Stephen of Salanhac, O.P., once described the Dominican friar as “a canon by profession, a monk in austerity of his life, and an apostle by his office.” Although an apt illustration, Stephen’s words require a fuller explanation.
Dominicans are not quite canons regular (as are the Norbertines), but we do find great joy in the prayerful recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. All of our priories and communities pray the office in choir, offering our praise to God throughout the day.
Dominicans embrace a life of Gospel poverty and simplicity, just as Benedictine or Trappist monks do, but we are not bound to one cloister. As followers of the Rule of Saint Augustine, and exhorted by Saint Dominic’s last will and testament, we “hold all things in common” (as did the first disciples in the Acts of the Apostles).
Finally, Dominicans share in the office of the apostles by proclaiming the Gospel in every time and place – evangelizing, combating heresy and error, and performing the spiritual works of mercy – but Dominicans are not diocesan priests.
Nourished by our life in common, plus many hours at study and prayer, Dominicans offer our very lives for the sake of preaching the Gospel. What we receive from the Lord, we pass on to others; sharing the fruits of our contemplation, so that all may come to know and love God.
So what, then, is the Dominican friar? He is a contemplative preacher.
Early Dominicans by Fr. Simon Tugwell, O.P.
Dominican prayer is grounded in our celebration of the Eucharist and the Church’s rich liturgical tradition. The Divine Office and the Rosary, periods of study and private prayer, are all necessary if we are to preach the good news and pass on the fruits of our contemplation.
For 800 years the Dominicans have fiercely devoted themselves to the rigorous study of Sacred Scripture, philosophy, the natural sciences, and theology. Our study, however, does not remain in the realm of arcane speculation. Instead it is handed on for the salvation of others through our preaching and teaching.
In addition to living together in priories and convents/houses, we embrace poverty and divest ourselves of all personal belongings. But this is only part of what it means to live in community.