Modern Dominican life


Founded in 1216, the Dominican Order inaugurates its eighth centenary. Today, as at the very beginning of this daring missionary adventure initiated by St. Dominic de Guzman, our zeal is based on our passion to open paths of life, truth and freedom to people by word. It is the vocation of the Order of Preachers from the beginning to work for the “salvation of souls” by preaching, to proclaim the Gospel.

The love for preaching is the hallmark of all the branches of our Order, commonly called Dominicans. Today we are discovering more and more the importance of its family dimension where women and men, lay people and clerics, can be united to collaborate in the evangelical mission, belonging to communities where they are equal, respectful of differences but united by faith. Our efforts to grow as a family are themselves real aspects of our preaching.

This common task of preaching is the offering of the experience of a Christ who is alive, whom it is possible to meet and to whom we can speak. It imposes on us the obligation to listen to the voice, the eyes and the heart of those who approached the Apostle Philip asking him: “We want to see Jesus” (Jn 12, 21), and who are today the cries of many in the world. Dominic’s answer and one of the keys to his success as a preacher was his way of life. What attracts people to Christ Jesus is not so much what we say, but what we are. This is why our preaching does not fully fulfill its task unless the poorest can recognize Jesus in our communities. The gospel that we preach is the Good News to the poor. By engaging our lives with them, we become recipients of their gospel. To meet them, it invites us, not so much to a commitment to local pastoral activity, but to apostolic mobility. That is why Dominic wanted to preach in itinerant poverty according to the evangelical model.

Our charism within the Church is to practice, in collaboration with the ministry of bishops, preaching in its prophetic dimension, in a collegiate, community way. It is a constant reminder for the whole Church of the importance of preaching. Our theological work, on which our preaching is based, wants to decipher constantly and together the Word of God and the human experience. It obliges us to make something new, to bring an adapted answer, so that there is nothing really human that does not find an echo in our heart and in our speech. This prophetic characteristic of the Order gives our intellectual pursuit an interior freedom, that of the faith which is adherence to a living person, God himself, and which owes to him the homage of his obedience. This freedom of the mind conjoined with freedom of movement is not accidental, but a deliberate free will of Dominic. Thus, always lived in communion with the Church, our itinerant communal and prophetic preaching is proclaimed joyously to men of the living and living Word of God.

(Sources: Tugwell, Simon, St. Dominic, Editions du Signe, 1996. Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, Preacher brothers, otherwise known as Dominicans, Sarment / Fayard, 1997).

Cooperator brothers

The Order of Friars Preachers, by definition, is an order of clerics, but it has always welcomed brothers who did not aspire to priestly ordination. They were called the lay brothers. “After the Second Vatican Council, the Dominican lay brothers received in the Constitutions, and without having asked for so much, the name of co-operators. Their vocation is rather that of silent service, and one could compare them to these invisible beams or subterranean pillars that allow a community, a house, to stand up without being seen very well, and to whom one is indebted for it. (Bedouelle, Alain, Quilici, Alain, The Preachers, otherwise called Dominicans, Fayard, 1997, 265.)

Today, these brothers are no longer confined exclusively to tasks related to the maintenance of our convents. They can engage in society and in the Church, and use their talents in the service of a single mission, the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ in all its forms.


The prologue of the primitive Constitutions asserts the following about the study in our Order: “Our study must aim principally, ardently and with the greatest care that we may be useful to the soul of the neighbor”. The study holds a large place in Dominican life. She is one of the pillars. St. Dominic breaks with the monastic tradition and replaces the manual labor, source of income as well as personal balance by the intellectual work. Lectio divina is amplified in theological work.

“The diligent study nourishes the contemplation, favors the implementation of the councils (ie the vows) with a lucid fidelity, constitutes a form of asceticism in its perseverance itself and its difficulty, and par excellence belongs to the observance, in as an essential event in our lives “(LCO 83).

The study is not to be considered as a “means” in the service of an end. It is one of the components of Dominican life. Like everything else, it is finalized by the salvation of souls. It is also a place of contemplation and thereby nourishes the prayer of the preaching brothers.

Our contemplation is not only that inherent in prayer. It is more generally that of study in the rumination of the truth about God and man, in the search for meaning. The study is not primarily intended to make us specialists in philosophy and theology. It tends to a certain manifestation of the meaning of things and of the world, of man and of human situations, of God’s design in history.

