“The chief motivation for your sharing life together is to live harmoniously in the house and to have one heart and one soul seeking God.”
We friars often hear this in our life, especially while we’re in formation. It’s one of the opening lines of The Rule of St. Augustine, the religious rule that structures our life together and to which we profess obedience. The goal of so often hearing this line, and the Rule as a whole, is to make the desire to live with one heart and soul part of ourselves, for it to become something we seek by habit.
It frequently happens that when this phrase is preached or presented, it tends to be about the big picture. The discussion usually centers on the ins and outs of the common life, trying to discover how best to seek God in all we do. All of this is quite important, and certainly not to be neglected. But I was struck recently by something smaller, something far simpler.
I recently attended Mass at a local shrine. When the time came during the Mass for the people’s responses, I was struck by the variety of paces, volumes, and tones among the congregation. This is not uncommon, nor is it problematic. What struck me, however, was the contrast between the congregation at this shrine and the congregation of my brothers at our community Mass. At a shrine, the congregation typically consists of pilgrims—people from all walks of life, not necessarily having anything in common besides their devotion to God and the pilgrimage site. In the diverse voice of the pilgrims, we hear the universality of the Church.
As for us Dominican brothers, the unity of our voices when we pray, whether it be the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Rosary, offers a different perspective to the diversity of the shrine. The rhythm of the life we have grown accustomed to shows itself in the liturgy, as we all pray the responses with the same pace, volume, and tone. We pray together, with one voice, to God.
It is in this seemingly little thing, our unity in the responses of the liturgy, that I see being lived today what St. Augustine asked of his monks some 1700 years ago. Men called to a common life, with one heart and one soul, and, we could add, with one voice, seeking God, through the liturgy of the Church.
This unity, which is easily perceived in a religious house, a family, or a parish, is always present in the liturgy. The liturgy is a point of unity in the Church, where the faithful come together, with one mind and soul, to seek God. Whether at a house of religious committed to the common life, or with a group of pilgrims with a shared devotion, we come to the liturgy to seek God, in communion with the Body of Christ.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission).