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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fourth Sunday of Lent

03-31-2019  Years A and C


 

The 4th

SUNDAY

of LENT

2019

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP - 4 Lent C

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller - 4 Lent C

-- Dennis Keller - The Scrutinies – Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent (Year A Readings)

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP - 4 Lent A and C

4. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill - 4 Lent C

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Lent 4 A

Long story, short about this long Gospel passage: we human beings might just refuse to acknowledge the truth if we have already made up our minds one way or the other, often no matter the visible evidence to the contrary. This is absolutely the case for the unbelievers in the story of the man born blind. It is also the case today in politics in the US and also in many quiet and not-so-quiet corners of our own everyday life.

Actively seeking the truth and, perhaps even reversing our perspective on a life-changing topic, seems to be a major challenge of our times. Our upbringing and background surely form our opinions and beliefs and our actions. It is challenging to become more open and anti what we ourselves have almost become, what is almost set in stone!

For me, one sure way to become more open is to listen. Listen to the Scriptures. Listen to that inner voice that questions what once was comfortable... but now is not. Listen to one another, especially to those who are different or think differently in some way.

Sounds easy, is NOT! Our comfort zone is called that for a good reason. Change is hard and, I think, that doesn't have a monopoly or exclusive rights on the young or the old among us.

We are not only held back by our past experiences and maybe a bit of inertia or apathy, but also by fear of the unknown or the ridicule of others. Standing for what is better than before also means we have to admit that we were wrong. In our universal quest for acceptance, that is risky!

Being vulnerable and open to change means we need to acknowledge our biased blindness in the darkness and seek the different rays of light that may come our way. We might squint a little or a lot and even try to hide defensively from such brightness. But oh, the peace that will come when we FINALLY give up being judgmental and always having to be right! Let us remember that only God is omniscient!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent March 31 2019

Joshua 5:9-12; Responsorial Psalm 34; 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21; Gospel Acclamation Luke 15:18; Luke 15:1-3 & 11-32

The grand story of Luke’s gospel this Sunday is a favorite of ours. We tend focus on the younger son and identify with him. We like to have fun. This is a brash young man who gets tired of the humdrum of daily living and its hard work. He’d like to live the high life of party and sleeping late and being wild and crazy. This young man embodies an image of freedom. He is not constrained by social customs or family relationships. His love is for himself. He insists on receiving his inheritance even before his father is dead. He respects neither his dad’s life achievements nor the daily routine and efforts of an older brother which had grown because of his work. He is rebellious and inconsiderate. He thinks he is a friend to others like him. The lesson he learns is a hard one. The party goers who share his wealth are fickle friends. They abandon this prodigal when his money runs out. He is forced to find work that is less than minimum wage. He is driven to eat the waste thrown into the garbage can. He appears to receive his just deserts. And yet, most of us discover in our lives a desire to act like this prodigal. Others of us take the route of the older brother and work hard to follow the rules and to coerce others to follow those same rules.

The long suffering older brother follows the rules; he works hard in his father’s enterprises. His believes if he does what is right as determined by the rules of social and religious customs he will inherit everything. He is driven by the belief that he will enter paradise because he has limited his freedom of choice by surrendering his will and imagination to the rule of law. That is all there is for him. He is convinced it will be his ticket to enjoying all his efforts have achieved. Rules, regulations, commandments, and rituals shape his living.

When we think about these brothers, we find in them bits and pieces of our own way of living. When the younger son stumbles home, shoeless, in rags, with a shrunken stomach, and a terrible headache from lack of food and drink, he comes not because he has feelings for his father. He comes because he is hungry, thirsty, and in need of clothing and shelter. His Dad is for him about survival. The older brother comes to the homecoming party and refuses to share in the festivities. His anger prevents him from sharing. He is angry. He is frustrated that his old-man father is taken in by this wild and crazy prodigal son. This older brother is not motivated by care and concern for his brother. He has schooled himself in duty and responsibility. He gave up much of his own will and desires as a surrender to duty, responsibility, and rules. It was duty and responsibility the father should have respected. Yet, the father was taken in by this son who has already spent his inheritance. The younger son disrespected his father. This younger son challenged the life’s work of the older brother making it appear meaningless.

