ORDERS OF CATHOLIC MONKS AND NUNS: BENEDICTINES, DOMINICANS AND OTHERS

DIFFERENT ORDERS OF MONKS


Dominican and Franciscan monks

There are more than a dozen different orders of monks. Although they are all similar in many ways, different sects have different philosophies, emphasize different things, have different vows, live in different kinds of communities and wear different clothing.

Dom Robert L Gall, Abbot of Kergonan, wrote in Symbols of Catholicism ; “There are contemplative orders, inspired by the Rule of St. Benedictine including the Benedictines, the Cistercians and the Carthusians, Later on came orders which mingle prayer with a variety of apostolic works” such as the Dominicans (from St. Dominic), the Franciscans and the Poor Clares (from Saint Francis and Clare of Assisi), the White Friars and the Carmelites (reformed by Saint John of the Cross and Saint Theresa of Avila).

Augustinians are followers of St. Augustine. Cluniac monks are part of Benedictine movement established in 910. Instead of doing manual labor they give prolonged church services Monks of the Immaculate Conception Congregation have traditional worn blue robes.

See Separate Article on the FRANCISCANS factsanddetails.com

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website elaine-pagels.com ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Gnostic Society Library gnosis.org ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians pbs.org ; Guide to Early Church Documents iclnet.org; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Saints and Their Lives Today's Saints on the Calendar catholicsaints.info ; Saints' Books Library saintsbooks.net ; Saints and Their Legends: A Selection of Saints libmma.contentdm ; Saints engravings. Old Masters from the De Verda collection colecciondeverda.blogspot.com ; Lives of the Saints - Orthodox Church in America oca.org/saints/lives ; Lives of the Saints: Catholic.org catholicism.org

Benedictines

The founder of the Benedictine order of monks, St. Benedict of Nursia is considered the father of Christian monasticism in Europe and is regarded as the originator of the monk way of life. Benedict wrote Rule (or Regala ), a sort of how-to guide on being a monk which is arguably the second most influential book in Christianity after the Bible and one of the most important documents in Western civilization. "My words are meant for you," he wrote at the beginning, "whoever you are, who laying aside your own will, take up the all-powerful and righteous arms of obedience to fight under the true King, the Lord Jesus Christ."


Benedictine monk

St. Benedict established a new kind of monastery based on work---rather than asceticism and good deeds---in which monks farmed and copied manuscript in addition to praying. The idea of religious people doing work was a new concept. Early Christians monks were acetic holy men who lived like hermits in caves or good men who performed charitable acts. Work was something that was associated with slaves and illiterate peasants.

Monasteries founded under St. Benedict's rule were instrumental in keeping Christianity and Western culture alive and moving forward in the Middle Ages. After Benedict died, Monte Cassino was raided by Lombards in 568. The monks escaped to Rome and brought with them the only manuscript of Benedict's Rule . The Benedictines were take in by Pope Gregory, who later sent them to England to convert King Ethlebert of Kent and establish England's first Christian church at Canterbury. In the 11th century, Monte Cassino was at height. Three of it monks became popes (there have been 34 Benedictine popes in all) and its farms and vineyards extended for miles.

Benedictine monks value hard work. Their motto is ora et labora ("pray and work"). They are sometimes called the Black monks because of the color of their robes. The Benedictines also gave us the liqueur that bears their name.

St. Benedict

St. Benedict of Nursia was the founder of the Benedictine order of monks. He created the rules of monasticism and founded the famous Monte Cassino abbey (80 miles northwest of Rome) as a spiritual center of his order in A.D. 529. Inspired by early Christians who sought religious purity in the desert, St. Benedict wrote how one could live in complete poverty, chastity and obedience without necessarily going to the desert. He also emphasized the importance of work and was also the "godfather of libraries." It was through his initiative that literary works of antiquity and Christian texts survived through the Middle Ages.

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Benedict
Nearly everything we know about St. Benedict is based on Pope Gregory's Dialogues , written in 594. It is not known when Benedict was born (probably around 480) but Rome was still occupied by Romans when he arrived there. Gregory wrote that the eternal city was filled with "students falling headlong into vice" and Benedict "gave up home and inheritance, and resolved to embrace the religious life."

