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Community of St. John

Article Index
The Founder
Search for Truth
A New Religious Order
Striving to be a Son of Mary

His professional role was that of a philosopher, having held a chair in Metaphysics.  That would seem to make him an unlikely candidate for the foundation of a new religious order, the Congregation of Saint John (founded in 1975).   The foundation of the Brothers of Saint John (and later, two branches of nuns - contemplative in 1982, and apostolic in 1984) was not something Fr. Philippe had intended, and for which, consequently, he was not preparing.  As he said, "I had never thought of it, ever.  It's very simple, in fact: the Congregation of Saint John was asked of me.  It was not something I had willed.  It was a small group of my students who approached me."  Fr. Philippe's initial reaction was understandably one of hesitancy.  It was clear to him that nothing new was necessary.  Or so he thought.

The new foundation, in retrospect, was indeed an unusual thing: a new community, founded by a Dominican, in a Dominican setting, that was not Dominican.  There is, of course, an inevitable kinship.  When asked of the connection, Fr. Philippe responded, "I absolutely do not wish the Congregation of Saint John to be a rival of the Order of Saint Dominic.  They are different.  Seen from without, in a sociological fashion, the difference may seem subtle, and therefore difficult to detect.  Indeed, agens agit simile sibi: can a Dominican found anything that is not a certain prolongation, or extension, of the Dominican Order?  And yet, if one is truly a founder, that is, if it is God who is asking, and it is not a personal decision (as would be the case with someone who always dreamed of founding an order that would correspond to what he dreams), then one is, above all, an instrument of the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit can have spring, from a Dominican, a Brother of Saint John!  The Congregation of Saint John is not a reform of the Order of Saint Dominic.  I never thought along those lines.  I never positioned myself as a reformer.  But, in my life, I have been careful to try to highlight the sources, the deep intention of Saint Dominic: his concern to 'speak only with God and of God' and his great thirst for truth.  His thirst for truth, for light, and a very penetrating gaze upon the mystery of Jesus crucified, always seemed to me to be the deep secret of Saint John.  And the way in which Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks of the holiness of Saint John always seemed to me to be what characterizes his own holiness, that of a Son of Dominic."