Dominican Leader Looks to the Future by Looking at the Past
Father Bruno Cadoré, the 87th grand master of the Order of Preachers, discusses the order’s 800 years of service to the Church.
VATICAN CITY — The 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order is an opportunity for it to “go back to its roots” and not to glorify itself but to celebrate in “humility and truth,” says the head of the Order of Preachers, Father Bruno Cadoré.
In an exclusive interview with the Register in Rome, the 87th grand master of the Order of Preachers discusses the current state of the order, today's challenges and jubilee events.
Elected at the general chapter of the order in Rome in 2010, Father Cadoré was born in Le Creusot in France in 1954 and was a medical doctor before entering the Dominican novitiate in 1979. He is ex officio grand chancellor of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, has a doctorate in moral theology and is a specialist in bioethics.
How important is this anniversary to the Dominican Order?
As always in a jubilee celebration, what’s significant is first to give thanks to the Lord for 800 years, the confidence we have been given from him, and so many brothers and sisters who have given their lives over all these centuries.
A jubilee is always significant for two reasons: firstly, to look at our roots and history and to recognize the grace of the Lord through that, and how the Lord has tried to help us to bring out the best of this tradition. This is best approached with realism and humility because, over eight centuries, you have had time to do some very beautiful things and to experience some failures, too. So from this point of view, and looking back on history, it’s also a good opportunity to strengthen ourselves, look to the future and to look at the world, to understand by this experience how one can serve in the world and the Church today.
We like to think of a mythical bird in African culture, a sankofa, which looks behind, looks where it is coming from and where it is going to in the future. So, for the order, it’s a good time to do that, a good time of humility, looking at the truth — what did we do and why and with whom? How did we understand the mission that the Lord has given us?
So this year means very much drawing on your traditions and heritage in order to look ahead?
Yes, how the brothers, priests and lay Dominicans preach and try to make the Gospel the good news. This is just our mission: to be in conversation with the world and, during this conversation, to try to make known the Gospel as the good news, as someone who is coming to address this world.
You’ve said before that this jubilee year is going to celebrate 800 years of the New Evangelization.
Yes, because evangelization is always new, in the sense that the world is moving, the seeking of the truth is moving, and history moves relationships among people, cultures and religions. So at each time in history, you have to consider this world as a new one. And to me, the surprise is that the world is always new because he, the Lord, is always creating the world anew. So to evangelize is always to have a new look on the world — and by this, to try to let us be surprised by the kind of presence of the Lord in this world.
What is the current state of the order, in terms of vocations? Where is it growing most?
We have 6,000 brothers, as well as sisters, nuns, cloistered sisters — they are more or less 3,000. Among the apostolic sisters, members of the Dominican family, they number more or less 25,000. Lay Dominicans, living in fraternities, are about 120,000, more or less, and among them are laypeople and members of secular institutes, youth movements. Then there’s the priesthood fraternities of the order. These are the numbers, but in the Bible it’s said it’s not so important to have numbers.
Among the 6,000 brothers, 1,000 are in initial formation, which is a beautiful sign. These new brothers are young, that is, under 30 years old, and they are going to provinces in the Old World. We have new vocations in Asia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Myanmar, China, but we also have new brothers in the United States, Africa, Europe. So, for the moment, we are fortunate to welcome new brothers from all parts of the world, more or less, not exactly in the same numbers, but the movement, the dynamism, is present everywhere.
The order is present in around 100 countries, and we have 40-45 provinces or entities. You know, in the order, the cell of life is the community, and several communities in the same country, same region constitute a province, and they [are] linked today to build the order.
There’s often talk of a crisis of vocations in the West. Is that something the Dominicans have not experienced much?
If we understand the term “crisis” as the call to discern and to move, the welcoming of new vocations is always a crisis. It means a call to understand. What do we have to understand? When it comes to vocations, we have to welcome a message from the Lord.
My concern is always — and I suppose it’s the concern of all my brothers — to understand: What does he want to tell us when he manifests this confidence to send new brothers to preach here or there? What are they bringing to the order? What kind of culture [are they bringing] to the order? What kind of social skills, what kind of professional skills, what kind of experience in the Church are they bringing?
What would you say has been the greatest contribution of the Order of Preachers over the past eight centuries?
I hope it is to have tried to help people understand that the Lord would like to have a conversation [with them] with humility and to be friends with them in different ways — through fraternity, through a pastoral presence, through theological research — trying to show that the human being is able to understand something from this conversation from the Lord, by striving, working to make human rights recognized, supported and promoted.
I hope the order has opened this preaching to brothers, sisters, priests, laymen and women, to try to build a family, to give testimony of the Lord’s friendship, or desire to have a friendship, and a relationship with people. So I hope this is the fruit of the Dominican preaching.
