FOR 700 years the Dominicans have been explaining and proclaiming our Faith with tireless joy and intelligence. They did it again late last month, when they brought 40 boys from Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School on retreat to St Dominic’s Priory in north London.
“I knew next to nothing about the Dominicans,” said one boy; “this has been a real eye-opener and I can see why it is important not just to be a Catholic – but to defend the truth.” Fr Neil Fergusson gave a brief history of the order and explained that the Dominicans were set up to defend Catholic teaching and proclaim the goodness of creation. The Dominicans also serve, in the tradition of Thomas Aquinas, to reconcile complex systems of thought. The big problem today, said Fr Fergusson,is that many people – even Christians – believe the truths of science and the truths of religion are incompatible, when in fact they are not and can never be. Faith enhances our intellect; there is no such thing as “blind faith”. It may take work to see how they are compatible; and, to a large extent, that is what the Order of Preachers thrives on doing. It then explains these insights to those who, like them, seek the truth.
St. Dominic’s Priory in Haverstock Hill is famous for having chapels dedicated to each mystery of the Rosary (except the Mysteries of Light, since the Church is over 100 years old). The stone-carved chapels are beautiful. They were paid for by Irish immigrants and English aristocrats. Six matriarchs of the Old Testament surround Our Lady at the central altar as the Lord crowns her Queen of Heaven. The boys said a ‘walking rosary’. They spent 15 minutes in silence before the exposed Blessed Sacrament and then lit candles before going into the large sanctuary to hear Mass.
Fr David Rocks – a new Dominican and priest – celebrated Mass, and afterwards answered questions about why he decided to join the order. The Dominican priory is chock-a-block with friars of all ages.
Spiritual exercises complete, the boys ended the retreat on Hampstead Heath to play football in the sunshine.