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Dominican Seminar 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012
From 6th to 8th January, Dominican Friars, Sisters, Laity, and members of the Dominican Secular Institute gathered for our annual Dominican Seminar. As one sister said, the seminar is “a unique combination of academic conference and family party,” gathering much of the Dominican Family across the English and Irish Provinces.

This year’s theme was Vatican II, 50 Years and Beyond: Dominican Perspectives. The weekend began with selected readings from our own Yves Congar’s personal journal. He attended every session of the Council (1962-65) and remarked on theological deliberations and votes of the Council Fathers. One surprising observation for him was the discussion on other religious and Christian communities, which garnered the greatest debate in the Council.

Given the global and visible impact of Vatican II, we invited Bishop Richard Clarke from the Church of Ireland to reflect on the Council’s legacy from an ecumenical perspective. He expressed his appreciation for the Council’s exhortations on Baptism. It is out of that fundamental Sacrament that we can work together with all Christian communities to bring the Gospel to the world. The Word of God also is our common heritage. As an Order preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls, it was insightful to hear our Christian brother link Baptism and Scripture as he did.

With Baptism in mind, we discussed the terms “People of God” and “Body of Christ” as two complementary models of the Church expressed in the Council’s Lumen Gentium and Pius XII’s encyclical, Mystici Corporis (1943). While each term is used for a specific understanding of every Christian’s role in the Church, they both point to the fullness of the Church as expressed through her members’ Sacramental lives.

These theoretical considerations were enriched with lively accounts of pastoral work in the arctic climes of northern Norway and Cambridge University. Vatican II was often referred to as a ‘pastoral’ Council, and as such it demands constant renewal in the Church, in which the young generation of Catholics will be very important. For this, we need ongoing translation of old truths into language accessible to the 21st century. Naturally, then, a talk on the expression of faith through the Arts was well received.

The fruits of such discussion became quite tangible. In the midst of this weekend dialogue, we celebrated the Eucharist and prayed the Divine Office together. Given our composition of one Dominican bishop, several priests, a deacon, the laity and professed religious, our small group represented the fullness of the Church in our worship. The many gifted people – in singing, playing the organ, and of course preaching – paid tribute to the Council a unique way.

We would not be Dominicans if we did not share meals together, which we did with laughter and storytelling. We also gathered in the evenings for a pint and more informal discussions. In some cases, we carried on the topic from the seminar. However, we also caught up with old friends, met new ones, and opened our conversations to any topic. Dominicans are never at a loss for good conversation topics.

The Dominican Seminar is a good expression of the Dominican charism. Members of the Family gather to discuss our studies, pray together, and relax as a community. Each of us can return from the weekend with new ideas for preaching and further research.

Augustine OP


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