DOMINICAN PROVINCE OF ST DOMINIC

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cornerDominican Freedom and Responsibility. Towards a Spirituality of Government (2)

Rome,10 May 1997, Feast of St Antoninus OP

fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.

3. The Word was made flesh The levels of Dominican government

 

3. 1 Grasping responsibility

The Word which we proclaim is not an abstract word, for it became flesh and blood. What we preach is not a theory of salvation but the grace that was embodied in the life, death and resurrection of a man some two thousand years ago. So too for us, it is not enough that we have a fine theory of responsibility. We have to live it. We have wonderful democratic structures, which offer us freedom, but it is a freedom that we must grasp.

I have become convinced during my visitations of the Provinces that one of the greatest issues that we face is to respond effectively and responsibly to the challenges of today. Sometimes we suffer from what I have often called “the mystery of disappearing responsibility”. How is it that we, for whom responsibility is central, so often let it slip through our fingers? Our Chapters, General and Provincial, are usually moments of truth, when we look honestly at what is to be done and how we are to do it. Great decisions are made. Wonderful texts are written. But sometimes, having seen and analysed all so clearly, we are like a man “who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1.23).

One reason why we escape responsibility is that although we are called to freedom, freedom is frightening and responsibility is burdensome and so it is tempting to escape. We have many levels of responsibility in the Order, and often it is attractive to imagine it is at some other level that it must be exercised. “Something must be done”, and yet it is usually by someone else, the superior or the Chapter or even the Master of the Order! “The Province must act”, but what is the Province if not ourselves? If we are to be truly the heirs of Dominic’s freedom, then we must identify the responsibility that is properly ours and grasp it. We must articulate the relationship between the different levels of government in the Order.

The Constitutions say that our government “is noted for an organic and balanced participation of all its members”, and that the universal authority of its head is shared “proportionately and with corresponding autonomy by the provinces and convents”. (LCO 1 VII). If our government is indeed to be “organic and balanced” and recognise the proper autonomy of each brother, convent and province, then we must clarify the relationship between the different levels of government in the Order. I dislike the word “levels” but I have been unable to think of a better word.

The relationship between the different levels of responsibility in the Order is articulated by at least three fundamental principles.

a) Itinerancy

No brother is, or should be, superior for too long. There is a limit to the number of terms that a brother can serve as Prior or Provincial without postulation. We do not have abbots for life. There should be no caste of superiors, for government is the shared responsibility of all the brothers. If we are elected to be a superior, then it is a service that we must offer. But there is no career, no promotion, in the Order of Friars Preachers.

b) We must strengthen each other

There can be no competition for power of responsibility, either to grab it or to flee from it. We must strengthen each other. One of the primary responsibilities of a Prior is to strengthen his brethren, to have confidence in their ability to do more than they ever imagined, and to support them when they take a brave stand on any issue. When Montesinos preached his famous sermon on the rights of the Indians, it was his prior, Pedro de Córdoba, who stood by him, saying that it was the whole community which had preached that sermon. Each brother is a gift to the community and it is an obligation of the Superior to welcome and value the talents of the brethren whom God has given us.

But this relationship is reciprocal. Every brother, in turn, has an especial responsibility for the brother whom we have elected. One of the ways in which we affirm the value of a brother is in electing him to be a superior. Having placed a burden on his shoulders, we have a duty to support him, care for him, and encourage him. If he fails, then he needs our forgiveness. If we have a superior who is inefficient, or who lacks vision, then it is because we have chosen that brother. Let us not blame him for faults which we knew when the community chose him. Rather than burden him with his failure, we must help him to do all of which he is capable.

