Friday, December 19, 2008

Dominican Freedom

There is one particular characteristic of Dominic's Order of Preachers that, at the time, scandalized members of other religious orders. Dominic's order, of course, was not confined to a monastery, leaving the friars free to travel and move about from one place to another for the purpose of preaching. By contrast, members of the monastic communities followed very strict rules that legislated even the smallest details. Some are still called to that way of life, while others are not. It nonetheless caused a little bit of trouble for Dominic.

Stephen Salagnac (d. 13th century) writes:
[Dominic] used to travel round and send out his first brethren, even though he had only a few and they were indifferently educated and mostly young. Some religious of the Cistercian Order were amazed at this, and particularly at the confident way he sent such young friars out to preach. They set themselves to watch these young men, to see if they could find fault with anything they did or said. [Dominic] put up with this for some time, but one day, filled with a holy boldness, he asked them, "Why do you spy on my disciples, you disciples of the Pharisees? I know, I know for certain, that my young men will go out and come back, will be sent out and will return; but your young men will be kept locked up and will still go out."
In fact, later Masters of the Order tell us of Cistercians who ended up becoming Dominicans. Bl. Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237) mentions Albertinus Dertonensis, a former Cistercian who joined the Order in 1228. Bl. Humbert of Romans (d. 1277) tells of another Cistercian turned Dominican:
Someone once said, who transferred from the Cistercians to the Order of Preachers, that he had endured more discomfort during his few days on the road than he had ever had to put up with in his previous Order. So the exercise of preaching is to be preferred to fasting and other ways of mortifying the flesh, because it too involves heavy mortification but also benefits other people greatly.
In many ways, this also presents a model for lay members of the Order. I may have a career and family that root me to a particular location, but I am able to go places even the friars are unable to go. The words I speak and the way in which I live my life affects where I work, where I shop, and the places I visit.

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