We continue our Novena in honour of St Dominic
Every saint resembles Christ in some way. This was particularly clear with Dominic who followed Jesus in everything – in his prayer, works and miracles.
Like his Master, Dominic used to spend the nights in prayer to God; he would fall asleep with his head on the altar step when he was too exhausted to continue. St Dominic spent his life preaching the Gospel and being constantly concerned for the salvation of the human race.
In today’s Gospel passage the gestures of Jesus as he multiplies the loaves and fishes “taking (the loaves)”, “blessing”, “breaking” “giving” echoes the Eucharistic narrative. The disciples believed that their only option was to send the crowd away and to find food elsewhere. They focussed on what they lacked. But Jesus had a different perspective. His Faith was in God’s power to look after the spiritual and material welfare of the people gathered around him. As we share in our daily Eucharist we participate in the heavenly banquet with Jesus our Host – He not only gave his life for us but continues to live in us, loving us, strengthening and sustaining us by his presence and grace.
As I mediate on today’s gospel I am reminded of one of St Dominic’s miracles where the Bread was Miraculously Multiplied and Distributed to the Brethren through his prayers in the Convent of San Sisto. It was a custom each morning to send some of the brethren out into the city begging, for the community had no regular revenues and lived from day to day on what they could beg in the streets. One day, the brothers returning without alms of any sort, encountered a good woman who gave them a loaf of bread, saying she could not bear to see them go home empty-handed. Shortly afterwards they met a handsome youth, who asked them for charity and the friars, though it meant that they would again have to forego their meal, gave him the loaf of bread and continued their journey home.
When they reached the priory, the first one they met was Blessed Dominic who already knew, by a special revelation, all that had happened.
Dominic smiled and said, “I see you have nothing, my children,” and they answered, “No, father.” Then they told him what they had received and of the beggar to whom they gave the bread. But he said to them, “It was an angel of the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord will feed His servants. Let us go and pray.” After they said a brief prayer in the church, he told them to summon the community for their meal. But they reminded him, “Holy Father, how can you tell them to come, when we have nothing to serve them?” and he answered, “The Lord will feed His servants.”
So they set the tables and, when the signal was given, the community entered the refectory. After the blessing of the meal by Blessed Dominic, the brethren sat down and Brother Henry of Rome began to read. At his table Blessed Dominic joined his hands in prayer. Then the promise he had made through the Holy Spirit began to be fulfilled, for, in the middle of the refectory, there suddenly appeared two handsome youths from whose shoulders hung, in front and in back, two beautiful baskets filled with bread.
Serving the youngest first, they began, one on the right and the other on the left, to distribute to each of the brethren one whole loaf of bread of marvellous appearance. When they reached Blessed Dominic and gave him a loaf, they bowed and disappeared. No one to this day knows where they came from or where they went.
But down through the centuries this story has influenced our Dominican tradition of table service where the juniors are always served before the seniors. There is also a link in our Dominican tradition between our communion at the Eucharistic Banquet and our communion at our shared meals – symbolised by our processions from choir to refectory.
According to our constitutions we, the nuns, at meal time listen in silence to reading so that not only our bodies may be refreshed with food but our minds also may be strengthened with the Word of God – bearing in mind that one does not live by bread alone. (LCM 54) Through the intercession of St. Dominic may we all be granted a greater appreciation, reverence and love for Christ in the Eucharist which is at the very core of our contemplative life.
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