Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé No. 31: May 2019

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 31: May 2019

St Vincent Ferrer

2019: Year of St. Vincent Ferrer

St. Vincent Ferrer: 1350-1419

The apostolate of St. Vincent Ferrer was as international as the Dominican Order itself. Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Switzerland (some even say England, but proof is lacking)… received his visit, and all of Europe felt the power of his message.

He traveled on foot – or, at the end of his life, riding on a donkey – accompanied by a group of confessors and a flock of penitents who would follow for a time the preacher that converted them. Arriving in town, he would kneel down on the ground, not wanting to penetrate any further into the city without imploring for it the divine blessing. After which, the mission commenced.

He himself would rise each morning at 2 o’clock, in order to recite the Breviary and say his private prayers. A few hours later, the mission would start with a Solemn High Mass, celebrated by St. Vincent, with deacon, sub-deacon, and a highly-trained schola — with musical instruments! The saint placed great importance on the beauty of the liturgy, which for him was the first way to preach.

The Mass was generally celebrated outdoors, as no church could contain the crowds of faithful. Next came the sermon, which easily lasted three hours (sometimes longer), the blessing of the sick (and the resulting miracles), and the reconciliation of enemies.

The Angel of the Last Judgment

In the eyes of the faithful, Saint Vincent Ferrer was above all — as he said himself — the “Angel of the Last Judgment”, he who came to cry out to the world: “Fear God, and give Him glory, for the hour of His judgment is come” (Apoc. 14:7). Born in 1350, two years after the start of the terrible bubonic plague that decimated Europe, he preached to a Christendom ravaged by the Hundred Years War, natural catastrophes (such as the earthquakes shaking even St. John Lateran and St. Peter’s), and the Great Western Schism. If that wasn’t the end of the world, it was at least a striking prefiguration. Throughout Church history, just as there have regularly been precursors of the Antichrist, God has sent precursors of the intrepid preachers who will be his direct adversaries at the end of the world.

A hundred years ago, the review La Vie spirituelle underlined the significance of St. Vincent’s mission, for his epoch and ours:

God gave him the mission to speak to all the people of Europe, to repeat during 30 years, without tiring, the importance of salvation, the blinding light of the final judgment, the eternity of Hell. […] The whole of St. Vincent’s preaching consists in boldly confronting his listeners with the most frightening and the most certain of all realities: Hell is the punishment for sin. Unless you convert, you will all perish.

The Angel of the Judgment is thus [always] a “Saint for today”.

The Problem of Evil

If God exists, where does evil come from? This is a common objection, but which actually turns against atheism and leads to religion.

And yet, evil exists, doesn’t it? Evil (for example, deafness, blindness…) does not have its own proper existence: it’s an absence, a lack, a disorder, that doesn’t exist all by itself, but only in something else that it damages. Evil is a privation of being — a privation of the normal order.

What does that prove? A privation does not have a proper cause. The shadow of a tree (privation of light) is not positively produced by the tree (which only limits the action of the Sun), and much less by the Sun itself! In a way, one could say that evil is to God what shadows are to the Sun.

But if God is all-powerful, what could limit His action? God, being all-powerful, is free to manifest His goodness as He wishes. Instead of an egalitarian universe (with millions of identical beings), His wisdom preferred a diversified creation, reflecting His goodness in a multiple fashion (in varying degrees). In this hierarchy, certain beings cast shadows on others: animals eat other animals, which eat plants, which assimilate minerals, etc. Each creature, with its limits, contributes to the general order of things.

Doesn’t the presence of evil inside humanity itself (wars, crimes, injustice…) argue against the existence of God? False notes in a concert do not in any way rule out the existence of the symphony, nor the existence of a composer. It’s actually the opposite which is true: it would be impossible to discern the false notes if the melody and harmony of the whole did not exist. Similarly, the presence of evil in the world does not in any way raise doubts as to the existence of God: to the contrary, we could not discern what is evil without having first recognized a general order of the universe.

Evil remains a scandal! Evil is a scandal for those who are more or less pantheistic (thinking that the universe itself is God), or who adore Mankind. The imperfections of our world prove first and foremost that the world is not God; it is not the Supreme Being, and so we must therefore search for something higher. Every man has a thirst for happiness which cannot be completely satisfied by things here below. This is just one more proof of the existence of God: true happiness is over and above this world!

