In early 2011, the Master of the Order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P. requested a private audience with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to discuss the New Evangelization and the role of the Dominican Order, which from its beginning has been “totally dedicated to the evangelization of the Word of God.” Fr. Ed Ruane, O.P., Vicar of the Master, and a member of the Province of St. Albert the Great, was invited to accompany the Master.
The Pope acknowledged that the “preaching of the Gospel”, the work of evangelization, would naturally be a particular concern and challenge to the Order of Preachers. In order to respond to this challenge, he urged the friars and sisters of the Order to be attentive to the spiritual quest of our contemporaries and to reach out and be available in helping them discern and experience the presence of God acting in their lives.
A particular request of the Holy Father was that the Order, given its commitment to study, might develop a sound spiritual theology which would resonate with today’s questions that arise from a secular context. This would naturally hold in balance both theological study and worship. A commitment to dialogue comfortably with the work of scientists, the world of the internet, and new cultures should be a natural stance for Dominicans grounded in their positive theological traditions and at home with questions that open the door to a deeper understanding of revelation. Above all, it is Pope Benedict’s burning desire that the people of today might have the opportunity to meet the person of Christ.
Our experience of the Holy Father was one of simplicity and humility, a true disciple of the Lord and a “hearer of the Word.” He has confidence in the Order and its tradition to continue its evangelical life of both witness and preaching. He was very pleased to hear of our presence in the difficult areas of the world where we serve in the human, theological and religious formation of the human person.
I left this audience with Pope Benedict feeling honored to have met the Holy Father as well as having a profound realization that the Order of Preachers, both in its mission and way of life, is extraordinarily relevant in meeting the challenges of our world and its ability to take a position of leadership and creativity in the new evangelization to which the whole Church is called. May the Order, and specifically the Province of St. Albert the Great, have the confidence to respond generously.