What the Lord said to Peter he says to us all: “Strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22.32). If our system of government, with all its complexity, works for mutual disempowerment, then we are all paralysed and we have lost the freedom of Dominic. But if it works for the strengthening of all, then we can do great things.

c) The discernment of the common good

The discernment and pursuit of the common good is the principal task of government, and it is here that relationships between different levels of government may become most tense and painful (cf 1.2). A brother may find himself assigned to a community in which he does not wish to live or to a task for which he feels himself unfit. Or a Province may find itself asked to release a brother whom it can ill afford to lose for some mission of the Order. This may be hard, and yet it is the clearest expression of our unity in a common mission, and often the wider common good must receive priority over the more local if the Order is not to fragment into a loose association of individuals.

It can be painful to ask, for both. Rather than face that pain, it may be tempting for a superior to ask for volunteers, or to declare that nothing can be done. Yet this would be a flight from the responsibility for which one has been elected, and would lead to paralysis.

At times we must dare to govern, precisely because we value the freedom which is at the heart of Dominican life. We cherish that freedom of the brethren to gather in Chapter and take decisions about our common mission and life which can be realised and not remain mere declarations on paper. We also cherish the freedom with which a brother has given his life to the Order, and to its common mission. Not to dare to ask a brother to give himself to some mission would be to fail to respect that free self-gift which he made at profession. I admit that often I have hesitated to ask of a brother what I suspect he does not wish to give. Who am I to ask this of my brother? Yet I am not asking for submission to my will, but acceptance of that common good which the brethren have defined together. Sometimes one may even have to insist “under obedience”. Yet, if it comes to this, it would be a mistake to think that this is the best image of what obedience is all about, since for us it is above all grounded in mutual attentiveness, in which we both seek together to understand what is right and best.

I will now share with you a few brief observations about some of the challenges that we face in grasping responsibility at the different levels of government in the Order. This is by no means a complete picture. That would need a book.

3.2 Conventual government

Fundamental to the life of the Order is that we share responsibility in the communities in which we live. We do not elect a brother as superior of the community, to relieve us of responsibility for our common life and mission, but to help us to share it. In some Provinces it is hard to find brothers who are willing to accept election as Prior. One reason may be that we expect him to bear all responsibility alone. The Prior, having been a majestic figure, has sometimes become the domestic manager, the one who must be perpetually solving the problems of the community. If my light bulb does not work or the central heating does not function, then it is the Prior who must solve the problem. It was only when I became Prior of Oxford that I was confronted with the question of how the milk gets from the cow to the jug, so that I may have milk with my coffee! The Prior is indeed called to “serve with charity” (LCO 299) but this does not mean that we can pile all responsibility upon his shoulders, leaving him alone and helpless. The right that we have to elect a superior implies the duty to support him in building our common life and mission.

Superiors also need support from the Provincial and his Council. Many Provinces hold annual meetings of superiors at which they can discuss the challenges that they face and offer each other support and encouragement. The Province of St Albert the Great in the United States even produced an excellent booklet, to help new superiors understand their role, and how to survive it.

As the servant of the common good, one of the Prior’s principal tasks is to preside over the Chapter and to help the brethren seek consensus. Above all he has to ensure that all the brethren have a voice, especially those who are most timid or who hold minority views. He is there to protect the weak against the strong. “There are fragile brothers who may suffer much from being crushed, perhaps involuntarily, by the brethren with strong personalities. The role of the Prior is to protect them, on the one hand by valuing their gifts, and on the other by making the strong aware of their duty not to overwhelm the others.” St Catherine wrote to the rulers of Bologna, that they often let the strong get away with anything, yet with the weak, “who seem insignificant and whom they do not fear, they display tremendous enthusiasm for ‘justice’ and, showing neither mercy nor compassion, they exact hard punishments for small faults.” Even a superior in a Dominican community may be tempted to show more zeal in pointing out the failures of the weak than the strong.

The superior must take time with every brother. It is not enough to preside at the community meeting. He must be attentive to every brother, and regularly meet him alone, so that the brother may share his hopes and fears with freedom, certain of an open ear. Above all a superior must have care for the dignity of every brother. If there is one piece of advice that I would give it is this: Never ever let any brother be humiliated.

