Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why Join the Dominicans?

Some of our student friars pictured with our Dominican nuns from Drogheda at the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin recently. (Pic courtesy of

As I come to the end of my third term in office as vocations director for the Irish Dominican friars, I have been reflecting - as one might at a time like this - what has kept me going during that period and why men and women continue to join the Dominicans? So many things have encouraged me to be honest - most notably the encouragement of my Dominican brethren. Without them, I would not have been able to succeed or remain motivated. In those years, the men who have knocked on our door wanting to know more about the Dominicans have given me the greatest joy. Many knock and never enter, but they brought enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and a desire to know where God was calling them to. Then, with God's help, many have joined the Order during that period - a tremendous blessing to the Irish Dominicans. This has kept me going! People join the Order for a variety of reasons - but ultimately they do so to serve God in the way of Dominic because they have been captivated by the variety of ways in which the Dominican vocation is lived out.

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”.

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