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The Dominican Tradition of Prayer

apostolate charism contemplation dominican liturgy praise preaching spirituality thomas aquinas truth Jun 29, 2022
My Interior Castle by Donald Wallenfang
The Dominican Tradition of Prayer

The Dominican Tradition of Prayer

Who is Saint Dominic of Osma?

  • Born to a wealthy family in Caleruega in 1170
  • Dominicanus “dog of the Lord” – vision his mother had before he was born
  • Ordained a priest at age 24 and became part of a community of priests who followed the Rule of Saint Augustine at the cathedral in Osma
  • Worked against the heretical movements known as Catharism (“the pure ones,” aka Albigensians – after the French city Albi where the movement first took hold – Gnostic and dualistic sect, as well as Marcionite – the labeled themselves “Good Christians” – formed an anti-sacerdotal party in opposition to what they saw to be the corrupt Catholic Church – hyper-ascetic, anti-material) and Waldensianism – the Poor Men of Lyon (named after its founder, Peter Valdes) – tried to imitate the simple life of the early Church – proto-Protestant movement
  • Founded the Dominicans in 1215 in Toulouse, France, out of a need to address the new spiritual needs of expanding cities of his era – an Order that would bring together systematic education and a religious apostolic life more flexible than the monastic Orders and secular clergy – along with the Franciscans, one of the great mendicant Orders of the Church
  • Saint Dominic left no devotional text or spiritual treatise to his Order – only its Constitutions
  • With Saint Dominic comes “a new concept of preaching the gospel, in the vernacular, in and through whatever circumstances arose”
  • “Friars of the Order of Preachers” – one of the great mendicant orders – itinerant and adaptable preachers
  • The Dominican devotion to the Rosary and to preach from the content of the Rosary – the spread of the Rosary is attributed to Saint Dominic and the Dominicans
  • Died in 1221
  • Canonized in 1234
  • Dominican Republic named after him
  • Patron saint of astronomers

The core tradition of Dominican life: preaching for the salvation of souls. The four means to attain this mission:

  1. The three vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty
  2. Community life with the monastic observances – indebted to the legacy of Benedictine monasticism – monastic discipline provides the ideal context for cultivating a life of contemplative ascesis and preaching
  3. The solemn chanting or recitation of the Divine Office
  4. The study of sacred truth – the need to be learned in Scripture, the teachings of the Church, and the heritage of the liberal arts at the service of developing the full potential of reason

The four pillars of some contemporary Dominican constitutions:

  1. Community
  2. Prayer
  3. Study
  4. Ministry

The five Dominican mottos:

 Laudare – “to praise”

  • The Rosary is a way to proclaim the truths of faith expressed in the form of praise
  • Liturgical focus on the Mass 

Benedicere – “to bless”

  • A priestly spirituality (the English word “bless” is from the Old English bledsian “blood – from the use of blood in consectration or sacrifice”)
  • The Dominicans aimed to develop a uniform liturgical rite – a Dominican Rite eventually was established

 Praedicare – “to preach”

  • Missionary charism – Saint Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484–1566) preached in the New World, “insisting that the dignity and rights of the indigenous peoples be protected and respected. He also insisted that preachers must live by their own words.”
  • Saint Martin de Porres (1579–1639) – “a lay brother who lived in Peru during the height of Spain’s colonial conquest of South America.” His mother was a freed slave and so he suffered the fate of “an outsider.” Nevertheless, he preached with great love.
  • Saint Rose of Lima (1586–1617) – Third Order Dominican who underwent great penances and tirelessly cared for the poor of her community

 Veritas – “truth”

  • The Dominican intellectual history – Saints Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Catherine of Siena, and Antoninus of Florence
  • Intellectual life is always rooted in contemplation
  • Engaged in constant study of the Word of God
  • A doctrinal approach to the faith
  • Yves Congar (French Dominican) talks about “the lay quality” in the Dominican vision of Aquinas – that is, it sees the substance of things in themselves as real and interesting (Aristotelian) – to see myself as a contemplative link between God’s saving action and the natural (and fallen) world
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas would write three big books on truth – De veritate

 Contemplare et Contemplata Aliis Tradere – “to contemplate and to hand on the fruits of contemplation”

  • The Dominican community lives according to the Rule of Saint Augustine
  • The ecstasy of prayer – in which the contemplative comes out from God toward things, being called to share in God’s gaze – this is where God becomes the Subject of the perception through me – God looks at the world with me and through me
  • To become a contemplative but also a zealous apostle
  • Jordan of Saxony (one of the first leaders of the Dominican Order) said of Saint Dominic: “He shared the daytime with his neighbor, but the night he dedicated to God.”
  • There is no effective apostolate to speak of without the primary act of contemplation
  • General end of the Dominican Order: the sanctification of its members through contemplation; specific end: the salvation of souls through preaching


YouTube: Aquinas101 – The Thomistic Institute

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