Dear Friends in Christ,
Evangelical Catholicism is the name we give here to the Church’s universal mission to preach the Gospel to all nations, but while fulfilling the Great Commission is a constant imperative for the Church, how that mission is accomplished has changed widely according to time and place. The Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul the Great, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis are calling us to a New Evangelization, by which is meant that we must announce the Gospel as though for the first time in places where it was long ago proclaimed. But this is not the first time the Church has faced this challenge, and on Saturday of this week, the sacred liturgy recalls a man who engaged in a New Evangelization nearly 800 years ago!
In the late 12th and early 13th centuries, large numbers of people were carried away from the truth of Christ by a strange heresy called Catharism. Ignorance, superstition, and immorality were rife, including among the clergy, and this was a thousand years after many parts of Europe had received the Gospel with saving faith. The Church needed a New Evangelization, and the instrument God provided for this mission was Dominic Guzman, who was born in Calaruega, Spain in 1170 and was a priest of the Spanish Diocese of Osma. Early in the 13th century, he was traveling with his bishop on a mission to Scandanavia which took them through southern France, and it was there that Dominic saw firsthand the misery of the Church caused by the wide acceptance of heresy. This experience moved him to begin preaching the Gospel with new energy and dedication, and soon others wanted to join him. The young men who joined Dominic became the Friars of the Order of Preachers, and Dominic became spiritual father to several communities of contemplative nuns who were also part of his Order. Dominic’s principal means of accomplishing his mission were a simple, apostolic way of life rooted in prayer; deep study of Holy Scripture, philosophy, and theology; urgent and persuasive preaching of the Gospel; and complete fidelity to the Church and loving obedience to her pastors, starting with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. In later centuries, active congregations of teaching and nursing Sisters would join the Dominican family, and our own Nashville Dominican Sisters belong to that part of the worldwide Order of Preachers.
St. Dominic died in 1221, and his feast is kept on 8 August. The Order of Preachers he founded as a perpetual gift to the Church shows us that a New Evangelization can succeed in even the most unlikely places with what appear to be the most inadequate means. We are blessed to have four Dominican Sisters in our school, and one son of our parish, Brother John Thomas Fisher, OP, is a Dominican Friar. We also have here a chapter of the Dominican Laity, and I encourage you to watch the bulletin for news of their activities. And let us all take courage from the example of the St. Dominic and his Order of Preachers, who show us how to proclaim the Gospel by a life of Christian learning, virtue and sacrifice. St. Dominic, pray for us!