Year of Consecrated Life 2015 ? God?s dogs in the 21st century

Richard Finn OP

Known for their preaching and learning, the Dominicans have a rich tradition and a strong presence in the 21st century. Richard Finn is Novice Master for the English Dominicans at Blackfriars, Cambridge, and a member of the Theology and Classics Faculties of Oxford University.

Each Sunday at 7pm and 8.20pm hundreds of Polish university and high-school students crowd into the basilica of the Holy Trinity in Krakow for Mass. Throughout the week they attend discussion groups, sing in choirs, and prepare food for communal meals, frequenting the cloisters of this thirteenth century Dominican priory, which has opened its doors to students, and been a centre of teaching, continuously since 1223. It is also now a study centre for seventy or so young friars in formation, and offers weekend courses to all-comers in philosophy and theology. This flourishing ministry has its roots in two chance meetings over eight hundred years ago, when a Spanish cathedral canon was travelling with his bishop through what is now southern France in the opening years of the 13th century.

St Dominic came face-to-face first with men and women who had rejected the Catholic Church and its sacraments as scandalous, a corrupt travesty of Christianity. They had instead embraced religious ideas and strongly ascetic practices from Eastern Europe and beyond to become Cathars or Albigensians. Second, Dominic met the Cistercian monks who periodically toured the area on their high horses to preach, but who got nowhere with these Cathars. Dominic saw that a new type of preaching was needed to win people back: the preacher had to win credence for his message by his in-depth understanding of Scripture, and by his way of life.

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