Dominican Life is the Image of St. Dominic

Part 1 of a 7 part series on Dominican Spirituality.
The Introduction is here: “What Does It Mean To Say, “I am a Lay Dominican?”

BY: Mr. Mark Connolly, OP, MTS

We dedicate this series to Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

First Thoughts:

Do we need another article on Dominican Spirituality? A series? Aren’t there several books and resources out there already? Is it that hard to define Dominican Spirituality? I think the answer to all these questions is “Yes.”

As Debra noted in the introductory article, we have been having informal chats over lunch about Dominican Spirituality and what that means for a Lay Dominican. We realized that while there are a lot of resources covering this topic, they are almost exclusively written by and for Dominicans living in community, i.e., not necessarily aimed at the Lay Dominican. Consequently, a lot of the flavor and practical aspects of Dominican Life are framed in the context of living in community. Even a reference that I am using in this article, titled “Dominican Laity And The Year 2000”, is written largely to those in community about the laity.

We thought it would be worthwhile to dive deep into a work and consider it from the perspective of those of us not living in community. We chose Dominican Spirituality by Fr. Hennebusch. (You can download a pdf of this work by clicking here.)

It is our hope in this series of articles to lay out the key points of Dominican Spirituality as expressed in this work. We especially want to try to bring it home to the Lay Dominican and ask how these spiritual realities may be lived fully in our calling to the Order of Friars Preachers. And then it is our hope that we will look for the answers to these questions together.

As a framework we should all recall and internalize that St. Dominic founded our order to preach the Gospel and to oppose heresy. Consequently, we should keep in our minds the reality that we are considering joining or have joined a religious order. This very specifically means we are not to be categorized as a devotional prayer society. Such categorization loses site of the apostolic purpose of the order.

In service to the mission of the Order, we should recall that we are the ones who are “out there.” We are faced with the world as it is, and have all the responsibilities of being in the world. Consequently we are uniquely equipped to address the problems of the world through the exercise of our vocation as Dominican Laity.

One last observation before we get started. I read an article about Bible interpretation. The author concludes there are two basic approaches. Learn from the Bible, or learn about the Bible. Which reminded me of the theologian that passed away and at the Pearly Gates St. Peter told him that he could come right in to Heaven, or, he could attend a lecture about Heaven. The joke goes, he went to attend the lecture.

Let’s not let the joke be on us.


As mentioned in the article introducing this series, this book on Dominican Spirituality is a collection of lectures given by Fr. Hennebusch to the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Cross in Amityville, NY. It has been pulled together and edited some to provide continuity, and an introductory chapter was written to provide a framework. In the introduction we find some unifying themes to carry throughout our study:

  • The Dominican enters the order to save his soul
  • The Dominican draws his spirituality from Sacred Scripture
  • Dominican spirituality
    • is based on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments, and the Liturgy
    • incorporates principles of ascetism
    • drinks from the purest sources of Mysticism and Monasticism
    • shares characteristics from early monasticism and the evangelical movements of the 12th and 13th centuries

This chapter goes on to say that, “The spirituality of the Friars Preachers is exceedingly lofty. It is Theocentric, Christological, sacerdotal (i.e. priestly) monastic, contemplative, and apostolic.” And thus we have a framework for our consideration of Dominican Spirituality.

It is not the aim of this series to simply be a book report. Rather, we wish to note some feature of Dominican life that is central to a chapter, and ask “What does this really mean for us?” In this chapter we learn that the source of Dominican Spirituality is St. Dominic. We learn that one of his outstanding characters was his priestliness. And so for this post I have chosen to focus on Dominic’s priestliness and what that may mean for us.

There is an outstanding work by Anthony Dao Quang Chinh, O.P., titled Dominican Laity and the Year 2000. In it he discusses the priestly ministry as it pertains to Lay Dominicans. We are reminded that:

“…tradition, Canon Law, and Vatican II affirm a three-fold mission of the laity in God’s plan of salvation, referring to each as Priestly, Prophetic, and Kingly; in acknowledgment of ministries devoted to sanctifying, preaching, and governing.”

