Websites and magazines galore are littered with personality quizzes. To name a few:
The main flaw in this kind of ‘quiz’ (besides being a senseless waste of time) is that they highlight only one aspect of a given person or thing and equate the personality of the survey taker with a single idea, reducing him to one poorly written paragraph.
And yet it’s baffling how popular these things are. I think this phenomenon shows the needs of our generation to have an image. We hunger for additional labels from others to make ourselves more noticeable. We want to belong to a subculture within a subculture. Eventually, when we cling to certain labels more strongly, we arrive at plenty of false contraries:
1) Please check which word or person comes closest to describing your faith:
[ ] Religious or [ ] Spiritual
[ ] Justice or [ ] Mercy
[ ] Pope Benedict or [ ] Pope Francis
[ ] Liturgical or [ ] Social Justice
[ ] Poor and ascetic or [ ] Intellectual and relaxed
2) Are you about to:
[ ] Answer these questions or [ ] Mock this absurdity before reading the rest of this post?
The question of polarization and false labels in our culture has been dealt with recently. I posit this same danger even exists with our devotions. To many, there can be a constant tension between imitating the virtues in a certain saint’s life and pursuing our own in ours.
Today is All Dominican Saints Day, and a multitude of those who took the habit given by Our Lady to Bl. Reginald of Orleans are praying for us right now. Yes, the other saints are, too, but today we only ask for OP intercession (joke).
For those outside the Order, it may seem odd to have another All Saints Day just devoted to our Order’s saints. Yet we must praise the Divine Providence that allowed certain men and women to lead, write, preach, pray, study, and act in the spirit of St. Dominic. They, by their example, help lead us to Christ. They remind us that we don’t live in an isolated community, an isolated world, or an isolated age. Without the occasional reflection on our particular spiritual heritage and how it’s reflected in the Church Triumphant, we risk becoming complacent or ungrateful for our particular tradition.
Being a Dominican is humbling. For 800 years, a vast range of men and women have led incredible lives and offered a considerable amount to the Church in many ways. Thinking about the contributions of Thomas, the spiritual insight of Catherine, or the guidance of Pope Pius V, we can feel that we don’t have much to offer in comparison.
But that’s the thing: we aren’t to compare ourselves with them in every way. It would be a false form of devotion to emulate them contrary to how we’re called. No ‘OP survey’ gets passed around today to decide:
–Am I [ ] theological-Thomas or [ ] prayerful-Henry?
–Am I [ ] poor-serving-Rose or [ ] liturgically-moved-Pius V?
Reducing a saint to one aspect of his or her life is just as absurd an idea as limiting ourselves in the same way. In fact, it’s a refutation of God’s distinct will for our lives. I’m not meant to be John Tauler; I’m meant to be John Thomas.
Our lives are to be soaked with gratitude in every way. This day helps us do just that. Thank God that there are as many personalities in Heaven as there are saints, no labels needed.
Image: Dominican Family Tree, c. 1490