Introduction to a 7 part series on “Dominican Spirituality, Principles and Practices” by Fr. Hennebusch
Mark, one of my Dominican brothers, and I have found ourselves discussing what it means to be a Lay Dominican these last few months. For me, the desire to go deeper began when I was sitting in mass not too long ago, and someone offered up a prayer for the religious. It hit me for the first time – I am a religious, and that prayer was for me. Of course, I knew that I was a member of a religious order, but that day, it really hit home. I got chills.
Shortly thereafter, Mark was filling me in on the discussion from a general meeting of our Chapter that I was unable to attend. He told me that Fr. Jude had asked the question to all who were present: why are you here? He gave me a sampling of some of the responses, and the two of us have continued to seek ways to better answer the very important questions, why am I here, and what does it mean to me?
What we know is that being Dominican is not being a part of a philosophical group. Neither is it a book club where people study biblical and theological materials as an intellectual pursuit. It is a way of partaking in a lifestyle that led St. Dominic and many other Dominicans before us to sanctification. It is something that one lives and breaths every moment of their life from the time they start formation, through making final vows, and to that person’s last breath. The question before us is – how do we live that lifestyle in the world, in our marriages, in our single vocations, in raising our kids, and in our work and personal time? How do we live and breath it when we are not waking up in a community that prays the Liturgy of the Hours together, gathering around a common altar to pray mass, and closing the day once again in community with the Liturgy of the Hours and a communal meal?
Therefore, we have proposed a series of articles that will be our attempt to not only seek and find a deeper understanding of our vocation, but to seek, find, and preach that which is found. We have chosen to structure this series around the contents of a book written by Fr. William A. Hennebusch, O.P., called “Dominican Spirituality, Principles and Practices.” This book is a compilation of a series of talks that Fr. Hennebusch gave to Dominican Sisters. So, it was originally written by a friar for sisters. An introductory chapter was written to provide a framework, and the reader is encouraged to download the book and read this introductory chapter.
While Fr. Hennebusch does a wonderful job painting a picture of Dominican Spirituality for all members of the Order, we want to supplement his work with thoughts from the Dominican Laity.
This book is structured as a series of chapters titled as Dominican life is:
These chapter headings will be the basis for our series of articles.
In addition, this series of articles will make the most sense when one understands that the Dominican Order is founded on four pillars: prayer, study, preaching, and community. These pillars will likely be addressed throughout the series since they are an integral part of our daily lives.
None of the authors in this series thinks that we have all of the answers, and we invite anyone to share their ideas of living life as a Lay Dominican in the comments section below each article. We hope to learn from others how we can more fully live out our exciting vocation as lay members in the Order of Preachers.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Lay Dominican, please reach out to us by clicking on this link: Contact Even if you do not live near our Chapter, we can assist you in making contact with a Chapter closer to your home.
About the Author: Debra is a permanently professed Lay Dominican from early 2023. She spent several years studying Carmelite and Jesuit spirituality both by attending classes at the local monasteries and independently studying books written by or about saints from these orders. She always felt called to join an order as a lay person, but did not find her home until someone introduced her to the Dominicans where the four pillars rooted her, and made her feel at home. She endeavors to structure her day around a format that supports her goal of prayerful study before preaching to community. You can find more fruit of her labors in her blog, Thoughts of a Crazy Woman.
“The student had recently moved from California to Houston. On the second day of his arrival, it rained heavily, and the area in which he lived was flooded. There was a big hole in the street in front of his apartment. A motorist’s car landed right in that hole, causing a good deal of damage to the vehicle and some injuries to the passengers. Neither the student nor his roommates could think of anything to do other than to report the accident to city authorities.
Their neighbor, Mr. David, took positive action. He stood very close to the hole, one hand holding an umbrella, and the other hand waiving a flag to warn approaching motorists away from the hazard. Through hard rain and wind, Mr. David maintained his post for more than two hours. Because of his service to others, many cars avoided an accident in rush-hour traffic.
That student was very impressed by Mr. David’s actions. He was even more impressed when he learned that Mr. David was seventy-two years old. Mr. David seemed to him to be even more courageous than Hemingway’s character in “The Old Man and the Sea”. The following day, the student visited him to express his admiration and gratitude. They talked of many things, and learned much about each other. Mr. David invited the student to go with him to his church the next Sunday.
“What is your church,” he asked?
Mr. David replied: “I am a member of the Second Baptist Church.”
When the student told his priest this story, he concluded: “I am a Catholic, and I do not want to be anything else. But, just imagine if I were searching for a religion; what better choice could I make than a faith that produces a caring man like Mr. David!”
Taken from Dominican Laity And The Year 2000 by Anthony Dao Quang Chinh, O.P.
How do Lay Dominicans preach? One way could be through the homily of our lives.
What separates a Lay Dominican from our religious brothers and sisters? One aspect is how we share our charism in the world. There are as many ways to do this as there are Lay Dominicans–this is mine.
Our religious brothers and sisters live their Dominican vocation in a very obvious and public way. They are members of the Church. They wear habits. They have assigned duties of ministry in the Church–and I think that alone makes it a little more difficult to understand our role. We are not assigned any ministries, our direction is not nearly as clear, however, this also gives us an advantage, or, rather, it gives us a distinct role. This role was recognized by the early friars and has existed since almost the beginning of the Order itself. The religious can’t be everywhere. They can’t really be in the workplace. They won’t always get to have the interactions and discussions with people, not just due to the workplace but also due to the habit itself which may put some off. What is this role? Pope St. John Paul II, working from the Vatican II document Apostolicam Actuositatem said the laity are to renew the temporal order1. And so how is this done?
