Order of the Preachers
The Order of the Preachers – probably better known as Dominicans – is composed of Friars, Nuns, Sisters, Laypeople and consecrated spread all around the world.
Seemingly, there is nothing more diversified.
Actually, the five branches, or components, are complementary to each other and share such a deep tie that they form a communion and family: the Dominican family.
They all share a spirit, that is the Love for Truth and Freedom; the vocation to spread the Gospel message; the source, that is Saint Dominic and his first friars; the passion that is Jesus Christ and the brothers, to whom they have given their lives; the commitment of the deep and true prayer which becomes Communion with God in order to serve the brothers.
Preaching friar means above all preaching, an always relevant denomination, suitably chosen and wished by Pope Honorius III, in order to underline the original idea Saint Dominic set for the foundation.
«… Our own mission is the prophetic duty of announcing Jesus Christ’s Gospel, through words and example, always considering the people, times and place situation. The aim of our mission is to let faith rise, or to allow it to penetrate more deeply inside people’s life, considering the construction of the Body of Christ, which will be led to perfection by the faith sacraments» (LCO 1, V).
Saint Augustine’s Rule and the Constitutions of the Order of the Preacher Friars make Dominic’s idea come true, propose and plan it, even in details. Nevertheless, any rule is made for the friar, not the friar for the rule. This respect for people has been present as early as the original monastic legislation, and, in the tradition of the monasteries, occasional use of the dispensation was provided. The dispensation principle is accepted by Saint Dominic, too, but it is completely different.
La Regola dei Frati Predicatori non è in definitiva che una convenzione collettiva, per realizzare, per quanto è possibile a creature umane, l’armonia e l’equilibrio di persone sempre in tensione tra le esigenze dell’ideale e le situazioni concrete. In the legislation of a Order set up for preaching and souls’ safety, where studying is aimed at making able to “be useful to our brothers’ souls”, dispensation becomes an integral part of the law itself: Superiors’s responsibility towards the mission of the Order becomes more important than legislation itself.
Also the Dominican profession formula expresses a lively originality: it is not promised to obey to a rule, but to obey to the General Master, according to Saint Augustine’s Rule and to the Order Constitutions.
After all, the Preacher Friars Rule is nothing else than a collective convention, made in order to realize, as far as possible for human creatures, the harmony and balance among people constantly in tension between the demands of the ideal and the actual situations.
In order to make this ideal true, Saint Dominic showed four basic points:
- Common life
- Gospel’s advice
These elements make the preaching friar’s life apostolic in essence, without any gap between means and purpose.
The Dominican friar lives in a convent, which is a place of community, which must be built day by day, because communion is never a given reality.
Friars live together, trying to reach a mutual agree in order to build day by day a delicate and precious “unanimity”, which may assure life in communion through its commitments, rhythms, acts.
Everybody is responsible for everything: from the spiritual atmosphere to the rooms cleaning, hosts welcoming, to the commitment for silence, studying, prayer, listening, service. All of this is done with or without any specific position or any established roles. The main duty of the Superior in a Dominican Convent is to support initiatives in order to arouse the friars’ conventual and apostolic vitality.
A really particular way of realizing in one’s own life the faithfulness in the sole great Commandment of Love is by tying to the obedience of a Superior and living as poor and pure as Jesus Christ.
It is an invitation made by the Saviour to the ones He chooses, He keeps for Himself, and which can be welcomed only by the ones who are really free and who want to keep their freedom, or to improve in it.
The fundamental of the Dominican profession is obedience: «in our profession, a single promise is expressed, that is the obedience to the Master of the Order and to his successors, according to the rules of the Preaching Friars: in this way the Order and profession unity is assured, because we all depend on the sole Superior, to whom everybody undertakes to obey» (LCO 17, II).
The obedience vow goes well beyond the ordinary and expected concept of personal availability: the friar undertakes to constantly listen to the world provocations, and at the same time to the needs of his brothers.