THE DOMINICAN VOCATION
PILLARS OF DOMINICAN LIFE
When St Dominic founded the order he spoke of the sacra praedicatio, or the Holy Preaching. This is not a function to be performed, a work or a mission, but the way in which the brothers live their lives. A common fraternal life is part of any sacra praedicatio, part of our preaching. We see this in the apostolic brotherhood gathered around Jesus and in the first Christian communities. Preachers are sent to bring to other places the shared life of prayer and charity they have experienced. Each community is ecclesial, a school of Christian life. Our appreciation of this fraternity extends beyond our own community to include the other branches of the Dominican family, the nuns, active sisters, and laity, as well as the local Church.
‘The celebration of the liturgy is the centre and heart of our life, the basic source of our unity’ (Dominican Constitutions 57). This refers not only to the Eucharist but also to the Liturgy of the Hours, which structures our day and to which St Dominic was always faithful. The liturgy draws us out of ourselves, to pray with Christ and the Church and so to grow in compassion for all. Through the variety of seasons and rites, celebrating the liturgy in its diversity, we praise God and our communion with Him is deepened. The Eucharist as ‘the source and summit of all evangelization.’
Our Lady entrusted the Rosary to the Order as a way to contemplate the life of Christ and as a means to evangelize those who had fallen away from the Church. Dominicans wear the Rosary in place of a sword so that we might always keep Mary close in our prayers and our preaching.
“For Dominicans, the wood of the cross is the wood of our desks.”
Our study begins and ends with the Word of God. For us, study means seeking to understand the Word that is Christ and so be united with him as the Way of Truth that leads to Life (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, III, prologue). Truth is not merely a concept, but a person to be encountered and embraced. Our study leads us to philosophy and the humanities, to better understand our human condition, it also draws us to the sciences, to better understand the natural world and God’s creative activity. Dominicans also ponder the mysteries of God and what has been revealed in the person of Christ. Whatever path our study leads us, its goal is to deepen our love of God and to help others encounter this love.
“If I proclaim the Gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).
Preaching for the salvation of souls is the mission of the order. Yet, this preaching is not simply through homilies or writings, but by their witness of joy. Every Dominican strives to be a man of the Gospel, treading in the footsteps of the Savior. For over 800 years the order has undertaken this task in various ways, from St Thomas Aquinas’ pursuit of Truth through his study and teaching, St Martin de Porres’ humility and love for the poor, Fra Angelico’s evangelization through the beauty of his paintings, or the defense of the helpless by Bartolome de las Casas.