DOMINICAN PRINCIPLES OF SPIRITUALITY
by Pie Regamey, O.P.
There was a time when each religious order took pleasure in defining its
own spirituality. Today many deny that their spirituality is peculiarly
their own. This is a wholesome reaction. In it is to be found the rejection
of systems seeking to impose already established attitudes upon souls and
the determination to be purely Christian and wholly of the Church. But it
is imperative to form a clear concept of the meaning of spirituality.
Definitions vary. So we must discover what different religious orders have
in mind when they declare that they have none. Then the reasons for their
omissions will become more or less convincing, carry more or less weight,
have more or less influence.
I. DOMINICAN UNIVERSALITY
Opinions differ more about the Dominican position than they do about any
other because of what we like to call the essential catholicity of the
Order of Preachers. Even within the Order the realization of this character
is not always sufficiently sharp and sufficiently effective. Therefore the
Dominican spirit (and with all the more reason the idea of this spirit that
is held by those outside the Order) is said to vary from a universality so
extreme that it resembles no other Order, to a fairly narrow individualism.
Let us explain what we mean.
The Order of Preachers is the organization in a religious institution of
the apostolic function of the Church. This function belongs by its nature
to the episcopacy. Now the episcopacy is the body of the Apostles,
maintaining its own identity and renewing itself throughout the centuries.
According to tradition this body, long before the days of Saint Dominic,
liked to call itself the Order of Preachers, because preaching " the good
tidings " was considered to be the bishops' most important duty. Historical
conditions obliged the papacy to charge the Order founded by Saint Dominic
to help the episcopacy in this function. That the Dominicans were invested
with this function "par excellence," is proved definitively by the name
Thus, according to a law that is constant in the life of the Church,
historic circumstances have made explicit potentialities until then latent.
As a result over a long period we can distinguish in an institution what is
not worth preserving and what is of permanent value. Time has shown what is
of permanent value to the Order of Preachers.
Now the attacks on the apostolic nature of the Order of Preachers can be
made, and as a matter of fact, have been made by many critics, by the
episcopacy, by other apostolic institutions, and especially by its own
When this Order came into being, the episcopacy found itself too deeply
involved in the feudal system to preach the Gospel to the extent then
necessary. Nor was the work of the bishops seconded at that time by an
educated clergy aflame for the spread of God's kingdom. But today these
abuses have been corrected and the presence in the Church of an order
specially set apart to work for the salvation of souls through preaching
has lost its urgency. It seems no more necessary today than in those first
twelve centuries during which the Church got along without this help.
Besides, orders and congregations devoted to the apostolate have
multiplied. Now the Order of Saint Dominic is only one among many. It does
not even seem to be the best fitted for all apostolic tasks. Its
organization is monastic and canonical. Its scholastic spirit seems to make
adaptation to new needs difficult. When it attempts to adapt itself, does
it not do so at the expense of its traditional personality? Only at the
very beginning was it able to show all its apostolic character. As early as
the end of the first century of its existence its spirit had lost some of
its breadth and flexibility and also some of its creative power and "elan."
It is not an accident that the Order had given the Church its " Common
Doctor ". But in doctrine as in other matters it was soon seen to hesitate
between a timorous literal fidelity to its beginnings and a dangerous
attraction towards ephemeral fashions of thought and life. Six or seven
centuries of ups and downs in historic climates very unlike those of its
origin have left their mark. Today the Order would find it very difficult
were it to dare to aspire to the exercise in the Church of the apostolic
function "par excellence."
The difficulties which we have listed briefly but in all their cogency warn
us of conditions which would make it anachronistic and very naive to dream
today about Dominican universality. They help us to situate the mystery of
this Order, to circumscribe it and they make it possible for us to
understand it. This is the mystery of apostolic fullness.
As a matter of fact the Order was completely apostolic only during its
first century. Until our day (and it would seem especially in our day),
certain brilliant religious like Pere Lacordaire, or hidden souls devoting
themselves to hidden tasks have--in many ways--attained this fullness, of
which in a moment we will attempt to point out the constitutive elements,
and which remains constant beneath a variety of forms. Where these elements
are present they show that the Order or some of its members are ideally
suited for apostolic work.