One of the most important tasks of the superior is to help the community define its “community project”. The centrality of this to our common life and mission has been underlined by the last three General Chapters of the Order, but in some Provinces it is neglected. Sometimes this is because it has been misunderstood to mean that every community must identify a single task to which all the brethren must be committed, such as a school or a parish. The first step is for each brother to tell the community about his life and ministries, to share the joys and disappointments that he faces. But it must lead us further, to a deep collaboration in each other’s tasks, and the emergence of a common mission. It is a moment for a community to assess together the apostolic presence of the Order in a region, and how far it conforms to the priorities of the Order. I strongly support the recommendation of the General Chapter of Caleruega (44), that every community hold an annual day, to assess the ministries of the brethren, and to plan for the year ahead.

Democracy does not mean that the Prior must bring everything to the Chapter. We elect brethren to hold particular responsibilities so that we may be free for the mission. Having elected a brother to govern, we must leave him free to do so. The Constitutions lay down when the Prior must consult the community, or when the Chapter or Council has the power of decision. But the superior should not use this as an excuse to deny the Community responsibility for anything that it is of importance for the brethren. “What touches all must be approved by all”. The fundamental principle was laid down by Humbert of Romans in the thirteenth century, which is that the Prior ought to consult the community in all matters of importance, but not bother to do so if the question is insignificant, and that in intermediate matters prudence would demand that he consult some of his councillors.

Democratic rule of the Chapter is so central to our life that sometimes we may be tempted to assume that the Prior is merely the chair of the Chapter, that his sole role is to guide the debate so that the brethren may arrive, if possible, at a consensus. But the Constitutions (LCO 299, 300) also make clear that the Prior has a role as the guardian of the religious and apostolic life of the community. For example he is to preach to the brethren regularly. This does not in any way undermine the democratic principle. It demonstrates that the local community is a part of the Province, just as the Province is part of the Order, and so the local community cannot make decisions which contradict what the brethren at a Provincial or General Chapter have ruled. It is precisely in the name of our wider democracy that a local Prior might find that he cannot accept the will of the majority. If the brethren were to vote that a sauna bath be installed in every cell, he would have to refuse his consent!

3.3. Provincial government

At the General Chapter of Mexico, the Province is described as being the normal centre of animation of the Order’s apostolic dynamism (N° 208). It is at the Provincial level that much of the practical planning for the mission of the Order must take place. Having now visitated some thirty-five entities of the Order, I will have to struggle to limit what I write. Be grateful that I did not wait another year before writing this letter! I regret that there has not been space to write about the relationships of the Vicariates to the Provinces.

a. Creating new projects

Each Province needs to establish projects and institutions, which give body and form to our common mission. Most of us are drawn to the Order because we wish to be preachers. But what form does that preaching take? What projects give flesh and blood to our Dominican charism today?

We may succumb to the profound suspicion of institutions which is part of contemporary culture, and yet the foundation of the Order was an act of supreme institutional creativity. Dominic and his brothers responded to the need to preach the gospel with extraordinary imagination, the invention of a new institution, our Order. We need such creativity. Institutions need not be complex or expensive: a radio station or an Internet home page, a University or a musical band, a priory or an art gallery, a book shop or a team of itinerant preachers. All these are “institutions” which can sustain new ways of preaching. The incarnation of the Word of God at new frontiers demands new conceptions.

When we gather in Chapters to plan the missions of our Provinces, then we must always ask whether the institutions that we maintain serve the mission of the Order. Do they give us a voice in the debates of today? St Dominic sent the friars to the new Universities, because it was there that the important issues of the time where being argued over. Where would he send us today?

The planning of the mission requires of us that institutional creativity, the ability to imagine new projects, new pulpits, that give the Order a voice and a visibility. At one stage the young French Dominicans invented a new form of mission, “the mission to the beach”, which was very popular! An American brother, charged with a mission to the Protestant south of the country, transformed a caravan into a mobile chapel with a pulpit. If we really urgently wish to share the good news of Jesus Christ, then we will use our imagination fully.

