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Consecrated Life: Prophetic Witness

Thursday, March 05, 2015

If three years ago before I joined the Dominicans, I told my friends that I was called to be a prophetic witness, after about 5 minutes (being the time it would have taken for the laughter to die out), a question along the following lines would probably have cropped up: “You, a prophet, but you can’t even tell the future?!”

And they’d be right  . . . to an extent . . .  for I can’t tell the future* . . . but, more importantly they’d be wrong in thinking, like many people (myself included until very recently), that prophecy was all about the future, and that it was about some special quality of the prophet.

Because the prophet is first and foremost a spokesman for another, and what the prophet is saying won’t always have to do with the future, but it is always very much about the now. As Dominicans, we seek to say something about the time we live in, and we do it by living in a way that is to some extent timeless, being rooted in a tradition that goes back 800 years since the foundation of our Order.

Like others in consecrated lives, we hope that, through our lives, we might proclaim the Gospel and make it credible by the way that we live. In fact, at its best, there is no division in our life between being and doing. Our whole life is to be a form of preaching, a preaching that points beyond us as individuals to another.

We are not extraordinary people, but we point to something extraordinary. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about us is that such a diverse group of individuals could live such joyful and hopeful lives together . . . and the only explanation is Christ.

Happy and Joyful Dominicans at Robin Hood Bay at the end of a Coast to Coast Pilgrimage

The consecrated life is a prophetic witness to the primacy of God, “as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be” and to the things that do not pass away. To the extent that we give up things that we previously valued, it is for the sake of something of far greater value: to serve other and to serve God in doing so.

Something that I was regularly asked by friends before joining the Dominicans was “why?”
I even had some Catholics try and persuade me that I should continue as a lawyer and then I could give lots of money to the Church for the poor. And while they may have been wrong to seek to dissuade me, they were all correct to ask “why?” For, if we live the consecrated life well then the constant reaction from Catholics and non-Catholics alike should always be “Why?”As Cardinal Suhard said:

“To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

For this is how we seek to be prophetic witnesses in our consecrated lives, by showing that nothing really matters unless we have Christ, and that if we have Christ then nothing else really matters anyway.

*at least, no more than any other Christian, for each of us may know through faith that “on Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil” (CCC 681).

Toby Lees O.P.

Br Toby Lees O.P. Fr Toby Lees is currently assigned to the Priory of San Clemente in Rome for reasons of study. He is completing his STB at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas ("Angelicum") in Rome.  |  toby.lees@english.op.org


Anonymous commented on 09-Mar-2015 12:07 PM
Great insights Toby… enjoyed reading your post!

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