Friday, June 18, 2010

Gus on Tour

While it's customary for Curial officials to start beating a trail home come month's end and the traditional summer exodus from Rome, it's worth noting that this year's influx has already begun on these shores... and with some treats, to boot.

A year to the week after he was named to the #2 post at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia OP came home a couple weeks early, skipping out on the Priestly Year's close in Rome to join his brothers of the Dominicans' St Joseph Province for their quadrennial Chapter, held at the community's Providence College.

Along the way, the Bronx-born, Yale-educated friar -- formerly the now-Pope's hand-picked undersecretary at the CDF and, ergo, a key exegete of Joseph Ratzinger's thought -- delivered two powerhouse talks: a lecture in New York on "facing the challenges to faith" (fulltext/video) and a conference to his confreres on "new vocations" in the Eastern province, whose incoming novice class of 21 is said to be its largest in nearly a half-century.

Given the topics and Di Noia's points, money-quotes abound... but for starters, let one from the former suffice:
"...St. Dominic embraced the mission to those who lived in the cities, especially the university cities where the new intellectual trends were a challenge to the faith of the cultured." In order to do this effectively, we have to avoid the temptation to fudge -- to adapt the Catholic faith so as to make it palatable to modern tastes and expectations. This so-called "accommodationist" approach generally fails. There is a risk in this approach that the Christian message becomes indistinguishable from everything else on offer in the market stalls of secularized religious faith: "In the powerful yet soft secularising totalitarianism of distinctively modern culture, our greatest enemy is 'the Church's own internal secularisation' which, when it occurs, does so through the 'largely unconscious' adoption of the 'ideas and practices' of seemingly 'benign adversaries'" [Aidan Nichols OP].

Facing the challenges to faith demands a robust sort of reasoning. No one in his or her right mind will be interested in a faith about which its exponents seem too embarrassed to communicate forthrightly. We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message about Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise.
And, well, go from there.

As the centerpiece of its Plenary, the community elected a new Provincial, Fr Brian Mulcahy, who was announced on Wednesday following his confirmation by the Dominican Master-General, Fr Carlos Azpiroz Costa. Prior to his election, the new Prior Provincial served as vicar to his now-predecessor, the highly-regarded Fr Dominic Izzo, who completed the maximum eight-year term.

While the province's 300-plus men have carved a notable profile for themselves in the East over the years, the St Joseph chapter's but a prelude to the Big One: come late August, 130 friar-delegates will gather in Rome for the global order's 290th General Chapter, to be headlined by the election of Azpiroz's successor at the helm of 6,000-member community on 5 September.

Like most superiors-general, the Master of the Order of Preachers is currently elected for a fixed term of office -- in his case, a non-renewable nine-year mandate.

The next Dominican General will be the community's 87th head, continuing a line begun with the original Father Dominic, himself.