Principles and Practice
DOMINICAN LIFE is LITURGICAL
We have examined the ends of the Order — contemplation and the apostolate, the first fructifying in the second. These are the noble goals that the Order sets before the Dominican. However, it is not enough to have marvelous ideals. It is necessary to have suitable means to achieve them. St. Dominic endowed the Order with powerful means perfectly adapted to the ideals he envisioned. The Constitutions of the First Order precisely summarize the most important of these means:
The means set by our most holy Patriarch for the attainment of our end are, besides the three solemn vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, the regular life with its monastic observances, the solemn chanting of the Divine Office and assiduous study of sacred truth. With us these things cannot be taken away or substantially changed, although, with the exception of the vows, they may be opportunely tempered, according to the circumstances of time and place, so that they be made more suited for the attainment of the end and be imparted a greater efficacy.
The Constitutions of the nuns use almost the same language to describe the chief means to achieve perfection.
The means given to the nuns by the holy Patriarch Saint Dominic, for the attainment of this end [perfection], and transmitted to us by venerable tradition, are especially: the three solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; the solemn recitation of the Divine Office; certain fasts and bodily mortifications; and the devout and constant contemplation of Our Lord, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifies.
The Constitutions of the Third Order Sisters, in slightly different form, prescribe similar means. The sisters take the religious vows; chant in choir the Office of the Blessed Mother (some of them chant the Divine Office); have their hours of mental prayer; live the community life — common table, nourishment, furniture, clothing; keep the monastic observances — silence, fasts, abstinence, chapter of faults; and wear the Dominican habit and contemplative scapular.
Tertiaries follow a rule which, in accord with their life in the world, parallels that of the fathers and sisters. They promise to live according to the Order’s spirit, attend Mass every day, if possible, and recite either the Office of the Blessed Mother or the fifteen mysteries of the rosary. They hold their monthly chapter meeting and endeavor to achieve a deeper understanding of the truths of the faith. In all branches of the Dominican family the same goals are pursued, fundamentally the same means are employed, and the same spirit is engendered and maintained. In this chapter we shall discuss only the prayer life of the Dominican.
Dominican Contemplative Life and the Liturgy
In seeking to make its children contemplative apostles, the Order demands of them, as an indispensable condition, a life of prayer. It frames their daily life in prayer, prescribing that they tasty out the liturgy and fulfill many other spiritual obligations. Furthermore, it creates an atmosphere of prayer in its houses, enjoining silence as the essential environment in which Dominicans shall lead their lives.
The Dominican day gravitates around the liturgy. The supreme act of the day is the sacrifice of the Mass, the highest praise man can offer to the Holy Trinity. Providing a setting for the Mass is the Divine Office. It prepares for the Mass and draws from it, carrying its graces into the entire day. Distributed at key points in the daily schedule, the Office consecrates every part of the day to the divine service, sanctifying each passing hour with some liturgical act.
Only as a consequence of his primary commitment to the service of God and the sanctification of his own soul, does the Dominican leave the cloister and work for the salvation of his neighbor. The Rule of St. Augustine, read repeatedly in the Order’s refectories, impresses this truth upon him: “Before all things, beloved brethren, love God and then your neighbor.”
In his supreme work as a man of prayer, the Dominican resembles the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man. Christ is both God and Man. As man he stands at the head of the whole human race and is the supreme Adorer of the heavenly Father. As man, he gives infinite praise to the Trinity, because he is a Divine Person. He has the nature of God and the nature of man. The Person acting in these two natures is Divine. Since a person’s actions are measured by his dignity, Our Lord’s acts, even those he performs in his human nature, are of infinite value. When Christ, as man, adores the heavenly Father, his worship is infinite. Acting thus, he fulfills the first obligation of every man, that is, he adores the heavenly Father. The friar, participating in the liturgy, continues the adoration which Christ the Lord performed on earth.
The obligation to adore also falls upon the Dominican as a religious. On entering the Order, he consecrates himself by vow to God’s service. From that day forth it is his duty to join in the corporate praise which his Order offers uninterruptedly before the throne of God.
Through its solemn worship, the Order of Preachers imitates our Holy Mother the Church, God’s society on earth, which exists to praise and adore the Supreme Being. Within the Church, the Order constitutes a special group of adorers. Each of its parts is united to the others by the supernatural bonds of profession for the holy purpose of praising God. Furthermore, all its branches work together as a family to multiply, by their apostolic works, adorers of the Trinity. To achieve this end most effectively, the Order seeks to make its members contemplatives, living images of Christ, the perfect Adorer.
