As a Dominican I am supposed to have a “Contemplative” life. But, what does that mean? I’m not a Monk. My job in the Church is not to simply pray with and for the Church. St. Jerome said that the job of the monk is to weep for his sins and the sins of the world. Yes, St. Dominic wept. But, instead of radically abandoning the world like a monk does, St. Dominic radically entered the world. He didn’t turn away, he turned toward.
Of course there is an immediate problem with this. The temptation is to abandon one’s self to the work of the apostolate. You must “get a job” or “do” ministry. If you don’t focus your life on these “works” then it is obvious that you must not have a “love of the people.” You should find another Order. But, this “works righteousness” approach to Religious life, to Dominican life, is absurd. It is rooted in the very Pelagianism that we were founded to combat.
We must be prepared to engage the world. We cannot afford to plunge into the depths of the world armed simply with our habit, our talents, and hard work. We need the grace of God before all else. If we are not intentionally seeking the face of God in our common life (both privately and communally) then we will be a broken tool in the hand of the Lord. Yes, we may drive a few nails; but, eventually our rusty head will snap from its shaft and we will be fit only for the trash heap.
It is a mistake to set aside time for contemplation. We are called to live a life permeated by contemplation. This is not something opposed to the active apostolate. Rather, it precedes it and gives it depth. Without it we will always be lacking in our apostolic ministry. This, contemplative life begins with our common regular observances. It is from these observances that we come to understand the Lord as a community as Dominicans. From there we seek the prayer of study and meditation. We then go out into the world to pass on the fruits of this private and communal contemplation. But, even this going out into the world must have a contemplative character to it. We don’t leave the life of contemplation back in the cloister! Contemplation is not something or the choir stall for the cell. It’s having our entire being focused on the Lord. It is one thing to say this and give it lip-service. Many professed Religious do. It is another think to live it.
We Dominican’s must recapture this life of contemplation. We are not social workers, we are not Diocesan priests who wear white, nor are we monks. We are Dominicans. We are scholars who sing. We are monks in the city. We are preachers. We must live out the life as defined in our Constitutions. We must love and appropriate our entire 800 year tradition continually seeking reform and renewal. We must be zealous for the Lord and equally zealous for the salvation of souls. We must reside in the heart of our Holy Mother the Church. We must constantly seek the face of God. We must not give in to the workaholic tendencies of the modern western world. We must not seek to be relevant. We must not seek to be popular. We must not seek any worldly laurels. We must not appropriate the relativism and subjectivism of our age. Rather, we must chase after Christ and him crucified without fail. In the radical following of Christ, there can be no compromise.
But, as with all things, reform and renewal always begins at home. It is not enough to live the Dominican life faithfully. It must be lived zealously. We must rise up like Matthias Maccabaeus, confident in the truth, reliant on the Lord, and courageous in our actions. Anything less is unworthy of those blessed brothers who preceded us. We have a family name to uphold. We must, once again, take up the banner of Christ, armed with contemplation, study, and penance. We must make war against those powers that seek to drive us into our cloister walls. We must help all of Christ’s faithful avoid mediocrity. This is our time! Now, is the time for the rebirth of the Order.
The New Evangelization beckons!