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?”

“Yes.”

“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.


Bibliography

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.

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.

Dominicans: AD Questions – Chapter 3

Chapter Three

  • 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.

Dominicans: AD Questions – Chapter Two

Chapter Two

  • Why did Dominic found the Order of Preachers?

Heresies within the Christian faith have existed since the time soon after the death Christ and the Church has employed various means to rid itself of them.  For Dominc’s part, he would have likely remained a cloistered monk, but while traveling through Languedoc, in the south of France, he encountered the Albigensian (Cathari / “pure ones”) heresy, which held to the belief that the physical world was the world of Satan and therefore, all physical matter was evil, thus leading them to deny the Incarnation, baptism by water, the Real Presence, etc.  Additionally, the Albigensian priest led very austere lives, quite the opposite of their Roman Catholic counterparts who enjoyed much of the fineries of life.  Once encountered, Dominic felt compelled to preach against the heresy, following the practices of a more apostolic way as witnessed in the first disciples.  Ten years afterwards, in 1215, Dominic would officially establish the first house  for the Order of Preachers in Toulouse, France.

  • What happened to the religious orders in England during the reign of Henry VIII?

In 1534, the Act of Supremacy was passed in the English Parliament, which established Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England, thus resting control of the Church from Rome.  Henry, desiring the wealth of the monasteries would pass the First Act of Suppression, which closed all monasteries with income of less than £200.  Following the closure, the lands and gold would be confiscated by the Crown.  In 1539, the Second Act of Suppression was passed, allowing for the forced closure of all remaining monasteries (by 1540, over 50 monasteries a month were closed.)  A few religious remained (those who failed to comply were martyred), but these actions effectively brought the monastic life to an end in England until the revival in the 19th century.

  • Of the historical figures cited that embody an Anglican Dominican way, which do you find most appealing?

Jackson Kemper (If I say any other, I will likely be stripped of my degrees from Nashotah House!)  I pray this is an acceptable way to answer the question.  It is a sermon I preached last year on his feast day, and demonstrates my reasoning: 

The Apostle of the Western Church, Jackson Kemper, was born on Christmas Eve 1789 and in 1835 he was consecrated bishop.  At the consecration, the Bishop of New Jersey began his sermon: “Brethren, we are assembled, under the protection of Almighty God, to partake in, or to witness, the consecration of a missionary bishop. It is a new office in this Church. The event has not occurred before. What we are now to do will go on record, as a precedent…”  Toward the end of that sermon, the bishop gave Kemper a charge: “Beloved brother, from the work to which the Lord, we trust, has called you, I may keep you back no longer. You are to go out, in the Saviour’s name, the first Missionary Bishop of this Church. Going with the office, go in the spirit, of an Apostle! You are to preach the gospel of salvation to a ruined world. You are to bear ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ to sinful men, the enemies of God, and of their own souls, by wicked works. Like the Apostle Paul, preach to them ‘Christ crucified.’” 

His missionary diocese was small, it only consisted of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and part of Indiana, 450,000 square miles (by comparison, Oklahoma is 70,000 square miles).  Fortunately he had some help—one priest.  However, he did not let the size of his missionary territory nor the lack of help daunt him.  Instead, he went about the business of establishing churches and to solve the problem of so few priest, he began a seminary.  And not just any seminary, but (to this day) the finest seminary in the Episcopal Church: Nashotah House.

His passion for mission was evident in his work and his words.  In 1841, he was given the opportunity to preach on mission at the General Convention.  “Constrained by the undying love of Christ to love the immortal souls of our fellow beings—let us be ready for the privilege, if it is ever conferred, to scatter the precious seed on every field—to erect the banner of the cross on every mountain. Let us at least hasten the time—by our prayers, our exertions, and our sacrifices—when the joyous sound shall burst from every heart, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.’”

At the end of his missionary work he had organized seven different diocese, consecrated over 100 churches, ordained more than 200 priests and deacons, and confirmed more than 10,000 individuals.  His last words: “I hope I have been faithful; I hope I have kept the faith.”

Going back to his consecration, the Bishop of New Jersey concluded his sermon to Kemper by saying, “Go, bear, before a ruined world, the Saviour’s bleeding Cross. Go, feed, with bread from heaven, the Saviour’s hungering Church. Go, thrice beloved, go, and God the Lord go with you!”  From our Gospel reading today, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  

Jackson Kemper heard the message to “Go” and he went.  I pray that we will all hear this message, feel the passion of the missionary, and go out in the mission field that God has set before each of us… even if that mission field only extends to our next door neighbor.

As an aside, part of my duties while at Nashotah was to keep up the mowing of the grounds.  Each week, not only did I mow the lawn around Bishopstead, Kemper’s residence, but also the cemetery where he is buried, making sure to greet him kindly each time I passed his grave.

  • When did the first known efforts at founding a non-Roman Catholic Dominican Order take place?

The Dominican Priory of Christ the King, founded around the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in Coos Bay, Oregon.

