By Br. Dominic Verner, O.P., with Bros. Raymund Snyder, O.P. and Isaac Morales, O.P.
Objection 1: The greatness of a thing is measured by its quantity. Hence God manifests Abraham’s greatness by promising him descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky (Gen 26:4), and God’s great favor is shown to Pope Francis by granting him 3.85 million twitter followers. Furthermore, as Dionysius the Areopagite states, the good, like hipster beards and TOMS footwear, is diffusive of itself. But there are many more Jesuits in the world than Dominicans. Thus, it seems that the Society of Jesus is greater than the Order of Preachers.
Objection 2: The imperfect precedes the perfect in the order of generation, just as simple cat videos precede auto-tuned cat videos. But St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers in the 13th century, whereas St. Ignatius founded the Society in the 16th century. Therefore, it seems that the Society of Jesus is more perfect, and hence greater, than the Order of Preachers.
Objection 3: The greatness of an end determines the greatness of that which is ordered to that end. Hence, a coffee pot with a black handle is greater than a coffee pot with an orange handle, since the latter is ordered to the dispensation of a lesser good. Now the end of the Order of Preachers is the salvation of souls, whereas the end of the Society of Jesus is the greater glory of God. But the glory of God is greater than the salvation of souls, for God’s glory encompasses many things besides rational souls, such as rocks, plants, and brutes. Therefore, it seems that the Society of Jesus is greater than the Order of Preachers.
On the contrary, stands the authority of a Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Bonnevaux who in a vision saw Our Blessed Lady, concerned for the plight of sinners, beseeching her Son with a mother’s insistence until Our Lord promised, “I will send them new messengers, an Order of Preachers, who shall call the people and lead them to everlasting joys” (Vitae Fratrum Ordinis Praedicatorum). And since it pleases God to give his greatest gifts to mankind through the hands of his Blessed Mother, it is better to say that the Order of Preachers is greater.
I answer that, it is not fitting for individual disciples to argue about who is greatest, because it makes Our Lord facepalm (see Lk 9:46–48), but a way of life may be said to be more or less great insofar as it minimizes occasions for such facepalms through penance and apostolic charity. Now both the Dominicans and the Jesuits engage in the apostolic life with charity for God and neighbor, but the Dominican life is lived with more penance because it is lived with other Dominicans. Therefore, strictly speaking, the Order of Preachers is greater than the Society of Jesus.
Reply to objection 1: Dionysius the Areopagite also states elsewhere that “one diamond is worth many rubies.” Hence, quantity alone is not a sufficient measure of greatness, as the quantity of Madonna albums makes clear. Furthermore, it often pleases God, the source of all excellence, to use few rather than many to manifest his greatness, as is seen in his command to Gideon to reduce his army of 32,000 soldiers to the mere 300 who lapped up the water of Enharod like dogs—a prophetic foreshadowing of the Domini-canes, the dogs of the Lord (Jgs 7:6).
Reply to objection 2: Although the imperfect precedes the perfect in the order of generation, the perfect necessarily precedes the imperfect in the order of exemplarity, as is exceedingly evident in comparing the original Judge Dredd to the 2012 remake. And since St. Ignatius was inspired to be like St. Dominic, who was himself inspired by the venerable John Cassian, who in turn learned at the feet of Abba Moses in the Egyptian desert, it is better to say that the life of cenobitic, Gospel-preaching, basket-weaving desert monks is the most perfect.
Reply to objection 3: Since “life in man is the glory of God,” as St. Irenaeus states, and since the salvation of souls is eternal life, the Order of Preachers and the Society of Jesus are in fact ordered to the same end. Both orders can be likened to black-handled coffee pots, but it is better to say that the brew of the Friars Preachers is flavored with Irish Cream, since their preaching is seasoned with the intoxicating sweetness of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.