Couplets for Lent and Easter

Clean up your house, prepare the feast;
for He comes soon, our great High Priest.

To find ourselves we journey far;
the answer’s here, just where we are.

We strive to reach the pinnacle
when all we need is the cenacle.

Worldly triumph, unworldly doom.
Dispose of acclaim with a humble broom.

Life is long, life is short;
we must dress well for the heavenly court.

The shepherd came to tend his sheep,
but all had left or gone to sleep.

A thousand groans, a million sighs,
but by our stones the sparrow dies.

A woman smiles, a man may scorn,
together they weave a crown of thorns.

He was just here, they hung him there;
the world grows dim, does no one care?

Where have they laid my lovely Lord?
The music ends on a screeching chord.

The heaviest stone is cast aside,
the highest gate is opened wide.

In wood and word, by nail and song,
all praise the Lord forever long!

mr. Ron Vardiman, O.P.

The Grace and Duties of Lent

“Behold now is the accepted time : behold now is the day of salvation.” — 2 Cor. vi. 2.

Two subjects for consideration are indicated in these words firstly, a commendation of the present time, “Behold now is the accepted time;” secondly, the cause of this commendation is added, “Behold now is the day of salvation.”

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that the present time is called an “acceptable time,” for eight reasons (1) Because it is the time for seeking the Lord: Hos. x. 12, “It is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.” (2) Because it is a time for reconciling the Lord: Ps. Ixix. 13, “My prayer is unto Thee, Lord, in an acceptable time.” (3) Because it is a time for correcting our ways: Heb. ix. 10, “Until the time of reformation” i.e., of the injustice of the Jews. (4) Because it is a time for restraining superfluities and vices: Cant. ii. 12 (Vulg.), “The time of pruning is come.” (5) Because it is the time of receiving the Divine compassion: Ps. cii. 13, “For the time to favour her, yea the set time, is come.” (6) Because it is the time for suffering tribulation: Jer. xxx. 7, “It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” (7) Because it is the time of acquiring salvation: Ecclus. iv. 28, “Refrain not to speak in the time of salvation.” (8) Because it is a time for doing good: Ps. cxix. 126, “It is time for Thee, Lord, to work.”

II. On the second head it is to be noted, that this “day of salvation” exhorts and invites us by eight ways to holiness — (1) The Holy Scriptures, which are read at this time. The Gospels and Epistles which are read invite us to prayer, to fasting, to almsgiving, to just dealing, to repentance, and to other things of this sort, so that he must be indeed insensible who does not now do good. (2) The Creator invites us, Who is believed at this time to have made the world; so that he would be greatly neglectful who did not perform some good act for God, when He has made so many good things for us. (3) The creature invites us to this, which in the time of winter ceased from work, and now begins to be active again, as is seen in herbs, plants, and animals: Jer. viii. 7, “The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times” i.e., for building, &c. (4) The example of Christ invites us to well-doing, Who at this time wrought many good things for us: S. Bernard, “Who made me altogether and at once by a word, in regenerating me; Who said many things, and did many miracles, and endured hardships.” (5) The ordination of the Church invites us all to confession, and fasting, and frequenting of the church; whence he who does not do these things breaks the precepts of Mother Church: Prov. i. 8, “Forsake not the law of thy Mother.” (6) The incitement and habits of many, for now many begin to perform good works, so that a man ought to be ashamed to remain alone with the few: Heb. xii. 1, “Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (7) The abundant forming, out of Divine grace; for it is to be believed that God, Who bestowed so many good things upon us, in these days pours out more abundantly His grace upon us: whence it is read in the Epistle, “that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (8) The expectation of the great Easter ought to exhort us to good, for he who expects a great festival ought to make a great vigil, wherefore the Church now sings, “It is not for naught that we rise in the morning before the light, because the Lord promised the Crown to the watchers;” and again, “We expect to receive the Body of Christ, which none ought to receive unless purged: 1 Cor. xi. 28, ‘Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup.’ Whence so by worthily celebrating the Lenten fast at the present time we shall come to Horeb, the Mount of God to the heavenly Supper of the Gospel to which,”

From the Lenten Sermons of St. Thomas Aquinas, Homily #1

The Son of Man

A prophet came in God’s great name;
all those who fail received his call.
He shook the great and loved the small,
and lit an everlasting flame.

