instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, July 13, 2009

The natural habitat of Dominicans

Where are Dominicans most at home?

Someone who knows a little about the Order might say in a classroom or library. Someone who knows a little more about the Order might say in a bar or refectory.

I propose that the place that Dominicans are, if not most at home, then at least most able to be Dominicans, is at the frontier of the Kingdom of God.

This frontier is found in many places and under many aspects, but the idea of pushing across borders so as to extend the reign of God is one that goes back to the days of Brother Dominic wandering through Languedoc on his own, preaching the Gospel to the Cathars. St. Thomas was notably active on the frontier between Christian and non-Christian philosophy. St. Martin de Porres camped on the frontiers of class and race.

This concept of life on the frontier is not altogether unique to Dominicans, but it is explicitly recognized by the Order. In his foreword to the 2007 book Dominican Approaches in Education, fra Carlos Azpiroz Costa, OP, Master of the Order of Preachers, writes:
The mission of the Order was and must continue to be a mission beyond the frontiers. This is a mission situated on les lignes de fracture, so well described by our martyred brother, Pierre Claverie, bishop of Oran, as the "lines of brokenness" which go across our globalised world so often marked by injustice and the violence of racial, social and religious conflicts. The implication from these two basic principles is that what is "demanded of a Dominican community is the attitude and practice of itinerancy and mobility, the continuous displacement towards the new frontiers to which the priorities of our mission guide us."
The 1986 General Chapter of the Friars identified five frontiers along which the Order must work:
  1. The frontier between life and death, or the challenge of justice and peace in the world.
  2. The frontier between humanity and inhumanity, or the challenge of the marginalised.
  3. The frontier of Christian experience, or the challenge of the great world religions.
  4. The frontier of religious experience, or the challenge of secular ideologies.
  5. The frontier of the Church, or the challenge of non-Catholic Christians and the sects.