14th
century when there were 160 nuns, 25 priests, 50 lay brothers,
30 volunteers, 173 servants attached to the farm, and 36 attached
to the church they owned in nearby Limoux. They had a guest house
and mills, even a pharmacist and two physicians, including a surgeon*close
to 500 people in all!
When we speak of the Holy Preaching in that era we are not just
talking about the mission of the friars or even their partnership
with the nuns.
The term Holy Preaching in those days referred to the entire complex
in the neighborhood of Prouilhe. Surprisingly, it wasn’t
Dominic who called them the Holy Preaching. It was the people of
that area themselves who called it that.
I can’t help comparing that reality in Prouilhe with our
present reality here at Sinsinawa Mound. When I look around this
assembly and beyond this assembly I see our vowed members, of course,
and our Dominican brothers who share our preaching mission. I also
see many, many women and men who are, without question, significantly
involved in our Dominican mission. They are the ones who, through
their faith and generous service, keep our mission alive. They
are the ones who cook and clean for us, who maintain our grounds,
who organize our publications and welcome our guests. We simply
could not do it without you. Let no one be mistaken. Together we
are the H oly Preaching. You are the salt of the earth. You are
the light of the world, and a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Together we participate in the building of a holy and just society*and
we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
I believe that the model of the Holy Preaching is more relevant
than ever today. We are all about the mission of the Holy Preaching,
no matter how that plays out in the work we do. To quote St. Paul: “Just
as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single
unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it
is with Christ.” (I Corinthians 12:12)
When Christ lived on this earth he preached the good news of his
Father’s love not just by the words he spoke in the synagogues
or by the Sea of Galilee or on the mountain top. He preached about
love by living a life of compassion and forgiveness and healing.
Every time he raised someone to life he was preaching good news.
Every time he restored sight or hearing or wholeness to the handicapped
he was preaching good news. Every one of his teachings was good
news. His whole life was good news and that’s the Holy Preaching.
That’s what we are called to be. No one can do everything,
but we can each do something and together we are the Holy Preaching
rooted in an 800-year old tradition as solid as the rock of Sinsinawa
Mound. This is our call. This is our challenge. This is our privilege
and our responsibility.
It all began in Prouilhe 800 years ago, but it didn’t stay
there. The Word cannot be held down. We as apostolic Dominican
Sisters find our roots in Prouilhe and at the same time the women
in Prouilhe now and other contemplative Dominican nuns look to
us to find their wings. When I was living at the monastery of Prouilhe
a group of American Dominican Sisters spent a few days there on
pilgrimage to the lands of Dominic.
The monastery community was glad to welcome them and one of the
nuns remarked to me afterwards how energized she herself felt for
her contemplative vocation, knowing that the others were out there “in
the field” about the preaching mission. She said she was
reminded of a story of St-Exupéry where a man is stranded
in the desert and after walking for hours and not finding anyone
he was tempted to stay put and give up. Then he thought of his
wife and children back home and he said to himself, “If they
are thinking about me now, they are imagining that I am walking
and trying to come home. I must be faithful to their hope.” For
the contemplative nuns, being with apostolic sisters was like being
reminded of the hope to which they themselves are called. So, let
us remember that even as they sustain us with their prayer*and
they surely do*we sustain them with our ministry*and we surely