Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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“God Writes Straight with Crooked Lines”

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Autumn portraitAlmost a decade ago, I was undertaking a pre-seminary year in a parish in west Yorkshire, as a part of my training for the diocesan priesthood. One Sunday in the sacristy before Mass, a teenage server who occasionally served at the Dominican parish in Leicester told my parish priest that he wanted to be a Dominican. I had never heard of them, and when my parish priest told the lad that he had to be very clever to become a Dominican, I wondered who these Dominicans thought they were. After all, I said to my parish priest later (and not wanting to lose out to these unknown Dominicans), even a diocesan priest has to be rather clever!

So began God’s way of writing straight with crooked lines in my life.

My next encounter with the Dominicans came in the form of a statue of St Dominic which I saw in the window of the CTS bookshop in Newcastle. I thought it was a statue of a Benedictine monk contemplating the Scriptures, and as I had (my brethren will say, have) a rather romantic view of religious life, I bought the statue as a reminder of what I then felt was the religious calling I had given up in order to serve the Catholic people of the north. I remember taking that statue to the counter, and when the saleswoman told me that a statue of St Dominic was a rather rare thing, I wondered again, who is this Dominic. I bought the statue anyway because, I told myself, it looks like a monk reading and that was what I intended it to be!

As I progressed in my theological training, I developed a fascination for Aquinas, whom I had heard about but had little opportunity to study in the seminary. As he seemed like ‘forbidden fruit’, I endeavoured to read parts of the Summa theologiae, although I was slightly daunted by the Scholastic language and style. Nevertheless I had no lasting impression that this saintly doctor of the Church was a Dominican.

After three years in the seminary, I left in search of something more fulfilling. One night, sitting in a presbytery in north Yorkshire, and having prayed for weeks for direction from God, I started typing the names of various religious orders into the computer. Racking my memory for every order I could think of, I recalled that day in the sacristy, and typed ‘Dominicans’. As I did so, I thought I probably wasn’t clever enough, but as I started reading the vocations page of the English Dominican site, I actually felt this inner warmth and excitement as I recognised the family to which God had been calling me all these years. And He had left these unexpected little signs along the way, from the first sighting I had of St Catherine’s head-relic while on holiday with my family in Siena to the statue of St Dominic in my room in front of which I used to light candles.

Beate pater DominiceThat Easter, I went on retreat to a Benedictine abbey to discern if I was called to share their life, but, while I was there I started reading every Dominican-authored book I could find in the library. It was a period of intense discovery and prayer as I began to wonder if I might actually be called to become a Dominican. Many of Timothy Radcliffe’s letters as Master inspired me and towards the end of my time in the abbey, I felt that God was certainly asking me to try my vocation as a Dominican. As if in confirmation, that evening when I came down to Vespers, in processed a white-habited Dominican along with the Benedictines.

I initiated a series of visits to various Dominican houses and discovered the joy, prayerfulness and intellectual stimulation of our life, and after a year ‘on mission’ as a lay Dominican Volunteer in the Philippines, I entered the novitiate in Cambridge. God still writes with crooked lines, but He also continues to deepen my love for the vocation He has given me among this band of preaching brothers and I thank Him daily for the “grace of a Dominican vocation”.

Br Lawrence Lew is a second-year student.

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