The battle for the cura animarum (care of souls) is joined.
–by His Excellency, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.. Secretary in the Vatican Curia of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Titular Archbishop of Oregon City http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Augustine_Di_Noia, to the Capitulars of the Provincial Chapter, Province of St Joseph, Order of Preachers, on the feast of Bl. John Dominic, O.P., commenting on the abundance of vocations to the priesthood in the Province of St Joseph, 10 June 2010, Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.
“…the post-modern culture of [relativism] 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? [Romans 8:31]
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).”
Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee.
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints.
Forever and ever. Amen.
O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is celebrated,
the souls is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
-St Thomas Aquinas, O.P.