THE SPIRIT OF SAINT DOMINIC
Priests who join the Order of Preachers in the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic, with a view to being a part of the Dominican Family, strive to be imbued with the spirit of Saint Dominic and tend to a more perfect apostolic life. In the practice of the apostolate, Dominicans have, after the Apostles themselves, the magnificent example of our Holy Father Dominic, a most holy priest of God who shared his days with his neighbors, his nights with God and used all his powers and a most fervent zeal to gain as many souls as possible for Christ; and in his heart there was an astounding and almost incredible eagerness for the salvation of souls.
Mindful of their sublime vocation, the priests of Saint Dominic should labor at preaching and teaching, believing what they have read and meditated upon in the Law of the Lord, teaching what they believe, and practicing what they teach. In this way they are true educators of the people in faith and preachers of the Gospel in the world.
By reason of their pastoral office, Dominican diocesan priests live in the world, and they strive to develop those human virtues which make their ministry credible to the people,
such as goodness, sincerity, mental strength and constancy, assiduous concern for justice, civility, generosity, and every other virtue which makes them lovable to all in the Lord. If they do this, what was written about Saint Dominic can be said about them, that “he received all persons in the great heart of his charity, and since he loved everyone, he was loved by all. ‘To rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who weep’ he made his own, abounding in piety and giving himself fully to the care of his neighbors” (Jordan of Saxony, Book on the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers, no. 107).
Priests of St. Dominic strive to draw increase and progress in contemplation and the apostolic spirit from the sacred functions which they fulfill every day in their pastoral ministry, inasmuch as they carry out these functions properly and ever more fervently in communion with their bishop, other priests, and the whole Order of Saint Dominic, of which they have become members. The summit of this pastoral ministry is the daily and worthy celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which, offered in the person of Christ, associates priests in a special way with the mystery of the Lord’s death and should impel them to mortify in themselves the works of the flesh and to sacrifice themselves for the flock committed to their care.
Furthermore, priests of St. Dominic progress in contemplation through the Word of God as inwardly received with faith through private and public reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Through this they endeavor to become disciples of the Divine Master and of God’s Wisdom and better prepared for preaching in the power of God. Dominican priests endeavor daily to put into practice the motto of the Dominican Order: contemplata aliis tradere — to hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.
FOUR PILLARS OF DOMINICAN LIFE
Prayer • Study • Preaching • Community
A LIFE OF PRAYER
In the life of every Dominican priest, there must be daily dialogue with Christ in keeping with the example and in imitation of Holy Father Dominic, about whom we read that “he always spoke with God or about God” and that “during the hours of the night no one was more constant than he in vigils and prayers of all types” and that “very often it was his practice to spend the whole night in church . . . Hence he used to pray especially at night and persevered in vigils.” Dominican priests strive to follow the example of St. Dominic who at home and on the road, by day and by night, was devoted to the Liturgy of the Hours and private prayer, and celebrated the divine mysteries with great devotion. Priests in the Priestly Fraternity endeavor to take time for daily meditation and a spiritual retreat at least once a month.
It was the express wish of St. Dominic that the solemn celebration of the liturgy be accepted as one of the principal duties of a Dominican vocation. The mystery of salvation is present and active in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist. Members of the Priestly Fraternity strive to take part in the mystery, contemplate it, proclaim it through preaching to all so that they may be incorporated into Christ through the sacraments of faith.
In the liturgy, members of the Priestly Fraternity, together with Christ, glorify God for his eternal plan and for the wonderful workings of grace. They pray to the Father of mercies for the whole Church, for the needs and salvation of the whole world. Thus, the celebration of the liturgy is the center and heart of the life of a member of the Priestly Fraternity.
Since the contemplation of divine truth, and personal conversation and friendship with God are to be sought not only in liturgical celebrations and lectio divina but also in assiduous private prayer, members of the Priestly Fraternity endeavor to cultivate private prayer zealously.
Members of the Priestly Fraternity cherish the Order’s traditional devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, Queen of the Apostles. She is an example of meditation on the words of Christ, and of acceptance of one’s mission. Devotion towards the Virgin Mother of God, which in the Order of Preachers has special expression in the Holy Rosary, understood as contemplation with Mary of the mystery of salvation, namely, Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. This form of prayer leads all to the contemplation of the mystery of salvation in which the Virgin Mary is intimately associated with the work of her Son. Priests of St. Dominic strive to always be faithful to this humble, wise, and sublime type of prayer.
All priests of the Priestly Fraternity have special devotion towards Holy Father Dominic and an earnest imitation of his outstanding example in holiness of life, apostolic spirit, and zeal for the salvation of souls; of his fervor in prayer, contemplation, mental recollection, silence, and continuous union with God. They endeavor to foster the cult of St. Dominic and true devotion to him, the mirror of their life, and to the saints of the Order, especially St. Catherine of Siena, renowned daughter of the Order, faithful servant and doctor of Holy Church, as well as the heavenly patroness and protectoress of the Priestly Fraternity in this world, so that they may be moved to imitate them and be strengthened in the spirit of their vocation.
A LIFE OF STUDY
St. Dominic in founding the Order of Preachers was truly innovative: he intimately linked study to the ministry of salvation. He himself always carried around with him St. Matthew’s Gospel and Saint Paul’s letters. Dominican study therefore should principally and zealously be directed to be of help to the souls of all.
