Category Archives: Faith

Novena to St Dominic, Day 7

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

Love of God and Our Neighbour

That we have passed from death to life we know because we love the brothers. The man who does not love is among the living dead. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life abides in no murderer’s heart. The way we came to understand love was that he laid down his life for us; we too must lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:14-16)

Love is the fulfilling of the law, and Dominic, the preacher of God’s law, was consumed with the fire of love. In all his actions his love for God appeared and his constant prayer was that he might have true charity and love God purely for His own sake. From this love sprang that ardent desire to suffer for God which made him a martyr in spirit. So deeply was he moved by the love of Jesus Crucified that he longed to die for Him. His life of generous self-sacrifice proved his love sincere. As a youth he sold his only treasure—the books from which he studied—to feed the poor. His life was entirely devoted to the hardest apostolic labor, traveling far and wide to seek the lost sheep of the Good Shepherd and braving every kind of danger. His prayers for souls were continual, and daily he did penance for sinners. The one object of his Order was the salvation of souls. Throughout his life he preached to the heathen hoping for martyrdom. He had compassion for the suffering and misery of others. To all he was gentle, kind and merciful.

The true love of God is proved by the desire to be like Christ, and to labor and suffer for others.

Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The man without love knows nothing of God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O Holy Father St. Dominic, who showed us the way to eternal happiness, and won many souls to God by founding the Order of Friars Preachers, pray for us, that we may follow in your footsteps, and ever work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 6

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Mother of God

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young by your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God! (Psalms 84:2-4)

The Eucharist and the Mother of God were objects of Dominic’s special devotion. Before the tabernacle he spent his nights, finding there rest after his labors; and arriving weary and foot-sore from a journey, he always visited the Blessed Sacrament before refreshing his body. However much fatigued, he always celebrated Mass, and if possible sang it. During the celebration of Mass tears were often seen flowing down his face, moving all to devotion.

Of God’s Mother he was always an ardent and reverent lover. His life, his work, his Order were placed under her protection, and he invoked her in every difficulty and danger. He began the custom of saying the Hail Mary before preaching. The Blessed Mother filled him with heavenly favors, watched over him with motherly care, and gave him the habit of his Order. A tradition cherished in his Order, and supported by the testimonies of many popes, ascribes to him the first teaching of devotion to the recitation of the Rosary. His disciples were called “Friars of Mary,” and have carried her Rosary and scapular to the uttermost parts of the earth.

I myself am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to me shall ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me shall ever thirst. (John 6:35)

I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my goodness. (Sirach 24:18; John 14:6)

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O most blessed father, St. Dominic, who loved our Lord Jesus Christ in the most perfect manner and served Mary, His Virgin Mother, with most fervent devotion, pray for us, your children, that we may ever grow in love of the Sacrament of the Altar, and that, next to God, we may at all times trust in the protection of the Queen of Heaven, so that at the hour of death we may be received by her into heaven, and ever abide under the mantle of her love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 5

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

The Spirit of Prayer

True devotion was in his mouth, and no dishonesty was found upon his lips; he walked with men in integrity and in uprightness, and turned many away from evil. (Malachi 2:6)

As an unbridled tongue destroys a spirit of prayer, Dominic loved silence and retirement, that he might dwell with God. His intimate friend, William of Montserrat, said that “Dominic always kept the silence prescribed by the custom and rule of the Order, abstained from idle words, and always spoke either of God or to God.”

Dominic considered custody of the senses important and fed his soul constantly with spiritual reading. His books were the Bible and Cassian’s Conferences of the Fathers of the Desert. The Holy Scriptures he always carried, and ordered his spiritual children diligently and unceasingly to read them. At dinner one religious used to read aloud, that the souls of all might be fed on the Word of God.

If any man offends not in words, the same is a perfect man. (James 3:2)

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O most Holy Father St. Dominic, who always showed yourself loving to all and never despised, wounded or offended anyone, obtain for me from our Saviour, the grace to be severe only to myself and my evil passions and always gentle and loving toward my neighbour, ever like him, pardoning all who injure or offend me. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 4

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

St. Dominic’s Prayer

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and inspired songs. Sing praise to the Lord with all your hearts. Give thanks to God the Father always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

Prayer was the breath of St. Dominic’s life, the light on his path, the staff on his pilgrimage. He prayed always. In childhood his delight was to serve Mass, to visit the Blessed Sacrament, and to chant Office. As a student, he learned wisdom more from prayer than from books. He won more souls by prayer than by preaching or miracles. In traveling, St. Dominic prayed as he went, sometimes the Veni Creator Spiritus, or the Ave Maris Stella, or sometimes he recited psalms. He often reminded his companions to think of God. Many times St. Dominic spent the night in prayer before the altar. His methods of prayer were various: sometimes he lay prostrate, then stood erect, then knelt down. For hours he would stand before a crucifix, genuflecting and making fervent ejaculations. Often he stretched out his arms like a cross, pleading earnestly to God. On occasion he was seen in rapture by the vehemence of his prayer. “In all labors and trials, in hunger, thirst, fatigue, his heart turned always to God.”

