|Theft on a Grand Scale|
|Written by Sherry|
|Thursday, 09 August 2007 05:27|
And related to our focus on St. Dominic yesterday is this playful presentation that Fr. Michael Sweeney made 11 years ago to the assembly of the Western Province on Collaboration With the Laity. Read the whole thing by all means but I wanted to highlight his observations about the similarities of St. Dominic's day and our own below:
When I consider the work of the Order in such a milieu I am struck by the remarkable similarities which seem to pertain between the age of St. Dominic and our own age. St. Dominic faced a Church which appeared to be institutionally moribund in the face of the Albigensian heresy, much as our institutions, whether of diocese, parish, or Newman Center, seem inadequate in the face of the growing atheism and even paganism of modern culture.
Dominic witnessed the remarkable success of the Poverello movements of the Middle Ages which, though separated from the communion of the Church, nevertheless were inspired by a genuine evangelical zeal and a desire to follow Christ, much as we are witnessing the growth of evangelical Protestantism.
In the Albigensian heresy Dominic perceived, not just a false doctrine which was to be exposed, but a whole movement, as much cultural as it was religious, which threatened the whole fabric of medieval society, much as we are witnessing the defection of our own culture from its Christian roots.
Dominic's response was, if we can be both playful and honest, theft on a grand scale. Dominic stole from the Albigensians their zeal and their poverty, to reclaim it for Christ and his Church. He stole from the Poverello movements their evangelical zeal and their literal application of the evangelical counsels, in order that they might be placed, once again, at the disposal of the Church. He stole from Augustine his rule to accommodate his new Order, and stole from the cathedral canons their education and its place in their lives. Most significantly of all, he stole from Christ his sending of the disciples by twos, to proclaim the advent of the kingdom. The result of his thefts was the Order of Preachers.
I would like to suggest some thievery of our own. The one thread which is common to New Age, Protestant Evangelism and similar contemporary movements, is that they have mobilized their membership. They form intentional communities, with conscious and specific agenda; and no matter how little we may appreciate their ends, we should nonetheless be impressed by their means.
In truth, we were there ahead of them: the single-minded zeal of the Evangelicals bears a great resemblance to the early Order. The only theft which it is really necessary for us to engage in is from the riches of our own tradition. We can mobilize our Catholic laity, and thereby play a significant role in the renewal of our Church, simply by applying our own tradition.