Neither of these two boys got it right. Neither of these two young men operated with a proper understanding of what being a son means. It is the father’s action that contains the meaning and purpose of human life. It is the father’s behavior that reveals to us what God is. What God is for us is limitless love. Whether we think that our lives are about taking and pleasure seeking or whether we think of our lives as duty bound, it makes no difference to the Creator who formed us. Whether we are with the Creator each day or whether we are the one stumbling home to work mucking out stables so we can survive – it makes little difference to our Dad, Our Father. God loves us unconditionally. That’s hard to accept. Do we think that law, rules, and rituals are what life is for? How do we consider those who believe life is about partying and having no concern for the expense it may cause others.

That is the story this Sunday. Only Luke’s gospel has this parable. This story speaks to us about the freedom our Creator has given us. It speaks to us of the dream that is God’s hope for us. Whether we are silly and use our freedom to spend our gift of life inheritance or whether we bind ourselves to duty and responsibility to the exclusion of love makes no difference to what the Creator wants for us. Our Creator loves us and wants us to come home. God doesn’t force us but always holds out a welcoming invitation, no matter what. Our Creator longs for us to come into his banquet hall. The ticket to his banquet is a response to the love God has for us. That love calls us, contrasts with the empty promise of the ways of the world. That love transforms us and provides freedom from the emptiness of the pursuit of power, wealth, and fame. That love releases us from the burdens of duty and moves to live in the powerful presence of God’s love for us. In that love we are freed from what we’ve done wrong. In that love our work, our living according to the guides of the Law moves into a stronger, more enriching, and more enlivened life.

The crowd in John’s Gospel asks Jesus, "Why have you come?" Jesus responds, "I’ve come that you might have life and have it more fully." This story of the prodigal son is about our Dad who longs for all his children to come home to the lavish banquet hall where there is joy, there is peace, where there is plenteous nourishment and drink. And the ticket to that gathering is our response to God’s love. We live that love by loving and caring for each other and for the creation of everything the Creator has made.

Carol & Dennis Keller & Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com


The Scrutinies – Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent (Year A Readings)

During the Lenten Season, there is an intense preparation of persons wishing to become full participants in the Catholic Community. Part of the protocol for The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a formal examination of the candidates and catechumens who are preparing for reception and/or baptism at Easter Vigil. Beginning with the third Sunday of Lent, after the Homily the assembly is asked to give their testimony as to the commitment and moral practices of the candidates and catechumens. On three Sundays, the gospel reading is from John’s gospel. The stories are of the Samaritan Woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus.

Saturday Paul Z. and I attended a morning of reflection at St. Michael’s in Cary, NC. The leader was Christine Miesowicz, a spiritual director and retreat leader of more than fifteen years. Christine brought together these three gospel stories in a helpful way. Her presentation was compelling and enlightening. Each encounter of the gospels of the three Scrutinies begins with a meeting, a coming into the presence of Jesus. From that meeting three things happen: there is a change in heart and mind of the person met: there is a transformation in the heart and mind of the person met: and there is a witnessing to others that calls those others to belief, to faith in the message and mission of Jesus.

The encounter on the third Sunday of Lent is with the Samaritan Woman at the cistern of Jacob in a Samaritan town. This woman comes to the well at high noon, the hottest part of the day and a time when she would be alone at the cistern to draw water for her household’s use. She came there to be alone, to avoid others. Was it because she wasn’t accepted in the community? Was it because she was shunned because she was a woman of loose morals because she wouldn’t or couldn’t hold onto a husband? She came in shame, avoiding being part of the community, ostracized and excluded.