This manifestation of meaning is for us a collegial task. The study constitutes us to respond to our vocation, peculiar to the Church, to exercise in a collegial way the prophetic dimension of the priestly ministry. That is why we make the choice to live together the endless intellectual adventure of study, the confrontation with the word of God, the demand for truth, the discipline of a questioning to produce and to hear, and the passion to understand.

(Sources: Tugwell, Simon, St. Dominic, Editions du Signe, 1996. Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, Preacher brothers, otherwise known as Dominicans, Sarment / Fayard, 1997).


The Dominicans and the ministry of the Word

Afficher l’image sourceThe sons of St. Dominic consider themselves the privileged servants of the Word. The original intuition of the founder of the Order of Preachers is not to have wanted to stay in Cathar land to preach poor to those who preached poverty. This idea is rather that of his bishop Diego de Osma. Nor is it to restore to honor a traveling form of preaching according to the precepts of the Lord (Lk 9: 3-5), because many in these pivotal years of the twelfth to thirteenth century had the idea and put it into execution.

The original idea of ​​St. Dominic was to endow the Church with an order of preachers. He places at his disposal communities of nuns and communities of brothers whose vocation is to “carry the Word”. To carry it first in a permanent prayer, as a woman carries a child in her bosom, in her arms, or on her back. Carrying her also as the herald carries, in running, an important news to all those whose life depends on it. (To learn more about the “predicating” dimension of the Dominican vocation, see the article by J. G Ranquet, o.p .: In the service of preaching.)

A fire to be transmitted

Afficher l’image sourceThe Word is like a fire that lives in the heart and all the life of Dominic’s disciples. And this fire comes from the Spirit. He falls on the early church on the day of Pentecost. He enlightened the Apostles on the mysteries that they knew and that they must now announce. He illuminates them, giving them to live to perfection what the preachers ask the Lord to live too. Their theologian and master, St. Thomas Aquinas, gave the definition which became their motto “Contemplate and bring to others The fruit of this contemplation. The fire makes them incandescent with the fire that burns in the heart of Christ and which is none other than the love of charity.

It is this fire that unites them to each other by bonds of burning love, for they all share the same passion for the Savior. The Word is a fire and it spreads like fire, step by step, from person to person. It burns the hearts of the hearers and purifies in them all that is not pure. She warms them and comforts them. And nothing stops him except the refusal to “take” which is opposed to him, as one says of a fire that he takes, or that he refuses to take.

Dominicans are dedicated to the service of the Word. They are not alone in the Church, far from it. All the baptized and confirmed have received from Christ a participation in his prophetic power. The college of bishops, successors of the Apostles, is by priority ordo praedicatorum, as St. Gregory the Great wrote at the end of the sixth century. But the preaching brothers of St. Dominic, in their quality of co-operators of the order of bishops, by priestly ordination, are, for their own office, the prophetic charge whose mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere. . (Basic Constitution, LCO 1, § V.)

They are not alone in serving the Word of God, and they are not the exclusive owners of this ministry. It is true ! But as for them, they are dedicated to him entirely and exclusively. They do just that, and they do it completely, that is to say, both by speech and by their way of life. If they deviate, they betray their vocation. They consecrate him all their life, as well in the sense of the duration because they commit themselves until death, that in the direction of the intensity, because they engage … to die of it! Many Dominican martyrs died in the service of preaching, and many more are those who died, consumed by a modest and hard work, driven by a passion equally strong. Starting with St. Dominic himself and St. Thomas Aquinas. To put oneself at the service of the Word is to serve the Lord Jesus, since he is the Word of God. It is also to put oneself at the service of the man, to give him the Word (Source: Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, the brothers preachers otherwise called Dominicans, Sarment / Bayard, 1997).


Our apostolic life and our teaching must spring from the abundance of contemplation. It was in her that Dominic found the source of his passion for preaching. If we are not strictly speaking monks, our Dominican vocation is strongly marked by the monastic spirit. We share in community a liturgical prayer “lively and happy” daily, whose Eucharist, lived, celebrated together, is the summit.

“By the very will of St Dominic, the solemn and common celebration of the liturgy must be held for one of the main duties that our vocation demands … (…) The celebration of the liturgy is the center and the heart of all our life whose unity is especially rooted in it “(LCO 57).

The liturgical celebration of the canonical office is one of the pillars on which Dominican life is based. This is a principle that no one disputes. It is based in history. It fits in the texts. It is lived by the communities. Dominican life would no longer be itself if it did not honor this essential component. The brothers are not so often asked to pray, they are asked to pray together and with great care. They are asked to make this choral prayer the center and the heart of their apostolic religious life.

