Dominicans: Term One / Week Four

Reading and answering question from: Paul Murray O.P. The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.

Chapter one describes Dominican spirituality in terms of contemplation, mysticism, liturgy – and preaching.  How do you see these working together to create a Dominican way of life?  How do they fit your own spiritual life at this time?

Murray’s discussion of God as object and/or subject (p.21) and then as “link for [God’s] activity,” (p.22) reminded me of something I must surely have heard before: preaching as sacrament.  The BCP defines the sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ,” (BCP 857)  The contemplation, mysticism, and liturgy are beneficial gifs in and of themselves, but for the Dominican, they are “tools” for the communication of God’s Word: preaching.  In reading this chapter, I felt like I had come home, for so much of the work my position (leading worship, studies, personal prayer, praying the Rosary, attending meetings, and even pastoral care) have as their backdrop, the sermon: the brief ones given during Morning Prayer and the more prepared for Holy Eucharist.  The extent to which the preaching becomes a sacrament is truly dependent upon the amount of spiritual work I put into the writing, and the test is always the end result: a sermon done properly accomplishes the “simple intention,” (p.24) whereas one that has not been properly vetted out by the spiritual practices, although perhaps good for the souls of those listening, can be categorized as “right intention.”  I do not know if my congregation feels the difference, but I can.  Right intention is work.  Simple intention is not really me.  The difference is that the first is me speaking, the latter—I pray—is “divine praise.” (p.39)  This then also supports the idea that the Dominican vocation is a “dynamic vocation” (p.43) in that the sermon is not only formed through study and prayer, but also life, as God “contemplates the world” (p.22) through the one preaching, for if we are to speak God’s word instead of our own, we must not only know the One we speak of, but also the ones we speak to.

Reading and answering question from: Thomas C. McGonigle, O.P. & Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. The Dominican Tradition: Spirituality in History. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2006.

Professed Anglican Dominicans take vows of obedience, purity, and simplicity. Using information from The Dominican Tradition (p. xiii-xxi), describe your vision of living out these vows. What challenges do you expect to face? What can you do to address these challenges before they become a problem?

My vision of living out the vows of obedience, purity, and simplicity: I see myself, fully vested, prostrate before the Tabernacle, in unitive prayer… who am I kidding.  Over the portico of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is the Greek maxim, “Know thyself.”  Perhaps I don’t know myself fully, but enough to know that my vision of these vows will closely resemble a tug-of-war between two equal teams.  One pulling me toward holiness and fulfillment of the vows and the other… the other likes single malt scotch and women.  I cheered at Dominic’s “confession” about being “excited by the conversation of young women.” (Goergen, p.97)  So how do I make this work?

Obedience — If there is one vow that I will not struggle with, it is this.  My good 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.”  (Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 9)  McGonigle confirms Thomas’ understanding: one who loves his/her superior is one who will allow themselves to be lead and directed.  If not out of love, I will serve and obey out of loyalty.

Simplicity — I have no spouse or children (unless you count the Queen—a.k.a. Rain—who is a six month old feline.)  After the normal bills, my life is my own.  I do tithe and have begun to look for other ways that I might share my blessings.  In addition, I have taken to wearing a cassock during the work week.  For me it is a testimony of a different way.  A way that, amongst other benefits, demonstrates a setting aside of excess.

Purity — See “Obedience.”  Out of love for my Savior and loyalty to my calling as a priest (and Dominican postulant), I will not become a slave to the callings of the world.  I will continue striving to find others as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Above all else, there will be prayer and the sacraments. 

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