If we do not have that courage and inventiveness, then either we will be stuck, waiting in our churches for the people to come to us, while they are elsewhere, hungry for a word. Or else we will find ourselves working for other institutions, founded by other groups, even religious orders, who have had more daring and imagination than we have.

We need young brethren and new vocations to preach in ways that we cannot now imagine. When the Province of Chicago was accepting novices a few years ago, who could then have guessed that today these same young men would be preaching on the World Wide Web, and even considering the foundation of a Virtual Centre of Studies?

b. Planning

“In dreams begin responsibility”, said W B Yeats. Provincial Chapters should be moments when we dare to respond to the challenges by dreaming of new projects. Often Chapters take brave and bold decisions, to be more committed to Justice and Peace, to develop our presence in the Mass Media, to send brethren on the missions. Thanks be to God! And yet often four years later nothing much has happened. There is a prayer for Chapters from the old Dominican missal, in which the brethren pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit “that they may seek to discern those things that you will, and use their strength to accomplish them”. Presumably this prayer was necessary because the brethren then as now found that it was easier to make decisions than to execute them. Yet unless we learn both to make decisions and to implement them, then we will become disillusioned with all government, and our freedom and responsibility will be destroyed.

Bringing the Word to flesh in our time, finding new forms of preaching now, must begin in dreams, but end in hard practical planning. Good government relies on the virtue of prudence, a practical wisdom. We must come to an agreement as to what we can achieve. We cannot do everything at once, and so we must determine the order in which projects will be realised. We must face the consequences of our choices, even if this means a profound re-orientation of the mission and life of the Province. We must decide the process by which a project may be planned, proposed, evaluated and implemented. If the process does not work, then we must seek to understand why and how this may be remedied.

c. Challenges of growth and shrinkage

There are specific moments in the life of an entity of the Order when careful planning is especially important.

The transition to a full Dominican identity

There are successive moments in the birth of the Order in a new country. Sometimes, at the beginning, to gain acceptance and to enter a new culture we may have to accept apostolates that do not fully express our charism as preachers and teachers.

All over the Order, in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, I have seen the excitement and the difficulty of making the transition to the next stage of Dominican life. It is a moment of profound transformation, as the brethren try to form communities, give up some parishes, adopt new apostolates, establish centres of formation and study, build up a body of professors. The flourishing of the Order depends upon the brethren being able to live through this time of transition with mutual understanding and support.

For the older brethren, perhaps “the founding fathers”, it can be a painful time, because the aspirations of the young may feel like a rejection of all that they have done. They have welcomed young men into the Order who appear to wish to destroy the work of their lives, and in the name of being “fully Dominican”. For the young it can also be a time of anxiety, when they may wonder whether they will be able to fulfil their dreams of a more developed Dominican life.

Such moments of transition need careful planning and consultation. But this is not a question solely of administration. We have to both show that we value what the older brethren have done, and live through this moment as a time of death and rebirth, walking in the steps of Christ. When Bishop Paul Andreotti was giving a retreat to the brethren in Pakistan, at the time of the birth of the new Vice-Province, he said to the brothers who had come from abroad, “Some of you may now decide to return to your own provinces, but those who choose to stay must be very sure of their motivations. I believe that Jesus is offering us a way of dying.” If the older brethren can walk this way with joy then they will give the most profound formation to the young. For formation, especially for a mendicant itinerant friar, is always an introduction to dispossession.

Gilbert Márkus OP said at the General Chapter of Caleruega, “If these young men are coming to the Order to follow Christ, they themselves must also be given guidance in the art of dying. They have entrusted themselves to the Order, and part of the responsibility which we accept when we receive their profession is the responsibility of teaching them the art. There is no hope for a young Dominican who cannot realise during his formation something of how he must lose himself, die to himself. This is not an excuse for the older men to cling defensively to their own position or to resist change. They need instead to lead the young on that sacrificial path, and that means to travel it with them, to give an example of generosity.”

