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Dominican Charism of Preaching Truth Can Bring Healing to a Polarized World

February 2, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The Dominican Charism of preaching truth can bring healing and wholeness to our polarized world, just as St. Dominic brought healing to the troubled Cathars of his time by his gentle preaching the Gospel. 

That was the message of Sister Carol Johannes, OP, in her January 25, 2022, live stream presentation, “The Dominican Charism.” Her talk was part of a monthly series of presentations sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee.

What people today most need to hear to be fully human, holy, and happy is the message that “God exists as total loving, merciful, and self-giving gift to humankind, as revelation, self-communication through our ever-evolving, holy, mysterious universe,” said Sister Carol, a spiritual director and former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

Sister Carol pointed to St. Dominic as an example of how to live out our call to preach the Gospel. During a diplomatic trip to the South of France, St. Dominic and Bishop Diego brought the message of a loving God to Cathars, sincere people who were misled by the Manichaen heresy of an evil god and a good God, she said. The heresy claims that the created world is the realm of the evil god.

“Dominic was overcome with compassion when he encountered an entire society which was lost in guilt, in sadness, and in heaviness,” Sister Carol said. “This passion to bring the healing word of the Gospel to those who never received it is the priority linked to the [Dominican] Order’s preaching mission, and it is a constitutive element of the Dominican Charism.”

Sister Carol contrasted St. Dominic’s approach to the Cathars with that of the ecclesiastical leaders of the Church, who “chose to use force to threaten and compel a return to orthodoxy.” For his part, she said, St. Dominic approached the Cathars humbly and took the time to listen to them. 

“Dominic was essentially a nonviolent man who chose to exercise power and authority by really listening to others, by allowing himself to be touched, changed, and formed by what he heard, and by trusting in the presence of the Holy Spirit and in the free choices of people striving to live the Gospel,” she said. He used that same approach in his leadership of the Friars in the Order of Preachers.

Sister Carol spoke of how our fractured world would benefit if leaders in today’s global, national, and ecclesiastical communities were to imitate St. Dominic’s stance. Leadership in those venues “often boils down to a simple power struggle … and tends too often to be the domination-subjection model” seen throughout history, she said. “It could well be that [St. Dominic’s] mode of leadership with its practice of prayerful, patient, respectful consensual decision-making shows contemporary society the way to transformation and healing.”

Watch Sister Carol’s entire presentation below.


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