I can’t speak about others’ experience, but I’d like to share mine. Currently, I’m a graduate student studying physics at a state school that just happens to be rather liberal, especially for Texas. I am fortunate that we have a really good Catholic ministry attached, but I only spend some of my time there. You see, this may be hard to believe, but most physicists are atheists and some are actually hostile to the concept of a “God” at all. I know, shocking. However, most of my compatriots love having rather deep conversations about things, especially if it’s related to the structure of the cosmos. So, how do I live my Dominican charism? By having conversations with them about the reality of things, but I’m coming from, and using, the philosophical system most affiliated with the Dominican Order–Thomistic-Aristotelianism.
See, one of the biggest obstacles to discussing God or anything related is this barrier that comes up. This barrier is usually built from bad experiences and bad philosophy. So, the best way to bring God into their life is to try and break down that wall. I do not try to impose Catholic doctrine. I do not always talk about God or the Catholic Church. What I do is much more subtle–have genuine conversations with people. Through these conversations their philosophical outlook and misconceptions start to break down–it’s up to them and God to do the rest. Also, they all know I’m Catholic, so I must act like one. This goes hand-in-hand with what I say and further reinforces it.
As to the campus ministry, my work is much simpler–I give talks, mentor, and help the students understand various things within the Church. It is an unfortunate reality that most Catholics don’t know much about Catholicism.
Whether someone converts or reverts due to my actions is not the point I try to make. This may seem weird, but my point is that God has way more influence than I ever will. I try to represent what it means to be Catholic, and I am constantly trying to engage others on an intellectual level in order to spread the Truth–it’s up to each person to decide if they wish to listen or not.
Is God calling you to be a Dominican in the world?
What is a Lay Dominican? Many of us are asked
this question when people see us wearing a white scapular or pin of the
Dominican shield or cross. To quote one of the members of our Chapter, “It
isn’t a social club or bible study.
People come here to discern joining a religious order.” Then comes the
next question, “If you want to join a religious order, why don’t you become a
priest (or brother, monk, nun, or sister)?
Answering that question is a little more complicated. However, people
who discern joining the Dominican Laity are not called to religious life.
Rather, we have been called to live the life of Dominican Spirituality in our
secular lives. As our welcome to you
stated, we come from all walks of life and backgrounds. We belong to our parish and we live in the
world. We answer Christ’s call to
ongoing renewal and conversion by living our Catholic lives in the spirit of
how St. Dominic lived. We have suffrages
that we are obligated to perform, we meet regularly, study, pray, and serve the
Lord in a multitude of ways. In the ways we serve the Lord, we call this
preaching. Lectoring, leading a bible study, feeding the hungry, speaking out
for the unborn, the unloved, the unknown and being the head of our families are
all ways of preaching. There are enough
examples of how to preach to fill volumes. Living out Dominican spirituality
allows us to be better preachers and more importantly, faithful
Lay Dominicans are also governed by
the Fundamental Constitution of the Dominican Laity, and our provinces provide
a General Directory and Statutes. According to the Fundamental Constitution of
the Dominican Laity, sec. 4, “They have a distinctive character in both
their spirituality and their service to God and neighbor. As members of the Order,
they share in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching
according to the state of the laity.”
Lay Dominicans come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.”
Lumen Gentium 31
The Family of St. Dominic is large. There
are 5,742 Dominican friars, including 4,302 priests. There are 25,000 sisters
and nearly 3000 nuns. There is no general registry of Lay Dominicans. These are managed and governed by Province,
area and chapter.
The best way to introduce you to the
Dominican Family is to introduce you to us; to show you who we are, what we do,
and how we live the spirit of St. Dominic in our lives. Considering this, I could not think of any
individual better to introduce you to than Silvia T. She is the newest
perpetually promised Lay Dominican in our Chapter. I had the privilege of attending Silvia’s
Rite in October of 2018. It made a
lasting impression on me to see the joy emanating from her.
I met Silvia at the first general
meeting I attended in 2015. She has a
joy that naturally fills a room. I was
impressed by an inner peace that she exuded and was generously welcomed by her
with an enormous hug. I later had the
opportunity to sit with Silvia as I was discerning to move from inquiry to
candidacy. She mentored me in a very
special way…by sharing of herself humbly. She was a bit flummoxed when I asked
her to sit with me and chat again. After
a bit of prayer, she agreed to a conversation. I’ve outlined it here and hope
that her example of how she lives out her vocation as a Lay Dominican will help
you in your discernment of vocation and Christian life.
Well…here we are…
ST:Laughs. Yea, what are we doing again?
RJ: I don’t know. Let’s just talk and see what
happens. I’ve been scouring the internet
looking at different Dominican websites.
They are all beautiful and have a lot of historical content, information
about our Order, the Saints, the pillars of Dominican spirituality and
more. I think that is great. Somehow
though, I want people who come to our website to encounter us. I want to show what it means to be a Lay
Dominican and a member of our religious order.
ST: laughs again And you want to start with me? Why on earth…
Yes. I have never seen a more joyous
occasion then when you made your perpetual promises to live by the spirituality
of St. Dominic.
was. I spent 5 years as a temporarily
promised Lay Dominican. The Rite of
Perpetual Promise was one of the happiest days ever. I am very grateful to our Lord for leading me
to the Dominican Laity.
I always like to ask the question if someone is a cradle, convert, or reverted
Catholic. It seems like when I asked you
that question when we sat down a couple of years ago, you said something along
the lines of “I am being continuously converted.” Is that correct?
Yes, it is. The Lord has always been
patient and loving with me. There are
things that He led me to that impacted me years later in ways I would not have
anticipated. I experienced renewal during a Marriage Encounter weekend. I like to call myself a retreat junkie.
(laughs) It wasn’t always like that. I
used to be scared that I wasn’t worthy, and I was quite pushy as a person. The Lord, however, was calling me to a life
of obedience. The retreats helped with all of that. I learned that I was worthy. That the Lord, was calling me…ME, to serve
Him, with the gifts that He gave me. In
order to better use those gifts, I had to seek His will, and be willing to be patient.
