"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

New Provincial & Vocation Websites (and a new Hymnarium)




+ the other provincial website has a lot of great info as well: DominicanFriars.org

We have a new Hymnarium for our Province. Please help us spread the news about these new projects.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Come & See" April 2014 Dominican Vocation Weekend

The next vocation weekend will be April 4-6, 2014 at the Dominican House of Studies in DC. Already it is half full. Plan ahead and contact the vocation director to reserve your space. In recent years our four annual vocation weekends at the Dominican House of Studies have each been full.  

Our first vocation weekend this year (September 27-29, 2013) was full two months before ...so plan ahead.
No matter where you ultimately go to serve the Lord, our vocation weekends are an excellent opportunity to learn more about religious life in general. These weekends are the fastest way to concretely learn a lot about the Order of Preachers (and our province) in a very short period of time.
Over 120 men pass through on our vocation weekends annually, not to mention many others who visit informally or other times during the year. If one of the four vocation weekends this academic year will not work for your schedule, it is possible to visit us another time (preferably during the week and during the academic year) either here in DC or at another house or priory of our province.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

"What is the Novitiate?"

Fr. Benedict Croell OP with 2013 novitiate class
Words plain and simple from Fr. James Sullivan OP, the Master of Novices for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.

"In the Province of St. Joseph, novitiate is the normal beginning to a man's formation as a Dominican friar. To think of it as a year-long retreat would not be wrong, nor would it be wrong to think of it as a year-long boot camp. Novices learn how to pray, study, and share their lives together. They also need to learn how to walk (especially in the habit), eat in public, and live without e-mail and the internet. By its very nature the novitiate is testing out the Order and the Order is testing out the novice. Each is asking of the other: 'Does all of this really fit together?'

Fr. James Sullivan OP
Novice Master, w/friars

The greatest way to conceive of the novitiate and therefore to come to know its ultimate purpose is to understand it in terms of holiness of life. The goal of the novitiate is to provide the novice everything needed for him to be converted more profoundly to Christ by living the Dominican life. If this doesn't happen in the novitiate, why would anyone want to stay in the Order? If this does happen in the novitiate, how could anyone ever leave?"

Office of Advancement, Province of St. Joseph

+next Vocation Weekend at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC

Thursday, September 12, 2013

An Army of Friars: New 2013 Vocation Poster

With 70 friars in formation for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph (Eastern) in our novitiate at St. Gertrude Priory in Cincinnati and in the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC, we felt the time has come to produce a vocation poster of the young ones!  So here it is.  Two hi-res PDF version 1 and PDF version 2 to print out (11 x 17 size paper) and help us spread the word.


Thanks to our Office of Advancement, this is the first time we have ever produced such a poster, which is being sent to our parishes and campus ministries.  Our vocation office also sent a smaller version of the poster to most of the campus ministries within the Province of St. Joseph with the help of our vocation committee at St. Gertrude parish.  If we missed your campus ministry, please do let us know!

Please remember to pray for this army of Dominicans in formation as they prepare to be Preachers of the Word for the "salvation of souls!"

For those of you who would like to help with our mission (mouths to feed and education), you can click here - thank you and continue to pray for vocations

Dominican Cooperator Brother

Dominican Cooperator Brother

Preaching the Gospel to the whole world

Do you have a desire to intensify your personal relationship with Jesus and to share this relationship in service to your brothers and sisters in Christ in the world today?
Are you interested in being poor, joyful, disciplined, learned, rooted in prayer and eager to live the life of a Dominican Cooperator Brother?
Are you interested in joining us in continuing the great tradition of the Dominican Order through contemplation and sharing the fruit of that contemplation in service to others?
Are you ready to take the risk of following the path and vision of St. Dominic in order to spread the Gospel message of true compassion and healing wherever people are in need?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, God may be calling you to become a Dominican Cooperator Brother!

Who Are We?

Dominican Cooperator Brothers in the Order of Friars Preachers are men consecrated to the Word who believe our vocation is rooted in our baptism and given full expression through our Solemn Profession. We are men who have freely, without condition or limitation, heard and responded to God's call to come preach with Him.
We believe that our lived expression of the Dominican vocation, through the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, is centered in, and radically dependent, on a common life devoted to prayer and liturgy, study and scholarship, preaching and other ministries, and especially by caring for one another in community.
We  are committed, courageous, free, happy and holy. We freely endure suffering and loss and willingly become vulnerable in our personal transformation in order to cooperate with God’s Word and then share this Word with our brothers in community and with the world.
We are inheritors of Dominic’s vision and the charism of our Order. We model the life and ministry of Saints like Martin dePorres and Juan Macias who cared for their brothers and the unwanted of their day.

Our Dominican vocation:  What does it mean to have a vocation as a Dominican Cooperator Brother?  The vocation of the Dominican Brother is at the very core of  Dominican Life. Modeled after St. Dominic, our life is:
  • centered in our universal call to holiness and our mission within that call to bring ourselves and others into an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • a mystery unfolding which provides a unique witness that all Dominican Friars, both ordained and non-ordained, are first and foremost consecrated religious bound together as "friars" (brothers) by our common religious profession.
  • through our vows, the means by which we become full inheritors of St. Dominic’s vision and unrestricted sharers in the charism of his Order. What is unique about the ministry of the Dominican Cooperator Brother? Our ministry is joined with that of our priest-brothers,
  • the dynamic expression of St. Dominic’s vision. It empowers us to enter into the lives of people and travel to places wherever the Holy Preaching is desperately needed.
  • exciting, challenging and life-giving because it is imbued and driven by the power of God’s Word. Our lifelong commitment through the vows and regular observance together with  our various ministries cooperate with this Word to transform our hearts and minds, as well as those of our brothers in community, and all those to whom they are sent.
  • preaching from many pulpits, Brothers respond not merely with words - but with the Word of God that lives in our hearts.  We are called by Divine Providence to be contemplative preachers in the Third Millennium and are, by profession, committed and obligated to the Holy Preaching, to one another and to the whole world.
The Formation Program for Cooperator Brothers:
The formation program for men who are called to Dominican life and ministry as Cooperator Brothers consists of several phases:

The Aspirancy

This provides the opportunity for interested men to discern their vocation while remaining at home and in their current employment or career activities. The length of this phase depends on the needs of the individual and the assessment by the Director of Vocations. During this phase, suitable aspirants are invited to formally apply for admission to the Province. CLICK HERE FOR ASPIRANCY GUIDELINES
The Novitiate
If the aspirant is accepted by the vocation council and provincial, a two week residential program immediately precedes the beginning of the Novitiate.The Novitiate is the formal beginning of Dominican life during which the novice comes to a better understanding of his vocation as a Dominican Cooperator Brother, the nature of Dominican life and ministry, liturgy and prayer, and the history of the Order.  The novice is clothed with the Dominican habit at the beginning of the Novitiate. At the conclusion of this one year period the novice petitions for permission to make Simple Profession of Vows, for a period up to three years.

Ministry Formation Program

This builds on the foundation began in the Novitiate and focuses on the continued preparation for community life and ministry. Student cooperator brothers will participate with student clerical brothers in a common formation program for Dominican life and mission under the direction of the Master of Students and his assistants that includes preaching, the common life, study, spiritual direction, living the evangelical counsels, liturgy and prayer, and pastoral competencies and behaviors of public ministers..
The specific formation program for ministries of cooperator brothers, i.e. preaching, community and professional (described below), is under the direction of the Master of Cooperator Brothers who is charged with the responsibility to assess the interests and competencies of the Brothers and to facilitate their preparation for ministry in collaboration with the Master of Students, the Prior Provincial and the Regent of Studies.
The Ministry Formation Program extends for five years following the completion of the Novitiate. Three years following First Profession of Vows, Brothers petition again to make Solemn Profession which binds them to the Order for life.
Ministries of Cooperators Brothers: Responding to the mission and needs of the Province of St. Joseph, the Church and the talents of the brother, three options for ministries may be pursued:
  • 1. Preaching Ministries: religious education programs, catechetical formation, campus and parochial ministries, retreats and workshops, lay evangelization, pastoral counseling; 
  • 2. Community Ministries: financial management and supervision, maintenance and services of buildings and properties, health care of the brothers, food service management, sacristans, musicians, liturgical planners, stewards of devotional shrines;
  • 3. Professional Ministries: social work, counseling, health care services, administration and management, teaching, pastoral administration, communications media and the internet, artistic design.

Please Come Preach with us 

For nearly eight hundred years, Dominican Cooperator Brothers, impelled with the power and grace of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity, have followed the vision of St. Dominic and “gone forth into the whole world to proclaim the good news to all creation” (Mk 16:25). As Dominican Cooperator Brothers we freely and generously bring to others the gifts of our presence and our lives vowed to the Order’s mission of evangelization through preaching. The greatest gift we as Dominican Cooperator Brothers are privileged to bring to the encounter with others is the very person of Jesus in the Eucharist made flesh in them. In your discernment please listen patiently, pray persistently, then come and preach with us!

+ click here for the next vocation weekend at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

St. Dominic and the Rosary

The Rosary

The rosary is a method of prayer which engages the whole person, body and soul. Words are recited, beads fingered, scenes imagined, affections awakened, doctrines pondered and virtues willed. Like the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the rosary is threefold, because of its joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.

The rosary is a devotion for the simple and the intellectual, the young and the old, the busy and the free, the lay and the religious. A blessed Rosary is a sacramental that can be carried around, held or kissed, even when not recited. It can be prayed in community or alone, as a whole or in part.


The Rosary includes the perfect prayer which our Lord taught to the Apostles, the Our Father. It also includes the Hail Mary, which draws from pivotal events recorded in Scripture. It praises God and helps His People in need. Certainly, the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are superior forms of prayer, but the Rosary is called “Our Lady’s Psalter” because, instead of 150 Psalms, it has 150 Hail Marys. The Rosary is the only method of prayer which is celebrated throughout the universal Church with a Liturgy, namely, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.


In ancient times, there was a custom of counting prayers with pebbles in a bowl. Eventually beads were strung together to count them. On the other hand, illiterate monks and nuns, instead of memorizing the Psalms, used to recite 150 Our Fathers, probably in groups of 50. In the 14th century, Christians used a “string of Paternosters.” Around 1400, Dominic of Prussia combined 50 Hail Marys with phrases referring to Jesus and Mary. It was called the “Rosarium” or Rose Garden. Alan de la Roche, O.P. (1428-79), who did much to spread the Life of Saint Dominic, may have confused him with this monk of the same name. Another monk, Henry Kalkar divided the Hail Marys into decades separated by Our Fathers. In the 16th century, the Doxology or Glory Be was added, as well as the second half of the Hail Mary. At this time also, in 1573, the Dominican pope, Saint Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1716, Clement XI made the feast universal. It is now celebrated every year on the 7th of October.
There have been other traditions that were assimilated or faded away. In some places, for example, the leader of the Rosary would declare a different mystery for each Hail Mary! Although the Church generally settled on fifteen mysteries, there has been a trend in recent years to emphasize other events in the Gospels. It almost seems like a defect to ignore the Flight to Egypt, the Baptism of Jesus, His temptations in the desert, His teaching and ministry, the Transfiguration, and the Last Supper to mention a few (though some of these can be seen in John Paul II's Luminous Mysteries). Still, the fifteen mysteries do not exclude meditation on these other events (and filled out with the Luminous Mysteries). They are not rigid partitions. Likewise, the division into joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries may appear to be somewhat artificial because one can find these three properties throughout the fifteen mysteries, nevertheless, the categories themselves foster profound insights into our relationship to God. There are today a few firmly established forms of recitation, with one dominating form, but the development of the Rosary, guided by heaven, continues. For instance, Our Lady of the Rosary, as She identified herself at Fatima in 1917, asked the young visionaries to include a new prayer after each decade, "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy Mercy."


There is a legend that our Lady appeared to Saint Dominic to give him the Rosary, to teach him how to pray it and to commission him to propagate the devotion. This story was circulated by Saint Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, the great Marian priest of the Dominican Third Order. The story is also mentioned in several papal encyclicals and in other authoritative sources, but it lacks historical evidence. It may indeed be true, but there is no documentation from the early 13th century to prove or disprove it. On the contrary, the meticulous depositions taken from eyewitnesses to investigate the life of Saint Dominic during his canonization process, although they mention many of his miracles and revelations, say nothing about the Rosary (although testimony during the process for canonization told of how St. Dominic told the brethren that Our Lady did appear to him). Historical records, in fact, tell us a different story about the origin of the Rosary, saying that it developed in stages.  With its emphasis on the Incarnation, certainly the Dominicans' preaching of the Rosary has played a significant role in rooting out heterodox influences on the Catholic Faith in our own day.  The Holy Rosary continues for Dominicans and for the whole Church to be a popular form of prayer. May our Lady of the Rosary pray for us and for the New Evangelization!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dominican Priest

Dominican Priest

Clerical Brothers Become Priests

Those who are vested in the Dominican habit, and have completed the year of novitiate, are then assigned to the Priory of the Immaculate Conception which is the Dominican House of Studies. Our formation as Dominican Friars has a single focus in that it is meant to prepare us to preach the Word of God. Formation for all friars in grounded in the four pillars of Dominican life: Prayer, Common life, Study and Preaching. In the Order our Dominican vocation is lived as a cooperator brother, or as a priest (here we won't discuss the Lay Dominican fraternities). Both cooperator brothers and clerical brothers begin preliminary studies to prepare for the next step in their formation and studies.
Related to this seminary training are the ministry installations. Clerical brothers are eventually instituted as lectors. The universal Church thus recognizes their right to read the Word of God at Mass. Some time later, clerical brothers are instituted to the order of acolyte. After the sacred rite, they become Eucharistic Ministers who distribute Holy Communion in any diocese.
Some time after their solemn profession, and taking into account the requirements of the Church, clerical brothers are ordained to the diaconate. This event is of special importance to the Order of Friars Preachers because it marks the beginning of their preaching ministry. While their training continues, deacons assist in local parishes. Administering the Sacrament of Baptism can be a wonderful experience, and deacons may even get the opportunity to witness a marriage. It is usually while they are deacons that clerical brothers receive simultaneously the Master of Divinity and the Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB), a pontifical degree.

