The O.P.s (Order of Preachers) and the C.P.s (Congregation of the Passion) sometimes get confused. Both are communities founded to preach. St. Dominic loved to proclaim the Gospel and founded a community that centers on preaching. His community’s motto is, "To praise, to bless, and to preach."
That is exactly what happened at the St. Ann Novena from July 16-26 at our basilica in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Every year the Eastern Province celebrates this novena that was attended by some 5,000 people daily. Passionist Bishop Neil Teidemann and I were invited to be the preachers this year. Each of us preached at five different services every other day. It was a workout to be sure.
First of all, we praised. There were at least six services and sometimes more each day. Some were Masses, one was a novena service only, but all of the services were geared toward prayer and the praise of God. The music was buoyant, and the singing was vibrant. Some services were outdoors and some in the basilica. The final Mass, presided over by Joseph Bambera the Bishop of Scranton, was replete with trumpets, incense, and a packed church. God was glorified in this triumphant liturgy.
Then, we blessed. The concluding part of every service was the blessing with the St. Ann relic. After our prayers and intercessions, ten of us, each with a relic, would fan out and bless some 1-200 people each. Words such as these were used: "Through the intercession of St. Ann, may God touch and bless you where you need it most." Many requested to have us touch their stomach, knee, eyes, or other hurting part of their body with the relic. I’ve never blessed so many people in my life — five services a day, times ten days!!
Lastly, we preached. This event was a preacher’s dream. I didn’t have to worry about attracting a crowd or keeping them there as at a parish mission. The Passionists are greatly loved and have a wonderful tradition at St. Ann’s. Individuals, families, and busloads from as far away as Pittsburgh came to take part in the novena. As I said, I preached at five services a day and six services on one day! (I preached at an Orthodox Mass as well.) Each day’s early service was recorded for TV and locally broadcast later. (These programs are also airing in NY.) The people gave us permission to preach and made us feel like royalty.
St. Dominic, like St. Paul of the Cross, wanted to proclaim the message of God’s love revealed in the Passion. He knew the hunger in peoples’ hearts. As disciples, we also are invited to praise, to bless and to preach!
Fr. Cedric Pisegna, C.P. is a missionary preacher, author of 15 books and creator of the TV program Live with Passion! airing in many cities. You can learn more about his ministry at: http://www.frcedric.org/