Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dominican Vocations: An American Perspective

Archbishop DiNoia OP

Vocations to the Dominican Order across the world remain quite steady, but there has been a significantly large increase in new vocations to one province of the Order in the United States, namely the Saint Joseph Province. That province recently held a provincial chapter to reflect on their life and mission but also to plan for the future. As part of their reflections on their new circumstances (namely, the upsurge in vocations to the province in recent years) they invited one of their brothers to shed some insight on the matter from a historical, ecclesial and cultural perspective. The reflection was given by Archbishop Augustine DiNoia OP of the Saint Joseph Province, who is also secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican. This is by far the best analysis of vocational interest in the Dominican Order that I have come across - and it is essential reading not just for those interested in the Dominican way of life, but essential reading for all Dominicans!

Here are some quotes from his excellent presentation:

From an ecclesial perspective:
"In the end, God is sending us these vocations because the Dominican charism is urgently needed in the Church today..........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."

From an historical perspective:
"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.......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."

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.

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."

The full text of Archbishop DiNoia's talk can be accessed here. To take a look at the Dominican Province of Saint Joseph USA, click here.
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