Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Gift of Vocation

A good friend of mine asked me yesterday about my vocation and why I felt called to be a Dominican. I feel it would be right to share this with my readers and other friends and even family who may also be wondering... Below is the essay I wrote as part of the application process to join the English Dominicans and above is a photo from the 7th International Dominican Youth Movement (IDYM) gathering in Caleruega, the Philippines. It was a preaching workshop given by Fr Jerry Stookey, O.P.


"Often the things closest to ourselves like the mystery of love and faith in God can be the most difficult to explicate and explain. It is simply a feeling that inclines towards happiness and truth. The mystery of vocation falls into this category but since this is the task set out for me, I shall attempt to explore into why I want to be a Dominican. Happiness and Truth I believe are two key aspects for why I feel called to this way of life.

Even as a child, I remember being curious about life and existence, and I recall vividly asking my grandmother when I was six years old: “Grandma, how do I know you’re real?” Unfortunately she merely frowned at my odd and sudden question and told me to shut up, eat my porridge and get ready for school! As an only child, I had plenty of time, while at play with myself and my toys to ask questions about life, to ponder existence and basically to philosophize as a child can. I also developed an avid appetite for reading. I loved to read and would read anything – from billboards to the back of cereal boxes to books. I learnt from my mother to read the dictionary and encyclopaedia as a way to while away the afternoons and enjoyed learning. In retrospect, I recognise in these childhood endeavours a search for Truth.

I was born into a Brethren Protestant family but I later imbibed some rather anti-Catholic views from my peers in church and from fundamentalist comics and tracts, so I was rather shocked when upon moving to Singapore at the age of 12 my mother enrolled me in a Catholic school run by the La Salle brothers. This changed my life. Keen to engage with my new Catholic friends and searching for a church to belong to, I began to quiz them about their faith. Not entirely satisfied by their answers, I read all the books I could find in the library about Catholicism. Many of these happened to be works of apologetics and slowly, I was drawn by the truth I found in Catholicism. I began to attend liturgies and was attracted by the beauty and symbolism of the Liturgy, which was an entirely new world for me. With great enthusiasm, I plunged into this new and fascinating world of Catholicism, joined the RCIA, was baptised and found delights to hold my fascination and interest all my life; I discovered the Church and the communion of saints and these led me closer to Christ, her Bridegroom and Head.

Even then, study was an intrinsic part of seeking the answer to a question. If I was troubled by an issue, I read, observed, asked and sought passionately until I arrived at some grains of truth. Some may even call my research into issues obsessive! I remember as a sixteen year old rushing to the local shop to buy the newly published ‘Veritatis Splendor’ and read what I could of it. The profundities of that document still elude me but I was prepared then and still am to grapple with complex issues in the search for truth.

It would be another decade before I encountered the Order of Preachers which has ‘Veritas’ as one of its mottoes but as soon as I discovered this, I felt as if all my questioning and searching did not made me odd. I felt that at last I had found a family which would welcome my questions and not tell me to shut up and eat my porridge! In the time I have spent among the Dominicans and reading works by English and French Dominicans, I have always admired, enjoyed and thrived on the questions that are asked and the brave attempts to answer the pressing questions of each generation. Above all, I have valued the way communities of friars thresh out issues and share ideas and problems together as brothers.

Having Truth as a motto is not easy; I have found its imperative to be both frightening and exhilarating, dangerous but necessary. I cannot profess to being as truthful as I would always like to be and sometimes I even hide the Truth from myself but I know with a deep inner conviction and a passion that I constantly seek after Truth and thirst for and desire to be purified by it. It is an imperative that I believe will drive my life, purify my motives and keep me restless in the search for God until I finally come to rest in Him. In fact, the opening words of psalm 63 have become a personal motto, expressing this thirst for Truth, for God: “O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting…”

In this process of seeking and finding God, I have also found lasting happiness. I believe, having spent a year with the Dominican friars in Manila that here in the Dominican Order is a home I will be happy in; this is a way of life that I will find fulfilment in and also allow me to be faithful to God’s call to serve him and the Church. A noteworthy feature of almost every Dominican I have met is joy. Yes, they are sometimes tired, over-worked and burdened but this does not eclipse the inner joy and happiness I have seen and experienced. This joy is most evident when we gather as a family – Dominican women and men, sisters and brothers, lay and ordained. This unity in diversity is truly beautiful to experience and be a part of, as I was privileged to behold so often in Manila and in the 7th IDYM Gathering in Caleruega, Batangas. Witnessing this joy and being a part of the Dominican family as a Dominican volunteer has truly spurred me on to seek admission as a friar in the Order – to become a part of this family of joyful Christians, witnessing together to the Gospel of life, hope and resurrection joy; in dialogue with one another and the world in their common search for Truth.

Perhaps all the above boils down to yet another Dominican motto I find so apt: “To contemplate and to hand on to others the fruit of our contemplation”. I believe that my love for Jesus the Truth, and the happiness that I find in Him through the Order will help me to share with others the essential experiences of Love, Joy, Hope, Peace that our world is aching for, “like a dry weary land without water…” The search for Jesus and the desire for Happiness is not for me alone; it is fruitless if not sown and shared, in dialogue with others. I believe Jesus and his Gospel is a ‘pearl of great price’ to be shared with others; good news to be heard and seen by all; vital answers to human longings to be preached, in love and humility.

Ultimately, I desire to be a living Gospel to others, a bearer of Christ’s love and good news and I believe that here in the Dominican Order is the home where I will be prepared to be sent out to do this and where I can return to rest from my labours, refreshed by prayer, affirmed by fraternity, challenged by brothers and the communal life and purified by love, truth and faith and then sent out again to carry on the work of St Dominic in emulating Christ, the preacher. It scares me to say so, because I believe that the most effective preacher is one who lives what he says. However, I have faith that I “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and with his grace, I will persevere and strive to be as effective a preacher as I can be. In this vocation, I truly rely on God’s grace and mercy and the mercy of my brothers and sisters in Christ; of the whole Dominican family to put up with me patiently, to love me when I lose my way and to gently lead me back. I know I will need the support of community life to grow as a person and as a Christian. I believe these traits of compassion and fraternal love are more than evident in the Order and I have been very inspired and moved by the example of so many wonderful Dominicans, not least of all the fathers and sisters I have met in the Philippines and fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP. I only hope that one day, I may be even half the example that they are so as to be able to move and inspire other young men and women and aid their search for God.

I feel unworthy of so noble a vocation and privileged to find a life’s work that will bring me happiness but I humbly pray that I will be allowed to grow in God’s wisdom and grace as a Dominican friar, for here in the Order of Preachers, I have found my home."

Could this be your vocation too?! Read the Master, fr Carlos Aspiroz Costa's reflection at Moniales OP.


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