Shrinkage

Very few Provinces in the Order are dying, though some, especially in Western Europe, are shrinking. How can such Provinces remain capable of undertaking new projects and fresh initiatives?

A Province must ask itself what it really wishes to do. What is its mission today? What new challenges must it face? What new forms of preaching can it evolve? To have such a freedom it may well have to take drastic action. It may be necessary to close two houses so as to have the freedom to open one that will offer new possibilities. But it is better to take firm action so that we may be free, rather than simply to beat a slow retreat in which we are the passive victims of circumstances beyond our control. How can we preach the freedom of the children of God if we have renounced all freedom ourselves? How can we be messengers of hope if we have given up all hope of doing something new for God? Unless we are seen to grasp that freedom, then we will never attract or retain any vocations.

d. The Provincial and Council

The Provincial Council is elected to assist the Provincial in his government of the Province, through offering counsel and taking decisions. The Councillors may have been elected because they represent a variety of views or priories or interests, but they are not members of the Council as the representatives of any group or ideology. The development of any faction within the Council would undermine its service of the Province. Its role is to help the Provincial to implement the decisions of the Chapter and to seek the common good. This demands a profound respect for confidentiality, otherwise the Provincial will not be able to receive the support that he needs.

In his implementation of the decisions of the Chapter, and his pursuit of the common good, the Provincial will sometimes have to take decisions that are painful. I have already written of the pain sometimes involved in making assignations (3.1 c). Yet a Province cannot be governed on the basis of waiting for the brethren to volunteer for ministries. Asking for volunteers may look like respect for the brethren’s freedom, but, except in very special circumstances, it is a misinterpretation of the nature of the freedom with which we have given ourselves to the mission of the Order. It also undermines the freedom of the Province effectively to make and implement decisions. Finally, it rests upon the assumption that the best judge of what a brother is capable is that brother himself. We may be radically mistaken. Sometimes a brother may consider himself to be the true successor of St Thomas whereas he is more of a dumb ox. More often, brothers underestimate of what they are capable. I trust my brethren to know what I am best able to do. It is part of the confidence that knits the Order together.

A Provincial or the Master of the Order may also have to cassate an election. This too can be painful. It may look as if we are undermining the democratic rights of the brethren to choose their own superior. Yet sometimes this must be done, precisely because these superiors have themselves been democratically elected to have care of the common good of the Province or the Order. It would undermine democracy if they were to refuse to bear the responsibility for which they have been elected. There are moments in this process. The community votes; the superior must decide whether to confirm or cassate; the brother elected must accept or refuse; the superior must decide whether to accept the refusal or to insist. At each moment we must be allowed to exercise the responsibility that is properly ours, without interference or pressure, so that we may discover what is indeed for the common good.

3.4 The Master of the Order and the General Council

The General government of the Order relates to the other levels of government in accordance with the same principles suggested in 3.1, itinerancy, mutual support, and the pursuit of the wider common good.

a) Strengthening the brethren

The primary task of the Master of the Order and the General Council is to support the brethren, and indeed the whole Dominican Family. Everywhere I go on my travels I meet brothers and sisters preaching the gospel with wonderful courage, often in situations of poverty and violence. This is an inspiration to me and the Council.

The principal way in which the Master of the Order strengthens the brethren is through visitations, trying to meet every brother. This is a privilege and a joy. The programme is so full that there is little time left for anything else. Between last November and this May, I have been in Rome for less than four weeks. I was not able, as I had hoped, to visit the brethren and sisters in the Great Lakes region of Africa to offer a support that they need. A question that I shall put to the General Chapter of Bologna is whether we should not rethink how visitations are done so that the Master of the Order has the freedom to respond to the needs of the Order in other ways.

