Not fanaticism but radical love
Fr Peter Hunter OP preached at Mass for the feast of All Saints of the Dominican order (7 November) and the Gospel appointed for the feast is that given above. The homily inspired his hearers and we hope that it will give Godzdogz readers an appreciation of our life and hopes.
Fr Bob Ombres once told me a story of travelling in his native Naples. He was talking to a man who told him he was a Catholic. Fr Ombres expressed interest and asked the man where he went to church. Puzzled, the man replied, “Cattolico, non fanatico!”
Yet, religious life can seem in today’s world like fanaticism, a wide-eyed pursuit of an ideal, giving up all sorts of important things in this pursuit. Jesus, in the Gospel appointed for today’s feast (Mark 10:28-30) talks about leaving family and property for his sake and for the Gospel. Isn’t that rather fanatical?
The same Fr Ombres said to me when he heard that I had made the decision to make final vows in the Order, “I’m so glad! If you really throw yourself into it, the life will make you very happy.” But can this kind of wide-eyed pursuit, this kind of fanaticism, make you happy?
The feast we celebrate today, the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers, is our more parochial version of the universal Church’s celebration of All Saints. That it makes sense to celebrate it at all is confirmation that the Dominican way of life is rich enough and wide enough to be a way of holiness. That is to say, it says that after all, the Dominican way of life is a way to be happy.
What is this way of life? Our Order is dedicated to the study and preaching of the truth of the Gospel. And when we characterise it like that, we see that commitment to this life cannot be fanatical. It cannot be fanatical because it is, we now see, not a wide-eyed pursuit of an ideal, but based on the love of a person. Loving the truth of the Gospel is ultimately nothing other than loving Jesus. The Dominican saints, no less than the apostles, leave family and property not for an ideal, but out of love for the Son of God. This means that this following, while radical, is not fanatical but reasonable and human.
An early Dominican expressed a worry (perhaps a tongue-in-cheek one) that the life gave him so much joy and hence could not be a way to heaven for him. But it was for him, and it is for us, if we give ourselves to it freely and fully. We can celebrate today that our way of life turns out to be rich enough, broad enough, to be a way to heaven and rededicate ourselves to living that life properly. In doing that, we leave behind things which we rightly love, not out of a wide-eyed fanaticism, but because we love Christ more.