Finally after careful scrutiny, clerical brothers are ordained to the priesthood. Although they are entitled to be called Reverend Father, Dominican priests are always brothers ("friars"). The newly ordained receive summer assignments, usually to allow other priests time to rest, but then they may return to the Dominican House of Studies for another year of school. Newly ordained Dominican priests may pursue the Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL), another pontifical degree which allows one to teach Theology in a seminary or Catholic university at the undergrad level.  After completing either the STB (and STL) the newly ordained friars normally are sent to a ministry of our province for their first assignment.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dominican Charism


What are the essentials of the Dominican life? How do the Friars live? They are men of study, bound to the liturgy, to vowed life, to monastic discipline, and mobile. The Dominican is dedicated to truth, for God is truth.

Next Vocation Weekend at the Dominican House of Studies

The Charism of the Order of Preachers

To understand the spirit of the Dominican Order, it’s helpful to look at the times in which Dominic lived. The beginning of the thirteenth century was a time of renewed vigor for Europe: commerce revived; towns rose up; shining cities like Paris and London and Bologna grew in size, power and influence. Parliamentary democracy was here and there coming into being. A new learning was at work, with the ideas of pagan Aristotle and his Arab commentators beginning to fascinate the mind of the West. But in the midst of this new life, it was also a time of ecclesiastical corruption, despite the efforts of reformers like Innocent III. The new middle class of the cities, skeptical, increasingly educated, materialistic, could not be helped by a clergy by and large pitifully untrained, nor by monastic foundations largely rural and, by definition, isolated from the currents of daily life. There was, in the words of Amos the Prophet, “a famine of the hearing of the Word of God,” and the vacuum was frequently filled by superstition, divisive heresy, and a love for this world. Various attempts were made to respond to the situation. Groups of diocesan priests living in community, the canons, engaged in parochial and theological work. In a number of places, lay preachers like the poor men of Lyons attempted to return to the simplicity of the early Church and to the Gospel-fervor of its early preachers. But most such lay groups quickly sank into doctrinal error, and had, in the end, to be suppressed.
It was in such a world that Dominic Guzman grew up, the son of a Spanish noble; the philosophy student who sold his books to buy food for the starving; and for ten years a canon of the Cathedral at Osma in Spain. Dominic and his bishop, Diego, passed through southern France on a journey about 1204, and the journey changed their lives. The church was devastated. Manichees, Cathari, Albigensians - the movement had various names - had propagated a doctrine that included a hatred for matter, for material sacraments. These were the products of an evil unspirited god. Perfect religion was to starve oneself into the release of death. In contrast to worldly Catholic clergy, the leaders to the Cathari were rigid ascetics who held the loyalty of followers of varying degrees of devotion, who were often licentious themselves.
Dominic and Diego were moved at the state of the Church, and struck by the failure of past attempts to bring back the lapsed - past attempts by ecclesiastical dignitaries weighed down with servants and pomp. Dominic saw the need for preachers who would be learned, disciplined, and poor. With the approval of the bishop of Toulouse, Folques (who had once been a troubadour), Dominic began to gather a group of men willing to take up mendicancy and the dangers of preaching in hostile territory. They would sing a love song, but not that of the troubadours. They would sing the love of Jesus crucified. They would be given over to liturgical life and prayer, like the monks. They would be given over to active ministry in community, like the canons. But they would move about according to the needs of the Church and they would preach, something heretofore largely reserved to Bishops. As he gathered his preachers, Dominic also established a convent of nuns (mostly converts from heresy), whose example and prayer would lend support to the campaign of the preachers.

Sowing to the World

The plan of life of the preachers gained universal approbation in December, 1216. The Friars, up to that time a promising experiment in southern France, were now given wider scope, directly under the patronage of the Holy See. And in 1217 Dominic took decisive action to ensure that the work of the Order would range as widely as the need for preachers did. After long prayer, he called his sixteen followers together and dispersed them, despite their objections. They were too inexperienced, needed a leader, the Order was just getting on its feet, with few resources and few friends. Dominic’s reply: “Seed that is hoarded rots. You shall no longer live together in this house.” He sent them of: four to Spain, seven to Paris, two to stay on in Toulouse, two to Prouille. He and one last brother shortly went off to Rome. The seed was being scattered for harvest. By 1221, the year of Dominic’s death, some 500 friars had spread as far as Hungary, Denmark, and England. By 1222 they had reached the mission fields of Cracow, Danzig, and Prague. Soon after, they were preaching the Word in Greece and Palestine. The story of the Preachers had begun.

The Charism

What were the essentials of the Dominican life? How would the Friars live? They would be men of study, bound to the liturgy, to vowed life, to monastic discipline, and mobile. The Dominican is dedicated to truth, for God is truth. It is sacred truth, saving truth, that primarily concerns us here. God has called us into the intimacy of his own Trinitarian life, so that as sons in the Son we can cry out Abba, Father. And we are meant one day to see the glory, the power, the love, beauty, wisdom of God face to face. While we are on pilgrimage, we share in God’s own self-knowledge through faith in Him, as He reveals Himself in the Word made flesh and the Word as preached. The truth convicts, the truth redeems, the truth saves. The Dominican is to live in that truth, to be converted and sanctified by it, and to preach it.
“Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of scoffers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who ponders his law day and night.”
“To ponder his law day and night” is to contemplate and share with others the fruit of contemplation; to lead others into Christ who is truth. This is the essence of Dominican study. Dominic himself sent his preachers to hear theological lectures in Toulouse. He insisted that every house make provision for all its preachers to be continually studying the Word. It is no accident that the two books which Dominic carried with him were the works of the two rabbinic New Testament writers, Paul and Matthew, men with a rabbi’s love for God’s Word, men with a practical eye for organizing and strengthing local Churches. Dominican study aims to give the preacher the attitude of Saint Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach.”
As the Constitutions set down: “Our study ought principally to look to this: that we may be useful to the souls of our neighbors.” And living in service to sacred truth means working to find ways of conveying it, that is, to put other truth such as philosophy, literature, archeology, economics and language, at the service of the Gospel, so that it may be understood and believed. As Dominic’s successor put it: “The rule of the Friars Preachers … to live virtuously, to learn, and to teach.” Dominicans are to be given over to the liturgical life of the Church, to be genuinely taken up in the mystery of Christ which they proclaim. They are to offer the prayer of the Church for the good of the Church, to join in Christ’s own prayer in the heavenly sanctuary not made by hands. They are to live the vowed life, to be conformed to the example of Christ who was poor and loved the poor. Nudus nudum sequi Christum, “Naked to follow the naked Christ.” They are to be conformed to the example of Christ whose human love focused on the Father and on the whole human family. They are to be conformed to the example of Christ whose food was to do, not his own will, but the will of the One who sent him. By vows, they are freed for life in God, for witness and ministry in the Church.
The Dominican lives under the discipline of monastic observance. The disciplined round of daily routine requires him again and again to submit to the common good and the will of God, and it provides the environment in which contemplation becomes possible. At the heart of the Dominican ideal of community is the description in Acts 2 of the common life of the apostles. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common, and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those were being saved.”
The Dominican is called to apostolic mobility, to traveling light, to being available where needed. Dominicans are to be like other preachers sent out long ago, two by two, to proclaim the coming of God’s Kingdom in power, and on the road, they are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every creature. As one early critic (by no means the last) of the Friars complained, “The world is their cell and the sea is their cloister.” Prayer, study, preaching, liturgy, monastic observance, community, mobility, vowed life: the essence of the Dominican life consists largely in an ordered integration of all these elements, thus forming the preacher who sits among his brothers and sisters at the Feet of Jesus, the Preacher and Word. Filled with the water of life, the water of mercy that flows from the Side of Christ, the Dominican is to turn and share that water as widely, as generously as he can.

