Sunday, June 5, 2016

Armchair Lands of Dominic

I feel like I should be titling this post "It's a Family Affair" but Quincy already used that this year. I think that is a good statement for what this year has been for us; a getting to know our greater family. As you can see from the picture above we had more participants than just the two of us (which is a nice change of pace). The group consisted of the brother novices from the Central Province and their director, two African sisters who are studying in Ohio and a Peace sister who came with them, the two of us and our directors, and our two preachers for the pilgrimage (Ann Willits, OP and Scott O'Brien, OP). 

Though the week was to give us some history of St. Dominic and the beginning of the order, the Lands of Dominic experience really was all about family. At our first gathering we were given three questions to ponder and discuss: "What is my experience of Dominican family? What are the challenges of the family? What is my hope for the family?"

The schedule was clearly set up to give us a lot of reflection time and quiet. We spent the week in prayer, beginning each day with morning prayer and preaching.

We would spend some time "on the bus" going from one city to the next of the important stops in Dominic's life. It was a helpful way to learn about those early days. Using pictures and some story telling we were able to get a feel for the locations and what life was like over 800 years ago. It was interesting to get little tidbits along the way that I had not really thought about before. Things like, Dominic was my age when he went with Bishop Diego to Denmark, the trip that set in motion the events that would lead to the order being formed. And while I sometimes think that seems young to be doing something so important it is just as astounding that at 33, Dominic already had 26 years of school and community living behind him.

Each morning after our "bus trip" we would be given questions to discuss in small groups. The questions were a way for us to integrate our journey and experience of Dominican life with the journey that Dominic was on as the order was just beginning to form. The eight of us novices and student sisters had a wide background of personal experiences and an almost as wide background of Dominican experiences. They were rich conversations and a chance for our relationships to grow.

We, of course, shared our meals together and then, in true Spanish fashion, had a siesta. The afternoons were large groups discussions or a reflection in the chapel. The group discussions focused not on Dominic's actions or the workings of the early order but rather on the experience of family as Dominic originally intended and how we see that happening (or not happening) today. The day always ended with Mass.

The evenings were a chance to have a little fun and get to know each other in a less formal setting. It was a chance to have a little fun with each other. I was skeptical but it turns out the Bible version of "Apples to Apples" can be pretty hilarious. 

Family was clearly the focus of the week. It was mentioned a few different times that the Dominican family is older than the Dominican order, that the importance was on the relationships, and especially that we should recognize that we are a part of this large family. We echoed in our reflections the importance of family relatedness. The understanding that, on occasion, we might not agree with one another or even like one another but that there is a familial bond between us that shows we will care for each other no matter what. And the even greater take away is that if we can master this understanding then we can model it. It is a need in this world. It is our opportunity in religious life to be counter-culture, to model the outward thinking of relatedness in an individualistic society.

We had some pretty great examples of familial love