Dominicans: Term 2, Week 4

Radcliffe: Part One, 10-12

In these chapters, Radcliffe looks at a number of topics, but with a focus on “relationship” and “community”.  We too all live in a variety of relationships and communities.  Identify one or two of those and (a)  identify a specific idea or experience that relates to one of your relationships or communities, and (b) suggest how that relationship or community may contribute to your own Dominican vocation.

The communities that I saw in these writings are the Anglican Communion and the Church in Pandemic, both of which provide points of celebration and challenge.

When questioned about a new Council, Radcliffe declares, “We are too afraid of debate!” (p.111)  We recently witnessed the postponement of the Lambeth Conference due to pandemic, but it would seem that the pandemic’s timing was advantageous, because just prior, the Conference had been postponed because of a desire to overcome the issues and fractures prior to meeting.  In other words, they were afraid.  Such fear must be overcome and Radcliffe points to a way: creating the space where the other can be and “both sides can talk to each other, in the pursuit of truth. (p.112)

The second source of community (or lack there of) is the Church in Pandemic.  With churches being closed due to the pandemic, our liturgical church has found ways to communicate the Gospel through means we may have considered, but never really planned on implementing.  In the nave of my church, we now have cameras, cables, computers, etc. (and my congregation lovingly refers to me as Scorsese!)  We reach further with the Gospel than we ever dreamed, hearing from individuals in Pakistan, Indonesia, India, England, and others.  The challenge is that such technology “does not always help us to escape the solitude of modern life.” (p.117)  It is wonderful that we can reach our congregation and others, but so many are still sitting in front of a monitor alone in their homes.  The Christian faith is one of “touch” and we must continue to find ways to do so.

While in seminary, I had many of my classmates almost demand that I abandon TEC for whatever fractured group that was popular at the time, but I have never seen that as an option.  It does no one any good pick up their marbles and go home, instead we must the radical message of the Gospel to heal our divisions.  As Dominicans, we are called to identify the common thread and provide a space for dialogue and “touch.”  That is how I feel I can contribute.

Verboven: Ch. 10-12

These three Dominicans have all been engaged in study which is not directly related to Dominican study.  How did these fields of study contribute to their Dominican life and spirituality?  How can you approach one of your own “outside” interests as part of your own Dominican life and spirituality?

Last week I began leading a book study on Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.  In the opening pages, he discusses the fact that his approach to the topic is multidisciplinary, saying, “While we talk, and talk freely, about ours being a very specialized era where people go more narrowly and deeply into questions than once they did, it is perhaps also the case that the biggest issues that confront us as a human race are issues that require a certain amount of multidisciplinary skill if we’re to tackle them effectively.” (p.2)  All three of this week’s Dominicans would give Williams a hearty, “Amen!”

Helen Alford studied engineering and through those studies she became interested in how people interact with the modern world, which led her even more deeply into the study these systems and how to best care and support the workers.  Her later work with British Aerospace allowed her to put some of this thought into practice and witness the outcomes.

Katarina Pajchel helps us to understand that “science and theology point towards one and the same reality.” (p.129)  The Psalmist declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and scientist like Pajchel only confirm the depth and magnificence of all creation.

Finally, I learned more about Islam in the chapter on Emilio Platti than I have ever know, which shows why his work and study of Islam are so vital in helping us find points in common instead of points that divide.

I’m not all that great at it, but I enjoy writing and have self-published two novels.  Where they are fiction, I also hope to draw people to a deeper curiosity / understanding of faith.  As one who came to faith through reading a novel (a story for another day) I feel that we can reach many through the art of story and I hope to continue to this work.

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 3

Radcliffe: Part One, 7-9

In these three chapters, Radcliffe looks closely at the Roman Catholic Dominican family, but he speaks also to us as Anglican Dominicans.  Identify one quotation or idea in each chapter that speaks to you, and then summarize how these quotations or ideas  may apply to your own development as a Dominican.