I remember I was working in San
Antonio, and I was up for a possible promotion.
A coworker was also a candidate for this. We both had to give a presentation in order
to be considered for the promotion. She
had been given materials and an outline, I was not. I was going to have to wing
it. I was very nervous and worried that
I wasn’t worthy of this promotion. Prior
to giving our presentations I offered to pray with my coworker, she was nervous
too. She declined saying she didn’t want to. I persisted and said let’s just
say the Lord’s Prayer together. She still wouldn’t. I prayed alone and just asked God for the gift
to be able to speak. My coworker
stumbled a lot during her presentation. My
presentation showed them my potential. Not only was she offered the promotion;
but, I was too! I had done a good job
and though I wasn’t considered an optimal candidate at the beginning, I got the
promotion. It was the Lord’s help that
got me that promotion. It also prepared
me later for preaching! That was more than a decade before I encountered the
Order of Preachers of St. Dominic. God
is so patient.
Amen to that. You mentioned you are a retreat junkie?
Oh, yes. I attended the Marriage Encounter
weekend and that led to another type of retreat that I was able to not only
attend but help facilitate. It is called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP). That
also led me to ACTS retreats and others as well. It eventually led me to the idea of joining a
Have you discerned with other religious orders?
Yes, I discerned with the Carmelites for a while. Their spirituality is
beautiful and it focuses a lot on contemplation. I didn’t feel called to the
Carmelite Spirituality though. There
were Lay Dominicans in my parish in Atlanta that invited me to come and
see. I should have known that this would
have been a good fit. My confirmation
saint is Catherine of Siena. I also
claim St. Thomas Aquinas as one of my patron saints. Hindsight is always 20/20. There was an immediate feeling of peace when
I encountered the Lay Dominicans in Atlanta.
I knew I was at home. I am so
grateful to the Lord for loving me and calling me to live the spirituality of
St. Dominic. It isn’t always easy. Serving the Lord is rewarding though.
So, let me back track a little bit. You
attended CRHP in 2007. You are almost 70.
Most of the time, when someone is approaching 60 they know what they
want to be when they grow up….
loudest laughing known to man. Yea, I’m
a little slow. But that is ok. Roy, I was always so afraid. I masked it by always having to be
right. The Lord slowly removed that from
me. The retreats helped. When I first talked at a retreat, I was so
afraid that I wouldn’t have anything in common with people. I was a short Hispanic from the barrio in San
Antonio. How would all these white women relate to me? (laughs). I was in adoration, shaking and crying. I
prayed again for the Lord to give me the gift to speak. And you know, what- He
did! The relationships that I made with
those women was important. When I was
sick I had a community of friends, sisters we call each other, to help take
care of me. When I had cancer, they
removed my kidney. These women helped me
in every way imaginable. One of those
white ladies came and cleaned out my cabinets.
It was humbling for me. I knew
she was very successful. Heck… She had a
walk-in refrigerator. Yet here she was,
cleaning my cabinets. God is so good,
Roy. I am so grateful for Him.
You mentioned that you had cancer…
I have cancer now. I had a kidney
removed about 12 years ago. Later I had a lumpectomy because I had breast
cancer. I had my adrenal gland removed a few years later because it was
cancerous. These were all different types of cancer. None were related to each
other. My breast cancer returned, and I had
to have my right breast removed. Soon
after, I learned that the cancer I had, had spread to the bone. I take medicine now to keep the cancer from
spreading. It works but has side
effects. We don’t know how long it will
work for, but I am happy that it works today.
I am not sure I could muster a tenth of the gratitude and joy you have, if I
had cancer five times.
The bouts of cancer have taught me to always to trust in the Lord. My life is in His hands. I am here because
there are things, he still wants me to do.
I am still called to live my faith. The cancer doesn’t allow me an
excuse to stop. I have cancer, and you
know what? God still calls me to step
outside my comfort zone. He leads me in
His own gentle way to do the things that He wills.
I know your mobility is a bit more limited, and you use a scooter to get
around. Can you share a little bit about
how you live out Dominican spirituality now?
My children don’t currently practice our faith.
I don’t preach at them. I don’t stop being Catholic though. When my kids were younger, we would go to a
Posada at Christmas. My daughter
expressed interest in going this last year and she took my granddaughter. I must remember to be patient. I like to be
pushy, remember. I must trust the Lord
and be obedient that His will shall be worked in the lives of my children and
grandchildren. I gave my daughter a
crucifix. She asked why, and I told her that she knows what the crucifix is and
what it means. I heard her explain it to
my granddaughter. I pray for them every
You mentioned that your praying for the gift to be able to speak is connected
to your preaching today and Dominican Spirituality…
Yes! Here in our retirement community, I
help deliver communion to those who cannot get out. We also have a spirituality group that meets
once a month. I lead that group. There is always a topic for discussion. We also pray with the Gospel reading for the following
Sunday. I often go to The Preacher Exchange and use Fr. Jude
Siciliano’s First Impressions as a guide to the
Our group also put together a food
drive for Lent. We donated food to the
N. Texas area Food Bank. We were so
successful that the management for our retirement community was shocked that we
filled the space to overflowing for the food drive. We had to end it early because we ran out of
I continually focus on what the Lord
is calling me to do. That is my focus every day.
RJ: I think that your actions and how you live
the Spirit of St. Dominic is a powerful witness to the power of God in your
life. What do you want to do next?
Even though my mobility is limited some. I would still love to go on 1 last
pilgrimage to Rome. It is the getting there that is difficult. The long plane rides are not good for
I would also like to see my children come
back to the faith. I love them so
much. To see them embrace our faith,
would bring me great joy. I want them to
know the faith and know what it has done for me, and what being a lay Dominican
has done for me. I must let go and let
God handle the details of that. The Lord
has been so merciful, kind, patient and gentle with me. I also believe that He is with my children as
well. I think that is what St. Faustina
meant when she said, “Jesus, I trust in You!”
