Joy and Witness

Joy and Witness

Celebrating the Solemn Profession – Br. Dennis Wataka O.P.

February 29, 2020 was a day filled with gladness and joy when our Brother, Dennis Wataka, made his final and solemn commitment to the Order.

The event had a large attendance by the faithful including his family members, Dominican Friars, Religious Sisters, other Religious Friars, Dominican Youth, Parishioners of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, classmates and friends.

 It was a truly blessed day as the main celebrant, Rev. Fr. Ken Letoile O.P. reiterated as he preached and received the profession of Br. Dennis.

We remember to pray for Br. Dennis in his religious journey and ministry. We also unite in praying for the Dominican family in Eastern Africa as it continues growing in its preaching mission.

Collaboration in Ministry

Collaboration in Ministry

A Day of Recollection!

A spirit of collaboration was witnessed when the Friars at St. Dominic’s Priory Karen were united in facilitating a day of recollection. This spiritual event took place on 16th April 2020 at the Resurrection Garden – Karen, Nairobi.

Catholic Ministry to the Deaf community at Karen formally established in May 2017 with the main target group being Karen Technical Training Institute for the Deaf (KTTID) community. This community comprises the teaching staff, support staff and students, both hearing and hard of hearing (deaf).

The project has been under the care of Regina Caeli Parish and the Archdiocese of Nairobi Deaf Chaplaincy.

The main programmes of this community have included Catechesis on the Catholic Doctrine (by the Chaplaincy and Dominican Friars), Spiritual Retreats and Recollections, and Eucharistic Celebrations at least twice per semester (mainly at Regina Caeli Parish).

Br. Steve Sese O.P.

 

The Lord is Truly Risen!

The Lord is Truly Risen!

Despite the ongoing local and global worries perpetuated by the Corona Virus (Covid-19), the Friars in Eastern Africa were united in celebrating the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In their different communities (St. Martin’s – Kisumu, St. Catherine of Siena – Nairobi, and St. Dominic’s Karen – Nairobi), while observing the regulations recommended by the Church and Government, the Friars marked Easter Triduum with joy and reverence.

At the heart of their prayers and intercessions was the universal prayer for an end to the Corona pandemic and a successful discovery of a permanent cure as the people of God await a restoration to normalcy.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Dominic, grant the world true healing, peace and restoration.

Amen!

Second Sunday of Easter – A

During the canonization of the Polish visionary, Sister Faustina Kowalska, on April 30, 2000, St. John Paul II announced that the Second Sunday of Easter would be celebrated as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” This decision was prompted by St. Faustina’s spiritual experiences.

What does “mercy” mean? St. Thomas Aquinas affirms that “Mercy is especially to be attributed to God” (1a. 21, 3). According to Thomas, the Latin word, misericors, “being merciful,” is based on the two words miserum (sorrowful) and cor (heart), understood not as sorrowful for ourselves but for another. Misericors, “merciful,” is, Thomas tells us “being affected with sorrow at the misery of another as though it were our own.”

The “effect of mercy” is that the person “endeavors to dispel the misery of this other as if it were his” (1a. 21, 3). God does not have bodily emotions and so does not have sad feelings as we do when we see sad things. Rather He knows our difficulties and wills to do something about them. Thomas points outs that God, rather than having emotional feelings, brings about the “effect of mercy”: “It does most properly belong to Him to dispel that misery whatever the defect” (1a. 21, 3).

Thomas explains: “Defects are not removed, except by the perfection of some kind of goodness: and the primary source is God” (1a. 21, 3).

God’s mercy is wondrously manifested in forgiveness of our sins, still, His mercy is not limited to our sins. God’s mercy is present in every aspect of God’s relations to us, and is related to His goodness, His justice and His liberality.

Because of His goodness, God gives particular “perfections” by which Thomas means the goods that we receive related to our nature as human persons. These come from “from His goodness absolutely.”

We usually think of “justice” as rewards and punishments for behavior. By “justice,” Thomas means giving to each one what is due to him or her. God’s justice to us is first of all equipping us for human life. These “perfections” are given “in proportion” according to His justice. We just assume that our bodies and minds are outfitted for life,  but Thomas reminds us that every part of us is a gift.

Justice is necessarily present throughout creation, in the sense that God gives what we need: “Whatever is done by God in created things is done according to proper order and proportion in which consists the idea of justice. Thus justice must exist in all God’s works” (1a. 21, 4).

God’s gifts to us are “not for His own use but only on account of His goodness.” In other words, God gives generously not for Himself but for us. Thomas speaks of this as God’s “liberality.”

Mercy is applied to our “defects,” or deficiencies.  The “perfections,” or good things that are given by God “expel defects” and “belong to His mercy” (1a. 21, 3).

On some occasions, we expect a sterner justice rather than mercy. Yet, God is merciful, as Thomas observes: “God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than His justice.”

Thomas proposes the example of a man who pays another person two hundred pieces of money when he owes one hundred. The man “does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully. The case is the same with one who pardons an offence committed against him, for in remitting it he may be said to bestow a gift” (1a. 21, 3).