  • Who was the founder and first Master of the Anglican Order of Preachers?  Did you find anything interesting about the initial beginnings of the Anglican Dominicans?

The Very Rev. Dr Jeffery Mackey, O.P.A. was the first Master of the Anglican Order of Preachers. 

I did find it interesting that the order was founded so recently.  It is such a beautiful expression of the Catholic nature of the Church.  Then again, there have been many in the Anglo-Catholic tradition who have been living out the Dominican life, just not naming themselves as such.  It is good to have a home and a community.

  • As you learn more about the Anglican Dominicans, could you imagine yourself being one?  Why or why not?

Yes!  As a priest, the study, prayer, preaching, Marian devotion, etc. have always been a part of my life, but what I’m discovering is that the more I practice the rule, the more I want / need to practice the rule.  In addition, the more I see of the community online, the more I desire to be a part of it.  For my life with God, this ‘feels’ like a very natural next step.

Dominicans: AD Questions – Chapter One

Chapter One

  • Is the concept of a denomination other than the Roman Catholic Church being “Catholic” new or familiar to you?

Twenty years ago, this was a new idea other than, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.”  As one of the four notes of the Church, I simply understood the word “catholic” to mean universal.  Following my studies, I understood the concept in a much broader sense, not only in the way we practice our faith through ritual, but also our understanding of a more ancient church.

  • What is the argument Anglican Dominicans make in claiming that their Church is an expression of Catholic Christianity?

Anglican Dominicans argue that there was “the existence a primitive or early Catholicism (distinct from Roman Catholicism) that existed for the first one thousand years of Christianity,” (p. 5) which was later folded into the Anglican Church.  John Henry Newman, one of the Tractarians would fully support this argument.  “In his tracts on the Church of England he claimed that it was truly and purely catholic, based on the customs of the Apostolic Church and the teaching of the Fathers, and corrupted neither by Romanism nor by Protestantism.” (The History of the Church in England, p. 341)

  • While drawing upon the Catholic tradition of Christianity, the Anglican Dominicans also draw upon the Protestant tradition. What elements of the Protestant Reformation are particularly important to Anglican Dominicans?

St. Paul says to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1–4)  Preach the word: “The Protestant Reformation… brought back into the mainstream of Christian life and practice: evangelization, preaching, and the centrality of the Word of God as found in the pages of Holy Scripture…. [which] began to shift the emphasis of priestly office away from the altar and toward the pulpit.” (p. 6, 7)  

The state of preaching today is lacking.  Mark Galli (Christianity Today), recently wrote a series of articles under the title, “The Elusive Presence” (they are brilliant).  In “The Elusive Presence: And Now, the Star of the Show…,” Galli writes, “Preaching is one time in the week when we have the opportunity to hear about something other than ourselves, other than the horizontal. It’s the time to hear about God and the wonder and mysteries of his love, of what he’s done for us in Christ. But more and more, evangelical preaching has become another way we talk about ourselves, and in this case, to learn about the preacher.” (Source)  This is one of the great appeals of the Anglican Dominicans, they understand the significance of sound and learned preaching and teaching that is focused not on self, but on the Word.  The Reformers got this one right.

  • How is Anglican Christianity a middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism?

G.K. Chesterton is reported to have said/written, “The Reformer is always right about what’s wrong. However, he’s often wrong about what is right.”  As was noted in Anglican Dominicans, the reformers threw the baby out with the bath water; however, in pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism, the priest had become a poorly educated sacramentalist, with little or no emphasis placed on the Word of God.  It was about the ritual and not the Person behind it all.  As was noted above in answer #3, the reformers brought back the Word, the Tractarians (answer #2) brought back the theology/understanding of the ancient Church, and later the ritual, and from this, the Via Media was born: the “bridge” Church, being both Catholic and Protestant.

  • What period of church history is particularly important for Anglicans in determining acceptable beliefs and practices?

The 19th century and the Oxford Movement, that I attempted to describe in answer #4.  This was a time of accepting some of the corrections of the reformers, without destroying the practices and piety of the Catholic Church, in the process, creating a reformed Anglican expression of the Catholic Church.

  • So far, what do you find interesting or appealing about the Anglican Dominicans?

“Anglican Dominicans recognize this trend (the pastoral office centered almost exclusively on sacramental functions) is still dangerously present in the Christian Church today and believe the foundational mission is vigorous Gospel proclamation.” (p.7)  This is very appealing.  With the decline of mainline denominations, we see so many gimmicks being employed to increase attendance and the Gospel is abandoned as “old fashioned.”  In addition, many preachers sound more like CNN/Fox News commentators than they do proclaimers of the Good News.  However, at the ordination of a priest, the bishop asks, “Will you endeavor so to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, that the reconciling love of Christ may be known and received.” (BCP p.532)  In this, Dominic demonstrated to us how to fulfill this vow: “Wherever the Master was, he always spoke either to God or about God.”