I thank God for the many blessings of living with the Dominican community here in Bologna as I study Italian. I appreciate the robust community life, as well as the possibility of interacting with joyful Italian friars every day. Moreover, there are ample opportunities to pray at the tomb of our Holy Father St. Dominic, held in an ornate stone sarcophagus called “the Arc.” Above all, as a friar coming from the United States, having the conventual Mass at the Arc every morning is nothing short of extraordinary.
I came to an especially keen awareness of this on the feast of St. Matthew, September 21, whose Gospel is said to be St. Dominic’s favorite. We prayed together, honoring God for the life, ministries, and death of the Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew. Meanwhile, we were also in the presence of the relics of St. Dominic, who was himself inspired by Matthew and the other apostles. As a result of his apostolic inspiration, St. Dominic called a group of brothers to live an evangelical life, sending them out to preach the Gospel for the salvations of souls. Eight hundred years later this brotherhood of preachers, of which I am blessed to be a part, still keeps this mission alive. The beauty of this was made abundantly evident for me that day by the group of friars present at the Mass, who ranged from young students studying philosophy to senior priests with years of experience. All of them have been called by God and inspired by St. Dominic to be preachers of the Gospel.
At the Mass, the homilist mentioned that Jesus “saw” Matthew with the gaze of “infinite mercy,” and called him to undergo a total conversion from his former life. Jesus said to Matthew “Follow me,” and Matthew immediately got up from his customs post and followed Jesus (Matthew 9:9). This homily greatly touched me as I reflected on my own life. Out of His mercy, God called me from my self-centeredness and the pursuit of my own ambition to live a life of simplicity and service to others. It has not always been easy, but God’s grace continues to sustain me day by day. As I looked around at the brothers sitting around me, although I did not know their stories, I was certain that God had called each of them in their unique way to this special place.
As I reflected on the beauty of God’s work, a profound gratitude rose up in me. I have always been grateful to the Lord for the gift of the faith handed down from the Apostles, as well as the legacy of St. Dominic which is alive and well today. I am also grateful for my vocation as a Dominican, through which God continues to bless me despite my own weakness. Of course, I, like all Dominicans, am indebted to our benefactors, without whom my life would be impossible. I pray that my fellow brothers and I may be continuously configured to Christ through our study, contemplation, and preaching.
-Br. Gregory Liu, O.P.
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