Individuals Living the Charism

Yet this ideal has had an almost infinite variety of embodiments:
Bartolomo de las Casas
* Dominic, the apostolic contemplative;
* Hyacinth, missionary, preacher;
* Thomas Aquinas, a teacher always at the service
of the preaching mission of the Church;
* Catherine of Siena, a Dominican laywoman
whose love for truth took her out of a hermit’s life
to work for the reform and unity of the Church;
* Martin de Porres, who lived out Christ’s love
for the poor and the sick;
* Edward Fenwick, missionary bishop
in the American wilderness;
* Pere Lagrange, who devoted his life
to reviving Scripture studies in the Catholic Church;
* Bartolomo de las Casas, who worked to bring justice
for the enslaved Indians of Latin America.
The list goes on and on. It is a mixed lot, men and women, clergy and lay, some famous, some hidden and obscure, united around a love for truth, which comes from God and leads to God and must be the measure of all human activity as we journey into God. This is the ideal, an ideal fallen short of, sometimes almost snuffed out, but again and again rediscovered, embraced again by men and women who can be moved at the tears of Jesus for a Jerusalem that will not hear the truth, the tears of a Dominic as he begs in prayer “Lord, what will become of sinners?” Pray, friends, that we who bear the name of Dominic may bring his spirit to life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Waiting to Enter Religious Life? Feed the Fire!

One problem that some people have when considering a religious vocation is waiting. A lot of people don’t like to wait; some don’t even know how to wait. If they are told to wait, they give up and find something quicker and easier to do. Some religious communities may have the attitude of, “Don’t wait. Just come!” Well, not everybody who has a desire to enter a religious community is, frankly, ready to enter a religious community.

In fact, the Church and most religious communities have all sorts of conditions that would make sure that there’s a significant time for waiting. This waiting includes matters concerning: insufficient age or time after entrance into the Catholic Church; working off debt or dealing with other college or employment matters; psychological, social, or spiritual immaturity; or simply a long application process. The Rule of St. Benedict, one of the ancient rules of religious life, says, “Let easy admission not be given to one who newly comes to change his life” (chap. 58). Traditionally, then, a religious community should not be too eager to welcome someone into their company.

So, if you want to enter religious life, but have to wait, what do you do? The Psalmist says, “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). When we pray that, we can realize why we’re waiting. We wait for the Lord. How do we wait? The Lord wants us to wait with courage, to be stouthearted. It’s a matter of perseverance, to be strong and steadfast in the heart.

If you’ve been told that you can’t enter religious life for another year, for example, the worst thing to do is simply to ignore that holy desire and concentrate on something else. Waiting does not mean putting the expected out of your mind. It means, actually, to concentrate in your heart on the expected, the One expected.

One way of thinking about this is that you feed your holy desires. Let your holy desires to serve God and offer your life completely to Him grow more and more. Desires are like fires in the heart. If you have a sinful desire, you can ask for the grace to have it smothered or simply to die out because of the lack of stuff that would keep it going. If you have a holy desire, feed it. For those who are waiting to enter religious life, feed that holy desire with a single-minded purpose. Offer up each day with the expectation that you’re one day closer to the Lord in religious life. Ask for the graces to be purified of all that would hold you back from Him. Let your desire unify your life so that your thoughts, prayers, works, friendships, studies, relaxation, travel, and service are all feeding your holy desire. This desire longs for the One who alone can fulfill a heart on fire for love of Him.

Ask your Vocation Director what you should do, and not do, to feed your holy desire. If you’re waiting to enter the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, the Vocation Director has aspirancy guidelines to help enflame your soul in desire through a detailed list of such things as reading, prayer, and service. When the Lord comes on the day of your entrance, He will then find one stouthearted with courage, waiting for Him alone.
* see also criteria for admission
next vocation weekend at the Dominican House of Studies
Fr. Andrew Hofer OP is the Student Master for the Province of St. Joseph at theDominican House of Studies in Washington DC.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Your Parents Don’t Support Your Vocation

A religious vocation given to a son or daughter can be perceived as a great blessing to a family. It can also be perceived as a threat. If you think God is calling you to be a Dominican friar, and your parents are opposed, here are some things to keep in mind.

Have you listened to your parents’ reasons? Before you try to explain the mystery of a vocation to them, allow them to tell you what their concerns are. These reasons could range wildly. They may think that you don’t really listen to them or honor them. They may want you to have a “normal” life that would include marriage and their expected grandchildren. They may think that you have abandoned them and won’t see them. They may think that you need to have several years of experience after college before you can make a decision. They may think that a religious community is full of misfits, or that religion is a scam. They may think that you will be happier and be more productive in doing just about anything else than becoming a religious. 

Remind your parents of your unconditional love for them. Allow them to know that you will always be their son. Give them the honor and gratitude that they deserve. St. Thomas says, “It is not possible to make to one's parents an equal return of what one owes to them” (STh II-II, q. 80, a. 1; cf. STh II-II q. 101). In the virtue of piety, you are forever in your parents’ debt. Let them know that. Let them also know that your love and prayer for them can actually increase in religious life. 

Are objections to a religious vocation conflated with other natural concerns? At times, parents may be reluctant to have their son grow up. Maturation takes much longer in western society now than a century ago. This may be due to various reasons, such as an unhealthy dependency of the son on his parents, or the parents on their son. A young man seriously thinking about a Dominican vocation should not be living with his parents and be dependent on them. If you were to join the military and go overseas, would your parents also be concerned? Do they realize that even in entering a marriage “a man leaves his father and mother” (Gen 2:24)? 

Ask them if they trust and respect you and your decisions. You must demonstrate prudence in order to enter the novitiate. Also, let your parents know that there are several safeguards to prevent you from making a hasty decision about your entire life in a religious vocation. The Church and the Order have lots of safeguards, including considerable time, so as to see if your entrance into the novitiate is a genuine vocation from God. A man could not profess solemn vows, the commitment until death, until at least four years have lapsed after entering the novitiate. Entering the novitiate does not mean that everything has been settled. The Church and the Order do not allow that. 

Let them know that you place the Lord above all else. Perhaps you even learned that basic truth through their faith. It’s certainly tops in terms of the Decalogue and in the preaching of Jesus Christ. The Lord says, “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Matt 19:29). 