Unity and Diversity: “The preacher must be human to preach this human God.” (p.64)  This reminded of Dominic’s approach in preaching to and living among the Albigensians, which was—simply put—preach the Gospel and model your lifestyle after theirs.  If we take on an air of spiritual pride / arrogance, we will begin to preach our own message instead of the message of Jesus.  The same applies to our lives in the Order.  Should we begin to see ourselves as superior to others—i.e. clergy vs laity—then the Order will fracture along those lines and others.

The Future: “It is true that we cannot let ourselves become museum keepers for tourists.” (p.76)  The future relies on solid proclamation of the Gospel—word and deed—or we risk the people of God becoming spiritual tourist.  Those who walk through the teachings of Jesus and the Church as though casually strolling through a museum: glancing here and there, pondering for a minute or two and then moving onto the next, without ever settling in and truly discovering the beauty.  We must be learned guides who can show and explain the Masterpiece.

Truth: “Knowledge implies intimacy.”  Whether it be a person, text, language, picture, etc., until you become passionate and intimate with them, you will never truly know them.  It is only when we become intimate with the painting, that we begin to see the details and brushstrokes.  It is only in those moments when we are truly intimate with another person that we are willing and even able to share our own secrets.  Part of our “job” is to teach people how to talk to and be intimate with one another and with God.  I actually believe this to be one of the primary reasons they come to church: to learn how to talk to God about their innermost self.

Verboven: Ch. 7-9

Most of us do not lead the extraordinary lives that the Dominicans in these chapters experience.  What can you take from these stories to enrich your own Dominican spirituality?

In many pastoral situations, I often try to remain the “professional,” the stoic, standing outside of the emotions that are boiling all around me.  I think this is necessary to a degree, but Margaret Ormond showed me that it was OK to not only experience the pain of others (which I do!, but try not to show), but to show it.  What is fascinating about her experience is that when she did, she opened up the opportunity for the one who was in pain, to minister to her and to wipe away her tears.  This is new to me, but it seems to be reflective of our shared humanity and the bearing of one another’s burdens. (cf. Galatians 6:2)

With Godfrey Nzamujo’s story, I continue to see how Dominicans adapt (not compromise) to the culture where they are ministering.  Instead of bringing in European / Western culture, he drew upon the strengths of Africa and allowed the people to live into those strengths as opposed to attempting to re-educate them on how they should think / work like Europeans or Americans.  Adapting is the Dominican way.  He also has a trait that all of these Dominicans have shown: passion and drive to not only proclaim and build up spiritually, but also physically—“If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:16)

Timothy Radcliffe continues to speak to us about “the other.”  “If you have a deep friendship with anyone, it means you hear what they are saying, not what you think they ought to be saying.” (p.107)  Perhaps the greatest gift we can give someone is our friendship.

These individuals are like icons, windows into the calling of a Dominican. 

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 2

Radcliffe: Part One, 4-6

In these chapters, Radcliffe describes his life as Master of the Order. What are two or three major characteristics of Dominican life in the Order that he prizes? How do you envision opportunities for these characteristics to be manifested in the Anglican Order of Preachers?

There was one sentence in these three chapters that summed them all up and seemed to me to be an overarching characteristic, it was: “We must not be afraid!” (p.57-8)  We must not be afraid to be friends.  We must not be afraid to love.  We must not be afraid to trust.  We must not be afraid (and here it is again) of the other.

Friends: with friends, the competition is set aside and each is given the opportunity, support, and encouragement to succeed, and that success is celebrated. True friends are not easy to come by, but within the AOP, we can follow the example of those whom Jesus called friends. These had a common mission, which was the proclamation of the Kingdom for the greater good.

Love: not the type of love that show’s up in a Hallmark card (or movie), but the kind of love that allows the other to be. This allows the AOP to provide many different creative expressions of the Gospel and draws people to it instead of pushing them away.