The fourth Sunday encounter is with a man born blind. That blind man came to Jesus’ attention because of how the community viewed him. The question the crowd puts to Jesus is whether it was this man who sinned or whether it was his parents who sinned causing him to be born blind. Seems strange that in the minds of the questioners this blind man could have sinned before he was born. Or did they consider God punishing this man because of what he would do after birth? In any case, this man was not in the main stream of society. He had to beg to survive. He could not see in both a physical sense and a spiritual sense.

The fifth Sunday of Lent’s encounter is with a person who had died. Jesus meets with the dead one’s sisters Mary and Martha. Mary speaks of faith that whatever Jesus asks for will happen. Martha is the forever practical one who realizes that her brother was subject to the processes of nature and his body would be making a stench. Lazarus was truly excluded from society. He could not participate or be included in life.

In all three encounters there is a change in the person. With the Samaritan woman, following Jesus’ conversation, she comes to see Jesus as a prophet. With the man born blind there is an insight that comes to him when he is questioned by religious leaders. He believes this Jesus is a prophet. He has not yet seen Jesus with his eyes because Jesus sent him away to wash in the pool of Siloam while he was still blind. With Lazarus it is the crowd, Martha and Mary and Lazarus that change – they came to believe in Jesus’ message and his mission.

In all three encounters affected persons give witness to their insight, their change of heart and mind. We wonder how Lazarus felt; what he might have said to his sisters about his death experience. How did Lazarus speak about his experience – was there something he became conscious of after he died? In all cases, there is the testimony of the person affected.

What happened to the woman at the cistern of the Patriarch Jacob on the land that Jacob had given to his favorite son Joseph? She received living water, which is water that is running, full of life and vitality. Water is necessary for life. For plants, there is no life without moisture. Living beings cannot survive without water. The living water promised by Jesus allowed this woman – this outcast from Samaritan society, this reject of the People of God in Judaea – to live a life freed from the shame of her past, lifted up from her guilt, freed of disrespect because of her nationality, and an overcoming of fear of others.

What happened to the man born blind was a whole new existence, a new life, a life filled with light with which he could walk, participate in community, and see the glory of God in nature, in human relationships, and in the eyes and sharing of family.

What happened to Lazarus was a calling forth. It’s amazing to note that the gospel of John uses the verb "to shout" only twice. One time is when Jesus shouts out to Lazarus to come forth. The second time is when the crowd in the Praetorium of Pilate shouts, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" It is as though the shout of Jesus is to fullness of life. It is as though the shout of the crowd leads to death. We can imagine Lazarus, all tied up, struggling to answer Jesus’ shout. Jesus commands the Jews mourning with Mary and Martha to unbind him, to loosen the wrappings holding him captive. How very true that the shout of Jesus to each of us loosens attitudes, hatreds, enmity, violence, thoughts, and actions that diminish our lives.

In all three of these stories we discover Jesus expanding the possibilities of life. All the miracles of Jesus have the result of bringing the one healed, freed of addiction, loosed from the chains of Satan, and forgiven into full participation in the community. In each case, the lives of these persons are enriched and given greater possibilities.

Is that the reason during the period of the Scrutinies we use these three narratives from John’s Gospel? Is our message to those seeking to join out Community – our Church – that living the Way of Jesus enlivens us, enriches our lives, and frees us from shame, guilt, blindness, and even death? The message insists human life is to be lived fully here and now. Anything that lessens that freedom to life up the possibilities God gives us is to be eliminated. We come to eternal life by living this earthly life fully. In another place in John’s Gospel Jesus is asked to explain the purpose of his ministry, his mission, and his message. HIs answer is so simple that we often gloss over it looking instead to discover in the gospels and our faith a set of complex rules, regulations, and rituals that save us from hell. Jesus answers the question about his purpose by saying: "I’ve come that you might have life, and have it fully."