One last question/comment. You talk
about gratitude a lot. What are you grateful for?
I am grateful that the Lord has heard my prayers and blessed me with gifts that
I get to share with others. I am grateful for St. Dominic, Dominican
Spirituality, and the Order that welcomes the laity to a place within the
Order. I am grateful for the life affirming purpose that He has given me to
preach the Good News.
The Dominican Friars have traditionally prayed the Rosary in a way that is slightly different and also slightly shorter from the (now) more common way. The Dominican way begins with a series of verses and responses that recall the opening of the Liturgy of the Hours and also the Angelic Salutation that forms the first part of the Hail Mary. Either way is fine, but as a Lay Dominican you may appreciate the Dominican way:
Then, one says the following short verses and responses:
V. Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee; R. Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. V. O Lord, open my lips; R. And my mouth will proclaim Your praise. V. O God, come to my assistance. R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia. (Alleluia is omitted during Lent)
Then, the first Mystery of the set is announced, e.g., “The First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation.” After the Mystery is announced, one begins to meditate on that portion of Christ’s life.
On each of the next ten (smaller) beads, a Hail Mary is prayed. While pronouncing these prayers, one continues to meditate on the Mystery of Christ’s life.
At the end of the “decade” of 10 Hail Marys, one prays the Glory Be. Then, one announces the next mystery (e.g., “The Visitation”) and recites the Our Father on the large bead. After the Our Father is finished, one moves to the first small bead of the next decade and begin the Hail Marys again.
This process continues through each of the five decades until you return to the beginning, where the Glory Be is prayed.
This process continues through each of the five decades until you return to the medallion, where the Glory Be is prayed. Most pray the usual 5 mysteries, but if you have time you may find it edifying to pray a full 15 decades at one sitting as it truly brings the mystery of Christ’s life into focus.
The Dominican Rosary then concludes with the following prayers:
V. Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray: O God, whose Only-Begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
V. May the Divine Assistance remain always with us. R. And may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
[If a Priest is present:] And may the peace and blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit descend upon you and remain with you forever.
[Otherwise:] And may Almighty God bless us, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Here is a handy pdf if you want to print something out: Rosary
In short, it is a set of principles and ideals that can be applied to society and societal situations and problems in general. Our relationship with our Savior calls us to respond to those in need, and to work towards addressing unjust situations. “Discovering that they are loved by God, people come to understand their own transcendent dignity, they learn not to be satisfied with only themselves but to encounter their neighbor in a network of relationships that are ever more authentically human. Catholic Social Teaching is a means by which the Gospel is applied to structures in society, including the most basic societal structure (the individual family,) and the most complex (global international human affairs.)
It is also important to define at the onset of this overview what Catholic Social Teaching (CST from here forward) is not. In learning the principles of CST, many students try to align the doctrine with a particular political party. While it is true that the beauty of learning these principles is that they can be applied to events of the marketplace (in order to activate the three aspects listed above), the existence of the principles does not mean that the Catholic Church is taking sides in the “liberal/conservative” or “Democrat/Republican” spectrum. This is not the case. “The Church is not to be confused with the political community and is not bound to any political system.” There is much room for deciding how the principles are to be applied, and in fact I have monitored class discussions on hot button issues (immigration comes to mind) when both opposing views applied CST correctly! So be assured that the principles of CST do not neatly line up with one political agenda or the other, and it is a fallacy to attempt to generalize the principles into political ideologies. One is to apply the principles to social circumstances, and in particularly complex situations, careful analysis may render more than one outcome.
History of CST
The origins of CST can be traced back to Hebrew Scriptures, beginning with the Creation story, through the salvific event of the Exodus, and continuing as the Israelites were challenged to live justly in Covenant with God and one another. Social justice principles are seen in the laws regarding the sabbatical and jubilee years (every seven and fifty years where land was to lie fallow, debts were cancelled and people as well as goods were restored to their original owners.)
“This legislation is designed to ensure that the salvific event of the Exodus and fidelity to the Covenant represents not only the founding principle of Israel’s social, political and economic life, but also the principle for dealing with questions concerning economic poverty and social injustices.” (p. 13 compendium)
However, infidelity to the covenant with God also meant injustice in society. Sin and injustice showed the need for a Savior.
While the roots of CST can be traced to the Old Testament, it is the Gospel of Jesus itself that forms the basis for the doctrine. Jesus calls His disciples to “love God and neighbor, live the beatitudes, be open to all people, and be compassionate.” From the earliest days the Church has responded to the poor and vulnerable in society. As the Church grew and advanced, work for charity and justice became more structured as institutions for the needy (schools, hospitals, homes for the aged) developed as a response to the Gospel.
However, it was not until the late 1800’s that the Church, in a formal way, applied the message of Christ to society at large. Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) responded to two forces of the day, unbridled capitalism and Marxism, by writing a seminal document in 1891: The Condition of Labor (Rerum Novarum). Pope Leo XIII recognized that in both unrestrained capitalism and Marxism (the grandfather of modern communism) human dignity is threatened. Rerum Novarum addressed the role of the state to provide rights for workers; the right to work and unionize, the right to a just wage, and the right to own private property.
Later popes took the opportunity on the anniversaries of Rerum Novarum to write further on social issues of their own day. Michael Pennock summarizes the additional contributions to Catholic Social Teaching:
“…popes in their encyclicals and speeches, synods of bishops in their statements, regional and national conferences of bishops, and individual bishops in their pastoral letters have taught extensively on social justice themes. In addition, the Second Vatican Council had much to say about the dignity and rights of humans, especially in the important Pastoral Constitution, The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes.) Rooted in the Bible and centuries of Christian living, these teachings help form the core of Catholic Social Teaching.”
