Becoming a Lay Dominican

The Dominican Laity is for those seeking a richer, deeper spiritual life while living in the world. We dedicate ourselves to a life of liturgical prayer, the study of sacred truth, and zeal for the salvation of souls. We embody a positive response to the gospel message while combating the evils of the age by preaching the Truth of Christ.

As quoted in our Provincial Rule: “Lay Dominican life is all about having a passion for the Word of God. It is about committing oneself to a community of like-minded brothers and sisters that immerse themselves in the Word of God. Christ said, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (St. John 8:31-32). Lay Dominicans seek to be in an environment where they “breathe” the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures, in the teaching of the Church, in personal and liturgical prayer, in study, and in everyday life experiences. They discern ways, with the help of a community of believers, to deliver that Word according to their abilities and the urging of the Holy Spirit.”


Brief History

In 1216, Saint Dominic de Guzman founded the Order of Preachers to defend the truths of the Catholic Faith through prayer, study and holy preaching. Today, just as in previous ages, the Order of Preachers is called to bring God’s Truth to others to help revitalize, support and strengthen their faith through sound theology and the teachings of the Church.

Saint Dominic dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and His Church by dedicating himself to prayer and the preaching of truth. He is remembered as speaking only to God or of God. Realizing the destructive effects of sin and the theological errors of his time, Saint Dominic made the study of sacred truth, Veritas, a key foundation of his Order. Veritas, Truth, at first glance, this word locates the heart of our life in a quest for that which is in accord with reality. This is no small endeavor, but “Truth” takes us even further: it takes us to the Person of Jesus Christ who is Truth Himself (John 14:6).

The motto of the Order is: “To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation.” The Dominican is first formed through a life of prayer, study and penance before he preaches to God’s people.

The many forms of Dominican preaching and witnessing must flow from graces received in interior silence, prayer, and study. Saint Dominic realized that one first needed to be filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit before being able to bring His truth to others.

 

Lay Dominicans live in the world as married or single persons choosing a specific path to holiness by freely following a Rule based on the spirit of Saint Dominic. They bring the truth of the Gospel to their families, parishes, workplace and social gatherings, thus permeating all of society. In turn, the members share in the spiritual benefits of the Dominican Order.

Lay Dominicans are organized in local chapters that meet once a month. These chapter meetings provide community opportunities to pray, study and share the truths of the Gospel and the traditions of the Catholic Church. Prayer is the foundation of Lay Dominican spirituality. Lay Dominicans are called to cultivate a deep, personal relationship with God through daily prayer and contemplation. This includes actively taking part in the sacramental life of the Church, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, and engaging in personal prayer and meditation. By making prayer a priority, Lay Dominicans seek to deepen their understanding of God’s love and to discern his will for their lives.

Any practicing Catholic of good standing, 18 years or older, who has been Catholic for at least two years, and wishes to progress in the Christian life, is welcome to join. Becoming a lay Dominican is a five-year process of formation in the four pillars of Dominican spirituality: liturgical and contemplative prayer, study of our faith (including the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas), community, and apostolate. Meetings are held monthly, during which you will learn how to deepen your prayer life, how to explain and defend your faith, and how to bring your faith into the world around you. You are not alone in this process. As a lay Dominican, you rely on a community of brothers and sisters in Christ who share a love for souls, for the Truth, and for growing in faith and virtue.

 

Stages of Formation

The first step is to get in touch with the chapter’s vocations director. You can reach him by using the form at the bottom of this page. He will help you schedule an informational meeting to explore if a third order Dominican vocation is right for you. He might also invite you to one of the monthly meetings, or other regular chapter activity, so you can get more familiar with the order. The vocations director will help you discern whether you have been made for Dominican life. If there is a positive response at the end of this step, you will be invited to start the formal “inquiry” formation period.

Inquiry

You must be Catholic for at least two years before beginning the inquiry period. Through a series of twelve modules over the course of one year, you will get an overview of what it means to be a Dominican.

