There are hundreds of religious congregations with presence in the United States. How, in my discernment, with all this choice available, through a series of decisions, over the course of all this time, have I come to believe that I belong to the legacy of St. Dominic that started in the 13th century, in a pub—to fight heresy in the Church, no less? Why the Dominican Sisters of Peace?
“I don’t think religion is relevant at all. Faith discloses that to which everything else is relevant.”
Timothy Radcliffe, OP*
I believe this because the first weekend I spent with the Dominican Sisters at the Akron Motherhouse, I felt something I did not expect to feel, though I had been promised I’d feel it some day by several vocation directors: my heart sang in my chest, and I knew I was home. Among the people I’d just met I hadn’t the need to put on a face or to watch myself. Myself was just fine, as if I’d known them for years. I didn’t have to relegate to private time the way I sing, the way I dance, the way I laugh, my occasionally bizarre sense of humor—they were doing all these things already. I didn’t really choose them the way I didn’t choose the Church: I’d always been one of them in spirit. I simply found them and came home.
“Only You, Lord. None but You.” Thomas Aquinas
I believe I belong with the Dominicans because the Dominican motto is Truth, and our great, never-ending journey is in pursuit of it. In this one word, the Dominican order expresses the ultimate priority of our human lives, their ultimate value, and their ultimate challenge. Truth is That Which Is—Reality. Right. Light. Truth is not lie. It is not wrong. It is not darkness. To pursue tirelessly the Truth is to seek an understanding of the nature of existence, the right thing to do, and oneness with God. Truth is God. Because Truth is as big as God, it is unfathomable, and its pursuit is never complete. Because Truth is unfathomable, its pursuit requires our minds and our hearts to be open always to more—more knowledge, new ways, other people, different kinds of beauty.
“True dialogue is a struggle to come to illumination. You are both drawn to a truth which is larger than either started with.” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
In the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures, “[t]there is a shared feeling for justice; respect for others; care for orphans, widows, the poor; and the pious person’s relationship with God. Dialogue must therefore go back to the deepest core of religious identity. The sticking points in the dialogue remain the historical events.” Emilio Platti, OP
I believe I belong with the Dominicans because in opening our eyes to the Truth of other people, we both have come to understand the indispensable, irreplaceable role of dialogue—interreligious, intercultural, interpersonal… Truth is manifest fully as the Kingdom of God, and it comes about only in Peace, when all of Creation—the body of Christ—comes together in Love, the Love that flows through all things. These are our words to the song of Love. Some of the words, one melody for the grand choir. The music of Love gathers unto itself the countless melodies of beauty from countless voices, in innumerable languages. Dialogue makes us a bigger choir. We say, “Sing us your song.” For decades, a major mission of the Order has been interreligious dialogue, especially with Islam. Dominicans have built a great library of Arabic religious scholarship in Cairo—because understanding is the first step to friendship, and friendship is the last step before peace.
“Contemplate and hand on the fruits of your contemplation.” Dominic de Guzman
“The joy of studying is discovering that you are wrong! It means being pushed beyond the limits of what you knew.” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
“What attracted me to the Dominicans was their presence in places where there is suffering, where Good Friday is lived. Wherever there is human drama, you’ll find Dominicans.” Godfrey Nzamujo, OP
“I see solidarity in extreme poverty, the sharing and thus the multiplying of bread, the thirst for justice, people who are scorned and persecuted, fighting for their human dignity as sons of God. … I tell you humbly that I believe in prayer, contemplation and Mass, but there, with [the landless peasants of Brazil], I feel very close to Jesus, who is the Poor Man, chiefly present among the poor. Now I understand the meaning of the words ‘God is Love.’”
Henri Burin de Roziers, OP
I believe that I am at heart a Dominican because from the root establishment of the Order, among the six most deeply held values, “study” comes third, after “truth” and “itinerancy,” followed by “prayer and contemplation,” “community,” and “ministry.” Truth is the guiding light of an itinerant, always on the path to it, unencumbered and open and searching for new knowledge, new insight, and new sights, through study and betterment, debate and thought, but never mechanistically, always in immersion of union and communion of contemplation, in unison with God and God’s Creation, with support of and in service to brothers and sisters walking beside, and shared in love with the wide world. Seven words, and I couldn’t say it better.