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O God, who enlightened your Church by the virtues and preaching of St. Dominic, your confessor and our father, mercifully grant that by his prayers we may be delivered from present dangers and ever increase in spiritual blessings. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 3

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

Compunction of Heart

Those who fear the Lord seek to please him, those who love him are filled with his law. Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before him. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord and not into the hands of men, for equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows. (Sirach 2:16-18)

ROSA PATIENTIÆ ROSE OF PATIENCE

Though so pure that Holy Church calls him “Ivory of Chastity,” and Christian art puts a lily into his hands, Dominic was always weeping over sin. His soul being full of contrition, acts of sorrow were constantly upon his lips. On seeing towns or villages, he used to weep over the sins committed there against God. But this sorrow was not merely hidden in the soul; it bore fruit in works of penance. Three times every night he scourged himself: once for his own sins, once for those of others, and once for the suffering souls. He was a rule of abstinence, even on journeys never eating meat or food cooked with meat. His fasts were strict and continual; even when traveling over Europe on foot, he fasted from September until Easter, though preaching daily. He never had a room of his own, but slept anywhere: on the ground, a bench, or the altar step. Being a zealous lover of the rule, he punished faults, but with such fatherly love that penance was accepted and even desired from his hands.

“If you have no sins of your own to weep for,” St. Dominic would say, “still weep, after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, and grieve for the sinners of the world that they may repent.”

Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O zealous preacher of penance, Holy Father St. Dominic, whose ardent desire for the salvation of souls made you ever ready to endure the greatest labors and fatigues and even to give your life in order to win them to God, pray for us, that treading in the steps of Jesus Crucified, the Redeemer and Physician of souls, we may disregard all suffering and generously sacrifice ourselves for the needs of others. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 2

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

Humility

Your attitude must be that of Christ: Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

DOCTOR VERITATIS DOCTOR OF TRUTH

Humility is the foundation of perfection, and in St. Dominic it was deep and strong. So clear was his knowledge of the great majesty of God and his own nothingness that he lived always in holy fear and self-distrust. Though most innocent, he considered himself to be a sinner, unworthy of the least grace. Constantly he prostrated himself before God, praying for long periods of time.

Before entering a town to preach, he used to kneel down on the road, begging God not to punish the people for his sins but to make his labor fruitful. When passing an altar or crucifix he would bow profoundly, in token of his nothingness. Praise and honor he detested, and three times refused the bishopric. At the General Chapter he said to his brethren, “I deserve to be deposed from my office, for I am negligent and relaxed.” When asked where he would be buried, “Under the feet of my brethren,” the saint responded.

The saints, though great in virtue, look upon themselves as worthless, because they see themselves in the light of God, and knowing Him they know themselves. “Our righteousness,” St. Dominic would say, “when compared to the righteousness of God, is mere uncleanness.”

Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O Holy Father St. Dominic, true lover of humility, the greater you appeared in the sight of men, the more you humbled yourself before God. Be to us a loving guide, that, following in your footsteps we may be enabled to withstand all the snares of the enemy, and spending our lives in earnest prayer, self-denial and humility, we may, at the hour of death, be received with you into heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

Novena to St Dominic, Day 1

For A, G and S, being received as Lay Dominican Novices, and for me, as I make my final Promises.

The Force of Good Example

He shone in his days as the morning star, in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon at the full; and as the sun, when it shines, so did he shine in the temple of God. (Sirach 50:6,7)

LUMEN ECCLESIÆ LIGHT OF THE CHURCH

St. Dominic was born in Spain in 1170. With the dawn of reason his whole soul turned to God. His childhood was most pious and his youth angelic in purity. In the University of Palencia he was the model student. At twenty-five he became a canon regular at Osma, and with the religious habit he put on the Lord Jesus and strove in all things to imitate Him. His time was divided into prayer, study of Scripture, and community duties. Silence and retirement were his delight; works of penance and tears of contrition his meat and drink. Going in 1205 to France, he spent many years in every kind of labor for the conversion of the Albigensian heretics. Like Jesus Christ he passed the day in apostolic work, the night in prayer. His penance was extreme, but to others he was gentle, sweet, and kind. Many were converted by his miracles, many by the example of his holy life. Six times he journeyed to Rome, once to Spain, once to Paris, walking barefoot, praying or singing on the road; preaching in the towns and villages, spending the nights in contemplation. He founded in 1215 the Order of Friars Preachers for the conversion of souls. He was a man of truly apostolic heart, a column of the Faith, a trumpet of the Gospel, the light of Christ to men. He died at Bologna in 1221.

Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, O most enlightened teacher of divine truth, Holy Father St. Dominic, who taught what was profitable for salvation and made yourself all things to all men, that you might win all to Christ; help us to close our ears and hearts to all false doctrine and whatever may be harmful to our souls and to open them joyfully to the truths of Holy Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Father, cast thy mind
on the work thy hands designed;
In the Judge’s presence stand
For thy poor and lowly band.

For want of a better title – my conversion story

Steve, you do ask difficult questions!

The short answer to “why religion at all?” is “I honestly have no idea.” I think I’ve always believed, sometimes it’s easier than other times, but I can’t think of a time when I believed that “this is all there is.” And I can’t say I always do this Christianity thing particularly well, but I keep trying [God: very trying. But I love you anyway].

Anyway, now for the long answer. I hope you’ve got the kettle on.

I was baptised into the Methodist church as a baby, with one godparent who was a Methodist, one who was Anglican, and one who was a lapsed Catholic. However, I wasn’t brought up in a specifically Christian home – we didn’t attend church apart from weddings and funerals, and when we went to see my grandparents in Cumbria.

On and off from when I was about 14 or 15, I attended a charismatic evangelical church that used to meet in my secondary school hall. To those who are reading this and know me at all, yes, really, charismatic evangelical house church, with weekday evening Bible studies and everything. To be honest, I am too English to do all that “hands down for coffee” stuff; I was always the one at the back with my hands in my pockets, looking faintly embarrassed. It has also left me with a life-long suspicion of “Words from the Lorrrrrrrrrrrd.” Even at fifteen, I could tell when I was being manipulated. I think it was there I got my phobia of the faceless people in the illustrated Good News Bible from, too.

So, drifting along, no huge, road to Damascus conversion experience, I went off to university in Manchester, and thought “I wonder if I should start taking this all a bit more seriously?”

Tried various churches, ran away from the charismatic ones, the one that told me that I needed to make a bit more of an effort with my clothes if I wanted to fit in (I was a student, what were you expecting, diamonds and fur?), and the bonkers one that wanted me to immediately move into their shared house.

And then I walked into Holy Name Church in Manchester, and, if it wasn’t for the fact that admitting you hear voices is generally the starting point of a one-way trip to the funny farm, I’d swear I heard a quiet voice saying “welcome home.”

Probably someone messing about in the shrine of the Holy Face, but there we are.

So I went back for Mass the next Sunday, and that was it. I had a sudden knowledge that this was right, that what the Catholics said about the Eucharist truly being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ was, actually, true, despite how utterly ridiculous it sounds. And, having had that one, overwhelming glimpse of heaven, that sudden realisation that I had found Him Whom I sought with all my heart pouring through me like fire and ice, I’ve been tagging along behind as best I can ever since. Sure, there’s been stumbles along the way, but God’s grace is always there to pick me up and dust me off and clean the gravel out of my metaphorical knees.

This is all getting a bit heavy, isn’t it? I think my next post will have to be about cake.

Why am I a Lay Dominican?

A couple of people have asked what this means, so I’ll try and explain. Badly, and in no great depth (there have been books and books written about Dominican spirituality, this is only a blog post), but there we go.

I’m sorry, this really is ridiculously long. Go and get a cup of coffee (as strong as you dare). Go on. It’ll wait. It’s not going anywhere, apart from possibly to Rome as evidence in my heresy trial.

Are we sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin.

Also, it goes without saying that this is my own, personal view. As the saying goes, “if you’ve met one Dominican, you’ve met one Dominican.”

There are several parts to the Dominican family. The friars, the cloistered nuns, the apostolic sisters*, and the laity are the main ones. The first three groups make the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the laity do not – we are free to marry or not, and are called, like all Catholics, to fidelity within marriage and chastity outside it. Lay Dominicans have secular jobs, and the Order as a whole has no call on my salary, other than such donations as charity deems prudent.

All Dominicans follow the same Rule (written by St Augustine), with variations according to style of life.

As the church is made up of many parts, but we are all one body, each religious order has its own charism (mission), and the Order of Preachers’ particular charism is the preaching and teaching of Truth – one of our mottoes is “Veritas.” This charism is expressed in a four-fold way, under what are referred to as the four pillars of Dominican life – Prayer, Study, Community and Preaching.

It is said of our founder, St Dominic, that he spent all his time talking to people about God, and talking to God about people.

We are all Dominicans, with the same charism (mission), but different ways of following that. We all strive to live by the four pillars of Dominican life, prayer, community, study and preaching; but according to our state in life – a Dominican friar will express the charism differently to a cloistered nun, who will express it differently to an apostolic sister, who will again be different to a lay Dominican.

