The Eucharist and the Divine Office
Before founding the Order of Preachers, Saint Dominic was intimately involved in the official prayer of the Church. Everyday he offered the Eucharistic sacrifice, and participated in the Divine Office. Dominic looked to Christ in his perfect prayer to the Father, knowing that it is through such an orientation that mankind begins to be saved. He passed this belief and tradition on to his followers, recognizing that our prayer in common–at daily Mass and in the choral recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours–was necessary for the flourishing of our common life.
In the middle ages, many people saw study as an obstacle to prayer, which was regarded as a pious exercise of the heart. Dominic, however, saw study as an opportunity to enlighten the mind and direct the heart towards God. For the Dominican, study is meant to be contemplative. This is not an emptying of the mind, but a more loving exploration of the created world as it reflects the grandeur of God. In order to do this, one’s mind must first be informed by Christ, as revealed in Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers and the Saints.
For centuries the Order of Preachers has promoted the rosary among the faithful, helping establish the Rosary Confraternity and prayer groups around the world. Everyday Dominicans recite at least five decades, fostering devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and asking for her intercession. As we pray and meditate on the words and actions of Christ and his mother, we reflect on the mystery of salvation and our mission to proclaim the good news.
In addition to our prayer in common and hours of study, Dominicans spend at least half-an-hour in private meditation each day, usually more. This period of mental prayer often occurs during adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, but may be done at any time. It is an opportunity for lectio divina, spiritual reading, silent reflection, or other devotions.
The Nine Ways
Still another feature of Dominican prayer is its use of the body. The Eucharistic liturgy, with its delicate blend of movement and gesture, engages the whole person in worship. Dominic incorporated these gestures (standing, bowing, sitting, genuflecting, kneeling, raising his arms) into his private prayer, developing what we commonly refer to as the nine ways. Members of the Order of Preachers continue this tradition today, enriching our common and private prayer.