This blog has taken on many roles in the past four or five years, but it's primary focus has always been the promotion of the vocation of the Dominican cooperator brotherhood, one of the many forms of religious life available in the Order of Preachers.
On this blog, there are several ways to learn about the brothers. First, please read through the F.A.Q. page, which answers some of the more basic questions that people have about the brothers. Questions like: What are cooperator brothers? What do brothers do? What is the training (formation) of brothers like? How do you know if you are called to be a brother?
There are three pages dedicated to giving quick information about famous and holy Dominican cooperator brothers, including one dedicated to listing the many brothers who have been martyred for the faith, and a calendar of brother saints from all the religious orders of the Catholic Church.
For those who are discerning a vocation to the religious life, there is a page that addresses the process of formally beginning the journey of entering the Order of Preacher (specifically for the Province of St. Albert the Great).
On the right side bar, you will find links to several blog essays written by Br. Paul over the past four years. They reflect his own unique opinions about cooperator brotherhood and religious life in general, and do not necessarily reflect every brothers' perspective or the official stance of his province or the Order of Preachers. Still, they should give the reader a sense of own friar's vision for this vocation during a time of the renewal of the brotherhood. There are links, also, to essays written by or about other cooperator brothers.
Please enjoy and pray for vocations to the religious life,
Br. Paul, OP
As part of the refocusing of the blog, Br. Paul will not be posting preaching or reflections on any given topic, as in the past.
Alas, there is a mystery--who was this poet and playwright, really? In Anonymous, the masses enjoy a look into the world of English majors and historians, two groups that revel in questioning and overthrowing our beloved legends, showing us how very uncertain our legacy is on any level.
Make no mistake, this not another Shakespeare in Love movie, or a half done survey of Shakespeare's oeuvre--it's a thoroughly played out theory on the real author of these immortal works. The tale weaves together the lives of Queen Elizabeth I, the man William Shakespeare, fellow playwright Ben Jonson, and a cast of royal and political figures important to the story--including the figure of the proposed "true" author. I must say , I was grateful that I had recently watched the film about Elizabeth I that starred Helen Mirren, as it can be difficult to keep all of those dukes, earls, and ladies straight.
I think audiences of all backgrounds will like this film--even people who don't usually go to see Shakespeare plays. It has action, plot, character development, a great cast, and bits and pieces of the best scripts this side of heaven. Whether it disconcerts any die-hard Shakespeare fans, I cannot say, but I am sure the love of the Bard will weather the rather nasty alternative portrayal of the man William Shakespeare.
Get thee to a theatre and see this film!
Br. Paul, OP
The following is a guest reflection by Br. Samuel Hakeem, OP, written in honor of his patron saint on the anniversary of Ven. Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli's birth on Nov. 4th, 1806.
“Let us rouse ourselves then, and let us open eyes of Evangelical charity, and if we are called, let us direct our steps wherever the work is great and difficult, but where also with the help of Him Who sent us, we shall open the ways for the Gospel and where through Him our labors and fatigues will meet with success according to the certain word of Saint Paul: ‘I have planted, Apollo watered: but God gave the increase.”
-Memoirs of Father Mazzuchelli, O.P.
I first came across these words of Samuel Mazzuchelli one week before entering the Dominican Novitiate. Here I was, on the threshold of this new journey of religious life—unsure of what lie ahead, yet confidently trusting in God’s plan. As I continued Mazzuchelli’s memoirs, I grew more intrigued and amazed by the stories of his life. I was being introduced to not only an amazing man, but someone who would soon become my brother in St. Dominic. As I began the novitiate, I received the habit of the Dominican Order and along with it, I received the religious name Samuel—inspired by his story, and ready to set out on an adventure of my own.
Samuel Mazzuchelli was born in Milan, Italy in 1806. He grew up in the shadow of Milan’s Duomo [cathedral church]. Despite being born into a comfortable family, his early life was not without troubles—Samuel’s mother died when he was only six years old. He was sent to the Collegio di Sant’Antonio, a boarding school in Lugano, Switzerland specifically for children who had lost parents. It was here that young Samuel would be introduced to St. Dominic through a picture which hung in the sacristy of the school’s chapel. The seed was planted for his vocation—a seed which would begin to sprout before too long.
Mazzuchelli entered the Dominican novitiate in 1823 at the age of 17. After professing vows, he studied at the Convent of Santa Sabina in Rome. When Samuel was 22, Father Edward Fenwick, Dominican friar and first bishop of the Diocese of Cincinnati, travelled to Rome to ask for friars to join him in the new land of the American West. Mazzuchelli answered the call and, at 23 years old, before being ordained, Samuel Mazzuchelli left behind his home, his culture, and his family and journeyed to America.
After learning English and completing his studies for the priesthood with the Dominicans in Kentucky, Mazzuchelli was assigned to a vast area of the new West. Basing himself out of Mackinac Island, Mazzucelli became the only priest for all of modern-day Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois. This area was sparsely populated with settlers and Native Americans—both of whom this missionary would serve.
Eventually, Samuel would end up in the tri-state area of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, ministering to the lead miners who had settled in the hills near the Mississippi River. Mazzuchelli built 24 churches and civil buildings in this area (with no formal architectural training), began an academy for women, and founded a convent of Dominican sisters in Sinsinawa, WI which is still active today. He spent his final days in Benton, WI, working at the girl’s academy and ministering at the town church. He died February 23, 1864, succumbing to an illness he contracted while travelling through the cold Wisconsin winter night in order to minister to a sick Catholic outside of town.