That is the message we -- the assembly called together for mutual support, for loving compassion for each other in our assembly – extend to those candidates and catechumens seeking to join our spiritual family. It is also for us to think about, to reflect on in these marvelous days of Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What is there in our living that holds us back, that limits the joy and peace of our days? What is there that will provide us with living water to open our eyes to the wonder of God? What force and call would loosen our bindings, freeing us for a more complete, fuller life?

Our faith is contrary to the shouts of the crowds that pursue division, denial of dignity and worth to others. The way of the world would make us believe that wealth, power, and fame are sufficient water to satisfy our thirst. Our faith is contrary to the blindness imposed by the way of the world, obscuring the wonder of God’s living presence with us, through each other, and through creation. Our faith is contrary to the violence, the hatred, the divisiveness that murders others in the false judgement that such behavior leads to winning.

Faith is not an easy thing! But it is the only reality that fills our living with joy and with peace. Without it we are the woman of shame, the man born without sight, and the dead person all wrapped up in the confinement of self-constructed tombs.

The short couple of hours at the morning of reflection for music ministers were well worth the time. We appreciate the insights and the breaking open of the Word of God that lifted up our hearts.

Dennis Keller

 

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3.

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THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD : 4TH SUNDAY LENT C

On all his days on earth Jesus shows pastoral care for all sorts of people. But he shows a special affection for poor unfortunate persons, and even for extortionists and prostitutes. His opponents sneer: 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them' (Lk 15:2).

The warmth and generosity of his human caring and welcome show that in the eyes of God they are not ‘rejects’, ‘outcasts‘, losers’ and 'no-hopers'. On the contrary, God wants to put them back together again. So in and through Jesus, those labelled the ‘lost’ come to meet the God of the lost. It’s for their sake and in their defence, that Jesus speaks his famous parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

The story of the lost son, the most famous just shared, has been called ‘the greatest short story in the world’. It’s not really the parable of a prodigal, i.e. of a spendthrift, as it’s usually called, but the parable of an incredibly generous father of two sons (see v.11), who in different ways have both lost their way in life.

The parable tells us a great deal about Jesus himself. His own way of acting is the starting-point of the story. He’s explaining why he 'welcomes sinners and eats with them' (v.2). They’re the lost ones, the ones he’s bringing home to God. For Jesus, all persons who have strayed from God are not truly themselves. So, in the midst of his failures and mistakes the lost son comes to understand that he will be happy again only in the company and home of his father. Meanwhile his father is longing for him to return, and as soon as he catches a glimpse of his son returning, he starts running along the road to embrace him and bring him home (v.20).

When they reach the house, the father cuts short the son’s prepared speech. There’s no reprimand, not even a small dose of 'I told you so ...' There’s no pay-back, no penance, no punishment and no recriminations. Instead the father is so glad to have his son back with him again that he gives him the robe of honour, the ring of authority, and the sandals of a son.

The Pharisees, to whom Jesus was telling this story, would have been shocked to the core at how Jesus was keeping company with people who were not only outsiders but ‘sinners’, contact with whom would bring defilement. In a sadistic way they were looking forward not to the saving but to the destruction of those whom they so easily and so self-righteously labelled ‘sinners’.

At the sound of music and dancing the eldest son comes in from the fields. His father goes out to him and pleads with him to come to the party (v.38). This eldest son believes he has done everything 'right', and has spent his whole life slaving away on the family farm. His attitude to his wayward brother is one of utter contempt. He even calls the prodigal not ‘my brother' but 'your son'.

In the details of his story, Jesus is saying that our God is not a mean book-keeping God at all, but a warm, gracious and generous Father who never stops loving, simply because he never stops wanting to save. No matter how often we may turn our backs on God and go away to do our own selfish thing, God, as in the story, waits patiently for us to come to our senses and return home. The moment we begin to admit that our selfishness has brought us only frustration and misery, shame, guilt, and self-loathing, God comes running to hug us and take us back. There he treats us not as our mistakes and sins deserve, but with tenderness and compassion. In the Eucharist he even throws a party and lavishes ‘welcome home’ gifts upon us – Christ himself in his body and blood.

