From Catholic World News:  Unite contemplation and activism, Pope says.  Excerpt with my emphases:Pope Benedict wearing saturno

Speaking to about 11,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope–who wore the broad-brimmed red hat, the saturno, to shield himself from the sun–summarized the wisdom of St. Isidore in a sentence: “Just as we must love God through contemplation, so we must love others through action.”

St. Isidore, the Pope recalled, lived at a time (560- 636) when the Iberian peninsula had been conquered by barbarians and Arians, and needed to be re-evangelized. Profiting from a rich family library, he developed “an encyclopedic knowledge of classical pagan culture as well as a profound understanding of Christian culture.” That scholarly background helped him to spread the faith in difficult circumstances, earning his title as a Doctor of the Church.

In fact, Pope Benedict observed, the circumstances of that era should be somewhat familiar to today’s Christians, who are witnesses to “the re-emergence of situations very similar to those on the Iberian peninsula in the 6th century.” Christians today, the Pope said, should profit from St. Isidore’s example as we are “called to bear witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium.”

Let’s see… contemplation, action, study… just add “community” and you would have the four pillars of Dominican life!  Indeed, this little excerpt captures a lot of why I wanted and needed to become a Lay Dominican.

I wanted and needed the healthy and realistic balance of Dominican life, the fact that it is built on those four pillars.  I especially like that it acknowledges the importance of scholarship and reason, while also bringing in the contemplation we need in order to know and love God beyond the limits of our reason, together with the love and support we give and receive through active ministry and community life.  It involves the whole person. The Dominican Order is really focused on the human person, and on allowing each Dominican to be his or her own person, to develop and contribute his or her own talents, personal attributes, and experiences.  The uniqueness of each person is one of the things that makes us human.

Our Holy Father is very right when he says that the circumstances of St. Isidore’s life–or, for that matter, St. Dominic’s life–should be familiar to us today.  Barbarism and heresy are not just things of the past!  The needs that St. Isidore and St. Dominic saw around them–the need for Christ, the need for the faith, the need for truth, the need for conversion, the need for mercy–are still in our world, and the world needs people to witness to those things, to let it know that its needs don’t have to go unfulfilled!  Barbarism and heresy and evil may be rampant, but the world is not condemned to them! The world doesn’t have to accept and give in to them!  We Catholics can serve as living proof of that, just as all our Saints before us have!

Prayer, action, study, community–these are the things that can see us through, no matter how difficult life and the world may be.  The Dominican Order has taught and demonstrated them admirably, but they are not just for Dominicans.  They are part of our timeless Catholic tradition.  And I really like to encourage all my fellow Catholic laypeople, to embrace that tradition, in whatever ways and to whatever extents their own specific vocations may allow.  Not everybody is called to be a Lay Dominican or a lay member of any other order, but I do think we are all called in some way to incorporate those four things into our lives. In fact, I would consider them absolutely necessary for being a practicing Catholic.