Dominican Life is Apostolic

This is Part 3 of a series. Part 2 is HERE

Dominican Spirituality can be summarized into prayer, study, community, and the apostolate (aka preaching) which we call the four pillars.  Debra explored with you in the previous article how the Dominican Life is Contemplative which is located in the Prayer pillar.  In this article, we’re going to explore the Apostolate pillar through the chapter called “Dominican Life is Apostolic” in the book “Dominican Spirituality, Principles and Practice” by Fr. William A. Hinnebusch, O.P..  Here we are presented with some of the most straightforward yet perplexing elements of Dominican life.

Before we get too far, it is important that we discuss what is “apostolic.”  The root word of “apostolic” is the Greek verb for “to send.”  Those that are sent are apostles.  Since Jesus was sent into the world first and by the Father, Jesus is the prime and prototypical apostle.  Just as He was sent, He sends the disciples into the world, John 17:18, making them apostles.  By our baptism and confirmation we are called to participate in Christ and in His mission.  Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P. speaks of sanctification in this way:

The measure of the perfection or holiness of the spiritual life is the degree of participation by the individual Christian in the sanctity and perfection of God. 

OP Fr. Jordan Aumann, Spiritual Theology, n.d.

When most people think of religious orders they usually think of “monks,” who are sequestered off in their monasteries living a private and an interior life seeking holiness, and “friars,” who are out on the streets living a life with the people and an exterior life serving others.  As the conversation continues we end up discussing examples like Benedictine monks and Franciscan friars each with their own participation in Christ’s life.  This always makes me chuckle when I am explaining that I am a permanently professed member of a religious order because I am clearly neither of these, and yet I am called to both of these activities.

Mark, in a previous article, references a quote from Dominican Spirituality that I really enjoy. Let me paraphrase it, a person can be saved outside of the Order of Preachers but once they enter the Order they must save their soul through the spirituality of the Order.  The spirituality of the Order follows in the spirituality of its founder, Dominic, who was a cloistered monk then later sent into the world.  Like Christ, Dominic sent his brothers into the world.  The Rule for Lay Dominicans, which we promise to follow and live by, aligns us to the Order’s mission by stating as “Members of the Order, [the Dominican Laity] share in it’s apostolic mission through prayer, study, and preaching according to the state of the laity.” This is followed by three more paragraphs describing the apostolic mission where the Order describes how our apostolic activity has its source in contemplation, attending to the particular goals of the contemporary Church, and how we are to be attentive to the needs of the people of their time.

Hinnebusch takes this theme and starts off the chapter on the apostolate by establishing the eschatology of the Order:

The general end of the Dominican Order is the sanctification of its members through contemplation; its special end is the salvation of souls through preaching. These two ends are not contradictory; in fact, they are one. The second implies the first.

The Rule #I.4

This is a really striking statement.  It asserts two things about the lay members of the Order; that we practice contemplation and that we serve others through the apostolate. This is for a number of reasons.  One of which is that that love which draws the Dominican into such a union with God is the same love that draws him out to encounter others.  There is an inseparable link between our sanctity and our apostolic efforts.

There are a number of things that contribute to our sanctity.  First, we must want it.  We must desire to become holy.  Then we need to have a sacramental life, namely that we confess our sins in Confession and reception of the Holy Eucharist.  We are also called to a regular prayer life.  We join our voices with the rest of the Order of Preachers, other religious orders, Clergy, Lay persons, including the Holy Father by praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  We also pray privately through conversation with God and contemplation. Which can be done as simply as by picking up the rosary and praying it.  Both the liturgical and the private prayer form a minimum goal.  Both have such an important role in our lives that Hinnebusch devoted a chapter to each of these to dive into those areas in more detail with the articles on how a Dominican life is liturgical and contemplative.  We should never run out of things to tell our Lord.  There is a phrase that we use around the chapter, that we take our studies into our prayer life and then share the fruits from our prayer life with others.  As we continue to study and grow in our knowledge of the Truth, we should be taking what we learned to the Holy Trinity then sharing with others the gifts we receive from that exchange.

There is a saying that we preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.  Like the prophets of old, we are called to engage with the situations of the times we find ourselves in.  This was not new to the Second Vatican Council where church fathers said the following:

[The laity] exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.

Catholic Church, “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: Apostolicam Actuositatem,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), 2.

The “temporal order” phrase refers to the time and place that we are in.  We are called to go into the world, the world that we were born into, and seek to perfect it through the Gospel.  We are to be God’s agents in the world bringing about change.  This is not work that is unique and special to us, the laity.  We strive to labor in our homes, families, work places, grocery stores, our social groups, our government offices, etc.  It is in these places that we bring about change.  Not only speaking out like prophets of old against injustice but actually making change like Jesus did.  Some might say that we preach from the everyday pulpits we find ourselves at, yes, and I say that we are to be craftsman laboring in the perfection that which God has set before us.  Like the prophets, we were born at a chosen time and place.  We have to look around us to see the needs of our times. One of the largest questions faced by Lay Dominicans is what to do in their apostolate.  Like our forefathers in the Order, we are called to attend to the particular goals of the contemporary church specifically toward the suffering, defending freedom, and promoting peace and justice.  Here we begin to see the first hints of what kind of apostolic activities we are called to.  But this should not be a surprise to us just look at what the prophets said and what Jesus did.  There is a common activity that people assume we do because we are members of the Order of Preachers that is, well, preaching.  The most visible form of preaching is that of the Priests and Deacons during liturgical celebrations.  As lay persons, we don’t have the permissions to do that.  But we are sent to preach into places where they can’t go like our workplaces, sports teams, families, etc.  Our service to those in need and the particular church we abide within starts with praying for the intentions of our Bishop and our Pastor and ends with us clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and protecting the stranger.  There are a lot of opportunities between prayer and Works of Mercy.  Could be volunteering at the local homeless shelter or helping at the food pantry.  We can not sit around waiting for those opportunities to present themselves like the next netflix episode.  Be in the world to seek those opportunities or as craftsmen, we sometimes need to create opportunities to help others.  Think of it like building the pulpit that we preach from.  As Lay Dominicans we are in the world sharing God’s mercy through our attitudes, words, and actions.

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Next up: Dominican Life is Liturgical


4 thoughts on “Dominican Life is Apostolic

  1. Pingback: Dominican Life is Contemplative – Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

  2. Pingback: What Does It Mean To Say, “I am a Lay Dominican?” – Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

  3. Pingback: To Praise, To Bless, To Preach – Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii

  4. Hey Patrick, thank you for writing this. This section really caught my eye: ” Like the prophets, we were born at a chosen time and place. We have to look around us to see the needs of our times. One of the largest questions faced by Lay Dominicans is what to do in their apostolate. Like our forefathers in the Order, we are called to attend to the particular goals of the contemporary church specifically toward the suffering, defending freedom, and promoting peace and justice.”

    We were born at a chosen time and place. Wow, think about it. It makes me still inside…

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