Preaching is also very central to the order, of course — what has been the order’s greatest contribution in that regard?
Preaching is important, in this sense: to receive the word of God; to try to live with this word; to try to understand it and to share it in so many ways.
Obviously, we can speak about preaching in the Eucharistic celebration, by giving a homily, which is sort of preaching, a kind of preaching, but there is also preaching when you are teaching, or when you are just keeping silent, or living with the poor and those who are forgotten.
The order came into being at a time when men of God were no longer expected to stay behind the walls of a cloister, but were seen to be more apostolic. One could say this is very much in line with Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries, to be with those suffering the most. Do you see this time, therefore, as a chance for a rebirth of the order, given the current manifold problems in society today?
I like very much the way Pope Francis is speaking about preaching, evangelization, which is not so far from [what] we’re speaking about. He’s speaking more and more about that and calling all the Church to do it — and he’s doing it. And when we look at him, we see someone who’s trying to do what he says and see someone who believes. So in this sense, this is something new, at least in the communication around the Church.
At the same time, we can say Pope Francis is telling us what Jesus was telling us at the beginning, when he said: “Let us go; I have to go to other cities and villages.” I say that because the model for the foundation [order] is precisely this: this first community of preaching about Jesus. For St. Dominic, Jesus was the one sent to preach; and then when he did that, he called some people to do it with him, and then he went through villages and cities just proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. St. Dominic just wanted to do that: to gather a community around him and to send this community, with or without him, all around the world to make this news known: that the kingdom of the Lord is coming through someone who is the Good News.
So I wouldn’t say it’s a rebirth, but a re-call to order, to be the order.
So a going back to the roots?
Yes, and the jubilee is just that. And doing that, we have to ask ourselves and to ask others: What are these other towns we have to reach, these other people we have to converse with?
And then it’s important, because the rebirth or strengthening will come from that. When you look at the new cultures today, the new ways of life, then you can imagine that, to speak with them, to have a conversation with them, we have to change our ways of speaking, teaching, being.
The techno-scientific culture has changed the way you, me — we — are living. You have some prolongation of your mind, your brain, and I have, too, and you have a prolongation of a way to communicate. Because of that, how should we speak about the Gospel? How should we speak about Someone who is approaching us without any conditions?
He’d like to be a friend of yours without any conditions, even if you don’t accept him. He just begs for your hospitality. So we have to find the way to share that in this time of secularization, which is not so easy. But at the same time, we have to do that in this moment of human history in which religions are very present and religious seeking is very present. The spiritual needs are very present, even if our contemporaries would say: “I’m not a believer, but I’m looking for something spiritual.”
So [we need to consider]: How should we try to serve the conversation the Lord would like to have with everybody?
What events are planned for this anniversary?
There are not so many events, for two reasons: We said we would like this jubilee to be an opportunity to have a process of humility and truth among ourselves. It’s what we want to do: We don’t want to glorify the order. I like it very much, and it’s a very beautiful order, but that isn’t the goal. So this is the first reason: humility and truth.
The second reason is also that, in the order, we like subsidiarity, so each province according to its culture, history, strength and resources will organize something.
For the whole order, we had an opening celebration at the beginning of November, a day of all the saints of the order, which is important, because when the Pope confirmed the order, he said he was giving the ministry of preaching as a means of sanctification to the brothers. So we have to learn how to preach from those who are saints. And we began this by proposing on our website, at least for all the members of the order and their friends, a daily lectio divina — so every day each member of the order and everyone else can take some time to go back to the word of God. This, for me, is a very significant and simple event: Take the Bible, read it, think about it, and pray. Just that.
We shall also have three major congresses: The first was in February, about the word of God and preaching on the occasion of the anniversary of Dei Verbum [the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution on divine Revelation]. Another will be in September in Salamanca [Spain] to remember the “Salamanca Process,” when the first brothers and Santo Domingo helped forge the beginning of human rights. So we shall do that: try to work together with brothers and sisters to give this kind of experience today.
And then, at the end of the jubilee, we hope that this will be celebrated by a sung Mass presided by the Holy Father, if it’s possible for him. Also, at the end, we shall have a Congress to look at the mission of the order in the future. We’re preparing that at the moment. Some issues related to our preaching that some groups are working on are issues related to parishes, indigenous people, new communications, how we can be better in evangelization.
What challenges do you expect in the future?
Don’t forget we have to try to follow the example of Jesus, the first preacher. So it means not forgetting there are always new cities, new cultures that we have to reach. Never forget, also, that — always — there are people who don’t have a voice in this world; and never forget, when you are concerned about religious affairs, the temptation is to close yourself off, believing you are the center of the world. As you know, the center of the world is someone else.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
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