Chinh, Anthony. Dominican Laity and the Year 2000. Magnificat Institute Press, 1997. p 8

The first ministry of the faithful is the Priestly Ministry, the mission of sanctifying. At the beginning of Chapter 2, Fr. Anthony notes that,

“For St. Thomas Aquinas, the office of those who exercise the priestly ministry has three functions.

  • To bestow Sacred things on people
  • To offer the prayers of people to God
  • To make, in some manner, satisfaction for the people’s sins” ibid

He goes on to comment that there are many ways to exercise priestly ministry. The key word though is participation. Reception of the sacraments, praise, prayer, thanksgiving, and active charity. Have you thought of these activities as Priestly?

How do we bestow Sacred things on people? Fr. Anthony tells us that we do this through our spiritual and physical works. First, we dedicate ourselves to God, and in this way become both sacrifice and offerer. We bear witness to Christ everywhere we go. By living the Gospel in the world, a reason for hope of eternal life is seen. In this way we offer a glimpse of heaven to any with eyes to see.

Clearly, when we pray, we may pray on behalf of others and for others. But I myself have never thought about offering prayers for others as performing my priestly mission of sanctifying. That consideration puts a different emphasis on my prayer life.

But, how do we make satisfaction for the people’s sins? Fr. Anthony does not directly address this. He does provide a citation to the Summa Theologiae, IIa, Q. 22; a. 1, 2. However, I believe there is a typo in the citation – I believe it is actually IIIa, Q.22; a, 1, 2, “Of the Priesthood of Christ.” The first article is titled “Whether it is fitting that Christ Should Be a Priest.” In the answer, St. Thomas says that “The office proper to a priest is to be a mediator between God and the people; … sacerdos means giver of sacred things … forasmuch as he offers up the people’s prayers to God, and , in a manner, makes satisfaction to God for their sins; …”

As I was trying to sort all this out, I had this reading in Morning Prayer the other day. I think it gives some insight:

Brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 – this translation from The Liturgy of the Hours, IV, Morning Prayer, Common of Holy Women

I am reminded of the term “evangelical penance” which I read in one version of the Rule and Directory. I rather like this phrase; it is not immediately clear what it means, so it draws me in. Perhaps it simply means to “offer it up” whenever we are faced with any kind of difficulty. In this way we imitate Christ in offering himself to the Father for our sake. We can participate in his willing sacrifice on behalf of the world. As noted in a previous article written by Mr. Joe Watson, OP, Renew The Temporal Order; as laity we are positioned to sanctify our homes and workplaces, our public and private venues. To make ourselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

There is a work by Fr. Paul Philbert, OP, titled The Priesthood of the Faithful : Key To A Living Church, in which he discusses the meaning and ramifications of the baptized becoming a holy priesthood.

The presence of the faithful in the world is linked to their participation in Christ’s priesthood in which, ’the baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all their Christian activities they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the marvels of him who has called them out of darkness …’ (LG n. 10).  This phrase, “spiritual sacrifices” refers to all our human actions anointed by the grace of the Holy Spirit and performed with the intention of pleasing God.

Priesthood of the Faithful, p 63

Read the last sentence of that quote again. Think about what it means.

Have you thought of yourself, your vocation, your spirituality, in terms of your priestly mission? We are both baptized and religious. It should suffuse our daily life. By becoming familiar with our founder’s life, a life inseparable from his priesthood, we can work toward realizing our priestly mission of sanctifying the world. If we watch the signs of the times, it may be that we see opportunities and responsibilities everywhere.

Please offer your thoughts and experiences. Make use of our motto: Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere and please share the fruits of your contemplation in the comments. Thank you.


Part 2: Dominican Life is Contemplative

2 thoughts on “Dominican Life is the Image of St. Dominic

  1. Pingback: What Does It Mean To Say, “I am a Lay Dominican?” – Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

  2. Pingback: Dominican Life is Contemplative – Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

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