The Heritage of St. Dominic
Love for the liturgy is a precious heritage Dominicans owe to their Founder. He himself was completely committed to the liturgy — a commitment we find expressed in his life, in the Constitutions, and in the way he taught his children.
By profession he was a canon regular. He was a priest whose chief duty was to carry out the sacred liturgy in the cathedral of Osma. His life centered around the Divine Office, for he was obliged as a duty of his state to participate daily in chanting the canonical hours. His spirituality, therefore, was basically a priestly spirituality.
The Mass was his life. He was so moved during the sacred mysteries that he wept when reciting the Canon of the Mass and the Pater Noster. This weeping reveals the mystic who almost sees beyond the veil of the Sacrament. Mystically, Dominic sees Christ present on the altar, the Lamb slain and still bearing His wounds. The testimony of Stephen of Spain describes the devotion of Dominic at Mass.
The witness very frequently saw him celebrate Mass and always noticed that his eyes and cheeks were wet with tears during the Canon. It was quite easy for those present to perceive his devotion, his great fervor during Mass, and the way he said the Pater Noster. The witness never remembers having seen him say Mass with dry eyes.
Frogier of Penna had also observed the same devotion: “I saw the Blessed Dominic say Mass many times both in the monastery and on journeys. And there was not a single time when Dominic did not shed tears.” The meaning of the sacred mysteries overpowered him.
Even after he became an apostle, St. Dominic continued his liturgical life. Though he frequently went on journeys lasting days and weeks, he celebrated Mass each day he was near a church. He demonstrated that it is possible to be both contemplative and apostolic. Saying Mass every day does not sound heroic to priests of the twentieth century. Now priests say daily Mass, but it was not so in the thirteenth century. This explains why so many medieval biographers stress that their saint said Mass daily. We find this in the lives of St. Dominic, St. Thomas, and St. Vincent Ferrer. Such devotion to the Mass was especially remarkable in the lives of itinerant apostles like Dominic and Vincent. Vincent carried with him a company of friars who chanted the Office with him and became his choir when he sang the daily High Mass. Paul of Venice testified that Dominic also loved to sing the Mass. “Even while traveling, he was devout and constant in prayer. If he could find a suitable church, he went to celebrate High Mass every day:” These words tell us much about Dominic’s way of preaching. He preached so constantly, moving about and preaching everywhere, that often the day’s end found him far from a church. He then stopped at an inn or wrapped his cappa around himself and rested by the roadside. “When he came to an inn,” remarked Ventura of Verona, “if there was a church there, he always went to pray in the church. Even traveling, he celebrated Mass almost even day, if he found a church.”
St. Dominic s Love for the Divine Office
Dominic’s love for the liturgy included not only the Mass but the Divine Office. He taught the early friars to chant the canonical hours at the prescribed time, if possible, even when they were en route. Ventura again supplies our information:
Almost always when outside the priory, on hearing the first stroke of the matins bell from the monasteries, he used to arise and arouse the friars; with great devotion he celebrated the whole night and day Office at the prescribed hours so that he omitted nothing. And after compline, when traveling, he kept and had his companions keep silence, just as though they were in the priory.
It was the same when he was at home in the priory. “Devoted to the Divine Office,” Rudolph of Faenza tells us, “the Blessed Dominic always attended choir with the community.” He did this even when he had stayed up all night praying. There is striking proof of his fidelity to choir from his last week on earth. During the greater part of July, 1221, Dominic had worked in Lombardy, preaching in many cities of the area. Toward the end of the month, he came back to Bologna fatigued and running a fever. Ventura lets us see his valiant spirit:
Because of the excessive heat, the prior suggested to Brother Dominic that he go to rest and not rise for matins during the night. The holy man did not acquiesce in this suggestion but entered the church and prayed through the night. Nevertheless, he was present at matins.
The Founder constantly exhorted the brethren to put their hearts into the Office. Paul of Venice tells us of this characteristic:
He would walk around on each side of the choir urging the brethren by word and example to sing well and attentively and to recite the psalms devoutly. He himself was so faithfully intent on what he was praying that he was never distracted by any tumult or noise.