But if God is good, couldn’t he eliminate all evil? Evil will always be a mystery for our limited human reason. We can understand that evil is permitted by God for a greater good, but it remains difficult to discern what this greater good actually is. The mystery of evil calls upon other mysteries which alone can shed light upon it: the mystery of eternal life (our life on earth is only a temporary trial, before our real life), the mystery of final judgment (one day, everyone must render an account of their actions), the mystery of original sin (man used his liberty to “thwart” God’s plan), and the mystery of Jesus Christ, who made reparation for sin in a manner even more beautiful than if sin had never existed (God’s goodness is revealed better by Jesus taking on human nature in order to make reparation and suffer in our place). To all those who suffer and are tempted to revolt, only Jesus (who suffered even more, but who leads us to happiness), provides the true answer.

Community Chronicle

January 31st: Mrs. Miriam CARROLL (Sr. Claire Gambacorta t.o.p.) passed away in Kansas, fortified by the sacraments of the Church and assisted by her fellow tertiaries. According to the constitutions of the Third Order and her personal wishes, she was buried wearing the Dominican habit.

Mirriam Carroll (coffin)

February 1st: At Montagnac-la-Crempse (Périgord), Fathers Marie-Dominique and Angelico represent the community at the funeral services for Mother Marie-Emmanuel, the first Prioress of the contemplative Dominican sisters of Avrillé.

February 9th: Brothers Michel-Marie and Augustin-Marie receive the tonsure during a Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Bishop Zendejas. Several seminarians receive the cassock, tonsure and minor orders on the same occasion.

February 10th: The Third Order Fraternity of “Saint Dominic and Saint Francis” (which gathered together all our tertiaries of Southeastern France) having become too big, Fathers Angelico and Marie-Laurent preside the erection of a new Fraternity for our tertiaries of Auvergne: the Fraternity “Saint Vincent Ferrer.” The fledgling Fraternity will be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on May 5th, feast of St. Pius V.

February 17th: Third Order meeting for Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie at “Saint Joseph’s Domain” (Convent of the Sisters of Mary Coredemptrix, near Rennes, Brittany).

March 9th/10th: Weekend recollection for the faithful near Bordeaux, with Fathers Marie-Laurent and Hyacinthe-Marie.

March 17th: Annual pilgrimage in honor of St. Joseph for the families of St. Philomena School, with Fathers François-Marie and Angelico. Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie are in Chartres for a conference, then to Paris for the Third Order.

March 30th/31st: For the 600th anniversary of St. Vincent Ferrer’s entry into Heaven, Father Louis-Marie leads a group of tertiaries on a pilgrimage to his tomb in Vannes (Brittany).

March 24th: Arrival of Bishop Thomas Aquinas, who will stay several weeks in France.

March 28th: Father Prior is in Rennes (Brittany), where Bishop Thomas Aquinas presides over the ceremony of the final vows of Sr. Marie-Liesse, and the temporary vows of Sister Marie-Joseph (Sisters of Mary Coredemptrix).

March 30th-April 6th: Annual pilgrimage to Rome for the graduating class of St. Thomas Aquinas Boys’ School, accompanied by Fr. Marie-Dominique.

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Death of St. Vincent at Vannes (Brittany)

News from our worksites

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In order to have a spotless church in time for Holy Week and Easter, a 5-day cleaning operation, under the di­rection of our Br. An­dré-Joseph, was ac­complished in late Feb­ruary. The height of the vaulted ceiling and the fragility of the murals (dating from the 14th century) made it neces­sary to rent a crane for the delicate procedure.

church cleaning 2

The construction permit for the future Parish Hall was rejected due to a change in zoning laws… The architect is now revising the blue prints in conformity with the new requirements, and we’re hoping to get the project under way in 2020. We’re also counting on your prayers to remove all the administrative and financial obstacles!

Crisis in the Church

February 4th, 2019: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom.” (Declaration on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.)

March 30th, 2019: Rabat, Morocco: the Pope visits the “Mohamed IV Institute for the Formation of Muslim Preachers,” thereby giving formal encouragement to spread a false religion fiercely opposed to Our Lord!

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Association of St. Dominic

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For more information :

Couvent de la Haye-aux-Bonshommes

49240 Avrillé, France

crucifixion-saint dominic

Mortification in our spiritual life

Mortification in our spiritual life

By Fr. Martín HARRISON, O.P.

How we dread the word “mortification”!  It suggests terrifying penances, hair-shirts, plank-beds and other extraordinary hardships practiced by some saint; mark the word “extraordinary.”  Such penances are not for “ordinary” people like ourselves, but for those called by God to be out of the ordinary through the help of special graces.

