>As I was leaving the Spring Gala at the Dominican House of Studies on Saturday I was rather surprised, as I descended the steps of the priory, to suddenly hear the remark, “Hey, that’s a blogger!” Turning round, the interlocutor turned out to be one of the Dogs of the Lord (“Dominicanes”), who was speaking with an older lady and donor to the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception. After introductions were made, it emerged that the priest in question is Father Benedict Croell, O.P., Director of Vocations for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and that he is not only a fellow blogger, over at Order of Preachers Vocations, but has perused these virtual pages as well as having re-posted them to the Province’s Facebook group. In addition to being deeply flattered that these scribblings would be considered worthy of dissemination to a wider audience – an occurrence which never ceases to amaze – it was also the first time that The Courtier was recognized as a writer “on the street”, as it were, by someone whom he did not already know.
As wonderfully organized by The Wondrous Pilgrim and aptly described last evening by The American Papist, the event was a tremendous success. It was a great opportunity to see old acquaintances and make new ones, and all involved worked very hard to make what one hopes will become an annual event thoroughly enjoyable. If you did not have the opportunity to attend, rest assured that it will be brought to your attention again this time next year, and that plenty of advance notice for scheduling purposes will be provided.
On the way to an after-party The Courtier and a professor friend who specializes in European history and political theory at an area Catholic college got into a discussion about the historic role of the gentleman – or lady – of means in supporting religious communities like the Dominicans. This was partly due to the atmosphere itself, since it is not often that one has the opportunity to attend an event within a structure that would have been easily comprehensible and recognizable to people living in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. However the situs of the Dominican Priory in particular was significant for this writer, having always been drawn to St. Dominic and chosen him as his confirmation saint – partially due to his being a Spaniard and partially because of his very courtly devotion to Our Lady.
Those of us who are not called to the religious life – and we of course constitute the significant majority in the Church – are asked to support our parish and diocese as best we can with donations of money, time and talents. Yet the desire to support one of the religious houses is something beyond our obligation to help our local parish and which may not occur to those of us who have seen a monastery, convent, and the like but never gotten to know any of the men and women who live there. Becoming a benefactor of one of these foundations connects us not only to the apostolate of the order which we support, be they contemplative, preaching, teaching, and so on, but also to the history and culture of the Church. Our Western civilization, whether in the preservation of ancient wisdom or in the development of the arts and sciences, would arguably not have been possible, or at the very least would certainly have been less robust, but for the connection between the religious houses and the laity which supported them.
This blog’s model and patron Baldassare Castiglione, Count of Novilara, tells us that the the courtier must act justly in the support of others when he is possessed of means to do so, since the gentleman is called to show the love of Christ at all times
but much more when they are in prosperity, so that afterwards they may the more reasonably have confidence to ask Him for mercy when they are in some adversity. For it is impossible to govern rightly either one’s self or others without the help of God; who to the good sometimes sends good fortune as His minister to relieve them from grievous perils; sometimes adverse fortune, to prevent their being so lulled by prosperity as to forget Him.
The Book of the Courtier, Part IV.
Patronage of a religious house does not mean that you have to commission an altarpiece, or build a beautiful new carmel, on behalf of the religious community you are drawn to support. Of course, if you are in a position to do such things, then you certainly ought to consider doing so. [N.B. I have already promised one of the friars that I will pay for the repair of the marble floor in the cloister if I win Powerball.] What it does mean however, is that you adopt a willingness to go beyond what is expected of you as a Catholic-in-the-pew to making a sacrifice in support of something larger than yourself, as did the widow in the Temple. It is something that I challenge you to consider, gentle reader, in your own life.
This does not necessarily mean that you have to support the Dominicans and the Little Sisters of the Poor here in D.C., or the Poor Clares in Barcelona, as I do. Worthy as these groups are, wherever you may find yourself in the world as you are reading this, you can be certain that there is a religious community near you which would be deeply grateful for your support, however large or small. It is through their lives of prayer, sacrifice, hard work and devotion that we are all given a model to follow in our own lives. And because they are dependent upon charity, a true courtier has the obligation to consider whether he can do something to help in the promotion of the good works of these, our brothers and sisters who have chosen to accept God’s Grace and direction in their lives in an unique way.
Altarpiece of St. Dominic
Unknown Aragonese Master (c. 1300-1320)
National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona