Every summer the student brothers here at Blackfriars are dispatched from Oxford to go and do something useful at another Dominican Priory. Usually this means some kind of pastoral placement, for example some time spent working in a prison, or a hospital, or a university chaplaincy and so on. In my case this year it meant spending some time with our French brothers in Lille on a language placement.
Kipling once proclaimed: 'what should they know of England, who only England know?' I am always reminded of this when I get the opportunity to visit Dominican houses outside of the English Province. One can often gain a new perspective on one's own practices and traditions when one sees the same charism expressed in another culture and ecclesial context. I always find this a useful reminder of the spaciousness of the Dominican vocation. At its heart is a call to preach the gospel: when it comes to undertaking this mission there is much scope for creativity.
The French expression of the Dominican charism has been a powerful one in recent centuries. French Friars were at the heart of the Order's revival in the nineteenth century and their theologians had an enormous influence on the second Vatican council. It was fascinating to see close up the life of a Province which has such a rich tradition and history.
Labels: What I did in the Summer