Yet penance in some form or another we must do, since we are bound to mortify the flesh and its desires.  What does mortification really mean?  In a spiritual sense it may be defined as the act of subduing the passions and appetites of our lower nature by fasting or severities inflicted on the body, the act of subordinating all natural impulses to the influence of the Holy Spirit, in a natural sense it may denote being humiliated by circumstances, depressed by disappointments or vexations; but these are not penances in the strict sense, though they may be turned into true mortification by our method of acceptance.

Mortification essentially consists in self-denial: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt 16, 24).  Self-denial means saying “NO” to self, which for most people is a difficult thing to do.  By sin our willpower was weakened; we became prone to evil finding it easier to give in to the desires of the flesh than to resist them.  Because of sin the soul lost its domination over the flesh, so that “the flesh, lusteth against the spirit” (Ga 5:17).

The chief work of mortification is to strengthen the will power and heal the wounds caused by sinBy denying self what is lawful, the will is strengthened to resist what is unlawful, and some measure of atonement is made.  Therefore penance is imposed as a strict duty.  Thus the Lenten and other fasts imposed by the Church consist in refraining from a certain amount of food, otherwise lawful, so denying to us the pleasure of satisfying hunger completely.  Too often these grave obligations of fasting are dismissed as impracticable because of hardship or inconvenience, before any attempt has been made to find out if they are really so.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner.  Certainly some are excused by the nature of the work they must do, or for other good reasons; but this does not free them entirely from all obligation of doing penance of another sort.  We are bound to deny self, and that is the essence of penance.  We need so much to be strengthened against temptations that only by denying lawful things to ourselves can we hope to be strong enough to deny the unlawful also.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner

Some pride themselves on their strength of will, but too often it is shown only in denying something to others rather than to themselves.  In reality such people are simply stubborn and actually weak-willed, since they are not able to say “NO” to self.

Let us test ourselves by the following questions:

1. — Do I always stick to my own opinions and insist on having my own way?

2. — Can I admit being in the wrong, or that I have made a mistake?

3. — Can I give in gracefully to the will of the majority?1

The answers to such questions as these, will soon prove whether we can say “NO” to self or if we are self-willed.

Mortification is necessary for all.  The wounds of nature demand an effort to strengthen the will against its propensity to evil; the more we indulge our natural desires, the stronger and more insistent they become in demanding satisfaction, the more difficult to resist their appeal.

However, it is not necessary to undertake special hardships or penances beyond those imposed under obligation by the Church.  Life itself provides a variety of opportunities for mortification that we cannot escape.  The pity of it, is that we endure without much or any spiritual profit much that might be mortification, because of the wrong attitude we adopt toward these various vexations.  We can make a virtue of necessity by accepting in a spirit of patience and humility the daily trials forced upon us.

[Some examples:]   Take any ordinary day in life:

— Probably we must get up earlier than we would wish, we should like to stay in bed much longer.  It is not easy to rise promptly; it demands self-denial.  How do we react?  Do we come down peevish and disagreeable, upsetting others by our grumbling and irritation?  If this is out reaction, then we have lost the chance of mortifying ourselves, instead of turning the necessity to spiritual profit by accepting it with patience.

— We have to go to work, oftentimes hard and disagreeable, to work with others who get on our nerves, to take orders given in an abrupt manner, and endure many other similar vexations that can be very irritating.  What is our attitude to such things?  They can all become occasions of mortification if accepted in a proper spirit.  Obedience to others, which is the submission of our own will to that of another, can be a very real and difficult penance.  Too often we can become impatient and disgruntled, resent the orders given to us: and miss the chance of being spiritually mortified under adversity.

Life is full of such opportunities: we make silly mistakes, are humiliated by others, meet with disappointments, hear slurs east or disparaging remarks made about us; accidents make us ludicrous and cause laughter and ridicule at our expense.  These things are certainly humiliating to our pride and self-conceit? but do we turn them to spiritual worth by a humble and contrite spirit in accepting them as mortifications?  If they simply cause us to become disagreeable and complain, there is no penance; they are lost to us entirely when they might have been real crosses born for the love of God, real penances accepted in a spirit of self-denial, some atonement for the sins we have committed.

We are told [by Holy Mother the Church] to perform the three good works: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms-deeds.  These can all form some kind of mortification for us:

By fasting we mean here self-denial in any form, the giving up of one’s desires and inclinations.  We are forced to this at times by circumstances, yet profit little because we accept grudgingly, with resentment and complaints about the hardness of our lot.