Let them experience something of your joy and excitement in a religious vocation. Show them that your answer to God’s call is precisely for the reason of happiness. You know that God wants you to be happy, perfectly happy. St. Thomas says, “To those indeed who take this sweet yoke upon themselves God promises the refreshment of divine enjoyment, and everlasting rest for their souls” (STh II-II, q. 189, a. 10, ad 3). Allow them to see how men, who could have had marriage, family, and normal jobs in the world, can thrive in a life that is a special gift from God, who has a plan much bigger and much more wonderful than ours. If you enter formation in the Province of St. Joseph, you will typically be able to go to your family at times of quies, or rest, usually twice a year after the novitiate. Your family will also be welcome at different times to visit you. Parents often feel bonded with the brothers in their son’s formation, and they come to realize that their son has many, many brothers. The brothers themselves look with affection on the parents of one of their own. In a sense, parents don’t lose a son so much as gain many, many sons!
Fr. Andrew Hofer OP is the Student Master for the Province of St. Joseph at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC.
next vocation weekend at the Dominican House of Studies

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Why is God blessing you with so many vocations?"

Frequently people ask, "Why do you think you have so many vocations?" 
Below is the text of a conference given by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia OP to the capitulars of the provincial chapter of the Province of St. Joseph (2010) on the feast of Bl. John Dominici at Providence College. It is the opinion of most of our friars that what follows is still the best explanation for our province. 
We are grateful to God for the gift of many men interested in the Order of Preachers and in the other religious orders who are seeing renewal. Please pray for our student friars in formation at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC and for the 2013 novices in formation at St. Gertrude Priory in Cincinnati.

Next Vocation Weekend in Washington DC

NEW VOCATIONS IN THE PROVINCE OF ST. JOSEPH: Ecclesial, Historical and Cultural Perspectives
Session I: Introduction

On Friday 5 October 2007, the International Theological Commission concluded its week-long meeting with an audience with the Holy Father, which is also attended by the superiors of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. After the Holy Father's discourse, there was the usual baciamano for all the participants. When it was my turn, the Holy Father was all smiles as usual and asked me how things were going. When I told him that our province had received 15 new novices (at that point, I didn't know that one had departed) and asked him to pray for them, his face lit up. He said that St. Dominic and St. Thomas would be very happy about this, and then promised to pray for them. Now I find that the next time I see Pope Benedict, I shall have to tell him that, this year, we will have 21 new novices-the largest class in nearly 50 years, if I have understood correctly.

Ever since I first heard the good news in 2007, and lately the news of the increasing numbers of inquirers, applicants and admissions, I have been wondering what it all means. It is surely an intriguing development-something nobody in the province was really expecting. It strikes me that we need to think a bit about the significance of this extraordinary grace. Why is God calling all these outstanding young men to the Order, to our province, at this moment?

Perhaps there isn't too much we can do but give thanks and humbly keep on doing what we've been doing. No tinkering, please, but maybe some thinking is in order, and this from three overlapping perspectives: ecclesial, historical and cultural. I confess that my reflections on all this are in an early stage, and I offer them as a provisional attempt to consider the significance of this abundance of vocations.

From an ecclesial perspective

I want to think about these new vocations first of all from the perspective of the wider Church, a perspective that working in the Holy See uniquely affords. This is a new vantage point for me, and I know you will want me to share my impressions after eight years in the Curia. I can tell you that the Dominican Order enjoys considerable esteem within the Holy See and among many of the bishops I have met. A sign of this is the ten friars working in the Holy See (if you include Cardinal Cottier, who is retired), two of whom are secretaries of congregations. There are two Dominicans on the International Theological Commission, and the newly appointed general secretary of the ITC is also a Dominican. Several friars serve as consultors to dicasteries of the Curia. There is the view that, apart from the qualities of the individual friars who may be asked to serve in these various capacities, the humanistic and cultural breadth as well as the philosophical and theological depth of the Dominican formation they have received can be relied upon to ensure orthodoxy, probity of life, good judgment, and wise counsel.

The Order is perceived as having a clear historic identity, to which the friars have adhered-certainly in our province and, if not everywhere, throughout the world generally-despite the turmoil of the post-conciliar period. Fundamental to the "Roman" perspective is a dual recognition: how much harm, on the one hand, has been done in religious institutes and societies of apostolic life where confidence in the unique gift represented by their historic charisms has been undermined, and, on the other, how much has been lost by accommodation of their forms of life to what they imagine will make them more acceptable to the ambient culture (itself, of course, in constant flux).

Another element that informs the Roman perspective is the phenomenon of the multiplication of new religious institutes and societies of apostolic life, as well as public associations of the faithful and new movements with branches for consecrated persons. This development clearly represents a kind of spring time of religious life, although the dazzling parade of inventively colored religious garb that passes daily before the eyes of jaded Roman residents like myself si fapensare [makes you think], as the Italians say. It is a cause of no little concern that some of these new entities are not always built on solid foundations nor, for that matter, by reliable or even virtuous founders. In a situation like this, the classical religious orders that have been faithful to their charisms and maintained the historic identity embodied in their traditions inevitably exercise an important role. A religious order like the Dominicans, and to tell the honest truth, a province like St. Joseph's- however undeservedly it may seem-stand out like beacons on the international scene.

The Holy Father himself, in two recent Wednesday catecheses, presented a remarkable synthesis of the central elements of the Dominican charism and its importance for the Church today (Benedict XVI 2010a and 2010b). In his catechesis on St. Dominic, the Pope Benedict notes that "Dominic wanted to give special importance to two values he deemed indispensable for the success of the evangelizing mission: community life in poverty and study" (Benedict XVI 2010b, 11). First, without vast estates to administer, the friars were more available for study and preaching. "The internal government of the Dominican convents and provinces was structured on the system of chapters which elected their own superiors, who were subsequently confirmed by the major superiors,"-a form of government that "stimulated fraternal life and the responsibility of all the members of the community, demanding strong personal convictions..., born precisely from the fact that as preachers of the truth of God, the Dominicans had to be consistent with what they proclaimed."

Secondly, and courageously, Dominic wanted his followers to acquire a sound theological training and did not hesitate to send them to the universities of the time." In the Year for Priests, the Pope commends the importance and spiritual value of study to all priests and seminarians: "Dominic, who wished to found a religious Order of theologian-preachers, reminds us that theology has a spiritual and pastoral dimension that enriches the soul and life....[T]he motto of the Friars Preachers-contemplata aliis tradere-helps us to discover a pastoral yearning in the contemplative study of this truth because of the need to communicate to others the fruits of one's own contemplation" (ibid.).