When a Province is going through a profound process of renewal or facing a time of crisis, then an occasional visitation is not enough. Increasingly the General Council sees the need to accompany some Provinces of the Order as they face difficult challenges. We have to support them so that they may have the strength and courage to take the hard decisions necessary for their renewal. The Socius of the Master for that Province will often have a demanding role, accompanying the brethren as they face the challenges of rebuilding Dominican life and government.

It is rarely necessary for the Master of the Order directly to intervene in the government of a Province. When he does, it may be hard for the brethren to bear. It may appear as if their democratic right for make decisions about their life and mission has been superseded. Yet any such intervention is always an attempt to strengthen the brethren, and to help them to be renewed in their freedom and responsibility. If government at the Provincial level becomes weak or even paralysed, then the Master may have to intervene directly so that the brethren may once again be free to face the future. This is often the issue when we have to examine the unification of Provinces.

b) The wider common good

The Master of the Order has to promote the unity of the Order in its common mission. We see this common mission most clearly in the establishment of new foundations, in the renewal of the Order where it is weak, and in the houses directly under the Master’s jurisdiction.

One of the hardest tasks of the Master of the Order is to find brethren for this common mission. Humbert of Romans wrote to the Order in the thirteenth century that one of the main obstacles to the mission of the Order was “the brothers’ love of their native land, the lure of which so often ensnares them, their nature not yet having been graced, that rather than leave their own land and relations and forget their own folk, they wish to live and die among their own family and friends, not recalling that in similar circumstances the Saviour did not permit himself to be found even by his own mother.” Some things do not change!

Truthfully, I can say that many brethren, especially the young, have a deep and growing sense of this common mission of the Order to which we are called. Some Provinces are profoundly generous in giving their brethren to the common mission of the Order. For example, we have found brethren to help us rebuild the Order in the ex-Soviet Union. Yet often it is difficult to find the brethren who are needed, for example, to support the brethren in Rwanda and Burundi in this time of suffering. We need brethren for the foundation of the Order in Western Canada. We need brethren to renew and sustain our international centres of study.

How are we to deepen our participation in the common mission of the Order? It asks of us that we grow together in the grace and truth of the Incarnate Word.

i. We are called to the utter gracious generosity of the Word. This is not just the generosity of a Province giving a brother who is free, or even asking for volunteers. Often it is precisely the brethren who are not free who are needed. It implies the redefinition of the priorities of the Province in the light of the needs of our common mission. For example, in Latin America, we are trying to renew the Order by asking the stronger Provinces to work closely with Provinces where we are weaker. We are moving to a sort of partnership, whereby a Province may be asked to accompany another entity. We are asking these Provinces to redefine their mission in the light of the needs of the Order.

ii. It demands of us that we live in truth. First of all the truth of what it means to be a Dominican brother. We have made our profession to the Master of the Order for the Order’s mission. Of course the mission of each Province is an expression of that mission. But sometimes we must express our deepest identity as Dominicans by being released for the mission beyond the boundaries of our Province.

iii. It asks of us that together we truthfully seek to know what are our resources for the common mission. This requires of us great mutual trust. When the Master of the Order asks a Provincial whether there is a brother suitable for some task in our common mission, there may sometimes be an understandable instinct to protect the Province’s interests. We need, if we are to discern the common good, a deep trust and transparency, so that we may dialogue about how best to meet the needs of the Order while respecting the situation of the Province. In the past it was common for Masters of the Order simply to assign brethren out of their Provinces, even against the will of the Provincials. It is still sometimes necessary to do this, just as a Provincial may sometimes have to assign a brother from one convent to another, despite the superior’s resistance. But ultimately our common mission demands of us trust and mutual confidence, grace and truth.

3.5 The Incarnation of Dominican government in different cultures

The Word became flesh in a particular culture. Yet the Word transforms what it touches, the leaven of new life. A new form of community is born, and the flesh becomes word and communion.

