"The Holy Preaching"

St. Dominic, when he founded the Order of Preachers, referred to himself and his small group of followers as"The Preaching of Jesus Christ" and "The Holy Preaching." At the Central Province Provincial Chapter of 1990, friars from the Province reflected on this expression --"The Holy Preaching" and published the following Prologue on the Apostolic Life in the Acts of the Chapter.



Preaching, which is the public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus,(1) is the primary reason for our existence as a religious order. Therefore, preaching must permeate, inform, inspire and give impetus to everything that we are and do. Our study, our prayer, our common life and every aspect of our apostolic ministry must begin from, and be directed to, our mission of preaching.

This reality of our existence is attested to by the continuing tradition of our Order, from its inception on the night of Father Dominic's debate with the innkeeper to the current witness of our recent General chapters ("preaching is the primary end of the Order"(2) and the present Master General ("we are a reminder to the whole church of the importance of preaching"(3) who have called us to a renewal of our mission as preachers of evangelization.

If we are to have any distinctive identity, either as individuals, as a Province or as an Order, in today's world and today's Church; if we are to be of any distinctive service to our brothers and sisters; if we are to be that which each of us, in our hearts, wants us to be, we must reclaim the vision of our Founder who referred to himself and his small group of followers as "The Preaching of Jesus Christ" and "The Holy Preaching." We must, in short, see ourselves, collectively and individually, as "The Holy Preaching."(4) This vision of ourselves as "The Holy Preaching" is a vision that needs rebirth among us today.

There has long existed discussion and debate among us over the question of what constitutes Dominican preaching. Most specifically this debate has centered around the issue of whether such apostolates as teaching or writing are truly preaching in the tradition of Dominic. In response to this discussion we propose a new paradigm for our self-image. We propose that we view our mission through comparison to another vocation, namely that of the actor. In doing so, we wish to emphasize that we are not equating the preacher and the actor: preaching must not be acting. We wish simply to suggest that we--the Holy Preaching--could benefit if we were to view ourselves in relation to preaching the way actors view themselves in relation to acting.

Actors always identify themselves as actors, whether they are on stage or not. Whether studying their craft, teaching others how to act, writing their autobiographies or waiting on table to support themselves between roles, actors always say"I am an actor." In addition, they direct their every activity-engaging in conversation, observing human interaction and reaction, reading, exercising--toward the supreme moment of their vocation when they cause a character to live upon a stage. In short, they do not limit their identity to the stage alone, nor do they prepare for their roles only in rehearsal; rather they see themselves, no matter what they are doing at a particular moment, to be actors; and all their activities are related to their calling.

We see this analogy as being appropriate for the Preacher. Whether we are studying, teaching, writing or traveling, and no matter what percentage of our time we may be spending in these activities, we are Preachers. And our every activity should be directed toward the supreme moment of our vocation when we are publicly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.

Indeed for us as an Order of Preachers this analogy can be applied not only to each of us as individual preachers but even more meaningfully to us as an Order, or Province, of Preachers. If we see ourselves as that collective body referred to as "The Holy Preaching," then we can also see that not all of us can be publicly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus as our only occupation. The Holy Preaching needs a variety of support for the Preaching: administration, theological and biblical research, all the media of communication, public relations, etc. But in all of this, as was indicated in the first paragraph above, Preaching--as the public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus-must be the motivating cause, formal and final, of all that we do. And in this light we also see Preaching as related to both the conversion of people ("Evangelization"/"Kerygma") and to the spiritual growth of people ("Breaking Open"/"Catechesis").


To a certain extent, this vision is already alive among us. We stand able to build on and strengthen an identity we already have. The results of the preaching survey distributed to the members of our Province a few years ago indicated that seventy-six per cent of the Province membership believe we Ought to engage in continuing education regarding our ministry of preaching and our life as preachers. For the most part, we believe we do quite well in our actual preaching and place it as a high priority in our apostolic work. Many of us struggle with questions concerning places for preaching other than the pulpit. Though the survey indicates that few of us claim to preach outside the pulpit, we struggle with the question of other opportunities for preaching. And although in general the survey indicated that we do not see ourselves as using the media for our preaching, we see a need to come to understand how living in a"media age" impacts our preaching and those who hear us.