Before he became the abbot of a monastery St. Benedict lived in a cave for three years near the ruins of Nero's villas at Subiaco and attracted a group of disciples with his "zealous preaching." He was credited with performing miracles, healing the sick and fixing broken objects. After a brief stint at a monastery he returned to his cave as other monks didn't fancy Benedict's discipline methods and emphasis on work. After he emerged the second time Benedict went on to found12 monasteries, one of which, Monte Cassino, was the center of monastic movements in Europe until it was leveled in World War II.

St. Benedict, Work and Monastic Life

Benedict's Rule didn’t deal so much with religious matters as living a simple, ordinary life. It gave details on what monks could eat and drink and how they ascetics organize their lives. One reason that Benedict’s laws have endured is that he was a superb organizer and Rule offers useful information on how to set up a monastery and maintain it in a complex, hostile world.

Benedict embraced the ascetic life, detailing how monks should wake up early and pray regularly until midnight, but balanced this regime with work, raising food in the fields and building defenses against intruders. This idea of work became the cornerstone of monasticism from that point forward, was instrumental in the development of agriculture and trades in Europe and inspired the Protestant work ethic, which is so important in American and European culture. Benedict discouraged monks from eating (he was a strong proponent of fasting) but said that drinking wine was okay. "Though we read that wine is not all suitable for monks," he wrote, "in our day it is not permissible to persuade the monks of this truth."

Benedict discouraged monks from eating (he was a strong proponent of fasting) but said that drinking wine was okay. "Though we read that wine is not all suitable for monks," he wrote, "in our day it is not permissible to persuade the monks of this truth."

Cistercians


Cisterian monks

The Cistercian movement was founded in 1098 in Britain by Benedictine monks who had become disenchanted with the lax attitude of their brethren in France and vowed to live in isolation, supporting themselves with manual labor. The Cistercians are more austere than the Benedictines. They are sometimes called the White Monks because of their distinctive clothing: black scapula, white cassock, dark collars.

In the 13th century austere Cistercian monks became very rich by selling high quality wool three times the going price. Their product was so valuable the ransom to free Richard the Lionhearted, who was taken prisoner by the Austrians in the Third Crusade, was paid in Cistercian wool not money. [Source: Nina Hyde, National Geographic, May 1988 ╤]

The Cistercians also invented futures trading. In their attempt to free themselves from the burden of the worldly life they left the responsibility of sheep rearing to their lay brothers. Not wanting to be bothered with annual piles of paper work the Cistercians signed contracts with promises to deliver their goods five to ten years in the future. Everything worked out fine unless the sheep died from disease or the supply of wool fell short of the wool promised by the contract. When this happened the monks were forced to buy wool at high prices to fill orders.╤

Clairvaux: a Cistercian Abbey in 1143

In A Description of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry wrote in 1143: “At the first glance as you entered Clairvaux by descending the hill you could see that it was a temple of God; and the still, silent valley bespoke, in the modest simplicity of its buildings, the unfeigned humility of Christ's poor. Moreover, in this valley full of men, where no one was permitted to be idle, where one and all were occupied with their allotted tasks, a silence deep as that of night prevailed. The sounds of labor, or the chants of the brethren in the choral service, were the only exceptions. The orderliness of this silence, and the report that went forth concerning it struck such a reverence even into secular persons that they dreaded breaking it---I will not say by idle or wicked conversation, but even by proper remarks. The solitude, also, of the place---between dense forests in a narrow gorge of neighboring hills---in a certain sense recalled the cave of our father St. Benedict, so that while they strove to imitate his life, they also had some similarity to him in their habitation and loneliness. [Source: Frederic Austin Ogg, ed., A Source Book of Mediaeval History: Documents Illustrative of European Life and Institutions from the German Invasions to the Renaissance, (New York, 1907, reprinted by Cooper Square Publishers (New York), 1972), pp. 258-260]

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Monte Cassino abbey, a famous Benedictine monastery
“Although the monastery is situated in a valley, it has its foundations on the holy hills, whose gates the Lord loves more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of it, because the glorious and wonderful God therein works great marvels. There the insane recover their reason, and although their outward man is worn away, inwardly they are born again. There the proud are humbled, the rich are made poor, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them, and the darkness of sinners is changed into light. A large multitude of blessed poor from the ends of the earth have there assembled, yet have they one heart and one mind; justly, therefore, do all who dwell there rejoice with no empty joy. They have the certain hope of perennial joy, of their ascension heavenward already commenced. In Clairvaux, they have found Jacob's ladder, with angels upon it; some descending, who so provide for their bodies that they faint not on the way; others ascending, who so rule their souls that their bodies hereafter may be glorified with them.

