- What is the nature and purpose of a rule of life?
The Introduction and final chapter of The Rule of St. Benedict begin to answer this question: “Listen my son to the instructions of your Master, turn the ear of your heart to the advice of a loving father; accept it willingly and carry it out vigorously; so that through the toil of obedience you may return to him from who you have separated by the sloth of disobedience. (Introduction)… We have written this Rule so that by following it in monasteries, we may to some extent show that we lead blameless lives and possess a beginning of the monastic way of life.” (Ch. LXXIII) The rule “provides a blueprint for pursuing holiness and personal sanctification.” (p. 19) The rule is a source of obedience and discipline that, if followed faithfully, provides the foundation from which a life with God and a life in service to God’s people can be achieved. In the life of the Dominican rule, prayer brings us into community with God and one another (regardless of geographic location); prayer and community provides accountability, support, and the common purpose of proclamation, which is improved and enflamed through our study.
- Looking over the Anglican Dominican rule, what do you find attractive about it and what do you find challenging or too demanding about it?
What I find attractive is the same as what I find challenging: the daily discipline of prayer and study. Prayer is at the heart of all any of us do, but… I was visiting friends, we had prepared a delicious supper, had a few drinks, were laughing and having a wonderful time, then I remember Evening Prayer. The Old Adam came a calling. Was I obedient? I pulled out my iPad and read Evening Prayer while sitting with my friends. When they asked what I was doing, I told them. My shame: I am a priest!, but when I realized that I needed to do this, I didn’t ask them to join me. They are Episcopalians. It may have been unusual for them to pray Evening Prayer in their house, but… I won’t make that mistake again.
As I was wrestling with the daily commitments of the Order, prior to committing, I came across a statement from St. Benedict, “Prefer nothing to the work of God.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Ch 43) I now say that to myself at least a dozen times a day and so, as challenging as the rule may appear, I follow it with joy, because I see it as the work of God in my life and my vocation.
- Do you think the four pillars of the Dominican life would serve as a good foundation for any Christian?
Prayer, community, and study would be a very natural foundation for any Christian, but for some, the idea of all preaching and ministering may seem reserved for those with such a calling, however, Holy Scripture includes everyone in this task. For example, St. Peter teaches us, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15a) That is a call for all to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give testimony to His works. And again from St. Peter, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12) A call for proclamation through actions and deeds, which all can perform. In selecting the rule, Dominic understood that members of the Order would be living lives in the world as they went about the task of proclaiming, therefore, it is a rule that is livable and appropriate not only for the Friars, but for all who are in the world.
- Anglican Dominicans take three vows in their pursuit of serving God. What do you think of these vows, and what is your opinion of vows to God in general (e.g. are they a good idea or not)?
My friend Thomas à Kempis writes, “It is a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to be one’s own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command…. Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority.” (The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 8) Vows are, in a sense, a master. Where some see them as restrictive and authoritative, I find within them freedom. I believe Albert Einstein was one who owned several sets of clothes, but they were all identical. He didn’t want to waste the time or energy trying to figure out what he was going to wear each day. A rule of life, vows, all accomplish the same goal: if I am obedient, no longer do I have to think on how I am going to live my life, the rule and vows answer those questions for me, so that I am set free to live for God.
In addition, the vows of the Dominican further refine the vows I took at my ordination, adding a level of specificity that are not found in the ordination rite.
- Do you think God might be calling you to be an Anglican Dominican? How would a person know if God was calling him or her to be in a religious order, Dominican or other?
As I mentioned before, I think God has been calling me to the Anglican Dominican life for quite some time, I just didn’t know that it had a name or a community. The final answer as to the calling is prayer, but I have to wonder if living out the life of a religious prior to any knowledge of a religious order is more of a ‘true’ calling. It is one thing to read the rules and then decide whether or not it is a good fit as compared to living out the rules and discovering the place/order God has prepared for you. Not sure that makes much sense to anyone except me, but it seems right.