Far from boasting about this, Dominicans find reason to humble themselves
because these elements are so often missing. The Dominican institute is by
its nature better fitted to attain this fullness than are other
organizations that are auxiliary to the apostolic hierarchy, such as the
secular clergy or religious congregations. It is, moreover, sufficiently
flexible to do this successfully under many different conditions. But this
statement must be made with utmost reserve because the conditions which
make it possible for the Dominican institute to bear fruit rarely exist. It
is necessary that historic circumstances disturb in no essential way its
functioning. It is necessary that the intelligence and generosity of the
religious correspond to the institute's complex and lofty demands.
It can now be seen that in the case of the Dominicans, different degrees of
accomplishment matter more than in other orders. In its fullness the
Dominican spirit and the Dominican personality are the Catholic spirit and
personality and the more perfectly Dominican is this spirituality the less
will it remain proper to one religious family among others. Anyone who is
fully an apostle will make this discovery for himself.
On the other hand, in the measure that this spirit grows weak, as at
various times, in various ways and in various places the Order has been
weakened, widely differing systems of Dominican spirituality will arise.
All naively claim to be doctrinal. But each is a diminution more or less
sentimental or pedantic, or both, of only one aspect of apostolic fullness,
so that the Dominican Order does not seem to be a special congregation but
varies from one place to another.
In truth this is its nature. This is its fate. If it does not form its
members to be truly apostolic, their personalities will be very different.
They will resemble the members of all kinds of other apostolic religious
orders much more than they resemble the brothers of their own Order. In
each case only the most superficial pretensions will justify their claim to
Let us now try to define the characteristics of "apostolic fullness ". We
ought not do this "a priori" but by summarizing the conclusions that follow
from a consideration of concrete facts, especially from an analysis of the
Order's origin. The best way of understanding a nature is to see how it
comes into being. Three sure paths lead us deep into the heart of the
Dominican mystery and its spirit.
THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ITS RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS
The Order of Preachers and each one of its members live through the great
successive phases of this development. Each phase has laid down something
like a sedimentary layer which is later modified by new deposits and
receives from each new deposit a new meaning but one that is recognizable
as belonging to the whole and always necessary to the whole.
The eremitical life is surely the least visible to the superficial glance
yet it is fundamental in the monastic structure. The more a Dominican
becomes keenly and clearly aware of the foundations of his life, the more
essential and necessary seems this basic eremiticism. There can be no doubt
that of the care of ephemeral apostolic adaptations can blind him on this
point. But the rediscovery of its importance is one of the beautiful
experiences of apostolic maturity. This is an experience that comes to
those who live a deepening life, one that is increasingly integral and more
and more free from illusions.
Secondary strata are complex. The intermediary elements of this geology are
cenobitical and canonical. Here all things converge and develop. Here may
be seen the brightness of an apostolic activity that is totally and
traditionally religious. Weigh well these last two words. It is the
monastic structure that gives the hermit the religious and traditional form
of a life hidden in God with Jesus Christ. This life becomes fraternal and
is lived according to a rule. Exterior action is doubly powerful because it
is the voice of cloistered silence and the proclamation of the Mystery
lived in the liturgy. An apostolic message that has not been shaped in the
sanctuary, the choir and the cloister is never complete.
This combination of sanctuary and choir and cloister is to a message of the
Church what the subconscious opening of the psyche is to the life of the
cosmos and the collective memory of man is for human poetry. (On condition,
of course, that the life of cloister and liturgy is fully lived and has its
quality and authentically contemplative openness. This prevents it from
sinking to the level of monkishness and clericalism that it necessarily
Finally, the Dominican stratification "par excellence" is the one that
changes monk and canon into an apostle. This now requires our more exact
INNOVATIONS PROPER TO SAINT DOMINIC IN THE HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS
In the religious state, Saint Dominic made no less than six great
innovations. All six testify to a special spirit.
1.--He organized the Order of Preachers, an apostolic function, into a
2.--Having done this, he separated the work of the apostolate from direct
responsibility for souls. Hitherto it had been universally understood that
a pastor's chief duty was to guide and, by means of the sacraments, to
sanctify a definite portion of the faithful. The itinerant preachers of the
twelfth century had at times separated preaching from pastoral duties and
the Dominicans made this a rule of their order. Pastors are weighed down
with too heavy a burden. Their ministry requires the services of unburdened
apostles who can preach and who have received a thorough and painstaking
preparation for this work which they are able to perform with great freedom
3.--Saint Dominic integrated "the assiduous study of divine truths" with
monastic observances, substituting this study for manual labor. He made it
one of the three means, which "can never be suppressed, nor substantially
modified". The other two means are the solemn celebration of divine office
and the religious vows, with the observance of monastic customs.
