Prostration is a gesture packed with meaning. At Ordinations, the most striking moment is seeing the friars lie prostrate. The fact that the praying Church is calling upon all the saints at that moment becomes palpable. As the friars lie face down on the floor, they symbolically enact their death to self, a death that will enable them to serve others selflessly.
An example from the secular world points to a similar reality.
Jessica Buchanan, a good samaritan, was an aid worker in Somalia, educating children on how to avoid land mines. One day, Jessica and a colleague found their convoy surrounded by armed Somalians. The man responsible for protecting them had sold them out to a band of rogues demanding a high ransom. Jessica had a thyroid condition and was developing a kidney infection, but the kidnappers provided no medicine. They forced Jessica and her coworker to lie on mats in open desert for 93 days.
One night, one of the kidnappers who had been sleeping near Jessica jumped up and started yelling. He was quickly silenced by the eruption of automatic gunfire. With a blanket over her head, Jessica felt hands tugging at her arms and legs and kicked hard in self-defense until she heard, “We’re the American military, and we’re here to save you. We’re here to take you home. You’re safe now.” Even then, it took Jessica a moment to process what she was hearing.
A team of Navy Seals had infiltrated the camp after a high altitude jump. One of them scooped Jessica up and ran across the desert with her to an arranged pickup point. After giving her medication, the Seals did something that made her feel completely safe: they laid prostrate, covering her, acting as a human shield in order to protect her until the helicopters arrived to lift Jessica to safety.
When a Dominican friar lays prostrate before the altar at his Ordination, he does so out of love for souls who need rescuing. Yet, for the friar, the gesture has additional meaning: he will be totally reliant on God and on the support of the faithful in carrying out his mission, just as he was reliant on your generosity for his seven years of rigorous formation.
In this issue of BlackFriars, you’ll learn about how one friar changed the lives of a young couple on a college campus and how another friar is starting out on a new campus ministry.
I thank you, once again, for being a part of our team in carrying out God’s plan to bring His children safely home to His embrace.
Yours in Christ,
Father Gabriel Gillen, O.P.
Dominican Friars Foundation