The survey indicates that by and large we, at least as individuals, are responding to the need of the Church for good preachers in every place and in each local situation. However, the respondents to the survey also saw a clear relationship between the quality of our preaching and our life-style. Therefore we ought to be willing to heed well the challenge of our most recent General Chapter:"let us admit that we are in need of a profound (and ongoing) conversion if we want to discover the fundamental truthfulness of our life, the strength and full meaning of our vocation as "The Holy Preaching."(5)


Tn this process of conversion, we, the members of the Province of Saint Albert the Great, must realize and reclaim several insights of our Founder. First, like The Holy Preaching of Dominic, our preaching ought to be more than the efforts of individuals: it ought to be communal.(6) To return to our paradigm: just as the actor needs many others -- playwright, director, designer, lighting engineer, audience, etc. -- in order to achieve the supreme moment of acting, so we, also, need to find ways to involve other people in the preparation of our preaching, rather than making this a solitary exercise. We need to draw on the wealth that is present in our communities, through communal discussion of the Word (especially the liturgical readings) and among those with whom and to whom we minister, through careful listening and the honest seeking of feedback. We must realize that others, especially those familiar with the pain of the Crucified, proclaim the Good News to us as well as expecting us to proclaim it to them.(7) Thus, this communality of our preaching should also include enabling others to proclaim the Word: our Brothers, Sisters and the laity, when that is appropriate.

Secondly, just as theater, to be worth our while, must reflect ourselves and our world to us, so must our preaching reflect, and respond to, the real needs of real people if it is to be of value. Our preaching is naturally conditioned by the milieu in which we live. If we ourselves live in relative comfort and security, then our preaching will not be challenged by the real situations of pain and need so prevalent in our world today. The power of the Gospel comes alive when we are closely confronted by poverty, violence, darkness and sin. We need to live at the point of society's deepest needs in order to know and address those needs."The joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the [people] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." (8) We, as followers of Jesus Christ and as friars preachers, share one world, one history with all God's creation. It is vital for us to interpret the signs of the times and to realize God's presence and actions in that same history.

Therefore, we are called to proclaim the salvific word of Christ in this world, especially among those whose need makes them God's preference. For any preacher, especially the Friar Preacher, the proclamation of this Word leads to conversion: personally, communally and ecclesiastically. For the Preaching of the Gospel demands an authentic living of Gospel values by the very people who proclaim the Word, and the ability to discover God's abiding presence among the oppressed.

Our preaching and conversion is not only to see the manifestations of injustice and denounce them as contrary to the Gospel, but also to discern the causes of injustice and to challenge the structures that perpetuate them. Furthermore, the preacher must strive courageously to liberate even the oppressors who are often in greater spiritual need than those oppressed.

Popes, Bishops, Masters General, General Chapters, our own Provincials, Provincial Chapters, and the Dominican Leadership Conference have repeatedly reminded us that the pressing need of our present time is the need for global social justice. The expression"global village" has become so commonplace that we are tempted to ignore its reality. And yet, we who are The Holy Preaching must resist the temptation to think that this expression is but a cliche. Throughout the world there is hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression; sin abounds in our midst. These conditions are not limited solely to those places we hear about in the news where the symptoms of sin are the greatest. In many cases the roots of sin are to be found in the corporate halls of the free and wealthy nations, because the world is not becoming one: it is already one today. Thus, wherever our place in this global village, we must feel compelled to preach the authentic Gospel of Jesus in ways that convert and do not alienate; to shed the light of God's revealed love on the dark places of human hearts; to proclaim the hope born of faith to this world which longs for something to hope in; to show the right path to those who, through ignorance or error, contribute to the causes of social sin even though they long to do what is right. The broad fields of Prouille have become for us the continents of the planet, and on that stage The Holy Preaching must now do what Dominic did. This is the primary reason for our existence.