4.--He made dispensations from the Rule, granted by superiors according to
an infinite variety of ways, a normal and necessary mode of action. This
compensates for the extreme complexity of the elements which ought to
integrate religious life as he conceived it. This adapts it to the needs of
different situations and to the demands of apostolic activity. In this way
the Order can preserve its structure and monastic customs and at the same
time devote itself to all the duties of the apostolate. Even today it is
possible "to parachute" religious into situations, where for a time, all
monastic life is impossible. Of this the priest-workers are an example.
5.--It was also Saint Dominic who introduced into religious institutes
another rule which now prevails: failures against the Rule, insofar as they
are infractions of this Rule, are not sins. Certainly we ought to see that
this is a measure destined to bring peace to certain fearful consciences.
It also marks the moment in the progressive history of the Christian
conscience when the long confused distinction between the external forum
and the internal forum was perceived with perfect clarity. Nor is this all.
There is, above all, an alert awareness of the exigencies of apostolic
action with its unforeseen contingencies and its conflicting demands. A
situation may arise in which we must go beyond the dispensations superiors
have granted. Everyone must feel free to give priority to charity, when
necessary, over observance
6.--Mendicant poverty is more specifically Dominican than Franciscan, for
according to the thought of Saint Francis recourse to alms should only be
made if the fruit of the work of the brethren was not enough for their
subsistence. Saint Dominic made no fewer than four changes in the manner in
which communal poverty was to be observed. By his example he has taught his
sons a "mystique" of poverty, as absolute, as impassioned, as that of Saint
Francis. For this he is not indebted to the Poverello because it shone
forth even before the foundation of the Dominican Order. Its origins can be
traced back to his Narbonne sermons and to the significance of an element
of great relativity that is to be found in the concrete practice of
Relative to what? Relative to apostolic action. On this point there is much
to be said. The essential--and this is to be found in every age, even after
the Church has suppressed the interdiction of common property which came to
an end with the mendicant period--is that apostolic workers ought to count
on the over and above, that the Lord has promised to those who further His
reign in the world, for all that they need for their livelihood and work.
They must free themselves still more from anxieties about their livelihood
and the charge of souls and be assured that if they serve the Church, the
People of God will take care of their needs.
There can be no doubt that the order's democratic form of government can be
considered to be Saint Dominic's seventh innovation, although all the
elements are to be found in earlier orders. Their combination and the
spirit that inspired them were so new in the thirteenth century that
several Italian communes chose the constitution of the Preachers for their
own rather than the constitution of some other commune.
THE GREAT ELEMENTS OF THE DOMINICAN PERSONALITY
To study the Order of Preachers in its beginnings and as it appears in the
various stages of its development--a study which we must take for granted
since we have been able to examine only the institutional aspect--is to see
living forces rising from the depths of the Christian soul and taking shape
in a definite religious personality. Renewed from age to age, these living
forces form the same pattern. It seems that they can best be described as
the spirit of the Gospel or the apostolic spirit, the spirit of regular
life, and the ethos peculiar to each historic period.
The union of these three elements is awesome. The result is a thundering
combination invested with something of the mysterious power of prophecy.
This is expressed in preaching. It is impossible to maintain these elements
in harmonious equilibrium unless life is lived with sufficient height and
depth and breadth. Under any other condition the attempt is singularly
temerious. To live this great life is the only course possible. When
Dominicans fail to meet this challenge, what do we see? Some lose balance
because of inner contradictions. Others become mediocrities because lower
and easy compromises are habitually substituted for higher syntheses.
Certain souls, through their fidelity to this second tendency become
fervent members of a dead regularity, while those who oppose them act like
dangerous explosives. How many out of love for the age in which they live
become worldly and futile! In spite of all this the reality cannot be
evaded. From the foundation of the Order, these three tendencies can be
combined harmoniously. All three are essential.
We have already insisted on the monastic and canonical spirit. Let us note
how dynamic was the trend in Saint Dominic's day of what we may call the
spirit of the Gospel or the apostolic spirit. It penetrated canonical life.
The attention of historians has recently been centered on the "apostolic
movement". It was a going back to the sources. It was an attempt to
rediscover the perfection of the primitive Church. The twelfth century
orders, especially the Premonstratensians were not able to capture this
spirit or to make it their own. It was above all a lay trend. In a society
where abuses prevailed, it became antisocial and anticlerical. It contained
a proselytizing power: a need to cast fire upon the earth and it is this
which we quite correctly find in the word "apostolic". Shepherds were
concerned only about enjoying their own green pastures, while the poor, the
little ones, the privileged ones of Christ wandered like unguarded flocks.
They became the prey of fanatics. Out of this crisis were born Dominicans
Since they did not appear until one century later their remedy could be but
partial. Saint Francis was the little one, the simple one, the poor one who
pushed the terrible spirit of poverty to such an extremity of conformity
with Christ that he restored the Church's equilibrium. Saint Dominic was
the cleric who, by the strength of his loyalty to the Church, discovered
the eternal essence of the Gospel. His spirit of the Church was so integral
and so powerful that far from settling down into some kind of clericalism,
the spirit of the Church possessed his whole soul, and brought him to men
who, with all the energy of lost souls, had gone far beyond anticlerical
Poverty and the zeal of the propagandist: these are the two most marked
characteristics of the apostolic movement. On the second point, the
contrast between Saint Francis and Saint Dominic is as striking as on the
first. This is a contrast that is a completion. Saint Francis' first
intention was not to proselytize. His simple intention was to live the
Gospel "unglossed", out of a love for Christ that went as far as folly. The
next step was necessarily to preach but under the form of a friendly,
spontaneous exhortation, as befitted one who was not a priest. To Saint
Dominic, on the contrary, zeal for the salvation of souls came first. In
fact it was this zeal that brought his Order into being. This made
necessary conformity with Christ. and notably enjoined a life of poverty.
However admirable monastic spirituality may have been in the twelfth
century, it lacked the most characteristic of all the notes of the Gospel.
In it there was no understanding of the place of priority, and the truly
structural position of the New Commandment in the whole Christian economy.
There was no understanding of the direction and modality that this precept
gives all the virtues, nor of the obligation that it imposes of effectively
changing the world. It was this truth that awakened the consciences of men
and women everywhere in the days of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis.
Perhaps before this was possible it was first necessary for minds to be
opened to social realities. As the result of economic progress men ceased
to be subject to conditions imposed by feudal paternalism or to try to
escape from these conditions to abbatial paternalism. In any case, men
then, as in the early days of the Church, began to perceive what is the
most biting, revealing, revolutionary and most Gospel-like point in the
whole Gospel. It is not enough to say that we find the Gospel at the origin
of the two brother Orders, the Preachers and the Minors; it is that the
Gospel is the source from which they both draw. But this source, like a
living fountain, is to be received in its full impact.
O, do justice, do justice not in words but in reality to all the exigencies
of Christian grace in every part of life. Have confidence in the Christian
spirit, even when it seems bad, even when the danger of its exaggerated
expression is clear to us as it is to everyone else. Have confidence when,
in fact, we watch its many deviations. Renew the wine skins when the new
wine ferments! If we are not to be the dupes of empty words, let us admit
that this is an astonishing miracle. It is at the very source of Dominican
origins. It has been repeated at all the great moments of Dominican
history, each time that the Order of Preachers, in one or other of its
sons, has not been satisfied, so to speak, just to do the day's work in
routine fashion but has responded to the most critical challenges at that
moment confronting the Church. Not by chance were Bartholomew de las Casas,
Savonarola and Lacordaire Dominicans.
The spirit of the Gospel, if it is real, evokes the spirit proper to each
age and this spirit becomes an essential part of the apostle's personality.
To be an apostle is to be a Greek with Greeks, a Jew with Jews. This
entails great risk: this makes the preaching of the Gospel dangerous.
Poverty is seen to be the sacrament of a more profound catharsis, that of
the yielding up of all the prejudices that the apostle has received from
his own world so that he can really understand how the men, whom he must
open to Divine Truth, think and feel. It is in the fullness of this Truth
that men must recognize the accomplishment of their own truth. Concretely,
the catholicity of faith is to be found in this power of perfect
realization of human powers, no matter how varied they may be. This Order,
whose members bear the motto of "Veritas," must, by means of their own
complete possession of Christian Truth, help other men to experience this
How each successive historic epoch can become a constituent part of the
apostolic personality, creates serious problems. Some of these problems are
obvious and great Dominicans may serve as examples: Saint Thomas Aquinas
who highlighted what was most explosive in the modern thought of his day;
Father Lacordaire who believed in some novel truths which filled most of
his contemporaries with horror, Father Lagrange who openly employed
advanced critical techniques in his exegesis of the divine word. How great
is the danger of contamination when the so-called truth of the times is
combined with the truth of revelation! What inner struggles these men must
experience because they cannot claim prophetic illumination in these
difficult matters, nor can they enjoy an infallibility which belongs to the
Vicar of Christ alone and of which he makes use on rare occasions only!
What troubles this introduces into the Church!
It will not suffice to answer that these men must keep within the limits of
their mandate which is to proclaim eternal Truth. This mandate requires
them to express this Truth according to the spirit of their age, or rather
that they must express this spirit in their own lives in order to manifest
it and make it efficacious in their own day.
It is not enough to say that all they have to do is preach what the Church
teaches and that the magisterium has effected this assimilation. It is true
that apostles are apostles only inasmuch as they follow the rules of this
magisterium and make known its doctrines. But it is also true that the
Church does not look on them merely as propagandists. The Order is meant to
reach a peak, as it were, in its doctors--"Ordo predicatorum sive Ordo
doctorum"--doctors of many degrees, of many kinds, of a thousand types,
more or less authorized, more or less free more or less theoretical, more
or less mixed with our common clay. These men, each in his own position,
according to his own ability, must study the relation of eternal Truth to
the truths scattered among men so that a vast intellectual activity may
support the teaching of the magisterium itself. Thus they prepare this
teaching, adapting it and particularizing it, as far as the needs of the
times demand. This work cannot be successful, nor can its dangers be
avoided unless there is a perfect integration of thought pattern, manner of
life and training. It is this combination that is characteristic of the
Order of Preachers.
To sum this up briefly: we believe that the spirit of a son of Saint
Dominic is an openness to the whole divine Truth, to all that is human, to
all that belongs to the Church, to every apostolic method, and a striving
to attain to the fullness of the apostolate. Of course, as a matter of
actual fact, every religious, every Dominican community, or even every
historical period is limited even in its own eyes. But the striving and the
openness are not limited. There is not even an emphasis placed on one
aspect of the Truth, nor on one section of the apostolate, nor on one
In apostolic orders such emphases are found: Carmelites stress solitude,
Franciscans poverty. Dominicans do so in a thousand ways, according to
their own particular vocations, according to circumstances, and necessarily
according to their weaknesses. But this is not the result of a principle
nor of the conscious effort of reproducing the spirit of Saint Dominic.
Outsiders might find three different reasons for alleging that there is a
Dominican spirituality. Here spirituality is taken to mean, not a
prescribed manner of action to which every member of the Dominican family
must conform, but a spirit and a manner of being quite naturally orientated
by vocation, developed and articulated by family customs.
1. Men have thought that they have detected a Dominican spirituality,
understood in this sense, because many Dominicans of every generation have
very decidedly stressed one special point: they have prided themselves on
their intellectuality. Much might be said on this subject. There are
distinctions that ought to be made, misunderstandings to be set right. But
the final conclusion to all we might say is this: so much the worse for
Dominicans who have given this impression! So much the worse in the measure
that the intellectuality on which they prided themselves was the
indiscretion of "Animus" who was discoursing far from the perceptions of
"Anima" and the intuitions of "Spiritus." So much the worse in the measure
that an intellectuality of foolish ideas (all the more foolish because they
are logically correct) has taken the shape of a special kind of
spirituality in the guidance of souls.
2. Some people think that an apostolic spirit, even one that tends towards
plenitude, is also but one spirit among many others. On the contrary we are
convinced that the apostolic spirit is the plenitude of the Christian
3. Lastly, some think that the spirit of regular life, the monastic
structure and attachment to the doctrine of Saint Thomas determine a
special kind of apostolic life. We answer that this is true insofar as the
monastic spirit and Thomist doctrine become a dead letter without any inner
meaning. However, when they are open and not closed, they are necessary to
this plenitude and without them the Church's apostles lack something very
precious. This affirmation, it must be remembered, cannot be proved
logically; it is a conclusion to be drawn from actual experience.
Unfortunately, this is the experience of a promise, of an inner challenge.
This promise must be kept, a response must be made to this challenge so
that there is no denying the evidence. We, Dominicans, always fail in one
way or another. We deserve the attribution of a definite character. It is
true that when we read our own description, even when it is made by one of
the brethren, we feel as if we were looking at a distorted image of
ourselves in a defective mirror.
