The Dominican Order has just finished celebrating its 800th anniversary. To celebrate the closing of the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with hundreds of Dominican men and women in his Cathedral, the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome.
Dominicans describe themselves as belonging to a family that is made up of the many different branches of the Order, all suited to their particular way of preaching the Gospel. There are friars, enclosed nuns, active sisters who teach and nurse and engage in all sorts of apostolates. There are also many lay people associated with the Order, fraternities of diocesan priests, the international Dominican youth movement, and so on.
That is why the word family is a good description of who we are. I really felt I belonged to a family when I met brothers and sisters I had not seen for many years. One sister from France was a translator at a meeting I attended in Bologna in 1998, another brother from Malta is now an archbishop in Albania, and there was a lay Dominican I hadn't seen for over 30 years. The years disappeared as we chatted and shared meals like we had last met only yesterday.
Although we are all very different people whose vocations have led us in very different directions, we shared so much in common that we really did feel members of a family.
While in Rome, I stayed with Canon Philip Gillespie at the Beda College and he, of course, is a member of my latest family, the Archdiocese of Liverpool. We all belong to many different families as well as our natural one, but the most important family for each of us is the one that is called Christian. After all, because Jesus is our brother, we are brothers and sisters of one another. However, it sometimes takes occasions like my meeting in Rome to make us realise this truth.