Looking back over the last five semesters since I’ve begun my studies in philosophy and theology as a Dominican, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern in the way I choose to decompress after finals. My newfound free time seems to be divided between the odd combination of reading classical literature and writing computer programs. The first is not so uncommon around these parts and is part of a longer term effort to build up a part of my education that was neglected during my many years of studies in the hard sciences. The second is, I would guess, pretty odd, and a bit surprising even to me.
Few objects exert enough psychological sway to stop us dead in our tracks. Fewer still can pull us back after we’ve passed them by. But mirrors do both, inducing teeth-checking, dress-smoothing, and double-taking with gravitational inevitability.
In the shadow of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, across the highway from a motorcycle dealer and tucked away in a corner of the property of Holy Spirit Church, lies Caterina Benincasa Dominican Monastery of New Castle, Delaware. Upon visiting the monastery for the first time, you will not find some profound historic building that evokes visions of medieval France awaiting you, but a simple two-floor convent. From within these walls since 2007, Sisters Mary Grace, Mary Columba, and Emmanuella have struck a new spark to ignite the torch of St. Dominic Guzman’s Order of Preachers. That spark has indeed generated a bit of a fire. Shortly before the arrival of the nuns, the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph came to Delaware to staff the Oratory at the University of Delaware and run the campus ministry. St. Dominic wanted monasteries of nuns near their brothers, as the prayers of the nuns form an integral part of the friars’ preaching for the salvation of souls. Eight centuries later, his vision lives on in Delaware.
In college I studied abroad for a month in Israel. The course itself was part seminar and part pilgrimage—perhaps mostly pilgrimage. We discussed ancient interpretations of the mysteries of Christ’s life and then visited the places where those mysteries transpired. When we went to Nazareth, I happened to be ahead of our caravan, so I decided to look around town before meeting back at the church for Mass. After turning a few corners I encountered a crowd of hundreds of people, holding banners and candles, playing songs and singing. As I approached, a young woman emerged with a dutiful air: “Hello.” she said, “Would you like to lead the procession?”
Baptist pastor John Piper recently composed a poem entitled The Calvinist, in order “to capture a glimpse of God’s sovereign intersection with the life of a sinful man.” In his verses, Dr. Piper touches on quintessentially Calvinist themes of reading the Scriptures: God’s absolute sovereignty, his transcendent radiance, and his great mercy to sinners. Inspired by Dr. Piper’s example, I offer my own poem entitled The Thomist, which strives to capture the beauty of a Thomistic approach to the Gospel.
Dominicana Audio sat down to converse with Fr. James Moore, O.P., and Br. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, O.P., musical directors of the Dominican Schola Cantorum. This segment features excerpts of the music of In Medio Ecclesiae, the new release on Dominicana Records, as well as commentary on the music, its place in the prayer life of the friars, and the work of recording the album. For more information, see dominicanablog.com/records.
Is Advent still possible in our culture? It’s supposed to be a time to prepare for Christ’s coming—past, present, and future—but our Decembers are quickly filled with deadlines, gift lists, and get-togethers. The rush to Christmas seems anything but prayerful: we crash into the 25th just wanting it to be over. And through it all, the culture wars wage tiresome battles: Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.
I have come to realize that I have a somewhat unusual name. One question I receive with some regularity upon meeting new acquaintances is “Did you choose your name?” For those of us who have not grown up in Africa or the Caribbean, where the name is still bestowed with some regularity, to hear that someone is called “Innocent” is surprising. Naturally enough, people are curious as to whether some cruel parent bestowed this adjective upon me, or if I merely have myself to blame.
Recently I read an article on the technology of ebooks and the future of print books. Like most Dominican friars, I’m an avid reader of books, so I think that new technology about books is very important. In some parts of the article, the author contrasted “physical” books with “electronic” books. It seemed so obviously wrong to me—how are electronic books not “physical”? They can’t possibly mean that electronic books are “spiritual.” Matter and energy are both “physical.”
Midway between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, lies the city of Lancaster. In addition to being the capital of the nation for a day and the capital of Pennsylvania for thirteen years, it is also the location of the only monastery of Dominican nuns in the state. While the former glories are both at least two centuries past, the latter continues to this day in the nine women who have dedicated their lives to God through the way of life inspired by St. Dominic over eight centuries ago.