One thing that Mazzuchelli was known for was being one with the people he served—a somewhat novel idea for Christian missionaries in developing America. Whether it was among the fur traders on Mackinac, the Native Americans in Wisconsin and Michigan, or the Irish miners of the tri-state region, Mazzuchelli met the people where they were. When among the native peoples, he would sleep on bark mats in the wigwams. He would eat what they ate, and be pleased with what he was given. He fought for the rights of Native Americans, writing to President Andrew Jackson in opposition to the relocation of these people. Later in Benton, WI, the Irish immigrants began calling him Fr. Matthew Kelly, claiming him as a son of Ireland! This blending enabled Mazzuchelli to earn the respect of these people, living an authentically Christian life and making his ministry more effective.
His joyful, down-to-earth demeanor was matched by a zeal for the faith and an intelligent mind. He was a renowned preacher with an eloquence which captivated his congregations. Upon entering new areas to minister, he was often met with resistance and even hostility from Protestant ministers. He kept his cool, however, and would offer to debate these ministers in a civil way. He would allow the minister to make his statement, and then would wait a week before giving his reply. His cool demeanor was attractive to the people, and many entered the Catholic Church as a result.
Mazzuchelli was completely devoted to his ministry as a Dominican Friar. He was fully devoted to the mission of preaching and the salvation of souls, even to the time of his death. This mission was strengthened by a spiritual life marked by devotion to the Eucharist and Mary under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows. This title of Mary suggests, and history confirms, that his life was not easy. He spent most of his life far from his family. His work was difficult, and he was often met with opposition. He ran into financial trouble after building a church in Green Bay—trouble which would take years to amend. He attempted to begin a new province of Dominicans which failed for a number of reasons. Through it all, though, Mazzuchelli stayed close to God, finding comfort and strength in the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
Today, many people find comfort and strength in Samuel Mazzuchelli’s intercession. For me, Samuel serves not only as an intercessor, but so much more. He is someone who I strive to be like in my day-to-day life. Someone who answered God’s call to live a life of difficulty with a resounding yes. Someone who hoped and trusted God, finding strength in the Sacraments and the Church. Someone with a zeal for souls and on fire for the faith, responsible for the conversion of many. Someone who respected all peoples, regardless of race, class, or social setting. To me, Samuel Mazzuchelli is a brother, a role model, a hero, a patron--and, yes, a saint.
Br. Samuel Hakeem, OP
The people of the town where he lived loved him, because he was as generous as St. Antoninus. Everyone was sure that this friar would go very far. He would be Master of the Order some day, or even the pope, like St. Pius V. The friar would sometimes hear people say this, but he was undisturbed. He only wanted to be the best Dominican he could be.
One night, after a long day of preaching, and visiting the sick, and reading, the friar paused to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. As was his custom, he prayed for help to reach his goal of being the best Dominican he could be. In his head, he went through the list of his Dominican heroes and heroines, comparing their work with his.
As he was doing so, an angel of God suddenly appeared to him. The friar was greatly amazed. After the usual polite introductions, the angel said to him, "You may ask me one thing, but one thing only, so choose wisely."
It did not take the friar long to consider what question to ask. After only a short pause, he replied, "Who is the greatest Dominican saint? I wish to know, so that I may follow in his or her footsteps. I have been so busy trying to imitate them all, that I am sometimes very tired. I'm sure it would be easier to have only one person to imitate rather than so many--and all so mighty in virtue."
"Who did the Messiah say was greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" the angel asked the friar.
The friar thought, then answered, "He said the one who made himself the servant of all."
"Then Brother Martin is the greatest--for he was wise in the way of love and strong in the way of prayer. He performed many miracles and preached great homilies by way of his deeds. And in all this, he put away any and all thought of himself. He loved God and his neighbor, and thus became a man defined by love. If you wish to be a great Dominican, follow Brother Martin's example and become the servant of all. As of yet, you still serve others to serve yourself. Learn to serve others for their sake alone."
"Is there a book I could read, so I could learn Brother Martin's way?" returned the friar.
"You have the Gospel, follow it."
The friar was still confused. "I have been, but what else?"
"You have the sacraments, live them."
"I have done this, too."
"Then go be with your neighbors."
The friar scratched his head, "And do what?"
"Nothing," the angel said. "Just be with them."
"Is that it?" exclaimed the friar.
"That," the angel said, "is everything."
Br. Paul, OP~
"But the souls of the just
are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish,
to be dead;
and their passing away
was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us,
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed,
they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little,
they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings
he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation
they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks
They shall judge nations
and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him
shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall
abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy
are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
Today my family remembers Morris Niceley (grandfather) and Mary Kathleen Gross (aunt) who died this year. May God bless them and all our dearly departed with peace and eternal life with him.
Br. Paul, OP
From "All Saints' Day"
by John Keble*
Little they dream, those haughty souls
Whom empires own with bended knee,
What lowly fate their own controls,
Together linked by Heaven's decree;--
As bloodhounds hush their baying wild
To wanton with some fearless child,
So famine waits, and War with greedy eyes,
Till some repenting heart be ready for the skies.
Think ye the spires that glow so bright
In front of yonder setting sun,
Stand by their own unshaken might?
No--where th'upholding grace is won,
We dare not ask, nor Heaven would tell,
But sure from many a hidden dell,
From many a rural nook unthought of there,
Rises for that proud world the saints' prevailing prayer.
Oh Champions blest, in Jesus' name,
Short be your strife, your triumph full,
Till every heart have caught your flame,
And, lightened of the world's misrule,
Ye soar those elder saints to meet,
Gathered long since at Jesus' feet,
No world of passions to destroy,
Your prayers and struggles o'er your task all praise and joy.
*John Keble is considered a saint in the Anglican Church, and is remembered on July 14.
To read the entire poem, Click HERE
Posted by Brother Paul, OP at 12:11 AM