Because of Poor Sinners

I am often asked how I came to discern with the Dominicans. What draws me to the Dominican Order? While it is ultimately a mystery of God, there are several reasons, and most of them can be explained by my attraction to the four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, study, community, and preaching. But what most especially draws me to this life can be summarized by St. Dominic’s prayer: “what will become of poor sinners?”

When I was a child, I knew a woman who was a Japanese war bride. Her husband was a farm boy from the South and enlisted in the army during World War II. He met her while serving overseas and brought her home after the war. She was always very kind and I remember spending hours in her home. She taught me how to eat with chopsticks when I was eight and was proud to share the latest dish she learned at her American cooking classes. Then one day she became sick. Cancer. After a long battle, there was nothing more they could do. My family had moved away, but I was traveling to visit other family in the area and planned to stop by for a visit with her. I remember my mom sitting me down before I left and encouraging me to share the Gospel with her, knowing we had a close relationship. “This could be her last opportunity to hear about Jesus.”

I was about 12 years old and scared what her reaction might be. But I also wanted so desperately for this kind woman to hear about Jesus, to believe and be able to spend eternity with Him. I sat with her nervously and we talked. Then she turned on the television to watch a show and I thought, “It’s now or never.” I took a breath, said a prayer, and dove in. I have no real recollection of what I said. But when I looked up at her, there were tears in her eyes and running down her cheeks. As I was raised an evangelical Christian, we prayed what is called “the sinner’s prayer” together. And then her face transformed as she smiled. We hugged and I left overjoyed that she had met Jesus! That was the last time I saw her. She died two weeks later.

After the funeral, her husband told my mom that until my visit, she had been fighting, struggling to hold on, as if grasping for something. After my visit, she had such peace – she just let go and spent her time reading a Bible my mom had brought her and visiting with family. She had found what she’d been looking for, though she hadn’t known what it was before. Or rather Who.

Time on this earth is so short. It is simply preparation for what comes after. It is easy to get distracted by what is in front of us, by our desires, wants, and needs, and by trying to hold onto those things we have. But eventually, all the things of this world will pass away. Eternity is forever. Everything we do and say should be aimed at preparing ourselves and others for the hereafter. St. Dominic spent his life in contemplation and preaching for the salvation of souls. His life was a prayer that he often spoke, “What will become of poor sinners?”

And we are all poor sinners. In any given day, we are presented with opportunities to grow in virtue and holiness, and share the Gospel with others.  In our culture, we tend to think so much in terms of the individual, we can become calloused to the hurts and needs of others.  We may shrug and say to ourselves, “That’s not my problem.  What difference could I really make anyway?”  But remember it was one boy’s meager lunch offered up that Jesus multiplied to feed thousands.

Are we looking for opportunities to share Jesus with others, to build up His Church?  Do we offer what gifts He has given us and trust Him to multiply them and make it be enough?  A friend of mine shared a quote recently that is a challenge for all of us: show me your checkbook and your calendar and I’ll tell you what you value in life.  Do we value the things of God and the people He brings into our lives?

What will become of poor sinners?

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