May 2015

Dear Friends of Saint Albert’s,

Our Easter Triduum had just begun when I wrote “to be continued…” at the close of my last reflection. Those of you who were able to join us for those holy days know how beautifully we celebrated them at St. Albert’s. Following a long-standing tradition, I came to the middle of the choir on Holy Thursday morning and began singing the Lamentations of Jeremiah: "How lonely sits the city that was full of people. How like a widow has she become, she that was great among the nations. She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord, your God!"

These morning services are called Tenebrae – shadows – for we sing them in as little light as possible, and they remind us of the darkness of our fallen human nature, and the great gift Our Savior, the Light of the World, won for us on the cross.

The real challenge of Tenebrae comes on the morning of Holy Saturday, when someone has to assay the long and challenging Song of Jeremiah. This year our hero was Br. Michael James Rivera, whom we imported from Siena House, the Provincial’s residence over on Presley Way. Michael James has been assigned there since he professed his Solemn Vows, in 2013, but he will return to our midst this summer. However, that is to get ahead of my tale.

On Holy Thursday evening I celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, assisted by a battalion of students, who had memorized all the special rubrics for this unique liturgy. It invites the celebrant to wash the feet of individuals selected from the community, and I always find this quite moving. We will have a new Prior next year, so this was an especially touching moment for me.

I asked Fr. Michael Fones to preside at the Good Friday liturgy, as it demands a great deal of singing, and he did a masterful job. At one point in the service, we have the option of kneeling or merely bowing three times as we prepare to venerate the crucifix. My aged knees sent an unmistakable message that next year I am to bow!

The Easter Vigil is the most solemn liturgy of the year. It is also the most complicated, so I am extremely grateful to Br. Gabriel Mosher, Br. Tomasz Mikolajski and Br. Christopher Wetzel, who were able to keep me pointed in the right direction, and on the proper page. Br. Tuan, who spent last year in the Southern Province, was once again among us, and, once again, built a memorable Easter Fire.  

I am not a fan of “Big Liturgy,” so I try to sit still, look dignified, and do what I’m told. However, I look forward all year to one moment in the Easter Vigil, and that is sprinkling the congregation with the newly-blessed Easter Water. Children are fascinated to see the celebrant walking down the aisle, splashing water as he comes, so I always give the small folk a special dousing. And those who wear glasses are “fair game,” too. Br. Bradley Elliott and I have often laughed about this, so he is an especially fond target. I realize these things come back to haunt one, so I suppose I, an eye-glass wearer, ought to prepare myself for his diaconate and the inevitability of his wielding the aspergillium at Compline.  

I’d spent part of Holy Saturday morning arranging cookies for our after-Mass snack, so we had a pleasant reception in the refectory at the close of the liturgy. I also set out two new books in the room’s display cases, both recent gifts to my collection, and both by an extraordinarily talented Northwestern artist, Sarah Horowitz. At. St. Albert’s we strive to minister to soul and body, and these books are a real feast for the eyes!

The Friday after Easter I underwent some very minor (and altogether successful) same-day surgery. However, I experienced a bit of discomfort and allowed myself to “hide out” in my room for a few days, and grouse about growing old. I also shot envious glances at the squirrels as they bounced across Birch Court, apparently oblivious of the effects ageing.  

These days were not altogether a loss, however. I wrote a pile of thank-you letters and discovered a hitherto unknown author, John Williams, who wrote a novel, Augustus, which I found far more engrossing than I, Claudius. I then embarked upon Machiavelli’s The Prince, another of those classics I neglected in my youth. As I read the newspaper accounts of Archbishop Cordelione’s numerous, ongoing and distressing encounters, the thought more than once crossed my mind that this brief text must not have been on his reading list, either.

On the Feast of St. George we had the immense good fortune to celebrate the Golden Ordination Anniversary of Fr. Edmund Ryan. His ordination classmate is Fr. Patrick LaBelle, whose physical therapy demands forced him to stay home, but we “made do,” and had the opportunity to offer best wishes to a member of our community of whom one sees very little.

