To Live is to Change
What a difference one can day make
One of my favourite saints is John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890). He once wrote t“To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” I do not think that I am anywhere near being perfect, but the first part is certainly true for the years since I joined the Order of Preachers in 2013. Today, a new chapter was added to my journey when the Dutch province was suppressed and merged with the Belgian Province of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was a day with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I reflected on how a long Dutch tradition had come to an end, and on the other hand, I was thanking God for the new energy and opportunities that this merger already seems to bring.
Lauds in our chapel on the morning, ©Ramon Mangold: source www.dominicanen.nl.
It started early in the morning when many brothers of Belgium joined Lauds in our tiny chapel in Rotterdam. It was such a wonderful experience to pray the Divine Office together to start this historic day. Then, we moved to a bigger venue in the church next door, where the act of suppression was read, and then all the brothers were entrusted to the care of the Belgian provincial, a process that we call “transfiliation.” It means something like “transferring your being-a-son of a particular province to being-a-son of another province.” For me, this was the second time it had happened. In 2013 I entered the Order as a son of the English Province. Then, with an eye to the new mission in the Netherlands, I “transfiliated” and became a son of the Dutch province. And as of today, I am a son of the Belgian province. And yes, it feels different, and yet, on a deeper level, it does not. For, in the end, being a friar preacher is about loyalty to the mission of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of Saint Dominic. And over the years, that loyalty has grown deeper and has brought me great joy.
The prior of Louvain-la-Neuve bids me welcome as a brother in the Belgian province, ©Ramon Mangold: source www.dominicanen.nl
There was another change today. After the Eucharist with the Master of the Order, the extensive lunch followed by the elections for the brothers that will govern the Dutch vicariate within the Belgian province, I was handed two letters by my “new” superior, the Belgian provincial. The first one told me that I was being assigned to the convent at Leuven as of today and that I should move there as soon as possible. And the second letter contained the official appointment as prior to the community at Leuven. There it was in black and white. I had little time to let it sink in, as we were due to celebrate Vespers with the brothers.
But as I started writing this dispatch tonight, looking at the two letters, I was struck by the wisdom of Newman’s words. Newman wrote these words in the context of the question of how ideas develop. But I think the terms can also be applied to our personal development. I am not the same person who entered the order in 2013, yet there is continuity. I will not claim any form of perfection, but I think that I am more at home now than I was ever before. And so, I end my prayers tonight feeling grateful for God’s gift of a Dominican vocation.