In 1998, the American bishops synthesized the material on social teaching in a document entitled Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions—Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops. Although there is not a “canon” of CST documents, the bishops looked at previous material and came up with seven themes, or principles that are consistently shown throughout the existing documents on Catholic Social Teaching.
Principles of CST
The first principle identified by the bishops is considered the most important:
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Dignity of the human person is considered the foundational principle, from which all of the other principles flow. We have inherent dignity, worth and value because we are made in the image and likeness of God, and are redeemed by Him. A basic truth to the CST’s is that “all people have dignity, and therefore cannot be treated as objects.” Dignity of humanity means that we have worth independent of our social standing, physical abilities or merit. When people are treated as objects, or without dignity, injustice occurs. Human dignity is the most basic theme of all the CST’s, and foundational for having a moral society. Flowing from an understanding of human dignity, the sacredness of human life is included in this most important first principle. Life is considered man’s first right, and it is upheld in Catholic Social Teaching against the most notable backdrop of threats to life itself: abortion and euthanasia. CST has addressed issues such as cloning, embryonic stem cell research, the use of the death penalty, and just war theory, which all emerge from this first principle. “We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”
The Call to Family, Community and Participation
Since we are made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God, we are social creatures by nature, and are meant to live in community with one another. As the “original cell of social life,” the family is the most basic unit of society. “The family is the central social institution that must be supported and strengthened, notundermined…” Families form communities, and we are called to participate in the activities of the community. All of the many organizations in communities (sports teams, religious and political organizations, professional and social groups to name a few) meet goals that could not be achieved on an individual basis.
Related to this principle is the concept of subsidiarity, which deals with “the responsibilities and limits of government, and the essential roles of voluntary organizations.”  Subsidiarity teaches that “the lowest level of an organization should handle a function if it is capable of doing so without the higher level intruding.” For example, if a city can govern itself, or if families or voluntary organizations can perform a task, it is wrong for a state or federal government to become involved in that process. Matters should always be settled at the most immediate, direct level. At the same time, the principle of subsidiarity allows the higher government to step in when justice is not occurring at the local level (Pennock gives the example of the federal government having to monitor civil rights laws in the 1960’s to assure that all citizens were getting an equal education.) Subsidiarity emerged in CST as a response to various unjust political systems that usurped family and community rights to govern themselves.
Rights and Responsibilities
Commensurate with human dignity is the right to basic necessities. Pope John XXIII (Peace on Earth) listed some of the fundamental human rights: right to life and those things that support life such as food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and social services in the event that he is deprived of the means of subsistence through no fault of his own; moral and cultural rights including the right to follow the natural law and the right to a basic education; the right to worship God; and economic and political rights.
Rights must go hand in hand with duties and responsibilities. Each individual has a responsibility to one another, their families, and to the larger society. “To claim one’s rights while ignoring one’s responsibilities diminishes the dignity of humans.”
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Jesus in the story of the Last Judgment (Mt. 25:31-46) reminds us that we are called to serve the “least of the brothers,” and we will be judged on how we respond to the needs of others.
This principle addresses both individuals and societies in general. Both individuals and governments are to understand that we are to be “administrators” of our possessions, not owners. Thus giving what is required to the needy is to be done with humility, recognizing that the goods given to us have a universal destination. 
A measure of the morality of a society is the treatment of the poor and vulnerable. This principle calls us to evaluate social and economic activity from the viewpoint of the poor and powerless.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Our work helps us provide for our needs and those of our families. Additionally, it is through work that we participate with God in creation and develop ourselves as human beings. Work also enables people to contribute to the well-being of the larger community. This principle recognizes the dignity and worth of work, and seeks to uphold that dignity by safeguarding workers’ rights. Issues that have been addressed in the CST’s regarding work include: safe working conditions and hours, just wages to support families, a call to end exploitation of labor, union rights and the role of governments and business owners. “Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights, and advances the well-being ofall.”
This principle recognizes that we are part of a global family, and we are all on the common path as pilgrims on the earth. The bond of global interdependence between people has increased with advances in technology, yet “there persists in every part of the world stark inequalities between developed and developing countries…the acceleration on interdependence between persons and people’s needs to be accompanied by equally intense efforts on the ethical-social plane, in order to avoid the dangerous consequences of perpetrating injustice on a global scale.”In short, this principle calls us to place ourselves in the other’s shoes, and to count all people as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This means more than a vague feeling of pity or discomfort at the plight of others in distress; it bids us to work for the common good. “The common good includes the social conditions that permit people to reach their full human potential and to realize their human dignity.” Solidarity, then, requires us to approach global situations with concern for the development of individuals involved. “Conditions which allow people to reach their full human potential” exclude war zones; so this principle calls us to work not only for economic development for the poor, and an end to injustice, but also for peace. “Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.”
Care for God’s Creation
“Nature shares in God’s goodness, and contemplation of its beauty and richness raisesourheartsand minds to God.” We are called to be faithful stewards of the earth, and this requires that we protect both people and nature. Some of the moral and ethical implications of this principle include the following challenges: preserving natural environments, working to make human environments compatible with local ecology, finding solutions to environmental threats such as air and water pollution, and considering the effects of instant gratification and consumerism on the environment. The American bishops’ pastoral letter, Renewing the Earth, discusses rationale and principles for good stewardship of the earth. One of the points is the observation that abuse of the environment often hurts the poor who depend on the earth for their subsistence. This principle addresses not only stewardship for the goods of the earth, but concern again for the least of our brothers and sisters.
A Journey of Fourteen Inches
A co-worker has explained the goal of teaching Catholic Social Teaching thusly: “If you can get the student to take the information and make the journey from the head to the heart (14 inches,) you have succeeded.” After teaching the material for a year I was asked to chaperone students on a mission trip to Honduras. It was there that his words came back to me, when I was working with the local people side by side to accomplish a task and living as they lived, simply and without my customary creature comforts. I understood with my heart what solidarity meant, the dignity of an honest day’s work, and the disparity between the rich and the poor. Moreover, the dignity of the people that we served was made apparent to me. Those that had what Americans would consider “nothing” and may even be considered by some to be “nobodies,” were rich in curiosity, friendliness, laughter, the ability to appreciate the most simple things, resourcefulness, and gracious generosity.
In order to internalize the principles of Catholic Social Teaching it may be necessary to step out of one’s comfort zone. These teachings are challenging, yet “working for justice is an essential dimension of Christian living. It is not optional…”
We are to love as Jesus loved. Our Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, is leading us to serve Christ not only in our interpersonal relationships with families and friends and groups to which we belong, but also in our communities and in our concern with people even on a global level. We are to consider “the least of our brothers” as Christ himself, recognizing in our brothers and sisters the dignity that is both God given and a reflection of His glory.
 Michael Pennock, Learning and Living Justice, Catholic Social Teaching, (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press), p. 12.
 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (Washington, D.C.: Libreria Editrice Vaticana), 4.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 50.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 24.
 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions—Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1998) 4-5
Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions—Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, 6
 St. Gregory the Great, Regula Pastoralis, 3, 21: PL 77, 87
 The concept of the universal destination of goods is referred to in Guadium et Spes: “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered with charity.” Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 69: AAS 58 (1966), 1090.
Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions—Reflections of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, p. 5
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 192.
 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Themes for Catholic Social Teaching, USCCB SummaryDocument (Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing)
 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing the Earth,An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching (Washington D.C.: USCCBPublishing, 1991),
(ST. ALBERT THE GREAT PRIORY – Irving) If you want to give someone a complete description of something, what kind of information do you need to provide? You would want to make sure you explained what it was for, right? But is that enough? If you say, “This thing is used to hold other things,” have you fully explained it? You could be talking about a basket, a hook, a drawer, a cupboard, a wallet, a bowl, etc.
What if you simply described its shape. “This thing is roughly a square, with an empty area, it has wheels and a sort of handle that you use to direct it.” Ok, that could be a shopping cart, a rolling suitcase, a car, or a wagon. Or maybe something else.
What if you wanted to emphasize what it is made out of? You could say, “This thing is made of metal.” But, why metal and not some other material. Does it matter if it is wood or sugar or ice or reeds or plastic? Maybe, maybe not.
What if you explained that it was made by a line worker at the local factory? Is that important? Does it matter where it was made? What if you need to make one? Do you need to understand how it was made?
The Four Causes: The notion of Four Causes arises from Aristotle’s efforts to explain change, which is part of a different topic involving Act and Potency, and which we need not explore at present. But, as Aristotle worked out how to account for change, he developed these Four Causes. Please note, he uses the term “cause” in a broader sense than most of us do today. We can gain some insight by using the term “explanations” or “descriptions” along with “causes.” You can also think of “cause” as that which answers the question, “Why?” or “How?”
I described these four causes in the beginning of this article though I did not designate them as such. They are, Formal (loosely, what is it’s shape, what form does it take), Material (what is it made of), Efficient (how it came to actually exist), and Final (why it was made, what it does.)
N.B. The formal cause is easily overlooked because it seems obvious. If you want to carry things, you obviously need something shaped in a way that will carry them. Also we are not used to thinking of a shape as a cause. Yet, when we describe something, its form is part of a complete description.
The object I have in mind is in fact a shopping cart. I want an actual thing that is well made for holding things and moving them about easily, and which can do so over and over again reliably. This is the Final Cause. This is why it is in the shape of a lidless box with wheels, the Formal Cause. To be reusable and sturdy it is to be made of steel and rubber, the Material Cause. And then in some manner it needs to come into existence, which is the Efficient Cause.
You may have noted that I began my description of this thing with its Final Cause. That’s because when someone is going to make something, they start with an end in mind. There is a Greek word, “telos”, which means “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”. The study of ultimate ends is called teleology.
The end of something just is the reason it was made. So, when you need to make something, you start at the end, that is to say, you have in mind, before you start, the purpose of the device, the goal you mean to achieve by making this thing. You have in mind what the final product of your efforts will be.
This end or final cause then leads to the formal cause. We have to figure out how best to carry a large amount of products and move them about easily. The formal cause next determines what material cause is needed in order to have something sturdy, reliable and reusable. And then we need the efficient cause, we have to figure out how to make it, or hire someone to make it for us, so that we can in fact have it.
Consideration of things in the context of the Four Causes is a very useful way to explore the world. Why was this made? Why was it made in this shape? Why was it made from these materials? How did it come to be made? Because I am a Lay Dominican I am driven to apply this Aristotelian/Thomistic world view to, well, almost everything. And so why not apply to Dominican Spirituality?
The Four Pillars: Dominican Spirituality is best described by the Four Pillars. They are Prayer, Study, Preaching, and Community. We have a framework here that can be set in terms of the Four Causes. Dominican Spirituality has as its goal The Beatific Vision, Communion with God. This is a precise way of saying “salvation.”
The Formal Cause is Prayer. It is what Communion looks like. In order to commune with God we have to communicate with God. Seem obvious? Remember, I said the formal cause is easy to overlook because it seems obvious. Prayer is the shape of Dominican Spirituality.
The Material Cause is Study. Can you truly commune with (love) someone you don’t know? We study and contemplate what we have studied so that we can more fully know God that we may more perfectly love God. Study is the raw material of Dominican Spirituality.
