The height of winter usually finds the novices of the Western Dominican Province roaming the deserts of the Southwest. This journey takes us through our ministries in Eagle Rock, Mexicali, Tucson, Las Vegas and Thomas Aquinas College, and covers the span of about a month. Far from an invitation to a vacation, the voice which calls us out of the cloister is a challenge to seek God’s will in our lives and to enter more fully into that interpersonal dialogue called discernment.
We go to experience the communities and ministries that we have in our Province, meeting the brothers, visiting the various ministerial groups, and sharing our vocation stories. With this help to our weak nature, we cross the threshold of personal experience into the real life of the Order of Preachers. We are then better able to determine whether it is a life we can live and live well. After all, we want to be a flourishing part of the Mystical Body, communicating life from Christ the Head, to the other members.
Such then, is the annual “Southern Tour,” and such was the adventure that we five novices found ourselves on from January 31 to February 24, 2018.
The truth should come as no surprise that a short stay in any place can only give a very limited idea of its spirit and life. Yet, just as a critic glancing at a half-finished painting can admire what’s done and point out what’s left to do, so it was with us during our visits to our parishes in Mexicali and Eagle Rock and to our Newman Centers in Tucson and Las Vegas.
Admiring the work of our brethren was easy enough. The generosity, hospitality and kindness of the people was marvelous, and the diversity of programs and groups at each place was fascinating. I stopped by the Legion of Mary group in our parish in Eagle Rock, and following a very warm welcome, the members proceeded to honor me with the opportunity to preach a few words. When the time came to depart, my leaving empty-handed was so horrific to them that I soon found myself in possession of a tub of ice-cream to share with the brethren — so great was their love and joy!
Besides the faith-filled lives of many parishoners, however, there lurks a dangerous tendency in our culture to allow indifference and mere routine to sap the strength from spiritual fervor. And apart from the students who came to the Newman centers with a deep, spiritual awareness of their need for Christ, there remained a far greater number of students seeking satisfaction in noise and the ways of the world. Neither of these realities can cast blame upon the praiseworthy work of our brethren, but they do utter a cry of some urgency for our Order to continue its work and constantly think up creative helps for God’s people on our way to salvation, a cry which sounds also in the ears of us novices: “Make straight the way of the Lord!”
Even the multitude of spiritual and physical needs that our friars are meeting call out for more men to enter the expansive vineyards of the Church and toil heroically for the salvation of souls. We need preachers to proclaim God’s never-failing love and attention. We need evangelists to elevate the dignity of men and women from objects of utility to that of human beings invited into God’s Divine Life. And we need priests to celebrate the sacraments which open the door to this Life. How else will the sinner be forgiven? How else will the weary receive spiritual food and strength? How else will our Father establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?
Truly it was a gift to meet the many friars in the southern part of the Province, men who are living such heroic lives. And it was a blessing to see their work bearing fruit in the love of the many parishioners and students who showed great kindness to us. While our Novitiate is just past half-way over and our discernment continues, what an opportunity it is to take the first steps in what very well will be a Dominican vocation!
-Br. John Peter Anderson