Prayer might find a larger place in our lives and provide penance at the same time.  For instance, we might give up an evening’s pleasure so that we may go to Benediction.  How many give up the Sunday evening to selfish comfort rather than go out to the evening service?  It may be cold and wet; it is so much pleasanter to sit reading by the fireside, or playing cards with friends.  The weather is so often an excuse to avoid going to church, but it would not prevent us from going out to the cinema or to a dance.  It is difficult to give up pleasure and comfort to go to church, hard to mortify our desires and say “NO” to self!  To give up our comforts can be a real mortification.

Alms-giving does not necessarily mean giving money away.  The best alms is to give happiness to others – any kind of action done for the love of God and our neighbor, any small service especially if it means self-denial, is acceptable to God as a mortification.  Our Lord went about doing good, never sparing Himself.  We, on the contrary, find doing good to others to be too much trouble and to cause too much inconvenience to ourselves.  We could make a point of doing at least one kind act a day to help another, as a mortification.  We could do much more to ease the burdens of others, to bring happiness or solace, and if this entails denying self and putting ourselves to some inconvenience so much the better, it will mortify us all the more.

There is no need to undertake extraordinary penances – life provides its own opportunities of mortifying self.  We do not know that Our Lady or St. Joseph ever did any special kind of penance, but they did accept the many trials and sufferings of life, grief, hardship, poverty, hard work, and such like, in a spirit of resignation to the will of God.  The early disciples do not seem to have done extraordinary penances, but we may note that St, Paul writes; “I chastise the flesh to bring it into subjection… lest perhaps I become a castaway (1 Co 9, 27).”   If St. Paul felt the need of “chastising the flesh,” how much more we, who do so little to atone for all the number of times we give way to our evil inclinations.   We must chastise the flesh by denying to it the satisfaction it demands, even in what is lawful, that we may strengthen ourselves to refuse all that is unlawful and to thrust down the inclinations and desires of unlawful passion, by denying the pleasure of lawful desires at times.  We must learn how to say “NO” to self.

To resume therefore, we cannot escape mortifications, even though we do not seek them.  Life will provide many opportunities of self-denial; let us see to it that these unavoidable vexations are all turned to profit for the soul by accepting them in a spirit of penance and humiliation for our many sins and as a means of strengthening our will-power against our proneness to evil.  If we would realize that hardship, sickness, poverty, disappointments, vexations, inconveniences, even the monotony of life, can all be spiritually useful and made profitable by a spirit of humble acceptance and mortification and for the love of God, we should be carrying out our obligation of doing penance lest we perish.

It is all a matter of will-power pitted against the fatal attractions of sin in which we prove so weak and easily overcome.

Only by denying self what is lawful, or accepting what we cannot escape as a means of self-denial, can we become strong in our resistance to what is unlawful, strong to resist the many temptations that beset us from the flesh, the world and the devil.

We must atone for sin by true repentance and by penance enjoined to the sufferings of Our Lord, that they may become an atonement for our many sins.

“Unless ye do penance, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lc 13, 5).

Taken from Credo, Fr. Martin Harrison O.P.

Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1954, pgs 141-145

A Program for Sanctity

A programme for sanctity

by Fr Vayssière O.P. (1864-1940)

Union with God

1. By union and abandonment to the Divine Will. See this adorable Will in all and always by the Faith, even in the smallest details, and always be united to this Will in all and  through charity.  The result of this is a very real permanent union with God at every moment, even when we are not conscious of it – our will being lost, as it were, in the Divine Will.

2. By the thought and remembrance of Jesus, either His intimate Presence in the depths of our heart by grace, His Eucharistic Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, or by His divine mysteries.

Try to develop a greater and greater fidelity to this remembrance, and to arrive at an intimacy with God, as habitual as it is full of tenderness for the Divine Master.

3. Apply ourselves especially to union with His Sacred Heart and, in this, to respond to His call “learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart”.  Therefore, exercise oneself, always in the practice of humility and charity:

* Humility

  • Never speak of oneself;
  • Avoid with great care the sentiments and thoughts of vain complacency; to consider that all that is in us belongs to God, and in serving him and serving our neighbor, we are only doing our duty strictly and rigorously.
  • Prefer and seek to be in the last place.

* Charity

  • Watch over our tongue
  • Never refuse a service in the measure that it is possible.
  • Apply oneself especially to interior charity:
    • Charity of the will in desiring sincerely the good of all.
    • Charity of the spirit and judgment in thinking of the well-being of others, refraining with all our power from rash judgments.

4. Envelop oneself with a serious spirit of penance, both interior and exterior.

5. Put oneself especially under the patronage of saint Catherine of Siena 1 and to see in her the model of our interior life, our exterior life, and the apostolic life, which the Dominican tertiary ought to reproduce.

