Dominican friar Jacques-Benoît Rauscher suggests a way of sustaining hope in tumultuous times, taking a leaf out of St. Dominic’s life.
I have encountered numerous individuals left bewildered by the succession of scandals within the Church. These people aren’t the direct victims of crimes perpetrated by priests or religious individuals, nor are they responsible for these happenings. However, their faith is deeply rattled by these occurrences. Quite rightly so! I admit that I often lack the words to provide solace. I confess that even I am not immune to the shadow cast by grim news highlighting the depravity of those devoted to the Church.
In these unsettling times, it is crucial to condemn these atrocities, extend support to the victims, and contemplate measures to prevent such horrors in the future. However, it is equally important to avoid despair. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that these unsettling revelations are mere nightmares destined to pass. Simultaneously, we need the fortitude to forge ahead and rediscover the essence of the Gospel, the only means to surmount these formidable challenges.
On this journey, I have found solace in the lives of great saints. Despite each epoch being unique, Christians of yore have also weathered times when the Church seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse. St. Dominic is one such example.
During the 13th century, he grappled with a major crisis within the Church. His outlook, I believe, can guide us along three paths, enabling us to stand firm amidst tumult within the Church.
Firstly: Embrace Your Tears The inaugural Dominican friars recounted hearing St. Dominic weeping in the chapel at night. His prayer was accompanied by tears. He mourned the sins of the world and the tribulations of the Church, fractured by discord and half-hearted responses to God’s call.
This serves as an initial example for reflection. When the Church appears to be crumbling, Dominic encourages us to confront our sorrow, even shed tears. This grief signals our empathy, indicating that the crises rending the Church affect us deeply, primarily because we love the Church. Recognising this is a significant step.
Second Path: Acknowledge Your Roots Accounts of St. Dominic’s life depict him as a man firmly grounded in his faith. He received a robust education in his homeland, Spain. His upbringing was not merely intellectual but also enriched by encounters with believers who influenced him and individuals yearning for God’s Word.
When we examine our roots, we understand our desire for the Gospel’s message to persist in the world due to its unparalleled richness.
During tumultuous times in the Church, it is beneficial to revisit our roots, like St. Dominic: be it a significant biblical verse, an event that moulded our faith journey, or an individual whose faith propelled us forward. This is the second counsel Dominic’s life offers us: Recall our roots to appreciate how our faith has enhanced us as individuals. To scrutinize our roots is to recognise our wish for the Gospel message to resonate continually in the world, owing to its incomparable richness.
Third Path: Counter Evil with Good St. Dominic confronted priests and bishops who were failing in their missions, chiefly due to their opulent lifestyles. This affluence appalled many Christians, causing them to leave the Church. Dominic then introduced a new form of religious life — centred around poverty and begging — more aligned with the Gospel.
In times of crisis within the Church, St. Dominic reminds us to identify