Community, Prayer, Study and Preaching are the four ‘pillars’ of our Dominican life
Our Dominican community life is centred on our being followers of Jesus Christ and preachers of the Gospel, living together in community, faithful to the traditions of the Order.
Following the Rule of St Augustine and guided by the Constitutions of our Congregation, we seek to live out more fully our baptismal calling, faithful to our vow of Obedience, together with a life of Poverty and Chastity. Our common life is centred on our Lord’s command to love God and one another.
We are sent out on our apostolate by the community and return to our communities to be refreshed by the prayers and goodwill of the community. We strive to share our faith and doubts with each other.
In wrestling with the truth together we make sense of who we are, and what we are called to be in the light of the Gospel. Our community life together is a prayerful life, which enables a silence to listen to God and to each other.
Community life, when lived well, assists us in becoming the persons whom God is calling us to be.
“By our consecration we are called to be of one mind and one heart in the Lord. Our community is the place in which we live Christ’s command ‘Love one another’ and in striving do to this we experience both the support and the suffering which are part of our commitment to one another in faith.”
Sisters, we must love each in God and for God, be spiritually united to our Divine Lord.
“Prayer is the centre of our lives, deepening our awareness of the presence of God, and teaching us to bring to others an awareness of this presence. St Dominic’s prayer was intense and constant. From it sprang his desire to preach the Gospel to all people.”
A life of prayer is essential to nourish and sustain us in preaching the Gospel.To foster a deeper relationship with God, sisters spend time apart each day in personal prayer.
Our personal prayer lives are nourished by spiritual reading, the prayerful reading of Scripture and private recitation of the Office of Readings, and silent awareness of God’s presence.
Sisters also make an annual retreat and are encouraged to participate in days of recollection. Often communities will plan days of reflection together, spending time sharing their faith stories with one another.
Devotion to Mary the Mother of God is integral to our Dominican tradition. Legend attributes the development of the Rosary to St Dominic: he is often portrayed (sometimes with St Catherine) kneeling to receive the Rosary from Our Lady. We are encouraged to pray the Rosary to foster our life-long meditation on the Gospel.
It was said of St Dominic that he spent the night speaking to God and the day speaking of God, and he exhorted his brethren to do the same. Prayer and study were at the heart of Dominic’s life, nourishing one another. So too, they are at the heart of our lives, both as individuals and members of a community.
The place of study is very important in our Dominican life. However, it does not mean straightforward intellectual pursuits, as some might be tempted to think. All our subject, has a purpose, for it has its source in compassion and is orientated towards souls.
Our study transforms us, compelling us to live the compassion of Jesus Christ. Study and reflection open our minds, leading us to perceive and understand the our world in the light of the Gospel. Only when we understand the society in which promote what is right and good, and challenge what is unjust and must be understanding we become more effective preachers of the Good News of God’s grace and freedom.
The study of Scripture and Theology is an essential part of our Dominican formation and is a life-long pursuit. It has both a contemplative and an intellectual dimension, each feeding into and growing out of the other.
Our study is never detached from pastoral commitments and concerns, but ought to shed light on them and prepare us to respond more effectively to the needs and sufferings of those around us.
Dominican study is grounded in our apostolic commitment to preach the Gospel, to build up our faith, and to advance the Catholic Religion.
“In the Dominican tradition, study is essentially a reflective pondering on the word of God and on the world we live in.
Such study, rooted in prayer, opens our minds to truth. It helps to discern in faith the real needs of people through an understanding of their thought and culture.
The purpose of our study, as understood by St Dominic, is so to transform us that we become lights of the world and preachers of a life-giving word.”
“Following our Lord Jesus Christ, the sisters work to spread the kingdom of God on earth.
The Dominican way of life is a prophetic witness to the world. In fulfilment of our Dominican vocation we share in the universal mission of the Church: to bring the liberating message of the Gospel wherever humanity’s needs are greatest. This we do as Dominicans through various forms of the ministry of preaching, particularly in education and evangelisation.”
Each one of us comes to the Order with our own gifts, talents, history, and experience, as well as our hopes, ideas, dreams, and visions. Our life-long Dominican formation encourages us to integrate these, and put them at the service of the Order, the Church and God.
Our preaching is rooted in contemplation, continuously sustained by community and personal prayer, study, and reflection, which inspire and impel us to make Christ’s offer of salvation known, carrying out the Order’s purpose to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls.