II. THE "DOMINICAN" NOTE OF SOME SPIRITUAL REALITIES
Now let us notice certain characteristic reactions of the sons of Saint
Dominic. Do they form an original spiritual physiognomy which contradicts
what we have just said?
THE "TRUTH OF LIFE"
Every Dominican hopes some day to merit the praise Bossuet gave the Great
Conde: "a true man". The emphasis, it may be objected, is on truth. Yes,
the emphasis is there. But truth is universal. "Veritas" can no more
distinguish a religious family than can "Caritas." It is clear that it
would be very dangerous to systematize two spiritual courses in this way--
were such a thing possible.
Even when it is understood, as is not always the case, that the "Veritas"
of the Dominicans, because it is the truth of Saint John, far surpasses the
truth of Aristotle; even when life is based on the great Joannine
revelation: that Truth is Love; even then it is claimed that it is still
possible to distinguish two religious families: Dominicans, it is claimed,
live by faith; Franciscans live by charity. Faith may indeed be understood
and lived in its fullness in the words of Saint Paul as the response of the
whole loving being "to the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up
for me". Charity may indeed offer its insights, its discernments, its
rectitudes; it may enlighten the mind with its gifts, it may clothe itself
with faith as with armor. Nevertheless in doing all this, it is still not
possible to distinguish two kinds of Christians, two kinds of religious,
two kinds of apostles.
When such men become philosophers, one type will become intellectualists,
the other will become voluntarists. This is true. And this division
corresponds to two worlds which have existed and which always will exist in
the history of mankind. In this sense we can admit that there is a
Dominican spirituality that goes far beyond the boundaries of the order
founded by Saint Dominic. But we automatically exclude from it any form of
intellectualism that would produce a narrow spirituality and dry up the
life of the soul who "draws near the light" and who "does the truth".
Inversely, we other sons of Saint Thomas cannot consider voluntarism to be
anything else than--let us face the fact--an error. What follows? On the
one hand, everything that is positive and true in voluntarist spirituality
seems to us to be part of our birthright and to be fulfilled in the
synthesis of Saint Thomas. On the other hand, when Dominican
intellectuality is not pedantic, it is seen to be the most correct and the
most exacting mode of action possible to the mind (here action is
understood to be both intuitive AND rational).
"Father Gardeil (or it may have been Father Lemonnyer), used to say that in
the Dominican order the intellectual protects the spiritual". It does much
more than protect--although protection in itself is a fine thing and there
are many forms of piety that do not trouble themselves about this
protection. The mind requires love to possess this rectitude in its
innermost being and to its uttermost limits. Rectitude is the first quality
of faith. And faith is the primordial virtue and the quality on which all
others depend (why is this quality of faith not even mentioned in the
catechism?). Rectitude is the sign of a loving will that goes straight to
GOD, wanting nothing but Him, wanting nothing less than Him and that
transcends formula which under the present dispensation are indispensable
for this rectitude. Seriously to consider God's transcendence; seriously to
consider Being, Wisdom, Love, infinite Life; seriously to consider their
manifestation and communication--to do this is to take one's place among
The Dominican is a man who believes in Truth. He believes in the power of
the mind to discover Truth, to discover natural truths and with the help of
grace to recognize divine Truth should this be manifested to him. When day
dawns, man's eyes see the light. "The brightness of eternal light!" The
mind that has seen this light has the freshness and perfect gravity of a
child; and it can be harmed by no experience that the heart of man can ever
A sharpened awareness of the relative, a fervent respect for its values and
a love for its many forms is stirred up by surrender to the absolute.
Adhesion to supernatural faith makes possible unending investigations by
the mind because it is concentrated on the infinite, the invisible, the
intangible. Today the exacting mind is pleased with human sciences which
turn from wisdom to queries and enigmas rather than to certitudes or to an
ordered teaching, the spirit of research, extreme reserves or criticism.
This gives us confidence about every truth. It has always made use of
extremes. Its wisdom has always all the dimensions of Christ on the cross.
It is good that in human knowledge today there is no longer the naiveté of
the pre-scientific age, because the spirit of criticism, God be praised,
which now seriously tests all things has in no way undermined their
essential order. More than ever before it recognizes that there is order
of things. In a world where sincerities are disturbed, it can strive to
attain to the truth of life.
This truth has two degrees. First, there is the conformity of judgments
which regulate acts according to the divine order and the order of things;
then there is the conformity of acts to judgment. First, then, these are
the two moments of a kind of ceaseless dialectic that is both complex and
progressive and in the course of which the two levels do not cease to
mingle: the judgment on action is always discernible in the actual conduct
of one who judges. Let us add that in the order of things to which the
judgment conforms itself is included the subject who makes the judgment.
