In the immortal words of one of my friends, and in answer to this comment left on a previous post, “Why did you, who doesn’t like to stand up and preach to people or do this sort of thing generally, join the ORDER OF PREACHERS??????”
And it’s a good question. Why not be a Benedictine, or a Carmelite, or a Franciscan? I look better in brown and grey than I do in black and white, for starters. And it’s all about the clothes…
It’s also one of those “how do you explain red to a colour-blind person?” questions. But I’ll have a go.
(Insert usual “if you’ve met one Dominican, you’ve met one Dominican,” disclaimer. This may or may not ring true for any other Dominican who had been asked to write this).
I think it goes back to when I was first converting. Most people who convert don’t do it because they fancied a change, or because Our Lady and St Thatguy down the road does a Mass which is more convenient than the times of service at the local Anglican or Baptist Church, but because they are genuinely seeking after the truth.
One of the Order’s mottoes is “Truth.” Whilst the truth of the faith is a treasure which belongs to all Catholics, seeking after and preaching this truth belongs, in a special way, to Dominicans, just as Carmel has a great and noble tradition of contemplative prayer. All Catholics, all Christians, are called to contemplate the Lord, but Carmelites are called to it as a special part of their ministry and mission to the Church. It is through prayer and study that we, as Dominicans, seek, however dimly, to grasp some of the truth of God, and, to pass that truth on to others.
Study, reading and writing have always been important to me. I’m not so keen on the “public speaking” bit of preaching, but there are more ways of preaching than talking to people – writing, teaching catechism classes, answering colleagues’ strange questions on obscure points of doctrine before I’ve had my morning coffee. I think my finest hour was explaining Purgatory in fewer than 140 characters on Twitter. And nerves about public speaking will lessen with time and practice – I was less nervous leading the study than I was the first time I did, for example.
The Dominicans grabbed at me as soon as I knew of their existence, that summer where everywhere I went I was being stalked by people in white tunics. The most striking thing was the balance between work and prayer, the contemplation and passing onto others the fruit of that contemplation. I’ve always been a both/and kind of person, not an either/or. The woman seeking after Truth had found the Order for whom that Truth was the special charge and beauty.
But I checked out other Orders, as well, just in case it was me saying “I want be a Dominican,” and not God telling me “I want you to be a Dominican,” (that search for “truth,” again, if you like), but none of them tugged at my heart the same way that the Dominicans did. Other Orders are nice for a visit, and they have many, many great Saints, who are jewels to their Order and ornaments to the Church, and ways of seeking and encountering Christ which are truly beautiful, but for me, the best way I can follow Christ, the poor preacher, in the footsteps of the apostles, is as a member of the Order of Preachers.
Ultimately, “Dominican,” is as much part of what I am as having grey eyes, a dreadful temper, being five foot two and a serious book addiction.