Thomas recalls the words of the Letter to the Ephesians: “Forgive one another, as Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). Thomas asserts: “Mercy does not destroy justice, but in a sense is the fullness of it, as the Letter of James declares, ‘mercy triumphs over judgement’ (Ja 2:13)” (1a. 21, 3).

None of us can claim that because we exist we are entitled to have all that humans have. In fact, everything we have is given mercifully: “The work of divine justice always presupposes the work of mercy; and is founded upon it. For nothing is due to creatures … we must come to something that depends only on the goodness of the divine will – which is the ultimate end” (1a. 21, 4).

God gives us what relates to our nature. Thus hands are given to a human because of the rational soul and the rational soul is given that a person may be human. Each step is a gift.

Thomas explains: “His being human is on account of the divine goodness. So in every work viewed at its primary source there appears mercy. In all that follows, the power of mercy remains and works with greater force; as the influence of the first cause {God} is more intense than that of the second causes {ourselves}. For this reason, does God out of the abundance of His goodness bestow upon creatures what was due them more bountifully than is proportionate to their deserts: since less would suffice for preserving the order of justice than what divine goodness confers; because between creatures and God’s goodness there can be no proportion” (1a. 21, 4).

Jesus reveals the mercy of the Father, as Saint John Paul asserts: “Not only does Jesus speak of it [mercy] and explain it by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy” (Dives in Misericordia, 2).

Pope Francis, likewise, asserts that Jesus is the manifestation of God’s mercy: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in Him” (Misericordiae Vultus, 1).

Thomas attests that mercy is proper to God: “In itself, mercy takes precedence of other virtues, for it belongs to mercy to be bountiful to others, and what is more, to succor others in their wants, which pertains chiefly to one who stands above. Hence mercy belongs properly to God: and in that His omnipotence is declared to be chiefly manifested” (2a2ae. 30, 4). Pope Francis calls attention to this final sentence of Thomas (see Misericordiae Vultus, 6).

God desires that we also give mercy to others: “Mercy, in which we supply others’ defects is a sacrifice more acceptable to Him, in conducing more directly to our neighbor’s well-being, according to Hebrews: ‘Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God’” (Heb 13:16).

Saint John Paul states the necessity to believe in mercy:

“Believing in the crucified Son means ‘seeing the Father,’ means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-a-vis the reality of the evil that is in the world, affecting and besieging man, insinuating itself even into his heart…” (Dives in Misericordia, 13).

Since every day is a day of mercy, why do we celebrate Divine Mercy particularly on this Sunday? Every Gospel is a Gospel of mercy but, today’s Gospel, (Jn 20:19-31), especially demonstrates Jesus’ mercy. St. Thomas writes about this passage: “Here we have the strongest signs of God’s profound pity” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 2547).

On Easter evening, the disciples were in a locked room, when the Risen Jesus appeared. Because of their fear that H was a ghost, He showed them His hands and His side. One of the apostles, Thomas was not with the others. When they told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he said: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25),

The following Sunday evening, Jesus appeared again. As He entered the room, he announced: “Peace be with you.” Thomas reflects: “That is the peace coming from reconciliation, reconciliation with God, which Jesus said had now been accomplished: ‘We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son’ (Rom 5:10); making peace by the blood of His cross (Col 1:20) … and also the peace of charity and unity, which He commanded them to maintain: ‘Be at peace with one another’ (Mk 9:49)” (Commentary on John, 2555).

Aquinas makes reference to St. Gregory that it was not by accident that Thomas was missing on the first Sunday but by God’s will: “It was in the plans of divine pity that by feeling the wounds in the flesh of his Teacher, the doubting disciple should heal in us the wounds of disbelief … the disbelief of Thomas was of more benefit to our faith that the faith of the disciples who did believe” (Commentary on John, 2547).

Aquinas compares Thomas’ state with Jesus disposition: “An abyss has both depth and darkness. And Thomas was an abyss on account of the darkness of his disbelief, of which he was the cause. Again, there is an abyss – the depths of Christ’s compassion – which He had for Thomas. We read: ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7). That is the depths of Christ’s compassion calls to the depths of darkness [of disbelief] in Thomas, and Thomas’ abyss of unwillingness [to believe] calls out, when he professes the faith, to the depths of Christ” (Commentary on John, 2545).

Why did Jesus retain His wounds in His risen body? For one thing, the wounds confirmed to the disciples, especially Thomas, that the one who appeared was really Jesus. Aquinas observes: “Although Thomas said these things because of his own doubts, this was arranged by God for our benefit and progress. It is certain that Christ, who arose as a complete person, could have healed the marks of the wounds; but He kept them for our benefit” (Commentary on John, 2550).

Aquinas recalls the words of Augustine in his work On the Creed: “Christ could have removed all traces of His wounds from His risen and glorified body, but He had reasons for retaining them” (Commentary on John, 2557). Augustine thinks that unbelievers and sinners will be shown the wounds: “Look at the side you have pierced. It was opened for your sake, and you refused to enter” (Commentary on John, 2557).

Aquinas affirms: “The scars that remained in Christ’s body belong … to the greater increase of glory inasmuch as they are the trophies of His power; and a special beauty will appear in the places scarred by the wounds” (3a. 54, 4, ad1).