“For my part, the more attentively I watch them day by day, the more do I believe that they are perfect followers of Christ in all things. When they pray and speak to God in spirit and in truth, by their friendly and quiet speech to Him, as well as by their humbleness of demeanor, they are plainly seen to be God's companions and friends. When, on the other hand, they openly praise God with psalms, how pure and fervent are their minds, is shown by their posture of body in holy fear and reverence, while by their careful pronunciation and modulation of the psalms, is shown how sweet to their lips are the words of God---sweeter than honey to their mouths. As I watch them, therefore, singing without fatigue from before midnight to the dawn of day, with only a brief interval, they appear a little less than the angels, but much more than men....

“As regards their manual labor, so patiently and placidly, with such quiet countenances, in such sweet and holy order, do they perform all things, that although they exercise themselves at many works, they never seem moved or burdened in anything, whatever the labor may be. Whence it is manifest that that Holy Spirit works in them who disposes of all things with sweetness, in whom they are refreshed, so that they rest even in their toil. Many of them, I hear, are bishops and earls, and many illustrious through their birth or knowledge; but now, by God's grace, all distinction of persons being dead among them, the greater anyone thought himself in the world, the more in this flock does he regard himself as less than the least. I see them in the garden with hoes, in the meadows with forks or rakes, in the fields with scythes, in the forest with axes. To judge from their outward appearance, their tools, their bad and disordered clothes, they appear a race of fools, without speech or sense. But a true thought in my mind tells me that their life in Christ is hidden in the heavens. Among them I see Godfrey of Peronne, Raynald of Picardy, William of St. Omer, Walter de Lisle, all of whom I knew formerly in the old man, whereof I now see no trace, by God's favor. I knew them proud and puffed up; I see them walking humbly under the merciful hand of God.”

Trappists


Rafael Arnaiz Baron, a Trappist monk canonized in 2009

The Trappist are a branch of the Cistercian movement. They are famous for the privations which they subject themselves and have been called “the Marines or religious life.” Some eat only strict vegetarian meals and communicate with each other in sign language so they can uphold vows of silence.

Gandhi's ascetic lifestyle seems to have been at least partly influenced by a trip to a Trappist monastery, with 160 monks and 60 nuns, near Durban. Gandhi wrote in Vegetarian, a British magazine, "You see religion everywhere. I know from personal experience that a visit to the [Trappist] farm is worth a voyage from London."

Describing the Trappist lifestyle, Gandhi’s biographer Yogesh Chadha wrote, “They rose at two o'clock in the morning, devoting four hours to prayer and contemplation. They breakfasted at six on bread and coffee, and the midday meal consisted of soup, bread and fruits. Supper was at six in the evening, and eight o'clock they were in bed."

"None of the brother ate fish, fowl, or meat, nor did they partake in eggs...No one drank alcohol, no one kept money for private use, no one left the confines of the community except on approved business, and there were no newspapers available. And yet everyone appeared happy, and visitors were received with humble bows."

Trappist Beers and Ales

Belgium's Trappist monasteries are famous for monks who have taken a vow of silence and produce beer with a high alcohol content and luscious flavor. Only six Trappist abbeys in the world still make beer, five in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. Cashing on the reputation of these abbeys are dozens of beers with monks or churches on their labels . Some commercial brewer have licensed abbey names and occasionally abbey recipes. In 1997, the six abbeys decided to put a hexagonal symbol on their labels as a mark of authenticity.

The most famous Trappist beers are Chimay Red, Chimay White, Chimay Blue and Orval. Chimay is the best known and widely distributed genuine Trappist Ale. It comes in three strengths, each with a different color to designated its different strengths. Chimay is darker and sweeter than Orval.

Among the Abbey-style ales ("sweat and creamy" and “deep and full-flavored") are St. Sebastiaan Dark, Leffe Blonde, Leffe Brune, Leffe Radieuse, Duvel and Affligem. Affliegm is a smooth abbey-style ale with bitter taste from the hops and hints of chocolate and honey. Duvel (from the Dutch word for "devil") is fermented in stages over eleven weeks like a Trappist beer. Its flavor is sweet and deep and has a lot of added sugar and light-roasted barley to give it a high alcohol content of 8.5 percent.

