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Solemn feast of St Dominic of Guzmán

Homily at chapter's concluding Eucharist

Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, o.p. Master of the Order

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My dear brothers and sisters,

How can we allow the echo of what we have contemplated here, what we have heard and touched with our hands in Providence, how can we make the echo of all this heard and felt by our brothers and sisters? Since 1220 General Chapters have asked the same question. Even before the invention of printing they foresaw ways which facilitated brothers to take back to their provinces and communities the echoes, the decisions and the work of the General Chapter.

In effect each brother who has a vote ought to come to the General Chapter with his copy of the book of constitutions of his own province. The capitular brothers will need delicately to amend this book or add to it, based on the changes voted during the Chapter. When the Province celebrates its Chapter, ideally the brothers ought to come with a copy of the constitutions of their own community, in order carefully to carry out the same task. In this way the brothers "indicate their presence" at the Chapter and, in their turn, indicate to their own communities their presence at the Chapter, handing on to them the "echoes" of what was discussed and defined by the whole Order. Nevertheless, not all the brothers did their work as "revisers" or copyists with the same level of refined accuracy. And thus there was a fair share of confusion. Nothing much has changed!

How lovely are the feet of the messengers who, going down the gentle hill of Providence, announce peace and bring good news to their brothers! The brothers in our provinces and priories who are keeping vigil before our return anxiously await us and will announce our return with shouts of joy - I hope!. The provincials and deffinitors will return carrying a message!

How can we respond more and better to the invitation of Fray George, "Please indicate that you are present"? How can we present in our communities what has been contemplated, seen and heard in this Chapter? How to present to the world the fruit of these four weeks of work?

It is perhaps worth recalling that the major artists of the Renaissance who were expert at painting frescos designed the overall outline of their work and left the completion of the work to their own disciples, who then defined and gave life and colour to the details. In a similar fashion Dominic left us the principal outlines magisterially - they called him Master Dominic - those delicate outlines and fundamentals which gave life to the Order. His brothers and sisters have continued for nearly eight hundred years to give new life and colour to that outline traced by Dominic, giving exact shape to those magisterial drafts in different contexts, in very different languages and cultures, in different geographical locations.

Blessed John of Fiesole (Beato Angelico) - like many artists - painted his own brothers from different communities into his work in order to lend it more life and realism.

We too will take back to our communities the notes and marginal remarks - amendments to this paragraph, work in the commission, a point of order, article fourteen (so often quoted). And yet in the very texts we have approved we recognise and recognise once more the faces of our brothers. In this petition one sees the tired gesture of the president of a commission who spreads his arms wide in satisfied pride after having fought as with a dagger to defend his text. Different texts and different sentences. The faces of brothers and sisters… smiles, and sometimes anxiety in our faces, and always words of grace and truth!

During this month, calmly faithful to our apostolic vocation, we have sought to announce the word, in season and out of season, reproving, ordering, exhorting, recommending with much patience and doctrine…

The gospel text speaks of the apostles worshipping Jesus, although some doubted. In an analogous fashion the same happens in our case, faced with the decisions we have taken. We bow our head, we accept obediently, but nonetheless we doubt. We harbour doubt about the effectiveness of the constitutions we have approved… the commissions we have set up… the Master you have elected… the commissions we have requested. The efficiency of what has been dealt with and defined…

We find ourselves today as we have done each day in this splendid octagonal church of St Dominic, looking at the altar of the word and of the bread of life. We contemplate the brothers and sisters commemorated in the stained glass windows, and those of whom the Chapter has requested canonization: Brother Bartolome de Las Casas and Sister Teresa Chikaba. It would seem that some of our desires were crystallized during this Chapter. Downstairs, in the octagonal Chapter Room - without windows - light passed rather through the faces of each and every one of our brothers and sisters. Living images of God! Sure, it is possible that one might occasionally doubt, asking in the secret of his heart, is this brother really a Dominican? Our calm soul replies, Yes, he is. We are really Dominicans, we love the contemplated Word, the word that is professed, sought after, just as we love a person… and we want the world to know it.