Trust: “Thy will be done.” I heard that petition when I read of Radcliffe accepting the election to Master and again when he stated that Dominicans place themselves in the hands of the Order, “without knowing what they will do with him.” (p.54) It is faith / trust that the Order has properly discerned the call on an individuals life and will act in the best interest of all.

The Other: I am beginning to get the impression that for the Dominican, ‘the other’ is the raison d’être behind all we do. The AOP will do great work if continues to serve the other instead of the self.

Verboven: Ch. 4-6

In these chapters, we learn about three people who had to deal with violence in their Dominican lives.  How can tales of violence in these countries, and sadly in the USA and in your own country affect our own lives and mission as Dominicans?

As a priest, I have attended more than a few deaths.  None are ever easy, but some are more difficult than others.  A teenager killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling and a very violent suicide were days when you just want to go home, turn off the lights, and sit quietly in a room with a stiff drink.  However, the four-year-old little girl who died from her injuries after being thrown against a wall by a babysitter because she wouldn’t stop crying… violence.  

Violence breeds violence and even as the priest, my heart was not pure when it came to thoughts of the young man that committed the crime.  It was as Pierce said, “a wound came in me that I didn’t know what to do with.” (p. 43)  So the question that arises is: How do we respond?  We can respond with ever-escalating violence or like Pierce’s parents, Pierce himself, Maria Hanna, and Henri, we can respond with respect, patience, love, hope, an unshakeable perseverance—even in the face of death—and laugh when the bounty on our heads is lowered.  These characteristics are all summed up in the questions of the 1511 Dominican sermon: “Are these not human beings?  Are you so blind that you do not see the other person?”  (p. 51)  Those two questions direct us to the mission of a Dominican when confronted with or witness to violence: to open the eyes of the blind and to make the invisible visible.

I can honestly say that I have struggled over this question more than any other we’ve addressed.  There is a passion for God and God’s people and an unswerving faith, and I’ve never been “tested” in such a way.  It is that same question that many have asked me about themselves, “Would I be able to stand in the day of trial.”  I’m good with the cheerleader answer, but to stand with the gun ‘truly’ to my head or in the face of a real trial… these people are rockstars and I don’t even know how to play an air guitar.

Dominicans: Term 2, Week 1


Radcliffe: Part One, 1-3; Verboven Ch. 1-3

In his book (p. 31), Radcliffe writes, “theology is always rooted in a particular cultural and social context.”  In these first six chapters, identify two or three aspects of Dominican spirituality that support this idea. 

The proclamation of the Gospel remains central to Dominican Spirituality as witnessed in the lives of these three individuals and although it is certain that this included proclamation through preaching, for them, the proclamation of the Gospel is in no way limited to preaching, and it is through this non-verbal proclamation that the Dominican Spirituality is most evident.

Radcliffe, Pérennès, and MacMillan each speak of seeking the truth, yet their seeking comes with great humility because they do not seek the truth to be right, but to understand ‘the other.’ This has given them great self-actualization, which in turn has given them freedom to impact the culture through their Christian lives, without having the need to convert the culture. This can be seen in the work in Rwanda and amongst the Muslims. The goal of ‘getting the heathen saved’ has been set aside and in its place the new goal is established: relationship. This is a particularly wise approach given the hostilities towards Christianity that were expressed by all. This then leads to a second aspect of Dominican Spirituality: mediation.

It was in my final assignment for last term that I was able to see this particular trait, but these readings help to further refine it. Then, I had in my mind the trait of mediation more closely associated with arbitrator, but the mediation of the Dominicans is more a mediation of presence than of mediator / arbitrator of formalized agreements. Instead of focusing on our differences, we identify that which we have in common. An excellent example of this is IDEO. A tremendous endeavor, seeking to impact culture by simply living out a Christian life while respecting and honoring ‘the other.’ (This is so contrary to the crusader evangelism of most western churches: conquer and convert!) MacMillan also painted the perfect picture of this in action with Rostropovich playing in the White House and the soldiers not shelling the building, simply because he was present.

The freedom to be and the freedom to allow ‘the other’ to be.