Then hear, you deaf, and see, you blind;
the long awaited one had come.
But many asked “Where are you from?
The King must be of David’s kind.”

Our deepest hungers then were fed;
out of his mouth love’s seeds were sowed,
out of his life love’s meaning flowed.
But evil screamed at each word he said.

They took him in the midst of night,
men protecting place and power.
Oh! Terrible this evil hour;
would hell prevail against the right?

The morning’s portents terrified:
the red veiled sun, the screaming birds.
We spoke in hushed and worried words
and heard the cries of “crucified!”

After the run of the blood red sun
darkness grew to cover the land.
Thus we came to understand
something dreadful had been done.

Then bring the oils and winding sheet,
and close the tomb of righteousness.
For power, ever merciless,
cannot abide the least defeat.

Strike the shepherd and scatter the sheep,
curse the ocean and stop the tide!
All things will pass, the Word abides;
and as you sow, so shall you reap.

For then we saw, oh glorious!
that heavy stone was pushed aside
and heaven’s gate was opened wide;
He lived, who died for all of us.

mr. Ron Vardiman, O.P.


A witness is “One who is present, bears testimony, furnishes evidence or proof… The essential qualifications of a witness are knowledge of the fact at issue and truthfulness: he must be an eye-witness and trustworthy.”

~from the Catholic Encylopedia

 They follow the example of Saint Dominic, Saint Catherine of Siena and our forbears who illumined the life of the Order and the Church, and strengthened by their fraternal communion, bear witness above all to their own faith, listen to the needs of their contemporaries, and serve the truth.

~ Rule, §5

“He is Risen”

We chose the name Dominican Witness for this site because the term so aptly describes our roles in the marketplace.

  • We are present to the poor and broken, to our family and friends, to our co-workers and colleagues.
  • We bear testimony for Christ and his Church.
  • We study not for the sake of study but so that we may furnish evidence and proof of God’s word and give a personal account of his on-going creation and salvation story.
  • We work to acquire knowledge of many disciplines in order that we may shed light on the problems and issues at hand today. Some say that Dominicans preach with the Gospel in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
  • We bear witness to the truthfullness of the Gospel and the Magesterium.
  • We live as best we can, ever mindful that we are living witnesses for the love of God. It is our love for Christ and each other that gives our preaching credibility.St. Francis, a contemporary of St. Dominic, once said, “The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”

This section will feature first-person stories and articles about how we live our faith and express our Dominican vocation. The articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this chapter nor the official position of the Dominican order. They do, however, reflect the diversity of our members.

This section will also offer blogs from the chapter prior and other members.

We encourage honest and frank contributions. Most of us freely admit we have weaknesses and character flaws and still struggle as we grow in Christ. Frankly, some of the stories from those that fall and rise again are the more interesting.

Theses are some their stories. If you have a story, or a contemplation, even a brief thought you would like to share, please send it to

More than animate dust

Are we but animate dust,
Living on a ball of rock,
Hurling through space,
Around a burning gas house?

Lord God,
You formed us from the clay into Your most Holy Image,
You breathed life into us during creation,
So that we could see, perceive, understand,
and wonder at the beauty all around.

You breathed life , vision, and  understanding into us,
and gave us the great gift of free will,
So we can think, act, do, and be on our own,
Under our own power, based on our choices.

Lord of Creation: Created and Creating.
Thank you for life and free will,
Thank you for all the people around us:
family, friends and strangers alike,
Each a witness to your Creation!

