In depictions of Saint Dominic, a dog, clutching a torch in its mouth and seated upon a globe, often accompanies the Order’s founder. By God’s grace, that fire is still blazing after eight centuries, carried into today’s world by the sons of Saint Dominic. This summer, I had the good fortune to catch up with a marvelous friar who is still ignited with zeal for preaching and the salvation of souls: Father Giles Dimock, O.P.
Father Giles has the great blessing to be celebrating his fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination during the Order’s Jubilee. Father Giles is currently assigned to our priory in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he mentors the young men who have come to test out their Dominican vocations in the crucible of the novitiate year. His tutelage was tremendously helpful during my own novitiate, and his friendship since then has been a joyful testimony to a fraternity that, at its best, transcends generational barriers. I was delighted when he agreed to sit down with me for a conversation that I could share with the readers of Dominicana. I hope what follows gives a sense of this remarkable priest, teacher, and servant of God.
If someone unfamiliar with the Order of Preachers were to ask you, ‘Who’s Saint Dominic?’, how would you begin to respond?
Saint Dominic was by all accounts an extraordinary man: charismatic, apostolic, a student, a preacher, and compassionate toward the poor. He lived a balanced life and thus gave the Order a certain degree of balance. Fr. Humbert Clerissac, O.P., wrote that no single Dominican could capture all that Holy Father Dominic was, and I think that is right. Dominic was not concerned with making replicas of himself, but rather in forming a band of apostolic preachers that would attract people by their zeal. If his friars could burn in the manner of their preaching, then he knew the hearts of the faithful would likewise be enkindled with the love of God.
Have there been trials in your priesthood?
Certainly. My ordination class in 1966 was the first to be ordained in a Mass facing the congregation. Over the years, half my classmates left the priesthood. It was while I was studying in Rome in the early 1970s that I found the Charismatic Renewal, and that was a saving grace in my life. It was through that experience that I learned to pray in a deeper way than I had ever known.
What difference is most manifest when you consider the priesthood in 1966 compared to the priesthood today?
Well, in 1966 there was still an air of clericalism. The priest was still respected in the culture, and a man could bank on certain favors and use his priestly identity in that way. Obviously, this is not so anymore. Today, the priest must stand out as a sign of holiness and of service.
What has it meant to you to be a priest-teacher?
To be at once a priest and a teacher is a special combination. Being a priest brings a pastoral dimension into the classroom. I have found that priestly teaching has lead to penance and conversion of life for many students over the years. I have loved teaching and am grateful to be doing so even now in a limited capacity with our novices.
Being in our novitiate community and teaching the novices, how would you say the men entering today compare to those who entered with you?
The men called to be Dominicans today are not especially different from other times. There is still a definite zeal that attracts men to our Order. One thing that I do notice is that whereas before a novice usually could count on support from his family, today the vocation is more counter-cultural. It is not uncommon for a man to face significant disapproval from his family and friends.
Having one homily left to give, on what would you choose to preach?
I would preach on openness to God. I would preach on the necessity of asking God for His help to learn how to pray. If one is open to God and docile to His teaching, God will guide them.
If, fifty years from now, one of your former students was asked about Father Giles Dimock, what would you hope he would say?
That he tried to be a good Dominican. That he loved teaching and put his whole heart into it. That is enough.
Image: Fr. Giles Dimock, O.P.