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Dominican Spirituality

DOMINICAN SPIRITUALITY

The form of Christian spirituality proper to the Dominican Order (see dominicans). The spirituality taught by St. dominic combines elements common to that of all Christians, of the clergy, of other orders, and of the medieval evangelical movements; but St. Dominic united and oriented these elements in an original, balanced, and unique way. Dominican spirituality is theocentric, Chris-tological, contemplative, monastic, priestly, apostolic, and doctrinal. Its first five qualities are common and generic; its apostolic doctrinal character is specific, setting it apart from others. Dominican contemplation seeks to sanctify the friar and also to bear fruit in the apostolate, especially through preaching, teaching, and writing. The constitutions clearly indicate this twofold purpose:

The principal reason why we are gathered together is that we might dwell together in harmony and have one mind and one heart in God, that is to say, that we might be found perfect in charity.Our Order is known to have been founded from the beginning expressly for preaching and the salvation of souls. This end we ought to pursue, preaching and teaching from the abundance and fullness of contemplation in imitation of our most holy Father Dominic, who spoke only with God or of God for the benefit of souls.

Monastic Element. The contemplative character of Dominican spirituality is clearly marked, especially in its monastic and priestly elements. The constitutions prescribe "the three solemn vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, the regular life with its monastic observances, the solemn chanting of the Divine Office" as essential means (which can never be radically altered) for achieving the end of the order. Through these means, traditional in the religious life, the Dominican breaks with the world, commits himself to God, and promises to live a contemplative, penitential life seeking Christian perfection. The chanting of the divine office, especially, prepares the friar for contemplation by pivoting his life around the liturgy. After Matins and Compline the early friars stayed in church for "secret prayers," i.e., mental prayer that prolonged the sentiments of the liturgy. Mental prayer is obligatory in the modern order. Imitating St. Dominic, the friars enjoyed great freedom of spirit and movement, reciting psalms and Aves, visiting altars, making abundant use of gestures, genuflections, and prostrations. Dominic taught the friars to contemplate even on the highway, saying to them: "Let us think of our Savior." He sang the Ave Maris Stella or the Veni Creator as he walked. His Nine Ways of Prayer manifest a variety of methods and postures. Constantly he urged his friars "to speak only with God or of God" and put this mandate into the constitutions. The 1963 text urges the master of novices

to teach and earnestly recommend to them that they carry out fully the precept concerning the love of God and neighbor placed at the head of the Rule. Along with the nature and general endof the religious lifethe personal sanctification of each memberlet the novices be taught the special end of our Order, namely, to communicate to others the things they contemplate in prayer and study.

Dominican spirituality is penitential. The order borrowed its regular observances from the premonstraten sians, but they are, basically, those of the austere Cistercian discipline (see cistercians). They included Matins and Lauds at midnight, fasting and abstinence, use of the discipline, poverty of wardrobe and housing, strict silence, and constant purification of conscience through the chapter of faults. To these practices St. Dominic added the severe deprivations of mendicant poverty, abandoning fixed revenues to rely solely on Divine Providence. St. Dominic so valued the monastic part of the order's life that he carried it into his apostolate.

Almost always when he was outside the priory, on hearing the first stroke of the matins bell from the monasteries, he used to arise and arouse the friars. With great devotion he celebrated the night and day Office at the prescribed hours so that he omitted nothing. And after compline, when traveling, he kept and had his companions keep silence just as though they were in the priory. Then in the morning, while en route, he had them remain silent every day almost until tierce.

Dominican community life and observances seek to form the friar and prepare him for contemplation. They impose on him self-control, constant scrutiny of conscience, and obedience to rule and authority. They subject him to a ceaseless exercise of the virtues, restraining the impetuosity of his emotions and passions; establishing peace in his soul; and nourishing in him the fraternal charity that is prerequisite for contemplation, community life, and the apostolate. Bl. jordan of saxony recommended only one thing to the Paris Dominicans on Easter Day, 1233: "have a constant mutual charity among yourselves, for it cannot be that Jesus will appear to those who have cut themselves off from the community: Thomas, for not being with the others when Jesus came, did not merit to see him."

Priestly Element. Dominican spirituality is theocentric, Christological, and priestly because it is canonical (Dominicans were, in origin, canons regular). Praising God through the liturgy is the essential duty of the Canon Regular. St. Dominic, who constantly urged the friars to sing the Office well, began the constitutions with detailed rubrics for the Office and made the conventual Mass the pivot of the day. The constitutions (1963) consider the choral Office as an essential means for achieving the aims of the Dominican spirituality and apostolate. The order's concern for the liturgy caused it to develop the so-called dominican rite.

Dominican priestly spirituality accents loyalty to the Church, the pope, and the truths of faith; it focuses attention on God, the beginning and end of all things; on Christ, the way of return to God; on the Mass and Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Even when traveling, St. Dominic celebrated Mass almost every day, singing it by preference, and invariably weeping during the Canon. St. vincent ferrer, for 40 years an itinerant apostle, chanted Mass and Office daily. St. thomas aquinas celebrated every day.

Particular Devotions to Christ. Dominican love of Christ centers on the Crucified, the Sacred Heart, the Precious Blood, and the Holy Name. Bl. henry suso, seeking mystical union with the Divinity, was told by his beloved Eternal Wisdom: "No one can arrive at divine heights or taste mystical sweetness without passing through my human bitterness." Henry Suso made a Way of the Cross of 100 stations, "so that Christ's every pain, from beginning to end, was individually recalled." He particularly venerated the pierced heart of Christ. St. al bert the great and Meister eckhart emphasized the Eucharistic presence of the divine Heart. SS. catherine of siena and catherine de' ricci experienced an "exchange of hearts" with Christ (see mystical phenome na), while St. rose of lima heard Him saying to her, "Rose of my heart, be thou my spouse." French Dominican tertiaries suggested the building of Montmartre basilica, Paris, as a national act of reparation to the Sacred Heart.

Fra Angelico painted St. Dominic contemplating the Scriptural account of the Passion and bathed in the blood from the side of Christ, and pictured St. Thomas intently contemplating the Crucified. St. Catherine of Siena constantly spoke of "the Blood." She and St. Martin de por res drank mystically from the pierced side of Christ. She and St. Catherine de Ricci, and, it is estimated, 83 other Dominicans experienced the stigmata. (see stigmatiza tion.)

Bl. john of vercelli, commissioned by gregory x in 1274 to implement the decree of the Second Council of lyons, organized the friars to teach the people to venerate the Holy Name of Jesus and bow their heads when it is mentioned.

Marian Devotion. Devotion to the Mother of God flowed from devotion to Christ. Convinced that the order owed its foundation to her intercession, the friars put Mary's name in the profession formula, daily recited the Little Office, celebrated her Saturday Office and feasts, solemnly chanted the Salve Regina at the end of Compline, visited her altars, saluted her images, recited hundreds of daily Aves. They gave the rosary, the most excellent of Marian devotions, to the Church, especially through the Confraternity. An epitome of spirituality, the rosary summarizes the liturgical cycle, combines affective devotion with strict theology, leads to contemplation, and is a kind of preaching that expresses itself in praise.

Apostolic Element. St. Dominic went beyond all tradition and made Dominican spirituality apostolic. He himself was preeminently an apostle. His friend gregory ix said, "In him, I knew a man who lived the rule of the apostles in its totality." "He was filled," testified John of Spain, at the process of canonization, "with compassion for his neighbors and most ardently desired their salvation. He himself constantly and frequently preached and, in every way he could, urged the friars to preach, begging and advising them to be solicitous for the salvation of souls and sending them to preach."

Perfection for the Dominican consists in imitating the poor Christ of the Gospel, the Preacher, who having formed his Apostles spiritually, sent them out two by two to preach. St. Dominic clearly established the evangelical spirit of Dominican spirituality when he inserted these instructions for preachers in the constitutions:

Receiving a blessing, they shall then go forth as men wanting their own salvation and that of others. Let them act with religious decorum as men of the Gospel, following in the footsteps of their Savior, speaking with God or about God to themselves and their neighbor. Furthermore, those going out to exercise the office of preaching or traveling for any other reason shall neither receive nor carry with them any gold, silver, money or gifts, but only food, clothing, books, and other necessities."

Dominicans must be apostles who converse with God, or, in the classic phrase of St. Thomas, "contemplate and give to others the fruit of their contemplation." Fraternal charity, sustained by the penitential exercises of the common life, and cloistered contemplation, nourished on the truths of faith, reach out to souls, make reparation for them, permit the preacher to testify both "by word and example," and merit for his sermons many graces.

Doctrinal Element. Dominican apostolic spirituality is, therefore, doctrinal. The Dominican cannot neglect the study of sacred truth without jeopardizing his vocation. The "assiduous study of sacred truth" is an essential means for realizing the order's ends. St. Dominic "often admonished and exhorted the friars by word and letter to study constantly in the Old and the New Testament." The primitive constitutions required every priory to have a professor as well as a prior; incorporated an academic code; permitted friars in their cells to "read, write, pray, sleep, and also, those who wish, to stay up at night to study"; and instructed the novice-master to teach them "how they ought to be so intent on study that day and night, at home or on the road, they read or meditate something."

The most representative Dominican theologians, SS. Albert and Thomas, gave primacy to contemplation. "The method for one who teaches things divine," wrote Albert, "is to gain by grace the truth of the divine doctrine he must hand on to others, because in every theological undertaking one ought to start off with prayer" (De myst. theol. 1). Reginald of Priverno, the companion of St. Thomas, testified that the saint's

knowledge, which was amazing beyond that of others, was not the result of human genius but of prayer. For always before he studied, disputed, lectured, wrote, or dictated, he would have recourse to the help of prayer, begging with tears to be shown the truth about the divine things he had to investigate.

Only through such contemplative study can the friar gain the mastery he needs to preach the supernatural truths of faith with charity and zeal.

The religious state is a state of contemplation [wrote Humbert of Romans] but things that are preached are gathered in contemplation, according to the words of Bl. Gregory, who says: "In contemplation they drink in what later they pour out in preaching." Therefore, it would seem that the religious state would have more that ought to be preached than the secular state, since it is more contemplative. Thus preaching befits it more because, not just by way of instruction but by way of contemplation as well, it possesses in abundance what it preaches.

Blending of Elements. There is no dichotomy in Dominican spirituality. Its monastic, contemplative, and priestly constituents, focusing on love of God, fructify in the apostolate, centering on love of neighbor. The evangelical vocation vitalizes the priestly and contemplative vocations, directing them to their logical and highest development, exemplified by Christ and the Apostles. St. Dominic restored the evangelical vocation by imbuing it with the riches of sacerdotal and sacramental spirituality that the would-be lay apostles of the 12th and 13th centuries (e.g., waldenses and humiliati) had scorned.

Dominican spirituality is delicately balanced and hard to live. If thrown off center, its constituents will defeat themselvesthe priestly element will become "clerical," mired in "parochial" interests; the monastic will become "monkish," considering religious observance an end and the apostolate a distraction; the apostolic will become "activistic," spending itself in feverish activity. To escape these extremes the Dominican must nourish his zeal with a burning love for Christ. In his life, contemplation must be primary and redemptive, centering on Christ and engendering the apostolate.

The members of the second and third orders also profess a spirituality that is priestly and apostolic, thirsting for souls. By baptism and confirmation they are marked with the imprint of Christ's priesthood; they have the power and duty to profess and defend the faith.

Bibliography: p. lippini, La spiritualità domenicana (2d ed. Bologna 1958). r. spiazzi, Via Dominici, lo spirito e la regola di San Domenico (Rome 1961). m. h. vicaire, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932) 3:152232. w. a. hinnebusch, Dominican Spirituality, Principles and Practice (Washington 1965). p. rÉgamey, "Principles of Dominican Spirituality," Some Schools of Catholic Spirituality, ed. j. gauthier, tr. k. sullivan (New York 1959) 76109.

[w. a. hinnebusch]

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