Thirdly, our Father Dominic was an itinerant preacher. Itinerancy does not mean only physical mobility, but also a mental journey into those areas of ecclesial and social fermentation that urge us to search for a word from the Lord that helps cast light on the frontiers of ideas and concerns that make up our world. The temptation is to speak only that of which we are sure. However, like the actor who approaches every performance, even of the same role, with new interpretations, we must strive to avoid saying the same old things in the same old ways so that we may avoid leading people to conclude that there is nothing new the Gospel has to teach us. As the General Chapter of Oakland reminds us:"...we cannot preach today in the language of yesterday."(9)

In our society language tends to be shaped by the mass media: television, radio, print and advertising. Therefore, if our preaching is to be contemporary it is imperative that we take steps to understand both the techniques of these media and the impact they have on the ways in which others hear our preaching.

Nor should we, The Holy Preaching, be content to preach, however effectively, only to those who come to hear us. There is today a large number of unchurched persons, including even some who claim to be Roman Catholic. If we are to be faithful to Dominic's itinerancy, we must search for ways to reach beyond the pews to those who do not fill them. Tapping whatever resources are available, we must find and utilize methods for evangelizing the unchurched: to touch their need, their pain, their ignorance and lead them to Gospel truth. In so doing we must also labor to counteract the misleading impact which simplistic fundamentalism is having on many in our society, even many within our own Church.

We know that these tasks are not easy. We know that it is impossible in practice, within the circumstances in which history has placed us, for all of us, at the present time, to live at the point of society's deepest need, to be itinerant or to be full-time proclaimers of the Gospel. And since this is the case it is all the more urgent that we begin now to see ourselves collectively as The Holy Preaching and that, within that self-image, we make preaching the focus of our lives; that we listen attentively to those of us who are closest to the pain, violence, turmoil and sin of our times; that we involve one another in the preparation of our preaching; that we render support one to another as we attempt to achieve the bold solutions needed for the problems of our times; that we today begin our journey toward the realization of the vision described in these pages.

It is within this framework, and in the spirit of the Acts of the General Chapter of Oakland, 1989, that we propose these recommendations, ordinations, commissions and declarations-as small but practically achievable steps toward the realization of our Founder's vision in our time and place.

1. The word 'evangelization' is commonly understood in several different senses today. In the first place, the term can mean every activity whereby the world is in any way transformed in accordance with the will of God the Creator and Redeemer. Secondly, the word is used to mean the priestly, prophetic and royal activity whereby the Church is built up according to Christ's intention. A third and more common meaning is the activity whereby the Gospel is proclaimed and explained, and whereby living faith is awakened in non-Christians and fostered in Christians (missionary preaching, catechetics, homiletics, etc.).

"Finally, the word, 'evangelization' is restricted to meaning the first proclamation of the Gospel to non-Christians, whereby faith is awakened (missionary preaching: kerygma). The various meanings are so closely interconnected that the activities they signify cannot be properly separated. Since the word 'evangelization' is understood in different ways by different people, many ambiguities arise in the course of discussions. For the sake of clarity, in these pages, which constitute a 'working tool,' 'evangelization' is understood in the third sense, namely, as the activity whereby the Church proclaims the Gospel so that faith may be aroused, unfold, and grow." The Evangelization of the Modern World, Synod of Bishops. USCC Publications: 1973. Page 1, number IV.

2. ACTA, General Chapter of Oakland, 1989, n. 44, Regarding Preaching in the Order.

3. Letter of the Master of the Order, Prot. n. 50/89/586.

4. Cf. LCO, 100,I.

5. Acta, ibid., n. 43, I, para. 3. (Parentheses added.)

6. LCO, loc. cit.

7. Acta, ibid., n. 43, I, esp. para. 7.

8. Vatican II, The Pastoral Constitution: On the Church in the Modern World, 1965, n. 1.

9. Acta, ibid., n. 43, II, para. 5.

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