In conclusion, let me share with you a variation on the story Jesus told. Once there were two priests in the same diocese. One of them drank too much, he was often late for appointments, the parish was deep in debt and his bookwork was a mess. Yet the people loved him. The other priest was a very capable and careful manager. He was very meticulous and exact in everything. His book-keeping was impeccable and he always treated everyone according to all the rules and regulations of the diocese. His parish had no debt. In fact, it owned substantial investments. Yet his people didn't think much of him or warm to him at all.

That’s amazing. It seems unfair. It begs the question: 'What did the first priest have going for him that the second one lacked?" Let’s try to figure that one out for ourselves!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>


SEEING IN THE DARK: 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT A

You and I belong to a Christian community of stories and storytellers. In the telling of the stories of Jesus especially, our own stories are told. As we identify with the people in those stories, with their distress, anger, anxiety, hopes, fears, struggles, sadness and joy, we too make living contact with our Saviour. We are challenged by his words, supported by his love, and healed by his touch.

Today's gospel reading is the story of Jesus the Light of the World. It’s the story too of the blind man. It’s our story too. Three stories are interwoven and interconnected.

The blind man has lived in a world of darkness from the day he was born. He has never seen his room, his table, his chair, his bed, his door. He has never seen flowers, or trees, or children. He has never seen anything or anyone. Besides, he is poor and without any means of support. With nothing like an invalid pension to ease his distress, he is reduced to begging in the streets. His struggle for survival is aggravated by abuse, insults and contempt from others.

Leading lights in his town are baiting him with their ignorant accusation: 'Your blindness was caused by your sins.' Even after his blindness is plainly cured they keep up their sneers: 'What you allege just didn't happen. This Jesus fellow is a sinner. Sinners cannot cure people. Anyway, you weren't blind in the first place.'

All through his ordeal the patient sufferer never loses his cool, and replies to every accusation with the unvarnished truth. And through it all he grows in his appreciation of the greatness of the one who helps and heals him.

At first he sees in Jesus a man with special powers, one who can smear mud on a blind person's eyes and make the sufferer see again. Next he comes to see that Jesus is a prophet, a messenger of God. Finally he recognises Jesus as his Lord and King, and bows down and worships him.

As the blind man's story unravels bit by bit, the story of the greatness of Jesus is also told. He speaks and acts as the light shining in the darkness, one which will never be put out. He repudiates the prejudice that physical blindness is caused by sin. He speaks of getting on with God's healing work while there is daylight left to do it. He sees the urgency of the blind man's plight and goes to the rescue immediately. He ignores the ignorant and foolish chatter of his enemies. And when the man he delivers from blindness is expelled from the synagogue, Jesus seeks him out and empowers him to develop a more lively faith, a surer hope and a deeper love.

Where do we find our own story in all this? For each of us, old, middle-aged, or young, the blind man's story is the story of our becoming Christians, by means of both faith and baptism. In the early days of the Church, when people were baptised as adults rather than children, baptism had the name 'The Enlightenment'. At our baptism, the priest lit a candle from the Easter Candle, symbol of the Risen Lord, and handing it to our father or godfather for us, said: 'Receive the light of Christ.'

Even as the story of the blind man's enlightenment shows us the influence of Jesus on the blind man’s honesty, courage, determination, faith, hope and love, it also shows us what it means to ‘walk always as a child of the light' (as the ritual for Baptism puts it). It means nothing less than seeing, feeling, judging and acting, as Jesus himself has done. It means asking again and again that WWJD question: ‘What would Jesus do?’

In Peter Shaeffer's play Equus, the psychiatrist remarks: 'I need a way of seeing in the dark.' In today's gospel reading, St John leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is that way. We are hopelessly blind if we think that we've got life all figured out, or that we've got it all together, and that we don't need Christ to enlighten us and show us a purer, better, more genuine and more generous way of living.