Dominic was just as intent on private prayer. Even during his missionary years among the Albigensians he readily became absorbed in God. One witness tells us: “When we searched for him, we found him on his knees, despite danger from the wild wolves that infested the place.” Throughout his lifetime, he passed the greater part, and frequently the whole, of the night in prayer. “We often found him in church weeping and praying”, testified Ventura of Verona. “Even while traveling,” said Paul of Venice, “he was devoted and constant in prayer.” Few of Dominic’s children have reached the degree or constancy of his prayer. But he was the Founder, and God gave him a special gift. Through his nightly prayers and vigils he won graces for the whole Order, not only for the Order as it was in his day, but for the Order as it is today and all the days of the world. His mortifications and prayers are still active for his children.
The Order’s Prayer-Life
The Founder was not content to give example. He committed his Order to praise from the first moment of its existence when he had it incorporated into the family of canons regular. This was done officially by Pope Honorius III in 1216 with the bull of confirmation. For centuries thereafter the Prologue of the Constitutions contained the words: “It is fitting that we who live under one rule and vow should find union in the observances of our canonical religion.” In addition the opening sections of the Constitutions regulated the celebration of conventual Mass and the recitation of the canonical hours. The present Constitutions warn, at the very outset, that the choral recitation of the Divine Office is a Dominican duty which can never be radically altered.
Besides this basic Divine worship, the Order has imposed on its members other prayer obligations: the daily rosary, periods of meditation, grace before and after meals, prayers for deceased brethren and benefactors, chapter prayers, and processions. There is a weekly Libera procession for the dead and processions on each of the four Sundays of the month in honor, respectively, of Our Lady of the Rosary, the Holy Name, the Blessed Sacrament, and St. Dominic.
Silence — The Atmosphere of Prayer
To establish and preserve an atmosphere of prayer in the Order’s houses, St. Dominic imposed strict silence on his children. It is to be kept throughout the priory except in the recreation room during times of relaxation. The primitive constitutions and those of today single out four places for deeper silence: the dormitory (that is, the residence areas), the cells, the refectory, and the choir. There is also a solemn silence from the close of day until morning. Even at meals, contrary to the custom of the world which makes of meals festive occasions, Dominicans keep silence. If they must speak for any reason, it must be in a few words. Meals are linked to the liturgy of the choir. The community assembles in the “cloister of the dead” waiting to enter the refectory for meals. This particular corridor of the cloister passage-ways is so named because in earlier centuries the deceased were actually buried beneath its stones. It was there that St. Dominic wanted to be buried “under the feet of his brethren.” These considerations, explain the deep silence of the “cloister of the dead”. It is a place of intercession for departed brothers and sisters who can no longer do anything for themselves. As the community enters the refectory, the brethren recite the De profundis. Then the lengthy chant preceding the meal begins. The grace after meals is a beautiful liturgical service which begins in the refectory and is continued. as the friars go in procession to choir where it is terminated. Meals are taken within this liturgical framework to remind the religious that every part of their life is dedicated to the glorification of God. Even eating is a duty symbolizing the more sacred duty of nourishing the soul on Divine truth. “Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). To remind the community of this truth, meals begin and end with readings from the Sacred Scriptures. During meals, the brethren listen to the book that is read to them so that (as the Rule of St. Augustine puts it) “not only their mouths take in food, but their ears drink in the word of God.” Meals framed in a context of worship and spiritual reading assume the character of a sacramental and continue the friar’s life of adoration.
The strict silence which the Order imposes is necessary and has a Dominican motivation. It not merely serves the negative purpose of mortifying the religious, but fulfills the far nobler function of creating a prayerful climate in the house. By withdrawing from the noises of the world, by silencing his tongue, and by stilling the inner turmoil of his memory and imagination, the friar recollects himself and mentally kneels in adoration before Almighty God.
The Liturgy and the Apostolate
Why did St. Dominic, an apostle founding an apostolic Order, insist so strongly on the liturgy? The two things seem to be in contradiction: long hours in choir and the whole world clamoring for preachers. In the first instance, he was a contemplative founding a contemplative Order, whose first duty would be to praise God. The prayerful soul is carried away by the beauty of God and is ravished by his love. It seeks nothing more than to adore and return his love. It would like to remain forever before him. Through the liturgy, the Church on earth remains continually in prayer before the throne of God. Dominic, the contemplative, would have nothing less for his Order than this constant adoration of God.
The holy Patriarch made his Order liturgical so that his children might bear witness to the truths they preach and teach. Christ witnessed to these truths throughout his life: “‘This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John, 18:37). He gave his supreme testimony on Calvary, testifying by the sacrifice of his life that God is the Lord and Master to whom we owe everything, even our lives. The Mass like the Cross is the perfect act of worship. It is the act, infinite in value, of a Divine Person. During it, we join with Christ in witnessing to the supreme excellence of God.
