Hello! I am a permanently professed lay Dominican. I went through a little over a year of inquiry, a little over a year of candidacy, a little over three years of temporary promises, and became permanently professed earlier this year (2021.)
I am 64, married to Rosie, we have two children, 7 8 grandkids with one on the way, two Great Pyrenees, two new kittens.
Short recap of faith journey: After my wife and I married we rediscovered our faith and attended St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas – we are both what are called reverts, and I became active in RCIA for Children and Youth, attended a CHRP retreat, joined a men’s group called Joe Catholic, and just generally threw myself into understanding and growing in my faith and understanding of Christ’s church and my role. Rosie bought me the Liturgy of the Hours one Christmas, and I was struggling off and on trying to understand and use that.
Somewhere along the line I ran into the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, and actually went to the St. Albert the Great Priory in Irving Texas for the rites involved in joining the Confraternity. Oh, and I attend St. Catherine of Siena in Carrollton, TX. Apparently I was destined to become a lay Dominican. (St. Albert the Great was a Dominican and teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Catherine was a lay Dominican.)
The man who started Joe Catholic, Don Gonzalez, encouraged me to apply to the Masters program, and I did – it just sort of felt like the correct next step. Three years later, in 2014, I received the Masters of Theological Studies degree from Ave Maria University.
Why did I pursue a Masters in Theology? Well, not for the high paying Religious Ed position at my local parish. As Professor Bushman told me when we were talking about why this and why now, “Knowledge is an end in itself.” Nevertheless, when I was done with that degree I was looking at the diploma and wondering, “Now what?”
One Saturday morning a man named Sir Patrick Norton (that’s what Rosie calls him anyway) gave a talk at Joe Catholic about third order religious. He closed with the revelation that he was a lay Dominican. (The Dominicans don’t use the term 3rd order.) I spoke with him for some time after our meeting and asked for more information. Long story short I attended an inquiry meeting, and here I am 6 years later.
Because I like to read and write, most of my preaching is via blogging, and I have written a couple of articles for this website. One you might find interesting is Four Causes, Four Pillars. I also meet weekly in my Theological Armory with some friends and we discuss the sublime to the ridiculous over whiskey and cigars.
I consider it an honor and a privilege and a distinct responsibility to be a lay Dominican. If we have not already met, I look forward to meeting you and sharing Community, Study, Contemplation and Preaching with you.
Aristotle defined friendship as two people searching together for the Truth. I hope that we will become friends.
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.