A Question of Order

TGIF! Time for us laymen and women to indulge in fantasy! Let’s say you were going to be a priest. (It’s OK, ladies, you can play along here, no foul.) Let’s say further that you were going to “enlist” in an order. Which one would you choose? Augustinian, Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit? Benedictine, Carmelite, Cistercian? Or would you opt for what Frank calls “hard corps”—the Carthusians?

I’ll put my two cents in the offering plate and then leave it to readers to vote (poll at right) and comment (below).

In the days when I used to walk down Haight Street (or the local equivalent) humming Donovan’s “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” there would have been no hesitation: Franciscan! What young hippie idealist wouldn’t want to wander around in sackcloth, kissing lepers and sleeping on rocks?

Not now, not at my age!

There was a time I thought I might like to be a serious monastic, and what’s more serious than the Carthusians? But then I read An Infinity of Little Hours and thought about wearing a hair shirt all day, all night, til death do us part. As Frank would say, Sheeeeeesh!

Today, while I must admit a certain admiration for the Jesuits, despite their reputation for “extreme” liberalism, I lean heavily toward the Dominicans. They are smart, and they are eloquent. I’d make a good preacher, I think, and I look great in white.

What do you say, YIMC Community?

  • el Bolillo Tejano

    Webster,Having exposure to the Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines and Franciscans at various times during my life, I would have to say that my heart would lead me to the Dominicans. I love their passion for architecture, art, beauty, and truth. Also, the history of the order has Aquinas, Catherine of Sienna, Martin de Porres among others.I love all the others, but the Dominicans are my speed.

  • Anonymous

    Jesuit. Spent four years in one of their seminaries, so I sort of feel like they 'got' me then.

  • cathyf

    I was educated by Dominicans, and investigated joining them way back when I was in high school. But I have to say that I am most attracted to Jesuit spirituality. Somehow it's all very concrete and practical — fits with my engineer's soul :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06368195895421044006 Matthew

    I have a very close relationship with the Benedictines of Conception Abbey as I attended the seminary there back in the late 1990's. For a few years I was also very drawn to both the Cistercians (Trappist version) and the Carthusians because of the influence that Thomas Merton had on my life.As I have grown in my own spiritual life though I have really turned towards prayer and for me the embodiment of prayer is in the Carmelite charism. I am in formation in the Secular Order of the Carmelites and if I were not married I would be all over joining as a friar.

  • Webster Bull

    @Matthew,Thanks! I would be interested in knowing more about the Secular Order of the Carmelites.

  • Warren Jewell

    Being one driven so by my intellect – however frail and faulty it is – I think that I would be a Dominican. With all due respect for the scholastic nature of the Jesuits, I encounter the Dominicans in more intellectual venues than any other order. If not a Dominican friar, then just some Brother Go-fer in some monastic community. A bare cell with a little shrine, a crucifix, a candle, a prie-dieu – just You and me, God, You and me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01262662173303042998 Fred

    What's fascinating in this poll is the total identification of religious orders with the priesthood. Of these listed, I know for sure that the Dominicans were founded as a community of priests, but the Franciscans and Jesuit founding were lay. The Benedictine rule originally treated priests seeking entrance with caution, while Ignatius considered a desire for the priesthood to be a barrier to the total availability and obedience needed for service in the Company of Jesus. I think most priests are diocesan priests (secular priests), but they're not listed?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06368195895421044006 Matthew

    @WebsterI sent you an email with some info. Didn't want to take up a ton of space here. Feel free to post any of it that you think others might be interested in.

  • Fan of Schall

    You have to dance with the one who brought you: The Society of Jesus. Although the proclivity to disdain the Jesuits during the eight years of schooling in both high school and college was evident, I now possess only the deepest admiration, gratitude, and fond memories for their tireless efforts as educators. As much as I currently admire the Dominicans and their top-notch preaching abilities (especially at St Dominic's in SF, CA. and btw, Van Morrison wrote and named a song after the church called St Dominic's Preview), the Jesuits are most attractive for a vocation as outlined in Friday night's top ten list:1) The Jesuits are the intellectual and educational engine for the Church.2) There is a wandering, nomadic quality surrounding the order.3)No formal dress regulations4)Great missionaries5) Had the sense to adopt Thomas Aquinas as their official theologian.6) Their leader is called the Black Pope. 7) They are the vanguards and the iconoclasts of the Church and aren't afraid to speak out. As a result, a nice checks and balances for the Church.8)Ignatian Spirituality9)For the courage of Hans Urs Von Balthasar. 10)The Jesuits are favored because of their emphasis on human action versus the Dominicans, who put more emphasis on grace.

  • CM

    Jesuit, because I love the spirituality of St Ignatius. But I probably wouldn't survive long because the general Catholic ethos of the outfit has gone off the rails I think.

