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Quodlibet 34 - The differences between Dominicans and Franciscans?

Monday, February 07, 2011
We have been asked to explain the differences between the Dominicans and Franciscans. Brother Andrew Brookes writes as follows in response to this request:

I think for the most part it is best to locate any differences in the context of what we hold in common, points which are far more substantial. Thus both orders were started in the opening years of the 13th century in southern Europe. Both are said to be friars, meaning brothers. In simple terms both were inspired by the desire to live the apostolic life in following Jesus. Thus they wanted both to live in community (in fraternity), owning things in common and having a shared prayer life, but also to go out and preach the gospel, living simply and trusting God to provide for their needs. As such they were not to be monks who traditionally stayed within a monastery, but they adapted monastic life to combine it with apostolic mission. Again, in both cases a central group of consecrated men arose but linked to this were enclosed women who prayed for the work and a wider network of lay people. (Active women religious were added to each later in their histories.) Both are Roman Catholic groups approved by the papacy and now international in distribution. Although Francis is remembered for his love of creation, this also marked Dominic and his followers who were committed to defending the goodness of all creation and also human nature against the Cathars. Both groups now undertake a wide range of apostolates.
Some differences emerge from the specific characters and lives of their respective founders. At the time of becoming a founder, Dominic was a priest and he had a focus on good, clear preaching and teaching of the Gospel. For this reason he stressed study as a means to prepare his friars for preaching and teaching that was clear, true and of a good standard. It has meant that Dominicans have since taken part also in the academic life of the church in marked ways. Francis was a lay person, eventually made a deacon, and he stressed a simple life of repentance, of compassion for outcasts, and his preaching was of a much simpler style. This and some subtle theological points have led Dominicans to be associated more with God as Truth and Franciscans with God as Love, but, in my view, far too much can be made of this and really truth and love go together in God and in any authentic Christian life. Although both Dominic and Francis both lived very poor personal lives, Franciscans are seen to place a higher value on poverty as an end in itself in following Jesus whereas Dominicans tend to see it as helping us to live simply and be free to preach and to love and to trust in God, so it is more of a means to an end, perfection consisting in love of God and neighbour.
There have sometimes been historical tensions between the groups but there are also strong links binding us together as parts of the one body of Christ.

Andrew Brookes OP


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