On the Qualities of Religious Life: St. John Paul II and the Angelic Doctor

September 15, 2014

When considering qualities of the states of life within the Church, it is helpful to look at what the Church actually teaches. Certainly these documents/texts should be prayerfully studied by any young man considering a consecrated religious vocation.  These selections come from Blessed John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas (the “Common Doctor” of the Church). The last text from our Dominican Constitutions shows how the life of the Friars Preachers, described by St. Thomas Aquinas, is “apostolic.”

Vita Consecrata 18: The evangelical counsels, by which Christ invites some people to share his experience as the chaste, poor and obedient One, call for and make manifest in those who accept them an explicit desire to be totally conformed to him. Living “in obedience, with nothing of one’s own and in chastity,” consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection. His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth, a way which may be called divine, for it was embraced by him, God and man, as the expression of his relationship as the Only-Begotten Son with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. This is why Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective superiority of the consecrated life. Summa Theologiae (II-IIae Q. 188, a.6) speaks about 3 kinds of religious life. “The difference between one religious order and another depends chiefly on the end, and secondarily on the exercise.” The highest is that which through an abundance of contemplation illuminates or overflows with teaching and preaching. (The second is the purely contemplative life. The third is the life which is devoted to exterior actions such as almsgiving and receiving of guests.)  In talking about the first form of life, it is succinctly summarized in the motto of the Friars Preachers, coined by St. Thomas Aquinas: “To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation.”

Fundamental Constitutions of the Order of Friars Preachers (IV):  “We also undertake as sharers of the apostolic mission the life of the Apostles in the form conceived by St. Dominic, living with one mind the common life, faithful in the profession of the evangelical counsels, fervent in the common celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist and the divine office as well as other prayer, assiduous in study, and persevering in regular observance. All these practices contribute not only to the glory of God and our sanctification, but serve directly the salvation of mankind, since they prepare harmoniously for preaching, furnish its incentive, form its character, and in turn are influenced by it. These elements are closely interconnected and carefully balanced, mutually enriching one another, so that in their synthesis the proper life of the Order is established: a life in the fullest sense apostolic, in which preaching and teaching must proceed from an abundance of contemplation.”

-See also:  Resources for Men Considering a Vocation
                Contemplative Dimension of Dominican Spirituality (Aumann OP)

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