For the second month in a row – Deo gratias! – I can begin these reflections with a window to look out of. This month, however, the window is not my usual one, nor my view that of the squirrels and the careless drivers who have found themselves beneath my window, as a result of their ignoring the “no outlet” sign at the College Avenue end of Birch Court.
This week – the first few days of it, at any rate (March 5 – 8) – finds me in Santa Cruz, and the view is that of the Pacific Ocean. I am attending the annual gathering of the superiors of the Western Province. This is a meeting we’ve held since sometime in the late 1970s (I was assigned to our community in Seattle, and was the youngest superior in the Province in those days) and it provides an opportunity for our Provincial, and us, to learn how things are going in each of the communities of the Western Province.
My report never changes. Regardless of the address, the Dominicans I live with are the most important individuals on the planet, and the house I live in is the most important piece of real estate God has created – even if my window doesn’t afford a view of squirrels! To be sure, I have enjoyed some ministry assignments more than others – for example, I don’t think was cut out to be a pastor – but to be a Dominican superior is the greatest honor I can imagine, and if – as I suspect – my brother-superiors have grown tired of hearing me repeat this over the years, tant pis!
The meeting is also an opportunity to honor our Dominican brothers who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. This year we paid tribute to Fr. Gerald Buckley, who enjoyed my view of the squirrels until he was elected Prior in Portland, Oregon. This year Fr. Gerald celebrates the fifty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Anyone who has had the privilege of listening to Fr. Gerald knows how very outspoken he can be. Once, when he was pastor of our Newman Center parish in Eugene, Oregon, in the 1960s, he was celebrant at one of the weekday Masses. A member of the congregation made a petition during the prayer of the faithful. When the petition turned into a rather lengthy political harangue, Fr. Gerald lost patience and brought it to an end by announcing, “Personal opinion. Let us pray to the Lord!” By contrast, Fr. Gerald is one of the Province’s great, humble minds, and our friends may have run across his name as one of the contributors to the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
But to return to St. Albert’s… Many of My Readers may be unfamiliar with Fr. Antoninus Wall, which is a great pity. Fr. Wall is one of those Dominicans we commonly call “giants,” and this nick-name has nothing to do with his ample girth; it is a simple acknowledgment of his tireless devotion to the Dominicans’ call to preach. Fr. Antoninus was ordained in 1950, and taught for many years at our Dominican School in Berkeley, where he also served as President. Since his retirement from the School’s faculty, Fr. Antoninus has devoted himself to itinerant preaching, traveling the world over to share the fruits of his many years’ contemplation.
Fr. Antoninus is always seeking new ways to meet individuals with whom he can share Christ’s Good News. His most recent strategy is something I’ve nicknamed “Wall in the Mall” – and involves his walking about the Lloyd Center in Portland (a few blocks from the Dominicans’ Holy Rosary Priory) for eight or so hours a day. On weekends he actually has a small table and a sign, but the rest of the time, he is simply a priestly presence – and, I’m told, he never lacks for “business.”
Fr. Antoninus, however, is not the only member of our community experimenting with new ways of preaching. Those who join us for Vespers on Saturday and Sunday know that our students offer a homily, which is recorded and (I think this is the correct term) up-loaded onto the Internet. The Priory’s web address is http://sap.opwest.org/ Our students have their own blog, which you can find at http://students.opwest.org/blog/ We talked about this at the meeting where I began this reflection, and I said I would be the community’s “guinea pig,” and submit my own homily for the Third Sunday of Lent for audio transmission. I listened to it the other day, and thought, “Yes, well… it sounds like me, and it’s within a second of lasting as long as I thought it would.” Perhaps the Last Judgment will reveal what my namesake, Our Founder, Savonarola, St. Catherine of Siena, and some other Dominican notables thought of it.
….St. Patrick Day...
I suspect “Danny Boy” is the most famous song associated with today’s feast. The words were written by Puccini’s English translator, and the stresses in the poetry fall on exactly the right emphases in the tune, an old Irish melody, the history of which, I’m told, has been forgotten – it’s known simply as “Londonderry Air.” Handel (they say) was so taken with it when he came to Dublin for the premiere of his Messiah that he said he would have traded everything else he’d written for the honor of writing this tune. The words originally set to the melody are a poem by (I believe) Thomas Moore, the man who penned, “O, believe me, if all those endearing young charms….” This poem, by contrast, is the lament of a young man who wishes he were “…the little burnished apple, for you to pluck me, gliding by so cold….”
My point here is not to wax nostalgic on either old melodies or old poems, but to beg My Readers’ prayers for an old friend, Ellen Logue, who died yesterday. Ellen was a generous supporter of St. Albert’s, a loyal member of the Dominican Laity, and a mentor to generations of Dominican students. She was here to greet me when I entered the novitiate, in 1968, but I was, by no means, the first. She dedicated her professional life to teaching, but her spiritual – and a great deal of her personal – life belonged to the Dominicans. Our Dominican School honored her with its Alemany Award, and she honored me by inviting me to introduce her to the audience whom she invited to witness the event.
One of the things I mentioned was Ellen’s practice of walking around Union Square, in San Francisco, at Christmas time, to examine the displays in the store windows. She would then send commendatory letters to the retailers whose windows featured actual Christmas themes. I remarked that the last time I’d made the circuit, I’d passed a “Victoria’s Secret,” and wondered what “secret” the store could possibly hold that wasn’t displayed in the windows. I suspect Ellen didn’t have to waste her stationery or her postage to find out.
These days of Lent are swiftly drawing to their close. I beg you to remember us in your prayers, and to join us, if you are able, for our Holy Week services (you’ll find the schedule on the Priory’s website – this is non-subtle lure to encourage you to look at the marvels we’ve posted!) You may be certain we remember you and your intentions each day in the prayers we offer for our friends. We offer them
Faithfully, in Christ,
Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.