Our Way of Life
To prepare ourselves for this mission we have a particular way of life which we inherit from our predecessors and especially from our founder, St Dominic. This way of life includes study, prayer, contemplation and living together in community.
The overwhelming problem that Dominic faced in his time was ignorance. There was very little preaching and what preaching there was displayed a scandalous amount of ignorance. He therefore sent his future preachers to the universities to study theology. While we live in a very different world today we see that it is still characterised by widespread ignorance. One of the most important aspects of our Dominican way of life then is study.
We study theology – not only in the seminary during our years of formation but throughout our lives. Theology is faith seeking understanding. And that becomes for us a serious discipline, a way of life. Consequently many of the great theologians in the Church have been Dominicans: for example Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, and some of the great theologians of the Second Vatican Council: Yves Congar and Edward Schillebeeckx. Some of the great scripture scholars like Pere Lagrange were also Dominicans.
We also study the signs of our times. We take an interest in what is happening in our world today because it is our world and it is the world in which we are called to fulfil our mission
Our life is meant to be from beginning to end a life of study. But that does not mean that we cultivate study for its own sake. All our studies are undertaken for the sake of our mission of preaching or communicating as truthfully as possible and in a language people can understand.
Study alone is not enough. Our life is also, and perhaps more importantly, a life of prayer. We pray the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church together, we celebrate the Eucharist and we have time together for silent meditation.
Ours is a contemplative way of life – contemplation in the midst of action. We say that our aim is to contemplate and then give to others the fruits of our contemplation. We come out of a long tradition of contemplative and mystical prayer. Some of the most famous mystics in the history of the church like Catherine of Siena, Meister Eckhart, Henry Suso and John Tauler were Dominicans.
Prayer and study are not two separate and isolated exercises. Our contemplation is our prayer and our study, our meditation and our pursuit of knowledge, an integrated way of life.
Another important feature of our way of life is our emphasis on community. We try as far as possible not to live alone. We live in communities. We eat together, we pray together, we sometimes work together and, most important of all, we share our money and possessions. We hold all things in common as the early Christians did in Jerusalem.
Ours is decidedly a brotherhood (the Sisters would form a sisterhood). We are friars (which means brothers) living together as equals whether we are ordained priests or not. We elect our priors or leaders for a term of office. They are spoken of as the first among equals.
We also have an informal relationship with our Dominican Cloistered Nuns and our Congregations of Apostolic Sisters as well as our Lay Dominicans. Together we form what we call our Dominican Family.
These then are the four pillars of our Dominican life: study, prayer, community and our preaching mission. These are our ideals. We do not always succeed in living up to them but they remain the ideals we strive for.