How do you spend your day?
We organize our lives around four pillars: prayer, community, study, and ministry, and so most days are taken up with some combination thereof. Here is what the horarium or the daily prayer schedule of the house looks like.
Since we live in the Dominican studentate most of our brothers are still in studies, and so the bulk of their day is spent either in class or preparing for it. After Mass in the morning the brothers generally grab a quick breakfast and then head off to school, come back around lunchtime, maybe catch a quick nap or some time in the gym, pray again in the evening, spend some time with the brothers and then eat dinner together, after which they might have class again or study in their rooms, pray one last time before bed, and then maybe watch a little tv or read before they go off to sleep. Of course, holidays bring with them celebrations much like anywhere else: festive meals, a family party, and even games.
What vows do you take?
Like all religious we live by the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At their root these are an attempt by certain men and women in the Church to follow Christ especially closely since in his earthly life he was poor, chaste, and obedient. Following our own ancient practice, which dates to St. Dominic himself, we only verbalize the vow of obedience, but the other two are considered to be subsumed within that profession. Because of this obedience is seen as an especially critical theme or idea in Dominican life.
How do you support yourselves?
Dominicans are mendicants, which means that we are beggars. We rely on the generosity of others to help support our life and mission. In addition, whenever any of the brothers is able to make some money, either because he’s teaching at a school, working at a parish or some other job, or just writes an individual article then all of that money goes into one collective “pot” from which the whole community draws. Brothers do have a very small amount of money available to them on an as-need basis, but mostly if a brother needs something then he asks for it, and so long as the request is reasonable the permission is granted. This is how the vow of poverty is worked out in the life of the individual and the community.
How do you pray?
There are probably as many ways to answer that question as there are Dominicans to answer it, but there are some commonalities from friar to friar. The most frequent prayer in which we are engaged together is the common celebration of the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours. This is a scripturally-based prayer which is used by the whole Church to sanctify the hours of the day. Of course the central and most important prayer of the day is the celebration of Holy Mass, which is the very heart not only of the community’s prayer, but of our whole life together. The rosary is also a critical part of Dominican spirituality and each brother says at least five decades a day, though many say fifteen. Our constitutions also call us to a period of silent meditation each day, which might be before the Blessed Sacrament or not, and which might include some Lection Divina or not—it simply holds us accountable to some quiet time with the Lord. In addition we have frequent Eucharistic Adoration in the house and participate in many of the pious practices which all good Christians do.
What do you study?
It would almost be easier to talk about what we don’t study. Obviously we have a particular devotion to the sacred sciences of philosophy and theology, but because the motto of the Order is Veritas we find the truths of all of the arts and sciences to be an aid, not only to our own spiritual lives, but to the spreading of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Consequently Dominican sisters and brothers stand among some of the most noted scientists, scholars, and artists not only of our generation, but of any. We believe strongly that “truth” is not simply an abstraction but is in fact a person—the person of the Lord Jesus Christ—so that any time we come to know a truth, any time our minds come to conform with reality, whether that’s a truth about how tulips are put together or how the Persons of the Trinity relate together that such a truth offers us a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.
What is your life together like?
Probably not so different than life in a large family with runs its own business. We live together, work together, play together, and pray together. Sometimes this is hard; one brother will drive you crazy, another you drive crazy, but the two of you together edify a third in ways neither of you could manage on your own. Our common life helps us to do more together, to be more together than we could ever be on our own. That gives our preaching a credibility it would lack if we tried to do it ourselves.
How long does your process take?
It depends. The Dominican Studentate in St. Louis draws men from two different provinces of the Dominican Order, and consequently reflects a variety of practices. Generally speaking our brothers from the Southern Province are in studies for three years before they make solemn (final) vows, whereas the brothers from the central province are part of a four year program. If a man is to be ordained a deacon and a priest that happens subsequently, but how long depends upon his previous educational experience. Some men might be ordained a year or more after solemn vows, for others it might only be a few weeks. All of this takes place, of course, after a yearlong novitiate either in Texas (for the South) or Colorado (for the Central). So typically it would take a man five to seven years from start to finish, but the important thing to see is that priestly ordination doesn’t have the finality for us that it would for, say, diocesan priests. Solemn vows are the really important thing for us because they are what make us who we are as a community.