Pope Francis addresses Master General and members of the Dominican Order on their 800th anniversary
Meeting with the Master General of the Order and participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Friars Preachers, 800 years after Pope Honorius III ratified their founding, the pope quipped about his day’s activities (which include a meeting with Dominicans and an afternoon visit to Assisi), saying the day could well be described as “a Jesuit among friars.”
Speaking on the feast of St. Dominic in the traditional calendar, the Holy Father highlighted the need to incarnate the Gospel through preaching, witness, and charity.
God inspired St. Dominic to found the Order of Preachers and put preaching at the heart of their mission, just as Jesus had taught his disciples, the pope said.
“It is the Word of God which burns from within and urges us to go out and proclaim Jesus Christ to all peoples. Your founding Father said, ‘First contemplate, and then teach.’”
“Without a deep personal union with God,” he said, “preaching may be very perfect, very rational, even admirable, but it will never touch the heart, which is what must change,” he added.
The Word of God also requires witness, he said, “teachers who are faithful to the truth and worthy witnesses of the Gospel.”
“The witness incarnates what is taught, makes it tangible … and leaves no one indifferent. [Witness] adds joy to the truth of the Gospel, that of knowing one is loved by God and the object of his infinite mercy.”
“St. Dominic told his followers: ‘With discalced feet, go out to preach’,” the pope said. “It reminds us of the passage of the burning bush, he said, when God said to Moses, “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Ex 3,5). The good preacher is aware he is moving on holy ground, because the Word he carries is sacred, and recipients are too. The faithful need not only receive the Word in its integrity, but also experience the life witness of the preacher (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 171). The saints bear abundant fruit because, through their life and mission, they speak with the language of the heart, which knows no barriers and is understandable to all.”
Lastly, he noted, charity is preeminent for the preacher. Recalling the early life of St. Dominic, Pope Francis said the living, suffering body of Christ was inscribed in his entire existence.
“It is the body of Christ, alive and suffering, which cries out to the preacher and does not leave him tranquil. The cry of the poor and discarded awakens and makes us understand the compassion which Jesus had for the people. […] It is in the encounter with the living body of Christ that we are evangelizers, that we recover the passion to be preachers and witnesses of His love, and that we free ourselves from the dangerous temptation, extremely current today, of Gnosticism.”
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