PERHAPS, one day, his hands-on experience will count as the equivalent of an advanced degree. But for the time being, Fr. Dominic Izzo, O.P.in his second four-year term as Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, simply has no time to complete his graduate studies, even though earning a doctorate would have aided the academic apostolate of the Province and his own intellectual formation.
The 42-year-old Friar began his somewhat unorthodox life with a seven-year stint in Africa, taking on a variety of duties in the Provincial Vicariate of Eastern Africa. Based in Kenya, he was elected to become Vicar Provincial of the Province's missionary territory. By asking to go the missions, he says, he sought to honor St. Dominic, who himself longed to become a missionary among the Tartars but could not go.
Leaving the comforts of the US, "going to the unknown," he recalls, "was a real adventure." Such a journey, he insists, also provides the perfect metaphor of a life of faith that hinges on complete "trust in Divine Providence." This vision was often preached by the Order's founder, who, to the consternation of many, in 1216 sent the first Friars off on missionary journeys. And such a life is reserved for everyone, believes Fr. Izzo. Each one of us, he says, must learn "to think big, not be afraid, and rely on God."
For most ordinary folks of course, he continues, the great spiritual adventure takes place right at home or at the workplace, "it must be made manifest in family life, in relationships across the board. It is in relationships, through others, that we know ourselves," Fr. Izzo insists, and it is "through loving others and being loved that we mature."
That is a tall order, surely, and perhaps more than ever in this era of extreme individualism and social fragmentation. But this is precisely the challenge for present-day Dominicans, proclaims Fr. Izzo: to bring the wisdom of the Gospel and the heart of Church teaching to bear on real-life issues, as preachers and, more intimately, as confessors.
For example, in helping individuals address troubled relationships, the Dominican approach would be to link the fabric of human connections to the Church's teaching on communio, the importance of building honest, open relationships with others is a reflection, ultimately, of the Body of Christ and the mystery of the relationships that animate the Trinity.
The Provincial speaks of "fulfilling the [Dominican] vision of reconciliation through doctrinal preaching, connecting doctrine to real life." He adds that "daily life choices involve matters of truth and faith every step of the way, the stakes are huge." The Dominican mission aims to "reconnect people to God and the New Evangelization and to invite and enable them to participate fully in their faith through prayer and study."
For the laity, stresses Fr. Izzo, the key is perseverance. They must be willing to "give it up constantly to God," to let Him be in charge of the big picture, so to speak, and letting go of the anxieties provoked by an often desperate sense that they themselves are in charge of their lives and ultimately responsible for their own well-being. That process is both humbling and freeing, says the Friar, and only then can people "taste" the goodness and power of what the Church believes.
As a result, he says, Catholics can discover that being faithful is not a matter of following rules, doing this and avoiding that. It is instead a gradual aligning of their will with the will of God in a life of virtue, a vision that lies at the heart of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas.
To be sure, the Friars don't preach "down" to people. "We preachers," says Father Izzo, "must first of all preach to ourselves, and communicate our own conversion to the people in our care." To that end, the Friars' daily half-hour of private meditation is key.
"The depth of our own renewal," says Fr. Izzo, is measured by the Friars' ability to "live in one mind and heart that are intent on God," in accordance with the rule of St. Augustine.
Living in community, moreover, means that "we do not have any privacy," says Fr. Izzo. The Friars, too, have a particular challenge to build healthy relationships: "we have to learn to be fraternal and accept accountability for all our actions," adds the Provincial.
Today, based in New York, Fr. Izzo is hardly chained to a desk. He is responsible for encouraging the lives of 310 Friars in all, which involves visitations to parishes, schools and other Dominican-run institutions in the Province throughout the year. And speaking of graduate studies, Fr. Izzo sometimes has to ask a Friar to pursue studies not of his own choosing. Gentle but firm diplomacy is the order of the day for the Provincial. His own doctorate will just have to wait a while longer.
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The media are invited to interview leading Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph as follows: Saturday, April 18 from 1:00pm-2:00 pm and Sunday, April 19 at 1:00-2:00 pm
Please meet interviewees on the 1st Floor of the Theological Library at the Dominican House of Studies (directions below), or by appointment.
For more information, or to schedule phone interview(s), please contact THOMAS PETERS or JEFF GRABOSKY.
Phone: 202-495-3877 or 202-495-3828
Address: The Dominican House of Studies, 487 Michigan Ave, NE, Washington DC 20017
Click here for directions and map