Dominicans: Term One / Week Six

portrait by the Spanish painter Claudio Coello in 1670

Essay on St. Dominic

A man curious about Catholicism approached a Dominican friar.  He asked the Dominican about various subjects and eventually the conversation turned to religious orders. “So you are a Dominican?”


“What can you tell me about the Dominicans?”

“Well, in short, we were founded by St. Dominic in the 13th century, in part to counter the Albigensian heresy.”

“I see. What about the Jesuits I keep hearing about?”

“They were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyala in the 16th century, in part to counter the Protestant Reformation.”

“Hmmm … so which is the greater order?”

The Dominican pondered this question for a moment and then replied: “Well, when was the last time you met an Albigensian?”

As many of you are aware, I recently became a Postulant in the Anglican Order of Preachers (a.k.a. The Dominicans).  So that you don’t get the impression that I’m about to run off and join a monastery, I’ve decided to write a short series of articles about St. Dominic Guzman, the founder of the Order, and the Dominicans.  We’ll come back to the Albigensians in a moment, but we must begin at the beginning and the beginning of this story was a dream.  Not mine, but the dream of Jane of Aza.

In 1170 a.d., Jane dreamed “that she carried a dog in her womb, and when it was born it broke away from her and ran with a burning torch in its mouth to set the whole world aflame.”  Such dreams might seem to spring from the mind of Stephen King, but this one was prophetic in nature and spoke of Jane’s unborn son, Dominic.  (Hint: Dominic would become the hound and the flame was the truth of the Gospel message.)

Dominic was born in the rural community of Caleruega, Spain.  There he began to receive a formal education, but also an education of faith and charity that was provided by his mother, who was “full of compassion toward the unfortunate and those in distress.”  Witnessing such lessons from his mother, led Dominic to later sell his books to aid the poor stating, “How can I keep these dead skins when living skins are dying for hunger?”  Perhaps this lesson and others like it laid the groundwork for Dominic’s greater mission of charity towards those who were poor in spirit, for following his university studies and ordination to the priesthood, he began to discern the need for the truth to be preached, particularly amongst those who were either ignorant of that truth or in error, specifically the error of the Albigensians that he first encountered while traveling through southern France.

The error of the Albigensians was the Manichaean Heresy, which taught that there were two gods: the god of the Old Testament (evil) and the god of the New Testament (good).  As the god of the Old Testament is the creator god, then the Manichaes taught that the physical world—our bodies included—were evil, therefore, the Albigensians denied the Incarnation of Jesus (how can anything created be good?), insisted on a very austere life, and denied themselves the sacraments, including marriage, amongst other issues.  Dominic could not comprehend how anyone could view creation as evil and ignore the teachings of the Church, so he set about the mission of correcting the Albigensians, and in doing so, set aflame, not just that small region of France, but the entire world with the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.  At the heart of the mission—one that continues to this day—is preaching, preaching that finds its inauguration in study and prayer.

The study and learning was so that the friar would become someone who “proclaims with integrity the Word of God as received from the Church” for the purpose of evangelization, and prayer served much the same purpose.  To paraphrase Thomas Aquinas, a later Dominican, the purpose of prayer in the life of the Dominican is “to contemplate and to hand on to others the fruits of one’s contemplation.”  In other words, for Dominic and the Dominicans, study and prayer are tools and a means to an end, the end being the sermon and the preaching.  This may seem odd to us today.  We so often see our prayer as a time for petition, intercession, and thanksgiving, but for the Dominican, prayer is very much a tool in the preacher’s tool belt.  Those things God shows the Dominican are not only for private consumption, but given to be shared, that others might benefit in their walk with God.  So that the friar might focus all of his energies (and her in the Anglican Order of Preachers!) on the “Order’s job” of preaching, Dominic established the three vows of the friar: poverty, chastity, and obedience.  The Anglican Order of Preachers translates these into the context of the 21st century: simplicity, purity, and obedience, all three of which are designed to free the life and mind of the Dominican so that there is more space for fulfilling the calling and mission of the Order. 

At some point, a Latin pun on the name Dominican was introduced: domini canes or “hounds of the Lord.”  Not only does this reference the dream of St. Dominic’s mother, but it also points to the loyal and obedient nature of the Order.  An Order that today, combining the Roman and Anglican Churches, consists of over 6,000 members.   The Lord has greatly used Dominic’s passion for preaching to indeed set the world aflame with the Gospel.


Deanesly, Margaret. A History of the Medieval Church, 590-1500. London New York: Routledge, 1969.

Goergen, Donald. St. Dominic: the Story of a Preaching Friar. New York: Paulist Press, 2016.

John-Julian. Stars in a Dark World: Stories of the Saints and Holy Days of the Liturgy : with Supplementary Readings According to the use of the Order of Julian of Norwich. Denver, Col: Outskirts Press, 2009.

Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Edward Yarnold. The Study of Spirituality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Zagano, Phyllis, Thomas C. McGonigle, and Augustine. The Dominican Tradition. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2006.

Dominicans: Term One / Week Five

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 two describes Dominicans in the early days as promoting the idea of happiness; this is often linked to the Beatitudes  (Matthew 5:1-12) and describe briefly what struck you most about their experiences and teaching on happiness.  What do you think about the idea of happiness in Dominican life as you consider your own calling?

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: I enjoyed both the book and the movie.  From the movie: William of Baskerville: “But what is so alarming about laughter?”  Jorge de Burgos: “Laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith, because without fear of the Devil there is no more need of God.”  Murray is absolutely correct, the faithful have become those with “bowed heads and sad faces” (p.55) when we should in fact be the happiest and most joyful of all.  In our preaching, folks need the opportunity to “breathe,” not just for a moment during the sermon (cf. p.69), but I think sometimes for the entirety of the sermon.  Not a stand up comic’s routine, but a message that conveys how we are to “have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)  An opportunity to experience joy in God, worship, and fellowship.  The “Why?” behind this thought was summed up nicely by Thomas of Cantimpré: so that we all may “survive unbroken” (p.57) this world and all it throws at us—we’ll still end up with a few chips and cracks, but hopefully not completely broken.

Perhaps too much information, but for myself and a life as a Dominican, I’m trying to learn (that’s not the right word for it… experience?) this joyful Dominican characteristic.  I have been a student of Thomas à Kempis and the Imitation of Christ for almost twenty years, but a few months ago, I set him aside.  There is so very much to learn from him, but I tired of keeping my death ever before me as he taught.  There is benefit in the practice, but I discovered that I was trying so hard to be a serious saint, that I did not live.  That may only make sense to me, but I want to not only share the message of the joy of the Lord, but know it for myself as well.

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?

Dominic:  He asked God for “delight and enjoyment” (Murray p.58), while at the same time he was would “discipline himself with an iron chain.” (M&Z p.7)  Such extremes of thought and action seem to be presenting two separate individuals, but Dominic has often demonstrated how he embodies the fullness of the Scriptural teachings.  I believe his life was a joyful living out of those words we so often read in Ecclesiastes, which begin: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to…”

Aquinas: There are many forms/styles of preaching, but not all forms are suitable for every occasion.  A deeply technical sermon/teaching would be appropriate for a seminar, but not necessarily for a Sunday morning.  The preacher must take what they’ve learned through prayer/study/meditation and ‘translate’ the information and insights for the listeners’ edification.  The analogy of the iceberg is true: 10% of the iceberg is above the surface, that is the sermon, the other 90%, what is below the surface is what went into the crafting of the sermon.  M&Z show us the 90% of Aquinas whereas Murray gives us the 10%.

