LETTER TO THE NUNS OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
FRIARS OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
GENERAL CHAPTER OF PROVINCIALS Bogotá – 2007
LETTER TO THE NUNS OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
Bogota, Colombia 08 August 2007 - Feast of S. Dominic
Dear Sisters in St Dominic,
We, your brothers, gathered here in Bogota for the General Chapter of Prior Provincials, remember what happened 800 years ago when you, our sisters, and the first fruits of our father Dominic’s vision, came into being. Jordan of Saxony described this for us: ‘In order to give assistance to certain women of the nobility whose parents were led by poverty to give them over to the heretics for training and support, he established a monastery between Fanjeaux and Montreal in a place called Prouilhe. There, to this day, handmaids of Christ give a pleasing service to their Creator. By the vigour of their holiness and the noble purity of their innocence, they lead a life which is of spiritual benefit to themselves, a source of edification to men, a joy to the angels, and a pleasure to God’ (Libellus Nr. 27).
Together with you we joyfully celebrate the monastery, Blessed Mary of Prouilhe, as the first foundation of a Dominican Community and as the beginning of a process which led to the confirmation of the ‘Order of Preachers’ by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216. From the beginning, you, our sisters, are not just an essential part of the Order: you are at the very heart of the Holy Preaching and an ‘always efficacious help to the life of the apostolate of your brethren’ (cf. Aniceto Fernandez, 22 July1971, in his letter of promulgation of the provisional text of the revised LCM).
Dominicans are men and women of the word. But our words are empty and fruitless if they are not born in silence. Every Dominican is called to the silent attentiveness to God’s word. But your vocation, in the silence of the monastery, is a constant reminder to us of the fertile ground of all our preaching.
For 800 years you have ‘sought, pondered and called upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in solitude so that the word proceeding from the mouth of God may not return to him empty, but may accomplish those things for which it was sent’ (cf. Fundamental Constitution of the Nuns). Your prayer, your life of contemplation, your world of enclosure and silence – without abandoning humanity as the place to meet God – your work, your seeking the truth at the heart of things, your belief in God’s faithfulness, your searching the Scriptures with loving hearts, your practice of penance – all of this is the way you share in the common mission of the Order.
We, here in Chapter, the 287th in the Order’s history, and on behalf of our brothers throughout the world, thank you for being preachers to your brothers. Thank you for reminding us that the Gospel demands a wholehearted response like yours.
How could we have done without you in the past? How can we do without you in the future?
That future is uncertain for many of our monasteries in some parts of the world. They are already, or soon will be, experiencing difficulties. Only a close cooperation of the monasteries in these regions can ensure the continuation of Dominican Monastic life. For the good of the Order and its mission we promise you our support as you search for what may be painful solutions, but which guarantee the future of Dominican monasteries, in general, over the possible and mere survival of a single monastery at whatever cost.
During the meeting of the International Commissions and Councils of the Order – including the International Commission of the Nuns of the Order – which took place in Prouilhe / Fanjeaux from 28 April to 04 May 2006, the participants sought to ‘catch fire from Dominic’s vision.’ The gathering was a preparation for the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the first Dominican Community. At the end of the meeting a message was sent to the members of the Dominican Family, informing them of what was agreed upon and what commitments were made by all the branches including the nuns but in a way appropriate to their vocation (cf. IDI Nr. 443 – June 2006).
It is difficult to communicate the high esteem of those at the meeting for you and your vocation and the desire to know you more. The Dominican Youth explicitly asked ‘to know the nuns better and that the nuns help them when they question themselves about their vocation,’ and they addressed their brothers and sisters within the Dominican Family with this appeal: ‘We, young people, lack experience and we ask you to accompany us as we try to find our way forward. Please, keep helping us in our Dominican formation.’ The Laity would like the nuns to be their partners in prayer. The friars would like the nuns to be a more visible heart of the family by their hospitality, and their liturgy, so as to be a challenge to the activism of the friars, and that they engage themselves in permanent formation. Therefore we ask you, to embrace all the branches of the Dominican Family with your prayerful support, to share the fruit of your contemplation, reminding us again and again, that ‘we are all called to be contemplatives, and the renewal of the contemplative life is one of the greatest challenges the Order faces’ (cf. Timothy Radcliffe’s, ‘A city set on a hilltop’).
When the Jubilee Year of the foundation of the first Dominican Community ends, we begin a ‘novena of years’ from 2008 to 22 December 2016, when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the confirmation of the Order. These nine years are ‘a pilgrimage to our origins,’ dedicated to the rediscovery of Dominic’s original intentions, rekindling them in today’s Church, today’s society and today’s world, discovering together new paths to travel.
We are aware, that this asks a conversion from each of us. We, your brothers, ask you to accompany this ‘novena of years’ with your continuous prayer that ‘we may walk faithful to our first love’ (Rev 2.4).
Carlos, the Master of the Order, prayed that ‘all of us, the sons and daughters of Saint Dominic, prepare ourselves to make this pilgrimage to our monasteries joyfully; let us there drink of the fresh simplicity of the «love we had at first», feeling ourselves at the feet of Jesus, that we may be with Him and listen to Him. Let us live this time with intensity and grace, sharing with our contemplative communities the joy of their consecration, the fruitfulness of their silence, the beauty of their liturgy, their special love for the Word’ (Letter announcing the Jubilee Year, 29 April 2006, Prot 50/06/465). We can’t close this letter to you, our beloved sisters, without confessing our forgetfulness of your unique place in the Order. How often have we forgotten that you were the first fruits and so dear to our father Saint Dominic that one of his last concerns was the building of the monastery at Bologna: ‘It is absolutely necessary, brothers, that a house of nuns should be built, even if it means postponing for a time the work on our own house.’
Dominic entrusted the monasteries to us all. And we are entrusted to the prayer and the care of the nuns. This mutuality is at the heart of the Order. Thank you for leading, as Blessed Jordan wrote, ‘a life of spiritual benefit to yourselves, a source of edification to men, a joy to the angels, and a pleasure to God.’
Your future is our future and, even more, the future of the Holy Preaching, the common mission of the Order.
Fraternally yours in our Holy Father S. Dominic,
Yours brothers gathered in General Chapter.