BEFORE THE CROSS | Dominican spirituality rooted in truth of God's love, mercy

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

The (Washington) Missourian

For the past several weeks, I have been writing about different forms of Christian spirituality. I began with the Benedictines' balanced life ordered around prayer and work. Then I wrote about Franciscan spirituality (simplicity, love for all God's creation and joy). Last week I outlined the major features of Ignatian spirituality. Today, I want to focus on Dominican spirituality.

The various forms of Christian spirituality are all ways of following the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result, they all have much more in common than their individual differences. All authentic Christian spiritualities are grounded in prayer and the sacraments, and all teach their followers to observe the Gospel counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. How Benedictines practice these virtues may be slightly different from the way that Franciscans, Jesuits or Dominicans observe them, but these virtues remain the hallmarks of genuine Christian spirituality -- even for those of us who have not taken religious vows but who want to live the Gospel as fully as possible.

Dominican spirituality is grounded in the teaching and ministry of Domingo de Guzmán (1170-1221), a Spaniard, who formed the religious community of men and women known as the Order of Preachers. Dominicans emphasize poverty, love of preaching and devotion to truth. They also possess an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through the Rosary, which promotes contemplation on the mysteries in the life of Christ and is a way of prayerfully proclaiming the fundamental truths of our faith.

St. Thomas Aquinas is, perhaps, the most famous member of the Order of Preachers after Dominic himself. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), quotes St. Thomas who emphasized the importance of mercy as "the greatest of all the virtues." St. Thomas is best known for his brilliant intellect and his systematic approach to Catholic theology, but he was first and foremost a deeply spiritual man who lived the Gospel counsels with profound humility and who was always faithful to the basic characteristics of Dominican spirituality: prayer, study, community and service.

Prayer is fundamental to all Christian spiritualities, but Dominicans practice a form of prayer that is contemplative, communal and steeped in the Church's liturgy. For those who follow St. Dominic, the love of truth comes first of all from meditative prayer and reflection on God's Word. All Christians can benefit from a deeper appreciation of sacred Scripture and from active participation in the eucharistic liturgy and other forms of liturgical prayer.

Study is particularly important to Dominicans. One cannot be a good preacher without a solid foundation in the Church's teaching. St. Dominic felt called to combat the heresies of his day. He didn't condemn those whose understanding of Christianity was misinformed. He believed that through good teaching and faithful living, all Christians could be helped to develop a clear understanding of the basic truths of the Gospel. St. Dominic initiated a tradition of scholarship that is relentless in its search for truth but is always enriched by faith.

Community life is fundamental to Dominican spirituality. St. Dominic emphasized a form of communal living that was not Benedictine (monks living in a cloistered monastery) or Franciscan (friars living "on the streets" as poor beggars). Dominican community life was, and still is, dedicated to creating a lifestyle where groups of women and men can learn, pray and serve others not as isolated individuals but as consecrated religious who, as Pope Francis says, "have chosen a following of Jesus that imitates his life in obedience to the Father, poverty, community life and chastity." In the early days, Dominicans established houses of study in several of the great universities of Europe. This allowed them to interact with professors and students in ways that helped build up the Catholic intellectual tradition that sustains Church scholars to this day.

Finally, Dominican spirituality calls its followers to a life of service. Prayer, study and community life are all intended to open our minds and hearts to the needs of others, especially the poor. To this day, the Dominicans who serve in our archdiocese and throughout the world show us by their prayer, preaching, and educational ministry how to let go of self-centeredness and live as Jesus did -- in service to others.

"Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes," St. Dominic said. This is good advice for all of us.

Archbishop Carlson's calendar

Tuesday, Feb. 11

10 a.m. Meeting with ministry team advisers at the Rigali Center

Noon Lunch with seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

2 p.m. Meeting with Father John Horn, SJ, president-rector of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary at the seminary

7:30 p.m. Confirmation at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in University City

Wednesday, Feb. 12

Noon Serra Club luncheon at the St. Louis Club in Clayton

4:15 p.m. Kenrick-Glennon Seminary board of trustees meeting at the Cardinal Rigali Center

7 p.m. 2014 Stewardship Conference at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Thursday, Feb. 13

9:30 a.m. Leadership training at the Cardinal Rigali Center

7:30 p.m. Confirmation at St. Stephen Protomartyr Church

Friday, Feb. 14

10 a.m. – 3p.m. Priest Day at the archbishop's residence

Saturday, Feb. 15

10 a.m. Mass at the priesthood discernment retreat at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Sunday, Feb. 16

10:30 a.m. 50th anniversary Mass at St. David Church in Arnold

5:30 p.m. Evening prayer and dinner at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary 

Bishop Rice's calendar

Monday, Feb. 10

12:30 p.m. Search Committee meeting for Catholic Education

6 p.m. Annual Catholic Appeal council meeting and spiritual reflection at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Tuesday, Feb. 11

7:30 a.m. Anointing Mass at Regina Cleri

10 a.m. Region 4 School Mass at Holy Redeemer Church

Noon Priest personnel meeting at the Cardinal Rigali Center

3:45 p.m. Northeast Deanery meeting at St. Martin de Porres Church

5 p.m Sts. Peter and Paul soup kitchen

7 p.m. Infertility Mass at the Cardinal Rigali Center

Wednesday, Feb. 12

8:45 a.m. Mass and Annual Catholic Appeal check presentation at St. Mary's High School

9:30 a.m. Search Committee meeting for Catholic Education

Thursday, Feb. 13

9:30 a.m. Ministry team advisers leadership training at Cardinal Rigali Center

Friday, Feb. 14

1:30 p.m. Mass at Potosi Correctional Center

Sunday, Feb. 16

11 a.m. Sausage social at St. Paul Church in Berger

8 p.m. Mass at Lindenwood University 

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