When I read this mission statement recently, the word ‘enjoy’ jumped out at me. “We seek to enjoy God”? In a lifetime of participating in parish liturgies, attending and then teaching in Catholic schools, being involved in myriad committees, teams, working parties (more working than partying), councils and other groups, the notion of enjoying God has not been floated. Sure, there has been plenty of laughter, storytelling, silliness even, but still − an official injunction to enjoy God is somewhat foreign.
However, a group I’ve been involved in for some years now embodies the appealing notion of enjoying God. It’s called “Dominican Associates” and it’s simply a regular (except this year) gathering of women and men who have an association with the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans. Many of us were educated by the Sisters, and/or taught with them; others have lived in parishes where Sisters worked, and some have simply encountered the Dominican way and wished to know more.
While ‘the Doms’ are our point of connection, our conversations, reading material, prayers and concerns belong to a broad church. We celebrate the feasts of Dominic and Catherine of Siena, and of course there’s some Advent cheer.
We’ve often drawn from the wisdom of prolific writer and former Master General, Timothy Radcliffe.
We’ve read and been encouraged by the words of Pope Francis, a Jesuit.
We’ve read and discussed the words of Joan Chittister, a Benedictine, on women in the gospels.
We’ve enjoyed the insights of Patty Fawkner, congregational leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
When there were silent local protests against the unjust treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, we were there.
We have supported Kopanang Community Trust, an initiative for women who need a safe place.
And in the midst of it all, of course, we’ve shared our own prayers, stories, hopes, dreams, frustrations, griefs and joys.
We, as Dominican Associates, have unconsciously cultivated an ability to enjoy our God, and it seems to me that the charisms of the other congregations we encounter also have that innate gift.
I believe the combination of the charisma of the founder, the shared heritage of struggle and story, the influence of the wisdom figures and the desire both to preserve and enliven the legacy produces people who are spirited and determined, and who dare to enjoy their God and the people of God.
The many congregations present in our diocese – too numerous to name – each have unique ways of enjoying God.
We do this as Dominican Associates and as individuals.
How do you enjoy your God?
If Covid days have taught us anything, it’s to take nothing for granted and to value the people in our lives.
One weekend in March those of us who participate at Mass did so. The next weekend the church doors were closed and they remained that way for a long time.
If Mass was one of our ways of enjoying God, suddenly we had to be more creative!
If you have the blessing of being part of a group that helps you to enjoy your God, go ahead! And if you don’t, why not look for one? Better still, create one!
After all, the gospel of John proclaims, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)
And by the way, the mission statement belongs to the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia.
Tracey Edstein is a freelance writer based in Port Stephens.