Just like the brothers on that Dominican Pentecost (August 1217) we shall go, like seeds scattered in the air. It is not good that the grain be stored and go bad. The seed must rather be sown worldwide.

Saint Dominic, after spending long nights in contemplative prayer, made a habit of going to the dormitory and contemplating the sleeping brothers, and to cover one with a sheet if necessary. A gesture that reveals exquisite maternal delicacy.

We leave here marked by what we have seen and heard, what our hands have touched: the magnificent campus of Providence, the environment which was splendid, the liturgy which fr Jim and his team have enlivened, the work of fr George and his collaborators, the simultaneous translators and translators of texts, all amounting to a magnificent spectacle which even the more difficult discussions offered us.

How wonderful it would be if we were to offer our brothers and sisters gestures like those of St Dominic! Who knows if we should go around at night to the cells where our brothers are, in order to cover them for the night? (Would we find them there?) But certainly we could sing a song to our brothers! (a cradle song, or a rocking lullaby…). We could fill our hearts with the music of God, perhaps like many provincials in these past few days, sing a song! These will be the comments in the margin we offer, the little side-notes, the echoes of the Chapter of Providence. We all want finally to sing the greatness of the Lord, who has looked on the lowliness of his servants.

In the course of the last nine years, fray Timothy has invited us insistently to praise, to bless and to preach. To sing a new song! Divine providence concludes our brother Timothy's term as Master. Dear Timothy, you are not going away! You are staying with us because you will always be a brother preacher to the day you die. Furthermore, you will be a capitular brother always - unless there be others who think differently and tie a belt around you and lead you where you would not like to go! Will this not be the only way you use a cincture or a belt? Do you not agree!?

You have given us the gift of different musical notes during the last nine years, in order to sing this new song. This we have wished to do during this Chapter.

DO Vowed to Mission :Challenges (French and English)
RE The Wellspring of Hope :Intellectual Life
MI Dominican Freedom & Responsibility : Government, LCO, Economics
FA The Promise of Life: Fraternal Life
SO Letter to those in initial formation Formation : Vocations
LA St Catherine, Patroness of Europe : Dominican Family
TI A Contemplative Life : Contemplation; nuns

We shall invite you again and again: Play it again Tim!

I do not say farewell to you, because you are not going away. Thank you, my brother and my friend. An Argentinean succeeds an English brother, with pride in his heart, just as you succeeded with pride a great preaching brother, a true itinerant missionary Irishman.

We shall go down the hill of Providence, we will be seed scattered in the air in order to look like what we have recognised here. It will be a new way of "indicating that we are present"!

Be true to your vocation as an evangelist, complete your ministry even unto perfection. My brothers and sisters, the Order is our family and it is this family which has saved us from our mean spirited and unbridled egoism. It is this Order which set us on the path of service to the Church as preachers of the Gospel.

Let us always be conscious of our mission. Let us keep always in our mind and heart the true and profound needs of men and women. Let us walk on, poor, free, strong, and loving Christ. Let us complete what is the duty which derives from the circumstances we meet, with gusto, in a simple fashion, humbly, and with strength, as it is the will of the Lord. Let us do immediately, well and with generosity, what the Church and the world expects of us, even if it cost us our very lives.

May the Lord model the clay that we are and transform us into an offering for the multitude, providing light and colour as the logs on the fire which burn for those who are poor.

Señor que nuestra vida sea,
como una quena simple y recta;
para que tú puedas llenarla
llenarla con tu musica.

Señor que nuestra vida sea,
arcilla blanda entre tus manos;
para que tú puedas formarla
formarla a tu manera.

Señor que nuestra vida sea
semilla suelta por el aire;
para que tú puedas sembrarla,
sembrarla donde quieras.

Señor que nuestra vida sea
leñita humilde y siempre seca;
para que tú puedas quemarla,
quemarla para el pobre.

Does it not seem to you like a new way of "indicating that you are present"? Only this time the voting will not close: living our vows (and voting) is a way of life for us! puce


Design & management : Fr. Yves Bériault, o.p.