"What makes Trappist and abbey-style ales stand apart," Corby Kummer wrote in Atlantic Monthly, "is multiple fermentations with different strains of yeasts, at both low and high temperatures, and a final addition of yeast so that the beef will ferment again in the bottle... "This is precisely the method that champagne producers use, to add depth and new flavors. Also as with méthode champenoise wines, the beer's light carbonation results mainly from the fermentation in the bottle, which can go on for weeks, in expensively climate-controlled storerooms. Other beermakers simply inject beer with carbon dioxide as it is bottled." Another secret is sugar, which give the brews their unusual strength and high alcohol content. Some are called "double" or "triple" ales because of the high alcohol levels resulting from the additional sugar.


fourteen recognized Trappist beers


Orval Trappist Beers and Ales

Orval is perhaps the most esteemed of the Trappist beers. It is produced in an abbey by the same name in a valley in the Ardennes in southeastern Belgium. A popular tourist site, the abbey is home to 50 monks who use the money they earn from beer, cheese and bread to keep the abbey going. Any profit is donated to charity.

The taste of Orval has been described as strong, dry and deep and not bitter despite its high hops content. Big tea-bag-like sacks of hops are dipped into the cooled beer as it ferments to give it "spiciness rather than bitterness."

Orval goes through three separate fermentations (most American beers go through one) over ten weeks. Some beer drinkers insist ale is not ready when it is purchased. To get the best flavor they recommend wait a year before drinking to allow the brew to become "bottle-conditioned."

Carthusians

Carthusians are regarded as the most contemplative and withdrawn of Catholic monks. Members of a movement founded in 1084, they spend their time reading, praying and laboring with their hands. Except for special occasions, Carthusians eat only one meal a day, and then it often the coarsest foods. Many wear rough hair shirts and spend most of their time alone in cells that are supposed to replicate the caves used by the ascetics in Egypt.

Carthusians live solitary lives and communicate with one another on their weekly walks, and even then they have to change walking companions every half hour to avoid getting took close o other monks. Family members are only allowed to visit once a year.

Carthusians are famous for their vow of silence. They break their silence only for their three-times-a-day chant-like prayers. They go to bed at 8:00pm, wake up at 11:30pm for a half hour prayer, and stay up in their Night Office until 3:00am and the retire again and wake up at 6:45am. In 1998, some Carthusians in England decided to break their 900 year vow of silence and recorded an album of their chants

As of the late 1990s, there were only about 450 Carthusian monks and 100 Carthusian nuns worldwide. It is not surprising that the movements is having trouble recruiting new members. Many who join drop out after a few years. One monk told the Independent: "Here, there's just God. Its liberating, but not on the first day. It will take a lifetime to balance this way of life with your personality. Here you are looking for God on your own, naked, but at the same time to resist as long as you can.

Carmelites


Carmelite nuns

Carmelites are named after Mount Carmel west of Nazareth in present-day Israel. The group claims they were founded by the prophet Elijah in 875 B.C. Investigation showed it was founded in A.D. 1200 by hermits who meditated in caves in Mount Carmel. Many nuns are Carmelites. The most acetic nuns sew their shoelaces back together rather than buy new ones.

Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite mystic and reformer, cofounded the “Discalced,” a new branch of the Carmelite holy order, with St. John of the Cross (1542-191). Discalced means "without shoes."

St. Teresa (Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada) is one of the best known Catholic saints. One of 12 children in an aristocratic family, she was born and baptized in 1515 and spent most her life in the walled medieval city of Avila, Spain. She opened her first reformed Carmelite convent in 1562 and founded 16 others in her lifetime. St. Teresa re-emphasized the contemplative nature of religion. She often said "God deliver me from sullen saints!" Although she was known as a mystic who went into ecstatic states she was also her known for her sense of humor and her ability to make friends.

St. John of the Cross went around barefoot, gave his money away, served the poorest of the poor and lived in shacks. Authorities arrested him and threw him into a lightless cell in Toledo. There he wrote wonderful mystical poetry that is regarded as some of the best in the Spanish language. When he died it was said his flesh didn’t decay. He was beautified in 1675.

Dominicans

The Dominicans are named after St. Dominic. Similar to Franciscans and also known as mendicants or black friars, they have traditionally worn black and white robes and survived by wandering the countryside and begging for alms. Like the Franciscan, the Dominicans had a lot to with making Christianity accessible to the common man. Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great were influential Dominicans (See Thomas Aquinas).