The Office, the natural accompaniment of the Mass, through its psalms, hymns, and antiphons prolongs the sacrifice of praise offered by Christ on the altar. With St. Paul we say: “Through Him, therefore, let us offer a sacrifice of praise always to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising his name” (Heb. 13:15).
Through Mass and Office, Dominicans penetrate the truths of faith, nourish their souls on them and prepare to preach them. Fervent preaching springs from fervent praying. Singing God’s glory in the liturgy, the friars become apostles because its texts teach them how sinners have strayed from God, violating his rights. It instills in them a longing to make reparation, to go forth and evangelize the souls redeemed by Christ. Fired by the liturgy, the friar apostle is willing to leave for a time the delights of contemplation to preach the word. Very aptly, the Order has taken for its motto: Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare “Praise, Bless, Preach.” Before the Order sends its children into the apostolate it commits them to the worship of God, centering their lives around the liturgical hours of praise. The Order’s spirit and apostolate become spiritually impoverished when the liturgy recedes into the background of Dominican thinking.
The Prayer of Sisters and Tertiaries
The spirituality of Dominican sisters and tertiaries, shared with a priestly and apostolic Order, is also liturgical. The little Office of the Blessed Mother which they recite fashions and molds them in the spirit of Mary, teaching them how to do everything in her, through her, by her, and for her. They contemplate the Mother of God, who, “kept in mind all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke, 2:19). They love souls because Mary, the mother of souls, loves then. They are anxious to save souls because she, the Mother of the Savior, wants to save them.
Dominican Saints and the Liturgy
The saints cf the Order, sharing their Founder’s love for the liturgy, were all men and women of prayer. Bernard Gui, who culled his information from those who had known St. Thomas Aquinas personally, describes the Saint’s life of prayer:
In St. Thomas the habit of prayer was extraordinarily developed. He seemed to be able to raise his mind to God as if the body’s burden did not exist for him. At night, when our nature demands repose, he would rise after a short sleep and pray, lying prostrate on the ground. It was in those nights of prayer that he would learn what he would write or dictate in the daytime.
Bernard also writes of an incident that occurred on Passion Sunday at Naples when Thomas was celebrating Mass:
He was seen by many persons present to become so deeply absorbed in the mystery that it was as if he had been admitted to a share in the sufferings of Christ. For a long time he remained as in a trance, his face bathed in tears. At last, some of the brethren came up and touched him and brought him back to himself, and he went on with the Mass. Afterwards when asked by the brethren and by some of the knights who were his friends what had happened to him during that trance, he refused to tell them.
In another passage, Bernard records this important data:
The Blessed Thomas had a particular devotion to the Sacrament of the Altar and no doubt the special profundity of his writings on this subject was due to the same grace which enabled him to say Mass so devoutly. This he did every day unless prevented by sickness. After this he would hear, and usually serve, another Mass said by his associates or some other priest.
A Neopolitan Knight, Henry Caracciolo, showed in the canonization process of the Angelic Doctor that his love of the Mass equalled that of St. Dominic:
We had often heard men speak of this religious as very upright, very pure and holy, a great contemplative and a man of prayer; and that he said his Mass daily and then assisted at another. If impeded from celebrating himself, he would hear two Masses, after which he studied, so that all his life was passed in reading, prayer, or study.
A profoundly significant episode in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, related by Raymond of Capua, indicated her great appreciation of the liturgy. Catherine did not know how to read or write but was consumed by a keen desire to recite the Divine Once. To satisfy this longing, she determined to learn how to read. Raymond describes the sequel:
Catherine told me that when she decided to learn to read so that she could say the divine praises and the canonical hours, a friend of hers wrote the alphabet out and tried to teach it to her; but after spending many fruitless weeks over it, she decided not to waste any more time and turned to heavenly grace instead. One morning she knelt down and prayed to the Lord thus: “Lord”, she said, “if you want me to learn to read so that I can say the psalms and sing your praises in the canonical hours, deign to teach me what I am not clever enough to learn myself. If not, thy will be done. I shall be quite content to remain in my ignorance and shall be able to spend more time in meditating on you in other ways.”
Then a marvel happened — clear proof of God’s power — for during this prayer she was divinely instructed so that when she got up she knew how to read any kind of writing quite easily and fluently, like the best reader in the world. When I realized it, I was quite flabbergasted, especially when I discovered that though she could read so fast, she could hardly spell the words. I believe that Our Lord meant this to be a sign. of the miracle that had taken place.
