From Damien McDonnell:
Dear brothers and sisters in Saint Dominic, I pray my greeting finds you well and filled with the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this Easter message I hope to, as President of the European Council of Lay Dominican Fraternities, give some insight into how I pray the council may be able to serve you all in the mission that you have entrusted to us at our 2017 Assembly in Fatima.
During the season of Lent my reflections have come deeper and deeper into meditating on where my service to God and our Church has led me, and how I am preparing for Easter, for His Death and Resurrection. How have I brought His message to the people I meet? As a Dominican, we each have been called to live our life in the footsteps of our father Dominic. As members of the Order of Preachers, our duty is to live our life preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On meeting Saint Francis, Dominic said “you are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.” With these words let me ask that we, brothers and sisters in Saint Dominic, “hold together” and renew our commitment to the mission of our father.
Exemplifying our life of contemplation, with a devout love of prayer, our recitation of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying the office – the universal prayer of the Church (when possible in our chapters/fraternities, in choir with friars or sisters). Contemplating the face of Christ in our prayer and radiating that face to an ever increasing secular Europe. Going as Saint Dominic instructed, two by two bringing with us as we go that Dominican charism of joy and fidelity that two witnesses make. In the words of Saint Dominic “we must sow the seed, not hoard it.” Like the mustard seed, planting the Truth in our world, the Truth that gives freedom. Our priority must be to redouble our apostolate of preaching the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ; to bring this hope to those who have never received the invitation to share in His love. As Christians, we each have an obligation to bring this salvific message to all, as Dominicans we have promised to preach His message by our lives, by our love, crucially by our very being.
October 2012 in Rome, for the synod on Evangelisation, I was renewed in my vocation as a Dominican to the goal of bringing His message to the multitudes who may have clouded their vision, obscuring His love from their sight. The mission of our Church, as you know, is to Evangelise. Pope St John Paul in June 1979, while making his first visit to his native Poland as Pontiff, outlined this mission in calling for a ‘New Evangelisation’. Thirteen years later, he launched this New Evangelisation while visiting America.
Having been brought to the Americas five hundred years previously by a Catholic Europe, Christianity now has its highest following in the Americas; among them the most populist Catholic countries in the world. Whereas in Europe, Christianity is practically dying, in my own Ireland for example in the latest state census the number of people stating that they practice their religion has dropped significantly. My home country has led the rush for so called ‘same-sex marriage’, we are currently battling to keep the scourge of abortion out of our once predominantly Catholic country. Germany, France, Italy, and Spain are barely holding on to their faith. Many other European countries are struggling with the overwhelming tide of anti-Christian bias that is sweeping our countries. Pope Saint John Paul made it clear in his encyclical – Redemptoris Missio, where I quote “on the Church’s evangelistic activity I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to the New Evangelisation. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty to proclaim Christ to all peoples”. Nearly 30 years later the call of St John Paul II is ringing ever louder.
When your new (ECLDF) council first formally met in Brussels back in November 2017 the overriding priority at that meeting was to begin the development of a program of service to fraternities throughout Europe. With this in mind we kept at the forefront of our thoughts the mandate we had received at the assembly in Fatima. Formation and fraternity featured high in deliberations and together your council began to form the outlines of a plan for our term of office. Our statement “The Face of Saint Dominic, the Face of Christ” was developed to highlight the mission of our Order, that of Saint Dominic, to be the Face of Christ.
Preparing each other for the mission of preaching, of revisiting the promise that we all made, your council will endeavour to promote within each fraternity member, and each fraternity itself to grow and develop our identity as Dominicans, as preachers of Truth, to bring that New Evangelisation to all. Encountering the people around us and they asking us why we were happy? = The freedom of Christ and fellowship with him through grace and His revelation to us in living as Dominicans. Through prayer and study, formation and preaching we then have something to show, if not in words but our lives in grace. Lay Dominicans are uniquely positioned to assist in delivering that much needed battalion of warriors required to invigorate the re-evangelisation of Europe and stem the cancer of secularisation that has infected the very fibre of the European psyche.
With Maro Botica, Ludovic Namurois, Vilija Smetiené, Felix Hoffmann, and myself, have worked to get an interactive formation platform available for all our fraternities, to assist in the formation of you our brothers and sisters, to prepare us all for the preaching mission that urgently requires our attention.
In this Season of Easter, I pray we all, with courage and enthusiasm, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, rededicate our lives to the service of our Saviour. With the face and zeal of our father Saint Dominic may we labour in the field of Europe, as he would say “Arm yourself with prayer instead of a sword; be clothed with humility instead of fine raiment”. Our Lady as our protection, the Rosary as our armour, our Lord and Saviour as our guide and inspiration may we see His face in everyone we meet and bring to them His gift of love and peace.
With my deepest and sincerest love your brother Damien.
Listen to the Easter Message 2018 of the General Promoter of the Laity, fr Rui Carlos Lopes.