Dominican friars

The Dominicans take a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience and are well known for their oratorical and debating skills. The Dominicans have traditionally been close to power brokers, the bishops, and have often been associated with extremism. They were often administers of torture during the Inquisition and were called in to interrogate suspected heretics. The Dominicans popularized the expression "Hail Mary."

According to the Order of Preachers, a Dominican website: “Dominican friars are engaged in an incredible spiritual adventure: living from the passion for the salvation of souls which, eight centuries ago, set fire to the heart of St Dominic and to the hearts of his first companions.This haste to announce the Gospel in truth produces three characteristics in a Dominican friar: 1) Men of the Word: “A primordial taste for the Word of God marks Dominican friars. The Word demands to be meditated ceaselessly and lived without compromise. Never satisfied, the brothers take every opportunity to promote and engage in the study of the Word of God. [Source: Order of Preachers, op.org]

2) “Compassion : Concern for the poorest found in the compassion of St Dominic and of his brothers a never ending response. No element of human existence is foreign to Dominicans. Mercy is the path, the tone and the mystery of the friar preacher. When making his commitment to live as a Dominican friar, a brother’s reply to the question “What do you seek?” is “God’s mercy and yours”.

3) “Proclamation of Christ’s Good News in poverty: The original preaching of St Dominic while in contact with Catharism impressed upon the friars that the proclamation of the Gospel could be done only through authentically evangelical means (see the Gospel according to Mark, chapter six, beginning at verse seven). Joining others and understanding them imposes a lifestyle like that of the apostle: a life that is lived in common and one that is itinerant. In practice, such a lifestyle is lived as a “religious life” with its own essential characteristics: the four elements particular to the friars preachers. [Source: Order of Preachers, op.org]

Saint Dominic

Saint Dominic de Guzman was a Spanish priest who founded the monastic order of the Dominicans. Born in 1170 in Fanjeaux, France or Caleruega, Spain, depending on the source, he was regarded by many in his time as a lunatic. He slept on the roadside even during the winter, and burst into song when he was taunted by crowds. Saint Dominic became well known when he won a theology debate by reportedly making his bible leap out of a fire. In a church in Dominic's hometown you can see the rafter his Bible struck when it hit the ceiling.

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Dominic
Dominic received his education in Valencia. According to the Order of Preachers: News of Dominic's virtues reached the Bishop of Osma, who summoned Dominic and made him a Canon Regular of his church. Lead by Diego de Acebo, the prior of the community, he learned the basics of religious life and contemplation. Diego became bishop of Osma and invited Dominic to travel with him as he spread the Gospel. Together in 1206, both men offered Pope Innocent III their services to save souls. The pope asked them to go preach to the Cathars of Languedoc. Contrary to the habits of the Cistercians, Dominic and Diego roamed the villages of Languedoc on foot, begging their bread. Diego soon died, but Dominic continued to preach with the help of a community that had gathered in 1207 and was comprised of women who fled the Cathars and lived the common life in Prouilles. [Source: Order of Preachers, op.org]

Dominic moved to Languedoc, France in 1206 with a small band of followers to preach and live in poverty. The group was formally recognized by the Lateran Council in 1215, originally founded as means of combating heresy.Dominic established a base in Toulouse and recruited new canons from universities in the north before his death in 1221. A major force in the Inquisition, the Dominicans were often were called in to interrogate suspected heretics and administer torture.

Dominic's companions adopted a rule of life, based on that of St. Augustine. In a bull entitled Religious life, dated December 22, 1216, Pope Honorius III confirmed the Order as an Order of Canons Regular. In 1217 Dominic dispersed the brothers two by two to further the preaching mission. To train the best brothers in the preaching, Dominic chose to settle in two large university cities: Paris and Bologna. Dominic continued to travel between Spain and Rome to establish the Order's foundation. In 1220, delegates of the brothers gathered in Bologna to approve the first constitutions, the first laws governing the operation of the college. Dominic died in Bologna in 1221.

Duties and Objectives of Dominicans


Saint Dominic by Fra Angelico

According to the Order of Preachers some of the duties and aspects of life of Dominicans are: 1) “Conventual Life: Animated by the rule of St Augustine, the friars live together the same call coming from the one person who calls: Christ. Living as brothers, they strive to love each other, to forgive each other and to live the Gospel in community before living it outside the community.

2) “To pass on to others what we have contemplated: Preaching finds its vitality in a life of prayer which is both personal and in common. Preaching, when at its best, is a truly contemplative act. The brothers are called to be simultaneously contemplative and fundamentally missionary. 3) “The vows: “Poverty, obedience and chastity make us men who try to consecrate ourselves for the adventure of the Kingdom of God.