From then on, Catherine began to hunt for books of the Divine Office to read the psalms and anthems and the other things fixed for the canonical hours.
Elsewhere, Raymond records how Christ would often visit Catherine: “He talked to her as one friend to another, so much so, as she shyly confessed to me, that they would say the psalms together, walking up and down the little room like two religious brothers saying their office:” During these meetings when they came to the Gloria Patri et Filio, instead of saying Filio, Catherine would bow to the Lord and say Tibi; “Glory be to the Father and to You, and to the Holy Spirit, Amen”.
The Dominican Man of Prayer
The ambition to become a prayerful man must consume the Dominican. He should give scrupulous attention to his spiritual life, should devote himself especially to his prayers of obligation, faithfully attending choir, reciting the rosary, and making meditation. The Mass should be the cardinal point of his day. Convinced that prayer is more important than anything else he does, he should never push it into the background even when he has a busy day in the pulpit, a trying time in the confessional, counseling room, or classroom, or is engrossed in studying or correcting papers. Prayer sanctifies these active works, intersperses the day with recollection, and renews basic motivations.
But the Dominican is also an apostle and must leave his prayer from time to time to work for souls. When he does this, to some degree, ho puts the blessings of the cloister behind him The sister does likewise when she enters the classroom or the hospital ward. They expose their own spiritual life to temporary interruption. But this need not be dangerous if prayer dominates their lives, if they have taken the advice of St. Catherine seriously and constructed a cell in their hearts. If they live in this inner cell and are armed with the shield of faith, they can securely sally forth to do battle for souls. Fr. Bede Jarrett, himself a splendid example of the prayerful apostle, writes about the valor of the early friars who went forth from their priories in this spirit:
They looked upon themselves as spiritual freelances, tilting all the world over, from west to east, at every form of error and in defense of every truth. No monastic enclosure forbade their free movements, and the very choral obligation of chanted once was by the express command of Saint Dominic to be sacrificed whenever it prevented study or preaching. They took as their boast what Matthew of Paris used to say of them with scorn: “That the whole earth was their cell and the ocean was their cloister.”
Not only have the friars had to carry the spirit of the cloister into the apostolate, but the apostolate has, in a measure, come to them in the cloister. The Dominican fathers have had to accommodate their religious life to the modern scene. They have had to abandon the midnight chanting of matins. The nuns in their monasteries still adhere to this rigorous schedule, as they did at Prouille in the days of their Founder, but the fathers can seldom do it. Often their day does not end until midnight. In the Middle Ages, the friars retired between seven and nine o’clock, depending on the season; by midnight they had had all the sleep they needed. Many of them did not take advantage of the permission to retire again after lauds. St. Antoninus and many another friar went to his books once the Office had ended.
The modern apostle must be available when the faithful come to him after work, regardless of how late they come or stay. The Constitutions wisely permit this fitting of the religious schedule and monastic observances to the apostolic life. This adjustment does not hurt the religious spirit of the priest when his life is one of prayer. Being faithful to his apostolate he is fulfilling the purpose of the Order. The zealous priest accomplishes this purpose in a contemplative spirit, seeking to bring the fruits of the cloister to men in the world. His spirit lives constantly with God in the cloister, speaking to him there; with God in the world, speaking to him in the cell of the heart; with God in souls, speaking to him in his children.
If a Dominican is not devoted to prayer and praise, he cannot contemplate; he cannot even hope to contemplate. Without prayer, he will never penetrate the truths of faith. Speaking of Our Lord’s mysteries, St. Thomas writes:
If anyone would diligently and piously consider the mysteries of the Incarnation, he would find such a profundity of wisdom that it would exceed all human knowledge . . . the wonderful meaning of this mystery is manifested more and more to him who piously ponders it (IV Cont. Gent., c. 54).
He puts the emphasis on pondering. A soul of praise must constantly be meditating on the truths of faith. Mental prayer is a major obligation of the Dominican. Meditating the truths of faith over a lifetime causes a man to penetrate their inner meaning. In a single period of meditation, the religious may feel that he has done very little. He may have succumbed to sleep. But even St. Dominic was at times overcome by exhaustion and dozed during his vigils. The religious should not be so discouraged at the difficulties of mental prayer that he abandons it, or concludes that it is worthless. To approach any prayer with sincere intention is always worthwhile. Perseverance is the important thing. God rewards constant efforts; eventually he manifests himself to the faithful religious, giving him a deeper understanding of the truths of faith. “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John, 14:21). Sometimes the Holy Spirit sends his illuminations long after the period of formal prayer has passed. It may be in the thick of the apostolate that the priest hears his whisperings. He will not hear these soft-spoken promptings if he does not live in the atmosphere of prayer, if he has not made a cell in his own heart. Unless the Dominican has made the truths of faith his own, by living them, ha cannot teach them with any fruit. Certainly, he can talk about them, preach eloquent sermons, please his audience, but if he is not prayerful, he will speak with words alone. But if he is a spiritual man, his prayer as well as his words will work for the good of souls, begging graces for them.