In his reflection on St. Dominic, Pope Benedict touched on several central elements of the historic identity of the Order-stating, in effect, how the Successor of Peter understands what the Dominican charism is all about. I believe that our province has been blessed to have been generally faithful to this historic identity. As I shall note in the next section, this was not always an easy thing to have achieved, and certainly there have been lapses. But, as I argued in my presentation at the dedication of the new library and academic center at DHS last April (Di Noia 2009), in the difficult decades of the second half of the twentieth century, a critical factor in the preservation of the historic identity of the Order in our province was that the friars in charge of formation and provincial leadership during and immediately after the years of Vatican Council II understood the council to be in essential continuity with the pre-conciliar Church. We therefore avoided the destructive experience of discontinuity and rupture that the Holy Father has identified and lamented in the post- conciliar Church. While I assume that this was true elsewhere as well, I cannot speak with any authority about other provinces of the Order. Speaking of St. Joseph's Province, despite the difficulties of the 1970s, the "hermeneutics of continuity and reform" prevailed broadly in the province through the 1980s and beyond. In hindsight, and especially through the lenses provided by Benedict XVI's now famous Christmas 2005 address to the Roman Curia, this may have been the single most critical factor in securing the relative stability and continuing vitality of the Order in the U.S. on the eve of the new millennium.

Naturally, there is no room here for self-congratulation. How it happened that our province traversed these perilous waters somewhat reduced but relatively unscathed I cannot say, but I am certain that we have had powerful intercessors-not least of whom Our Lady and St. Joseph themselves-during times that witnessed the erosion and collapse of communities far more numerous and far more prosperous than ourselves. However it is to be explained, the fact remains: the direction was set, and despite some missteps and internal disagreements-perhaps far less sharp in nature than they may have seemed at the time-on the fundamentals of our life, there was and continues to be a remarkable consensus (I say "remarkable" but, in comparison with other situations of which I am aware, it's really astonishing). Young people whom God is calling to the religious life recognize this instantly and they most certainly sense when this shared sense of identity is absent in a community. My impression is that they embrace the one sort of community and instinctively avoid the other. I have heard that across the U.S. the word on the street-i.e., on the Web!-is that if you are interested in a religious community with a liturgical life and an intellectual emphasis in its pastoral work, and particularly if you are interested in the Dominican Order, the province of St. Joseph is the place to go.

In the end, God is sending us these vocations because the Dominican charism is urgently needed in the Church today. I would stand behind every word of my "Dominican moment" presentation at the provincial assembly in 1999. Our tradition is constituted by a unique convergence of qualities: optimism about the rationality and fundamental goodness of the natural order; an abiding certitude that divine grace and mercy are sheer gifts, unmerited and otherwise unattainable; a healthy realism about the peril of the human condition apart from this grace and mercy; a determination to maintain a God's-eye-view of everything that exists and everything that happens; an appreciation of the inner intelligibility of everything that God has revealed about himself and us; a wholly admirable resistance to all purely moralistic accounts of the Catholic faith; an unfailing devotion to the Eucharist and the Passion, combined with an unshakable confidence in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary; a zealous willingness to preach and teach about all this, in season and out, because we are convinced that the world is dying to hear it and dying from not hearing it; and, internally, a commitment to liturgical prayer, to study for the sake of the salvation of souls, and to a capitular mode of governance in a common life consecrated to God by poverty, chastity and obedience. This is a powerful combination, and the Church really does need us to be true to it now more than ever.

In the present circumstances, it seems to me indisputable that the young men being drawn to the province by God discern here a living embodiment of the Dominican charism as they have come to know it in various ways, but chiefly by their study, experience, and observation. I do not mean to suggest that this recognition is the only element in their being drawn to the Order, but, according to the CARA study, "spirituality, prayer, community and lifestyle" are among the more important factors that attract new members to religious institutes (CARA 2009, 197).

From an historical perspective

The province has responded to these young people with a strong and clear formation in the traditions of the Order, and with the best theological, spiritual and pastoral education we can provide. There must be a confidence that, whatever our faults, the province possesses a tradition to transmit as well as the practical wisdom to impart it. We must be open to the challenge that they will almost certainly pose to us to be true to that tradition, but there must be no loss of confidence on our part.

The province itself is the product of a very particular history, and the evolution of the Dominican life within it is something precious and unique. If we are to help our new friars to understand this history, we need to have an adequate grasp of it ourselves. I am not an expert in this history, but it seems to me that certain points are of immense importance in understanding the character of the province at the beginning of its third century of existence and its ability to attract so many new vocations (cf. Coffey 1969; Vidmar 2005).

It is sometimes forgotten that the foundation and early years of the province coincided with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era that, in combination with other factors, turned out to be a catastrophic period in the history of the Order (see Burleigh 2006 for background). Allow me to quote Fr. Hinnebusch's sobering description of the period from 1789 to 1859 when "a series of calamities disrupted the order's government; destroyed or weakened its priories, monasteries, and provinces; crippled its foreign missions; scattered its members; and brought it close to extinction. No general chapter convened between 1777 and 1832."

Fr. Hinnebusch continues: "Between 1790 and 1819 the houses of France, Belgium and Germany were suppressed. In Italy only 105 of 750 houses survived. After 1808 the wars of independence destroyed most of the Latin American provinces. Suppression of the Portuguese and Spanish provinces followed in 1834 and 1837 respectively. Russia gradually smothered the Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish provinces under its dominion after 1842. But the provinces of Ireland, England, Holland, Dalmatia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, the Philippines, and the U.S. continued without interruption. Of these only the Philippine province was strong in membership" (Hinnebusch 1967, 980). It was only in 1850 that the Order experienced a gradual recovery, beginning with the reestablishment of the province of France by Fr. Lacordaire and the accession of his disciple, Fr. Vincent Jandel, to the posts of vicar general and master general of the Order.

It is extraordinarily important to have some grasp of the general state of the Order in the period of the founding and early years of the province of St. Joseph. The situation in the early 1800s was such that, apart from the formation and guidance of the English friars (themselves living in exile in Belgium), Fr. Edward Dominic Fenwick and his first companions were largely on their own. In the paragraphs that follow, I have drawn upon and adapted some passages from the final report of the parochial evaluation commission of the 1982 provincial chapter which I authored. My objective in reprising this historical analysis here is to put the current institutional profile of the province into perspective, in order to help us and the younger friars to value the distinctive qualities of Dominican life as it has evolved over the two hundred years of our existence.

Despite the difficult conditions of the Order in this period, our founding friars had a sufficient understanding of the historic identity of the Order to point them in the right direction once they got rolling. They recognized that from its earliest days, the Dominican Order sought to establish itself in significant urban centers, in priories with churches where its liturgy could be celebrated and where sufficiently large congregations could be assembled to hear its preachers. The historical record shows that, generally speaking, these priories were ample enough to sustain large communities of friars who could carry on the conventual life even when many of the brethren were absent on preaching assignments. It was understood that such communities were necessary to support the itinerant preaching ministry, both materially and spiritually (Tugwell 1979, 82-96; Hinnebusch 1966, 251 ff.).

Given the structure of ecclesiastical organization in most of Europe and throughout most of the Order's first five hundred years of history, the most desirable urban locations always entailed some responsibility for the cura animarum of the faithful dependent upon the churches granted to the friars. These were not parishes in the strict sense that would become characteristic of post-Tridentine times. Indeed, the Order in Europe was established in many of its most important and typical locations in a period when the development of parish structure was extremely fluid. The Order accepted the responsibility for the cura animarum associated with certain locations only as an adjunct to its primary interest, viz., the establishment of priories and churches that would serve its preaching ministry, its commitments to study, the liturgical life and religious observance, all regarded as crucial to the effectiveness of the praedicatio.

