The Council of Lay Dominican Fraternities meets at Rome to prepare this assembly. I remember the words, Bruno Cadoré, our Master, said, when he saw the icon of St. Dominic first while we had our meeting: “A colourful picture! It fits not only to Lay Dominicans, it fits the whole of the Order. It expresses our colourful variety.”
Let’s have a closer look at the icon, painted by the Spanish Dominican brother Felix Hernandez Mariano OP. At the first view it looks completely different from a lot of common paintings of our Father St. Dominic, as we know them.
We see a picture of great variety of colours and emanative power. But it is exactly this emanative power, which moves St. Dominic into the picture as the one, who will put all of us under his spell and call us to follow him with his charisma and his openness while going to people. The present German Provincial Father said when seeing this icon first: “St. Dominic infected other people with his ideas. A glimmer has flown to women and men, to lay people and priests, to contemplative seekers and apostolic oriented people, to simple or learned people. As coluorful as this picture is the crowd of those, who feel and felt concerned themselves by him”.
Not for nothing St. Dominic is presented in each kind of illustration with a star on his forehead. This shining star will be a symbol of ardour emanating from him, it will be a light in the darkness, a sign of lion-hearted vision.
We see on the right in the picture below the dog with the torch in its muzzle, who is going to inflame the whole world. But this inflaming the world is no pillaging and setting fire, it has nothing which will destroy or eliminate – on the contrary:
It will show, how much the world is inflamed, enlightened and warmed by this fire, going out from the preaching and mission of the Saint. At the same time it makes clear, that this process of enlightenment is not possible on its own. It needs a great number of “torchbearers”, spreading out this vivid fire around Europe and the whole world – and each one of us must participate with his or her personal possibilities and at the place she or he is living: In the family, in the workplace, in neighbourhood and everywhere, where we are needed to accompany people on their way through this time and to serve them.
In this process it is not possible to take the term “preaching” alone to the “homily” of priests after the Gospel. Dominican preaching is richer around a lot of facets in all branches of the Order:
- it comes to light in research and teaching and gets its sense only when the spiritually acquired good is shared with others;
- it comes to light in the fact, that Dominicans today recognize the signs of the times as their Spiritual Father did in those days and this way face the present sorrows and needs of people;
- it comes to light everywhere in places, where we are ready to listen, to give advice and to donate consolation;
- it comes to light in daily projects to serve and help people even in material distress.
Let’s have a look at the icon again. The follower of St. Dominic as Master of the Order, Jordan of Saxony, said about the founder of our Order: “St. Dominic carried the Gospel of Matthew and the letters of the Apostle Paul with him every time. He read them so often that he could say them by heart.” This statement was picked up by the painter. He shows St. Dominic with a book in Greek letters in his hand. These letters have been translated by David Kammler, the last Promoter General of the Laity. On the left side we find a line from the Gospel of Matthew (1,16):
“And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ”.
On the right side a sentence from the letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13,1):
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”.
“But have not love” – what a horrible thought! Our icon shows us the Saint in a way which was described by his contemporaries: with blue eyes, red hair and with an openhearted view for everyone who met him. In this manner we find this presentation. It seems that St. Dominic himself would call us with a smile into the departure of his succession – into a church in departure – in those times as today. In his new apostilic letter “Evangelii Gaudium” our Pope Francis writes:
“The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth”. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: “Go, I send you” (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: “To all whom I send you, you shall go” (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel” (Chapter one: The church’s missionary transformation, No. 20).
When you hear this you could almost have the feeling that our Pope has thought of Dominic in the icon before which we are sitting together: The icon of a Saint who will give to the Church of Jesus Christ a cheerful face, which will lighten and cheer up our faces – faces of a colourful diversity and plurality.