Eckhart: Of the three, Eckhart was the most difficult.  He seems rather elusive in trying to nail down, but as with Aquinas, M&Z focus on the philosophical thinking of Ekhart, while Murray shares the “fruits” of Ekhart’s labors.  No disrespect toward Eckhart, but M&Z and the selection of Eckhart’s writings gave me the impression of an individual who never stopped moving, but ceaselessly bounced around.  I think he would make you either nervous or agitated (perhaps both!) to be around.

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. 

Dominicans: Term One / Week Three

Reading and answering question from: Donald J. Goergen O.P. St. Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2016.

This book gives you a good foundation for your essay on St. Dominic.  In responding to this question, however, please focus on Chapter 4, and be selective rather than comprehensive. 

Following the meeting with Pope Innocent in 1215, the scope of the OP mission grew from a diocesan program to an organization that now spans the globe and even though Dominic would lead the order in its infancy and early growth, I believe that he always viewed himself as the “humble servant of preaching.” (p.56)  “For him it was always the preaching, not the preacher, who was never to get in the way of the Word.” (P.63)  From this view and mission, the order developed multiple elements and characteristics which are seen in the AOP.

Organization – The AOP maintains the structure of the order as established by Dominic.  “There existed in the Order the two primary instruments of governance: the general chapter, legislative in nature, and the head of the Oder along with local superiors, executive in character.” (P.87)  This also is evident in the AOP through the Master, Chapter, Houses, Priors, etc.

Study – “As witness to the value that Dominic placed on study, these first friars in Toulouse began to attend lectures.” (P.50)  “The preacher was to be an ongoing student of theology.  The order was to be an order of students.” (P.88)  As with Dominic, the AOP recognizes that any good preacher will be an educated preacher, so as to preach the truth and recognize error.

Dispersed – From Toulouse he sent the friars out.  “The decision to disperse the men was both to protect the preaching and to expand it.” (P.67)  “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)  The AOP is dispersed, even to far off lands like Oklahoma!

Rule – The rule for Dominic and his friars would be “that of St. Augustine.” (P.59)  The AOP also lives under an established rule, that guides daily life of prayer and study, which are set to enhance the preaching.

How did the life and work of St. Dominic lay a foundation upon which the Anglican Order of Preachers is built?  What elements or characteristics do you find in this chapter that you can see in our own Order?  Be specific, and give at least one reference, with page number or Kindle reference number, for each element or characteristic that you describe.

“To contemplate and to hand on to others the fruits of one’s contemplation,” (P.6/P.134) sums up what it means to be an active Dominican, which finds it roots in the Orders founder, who was “a man of prayer with a mission, a contemplative missionary.” (P.74)  Whereas other religious orders find their calling hidden behind the cloister walls, Dominic believed that the purpose behind the contemplative prayer was to be able to share what was learned.  “There could be no authentic contemplation without the handing on of it to others and vice versa.” (P.103)  Dominic “preached his prayer and prayed his preaching.” (P.102) 

To assist in his prayer, “Dominic trusted Mary in his prayer from the beginning.” (P.136)  “As Mary gave brith to the Word in her womb, so the Preacher gives birth to the Word in the world.” (P.136)  This deep devotion to Mary was of great benefit to Dominic and the Order and it is to her that the Order has been given over to for motherly care (cf. P.137)  

Contemplation with the assistance of Mary is and will be a great source of strength and intimacy with Jesus in my life.  As I pray / contemplate, if I will first walk with Mary, she will lead me to moments of great communion with Jesus.  Dermot Power, in The Spiritual Theology of the Priesthood (1998), discusses the works of Hans Urs von Balthasar.  Power writes, “Mary is the prototype of the Church’s responsive faithful love and is the real type and abiding centre of holiness which encompasses the Petrine and ministerial function within the Church.  According to Balthasar, the priesthood exists only to nurture, safeguard and make transparent this spousal love of Christ for his Church.” (P.50)  Where Power speaks of Church and Priesthood, I believe we can insert the word “preacher,” because the making known—or to use the words of Dominic: the “handing on”—of the message of the love of Christ is the raison d’être of preaching just as preaching is “the raison d’être of the Order.” (P.62)  If we are to hand on this message, we must first spend time in contemplation with Him who is Love.

