On the kind of man who might want to be
a Dominican in the U.S.A.
Rev. John Barnabas Davis OP
The man who considers entering the Dominican Order should be aware of how we came to exist in the Church, of the vision of truth as light and love that has guided our Order for over seven and a half centuries: he will be called upon to live with our past, its accomplishments and its struggles, while creating our future with us.
The Dominican Order is one of several religious families that arose during the medieval period in response to massive intellectual and political changes in the West. The charism given us by St. Dominic is still shared by both men and women, by friars [priests and brothers], cloistered nuns, active sisters, and lay people from all walks of life.
Part of the thirteenth century "mendicant movement," along with the Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians, the Friars Preachers conceive their calling to praise and to think, to preach and to teach, as valid and still needed in the Church. We see parallels between the medieval age and today’s needs. Then, as now, problems of prayer and spirituality, the impact of science on human conceptions of the world, the social problems of large urban areas, are our concern. The particular Dominican response to these needs is still rooted in common praying of the Divine Office [the official daily prayer of the Church] and academic involvement.
Our understanding of prayer views it mainly as praise of the Father through the Spirit for what Jesus has accomplished and continues to achieve on behalf of humankind. Our approach to both prayer and apostolate is thoughtful, i.e., we stress the import of the human capacity to understand the power of God over life and the causes of problems now afflicting the world.
This spirit can be described as optimistic and brisk. Our sense of the Church’s past leads us to believe that contemporary life is no more--surely no less--in crisis than life in previous ages. We believe that daily prayer in common united with carefully considered apostolic activity will prove of value in bringing the Kingdom. We do not underestimate the needs of our age. The friar movement was originally a response to a changing Christian consciousness of the world. Today the Church responds to new transformations in human awareness, and the Friars Preachers continue to integrate secular learning with Christian theology.
He has a need to help himself achieve a fuller experience of God as he lives in religious community. He believes he can do this while confronting the wonder and turmoil of contemporary life.
This means he has already achieved an identity as a Catholic and believes that this can be deepened precisely through vowed religious life.
He may see this process occurring as either priest or brother; he has decided which calling is his.
He has discovered his need for other people, by sharing with them and by ministering to them.
His need to share means he is open to the variety inherent in human nature; his need to give of himself is founded in his experience of meeting the needs of others. In short, he is aware of this power to receive because he is aware of his capacity to give of himself for others.
He has an intellectual curiosity about God, life and himself. He recognizes these are the priorities of human existence, that this search remains fundamental to cumulative human knowledge and yet can never be satisfied by relying on his study and apostolate alone.
He is aware of today’s problems because he is aware of the past. Thus, he perceives that study of historical traditions of human society and Catholic theology is a key to significant participation in life--when it is merged with prayer on a daily and shared basis.
He is not looking for another life because he is unhappy with his own private world. Rather, he now knows God’s love for him and wants this to be central in his life as he matures. He is aware that he too will pass from life, that shoulders put to any task will eventually be replaced by both new shoulders and new tasks. In sum, he is a man reaching a point in life where he has awareness of efforts made and results achieved, of ideas tried and found lacking. He is ready, in short, to try venturing the future with the Order of Preachers.