  • Webster Bull

    Interesting comments so far. Touching to see how many have been touched by the members of a particular order. @Bolillo Tejano: You've given me more good reasons for joining the Dominicans! Now, about being a married Dominican…@Matthew: When I first converted, I got to know the monks at a Benedictine abbey a bit and found it deeply rewarding. Amazing that a charism that began 1500 years ago can continue! I am passing along your information about the Carmelites in another comment below, thanks!@Fred: I have replied to your question in this morning's mea culpa! :-)@Fan of Schall: Great top 10 list! I need to learn something about Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

  • Webster Bull

    Matthew kindly sent along information about the Secular Order of Carmelites, including a list of web sites about them. He wrote: “The Carmelites as an order tend to not draw a lot of attention to themselves and so maybe we don't hear about them as often as some of the other orders but the spirit of this order is wonderful. I believe they have more Doctors of the Church than any other order, which is pretty amazing!The Secular Carmelites follow the same rule as the Friars and nuns except they do so within the realm of their life as laity. The Liturgy of the Hours is a required practice and daily mass is encouraged if possible. The real goal though is the same as all Carmelites have, to turn our life into a prayer. To have a deep and abiding hunger for souls to reach heaven.http://www.ocdswashprov.org/http://www.ocdwest.org/ocds.htmlhttp://www.ocds.info/http://www.ocds-us.org/http://www.carmelitedigest.com/index.htmlhttp://www.ourgardenofcarmel.org/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10217044588939824459 Br. Benedict Marie, OCSO

    After 17 years of searching out (and sometimes hiding from) my vocation, I very happily entered Mount St. Bernard Abbey in Leicestershire, England. I found that NOT reading the "lives of the founders" of the orders very helpful. I visited a number of communities and saw how they lived today, and did not compare them to an unreachable ideal. Though I must say it was a hard choice between Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey in Sparta, Wisc.(O. Cist) and Mount St. Bernard (OCSO)in England!!I of course voted for the Cistercians on the poll =D

  • Anonymous

    Hi YIM, I would definitely go with the Carmelites. I happened upon them and their chapel and I have become an ardent fan. Think about it-The Little Flower, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Titus Brandsma. Even John Paul II was drawn to the Carmelites as an order. They are modern day mystics! Thanks, Regina

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11961792423937962991 stpetric

    I have a long affection for Benedictines and the Benedictine Rule. I like the Carmelites and Dominicans, too, don't get me wrong, and of course the Cistercians and Carthusians, but the Benedictines were there first, and they've maintained their emphasis squarely on the heart of spiritual growth: Prayer and Scripture, the daily office and lectio divina. Can't beat that!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01262662173303042998 Fred

    There's also an Ecclesial Carmelite Movement:http://usa.carmeloveneto.it/Fr. Sicari OCD has an interesting article that gives some context:http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/sicari29-2.pdfThe term ecclesial movement is a curious one in that it parallels the phrase 'ecclesial community' which is the official Vatican term for Protestant denominations…

  • cathyf

    Fred, I'm not sure what you mean by the identification of religious orders with the priesthood. For the vast majority of American Catholics, at least, the vast majority of their contacts with people in religious life are women religious, because women religious outnumber men religious by something like 10-to-1. When I think of Dominicans, I think of St. Catherine, not St. Dominic! (And not just because she's my patron saint :-) )I've found that there are lots of folks (even Catholics!) who don't even realize that there are men in religious orders. They think that there are nuns and priests (diocesan priests) and don't know about brothers or religious-order priests.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07842496412575851453 Will Duquette

    Definitely the Dominicans; it was through St. Thomas Aquinas that I was led back to the church a few years ago. It's moot, of course, because it's pretty clear by this time that I'm called to marriage and family (wife, four kids, It's Good To Be Dad). But that's why I'm looking to be a Lay Dominican.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01262662173303042998 Fred

    cathyf, thank you for drawing our attention to women in the orders! Women have always been drawn to the life of the counsels and often have been ahead of men in understanding them. The famous story of St. Scholastica & St. Benedict characterizes Scholastica as having a better appreciation for the holy friendship of religious life whereas her brother Benedict was a bit more anxious about the rules. In 1998, Joseph Ratzinger proclaimed clearly that "women were never bishops or priests, but they were co-bearers of apostolic life and its universal task" (p 498 – http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/PDF/ratzinger25-3.pdf).In the communities of men, the priesthood has eclipsed the charism to such a degree that religious priests are seen to be various brands or styles of priest – as the structure of the poll here demonstrates. The communital form of their life is less clear (except with the Benedictines) than it is for communities of women.St. Catherine of Siena is a shining example of the life of the Evangelical counsels lived amid everyday life. Her asceticism was not the voluntary sufferings of those living in a land-owning community, but that of living in a world of needy people: living with her mother, taking care of sick people around her. Her Carmelite charism didn't isolate her from human life but thrust her more deeply into it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01262662173303042998 Fred

    oops! Mea culpa! that should be: Catherine of Sienna's *Dominican* charism.

  • Webster Bull

    @Fred, Oh, so now you're making the mistakes, huh? ;-)Thank you for all you have contributed here!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Golly, 323 (Three Hundred Twenty-Three) major orders according to this list on wikipedia. Wow! our poll barely scratched the surface.

  • Webster Bull

    I say next week we run a poll with 323 orders–but don't leave out the diocesan priest!!!!! :-)

  • Turgonian

    The Dominicans have St. Thomas Aquinas. 'Nuff said.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16142633311407145793 Wine in the Water

    Definitely Dominican. Their focus on catechesis – both of the self and of others – very much appeal to me. Although, I must say that I have mixed feelings about Aquinas .. or rather, not so much about Aquinas, but about his place in the Church. Without diminishing his brilliance, I think our theology depends a bit too much on him at times.


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