Credo: Timothy Danaher finds rich rewards in austere monastic life

People,Liz Essley,Credo

The Dominican Order of the Roman Catholic Church dates back to 1216. Now 25-year-old Timothy Danaher is part of the tradition. Danaher, a Dominican brother who lives with about 80 others at the Dominican House of Studies near Catholic University in Northeast D.C., spends his days studying, volunteering, praying and reading Scripture.

How did you decide to become a Dominican brother?

I had met Dominicans, and it was that lived example that attracted me. Slowly I began to identify with that. It's not exactly what I planned on in life, but it was something that was authentic, that grew in time, and that also started to match hand-in-hand with the closeness to Christ that I wanted.

How did you become serious about your faith? Was there someone in particular who pointed you down that path?

Definitely. I was a junior in college in a theology course, "The Theology of Christ." I had a professor who began class by quoting Matthew 16:15, when Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" It was the first time I had ever really heard that question and the first time I had ever noticed Jesus. I had been in youth group in high school, and I had always done my best to follow the rules and to keep good friends. But before, Christianity was simply a lifestyle. In college, through that professor, Jesus became a real person. That moment has changed everything. I would say that's when I first began to have serious faith in Jesus, not just in his teachings.

Credo is a weekly Washington Examiner Q&A about faith, ethics and values. It appears each Sunday.

Many people would look at your life and be amazed at what you've given up. Do you ever think about what you're missing?

Of course. That's human. For us, there will always be a sort of restlessness, and we always think the grass is greener. That can be a particular challenge for a [person in a religious order] because you do give up three things that seem to be three of the most important things that give life meaning: a spouse, money and freedom over your own life. For me, the only adequate explanation is Christ himself. Is he enough to satisfy the human heart? I think he can do that, and I think he has done that for the last 2,000 years. There's never been a generation where people haven't been called to give away everything ?-- literally everything -- and live the rest of their lives entirely for Christ. But I admit -- it's crazy. I'm still surprised by it.

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

The Bible is right in saying pride is the first sin of man. Pride doesn't mean I'm rude or mean or I carry around a cold attitude toward other people. Pride means I wake up each morning from my bed, and my first thought is, "What do I have to do today, leading my life?" If God is love, the first thing he frees us from is thinking only of ourselves. That's the heart of life, coming from "I" to "thou." That only happens when someone loves us. As 1 John 4:10 says: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but he loved us first." God loved us first and calls us out of ourselves to other people. Otherwise there's no other way to escape our own pride.

- Liz Essley

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