Letter to Dominican Laity, Easter 2003

Easter, 2003

Dear Dominican Laity,

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with each of you and your families during this joyous season!

As a Family of Preachers, we Dominicans must know what we preach, or better said, we must know whom we preach. Easter celebrates the core of our Christian faith, the center of the Gospel, the cornerstone of our preaching, the kerygma that we hand on, namely: the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead. As St. Paul wrote: “It is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:5) and “if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless”(1 Corinthians 15:14).

We Dominicans pray and study in community with others for one primary purpose: the Holy Preaching! We often speak of these four aspects, or “four pillars”, as if they are all equal. Yet, while recognizing that they need to be kept in harmony and in proper balance, the truth is that everything is centered on the preaching, our evangelization task, our missionary apostolate to go out to tell others. Our experience and faith in the Risen Christ compels us to go and tell the Good News to all, just as Mary Magdalene went to tell the other disciples (John 20:18), and then they in turn went out to spread the Word to all the world. Dominicans, including the Laity, are and must be preachers of the Risen Christ.

Recently, Stefano Angeli, a Lay Dominican who volunteers in the Dominican Laity Office in Rome, and I began a new Lay Dominican Fraternity here at Santa Sabina. Now with over 30 inquirers or candidates, we have to answer many questions that are so typical and necessary for beginners: Who are the Dominicans? Why are they called the Order of Preachers? How are we lay people able to be preachers? And we say again, it begins with and is centered on our faith in the Risen Christ, which needs to be shared with all the world! Being part of the Dominican community project of preaching is our way of fulfilling our baptismal commitment. It is our charism to help get the Word out in all possible ways. Preaching is like constantly sending out invitations to everyone to come to the party, to the Banquet of Christ’s Light, so that all might come in from the cold darkness and rejoice!

Over the years, I have had the privilege to study and work with many Protestant Christians. And to be honest, what has frequently impressed me about many of my Protestant friends is how they take their baptism so seriously, believing that they must go out and preach. While some Protestant preaching might frighten us (admittedly some Catholic preaching too!), yet one can only admire those Protestants who have such a strong conviction that to be Christian means sharing the Good News with others. They are theologically correct in this. Would that all of us in the Order of Preachers had such a deep need to preach!

This Easter season is a good opportunity for Lay Dominicans to ask once again: Am I preaching the Risen Christ to others as a baptized Christian and committed Dominican? To whom and how and when? Is the Holy Preaching the core of our Lay Dominican Fraternity’s prayer, study, and community together? When we preach, who do we say that Christ is?
Exactly what are we preaching? These are critical questions that ought to be answered through dialogue in each Lay Dominican Fraternity, whether it be a new one at Santa Sabina or one that was founded hundreds of years ago like the one in Cordoba, Argentina.

Finally, in your prayers do not forget to pray for a lasting peace and reconciliation in Iraq. Pray in particular for the healing of our Dominican Family there, which includes over 600 Lay Dominicans. Pray, too, for the future of their many preaching apostolates. Remember that We All Have Family in Iraq, whose frightening experience of war beckons us to assure them that we Dominicans continue to preach the Risen Christ who is with them still.

As Jesus said,

“Peace I bequeath to you,
my own peace I give to you,
a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.
So do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
(John 14:26)

Your brother in St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena,
fr. Gerald Stookey, OP
Promoter General of the Dominican Laity

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