In the light of the gospel today, each of us might surely want to say to Jesus: 'Lord Jesus, how much blindness is there still left in me? How much selfishness do I still display? How much insensitivity, how much prejudice, how much snobbery, how much self-righteousness, how much hypocrisy, how much pride, how much contempt for others? Lord Jesus, just how many blind spots do I have?' And each of us might want to pray three famous short prayers: - 1. 'Lord Jesus, give us the grace to see ourselves as others see us.’ 2. 'Lord, that I may see, Lord, that I may see.’ And 3. ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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4th Sunday of Lent - Year C

What a great story Jesus tells his listeners and us - a story about a family that is challenged with reconciliation. Each of the three characters can open our eyes. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us could identify with at least one of those characters. And perhaps some of us can identify – at different times in our life - with two or all three of them.

First, we have the younger son. He didn’t want a father any more, didn’t want limits, restraints, responsibilities, relationship. He wanted out. He wanted the good life. Many families can relate with that – someone who demands so much attention, who causes so much grief, who costs so much money. But the good life ended up working in a pig pen. We don’t know how long it took him to have memories of a lost home, a lost legacy, and, most of all, a lost relationship with his family. We don’t know for sure if he came back home because he was poor and hungry; or did he come home because he was truly sorry. He doesn’t expect to be treated like a son. He is willing to start over, to pay his dues, to try to rebuild the bridges to his family. Has that ever been you? Has that ever been someone in your family?

Then there’s the father, one of my favorite characters in the Gospels. Can’t you just see him catching a glimpse of his son in the distance and running down the road to meet him with arms outstretched? He sees only the object of his love, the one who, despite whatever he did, his still his son. The hugs, the kisses, the robe, the ring, the sandals, the party. There’s no "I told you so." When our children run off – and some of them will – will we be able to welcome them back like this father did?

Then there’s the elder son. He’s steady and obedient and faithful and has served well. He’s there when you need him. He’s loyal and dependable. And the father has taken the elder son for granted. When was the last time he praised him, told him how much he meant to him, that things would be in a pretty mess without him, that he is grateful? More, that he’s proud of him? Even more, that he loves him and thanks God every day for him?

So we can resonate with the elder son and some of us can identify with him. He is the housewife or mother who keeps the family together emotionally and physically, but who is utterly taken for granted, like an unpaid servant. He is the father who works hard to raise his family, sacrificing his own wants and pleasures so his kids can go to a good school, but he is taken for granted. He is the loyal worker who is there every day, taking no phony sick leaves, giving her time and energy over and above what is required, and who is taken for granted. He is the teacher who stays longer than the bell, the crossing guard in the freezing rain, the little league coach rushing home from work to make the game, the mailman who delivers mail through the snow, the nurse on the midnight shift, the garbage man who simply comes and does his job, the friend you can count on – all taken for granted.

Then let someone else do one little thing out of the ordinary or let someone who is self-centered or uncaring do something decent for the first time in their lives, and the whole world throws a party for them. And the elder sons and daughters of this world look on and shake their heads. It’s not fair. In Jesus’ story, the elder son is angry. He wonders why he never had a party like this, why his father is so excited about a brother who has done so little for the family. So the older son refuses to go to the party, indulging in a little self-pity and a minor-league hissy fit. Has that ever been you or someone in your family?

So, perhaps your family can identify with this family. Sometimes we can leave the family without physically walking out. We can withdraw, we can sulk, we can refuse to share. And when that happens, our family longs for us to come back. We need to not take for granted the good things that members of our family do for us. In broken families, love and forgiveness can heal – the love and forgiveness of God and the love and forgiveness of each family member. God runs to embrace us and we need to run and embrace one another. As families, we need to celebrate our love, our presence. As families, we need to let go of what binds and hinders us and pass from famine to feast. Today can be a day to resolve family issues, to recharge your family’ heart, to rekindle your family’s love, to hug and kiss one another and have a party.

Deacon Russ O'Neill, Diocese of Youngstown

<russon2330@sbcglobal.net>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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