Are you orthodox? In the past several years this three-word question may be the most asked question within the realm of vocation ministry. One of the more annoying responses I have heard from many in religious life and the priesthood is, “No, I am Roman Catholic.” Of course this smart aleck response is a diversion from the actual question at hand and can be taken as deceptive to the primary intent of the question: are you and/or your community faithful to the Pope and the teachings of Holy Mother Church?
The short answer to the vocation inquirer to this question is and should be a rousing “Yes” from any approved and official society, order or congregation of the Roman Catholic Church. Groups cannot officially exist under the purview of the Holy See without adhering to the Creed and the Dogmas and Doctrines of the Church.
Now that we have that question out of the way, we can move on to discussing discernment questions any one person might have regarding his or her individual calling to the life of radically following Jesus. If it were only that easy!
The fact is there are groups and individuals who do hold heterodox beliefs within the Church. It may not say so in their individual constitutions and rules, but ideas and beliefs contrary to Church teaching do show up and all too often in a rather public and unpleasant way. Certainly the case of a professed sister volunteering as an escort at an abortion clinic quickly comes to mind, but one should be cautioned against judging her whole congregation as pro-abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the realm of vocational discernment and ministry it is just a simple fact that stories like the one above lend to the reality of the crisis within many congregations throughout the world. It’s no mystery. If you have rejected basic truths of human life, religious identity and faithful witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, very few, if any, will want to join you. The sad fact is that it does not have to be this way. I believe there are plenty of vocations out there for all orders and congregations to not only survive, but to thrive. As the world population increases, there is no rational explanation for the lack of vocations other than someone along the way dropped the ball of properly handing on the faith we have in Jesus Christ.
Not to worry, others have picked up where many have left off. As many congregations and associations are going out of existence, there seems to be twice as many new ones appearing, both religious and lay. The religious groups all look somewhat alike too: mandatory habit, robust community life and clearly defined mission and ministry. Most importantly, they have a deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ, which is evident in these communities’ life of prayer and worship. Combined, this is what is known as a life of holiness.
That, dear reader, is the question I will have for you if you ask me about our orthodoxy: are you seeking to live a life of authentic holiness with zeal? That is the real question that takes it all a step further and deeper. I will tell you that we hold and teach the truths of the faith. But we are Dominicans; therefore the term orthodox is a baseline descriptor. If we did not believe in the Creed and hold to all the Catechism teaches, we would not be Roman Catholic, and we certainly would not be known as Friars Preachers!
We do believe and we want you to as well. But being orthodox is not enough to join us; it is only the beginning. The question I have for you: Do you love? Are you in love? Do you seek to be with your beloved, Jesus Christ? Do you spend time with the One who has called you to seek Him first and who knows you better than you know yourself? If love is not the motivating factor in your discernment of religious life, I would ask you to re-evaluate your mode of discernment.
Remember, in Sacred Scripture no one was more orthodox than the Pharisees. So I caution the use of that term in authentic vocational discernment. We are called to be lovers, not rigorous adherents to the letter of the law at the expense of the virtue of authentic charity. This is specifically what Jesus Christ taught against!
In a nutshell, we are faithful Roman Catholic men who are deeply in love with God and we seek to bring that love to the entire world. Join us if you dare!