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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Bishop Fisher speaks to the Irish Dominicans

When telling me of Sr Niamh's profession, the Irish Dominican who emailed me joked that there was no reason that the Oxford "Dogz" should have all the limelight. Indeed, I am happy to give a heads-up to their own website Dominican Friars Irish Province.

An important event held recently was a special day on the Dominican Priesthood to mark the end of the Year of the Priest. Bishop Anthony Fisher OP presented a paper on the Priesthood in the Dominican Order. You can watch the address on this video:



If you prefer, you can go to the website to read the text of the paper. I was particularly struck by one comment Bishop Fisher made, not about the priests but about the brothers:
Ironically, as the number of co-operator brothers declined to near-zero in many parts of the Order, everyone started using the title and the few remaining brothers were press-ganged into higher education or leadership. (In my view the demise of the brother’s vocation partly reflects the increasing middle-classification of the Order, Church and society.)
This applies, I think, to many orders that once had brothers. There was an opportunity for men who might want to pursue a vocation of service in the religious life, even if they felt daunted by the academic requirements of study for the priesthood. I know that there are several examples of saints who became priests despite this, notably the Curé d'Ars, but there are many men who would have a vocation to manual work in vowed religious life and this option is scarcely available today.

The principal purpose, though, of Bishop Fisher's lecture was to reflect on the relationship between the priesthood and Dominican life. He summarises his thoughts in this paragraph:
By analogy I have suggested today that we can be and often have been a uniquely successful cocktail of priesthood and religious life. A Dominican worships God in his cell with his beads as much as in the celebration of a High Mass at the altar. He studies both at his desk chair and in his choir stall. He evangelises the gentiles and then baptises the converts. He exhorts sinners and then absolves them. He preaches in the sacred Liturgy and then offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. Being friar and priest are genuinely complementary in him.
The other paper for the day was given by Fr Paul Murray OP, an Irish Dominican who lectures on spirituality at the Angelicum in Rome. The younger Dominicans look up to him: as they say, he "oozes Dominicanism" and is a great example to them.
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