You have given us the means to gaze upon your creation,
From the skies above, the distant universes,
to within the womb itself,
and  to comprehend what is Good.

When we turned to you to offer you thanks,
we pleased you; and when we turned away from you,
we grieved you.

You then humbled yourself,
And took our lowly human form,
with the assent of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

You allowed us to love you, take care of you,
and protect you when you presented yourself to us,
Not as the all-powerful Lord you are,
But in the form of a helpless baby.

You lived among us,
Taught us how to live,
According to Thy Commandments, and
in a manner pleasing to you,

Then, we sinned against you,
And made you suffer, as we crucified you,
on a Cross,
with nails in your hands, and wounds in your side.

By the blood you spilt that day,
You offered us, sinners of the worst sort,
the possibility of redemption, and everlasting life…

if only we would acknowledge our sins against You, and
make every effort to sin no further,
and to submit our wills to Thy Own,
What great incomprehensible Love!

Redemption is always near,
Always a possibility for us,
because you willed it!

Lord, allow me to submit my will to Yours,
and be reconciled to you, through Your Son Jesus Christ,
whose blood  was spilt because of my sin.

Jesus provides us with the path back to you,
through the Great Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are the Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the end,
You are He who is; I am he who is not,
You made us into something so much greater than animate dust,
You are Love, and formed us  into beings much greater than dust:

We are able to love You,
And able to share everlasting life with You.

Thank you Lord.

mr. Paul Ignatius Catherine, O.P.
15  February 2011

About Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

On February 22 of 2012, chances are you saw few people with black smudges on their foreheads.  You didn’t have to check the calendar to know it was Ash Wednesday.

In recent times, this Christian holiday has been eclipsed in many quarters by the day that precedes it, Shrove Tuesday — better known as Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday).

The date for Ash Wednesday varies each year, depending on the day on which Easter Sunday falls.  It can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10, but it is always 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays.

The council of Nicaea in 325 decreed that Easter falls on the first Sunday immediately following the paschal moon – the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox.  Ash Wednesday in the calendar of Western Christianity is the first day of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and repentance in preparation to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ.

Christians including Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and some Baptists may go to a Catholic church to receive ashes.  The ashes are a sacramental and not a sacrament in the Catholic Church so they can be given to anyone who wishes to receive them.

Ashes used to mark a cross on the foreheads of the faithful typically are from burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Water or olive oil may be mixed with the ashes to help them adhere to the forehead.  The priest may say, “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Some believe the custom originated in the 6th century during the papacy of Gregory the Great.  The tradition was formalized at the Council of Benevento in 1091.

Ash Wednesday is so popular many Catholics go to church even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation when Catholics are required to attend.  Secular calendars and appointment books frequently note Ash Wednesday along with Christmas Day and other popular holidays.

On Ash Wednesday Catholics read St. Matthew’s gospel where Jesus tells his disciples to pray, give alms, and fast privately and not publicly for all to see.  Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.  And your Father who sees what is hidden will reward you.” Mt 6:16-18

The Catholic Church requires fasting and abstinence from eating meat on Ash Wednesday.  Catholics over 18 and under age 60 are to fast by eating only one complete meal and two smaller meals.   Fasting during Lent is a reminder for man to turn away from desires of the flesh and contemplate higher things.

Fasting also can serve as penance for sin.  The origin of ashes as a form of penitence is found in the Old Testament Scripture as when the prophet Daniel said, “I turned my face to the Lord God begging for time to pray and to plead, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.”  And in the book of Jonah the king in Nineveh “put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.”

Desert Candles

There was a man who carried a single candle into the darkness and the trackless depths of the desert.

He needed no moon to guide his footsteps as he walked for he had long waited for this night, considered it, cherished it, anticipated it with a longing beyond telling.  He had dreamt of this night since the day he had fashioned this candle with his own hands.  He had longed for the lighting of this candle since he had first laid his eyes on the place he had chosen for it.  Since the beginning he had held this night in his dreams, held this place before his eyes, held this candle in his hands.

