The Friars Preachers
Translation of the Article
THE FRIARS PREACHERS
from the Dictionnaire de Spiritualité,
This article deals with Dominican spirituality through the centuries, using the term in a rather broad sense. In an article on St. Dominic (vol. III, columns 1519-1532), M.-H. Vicaire has already presented the principal outlines of the spirituality of the Order as manifested in the life and work of the Founder. In this article, the author follows the essential phases of the spiritual history of the Friars Preachers with particular stress upon the outstanding figures and the Dominican contribution to spiritual movements and literature.
To retrace this history properly one should follow the development of the various currents of spirituality which have influenced it or which have sprung from it as their source, (through general historical events) or certain outstanding religion,. But this would involve much repetition. It seems preferable, after a general presentation of the beginnings of the Order, to describe the characteristic features of the evolution of its spirituality in each country.
Nevertheless, a single thread of spirituality uniting the diverse historical regions should be discernible not only because of the basic orientation and permanent structures of the whole Order, but also because of exchanges among the provinces and the universal influence of great spiritual leaders. We therefore present a few guidelines:
- The original momentum given by St. Dominic, to apostolic preaching continued effectively throughout the centuries. Sermons have constituted the major source of Dominican spiritual writings, especially in the earlier period, although less so in later times. From this point of view one of the great figures is the Spaniard, Vincent Ferrer, at the end of the fourteenth century.
- Dominic having established his Friars in intellectual centers, Dominican spirituality has been characterized by a type of contemplation whose theological structure was set up by Albert the Great and especially by Thomas Aquinas. Their influence, which will be treated more fully in the sections on Italy and Germany, was exerted everywhere” and will be obvious throughout the course of our analyses.
- Later, in the fourteenth century, the Nordic strain of speculative mysticism was incorporated by the Rhinelanders Eckhart, Tauler and Suso. It has continued, sometimes under other names, to be a part of the spiritual patrimony of the Order.
- Contemplative spirituality has not been reserved for an intellectual elite. It forms a part of popular instruction, supported by certain devotions which remain constant in the Order: the passion of Christ, the Child Jesus, and especially the rosary.
- Another phase in the history of the Order, inaugurating a reform movement in the fourteenth century, is identified with the name of Catherine of Siena. The outlines of this movement originated in Italy with a small group of friars or sisters to which, in the fifteenth century, was added the name of Savonarola. Through personal contacts or by the diffusion of writings this reform movement spread into Spain and the Netherlands and thence into France, Germany and central Europe. In each of these countries, with a certain time lag, the movement inspired a new burgeoning of spiritual life, different for each region, through a few great names of universal repute. In addition to the Italians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries already mentioned, can be cited Melchior Cano, Carranza, Louis of Granada, Bartholomew of the Martyrs (16th century), and John of St. Thomas (17th century) for the Iberian Peninsula, John Nider (15th century) for Germany, Chardon, Piny, Le Quieu, Massoulie (17th century) for France. The reforming wave gradually broke or diminished, becoming identified with the provinces or disappearing entirely in the eighteenth century.
- Dominican spiritual life is still marked by the response the Order seeks to provide to questions raised by the contemporary world: in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries an attempt to assimilate the Renaissance, controversies with the Reformers, support for the devotion to the eucharist by the practice of frequent communion; on the other hand the adoption of certain forms of piety of modern congregations (for example, the introduction of a definite time for meditation or the annual retreat).
- In the eighteenth century, institutions everywhere fell rapidly into decadence. Even when individuals succeeded in maintaining a fervent life amid mediocre surroundings, the spiritual life manifested little vigor or originality.
- Finally, the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries initiated a renewal marked especially by the personality of Lacordaire.
General bibliography and outlines:
- D.-A. Mortier, Histoire des Maitres generaux de l’Ordre des Freres Precheurs (7 vol., Paris, 1903-1914; tables, 1920), useful as general historic framework. See: Mortier.
- A.M. Walz, Compendium historiae ordinis praedicatorum, Rome, 1930.
- D.M. Marchese, Sacro diario domenicano, 6 vol., Naples, 1668-1681.
- L’annee Dominicaine ou les Vies des saints… de l’Ordre des Freres Precheurs (Amiens, 1678 ff; reedited, adapted and impoverished, Lyons, 1883-1909).
- J. Quétif and J. Echard, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum, 2 vol., Paris, 1719-1721; vol. 3, 1909-1934, by R. Coulon and A. Papillon. See Quétif.
- Bullarium ordinis FF. Praedicatorum, 8 vol., Rome, 1729-1740, See Bullarium.
- Monumenta ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum historica, Rome and Stuttgart, 1896 ff. See MOPH.
- Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, Rome, 1931 ff See AFP
- Quellen and Forschungen zur Geschichte des Dominikanerordens in Deutschland, Leipzig, 1907 ff. See Quellen. Refer to the article DOMINIQUE, DS, vol. 3, col. 1519-1532.
The intellectual activity of the Order , more precisely its theological activity, is presented in the DTC, vol 6. col. 863-924, by Father Mandonnet (see also A. Duval, ibidem, tables, col. 17:36-1751), and in general the major dictionaries.