The Efficient Cause is Preaching. We take our prayer and our study and we bring forward the fruits of our contemplation to build up our Community, both Dominican and our extended community, the family of man. Preaching is how we make Dominican Spirituality.
The Final Cause is Community. Communion with God and Man. Our Dominican Community prepares us for Communion with God. It is the proper goal of all legitimate spiritualities. Union with God is the End or Purpose of Dominican Spirituality.
Mark C. is a permanently professed Lay Dominican and our Treasurer.
Each Dominican is called to preach. That action can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. Our Dominican friars write homilies. The Dominican Sisters may preach by teaching. A Dominican Nun who is cloistered may preach to those she lives with. Lay Dominicans preach as well, according to their vocation. I may preach when I give a lecture on scripture. Others preach the Gospel in the work place. Many members of the laity may preach while serving the poor and marginalized. Some members, like Pete C., preach by sharing God’s love and the Gospel, through poetry. Below are a few of his, that he has shared with me, to share with you. In a month or so, I will share a few more.
A Light for All To See
Through the windows of man’s eyes, the spirit of his soul is cast.
That from these eyes in time, the light of Christ does shine.
In and through the darkness, drawing others to the light.
Like a moth to a flame at night, burns not in this fire bright.
But each by their measure, draw others to Christ’s light.
From beneath these eyes lies wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to be.
That will open the doors to Gods kingdom, love, and mercy.
All that remains is to have faith, love, trust, and to obey Him we must.
And likewise love our neighbors all, as ourselves, lest we might fall.
So, when you’re trying to make a choice, look in the mirror and seek that voice.
You are the treasure is what you see, your life as it is meant to be.
Now is the time to hear the voice, look and proclaim what is that choice.
All life springs from what has been sent, that all may see this new light’s event.
And through the windows of man’s eyes, the spirit of his soul will rise.
From these eyes let God’s passion flow, and spread His Words for all to know.
Far and wide all might hear and see, what God’s promise is for us to be.
Our salvation at life’s end we will be, as we enter into His Kingdom you and me.
Each Dominican is called to preach. Part of our journey as lay members of the Dominican Family is to search out the ways in which the Lord calls us to preach. Jenny N., one of our perpetually professed members, has answered that call in a very dedicated way. Last year, Jenny completed her Master’s degree in Catechetical Ministry at the University of Dallas. She is now a Youth Ministry Coordinator at a parish in her diocese. Occasionally, we are called to preach to the choir. Last year, Jenny presented her Master’s capstone “Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of Adolescents.”
We are the choir. We know our faith and much of its beauty. However, we can always learn more and be open to understanding more. Anyone with an interest in the new evangelization will benefit from reading this, especially those who work with youth. Below is an excerpt of Jenny’s preaching. If you would like to read more, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your request will be forwarded to Jenny.
Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of Adolescents – Introduction and Chapter 1
The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons why the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults should be adapted for individuals of adolescent age as well as the implications these considerations have upon all catechetical ministries for such individuals. From these implications, conclusions will be drawn regarding the impact that such adaptations and considerations could have on the general engagement of this age group in the Catholic church. The introduction will provide a literature review of documents, ministerial writings, and historical practices within the Church depicting the primacy of the catechumenal model of catechesis, as practiced in preparation for the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults. Research will be presented regarding the use of RCIA as the basis for all catechesis as well as the principles inherent in this process. The paper will then explore the inclusion of adolescents in this process, and the merits of adapting the process to meet the individual needs of these individuals based upon the psychological stage of adolescents as discussed in Stages of Faith by James Fowler. After reviewing this foundational research, analysis will be completed on what principles or practices should be put into a process for adolescent participants in the RCIA process. The conclusions from this study not only inform practices to be used for uncatechized adolescents seeking full initiation into the Church, but also, by extension, the foundational nature of the catechumenate, informative to all adolescent ministry within the Church. Finally, the implications of incorporating such applications to adolescent ministry will be applied to current trends in the statistics of the participation of this demographic in the Catholic Church in America.
Chapter 1: Introduction Primacy of the Catechumenate The National Directory of Catechesis explains that “[t]he baptismal catechumenate [is] the source of inspiration for all catechesis.”1 The catechumenal process, along with the rites contained in the RCIA, create an atmosphere that encourages a true conversion of heart, guiding new members of the Christian community in a lifelong development in their relationship with Jesus Christ. As stated by St. Pope John Paul II, “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ”2 By understanding this relationship as the main aim and goal for catechesis, those ministries concerned with catechesis depart from a simply educational task by involving multiple aspects of human need in the methods involved in the programming developed for a catechetical ministry. This is expressly stated in the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church which originated from the Second Vatican Council. “The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher.”3
In order to promote this relationship, the structure of the RCIA process does not mandate a strict and uniform series of classes, but rather it “is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to the many forms of God’s grace, the free cooperation of the individuals, the action of the Church, and the circumstances of time and place.”4 This enforces focus on personal development of relationship over the conveyance of information. The attention to the individual journey of adults directs a somewhat fluid and responsive model which can be adapted and molded to meet the needs of individuals participating in the process. This is seen in the varying circumstances addressed in Part II of the ritual text.5 It is also integrated into the entire process of catechesis, calling for recognition and incorporation of the individual’s life experience and station.
The process for catechesis of individuals participating in the RCIA process, therefore, is understood more “as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time,”6 rather than an educational program or class. The process for this instruction relies heavily on liturgical catechesis; that is, catechesis through the participation in and reflection upon the liturgy of the Church. Use and importance of liturgical catechesis in the RCIA process will be discussed at greater length as one of the principles of the catechumenate in the second chapter of this paper.
