Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
Countless souls have been blessed and encouraged to heaven by the Dominicans Sisters of St. Cecilia (also known as the "Nashville Dominicans"). Several weeks ago, I had the profound honor of briefly joining them in their mission by providing a number of talks and Q&A sessions on the spiritual life for the parents of Overbrook, their elementary school.
My first talk — to the women — was on the deep well of wisdom that the Doctors of the Church provide in their teachings on the path of union with God. Later, during the men’s retreat, my two talks focused on developing a transformational relationship with God, and understanding the various stages of spiritual growth, from spiritual infancy to maturity. Our discussion included an exceptional priest, Fr. Michael Kelly, and the insightful retreat leader, Brother John Ignatius.
In between the talks, I was able to meet many of the delightfully joyful sisters over meals, prayer, a historical tour and Mass in their stunning chapel. Among the black and white robes of light was the principal of Overbrook school, Sister Mary Gertrude — a sister with strong leadership skills, and a holy drive that daily reveals the light and love of God to her children and families — and Sister Catherine Marie, who provided an energetic tour of the history of the Dominicans in Nashville.
Though I’ve had the opportunity to be in Rome, where sisters in habits of all kinds scurry about everywhere, I have never been in a place with so many sisters at once. Their chapel is no small house of worship; it was almost completely filled with those of their order and the approximately 40 young women attending a vocational discernment retreat.
The entire experience was beautiful, from end to end.
There are a number of loud and negative voices in the Church today that seemingly cannot see beyond the problems we face. So often they are the same people who say that they don't hear God or experience him in their lives. Oh, what they could learn from these sisters.
But how can one person see God at work and another see nothing? How can one person see good and another only evil? The answer lies in seeing with the eyes of faith. The eyes of faith are hopeful because they detect even the smallest stirrings of the Holy Spirit in others. They see the slightest inclinations toward God, the sharp beams of light that break through even the most troubled souls. They see God because they believe He is there to be seen — and they delight at His appearance.
Those in darkness are there because they have not been taught to see God at work — or because they focus on the waves of their circumstances rather than grasp the hand of God reaching out to rescue them. The Dominican Sisters are the hand of God in a small corner of the world in Tennessee — a small corner that imbues the limitless hope of God into Birmingham, Baltimore, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver, New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Vancouver, Washington D.C., Houston, Sydney, Arlington, Charleston, Joliet, Knoxville, Lafayette, Memphis, Providence, Richmond and Rome. And into this retreat speaker who was renewed in optimism and joy this past week.
If your hope for the Church ever dims, it might be time to visit the Dominicans of St. Cecilia. I have no doubt that you will come away with new life and faith that will revive your sight and enable you to see the light of God again — no matter where you look.