Every professed Dominican begins the profession by being asked this question. It is a centuries old question answered by an untold number of professed Dominicans. The answer we all made, either to the Master of the Order or his representative was, “God’s mercy and yours.” It is our very real acknowledgement that the answer given by Pope Francis to the question, “Who is Jorge Borgoglio?” is true for each of us. We are sinners. We stand, always and everywhere in need of God’s mercy.
And to live an authentic life in community, we stand in need too, of the mercy of our brothers. Sometimes community life has been described as a “school of charity” for we are all too often reminded of our shortcomings and failures. Not only is it the case that we do not always live up to the ideal of the call of religious life, in seeking to live this life, it is all too often the case we find ourselves reminded of the complex challenge of being fully human.
Today our province was blessed by the solemn profession, by each, to live as a Dominican. Since I now find myself living in a formation community, I cannot but be amazed by the example of the men I live with seeking in the midst of the challenges in our world to discover just what it is that God asks of them. It is hard work to discern. It requires the constant effort to be silent enough, that the voice of God becomes audible. It is the attempt to learn what the call of God, and what Dominican life is about in the powerful gift of study. (Though I am not sure it always feels like a profound gift.) It is the common life which reminds us at the same time that we are not alone, but that we also stand in need of mercy.
In the short time I have lived in the formation community, I have become quite aware of the importance of my own example. We are blessed, not only with a quantity of brothers in formation, but also with a quality of brothers who seek to pray, to be silent, to enter into the centuries long lifestyle of a Dominican. I am edified, and I am aware more and more that my own example is not always sufficient.
And yet in some odd way, this becomes a sign of hope for me. Despite my shortcomings, this Dominican way of life is so rewarding, so life-giving, there are times I still, even years after my first profession, cannot believe this is real. Each time a brother professes, in the hands of our provincial, to be faithful to the Dominican way of life, not just for a time, but forever, it serves, at least to me, as a concrete sign that God continues to bless both me, and the larger Church.
This is not a quest to become worthy of this Dominican life, since I know that can never be. I knew that the first time I answered, “God’s mercy and yours.” I know it today, and I was reminded of it yesterday, when five men professed their lives to the brothers. None of us are worthy of this mercy, yet God continues to pour out grace. I may not be worthy of it, but thanks to God grace, I am not alone. Deo gratias!