A friend once asked me about the thought process that went into my decision to join the Dominican Order. “To be honest, I actually didn’t think much about it,” was my reply. Before I could proceed to explain, my friend interrupted, “Well, that’s hard to believe! Isn’t it your job as a Dominican to think? It doesn’t seem fitting for someone joining the Dominican Order to not think about his vocation.”
I was taken aback for a moment. On the one hand, I was confident in the huge choice I made for my life—I did in fact have a desire to become a Dominican friar—on the other hand, my friend was truly concerned with what appeared to be an irrational and hasty decision. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t subject my mind to a careful screening process or scrutinize all available options in order to figure out the right plan for my life. Well, I certainly have had some time to think about this brief exchange of words.
The objection raised by my friend concerning the need to think carefully before acting is very reasonable and wise. Indeed, one must not jump to conclusions without seeking the right counsel and obtaining all the necessary facts. This is called prudence—it’s about putting all the pieces together. But how does one know when all the pieces have been gathered together without entering into an infinite regress? How does one even know whether all the pieces are from the same box?
At the other end of the spectrum is a “wait-and-see” approach to discernment. It’s about waiting for the right moment, the right opportunity, and then pouncing on it. It’s the Whack-a-Mole game—wait for the little guy to pop up and then wham! You win the big money. All the options are out in front, and I just wait for a sign to help me take the next step.
Looking back at our biggest decisions in life, can we ever say that we’ve given them enough thought? In one sense, I did think about my vocation. Or to be more precise, I pondered my vocation, and I am still pondering it. But in pondering the meaning of my vocation, I do not think so much about getting it right with God, but about the right that God does. I did not create myself, my family members, my friends, my neighbors, or the Dominican friars. God created them all and continues to work through them.
In reply to my friend, I suppose I did have a thought process going into my discernment, just not the kind he expected. I thought not about the various possibilities for my life, which can be close to infinite; rather, I thought about God and pondered the great things He has done for me and for others, especially for my family, friends, neighbors, and the Dominican friars. God does an infinite amount for us for which we should be thankful.
In another sense, I can say that I did jump right into the Dominican life almost in an instant. I got baited and hooked, like a fish in the ocean. I saw something beautiful fluttering about so I came in for a closer look. I bit into the dangling lure of the consecrated life and then, all of sudden, was drawn up out of the water. It was Dominic who caught me, and he put me securely in the boat of the Fisherman.
Image: Mikhail Nesterov, St Paphnutius of Borovsk