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optimism of mission

Saturday, May 24, 2008
The Feast of the Translation of St Dominic

There is something very striking in the life of Dominic de Guzman. Many see it as a little pearl among the many stories about lives of saints, and it has become one of the Order of Preacher’s most valuable assets. What is it? It is Dominic’s ingenuity concerning the setting out of the mission of the Order and his attitude towards the brethren. What is so exceptional about it?

Dominicans' pulpit

Dominic did not write a new rule of life for his community, nor did he invent any new mission for his brethren. Instead he set the very mission of the Church at the heart of the mission of the Order: the preaching of the Gospel. Dominic gave his brethren the rule of St. Augustine which suited this mission very well. Consequently from the very beginning the community busied themselves not with establishing a way of life for its own sake, but rather it tried to find such a model of life that would make it always possible to preach the word of God, especially to those who are lost or do not yet believe.

And this is what has become the Dominican tradition: our way of life should never be a burden or impediment to the mission. We live together for the sake of the mission, holding the life of the apostles as our model and inspiration.

The other thing is Dominic’s ultimate optimism concerning human nature. This optimism was expressed in his great trust towards the brethren: he was quick to send them out on mission, believing in them even before they had sufficient confidence in themselves. Another expression of this optimism is the fact that the Order is governed in a democratic way, with the general chapter of brethren having the highest authority. The Order is not a place for a badly perceived seniority, it is no ‘pecking order’, and this means that brethren have been able to live in an unprecedented unity and peace even to this day. As a result, the members of the Order lead a very self-conscious life trying to abandon any ideologies, customs and practices that no longer serve its mission and therefore threaten the life of the community.

These two ideas are in fact at the heart of the universal Church and this is perhaps why the figure of St. Dominic is so valued by the brethren. He gave them a mission that is in fact no less than the mission of the universal Church, and he trusted that they would be able to live up its demands, for he deeply believed that the Lord does not deny help to those work in his name.


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