Just as in philosophy the realism of Saint Thomas' disciple is not stupidly
that of the thing-in-itself, so in the same way in spiritual conduct, the
personal reaction of the subject is most important to him. Let us call this
his sincerity according to his own point of view, his existential situation
basically according to his vocation and the measure of his grace. But
sincerity is ordinarily misunderstood: it is an uncontrolled outburst that
seems to be dominated by the suspect mixture of what his super-ego
dictates, resentments that the latter exaggerates and the sallies of the
subconscious with all its latent complexes. (The sincere man says at once:
"I am just like that," and it is the "id" of the psychoanalysts that he
projects in his action). In such a world the man who believes in truth is a
strange figure. He remains faithful to the divine order and to the order of
things. He is a vital affirmation of objective truth.
He refuses to admit any distinction between spiritual doctrine and
morality. The art of living is one. And this art is but an immediate
application of the knowledge of God in the fulfillment of a destiny. The
osmosis of this personal destiny and the common economy of salvation as
Saint Paul explained it to the Colossians and to the Ephesians is just as
practical, or is even more practical than are definite rules of conduct.
Reflections about God, faithful reflections about God (and this is what
theology is), are one in their three forms: the reflective awareness of
divine things, the experienced fruits of these things (mystical theology),
and the conformity of human conduct to the order of these things.
Dominican pens spontaneously trace three words and they are full of
meaning: integral, structural and formal. The third word is the most
characteristic of the trio and we include it with reluctance. A son of
Saint Thomas can use it only if he adds an explanation. When today's reader
hears it, he will think of a form that is exterior and probably arbitrary.
On the contrary in every case it means a going beyond appearances and
impressions in order to reach what Littre has happily described as "that
which makes a thing exactly what it is". This constant desire to be formal
goes as far as a care for structures, asking how, from within, according to
their principles, in virtue of their essential relations, things order
themselves, and how are we, according to them, going to construct our
thoughts and our ways? In this matter, integral expresses the exigency of
plenitude on which we have so much insisted. Here let us note that this
word includes the idea of integrating. This is a wise exigency. The
Dominican proceeds in the manner of higher living organisms which grow in
unity and complexity. They diversify their organs to the extreme, and
organs which seem weak, play an essential part.
One of the keenest constant sufferings in this world is to see those things
which, according to Maritain's admirable phrase, ought to be distinguished
so that they may be united, either opposed or entangled in confusion or
evaded. The Dominican does not divide lightly, he does not reduce to
extremely simple schemes, he does not bring things which are infinitely
rich and which exceed the understanding to one of their aspects. He lets go
none of the data. So, in the first place, the order of grace and of nature-
-in particular predestination, as well as divine motion and man's liberty.
Far from seeing between the two terms some opposition or concurrence or
even composition of forces comparable among themselves, he says with Saint
Augustine that they are "constituted free under the impulse of grace".
In this way he professes a Christianity that is at once glorious and
cosmic, in which, according to God's eternal designs Christ crowns all
creation; and a Christianity most deeply wounded, and in which, therefore,
sin is the determining motive of the incarnation. So his optimism is great
enough to confront radical pessimism, seeing in all its tragedy the misery
of sin, of suffering, of death and of hell, the meaning of God aggravating
rather than lessening this horror, the redemption alone returning it.
Farther examples of the simultaneous presence of extremes could be
multiplied because Dominican piety unites the serene, lofty and expressed
sobriety of the liturgy with a taste for homely, more imaginative
devotions, of which the rosary (so popular at the close of the middle ages)
is an example.
The demand of the Dominican mind for integrality and integrity is
especially evident when we ask if this mind is theocentric christocentric
or anthropocentric. Idle question! Nor can it be asked in looking at a
living organism whether the heart or the head comes first. Doctrinal
organisations of the spiritual life are valid only if they bring about new
points of view and new centers of interest. A philosophy of life ought to
be suspect if it has but one center. "All is yours and you are Christ's and
Christ is God's". This is theocentrism in that God is absolutely first and
the whole of spiritual doctrine, according to Saint Thomas, is an awareness
of the return to God which the free creature must freely accomplish in the
concert of creation. But Christ the unique Mediator is indeed the center.