Dominicans: Term One / Week Two

Reading and answering question from: Donald J. Goergen O.P. St. Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2016.

In Chapter 1 we learn about Dominic the man and preacher. “To be a preacher was to mediate God’s Word in human words: a word of love, mercy, and compassion. Mercy (misericordia), truth (veritas), and brotherhood (fraternitas), or the vita communis—the common life—were all sacred words for Dominic, that man of the Lord who was filled with God”. Describe the manifestation of Dominic’s sacred words in his mission as a preacher, using examples. What are your own sacred words that guide your life as a Christian? How might they guide you in your preaching life as a Dominican?

The three sacred words of Dominic—mercy, truth, and common life—seem to closely resemble the “three-legged stool” of Anglicanism—Scripture, tradition, and reason—in that they are dependent and integral to the other; for example, can you have a common life without mercy and truth?  Therefore, the examples of these sacred words in Dominic’s life have one dominant trait, but are supported by the other two.

With regard to mercy, I was struck by Dominic’s selling of his parchments during the famine.  “How can I keep these dead skins when living skins are dying of hunger?” (p.14)  Truth can be seen in his willingness to remain up all night seeking the conversion of a single sinner (p.21) and the common life is made evident in not just the need for traveling companions, but also in discerning the need for the common life in others as in the time when land and housing were purchased for the many Cathar women converts so that they would be able to maintain their austere lives. (p. 33)  Such actions demonstrate that these sacred words were lamps on the work, guiding Dominic and the others to “live what they preached.” (p.29)

For my own sacred words, I reflected back on my preaching.  From there, I chose loyalty, peace, and transformation, all of which stem from the first and second greatest commandments: love God, love neighbor (to which I like to add, “Until you figure out how to do these two things, leave the details alone.”)  Of these three, loyalty may be the most difficult for others to understand why I chose, but I have always understood Jesus as King, so even when I fail him or do not love him as I should, I am always loyal.  Although I may not say it directly, this is a trait that I would like to instill in others through preaching.  I’m always struck by Richard Burton’s prayer following his consecration in Becket: “Please, Lord, teach me now how to serve you with all my heart, to know at last what it really is to love, to adore.”

Historical events, politics, culture and the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit impacted Dominic’s formative years in much the same way that they will guide your own formation. Describe an example of how each of these four factors influenced Dominic’s early formation. How will these factors impact your own formation as a Dominican preacher?

September 11 occurred during my first week of seminary.  We all knew the world would never be the same and it set the stage for things to come.  Dominic also experienced such life / world altering events.  

The rise of the Cathars / Albigensians (p.19ff) was a significant historical event in the life of Dominic.  It was from witnessing the heresy firsthand that Dominic was inspired to consider and then begin the mission for correcting the error.  The way into the culture and the fulfillment of the mission was not to adopt the practices of the Catholic Church, but those of the Cathars instead.  “If they were to convey the truth of the Catholic faith, their primary witness to that faith would have to be in their way of life,” (p.28) which would closely resemble that of the Apostles.  

The passion for such a mission does not derive itself from politics or dogma, but through the Holy Spirit.  Dominic was guided by his desire to convert souls to God.  He is said “to have agonized about the fate of sinners in general as well as the heretics,” praying “Lord, have mercy on your people, what will become of sinners?” (p.37)  These words communicate to me the same message as the Fatima Prayer: “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.”  

Finally: politics.  Politics had as much influence on Dominic as they do us today, but they did not seem to effect his mission or draw him in.  For example, “Whatever he thought of the crusade, we will never know for sure… he never preached it.” (p.38)  Instead, even when he was surrounded by the crusaders, he was “constantly preaching the word of God.” (p.42)

Such a commitment to the Gospel in the face of so many factors will certainly be a guide for me.  The Gospel message is without a doubt the most radical message ever proclaimed and will go much further in converting sinners and sustaining the faithful than any other message.

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