As he made his way through the night and the sand, the stars watched and whispered to each other in fascination at what they saw below.

There had been many nights and the man had often been tempted to take the candle out on those nights.  There had been many other places and the man had often longed to take the candle to those places.  But those had not been the nights or the places for which he had so carefully, so lovingly crafted this candle and they would have been unworthy of the dream, of the longing, of the candle.

But in the fullness of time, this night had finally come and so too came the man with the candle, in full view of the astounded stars.

As he topped a small dune the man recognized the place from his dreams.  He peered into the surrounding darkness and paused in anticipation of what he was about to do.  He turned to the stars and winked conspiratorially at them.  They blushed to have been so discovered, pulled the clouds over their heads and hid from sight.

The man knelt and dug out a small hollow in the sand and planted the candle there firmly.

“How dark it is here, Master” whispered the candle, his words trailing off into the immensity of the stillness.

“Yes, Little One” smiled the man.  “It is the nature of a candle to be in the darkness, just as it is my nature to bring forth light in the desert.  I have, therefore, sought this place, this night, for you.  I intend to light you here, now, far from competing lights, far from lesser shadows.  It is for this that I have fashioned you, for this I have sought your place, for this I have brought you here now, and it is for this that I offer to share with you fire”.

“Yes, Master” said the candle “Set me ablaze that I might fill this desert with light”.

“No, my Little One” said the man “You must not burn because you expect to bring light to this desert.  I offer you the flame, not that the desert might have light, but that you might have life within you.  If you do not embrace this flame first, if you do not hold it tightly to your chest before offering it to the desert, it will not take hold.  It will sputter and flicker and be no more.  No, I offer this flame to you as I, in turn, offer you to the desert, that you might be brought to life and this desert to completion.”

The stars peered furtively from behind the clouds to watch with wonder what the man was doing.

The candle considered the man’s words in the stillness and replied “Set me afire, Master, that I might burn even though I am only wax”.

“No, my Little One” whispered the man, you were fashioned to burn, not despite your wax, but from within it, through it, because of it.  This flame shall be enkindled deep within you, in a place prepared for flame from the beginning.  Yet without the offering of your wax, this flame will not be sustained.  That part of you which you offer up will feed the flame within you but, in turn, you shall become soft, you shall melt into the crevices here, you shall slough from the intensity of the fire into such shapes that you do not recognize yourself by the light within you.  As this flame burns its way into the desert from the inside out and as you are consumed you shall become more than you have ever been – until you are nothing but flame”

The stars watched and were amazed; they listened and were astonished.

The candle considered the darkness and said “Yes, Master. Set me ablaze that my light may shine on only beauty and goodness.”

“No, Little One” replied the man “You were not fashioned to burn conditionally.  This fire may not be limited without being quenched.  This fire is a hungry flame, it respects not shadow, it knows not restraint, it leaps where it will for it knows only passion and longing and consummation.“

“Labor of my hands, light of my longing, I have fashioned you to be set ablaze here in this time, in this place.  You must burn without concern for results, you must burn without concern for limitations, you must burn without conditions.  You must burn merely because it is the nature of a candle to burn, you must accept flame because I choose to share it with you.”

“You must burn because you are touched with fire.”

The stars held their breath and waited.

The candle said nothing for the time for words had passed unseen in the darkness; all that remained was the desert and the man.

The candle offered himself up to the flame.

The man leaned over, shielding the candle from the desert with his body and struck a match.  As the flame leapt to the sky, he held the match to the wick and brought the candle to life.

And, oh, how the stars envied the blaze.


Peter Martin Baysdell, OP

Faith and Freedom of Religion

John Garvey
President, The Catholic University of America

January 16, 2013 – Crypt Church

5: 15 p.m. Mass, Lecture to follow