OUR RULE OF PERFECTION
Diocesan priests who are urged by supernatural grace and decide to follow the way of St. Dominic, so that they may be more strongly united with Christ the Priest, profess a Rule of perfection suited to their state. By this act of profession in the Order of Preachers, which proceeds from a lively faith and a deeper consciousness of their Baptism and Ordination, they promise to make their lifestyle subject to the Rule and become sons of St. Dominic.
The term “profession” used here by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Dominic is used differently than in the rite for religious (e.g., the Dominicans friars). The term as used in the Priestly Fraternity indicates the intention of taking up the evangelical way of life by diocesan priests who, joined to the Order by their proper bond, participate in its spirit and mission, according to the form of living in the world adapted by the Order to their secular status.
Conscious of their profession, professed members of the Priestly Fraternity strive with all their strength to live in the spirit of the evangelical counsels and beatitudes, so that they can cooperate ever more perfectly with the grace they received through the imposition of hands. Moreover, those who, motivated by a desire for a greater consecration of themselves, want to practice the evangelical counsels through the three vows, can make these vows freely and privately.
THE SPIRIT OF POVERTY
Keeping in mind the words of the Lord who said, ‘Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and come, follow me,’ (Mt. 19:21), Saint Dominic and his brothers imitated the apostles who, without gold, silver or money, proclaimed the kingdom of God. Conscious of the demands of the apostolate of their time, they decided not to have any possessions, neither income nor money, but to beg their daily bread while preaching the gospel. This was the apostolic poverty at the beginning of the Order, the spirit of which should animate us, in forms adapted to different times, places, and states of life.
Profession in the Order of Saint Dominic through the Priestly Fraternity calls for a more profound spirit of poverty, so that, as priests living in the world and appreciating human values and created goods as gifts from God, they may yet know how to use them with discretion and as they are properly related to the pastoral aims of their ministry, and hence arrive at the point of embracing voluntary poverty, whereby they are more clearly conformed to Christ and may become more devoted to the sacred ministry.
This spirit of poverty urges professed priests to put their treasure in the kingdom of God’s justice, with a lively trust in the Lord. That spirit offers release from servitude and indeed from solicitude about earthly matters, enabling priests to move closer to God, to be more readily available to him, freer to speak about him fearlessly. It is being frugal with themselves which draws them closer to the poor they are sent to evangelize. It is being generous towards their brothers and neighbors as they freely use their resources, especially for the needs of study and the ministry of salvation for the sake of the kingdom of God.
THE GRACE OF CELIBACY
Profession in the Order of St. Dominic places diocesan priests in a better condition to understand and to live faithfully the sublime grace of celibacy, which is both a sign of and an incentive to pastoral charity and a very special source of spiritual fruitfulness on earth, as well as a living argument for that future life which they preach.
Diocesan priests in the Order of St. Dominic who promise celibacy ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’ follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic who for the love of God preserved unblemished virginity throughout his life. Dominic was so much on fire with zeal for souls that he received all in a broad embrace of charity and since he loved them all he was loved by all in return, spending himself fully in the service of his neighbor and with compassion for the afflicted.
Priests of St. Dominic ought to value their promise of celibacy as a special gift of grace, by which they unite themselves more readily to God with an undivided heart, and are more intimately consecrated to Him. They imitate the virginal life of Christ who for love of the Church gave himself up for her. Impelled by their apostolic vocation they are wholly dedicated to the Church, and thus to love humanity more fully. Taking part in the work of eternal regeneration they are better fitted to receive more generously the gift of fatherhood in Christ.
The practice of celibate chastity leads effectively to a gradual purification of heart, to liberty of soul, and fervent charity. Furthermore, Priests of St. Dominic gain greater command of soul and body, and achieve a personal integrity which enables them to maintain a tranquil and salutary relationship with everyone. The life of celibate chastity is a true service and an eloquent witness to the kingdom of God present here and now. At the same time, it is a special sign of the heavenly kingdom yet to come when Christ will take the glorified Church to himself as his bride.
THE GIFT OF OBEDIENCE
From the Order’s beginnings, St. Dominic required the brothers to promise him life in common and obedience. He himself submitted humbly to the decisions, especially the laws made by the general chapter of the brothers after thorough discussion. Outside of the general chapter, he demanded from all an unforced obedience to whatever he prescribed, after due deliberation, in governing the Order. This he did graciously, certainly, but also firmly. Indeed, if a community is to remain true to its spirit and its mission, it needs that unity achieved through obedience.
Profession in the Order of Saint Dominic through the Priestly Fraternity helps diocesan priests to become fully conscious of their hierarchical communion with the bishop and the pope, which perfects in their hearts true obedience, whereby they revere in them the authority of Christ the Supreme Pastor. This obedience is a gift for the service of the Church and a sincere submission to her Magisterium. Because obedience plants the roots of self-discipline in hearts it is of the greatest benefit to that freedom of spirit characteristic of the children of God, and disposes priests to self-giving charity.
Through profession in the Order of Saint Dominic, priests imitate Christ—who always obeyed the Father, for the life of the world—in a special manner. Priests are thus more closely united to the Church, to whose building-up they are dedicated, for its common good and that of the Order. In this they are joined by their superiors, who by their common ministry represent God.
DOWNLOAD THE RULE
Download the Rule for the Priestly Fraternities of Saint Dominic, definitively approved in 1996 by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and promulgated by Father Timothy Radcliffe, OP, the eighty-fifth Master of the Order, with the General Declarations promulgated by eighty-seventh Master of the Order, Father Bruno Cadoré, OP in 2019, by clicking the button to the right.
Internal governance and matters pertinent to the life and progress of a local fraternity (chapter) which are not particularly determined in the Rule are indicated in a Particular (or Local) Directory for each Province which is approved by the Prior Provincial and his Council. This set of local norms represent not only the existence of an independent chapter but also the character and nature that is peculiar to the priests of the particular region.
Photos on this page courtesy of Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP (Flickr)