A Community of Continuity: Five Days at St. Albert’s Dominican Priory | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. | CWR blog
“We Dominicans want to be the white blood cells that go into the world and the Church to heal and to bring Christ.”
At 5:30 in the morning the Gothic chapel of St. Albert’s Dominican Priory in Oakland, California, is barely lit. White hoods cover the heads of young men praying silently before the Blessed Sacrament. Father Michael Fones, OP, the Student Master, then intones the Tantum Ergo while returning Our Lord to the tabernacle. Matins is sung at 6:30, followed by breakfast, animated discussions about St. Thomas Aquinas, the history of the Dominican liturgy, recent studies of Sacred Scripture, and the Giants’ recent victory in the World Series.
Holy Mass is celebrated at 5:00 pm, followed by a social hour with lively and good-humored conversation beside the fireplace, dinner, Compline, and an evening of private study. In 2016 the Dominican Order will celebrate its eight-hundredth birthday, and after eight centuries the daily routine of Dominican friars preparing for the priesthood is essentially unchanged. Prayer, study, community, and ministry form their hearts and minds into priests in service of the Church.
During my five days in the priory I was able to learn more about the remarkable community at St. Albert’s. I heard several stories about the astonishing lives of the men below the hoods, which helped me better understand why, during my short stay, I observed more than twenty other visitors who had come as aspirants to the Order. I also was able to spend time with several of the Dominicans, who shared some of their stories and reflected on being in the Order in the 21st century.
Fr. Emmanuel Taylor, OP
Sitting in the refectory of St. Dominic’s Church, the Dominicans’ flagship parish and novitiate in San Francisco, I listened to the exciting story of Father Emmanuel Taylor, OP’s, life before entering the Order. His “other passion” is oceanography, and he lived aboard a research ship, where his duty was to dive ten thousand feet into the ocean on submarine Alvin, owned by the US Navy. Fr. Emmanuel recalled how frightened he was when he made his first dives into total darkness; he went to Confession to prepare for the possibility of dying in the ocean. “I asked big questions then,” he said, “questions that led me closer to God.” He also recalled the exhilaration of observing sea creatures glowing in darkness at depths with no sunlight, and he connected his life underwater to his current interest in the mysteries of liturgy, where God reveals Himself in an otherwise darkened world.
Fr. Michael Fones, OP
Father Michael Fones, OP, the Student Master at St. Albert’s, witnessed my marriage more than seventeen years ago, and he is among the people I most admire.