Inclusion of Adolescents (ages 13-18) in the RCIA Process Part two of the RCIA text expresses the need for including children of catechetical age in the RCIA process. This applies to “children, not baptized as infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age.”7 Generally, the age of reason is regarded to be seven years old.8 These children, seeking initiation, either of their own desire or as guided by their parents or guardians have reached an age where they are capable of developing and forming the personal relationship with Christ that indicates the conversion of heart that the RCIA process is designed to promote. For this reason, it is appropriate for adolescents, similarly seeking initiation into the Church, to be included in the RCIA process prior to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation.
Part two of the RCIA text continues to explain the need to adapt both the method of catechesis as well as some rites within the process to meet the developmental and formational needs of children of catechetical age. Such adaptations include an awareness and sensitivity to the reliance these children have on parental figures as well as their social environment and peers.9 In order to understand ways of adapting the RCIA process to meet the needs of adolescents, it is appropriate first to understand the process itself, how it was developed, and by what principles it functions as the means by which individuals are fully initiated into the Church and subsequently serves as the basis for all catechetical ministry. Once this is understood, in order to adequately understand adaptations appropriate for this age group, a review of the developmental needs will be conducted. As the ritual text offers adaptations of the rites that can be used, the primary focus of this study will remain on the catechetical formation of individuals engaged in the RCIA process.
BY: Mrs. Jenny N., OP, MCat
1 Congregation for the Clergy. National Directory for Catechesis. (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005), no. 35. 2 John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979), no. 5. 3 Vatican II council, “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 14. 4 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988), no. 5. 5 RCIA., nos. 252-504. 6 Vatican II council, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 64. 7 RCIA, no.252. 8 NDC, p 119, no. 36.A. 9 RCIA, nos. 252-259.
On September 14th the Lay Dominicans of DFW held their 2019 Retreat. The theme was Lord, open my lips. The inspiration for the retreat came from the readings for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary time, specifically from the responsorial psalm, Psalm 51. The contributions from the members of our group were tremendous. With council contributions such as artwork contributed by Jana Sullinger, music contributed by Jeremy Childress, general event organization by Roy Johnston, liturgical and sacramental assistance by Jenny Norton, general oversight by Natasha Childress and breakfast provided by numerous members of the laity, a memorable experience was had by all.
After a brief ritual calling to mind our baptismal promises, Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP worked with the retreatants giving a brief introduction to the lectionary. Our retreat was dynamic and communal experience. We talked and shared at length, sharing our experience with sacred scripture and the impact it has had on our lives.
As we moved forward, we began to pray deeply with Psalm 51. Each reading of the psalm brought the retreatants closer together with heartfelt sharing. A time of reflective silence and meditation was offered with simple instructions – Each of us were asked to write our own psalm. These instructions were intentionally excluded from the workbook. The only individuals aware of this exercise were those involved in the planning of the retreat. Dwelling on inadequacy being a favorite human pastime, it was decided to omit mentioning this so that individuals could approach the idea whole heartedly. Though many had trepidations about such a task, each individual ‘retreated’ to the quite places in the priory to write their personal psalm.
All of the Psalm writing leading to a deep sense of trust in the Lord, and quite the appetite. Individuals brought their own lunch, snacked on leftover breakfast and got to know each other in the Priory day room. With 34 retreats, 5 of which were novices and 12 of which were not lay members, one of our favorites of Dominican spirituality was embraced – Community.
Our retreat finished out after lunch with more discussion on Psalm 51, more singing, and a love offering for the priory. During our closing ceremony of the retreat, individuals were given the opportunity to share their psalm with the group. Going into this part of the retreat in prayerful and sacred silence, retreatants shared their hearts with each other. Some psalms paraphrased Psalm 51. Others embraced rhyme and meter. Some were penitential and others lifted hope and praise. Collectively, our chapel was consecrated with the hearts and prayers of all in attendance. After prayer and an anointing for the journey, the retreatants went out to the world with a renewed heart and opened lips.
2019 Retreat photos
After the retreat, we invited individuals to share their psalm for this post. Below are a few to enjoy.
Psalm 51 – 5~7~5, by Mr. Mark Connolly, OP
know I am a sinner.
you love me still.
soul is shattered,
helpless in my sin,
out to you.
me your mercy,
not all my sins,
me this day.
made me, make me again.
to love you.
want me as a preacher?
no, not hardly.
You wish, here I am.
need your grace.
set the world on fire,
And bring Truth to all.
Psalm by- Dr. Jana Sullinger OP, MD
O’ merciful God,
Forgive my sins against you.
Cleanse what I defiled.
My sins I know well…
Ever present before me,
Against you alone.
Right is your judgement!
Before my birth-a sinner,
Seen and known by you.
Those in truth-you love.
Your hidden wisdom-teach me.
That I shine-wash me.
With joyful music
You fill my broken spirit-
Blinded to my sin.
Create a new heart…
For me, a right, new spirit.
Cast me not aside.
Lord, renew my joy.
Do guide and strengthen my will,
So that I may preach.
Remove my sorrows.
Open my lips to proclaim
Your praise and goodness.
My gift, does not please.
A shattered spirit, I give.
A new heart, welcomed.
In love, renew us.
Recreate and reshape us.
Lord, open our lips!
A psalm to my Lord by ~ Roy Johnston
Eye me with compassion, Lord. That which I withhold from others.
Those transgressions against them, against you – done without shame, those sins suffocate me. My guilt robs me of the breathe freely given by you.
With perfect clarity you know, see and understand my selfishness; born of pain, pride and arrogance – wrought with guilt and shame.
Redirect my passions; align my compass, my orientation to you alone.
I know that the river of your grace flows into an ocean of mercy that must drown me if I am to every breathe freely.
May my lungs burst from your compassion. Let my consumption overflow like a song, reaching all that would hear your praise.
My offering is my poverty, the broken pieces I have remaining of my misdirected will.
Turn not away from me.
Transform those things.
Let not my offense keep us separated, but your grace bind me to you and all that lives in you.