The program will review the history of the Dominican order, and in particular the history of the Lay Dominicans, originally known as the Penitents of St. Dominic dating back to the mid-thirteenth century. It will highlight the importance of the four pillars (prayer, study, community, and apostolate) in the life of all Dominicans, and discuss ways to help you make them an integral part of your life. There will be a thorough analysis of both prayer and study as the ways to properly discern Truth. Various modes of prayer will be discussed, with special attention to both liturgical prayer (the Mass & the Liturgy of the Hours), and meditative and contemplative prayer with scripture. We will discuss the importance of a communal life, loyalty to the Church, and the special charisms of the Dominican order to bring Truth to a fallen world mired in dualistic heresies. These charisms are as needed today as they were 800 years ago. Finally, we will review the importance for all Dominicans to have a strong devotion to Mary and a unique devotion to the Rosary, a gift of Mary to St. Dominic and then a gift of the Dominicans to the world. 

Inquiry

You must be Catholic for at least two years before beginning the inquiry period. Through a series of twelve modules over the course of one year, you will get an overview of what it means to be a Dominican.

The program will review the history of the Dominican order, and in particular the history of the Lay Dominicans, originally known as the Penitents of St. Dominic dating back to the mid-thirteenth century. It will highlight the importance of the four pillars (prayer, study, community, and apostolate) in the life of all Dominicans, and discuss ways to help you make them an integral part of your life. There will be a thorough analysis of both prayer and study as the ways to properly discern Truth. Various modes of prayer will be discussed, with special attention to both liturgical prayer (the Mass & the Liturgy of the Hours), and meditative and contemplative prayer with scripture. We will discuss the importance of a communal life, loyalty to the Church, and the special charisms of the Dominican order to bring Truth to a fallen world mired in dualistic heresies. These charisms are as needed today as they were 800 years ago. Finally, we will review the importance for all Dominicans to have a strong devotion to Mary and a unique devotion to the Rosary, a gift of Mary to St. Dominic and then a gift of the Dominicans to the world. 

Candidacy

If, after the Inquiry period, you decide to continue your Lay Dominican formation, you will be admitted into the Order as a Candidate. You will receive a copy of the Lay Dominican Rule and Directory as a sign of your willingness to live the life of a Lay Dominican. You will also receive a Dominican cross or pin to wear as the external manifestation of your commitment to this community and to the Dominican Family. The duration of the candidacy is twelve months. This is a more formal formation period in the life of a fraternity member. This period includes diverse activities: the study of the life of St. Dominic and other great Dominican figures; the study of the Constitutions, the history of the Order, and the Rule of the Fraternities of St. Dominic; and the general practice of the commitments of a lay Dominican (e.g., daily Mass, Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, daily Rosary).

Temporary Promise

As the candidacy ends, the candidate and the Order decide whether the candidate should make a commitment as a lay Dominican. The temporary promise, or temporary profession, is a commitment to live according to the Rule of the Fraternities of St. Dominic for a period of three years. At the end of this period, the candidate and the Order decide if the candidate is prepared to make a final or permanent profession.

During these three years of temporary profession, you are considered a full member of the order, and you are expected to maintain the disciplines of daily prayer, to continue your formation with a self-directed regular study program, to fully participate in the life of your lay Dominican chapter, and to develop an apostolate driven by your individual charisms and the charisms of the Dominican order.

 

Temporary Promise

As the candidacy ends, the candidate and the Order decide whether the candidate should make a commitment as a lay Dominican. The temporary promise, or temporary profession, is a commitment to live according to the Rule of the Fraternities of St. Dominic for a period of three years. At the end of this period, the candidate and the Order decide if the candidate is prepared to make a final or permanent profession.

During these three years of temporary profession, you are considered a full member of the order, and you are expected to maintain the disciplines of daily prayer, to continue your formation with a self-directed regular study program, to fully participate in the life of your lay Dominican chapter, and to develop an apostolate driven by your individual charisms and the charisms of the Dominican order.

 

Final Promise & Ongoing Formation

After three years of temporary promise, if the decision is reached to move ahead and make the final promise, the individual makes a commitment to live according to the Rule of the Fraternities of St. Dominic for the rest of his or her life.

Dominicans are particularly committed to ongoing formation both in the chapter and individually. Even though one has made a permanent commitment to be a Dominican, ongoing study continues in the areas of Dominican spirituality, the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, etc. Dominicans are always concerned about growing in understanding of both their faith and their Dominican vocation.

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