I recently shared with friends that three things people are reputed to be most afraid of in life coincide with the core of my ministry as a Dominican preacher and priest. Researchers list public speaking, death, and fundraising as things feared the most. As far as public speaking, I’m with the Order of Preachers. Death is something I deal with literally and figuratively weekly. And my current ministry includes raising resources to educate our young friars and provide health care for the elder ones.
That these three elements are a part of my everyday reality should paralyze me with fear, wouldn’t you agree? Yet, what occurs to me on this Feast of St. Dominic is that this is precisely what the Order forms all of us friars to do in one way or another: confront fear and embrace vulnerability, in ourselves and others. These are at the heart of our 800 year old charism as a mendicant religious order.
Most people would think it nuts to rely upon other people’s generosity to live. Yet, at the core of our mendicancy we embrace vulnerability. Solidarity with the most vulnerable, rich or poor, is the raison detra for the mendicant friar. Our work after all, can be summed up as an attempt to echo that same merciful concern for the vulnerable evidenced in St. Dominic when he famously exclaimed, “ Oh, Lord, what will become of sinners?”
Confronting our fears, overt or subtle, and owning our vulnerability is the only way any of us moves forward spiritually. After all, this is the reason God sent his beloved Son. Redemption is a rescue mission. Only vulnerable people need a Savior, and as sinners we are all vulnerable. We are all mortal.
Life is a limited and uncertain venture with no known timetable. Yet, we derive courage from that first mendicant preacher, our Lord, who challenges our inherent vulnerability with, “Be not afraid,” over and over again in the Gospels.
My father would often talk of the comfort of those words in his most vulnerable moments. Each morning at 4:30 when he would leave his bedroom for work, dad looked down the hallway at the other five bedrooms. He knew behind each of those doors were two human beings looking to him for their sustenance, for which my mom and he were ultimately responsible. Dad’s faith in the “Be not afraid” of Jesus will be the spiritual legacy he leaves to us his children.
The thing we avoid the most, our very own vulnerability, is the only way we grow a deeper spiritual life. Vulnerability and our response to the “Be not afraid” of Jesus move each of us to a richer, more intimate, and ultimately more satisfying experience of the life of faith.
Your support gives strength every day to the formation of young men who will soon face their own vulnerabilities as they begin ministry. It is you who partner with them as they echo the “Be not afraid” so often repeated in the Gospels. On their behalf, please give generously and Thank You for doing so.
In the spirit of St. Dominic,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom
Director of the Society for Vocational Support & Vicar for Mission Advancement