Dominic does not envision the Order without the cooperator brother. A cooperator brother’s vocation, then, cannot be too much discussed or considered. We must promote these brothers boldly, must pray that bold men will answer God’s call to this essential vocation.
Some things to bear in mind:
- Equating the cooperator brother with the non-ordained brothers of other orders or congregations in the Church can be misleading. Because: Dominican cooperator brothers are sui generis, a kind of their own.
- Cooperator brothers are friars in the Order of Preachers. Their vocation is with respect to the preaching mission of the preaching friars. Their identity derives from the kind of relationship they have with that preaching mission, not from their non-clerical status.
- Cooperator brothers are not characteristically un-intellectual or un-curious. They, like their ordained brothers, and depending on their abilities, characteristically serve the Church academically, intellectually, or otherwise.
- Cooperator brothers were ingeniously pragmatic and frugal, historically. This does not mean proclivitous to manual labor and therefore “servile;” rather, it means they often were responsible for in-house and church management, financial or otherwise. It means they were pragmatists, advisors, and born leaders.
- Eras in which cooperator brothers were thought of as mere manual laborers or servants do not in fact characterize what a cooperator brother is; rather, it today communicates to us the prevailing, erroneous idea held by ordained brothers, and also by others, in the Church at that time. Injuries resulting from this erroneous idea need to be significantly acknowledged and apologized for.
- Cooperator brothers are not friars in an “LCD” (least common denominator) sense. That is to say, they are not “friars minus ordination” with ordained friars being “friars plus ordination,” and with a commonality between the two being a “friarhood” meant in the exact same, which is to say univocal, sense. For, such would obviate what Dominic means by “preaching.” __Rather, there are two kinds of friar, both related (insofar as they share the same Life) and also both distinct (insofar as they relate to the same preaching mission). Cooperator brothers are therefore friars in the way cooperator brothers are, and with regard to the preaching mission of the preaching friars. They are not “brothers minus ordination,” but instead “brothers cooperating with/working parallel to the ordained brothers of the Order.”
- Ordained friars and cooperator friars are significantly brothers-in-religion to each other. They are both fully friar and fully Dominican. The way they serve the preaching mission of the Order is what distinguishes them.