The mission of the Dominican Order to preach the Gospel is carried out in sisters’ diverse ministries.
We are an apostolic Congregation, part of the larger Dominican Family, and where possible we work closely with other Dominican groups, as well as the communities in which we live and groups within the Church who share a similar charism.
I am sure in all your apostolates, that the good work for souls and sacrifices must bring blessings on our Congregation. All for God and God alone!
Dominican MottosOne motto of the Order is “Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare”
TO PRAISE, TO BLESS, TO PREACH
Laudare – to praise
Praise is a spontaneous reaction to the wonders of creation, the wonder of human beings. We know what a beautiful sunset, mountains, the wonders of the sea can do to us and we pray instinctively and realise that this is a glimpse of the glory of God.
The meaning of praise is to acknowledge God, recognise God’s greatness. It is to express this in praise and song. “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:1). Praise is a spontaneous reaction to the wonders of creation, the wonder of human beings. We know what a beautiful sunset, mountains, the wonders of the sea can do to us and we pray instinctively and realise that this is a glimpse of the glory of God. But to praise is about something more. To praise is about the reign of God in the world, the wonderful deeds God has done in history and the wonderful deeds the Creator is doing now.
Praise gives us perspective amid seeming despair. It is even more real when it comes out of our laments, our expression of grief and sorrow. God wants us to praise him because God wants to free the world. We can see a foretaste of new life, healing resurrection. Psalm 146 expresses this very well. Creation will be brought to fullness. Praise in song and music has empowered people’s faith and re-enforced it. To sing about freedom, peace, justice encourages people to work for these, to believe that it is possible. Praise is a way of being.
Benedicere – to bless
The idea of blessing permeates the Old Testament. God is seen as the source of all blessings. God thinks about us in favourable terms. He communicates this to us through love, gifts, appreciation, grace, mercy.
There are wonderful promises and blessings from the hand of the Lord. There is no pleading, no wishful thinking; the blessings are already given, either now or in the future. The word berak (blessing) was often used in Jewish prayers. The blessing was understood a communication, a sharing of one’s own power, of oneself. When the Israelites blessed God, they did not intend to give God a blessing, but to recognize that God is the source of all blessing.
The greatest blessing God has given is sending his Son Jesus. Paul expressed it so beautifully in Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings in Christ … such is the riches of grace he has showered on us” (Eph 1:3, 8). The life of Christ was a continuing blessing of God. The climax was the institution of the Eucharist. This was the outcome and climax of his life of thanksgiving. A new way of saying thanks, blessing God has been offered to us.
Remembrance is very closely linked with thanksgiving to thank, to think about. We thank God for life, for creation, for salvation for all his blessings. Like Christ this is to be our dominant attitude in life. If this is our relationship with God, then we are called to bless others in our lives.
Praedicare – to preach
The most basic form of evangelisation is to rejoice in and talk about God’s blessings and to witness to it by blessing others. Preaching comes from passion, conviction, a sense of urgency. It comes from seeing the pain of the world and looking at this in the light of the gospel and of God’s love for the world.
Good preaching comes from prayer and contemplation, from being in touch with God, from sharing in God’s vision for the world. This is what led Dominic to found his Order for preaching. Dominic was called “Preacher of grace”. He preached hope, salvation, and redemption. He preached the good news.
Preparing for preaching is hard work. It means leading a contemplative, prayerful life, studying the gospel, living it out. One of the questions asked of the novices in the early days of the Order as they were evaluated for readiness for preaching was “Ask them if they have great charity”.
“Becoming a preacher is more than learning to speak about God. It is discovering the art of praising and blessing all that is good. There is no preaching without celebration. We cannot preach unless we see the goodness of what God has made and praise it and bless it. Sometimes the preacher must, like Las Casas, confront and denounce injustice, but only so that life may have the victory over death, and resurrection over the tomb, and praise over complaint.” (Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, An Address to the Dominican Family, Manila 2000)
There are many forms of preaching. As Sisters we do this in many ways: teaching, healing, administration, writing, media, art painting, conversations, etc. “In fulfilment of our Dominican vocation we share in the universal mission of the Church: to bring the liberating message of the gospel wherever man’s needs are greatest” (Constitutions, 35).
Sr Anne Walsh OP