Some of our student friars pictured with our Dominican nuns from Drogheda at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin recently. (Pic courtesy of www.dominicannunsireland.blogspot.com).
One of the best reflections on those who join the Order has been offered by the former Master of the Order - fr Timothy Radcliffe. In a letter to the brothers in formation during his term of office he sets out clearly the healthy tension that can exist when men present themselves to the Order. It is in italics below and well worth a read.
Many who come to the Order today, especially in the West, have made a different pilgrimage, growing
up far from Christianity. Perhaps now you wish to celebrate and affirm the faith you have embraced
and come to love. You wish to be seen as Dominicans, for that too belongs to the preaching. It can be
just the same evangelical impulse which leads some brethren to put on the habit and others to take it
This tension is ultimately fruitful and necessary for the vitality of the Order. Accepting the young into
the Order challenges us. Just as the birth of a child changes the life of the whole family, so each
generation of young who come to us change the brotherhood. You come with your questions to which
we have not always got the answers, with your ideals, which may reveal our inadequacies, your
dreams which we may not share. You come with your friends and your families, your cultures and
your tribes. You come to disturb us, and that is why we need you. Often you come demanding what is
indeed central to our Dominican life, but which we may have forgotten or belittled: a more profound
and beautiful common prayer; a deeper fraternity in which we care more for each other, the courage
to leave behind our old commitments and take to the road again. Often the Order is renewed because
the young come to us and insist on trying to build the Dominican life that they have read about in
books! Go on insisting!
It is easy for us who came before you to say, with some irritation: “You are joining us; we are not
joining you.” This is indeed true, but only half so. For when we joined the Order, we gave ourselves
into the hands of the brethren who were still to come. We pledged obedience to those who were not
born. It is true that we do not have to reinvent the Order in each generation, but part of Dominic’s
genius was to found an Order that has adaptation and flexibility as part of its being. We need to be
renewed by those who have been caught by enthusiasm for Dominic’s vision. We must not recruit you
to fight our old battles. We have to resist the temptation to box you into the categories of our youth,
and label you as “conservatives” or “progressives”, just as you have to refrain from dismissing us as
relics of “the seventies”.