A Living Sacrifice
Celebrating the World Day for Consecrated Life
“Brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God your spiritual worship”
— Romans 12:1
During the first years of the Order of Preachers, a Dominican brother once asked his confrère, Blessed Reginald of Orleans, “Do you ever feel depressed, Master, that you put on the habit?” With eyes looking down, he replied, “I very much doubt if there is any merit in it for me, because I have always found so much pleasure in the order.”
I love being a Dominican, and I love being a priest. I once asked one of our spiritual masters at the Dominican House of Studies, “What should be greater emphasized, the priesthood or Dominican life?” I learned early on in our tradition that actually both are important and integral to the other, because Dominic founded our order as clerical from the beginning; though we do also have permanent “cooperator” brothers. That’s not the case with some other men’s religious orders, which see the priesthood as a call within their call to religious life.
The Church’s understanding of the evangelical counsels provides a particular way that we may be conformed to Jesus and imitate his life in charity. Our all-star, St. Thomas Aquinas, describes the call: “The counsels of a wise friend are of great use, as it is said in Scripture: ‘Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart, and the good counsels of a friend rejoice the soul’ (Prv 27:9). But Christ is our wisest and greatest friend. Therefore his counsels are supremely useful and fitting” (Summa Theologica I-II, q.108, a.4).
As one of my good friends in the order always says about the challenges of living with the brethren, “Our life is a vale of tears!” Life is full of incredible challenges that come our way, both personally (such as midlife crises) and communally. I have found, though, that under divine providence the Lord always provides incredible joys and many consolations as we struggle to be faithful. For me the key has been my prayer life, which is where I personally have found the elements of our common life (the choral office, meditation, wearing of the habit, study, common table, etc.) to have been for me the banks of a river that keep me moving, helping me to go where I am meant to go, and to become the Dominican priest God has called me to be. Isn’t it true that we have to get in? We have to get wet! We cannot sit on the side of the river like a spectator and wait for inspiration for holiness. Rather, the grace of God always is there to inspire and to transform.
As a priest, we get to be with people in the most important times of their lives. To act in persona Christi in the Mass is our privilege. To be so intimately close to Jesus so that his voice and his heart become my voice and my heart.
Still to this day, I find great inspiration in this meditation attributed to my brother, Jean-Baptiste Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, OP: “To live in the midst of the world / without wishing its pleasures; / To be a member of each family, / yet belonging to none; / To share all suffering; / to penetrate all secrets; / To heal all wounds; / to go from men to God / and offer him their prayers; / To return from God to men / to bring pardon and hope; / To have a heart of fire for Charity, / and a heart of bronze for Chastity / To teach and to pardon, / console and bless always. / My God, what a life; / and it is yours, / O priest of Jesus Christ.”
I entered the Order of Preachers in the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern) to become a Dominican priest. Now, 25 years later, in my assignments, I have found so much joy that I doubt there is any merit in it for me! And yet joy and happiness radiate from the gift of the priesthood. Let us thank God for this precious gift for the Church — and for each of us personally.
FATHER BENEDICT CROELL, OP, hails from Colorado and is a friar of the Eastern Dominican Province. He currently serves as the director of mission advancement for the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas — the Angelicum — in Rome.