A Dominican vocation
What is a Dominican?
It is sometimes said that “if you’ve met a Dominican, then you’ve only met one Dominican”. This is on account of the perceived individuality of Dominicans, so it might seem difficult to answer the question “What is a Dominican?”. This individuality might seem unlikely, given our common life and vowed obedience to a common Rule and Constitutions, but it is also a well-known axiom of the great Dominican teacher, St Thomas Aquinas, that grace builds upon nature. As such, it should be unsurprising that there is no uniform ‘type’ of Dominican. For the grace of this religious vocation – our living out of our Christian vocation in a Dominican way – uses, forms and perfects our individual human nature.
Consequently, Dominican spirituality is not so much the study of a text or even just the life of our founder, St Dominic de Guzman, but rather it is the consideration of the lives of all the Dominican saints. For in their diversity we see how God’s grace perfects and brings to fruition each individual whom he has created, but within the context of Dominican life.
What, then, is Dominican life? St Dominic himself did not write a Rule, nor did he leave us a set of spiritual exercises or a fixed path of spiritual growth. Rather, he left us a mission which encompassed all these and more besides. fr Simon Tugwell OP said that what St Dominic wanted “was to preach the Gospel where it was needed most, in whatever way would make it most effective”. Therefore, if the question asked is, “What are Dominicans?”, we might say that Dominicans are those who share St Dominic’s passion and desire to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls, and they do this because they are truly friends of Jesus Christ and wish to share this divine friendship with all people.
A Dominican, then, is motivated by love for God and neighbour. He or she is, so to speak, intoxicated with love for Christ so that, like the apostles on the day of Pentecost, this love spills over into praise of God and holy preaching. Thus, fr Paul Murray OP says that “we preach a wine of truth that we have actually tasted ourselves, and have drunk with living faith and joy.” This requires of us an interior spirit of contemplation, patiently studying the Word of God and deepening our friendship with God through prayer.
St Dominic’s successor, Blessed Jordan of Saxony said that a Dominican is someone who is called “to live virtuously, to learn, to teach”. Learning comes before teaching, so if a Dominican is a lover of truth and wants to be a preacher of truth, then he is compelled to humbly and diligently seek truth wherever it may be found. Therefore Dominicans are engaged in a variety of ministries and situations all over the world, seeking God in all that is good in his creation.
Although these vocation pages are written principally with the vocation of a friar in mind, much that is said applies equally to the vocations of the Dominican nuns and sisters and members of Dominican Secular Institutes and Lay Fraternities. If you wish to contact them, you will find links on the Dominican Family page.