So too Dominican government bears the marks of the time and place of its birth, a particular moment in European history. We were born in a time of experimentation with new forms of democratic institutions, and of intense intellectual ferment. How is this form of government to become flesh and blood in the Order in the coming years, when two thirds of all those in formation come from non-Western cultures? How is it to become incarnate in Western culture as it is today, with its strengths and weaknesses, its love of freedom and its temptation to consumerism? Central to our tradition of government is the pursuit of truth through debate and dialogue. How are we to sustain Dominican government in a society in which the very idea of truth is in crisis? The incarnation of Dominican government in all these cultures is always both a challenge and a richness. It should witness to a freedom and responsibility that is deeply evangelical, but these different cultures may help us to learn what these values truly mean.

For example, African cultures can help us to understand the nature of debate, and the importance of time and patience in listening to our brothers; in North America, the immense sense of respect for the individual can deepen our understanding of Dominican freedom; in Eastern Europe, the passionate commitment to the faith can help us to understanding what it means to give one’s life to the Order; in Latin America we can learn how central to our preaching is a commitment to justice.

Yet it is also true that our Dominican tradition of government offers a challenge to every culture in which we implant the Order. It may challenge the power of tribal identity in Africa; it is critical of the individualism of contemporary America; it will invite the brethren of Eastern Europe to be freed from the effects of years of communist rule and grow in mutual trust. In Latin America, the tradition of the coup d’état does not always help towards a deep commitment to our elected structures of government.

Often the challenge will be to understand when a culture is inviting us to a new insight and when it may deform what is properly Dominican in our government. Does the respect for the elders in African society offer us a new insight into the proper authority of each generation, or is it contrary to our democratic tradition? Does the practice of some Western Provinces of letting the brethren have private bank accounts lead to a deeper and truly Dominican sense of responsibility, or does it lead to a privatisation of life that destroys our common life?

Answering these questions will take time. General Chapters, regional meetings of brethren in every continent, and even visitations by the Master, should be of help to the brethren as we find our way towards discovering what responsibility and freedom mean in any particular society. Time, prayer, honest debate and contact with Dominicans in other cultures will be necessary if we are to arrive at a true understanding of how government is to be implemented in each society. It is good that we take this time, both for the benefit of the Order and also so that we may build communities which can offer true witnesses to brotherhood wherever we are.

Conclusion

I have not talked about many matters which are central to government. For example, I have not discussed government and wealth nor of the importance of visitations. I have said hardly a word about the Dominican Family or Regional collaboration. There is a limit to what can be written in a letter.

In St Catherine’s vision, God says, “Dominic allied himself with my Truth by showing that he did not want the sinner to die, but rather to be converted and live. He made his ship very spacious, gladsome, and fragrant, a most delightful garden” in which “the perfect and the not-so-perfect fare well”. Here the grace and truth of the incarnate Word coincide in mercy. It is this that makes the ship so spacious, a place in which we, the not-so-perfect, can be at home. This ship may steam along slowly; it is not always clear in what direction it is moving, and the crew change roles with an astonishing frequency. But it is a place in which we may hope to grow into the freedom of Dominic, hesitantly and with many mistakes, confident in God’s mercy and each other’s.

 

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Ottawa

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Convent,
96 Empress Avenue, Ottawa, ON,
Canada K1R 7G3

telephone:(613) 232-7363 fax: (613) 236-3869

Vancouver

Community of Saint Mary 3396 Auftrey Av.
Vancouver (BC)
Canada V5R 4V9

telephone: (604) 437-1852
fax: (604) 437-1852

St. Mary's Parish:
téléphone: (604) 435-9611

Our mission

Our Constitutions define our mission in the following way: "The principal reason we are gathered together is that we dwell together in harmony and have one mind and one heart in God, in other words, that we be found perfect in charity. . . Our Order is known to have been founded from the beginning expressly for preaching and the salvation of souls. ...This end we ought to pursue, preaching and teaching from the abundance and fulness of contemplation in imitation of our most holy Father Dominic, who spoke only with God or of God for the benefit of souls."

 

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