The Prayer of the Dominican Family
As the Church is a family, the Mystical Body of Christ, so also the Order of Preachers is a mystical family. Its members, numbered in thousands, are joined to their holy father, St. Dominic, and to one another by the bonds of profession. By birth men are related to their parents, brothers, and sisters by ties of blood. Religious profession joins the Dominican in a spiritual relationship with his Founder and all his children on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. This union is closer than the bond of blood linking earthly parents and children because it is supernatural.
Just as Christ in heaven offers to the heavenly Father his own Sacrifice and the prayers of his Mystical Body, St. Dominic as the head of the Dominican family presents the corporate worship of the whole Order. Dominicans never pray as mere individuals but as members of a vast family, including 10,000 members of the First Order, 7,000 nuns of the Second Order, 51,000 sisters of Third Order religious communities, and the multitude of Tertiaries received publicly and privately into the Order. This great chorus of souls — each with the primary obligation of prayer; each contributing to the volume of praise the Order offers daily to the honor of the Holy Trinity — constitutes the Dominican symphony of love, worship and adoration.
Even when a friar prays privately or in the miniature choir of a small priory, he is standing spiritually in the ranks of his brothers and sisters who adore God throughout the wend. Though his prayers may have been filled with involuntary distractions, if he has sincerely begun them and tried to ward off his distractions, he may comfort himself with the thought that he has added to the Order’s daily prayer-offering to God. Unwilled distractions do not deprive prayer begun with the right intention of the power to merit and petition effectively. However, as Saint Thomas points out, he who prays will not in that ease receive the consolations of prayer (Summa Theol., II, II, q. 83, a. 13, 15). Nevertheless, applying these principles of the Angelic Doctor, he may reflect that he has achieved the chief ends of prayer: adoration, reparation thanksgiving, and petition. He has united his prayers to the chorus of praise that Dominican saints are constantly presenting as parts of the heavenly choir, to the prayers that his brothers and sisters everywhere, in priories, monasteries, convents and homes, are day after day putting into Dominic’s hands to offer to God. The personal prayer of each member of the Order joins with the praise that rises to the Throne of God from all over the Dominican world.
The apostolate of the Friars Preachers cannot fructify unless priests and sisters have behind them their own prayers and those of the entire Order. When priests, brothers, and sisters fulfill their prayer obligations — daily Mass, Holy Communion, Office, Rosary, and meditation — they help the Order do its work. The Order does not exist apart from its members. It can only achieve its end if each member prays and works. St. Dominic attached such importance to the corporate worship of the Order that he founded a special branch for the sole purpose of praying. “The nuns of the Sacred Order of Preachers,” their Constitutions state, “constitute a religious Order . . . the members of which . . . strive after Christian perfection and by means of that perfection implore for the labors of their brethren abundant fruit in holiness.” Father Gerald Vann elaborated beautifully on this duty of the contemplative Dominican nun:
As Adam needed and was given a helpmate like to himself, so — the analogy is Pere Cormier’s — the first Order needed and was given a helpmate to share its work and life, and a helpmate like to itself because stamped with the same family spirit, the spirit of Dominic. The convents would be the Order’s centers of energy . . .
What is true of the nun is true of all the other members of the Order. They cannot devote themselves as constantly as she to actual prayer but as men and women of prayer, priests, laybrothers, sisters, and ternaries constantly implore God’s blessings on the Order’s apostolic work everywhere in the world.
When the Dominican prays, he is the first to benefit. His prayer will make him a fervent, intimate friend of God. He also helps his fellow Dominican, and all his neighbors everywhere. The prayerful Dominican saves more souls by prayer and contemplation than by words and action.
When Dominicans chant their Office, St. Dominic stands in spirit among them as he did 700 years ago at Bologna. He goes from side to side encouraging them to put their whole heart in it. When they listen to him, they place their prayers in his hands. In turn, he bows toward the Holy Trinity, offering the combined homage and adoration of the entire mystical body of Friars Preachers.