When I look back on my Dominican vocation it is not always easy to identify the precise moment when I understood my vocation. My vocation evolved throughout my life as a Catholic believer. The process of moving specifically towards a religious institution, the Order of Preachers, means to have discerned and finally acted upon a my decision.
As far as I am concerned, becoming a Dominican mean to both “imitate” and “identify.” In terms of imitating, my vocation connected my future to the experience of my predecessors in the Dominican order in Angola. I held the desire to be like them, to “imitate” their commitments and missionary enthusiasm. “Imitation” leads to “identification”: it is because I wanted to be like them that I sought to integrate their missionary zeal to my own vocational aspirations.
I have always compared the first generation of Dominican missionaries in Angola as country doctors, who are not specifically obstetricians, cardiologist, dermatologist or psychiatrists; but rather, they represent a combination of all these skills.
The pioneers and pillars of Dominican life in Angola expressed the diversity of apostolic activity. The Dominicans were a people of prayer, dedicated to the community where they worked, whether the rich or poor missions, and in the difficult times of Angola, they were the voice and path of the conscience of the people.
It is therefore in this niche of missionary activity that my Dominican vocation was born, and in which I am still being nourished.
Greetings to all!
I am Brother Lamphone Phonevilay. I was born in Laos, but my family immigrated to Canada when I was just a baby. Coming from a non-practising Catholic family, I have always felt captivated by the question of God, ever since I was a little boy. This quest eventually led me to join the Order of Preachers.
My vocational discernment took about 10 years. After having distanced myself from the faith for several years in my early teens, I "reconverted" to Jesus Christ following a powerful spiritual experience I had at a major Catholic shrine, St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, where the Lord made me understand in a very intimate and profound way that the consecrated host is really the Body of Christ. This experience was the starting point for a new and beautiful adventure with God...
After this mystical experience at Saint Joseph's Oratory, I set out to find out more about God. So I read a lot of books on the lives of saints, as well as writings of Doctors of the Church. I had a great thirst for God that I couldn't quench. That's when I thought about the possibility of a religious life. The "party animal" that I was, whom my friends considered to be the "life of the party" whenever we went out somewhere during weekends, was it possible that the Lord was calling it to religious life? I couldn't believe it... or accept it.
One day however, I came to understand that this longing for God that I felt inside was possibly a sign that God was indeed calling me to the religious life. That's when I started exploring different religious communities to see which would suit me best. At first, I was mostly interested in the contemplative and monastic life. But eventually I realised that God was calling me to the Order of Preachers.
What drew me to the Order of Preachers were mainly three things: my love for the truth, my love for the Rosary and my love for St. Catherine of Siena. Indeed, even before my conversion, I was searching for the ultimate meaning of life. And whoever seeks the ultimate meaning of life is seeking the truth. And as we know, the Order of Preachers has as its motto “Veritas”, that is “Truth”. What's more, after my conversion at St. Joseph’s Oratory, I developed a particular devotion to the Rosary, which became my favorite prayer. The Rosary allowed me to place myself under Mary's good graces and let her lead me to her Son. And, of course, the Rosary is a prayer that holds a special place in the Order of Preachers. And finally, even before I began to think about the possibility of a religious life, I had a great love for St. Catherine of Siena, one of the three Doctors of the Church our Order has. One of her books made a particular impression on me: The Dialogues. This book has been an extraordinary spiritual nourishment for me when I was a layperson… and it continues to nourish me as a Dominican friar! There is so much to learn from from the teachings of St. Catherine!
In the end, my vocational discernment process helped me to understand one thing: God always speaks through our deepest desires, but also through our personal tastes and attractions. Although I was initially interested in monastic life, I came to understand that God was calling me to become a Dominican friar. Since joining the Order of Preachers, I have experienced a great feeling of inner fulfillment. I have finally found in the Dominican life the piece I needed to be completely myself. I thank the Lord for having given me the vocation of a Friar Preacher, a vocation that brings me, despite the trials of life, great inner joy!
May the Lord help each and every one of you discover his own vocation, always bearing in mind that the vocation God has in store for you will always be what brings you the most joy in this life!
When I speak about my religious life in the Order of Preachers (Dominicans), the quotation from Ps 138:3 comes to mind, “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased,” reminds me of my first day at the seminary. It was my childhood desire to be a priest. But as years rolled on and I was split in two in choosing what’s next. It is the prayer that helped me to take great step of my life.
Being with the Dominicans for eight years now, I feel proud to say I’m a Dominican. It is the Dominican habit that impressed me to join the order. And slowly I started learning the Dominican way of life. Religious life is like a road. There are different types of roads for example; a highway, concrete roads, terrain roads, smooth roads, muddy roads and so on.
In the same way religious life is not an easy road. You will encounter lot of ups and downs, crooked roads and others. It is not at all easy to travel on these roads; there are chances that you may be lost. But if there are sign boards on the road, GPS navigation system with you, and then you will surely reach your destination safe and sound.
It is the prayer, sacrifice and hard work, the sign boards and GPS navigation of religious life that makes our journey a pleasant one.
Today I’m happy being a Religious. He has made me strong and I ask the Lord to show me the right path that one day I may serve in his vineyard.
Fr. Gavin Rodrigues, OP
Ordained into holy priesthood on Tuesday, May 16, 2023