Without entering into a discussion of the adjustments necessary in the 16th and 17th centuries when the hierarchy sought to confirm the establishment of territorial parishes, we note the crucial fact here: during most of its history in Europe the Order could acquire desirable locations for its foundations without ever having had to accept substantial parochial commitments-in the modern sense-because the parish- centered ecclesiastical structure did not for the most part exist in Europe until well after the Council of Trent.

In the United States, the situation faced by the province in its formative period was just the reverse of what the Order had encountered in the European setting. Here, the Order could not for the most part have acquired locations favorable to its form of life apart from accepting responsibility for the territorial parishes surrounding the churches granted to it by the bishops. Church structures in the U.S. were being developed from scratch at a time when the effort to establish the Tridentine reform of parish life was at its height. It would be hard to exaggerate the significance of this situation when compared with the immeasurably more fluid situation of the high Middle Ages.

Once it had moved beyond the stage of serving the essentially missionary churches of Ohio and Kentucky, the Dominican Order in the U.S. sought to establish itself on the East Coast in the main American urban centers then overflowing with Catholic immigrants. The move to make such foundations gathered momentum beginning in the 1860s. No other kinds of foundations were really possible (except perhaps for schools) apart from foundations with a level of responsibility for the cura animarum generally without precedent in the Order's European (and at this point, main) branch.

The American Dominicans, if they wanted to be in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, would have to accept territorial parishes in order to maintain the Friars Preachers' longstanding tradition of great churches and ample priories. At least initially, the acceptance of parishes by the Order in the U.S., rather than representing a lapse from authentic Dominican ideals and traditions, was the means by which these could best be embodied in the developing American Church. The leadership of the province sought houses that would support the regular life, the demands of a local cura animarum or parochial ministry, as well as the itinerant preaching bands engaged in parish mission work at the time.

While individual parochial foundations may have turned out to be unsuitable for the Dominicans in the long run, the endeavor to establish the Order in large priories and churches in main Catholic population centers was consistent with Dominican practice from the beginning of the Order's history. The Dominican House of Studies, Providence College St. Stephen's Priory, and Aquinas High School were, for a long time, the most significant non-parochial foundations in the province. It seems to me that the general policy pursued by the leadership of the province in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was fundamentally sound, and not merely an unreflective response to unfavorable historical circumstances.

As the twentieth century wore on, most of these foundations came to be viewed primarily and sometimes exclusively as parishes. Rather than in the traditional understanding of priories as centers of a variety of Dominican ministries but charged with a local cura animarum as well, many of our priories came to be regarded as residences for the parish staff.

Perhaps it was this development that various Roman visitators observed and criticized when they described our houses as little more than presbyteries or rectories, lacking not only in the essentials of the conventual life but also in that outreach characteristic of the Order's conception of its preaching and intellectual ministries.

I wish that I could speak more expertly about the significance of these developments when they are considered in the light of current conditions in the Order. I hope that I will have inspired someone to take up the study of this topic. For we need to understand better how-after fifty years in which the province developed relatively independently of contact with the European provinces-it began slowly to absorb the general drift of the subsequent restoration and reform efforts of Lacordaire and Jandel, which, in their initial stages, had been a source of serious tension. By the late twentieth century, with the general chapters and general administrations of the post-conciliar period, the Jandelian reform movement seemed to have run its course, according to some observers. In this same period, ironically, the province of St. Joseph came to be known in some quarters as one of the more "traditional" provinces of the Order-largely because, in contrast with several influential European provinces, the hermeneutics of continuity prevailed in its reading and implementation of the Second Vatican Council. In the first decade of the twenty-first century-which brought a worldwide upswing in vocations to the priesthood and religious life-the province has emerged with a clear sense of its historic Dominican identity and a remarkable degree of institutional and apostolic energy that cannot fail to attract prospective members.

We might also note that the new vocations whom God is drawing to our province have already prompted us to think in new ways about our institutions and commitments. A program of organic development that takes the historical background as well as the particular features of the American ecclesiastical situation into account will help us to meet the hopes and expectations-including their desire for larger communities, vital common prayer, and communal ministry (CARA 2009, 198)-that are typical of contemporary vocations and, naturally, of young men drawn to the Dominican Order.

Session II: From a cultural perspective

There is something new afoot among the young men being who are today being drawn to the priesthood and religious life, and thus to the Dominican Order. I have noticed it over the past few years, but it seems more pronounced or at least more evident to me in the people born in the mid- to late 80s and early 90s. My sense is that these 20- and 30-somethings have been radicalized by their experience before entering the Order in a way that we were not. I am not certain how they would articulate their experience for themselves. It is as if they had gone to the edge of an abyss and pulled back from it. Whereas we tended to experience modernity (and then post-modernity) as a kind of adventure that never or rarely touched the core of our faith, these 20- to 30- somethings have experienced the moral relativism and eclectic religiosity of the ambient culture-and possibly of their own personal experience- and recognized it as a chaotic but radical alternative to Christianity with which no compromise is possible.

It may be hard for us to comprehend, but these young people do not share the cultural optimism that many of us learned to take for granted in the post-conciliar period, even if with deepening unease and disillusionment as the years of the late twentieth century wore on.

The Second Vatican Council, even for those untroubled by the hermeneutics of discontinuity, was nonetheless seen as an affirmation of modern culture. There was the perception that the Church had previously adopted an overly negative view of the culture, creating a Catholic culture that was insulated from the wider culture (cf. Gleason 1987). But now the Church seemed to be promoting an embrace of that culture and an affirmation of its humanistic values and its social advocacy. In hindsight, we see the terrible irony of this move, as it coincided precisely with increasingly radical departures from the Christian worldview throughout western culture, as the sexual revolution gathered momentum, as abortion came to be legalized in more and more societies, and as a media-driven materialistic consumerism spread widely in the West and elsewhere (see Rowland 2003). With these and other developments, the already fragile social, cultural and, in some countries, political legitimation and reinforcement of Christian values in the wider society began to unravel. The Church now finds herself at odds with many powerful trends in western culture. What is more, "In the powerful yet soft secularising totalitarianism of distinctively modern culture, our greatest enemy is...the Church's ‘own internal secularisation' which, when it occurs, does so through the ‘...largely unconscious' adoption of the ‘ideas and practices' of seemingly ‘benign adversaries'" (Nichols 2008, 141). There are many signs of this invasion of modern cultural assumptions.

The disenchantment of the liturgy is one of the most striking instances of this development (see Robinson 2005), and one to which young people are particularly sensitive (as witnessed by their enthusiasm for the 1962 Missal). But there are many other signs of internal secularization: the erosion of belief in the uniqueness of Christ as savior, and of the Church as the indispensable means of salvation; the widespread embrace of contraception by Catholic couples; sexual immorality on the part of priests and religious; the displacement of the missionary impulse by social advocacy; the collapse of recognizable religious life among many communities of religious women in the U.S.; and so on. In the broadly influential strategy of the hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture, many of these developments were promoted as if they had been warranted by the Second Vatican Council itself.