St. Catherine of Siena, also a Dominican, affirmed, “I see that there is no comparison between the divine mercy and my sins. Furthermore, if all the sins which are able to be committed were gathered together in one creature, they are less than one little drop of vinegar in the midst of the sea” (Letter 314).

Catherine exclaimed, “Everywhere I look, I see mercy” (Prayer, XIX).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. If the passage is found in a response to an objection that Thomas has introduced in the first part of the article, the Latin word “ad,” meaning “to,” is added with the number of the objection.

References to Thomas Commentary on the Gospel of John may be found in the translation by Fr. James A. Weisheipl, O.P. and Fabian R. Larcher, O.P., published by St. Bede’s Publications.

Easter Sunday – A

Was it necessary that Jesus rise in His human body? Was there any reason that He needed a human body? Couldn’t He have just returned to the Father in His divinity, having done everything humanly (and divinely) possible for us?

St. Thomas Aquinas offers five reasons why the Resurrection of Jesus’ body was necessary. We might easily pass over his first reason, that those who humble themselves for God’s sake should be exalted according to Divine justice (3a. 53, 1). However, this message is important for many people of the world, who try to live ethically and who work hard to help their families, despite great obstacles. Many people in the world make sacrifices following Christ, despite restrictions put on them for their faith. Many people are continually being frustrated in the efforts, sometimes by the circumstances in which they live as well as by other people. God is just. There is an old saying, “The wheels of God’s justice turn slowly but they grind exceedingly fine.”

Thomas’ second reason is that the Resurrection confirms our belief in Jesus’ divinity (3a. 53, 1). During His ministry, Jesus’ closest disciples were not quite sure who He was, although, at times, they would ask such questions as, “Who is this, whom even the wind and waves obey?” (Mk 4:41).

After the Resurrection, the disciples announced, “The Lord has truly been raised…” (Lk 24:34). The Hebrew name for Lord,’ādōn, and the Aramaic names for Lord, māré’ and māryā, were used for God in first-century Palestine. The disciples used these titles for Jesus.

Thomas affirms that the Resurrection gives us hope: “Through seeing Christ, who is our head, rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again” (3a. 53, 1). The deaths of loved ones leave emptiness in our lives. Jesus breaks through the insurmountable barrier of death and promises us that He will bring us with Him. His Resurrection answers the desire of all people, to live forever.

According to Thomas, the Resurrection sets our lives in order: “As Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in the newness of life” (Rom 6:4); “Christ, risen from the dead, dies no more… Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:9, 11).

We might think that we are hopelessly stuck in negative ways of thinking and acting, out of which we cannot release ourselves. We assume that our lives will necessarily continue this way. Through His Resurrection, Christ breaks these invisible chains and frees us from patterns we thought were invincible.

Because of the tremendous love demonstrated in Jesus’ Passion and death, we may think of Jesus painful death as the source of our salvation and His Resurrection as the happy conclusion after all had been completed. Thomas assures us that the Resurrection is also an essential component to our salvation:

The fifth reason is in order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that he might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us to good things: ‘He was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification’ (Rom 4:25) (3a. 53, 1).

Thomas explains: “Christ’s Passion wrought our salvation, properly speaking, by removing evils; but the Resurrection did so as the beginning and exemplar of all good things” (3a. 53, 1 ad 3).

What are the “good things”? Perhaps, some of them are identified by Thomas’ reasons for the Resurrection: ultimate justice for every person seeking the good, an appreciation of Christ’s identity, hope for our own future and that of those we love, and the possibility of living in a good way without being entangled by our own and others’ sinfulness.

Thomas elaborates more on the salvific effect of the Resurrection:

Two things concur in the justification of souls, namely, forgiveness of sin and newness of life through grace. Consequently as to efficacy [power], which comes of the Divine power, the Passion as well as the Resurrection of Christ is the cause of justification of both the above. But as to exemplarity [example], properly speaking Christ’s Passion and death are the cause of the forgiveness of guilt, by which forgiveness we die unto sin: whereas Christ’s Resurrection is the cause of new life which comes through grace or justice… But Christ’s Passion was also a meritorious cause (3a. 56, 2 ad 4).

Thomas seems to relate the forgiveness of our sins with the Passion while the Resurrection is especially related to the “new life which comes through grace or justice.” “Justice” would mean the justification, that is being right, before God. Through the graces of the Resurrection, we are enabled to live in a new way, the way of the Gospel.

According to Thomas, the resurrection of our bodies is related to Christ’s Resurrection:

Christ’s Resurrection was in the first in the order of our resurrection. Hence Christ’s Resurrection must be the cause of ours: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life’ (1 Cor 15: 20-22)… The Word of God first bestows immortal life upon that body which is naturally united with Himself, and through it works the resurrection in all other bodies (3a. 56, 1).

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

References to Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, give the part of the Summa, the question and the article. In this case, it is the third part of the Summa, questions 53 and 56, and various articles. If the reference is a reply to an objection that had been raised earlier, the reference will offer “ad…” with the number of the objection.