Like the monks or canons, their predecessors, they participate in the sanctification of time through their diligent prayer. The year, the weeks, the days are chanted by the recitation of the office. The liturgical year punctuates their preaching. It is a breath, with its stronger times and phases of recovery. It is a source to which the brothers come to draw together, the Lord creating mysteriously between them a common soul. Every day, they sanctify the hours with all those who pray and on behalf of all those who do not pray. But just as essential for our lives is the silent and private prayer, where we tend to God, in search of this face to face with Him, where instants of an inevitable truth and an overwhelming pardon are lived. Prayer is the most urgent challenge we can launch to a society in which efficiency has been converted into an idol, on the altars of which all human dignity is sacrificed (Sources: Tugwell, Simon, St. Dominic, Editions of Signe, 1996. Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, Preacher brothers otherwise known as Dominicans, Sarment / Fayard, 1997).


To lead the lives of the Apostles is fundamental to the project that animates the Order of Preachers: not simply a project of action, but also a project of life, a certain way of existing as Christians. Saint Dominic was not content to open perspectives and set goals: he creates a style, he specifies constitutive landmarks that are like the fabric of all Dominican life.

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We do not choose ourselves as friends can do, but we receive each other as brothers having a common Father. The choice of common life makes us responsible for each other and for the harmonious march of the community. This is constantly being built from the weaknesses of each. Gathered to live together in unanimity, making one heart and one soul in God, we are driven to live united, even if we have different opinions and attitudes. This is only possible because Christ, the center of our community life, is our unity.

The stakes are high because our preaching, although personal, is a fruit produced in common. Indeed, if fraternal life – as well as study – is not an end in itself, it is the first earth where our word is welcomed. Land of trial and land where mutual mercy manifests itself, it is the living testimony of the hope that dwells in us.

(Sources: Tugwell, Simon, St. Dominic, Editions du Signe, 1996, Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, Preacher brothers, otherwise known as Dominicans, Sarment / Fayard, 1997).

Our Dominican family is dedicated to God, following Christ, to lead the Gospel life in the Order, under the gaze of Mary, and committing ourselves to remain faithful to the spirit and plan of Dominic. By professing obedience in the hands of the representative of the Master of the Order or of the superior of their institution, the brothers, sisters and laity of secular institutes give a life which will have to be lived progressively. They take up, and in a radical way, in an instant, the evangelical calls to obedience, poverty and chastity, on which all are invited to structure their lives. Ordained to the love that is the very life of God, sources of life and dynamism, supporting our preaching, these demanding choices lead us to an unknown future. This is our joy.
Expression of our fraternity with each other, our obedience is based on listening, dialogue, attention and open-mindedness. This receptivity is a total gift of oneself. We make the choice to die to live as free men. Putting one’s life in the hands of the provincial is a eucharistic act of mad freedom. An unreserved gift of our own life to the brethren, unfolding in us day after day, and which comes under the freedom in Christ that we preach. We strive to honor it by asking each other a lot and meeting the challenges we face. She invites us to seek to make ours the projects of our brothers.

To have the freedom to give ourselves unreservedly to the preaching of the gospel is offered to us by the call to poverty. It asks us for a truly Eucharistic life, in unity, vulnerability and gift. Terrible for those who endure it, the chosen poverty only makes sense if it allows us to go beyond the boundaries that separate human beings from one another. Often failing to be exposed to the humiliations and dangers of the poorest of our societies, it pushes us to share a unique purse, but also to dare to live the vulnerability that supposes living together. Vulnerability that was never more total than in the pure and free gift of Christ himself that we preach and that pushes us to become “lovers of voluntary poverty”.

To live a true love is to live with an absolutely generous and non-possessive love, a love between equals. The very one of Trinitarian life: a love without domination or manipulation, without paternalism or condescension. Wanting to preach that love is pure gift of self in the total reception of the one who comes to oneself, we make the choice to enter ourselves on this ascetic way where there are no failures or discouragements. Far from being a flight or a lack of love, chastity lived in a fair way makes us men and women rich in affection and fully human. We can thus live all our corporeality, blessed and sanctified in the Incarnation that we preach.

(Sources: Tugwell, Simon, St. Dominic, Editions du Signe, 1996, Bedouelle, Guy, Quilici, Alain, Preacher brothers, otherwise known as Dominicans, Sarment / Fayard, 1997).