“A characteristic of our consumer culture is to think that everything is for sale. … Our ancestors knew that we can’t really own the land, you can’t own the seasons, the rain or fertility. But our culture is founded on … ‘the commodity fiction’ – that anything can be bought and sold. It ultimately means that we ourselves are for sale. … Putting people on the labour market where they must sell themselves seems to be a part of the cultural crisis of our times. If we see everything as for sale, how can we be aware of the God who is the giver of all good things?” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
I believe the Dominican Sisters of Peace are my family because after my first ever weekend with them was over and I came downstairs early in the morning, carrying my bag and ready for a long drive home, Sr. Pat and Sr. Cathy were there with a huge travel mug of coffee, sleepy faces and all. I didn’t expect them to be there. They walked me to my car and hugged me for the road. I spent some time settling in and finding my way, so only after several minutes did I drive by the entrance to the motherhouse on my way to the gates, and they were still standing there, wrapping themselves up against the chill of the dawn, waiting to wave good-bye to me.
“[T]eaching is what I do, whereas being a preacher is who I am.” Margaret Ormond, OP
“Teaching a moral vision doesn’t mean going around telling people what is allowed and what is forbidden. It is inviting people to discover the light of the Gospels, their fundamental hunger for the good.” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
I believe I belong to St. Dominic’s order because it’s the Order of Preachers. Because when the sisters and friars say “preach,” they don’t think of indoctrinating young minds or saving lost souls. “We preach with everything we are,” they say. “We witness with all of our gifts.” Preaching is carrying forth the good that is the Truth that they live. They don’t try to convert. They heal and they teach, they help and they talk, they listen and learn, they build brick by brick. They create. They pray. They dance, they sing, they shine forth the joy of being human, of being in love with this awesome universe, with this awesome God, of being loved back and knowing it, of being surrounded by sisters and brothers, of being useful to the suffering world. They shine forth their joy even when they cry in sorrow and fall down in exhaustion. They are the Order of Preachers because they simply can’t keep to themselves the treasure of goodness they have discovered. And I want to help.
“Fundamental to being a Dominican is that you are just a brother, nothing more or less. And the brothers will never let you imagine that you are anything else!” Timothy Radcliffe, OP
I believe I belong with them because I have been inspired so by Dominicans gone before, because I have loved in big or little ways every Dominican I have met, and every woman discerning her call to the Order I’ve liked. I feel easy with them, and I can imagine with gladness and hope the future where we are all sisters together. I can remember not knowing them, but I experience that memory as a lack, as an emptiness of a sort. When I think of a life without them, my heart shrinks a little. I am not good with names, but I remembered every name of every person in my first retreat in Akron and every name of every new person since. I remember them all. I want to be a Dominican because Helen does and Oliva. Because Ana and Kesha and Valerie and Darla and Jennifer and Christine do. Because Lilvia and Margaret might join them and others more. I want to be a Dominican because Pat and Cathy and Pat and Margie and Bea and Rosemary and Therese and Nadine and Margaret and Timothy and Henri and Nzamujo and Helen and Katarina already are. Because Dominic and Thomas and Catherine and Martin and Albertus and Eckhart and Yves and Antonio were. And others, thinking and searching and reaching, listening and singing, the noble hearts, the brightest minds, the beautiful creators, the gentle hands.
“Because the Order has been open to men and women from the beginning, the idea of a woman [as a Dean in a pontifical university] was kind of pushing against an open door.”
Helen Alford, OP
I believe I belong with the Dominicans because Dominic de Guzman did not found an order of men but of men and women, nearly 800 years ago. Brothers and sisters have been preaching the News of Goodness with every turn of the head, every breath, every step – sometimes, words. We have nothing to prove in the Order of Preachers, only much work to do.
“It seems to me that the role of the Church is not to invite people to believe… What we have to do is to discover belief in the God who will liberate us from slavery. Most false gods demand we bow and worship. But our God tells us to stand up and be free.”
Timothy Radcliffe, OP
(All quotations are drawn from Verboven, Lucette, ed. The Dominican Way. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group; 2011.)