Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Consecrated Life: Historical Perspective

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When examining the past we can often fall into the error of privileging a perceived ‘Golden Age’ located far in the mists of time or, on the other hand, we might, through critical historical examination, come to the conclusion that ‘it was ever thus’ and suppose that there is no real change and everything is much the same.

This danger is present even when we consider Consecrated Life through the lens of its lengthy, and diverse, heritage. However, perhaps a fair analysis is possible. 

Firstly, has much changed? The answer is, in my view, an obvious yes. Religious Life has developed over the centuries, initially being expressed in small desert-dwelling communities or clerics living together under a rule, such as that of St Augustine, who were soon joined by larger monastic communities which in turn some centuries later saw the arrival of those peculiar friars among whom are Dominicans. Now, there is a clear difference in the Consecrated Life as expressed by Dominicans from that experienced by Benedictine monks or desert hermits, a difference largely found in the manner of life. Benedictines, bound by stability to their monastery and lengthy Choral office, have a very different day from the fourteenth century itinerant preacher who traveled throughout Europe carrying the message of salvation.

Of course, Dominicans themselves have changed a great deal over the years. Only in the  late nineteenth and twentieth centuries did Dominicans make formal steps to move away from their vegetarian diet, to diminish their commitments to the choral office and to embrace a less formal style of life in their priories, particularly between brothers and priests.

Now, it would be very easy to fall into an argument over what was better about the past or what had to change. However, we would risk falling off that tightrope outlined earlier, where we cling to idealised characterisations of the past or reject caricatures of our heritage.

This does not mean that all the manifestations of religious life are equal or that religious life is an expression of personal sentiment and therefore subjective rather than anchored in some reality. On the contrary, that reality exists and is of course Jesus Christ. The only true and eternal perspective by which consecrated life can be judged, and vivified, is that of Jesus personally. The good religious should imitate him in all things; not just in the activities of life but also in the very way of being. As in Jesus we find the truest expression of poverty, chastity and obedience so then the good religious should make sacrifice of all things for love of God and, on account of that, for neighbour. If we aren’t doing that then we’re doing it wrong. 

 

Br Jordan Scott O.P.

Br Jordan Scott O.P.


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