**

1. Remember that your life is really and totally consecrated to God.  Even though living in the world you must live only for Him.  Your life must be truly a religious life.  “God alone”, that is your motto.

2. To this God, your only lot, your only ambition, you must walk by the interior way, the true way, unique even, which permits to find, to know, to taste and to unite yourself to Him:

  • Greatly desire this interior life.
  • Ask for it by incessant prayers.
  • Prepare oneself for that grace:
  1. by a purity of heart ever-growing.
  2. by recollection.
  3. by a spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice.


3. In consequence:

  1. Get yourself used to acting, in all things, with a great interior spirit.
  2. Do faithfully daily mental prayer.
  3. Say vocal prayers (Rosary and Office) with a great interior attention.
  4. Develop in yourself devotion to the Holy Ghost and of the most blessed Virgin Mary.


4. Apply the spirit of renouncement and of sacrifice especially to the two great virtues of humility and gentleness, distinctive virtues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, capable of establishing the soul in the very state of perfection, provided they are practiced generously.

5. Make recollection the principal object of your particular examinations (of conscience).  Put yourself on guard against agitation and haste.  Make an effort to possess oneself always in God, living in us.

Do this and you will live

(Marcelle Dalloni, Le pere Vayssière, Paris 1957, p 191-193)

About the Third Order of Penance

The Dominican Third Order

I heard that you have a Third Order. What is a Third Order?

In each Religious Order, the secular Third Order constitutes, as its name indicates, the third part of the Order (after the Brothers and Sisters or Nuns), which is given to persons living in the world to permit them to associate themselves in order to live according to the spirit and the spirituality of the Order to which they attach themselves, in a manner adapted to their state in life. The Third Order secular of Friars Preachers, which goes back to Saint Dominic himself, is also called the “Third Order of Penance of Saint Dominic”.

What is its purpose?

It has two ends:

One general purpose which consists in promoting the personal sanctification of its members by the practice of the Christian (Catholic) life in a more perfect manner (Constitutions, art. 2);

And a specific purpose, based on the special end of every Order of Saint Dominic, that is; to procure the salvation of souls by means in conformity with the state of the faithful living in the world (ibid.).

These means aid the tertiary to advance more easily, more surely and more rapidly towards that Christian Perfection to which he aspires, giving him a spiritual family and making him contribute to the great work of the propagation of the Faith which Saint Dominic assigned to his sons.

What are these means?

  • Prayer, especially liturgical prayer (the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary), meditation and the Rosary of Our Lady;
  • The practice of penance and the struggle against the spirit of the world;
  • The study of Doctrine and the works of the apostolate for the defense of the Faith and the Church;
  • The works of fraternal Charity.
  • Wherever the Societies of Tertiaries are organized, regular reunions are carried out with the Dominican Fathers, to pray (Mass, Rosary, Little Office), to be instructed in Doctrine, to exchange with one another and find themselves in an atmosphere of Christian emulation and of fraternal Charity.

What are the conditions for entering the Third Order?

Rather than conditions, one should speak of dispositions. To enter the Third Order of Saint Dominic, one must sincerely desire to attain Christian perfection, as the Rule states (article 8). Nevertheless, the rules don’t mean to say that one must already be advanced in the ways of the spiritual life: entrance in the Third Order isn’t a reward but a beginning, a help offered to Catholics who desire to work on their own sanctification and who want to help save souls and spread Catholic Truth.

All the faithful who come with these good dispositions, male or female, working or retired, married or single, can then become members of the Third Order of Friars Preachers.

Can such a Third Order be relevant or a reality in the Twenty First Century?

More than ever! The Catholic Faith has never been attacked as much as it is being today, and in the most insidious ways. We are approaching the time predicted by Our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 128.8).

The attacks against the Catholic Faith are not only coming from the outside of the Church, but the smoke of Satan even introduced itself into the Church (said Paul VI) and the wolves are in the sheepfold.

The Third Order of St. Dominic, also called the Militia of Jesus Christ (from the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers, art. 233), is a small army of laypersons in the world who help the Order of St. Dominic to lead the good fight for the Faith.

We know that our Order has, from the beginning, been specially instituted for preaching and for the salvation of souls. This is why we must apply ourselves principally to being useful to the souls of our neighbors. To this end is tied the work of teaching and the defense of the truth of the Catholic Faith, as much in word as by various forms of writing. (Constitutions O.P. art. 3).

Any questions should be addressed to the :

Couvent de la Haye aux Bonshommes, 49240 AVRILLE. France.    Or, contact us online.