On April 25th three of our brothers, Chris Brannan, Dennis Klein, and Christopher Wetzel, professed their Solemn Vows and declared their intent to live the rest of their lives as Dominicans. Br. Chris hails from Clovis, California, and came to the Dominicans with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a Master’s Degree in Theology from the Franciscan University at Steubenville. “I had to study with the Franciscans” says he, “to realize I wanted to become a Dominican.” Br. Chris will be ordained a deacon at the end of this month, and will remain at St. Albert’s. Eventually, he hopes to study Scripture, a subject for which he has already shown a great deal of promise.

Br. Christopher was born in San Diego, and attended Loyola High School in Los Angeles. He graduated from Cal Tech University in Pasadena, with a degree in Applied Mathematics. Next year he will join the Dominicans at Oxford, England, to add some additional polish to his theological studies.

Br. Dennis Klein, the eldest of our brothers to profess his vows, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Naval Academy and devoted eleven years to naval service, five of them in submarines. He holds a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering from MIT, in addition to his M.A. in Philosophy from our own Dominican School. After he and Br. Chris are ordained deacons, in June, Br. Dennis will return to the Dominican House of Studies in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he will continue work on his Doctorate in Theology.

The backgrounds of the men entering our Order today are vastly different from those of my peers. With one exception, we were all arts majors. One spoke about 18 foreign languages, and had taught Latin, Greek, and Russian. Another had graduated from Stanford and designed costumes for stage and opera productions there and at Cal. I felt like the Class Fool, with nothing more than my B.A. in English.  

As the day for the Profession drew nearer, we had been enjoying warm, summer-like days. We anticipated similar weather for the reception to follow our brothers’ Profession Mass, but the squirrels tried to warn me of rain. I paid no attention, and our cooks planned a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad and other picnic fare to celebrate the happy event. The morning of the Profession, we awoke to a day chill and overcast, and found the yard soaked from a very heavy overnight rain. “I think we need to reconsider our initial plans,” said Br. Kevin Andrew, the student who is in charge of social events this year.

“You’re right,” I replied. “Why not invite everyone into the refectory? It won’t be so elegant as the back yard, but at least no one will freeze.”

Br. Kevin had a better idea – the students often do. He had recently found a couple of “tents” on sale, designed to cover food at wedding receptions and other outdoor gatherings. “Let’s put these up by the fish pond in the cloister,” he suggested, “and set up tables and chairs under the cloister arches.” In the event, we did. The sun came out, at last, and everyone seemed to enjoy a splendid, if cool, time.

The other day the squirrels encountered some competition for the Birch Court “eye candy” award. I was sitting at my desk, working on my presentation for this afternoon’s presentation to the Dominican Laity, and I saw what I initially assumed was a bright blue sweat shirt bounding over the lawn of the Provincial Office, beneath my windows. When it came to a halt, I looked more closely and discovered it was a magnificent blue jay, perched on a tree branch just to my left. My furry friends, however elegantly clad, cannot compete with this splendor. Ouch! The first of the acorns, tossed in revenge, has just struck one of the Prior’s windows. I have been warned!

When I spoke to my step-mother the other day, she asked, “Where’s my newsletter?” I’d been, I’m sorry to say, somewhat remiss in sending the last issue, so consider myself properly chastised. She is very, very grateful for the prayers you have offered for my dad and her, and has asked me to express her sincere thanks. She sent me a note last week, and said the early mornings are very difficult, but “I get a half hour reprieve as I watch ‘Jeopardy,’ as though he’s there beside me.”

Our students are coming very quickly to the end of this academic term. Final exams will begin on May 19th, graduation will take place on the 23rd, and we will gather for our brothers’ ordinations the following Saturday. I have mentioned the diaconate ordinations; they will accompany Br. Gabriel Mosher’s ordination to the priesthood. After his ordination, Gabriel will join our community at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, Oregon, where his dynamic preaching, and interest in the Dominican Rite, will serve our loyal friends very well.  

Each of these events is a milestone in our brothers’ formation, and each is a tribute to you, whose prayers and generous financial support enable us to guide these men on the paths that lead to their varied Dominican ministries.  

Thank you for being a part of the lives of the Dominican students who will be Christ’s voice in the 21st century, and thank you for being a part of everything we seek to accomplish at St. Albert’s!

With prayers and deep gratitude, in the Risen Christ,
--Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P.

 5890 Birch Court   ~   Oakland, CA   ~   94618-1627  ~   510.596.1800   ~   Western Dominican Province
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