4) “Study: “All our personal, community, intellectual and spiritual energy makes us useful for the souls of others, whether they be near to us or far away: useful by our word and by our example We are consecrated for the proclamation of the Word of God, proclamation which is done using all the means available to us: preaching, confession, teaching, publishing, spiritual accompaniment, humble presence... Preaching animates what we do or what we live, to the point that our communities (“priories” or “convents”) have been called the “holy preaching”. Some Dominican monasteries are directly under the guidance of the Master of the Order, some are under the direction of a local province of friars, and some under a local bishop.

Dominican Preaching

According to the Order of Preachers: “The Order of Preachers “is known to have been established, from the beginning, for preaching and the salvation of souls” (Primitive Constitutions). The Fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers underscores the priority of this apostolate. The five distinctive elements comprising the uniquely Dominican way of life[1] “together prepare and impel us to preach; they give our preaching its character.” By their religious profession, Dominicans become “fully committed to preaching the Word of God in its totality” so that they live “an apostolic life in the full sense of the word, from which preaching and teaching ought to issue from an abundance of contemplation.” [Source: Order of Preachers, op.org]


19th century Dominican cardinal

“So many people live the anguish of the centurion of the Gospels who begs Jesus Christ: “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Mt 8:8). Dominicans preach to give that Word of healing to the world. In a letter to Saint Dominic and his brothers, Pope Honorius III wrote, “He who never ceases to make his Church fruitful through new offspring…inspired you with a holy desire to…commit yourselves to the proclamation of the Word of God.” Dominicans preach because we burn with this desire. The purpose of Dominican preaching is to generate others: “The object of our preaching is either to cause the faith to be born, or to allow it to penetrate people’s entire lives more deeply” (Fundamental Constitutions). More than a message, Dominicans preach the person and event of Jesus Christ: the Incarnate Son of God whose voice we can still hear, whose face we can still see, whose Passion is still saving us, and whose heart calls us to a transforming encounter. That is the veritas—the Truth—of Dominican preaching. The great Dominican preacher Saint Vincent Ferrer (+1419) urged preachers, “Let people find in you a father full of compassion for his children.

“Dominicans preach the Word of God in every possible way including liturgical preaching, parish missions, retreat preaching, occasional lectures, addresses at religious conferences, street preaching, teaching, writing (especially books), through art (especially film, television, and theatre), and by exploiting the advantages offered by the Internet and other advances of the digital age, without ever sacrificing the indispensable role of personal presence by which communication becomes true communion. Dominican Blessed Humbert of Romans sums up all of this in his famous 13th century Treatise on Preaching: “How necessary is the office of preaching without which the human heart would not rise to the hope of heaven.”

Dominican Nuns

According to the Order of Preachers: “In 1206 St. Dominic gathered some young women he had converted and rescued from the Cathars into community at the church of St. Mary of Prouilhe. This original foundation of Dominican contemplative nuns still attracts women to live as Jordan of Saxony describes in the thirteenth century: “These servants of God continue to offer worship acceptable to their Creator, in holiness of life and in the purity of innocence – a life which is conducive to salvation for themselves, an example to others, a joy to the angels, and pleasing to God.” [Source: Order of Preachers, op.org]


Dominican sister

“Marie-Dominique Chenu used to say that there are two doors through which one enters the Order: the call to the contemplative life and the call to the apostolic life. This is true even for the nuns. Some choose the monastery in order to pray always, in search of purity of heart and to focus completely on the mystery of God. As they come to know St. Dominic they in turn discover mercy and intense intercession for God’s beloved people. Others wish to serve their fellow men and women by leading them to paths of faith. They discover that one of the best means of realizing this ideal is to offer themselves totally through prayer and silence, the father of preachers, and not through any particular work except the “work” of “believing in Him whom the Father has sent.”

“The vocation of the nuns places them at the heart of the Order. Such was the desire of St. Dominic in order to emphasize in a radical way the grace of contemplation, which is the very source of the itinerant apostolic. In solidarity with the mission of their preaching brothers as well as that of the whole Dominican family, the nuns, by their prayer, accompany the Word which does not return to God without accomplishing that for which it was sent. This contemplation takes root both in silence and liturgical prayer, in the day-to-day life lived in common, in meditation, and assiduous study of the word of God.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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