Prayer

Another of the Dominican mottoes is “Contemplata aliis Tradere” – to contemplate, and to pass onto others the fruit of that contemplation. The Divine Office is the golden chain of grace that binds all the members of the order together, whether it is prayed in the stillness of a Monastic chapel or at the kitchen table of a flat in London with a cup of coffee in one hand and pigeons peering in the kitchen window**. And by praying, contemplating the Divine Word, we can, like Mary, who “pondered these things in her heart,” pass on to others the fruit of this contemplation.

There is also a requirement to attend daily Mass, where possible, so that, strengthened by receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we can go out and be His hands and feet in the world.

And the Rosary. You can’t be a Dominican without the Rosary. The order has always had a deep devotion to the Mother of Christ, and that devotion is expressed in a variety of ways, through the rosary and through various prayers and traditions. Our Lady said to Blessed Jordan of Saxony that every time the Dominicans sang the Salve Regina, she prostrated herself before her Son, asking His blessing on St Dominic’s poor and lowly band.

And personal prayer.

It is from prayer that everything else flows, the community life, the study and the preaching.

Community

Dominican life is a communal life. Each fraternity regularly meets as a group (the Fraternity I belong to meets once a month). We share a common life as far as we can, by praying, studying and discussing together. In this way, the different gifts of each member enrich the group as a whole, and in turn, the whole Order and the world. Each member of the fraternity has different talents and responsibilities, and those gifts are offered to God through the community. Many of the Order’s greatest saints have seen this community life as an echo of the friendship and love that God has for all of us, and the community is the school of love whereby we learn to show that love to all.

It’s not easy, and can in fact be the hardest part of the life, because we are all fallible human beings. Someone will send you demented with some habit or other, it’s inevitable, but the school of love helps us to see past the way that someone drives you up the wall, and instead see the image and likeness of God.

Study

Finally, an excuse to buy my own body weight in books. You cannot preach without studying first – “first the bow is bent in study, before the arrow is loosed in preaching.” As part of our communal life, we have a theme for our study for the year, and all members are expected to take a full part in the discussions, which are led by a different member of the community each month. Every member has something to offer the study, whether it is knowledge of Biblical Hebrew (not me) or knowledge of how the Ancient Israelites made bread (me. What can I say? I know weird stuff). By sharing the fruits of our knowledge, all are enriched.

Preaching

As lay Dominicans, it would only be very rarely that we would preach in church, and we would not give the sermon at Mass – per Canon law, that is a privilege reserved for Deacons, Priests, and, under certain circumstances, the superior of a female religious order.

However, St Francis said that we should “preach the Gospel at all times, using words if necessary,” as the grace that flows into us through prayer, and community life, and study, should, inspired by the Holy Spirit, flow out through our lives, which should be a continuous preaching of the Gospel.

All that said, it doesn’t answer the question “Why am I a Lay Dominican?”

When I was first thinking about converting, I went to the Catholic Truth Society bookshop in Manchester, and said “what do I need to read? Sell me books,” and they did. Bless the girl on the till, when she rang it all up and I turned a little pale, she grinned and said “convert’s discount,” and knocked 25% off. So, I went back to the student chaplaincy with my arms a couple of inches longer than when I left, with a stack of books and a list of questions. Someone there took one look and said “she’s going to be a Dominican,” a comment which I didn’t understand at the time.

In the summer of 2005, everywhere I went, I was being stalked by strange people in white tunics. Every time I turned around, there was a Dominican. I was starting to get a bit perturbed.

First it was Fr Timothy Radcliffe, who at the time was Master General of the Order. He gave a talk in which he said “if my faith is true, it is the most important thing in my life,” and I thought “hmm, he’s got a point.”

Then it was a Dominican sister, and one of the friars, at the Youth 2000 festival in Walsingham. And after I got home, and I’d dried my tent out, and decided that I didn’t have trench foot after all, (in the middle of the muddiest field I have ever had the misfortune to be standing in, when every other Religious had feet that were blue with cold where they weren’t brown with mud, the Dominicans were all wearing immaculate, shiny shoes), I started Googling.

“Don’t wanna be a nun, don’t wanna, I don’t wan-oooh, lay Dominicans… And they have a London thingy.” So I sent an e-mail to the contact listed on the page, and went down to the Catholic Truth Society bookshop in London (anyone spotting a pattern, yet? Splendid), and got them to sell me books, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I do not consider myself worthy of anything in this Order, for I have been nothing but pleased with it.” Blessed Reginald of Orleans, OP.

Right, any questions?

*Pedantic note – all nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns. There are a variety of differences, but as a rough rule of thumb, nuns are cloistered, sisters generally have some work as part of their mission – teaching or nursing, for example.

**Go on, guess who. I am astounded that my copy of the Office isn’t one big coffee stain.

[As an aside, why do I never spot the total howlers in terms of spelling, broken HTML, or anything else until after I hit publish? I’ve made a couple of minor corrections].