Study enables priests of St. Dominic to ponder in their hearts the manifold wisdom of God, and equips them for the doctrinal service of the Church and of all people. They are to be all the more committed to study because in the Order’s tradition they are called to stimulate people’s desire to know the truth.
God is the light and source of study, the God who spoke in former times and in different ways, and who now speaks in Christ. It is through Christ that the mystery of the Father’s will, through the sending of the Spirit, is fully revealed in the Church and the minds of all humanity are enlightened. Divine revelation, of which Tradition and Sacred Scripture constitute one sacred deposit, is the material to be meditated and critically examined by priests of St. Dominic. And pondering the perennial teaching value of the plan of salvation, they discover the many and varied paths of Gospel truth to be found in creation.
In all things the members of the Priestly Fraternity endeavor to be of one mind with the Church and comply with the different acts of the Magisterium which is entrusted with the authentic interpretation of the word of God. Furthermore, faithful to the Order’s mission, they are always prepared in a spirit of willing service to collaborate with the Magisterium as it fulfills its doctrinal obligations.
Priests of St. Dominic study carefully the writings of the holy Fathers and of the illustrious exponents of Christian thought who with the help of different cultures and of the wisdom of philosophers, have endeavored to achieve a fuller understanding of the word of God. The best teacher and model for the accomplishment of this task is St. Thomas Aquinas whose teaching the Church particularly commends. The Order accepts his teaching as a patrimony that exercises an enriching influence on the intellectual life of all Dominicans, giving it a special character. Consequently, the members of the Priestly Fraternity attempt to cultivate a genuine familiarity with his writings and thought, and responding to the needs of the age and with legitimate freedom, they strive to renew and enrich his teaching with ever-new riches of sacred and human wisdom.
A LIFE OF PREACHING
Mindful of their sublime vocation as Dominican diocesan priests, members of the Priestly Fraternity labor at preaching and teaching, believing what they have read and meditated upon in the Law of the Lord, teaching what they believe, and practicing what they teach. In this way they are true educators of the people in faith and preachers of the Gospel in the world. To teach Sacred Theology and other disciplines which serve to understand and spread the faith is an essential part of the Dominican vocation. Like St Dominic, who was full of solicitude for all of humanity, priests of St. Dominic know that they have been sent to all men and women, all groups and peoples, believers and unbelievers, and especially the poor; this with a view to evangelizing and implanting the Church among the nations, and explaining and strengthening the faith of Christian people.
The ministry of the word is a sharing in the prophetic office of the bishops; therefore preachers must accept the entire Gospel message and cultivate a living understanding of the mystery of salvation as it is handed down and explained in the Church. Dominican preaching must always be marked by this evangelical spirit and sound teaching.
The Dominican spirit is open both to the Spirit of God and to the hearts of those to whom the word of God is being preached, so that it may obtain a communication of the light, the love and the strength of the Paraclete. Consequently, priests of St. Dominic strive to learn to recognize the Spirit working in the midst of God’s people, and to discern the treasures hidden in the various forms of human culture, by which human nature is more fully manifested and new paths to truth are opened.The mission of the Order of Preachers is to serve the Church by preaching the name of Jesus Christ to the nations. This mission is the responsibility of whole Order.
The mission is carried out in different ways, in keeping with the various conditions either of the Church or of the peoples, groups and men and women to which it is directed. Members of the Priestly Fraternity, through their preaching, lead Christians step-by-step to a mature, conscientious faith, thus renewing and confirming the Church’s witness to the Gospel. Special care is taken with the homily and other forms of preaching which, connected to the liturgy and the sacraments, more intimately touch the lives of people.
The Rosary as a way of contemplating the mysteries of Christ, is a school for developing evangelical life. As such, it is a form of preaching particularly appropriate to the Order, in which the truths of faith are proposed in the light of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s participation in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Since the Rosary is a characteristically Dominican devotion, priests of St. Dominic fervently preach it so that it may flourish. Priests of St. Dominic, in their preaching, also promote the Order’s societies connected to the Rosary, especially the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
A LIFE OF COMMUNITY
Because of their unity in Sacred Ordination and in the mission in the Church, all priests should be bound to each other by an intimate sacramental brotherhood and form a single presbyterate under their own bishop. Then all priests—whether diocesan or religious—as brothers in the priesthood, embrace one another by a sincere love and help each other both through prayer and through apostolic collaboration, so as to be fellow workers on behalf of truth.
The unanimity of Dominican life has its roots in the love of God and it ought to be a living example of universal reconciliation in Christ which Dominicans proclaim by preaching. Priests who profess the Rule of Saint Dominic together, even though they typically do not live in community, constitute a part of the Dominican Family and belong to a special brotherhood. This brotherhood is a living reality and manifests itself in regular common gatherings of the local fraternity chapter. Dominican diocesan priests also sometimes come together with their Dominican brethren—the friars—who gladly and joyfully receive them into their priories and houses, so that the priests of the Priestly Fraternity may become sharers of the graces and blessings of the Order of Preachers in a visible way.
Priests of St. Dominic cherish the memory of those in the family of St Dominic who have gone before them, leaving them the example of their way of life, a sharing in their communion, and the help of their intercession, Professed members continually reflect on and make known their teaching and achievements, while not forgetting to pray for them.