The Four Pillars of Dominican Spirituality

Today, we recall the spiritual life of the Dominican Order, on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas (a Dominican himself!). Laurel Muff reflects on the meaning that Dominican spirituality has brought into her life.

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As I was finishing high school and into my early college years, I gave some serious thought about joining the religious life. One order that particularly attracted me was the Dominicans. I love their active ministry which lives under the motto: contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate, and to give to others the fruits of contemplation). Their deep prayer life produces an outflowing of love in the form of preaching the Gospel, in word and deed. The convent I visited in Pontcalec, France, where the sisters run two boarding schools, was an excellent example of the Dominican way of life.

The four pillars of Dominican spirituality are prayer, study, apostolate and community. Prayer and studies are at the very core of Dominican life, but it is for the sake of apostolate and community.

As it should with any vocation, prayer forms the heart of the Dominican life. Time for prayer is punctuated throughout the day so that the sisters can foster and maintain their relationship with God.

Also, integral is time spent for study. Study forms the backbone and inspires prayer. As a person encounters God through creation and Scripture, he can’t help but yearn for a relationship with Him. Study, for a Dominican, is a seeking of Veritas (Truth)–another motto of the Order. It is not studying for the mere sake of the exercise, but for the sake of discovering the truth. Therefore, a Dominican’s studies are meant to develop an attitude of discovery and the discipline of inquiry. There was time set aside daily for personal study.

From prayer and study, apostolate easily flows as the wisdom gained is to be shared. This is done both in word and example (verbo et exemplo). Many Dominicans are teachers at high schools, as were the nuns in France, and colleges. They live the Gospel as example and share the Gospel with the students they encounter.

Dominicans live in community. As one cannot love others without first loving God, so, too, one cannot truly love God without loving others. One’s spiritual journey is never isolated between oneself and God alone. It takes place, also, in our encounters with others. For example, we learn the true meaning of forgiveness when it is shown to us and when we impart it to others. God is revealed through the persons we encounter daily. The sisters not only lived this communal aspect with each other, but also with those they ministered to.

Although I discovered that the vocation God was calling me to was, in fact, the married life, so much of the Dominican way of life I still appreciate and strive to imitate–making time for daily prayer, using prior and continual studies to inform how I live my life and teach my children, and, of course, the building up of the “domestic church” as a small community, as well as engaging in community with others outside the home, bringing the light of Christ to the world.

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Comment below with your thoughts:

Do you punctuate your day with prayer? Can you find opportunities to pray in your work? How do you grow in wisdom in your faith life?

or, simply answer:

Did you pray today?

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    October 3, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Nice. I have mental illness. I joined a convent before it happened. I experienced God love! It was awesome.

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