'Supports' of Dominican Life
Our backbone as Dominican Friars consists of Personal Prayer, Communal Prayer, Study, Common Life, The Vowed Life and our Apostolic Ministry. Together, these help us give flesh to our unique preaching mission on behalf of the Church.
The Dominican Habit
In some ways, the Dominican Habit is the easiest of these to explain: it’s a tunic, a belt (cincture), a rosary, a scapular, a capuce (hood) and sometimes a cappa and black capuce. The individual articles of clothing come together today to form a sign both to us and to the world of what we represent.
The tunic was a common medieval garment when the friars started wearing it, and it was white because white was cheaper than colored fabric. The white color is as a symbol of our desire to follow in the steps of Jesus, the spotless lamb, and to preach him in the world.
Reminds us of the need to ‘gird’ ourselves each day for the challenges of the day, especially in purity, so that we may love and serve God more devotedly.
The Rosary was promoted by the Dominicans from the early days of the Order. The rosary is worn on the left side, where men used to wear a sword. The Rosary too is a weapon.
It is the only part of the habit that is intentionally blessed, and it reminds us, whenever we put it on, that we are under Mary’s special patronage.
The capuce is a sign reminding us of our consecrated celibacy to God for the sake of preaching the Gospel.
The Order was active from its earliest days in Northern Europe, and needed the Cappa as an extra layer. Today, it reminds us of how the whole Order is sheltered under Mary’s mantle.
Much like the Cappa, the Black Capuce was an extra layer, but for us, it explicitly recalls two great figures from the Old Testament, and encourages us to preach boldly and deliver sinners from bondage.
One of the first things I remember being told early in my formation was that friars and monks are not the same thing.
This applies very clearly to the observance of Cloister: Dominican friars’ Cloister is different from a monk’s cloister.
For most monastics, the cloister – the residential living space – is the place where they spend most of their lives, and leaving the cloister is not a very common occurrence.
A Dominican friars’ Cloister is not so restrictive
Cloister gives a place of retreat for the friar who uses and observes it wisely. If we observe Cloister well, we are not running away from the world, but finding and keeping a space where a we can recharge and recuperate.
Like with Cloister, Dominican Silence is not like the other forms of silence that are often observed by religious communities.
For example, it’s a long way off from Carthusian observance of silence, which allows monks to come together and speak once a month. Actually, visitors to our house often remark at how loud it is – especially the laughter – during recreational time.
There is plenty of time for laughter. But there also must be time for Silence.
Our Preaching is meant to be born out of prayer and contemplation and silence helps serve that purpose. Before one can preach the Word, one must hear the Word that is Jesus Christ.
Dominican Penitential Practice
Like all the others, Dominican Penitential Practice has to be unique; it has to serve the preaching character. As with the rest of the supports, though, the preaching mission will always be more effective if the Dominican friar embraces appropriate penances.
If I was to try and go without food for 24 hours before preaching, my preaching would probably suffer.
However, fasting from technology and social media might help me focus more intently on what God was trying to say to me through the Scripture.
The best Dominican Penances, like most aspects of our life, are chosen and practiced communally. Once they’re chosen, and embraced, communal penitential practice helps both the community and people around the community.