Dominicans: AD Questions – Chapter 4

Chapter Four

  • What is Christian Formation?

As I sat in chapel during my time in seminary, I so remember the first time I really heard the words of Psalm 119:99-100:

I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.

I suspect that I was not the only seminarian to ever smile and suppress a chuckle upon reading these words, but that (innocent?) arrogance demonstrates so clearly the need for formation. A need for the old Adam to be broken down and replaced with the new Adam found only in Christ Jesus. Formation is the process of breaking down who we think we are/who we think we are supposed to be, with who Christ has called us to be. Christian formation is to say with Isaiah:

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

Christian formation, after recognizing this truth, is then to submit to the work of his hands, so that we take on the identity of the Father. However, it is not a one-and-done event. Formation is the work of a lifetime: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) We are made holy through through the redeeming work of Jesus upon the cross, and, each day, we are to seek to become more holy through the formation and the work of sanctification. “We are deeply moved, and our hearts profoundly shaken, when we listen attentively to that cry of St Paul: ‘This is God’s will for you, your sanctification.’ Today, once again, I set myself this goal and I also remind you and all mankind: this is God’s Will for us, that we be saints.” (Friends of God, St. Josemairía Escrivá, #294) Christian formation is nothing less than the process of becoming a saint.

  • How do Anglican Dominicans receive their training? Are there lessons that local churches or the Church in general could learn from the Anglican Dominican education process?

As I am preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago next year, much of my understanding of our Christian walk falls under the concept of pilgrimage—a journey to a sacred place. Anglican Dominicans receive their training through a pilgrimage of stages: inquiry, postulant, novice, and professed, utilizing several means including: reading, study, group interaction, mentorship, and further discernment of a calling.

These practices can certainly be utilized by a local church. As an example, having a desire to disciple individuals who hoped to further deepen their faith and with the blessing of my Bishop, I began The Confraternity of the Imitators of Christ (CIC) in my current parish. The objectives of the CIC are:

  • To seek holiness in our daily lives and the sanctification of our work in our families, our places of employment, and the Church.
  • To fulfill the vows we make in the Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, p. 292).
  • To recognize the real presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
  • To deepen our relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and to seek her intercessions that we may become a Tabernacle of her Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
  • More info on the CIC can be found here.

The first objective has led to lessons on topics such as: study, rule of life, meditation, fasting, study, BVM, confession, etc. Through this ongoing study and practice, individuals begin to lead a more disciplined, studied, and intentional faith.

  • What is the governance structure of the Anglican Dominicans—is it more democratic or authoritarian?

“One of the unique features—certainly a mark of the changing times of the 13th Century—of Saint Dominic’s initial community, was its democratic and egalitarian character.” That said, I find comfort and peace in submitting to the authority of my Bishop.

For those not feeling called by God to be a Dominican brother or sister, the Order offers two other affiliations: oblates and associates. Do you think you’d benefit spiritually by being an oblate or associate of a religious order, Dominican or not?

I do feel that I would benefit as an oblate or associate, but truly, I feel a sincere calling to become a professed member. Should I not be accepted as such, I would seek to become an oblate or associate, whichever was found more fitting.

  • Anglicans in general, and Anglican Dominicans in particular, embrace a diversity of viewpoints regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary. What is your personal view of Mary?

“Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.”

Surprisingly, I had no devotion to the BVM prior to attending seminary and very little while in seminary at Nashotah (please don’t tell them that!), and I’m not real certain as to why or how the shift occurred, but following my ordination to the priesthood… she brings me to Jesus. I would say more, but I truly don’t understand it. I hold her hand while I preach. I cling to her in prayer. I can’t see an image of her without stopping and catching my breath. Her Son is my God, Savior, King, Master… she is…

  • What are some of the challenges facing Christianity in the coming decade? How do you think individuals and churches can respond to these challenges?

The discussion on page 38 of Anglican Dominicans provides a broad outline of the many challenges facing Christianity today. For me, I believe that it can be summed up in the fact that our faith and the practice of our faith has become such a horizontal application of the Gospel that we are no longer aware of the vertical, supernatural or transcendence of God. Church has become a PAC or Rotary or the country club, instead of being a transformational community. Preachers are the talking heads of CNN/Fox, instead of prophetic witnesses. Parishioners are consumers, seeking a denomination or style of worship that fills a need, instead of individuals striving for holiness and an encounter with the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. I know that is a harsh assessment and it is certainly not true for all, but we have lost our way… THE Way.

Individuals and churches can respond to the challenges by returning to our roots and Archbishop Michael Ramsey stated it so well: “I suggest to you that as the cross and the Resurrection were the spearhead of the gospel’s relevance and potency in the first century so they can be also for our contemporary world. Ours is a world full of suffering and frustration: of what significance to it is Jesus who lived and died nearly two thousand years ago? The answer is: chiefly in this, that in the Death and Resurrection he shows not only the way for man but the very image of God himself. Is there within or beyond our suffering and frustrated universe any purpose, way, meaning, sovereignty? We answer, yes, there is purpose, way, meaning, sovereignty, and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus portray it as loving through dying, as losing self to find self, as the power of sacrificial love.” (The Christian Priest Today, p.32-33)

St. Paul declared to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) The answer to the challenges for individuals and the Church is the exact same.

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