No one understood these developments more clearly than Pope John Paul II, as we saw in his brilliant de-construction of the underlying premises of what he called the culture of death (notably in Evangelium Vitae) and in his endeavor to reclaim the legacy of the council (notably by means of the 1985 Synod of Bishops). Over their more than twenty years of close collaboration, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger shared with Pope John Paul deep misgivings about post-conciliar cultural optimism as well as a sober assessment of the cultural drift of the final half of the twentieth century, and, now as Pope Benedict XVI, he has taken up and reasserted these very themes. Perhaps because both popes strove to appeal directly to young people, 20- and 30-somethings-often in sharp contrast to their elders-exhibit an almost uncanny attunement to the message of these two pontificates.

In trying to understand all this, I have been influenced by Charles Taylor's analysis of what he calls the culture of authenticity according to which "each of us has an original way of being human" (Taylor 1992, 28). Though it seems to be a form of moral relativism, this expressive individualism actually functions as a kind of moral ideal for many people: "[T]he soft relativism that seems to accompany the ethic of authenticity [asserts]: let each person do their own thing....One shouldn't criticise the others' values, because they have a right to live their own life as you do. The sin which is not tolerated is intolerance" (Taylor 2007, 484). In this perspective, not only is it immoral to be intolerant of the values of others. It is immoral to allow any extrinsic measure to displace the "authority" of one's authentic self. Fundamental to this "moral ideal" is the understanding "that each of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live out one's own, as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious and political authority" (Taylor 2007, 475). If each individual is morally obliged to discover and actuate his or her unique form of humanity and reject any external measure or criterion as an immoral intrusion on the personal quest for authenticity, then the fundamental moral stance must be not to interfere with or curtail any person in this quest.

Taylor wants to show the impact of this matrix of ideas on public life, but there are obvious difficulties here for any religious tradition that understands itself to be in possession of a measure of human authenticity to which one must conform oneself in order to be truly human. A strong religious view of the nature of human authenticity and the means to attain it would run directly counter to the culture of authenticity.

The young men who are being drawn to the Dominican Order today-from God-knows-what kinds of personal and social experiences-know that the post-modern culture of authenticity leads to moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it. They see-probably by a pure grace of the Holy Spirit, for their family backgrounds and catechetical training surely cannot explain it!-that human authenticity is possible only by living in conformity to Christ, and, in this particular case, to Christ as the Dominicans know and preach him.

It is not only the practical moral relativism of our time that the 20- to 30-somethings reject. They are also acutely sensitive to the eclectic religiosity, with its doctrinal and theological relativism, that they perceive as a dominant feature of popular culture. It represents, in the eyes of some observers, the triumph of Protestant liberalism, whose core values of "individualism, pluralism, emancipation, tolerance, free critical inquiry, and the authority of human experience" have come to permeate American culture (Smith and Snell 2009, 288). The young men who are drawn to the Dominican Order reject the liberal faith which many of their peers have come accept in some form and which was "described by Yale theologian H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 as being about ‘a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross'" (ibid.). Many of the young men who are drawn to the Order today have a far more direct and intimate acquaintance than most of us with the moral relativism and eclectic religiosity that permeate popular culture. As I stated earlier, for them, with this culture no compromise is possible.

These young men are attracted by the clarity-if not always by the sophistication and subtlety-of the Dominican theological tradition, and by the Order's recognition of the harmfulness of doctrinal error and its apostolic commitment to doctrinal preaching and theological education. They are repelled as much by the theological muddles that obscure the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith as they are by the moral relativism that thwarts many of their peers "from ever being able to decide what they must believe is really true, right and good" (ibid., 291).

But it is not just the clarity of the Dominican way of thinking, reasoning, teaching and preaching that attracts them. It is something much deeper: not just clarity, but the love that drives it. In the end, it seems to me that these young people are drawn to what Benedict XVI has called "the intellectual charity" and "pastoral yearning" that inspire Dominican apostolic zeal- "a ‘charity of and in the truth'...that must be exercised to enlighten minds and to combine faith with culture...", the desire "to make ourselves present in the places where knowledge is tempered so as to focus the light of the Gospel, with respect and conviction, on the fundamental questions that concern Man, his dignity and his eternal destiny" (Benedict XVI 2010a, 11).


So, why is God calling all these outstanding young men to the Order, to our province, at this moment? In place of an answer, I have offered some perspectives within which to consider the question. God is drawing these unprecedented numbers of young men to us at this moment for reasons known only to him, even as we strive to be attuned to the signs and hints towards which this bounteous grace moves us.

To be honest with you, I am not certain that we-who did not so much leave modern culture behind when we entered religious life as discover and embrace it-are entirely ready for the kind of radical rejection of the ambient culture, on the one hand, and, on the other, a radical commitment to the Dominican-Catholic alternative way of life that we recognize in the young men being drawn to the Order.

Viewed in this perspective, these new vocations pose a great challenge to us and to our province: Will these young men find with us the fervent Dominican life that they are seeking, or will they find just a modified version of the popular culture that they have left behind? Will they find the apostolic zeal, the warm intellectual charity, the strong communal and liturgical life, the fidelity to the Church, and the radical commitment to Christ that they associate with the historic identity of the Dominican Order?

This is a moment of joy, surely, but it is also a moment of uncertainty. It may be that the vision of a crowded novitiate and studium prompts some concern and even anxiety: What will this cost us, and not just in economic terms, but personally and communally? How can we-I-relate to these young men whose way of thinking seems so different? Are these young friars going to try to change the province? Is God really doing this?

I have tried to address some of these concerns today. We need to acknowledge them-and the fear of the unknown, so to speak, that underlies them-even as we welcome the grace and faith to trust in the goodness and providence of God. But we must be confident that we will surely receive the grace to do great things for God who is already doing great things for us.

For this is the critical point. Certainly, we weren't prepared for the astonishing grace of the novitiate and studium both bursting at the seams-even simply in logistical terms-but then, with our great devotion to the mystery of the Annunciation, who should know better than we that no one can ever be prepared for the arrival of a pure grace? And, for sure, that grace will bring with it whatever we need to rise to the occasion it affords and the challenges it poses. For this reason, the provincial chapter of 2010 should be full of hope for the future. Despite the particular problems that you will be facing in this chapter-decisions about provincial commitments, unease about the financial condition of the province, concern about the rising cost of health care, and so on-the divine "vote of confidence," so to speak, has already been cast. If God is for us, who can be against us?

We need the new way of thinking and the spirit of courage that, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, come from the Holy Spirit. Allow me to conclude with words from his commentary on the passage of St. John's Gospel read at Holy Mass this morning: "You can see, then, that the Spirit re-creates...in a new pattern those among whom he is seen to dwell. He readily replaces their desire to think earthly thoughts with the desire to fix their gaze only on the things of heaven; he changes their unmanly cowardice into the spirit of courage. We can certainly see that the disciples experienced this: the Spirit became their armor, so that they did not yield to the attacks of their persecutors but held fast to the love of Christ." (LH, Office of Readings, Thursday, week 7 of Eastertide).


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