Preaching friars take new evangelization message to the web
A group of Dominican brothers studying in St. Louis are using a modern method of communicating the timeless message of the Church through a new website, preachingfriars.org. It's the most recent example of how they are transforming their charism for preaching in a contemporary world.
More than two dozen religious brothers at St. Dominic Priory, who are working on their studies at Aquinas Institute of Theology, launched the site in the fall of 2010 as a specific response to Pope Benedict XVI's call to preach the new evangelization. The brothers studying at Aquinas are from two Dominican provinces -- St. Albert the Great, which covers the central United States, and St. Martin de Porres, which is for the southern United States.
Second-year student Brother Raphael Christianson said the website developed from a group of brothers who preach on the Sunday readings during evening prayer on the weekends. The first year, they put up a few videos on the website to supplement the discussion on Sunday readings. The goal was to take the preaching beyond the student community and reach a wider audience, especially the younger population.
The brothers want to "bring theology and the faith -- and in particular from a Dominican aspect -- into the contemporary world," said Brother Raphael.
The site has since expanded to include blog posts and videos about timely topics relevant to the faith. One of the brothers, for example, recently posted a reflection on violence in media after watching the new Batman movie. There's also a video series on faith lessons that can be gained from the Harry Potter books.
Dominicans consider themselves "in the middle of the Church," or in Latin, "in medio ecclesiae," according to Brother Raphael, which means "the preaching mission is something that has always been relevant and always will be relevant -- and exactly what that preaching is evolves over time. Whenever we do our preaching and what we do with this website is try to find where the biggest need is right now. To find where the people of God are looking for the faith and trying to bring our preaching into that relevant area."
The site is slowly developing a foothold, garnering hits locally and around the world. Brother Raphael noted that a Dominican community in Ireland was interested in the group's video on Dominican life. Another popular blog post included a reflection on how the word vocation applies to everyone.
The website has created extra effort on the brothers' part, outside of their studies -- including taking the time to develop the site, graphics and learning video editing software -- but all of that has been worth it, said Brother Raphael.
"I think everyone is pretty excited about this project, so we see this as part of our ministry. Because of our studies, we don't have as many opportunities to engage with the greater Church. This is a ministry that we can engage in right now. It's an outlet where we can share our fruits with others."
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