Saint Thomas is also accused of exalting man too high and of lowering
sacred doctrine to the level of naturalism and humanism. It would seem that
his thought differs from monastic thought just as the tympanum of Vezelay
differs from the statues of Reims. But until man's correct place is really
found, he and his conduct must be made the center of interest. He has to do
this himself. We insist on this: attention to man, the attention he is
asked to pay to all that he does, the spiritual way in which he is asked to
do this, the confidence that is paid him, the enthusiasm for zeal and
clarity with which he is inspired for his liberty are in no way inferior
among the disciples of Saint Thomas to those humanists who are only
humanists, provided his disciples are faithful to the teachings of their
master. It is a question of taking the perfection of charity seriously, and
this means an effective interest in the conditions of his acts.
To contemplate and to give others the fruits of one's contemplation.
The most celebrated of these Dominican syntheses of extremes is what Saint
Thomas calls the mixed life. This is usually understood to mean a mixture.
To others it means an alternation, that is part of the time is given to
contemplation, part to action. This could not characterize it. In every
life there must be periods of renewal in which the soul rests lovingly in
thoughts of the things of God and periods in which the soul is occupied
with tasks of this world.
The mixed life, in fact, is a state of life guided by a spirit, organized
in a system of institutions and customs. These institutions and customs can
vary from one spiritual family to another but they are inevitable when this
exacting life is concretized in communities. The principle which must
characterize this life is a certain rapport between contemplation and
action; it is expressed in this classic formula: "action overflowing from
the fullness of contemplation". Concretely what does this mean?
Like every figure, this formula may mislead us. There are many Christians
(including priests and religious) who are only too inclined to an activity
which is the spontaneous overflow of their own superabundance without any
great concern for the real needs of those for whom they are responsible.
When the apostolic needs that ought to be the dynamic of the apostle's
action and the requirements of a superabundant contemplative life are
clearly understood, the union of these two presents a serious problem. It
is so serious that to tell the truth, it is insoluble. The apostle is
wholly consumed and divided. What is characteristic of a life is the
intention which gives it direction. And to this word which is so weak (for
example we speak of "good intentions") we must give all the violence of a
creative "elan." A major intention is an active principle which is present
in all special intentions and gives them unity. It is impossible to have
two major intentions in one life, especially when they are all-absorbing
as the intention to give one's self to divine things and to make one's self
truly useful to souls.
This is all the more true because contemplation and action make us live in
two worlds where we do not breathe, so to speak, under the same pressure or
with the same rhythm. Moreover, they require contrary skills. Quite
different is the focusing of attention; quite different the work of the
imagination, the efforts of the mind, the "elans" of the heart; quite
different this mysterious decisive state of our subconscious depths where
the best of what we do takes substance and quality.
To unify two such diverse directions of life, in such a way that, in the
necessary alternations, a dominant is affirmed that is as simple as it is
complex, supposes three conditions: a certain quality of contemplation, a
certain quality of action, a certain primacy of contemplation.
The contemplative, according to the Greeks, tends to disincarnate himself
and to take no interest in the world. He is a mandarin, far from the
conflict. Contemplation is Christian inasmuch as it does not try to lose
itself in the "divine essence" but to live in the love of the God of Jesus
Christ, the divine Persons and the awareness of the redemptive economy.
During his nights of solitude with God, cries like these escaped from Saint
Dominic: "My God, mercy " "What is to become of sinners." The most
beautiful testimony that was paid him came from Blessed Jordan of Saxony
who succeeded him as head of the Order: Dominic's soul was "a sanctuary of
compassion" where "he offered God all human misery".
On the other hand, action must have for object the divine things which the
contemplative has made his own. Action cannot be just any kind of well-
doing, it must be truly apostolic. The best explanation of "contemplata
aliis tradere" is this: To lead others in their turn to the contemplation
of divine things. In action in which men and all that concerns them and all
the efforts that must be made to win them are likely to distract the
apostle from God, he can without "strabism," keep his gaze directed to
God while he is concentrating on them, if he considers them as men who have
been given the gift of salvation.
It is curious that this important precept given by the Lord to the
disciples is so little preached in Christ's Church: "When you enter into a
house, say: 'peace to this house'". Here surely is no reference to a rite
which we can perform once and for all: this is the great law of brotherly
contacts. It must be renewed whenever these contacts are made in the desire
to draw others to the peace of God. This is one of the many points where we
see how a return to the Gospel and apostolic sources enables us to
rediscover the great Dominican intuitions in all their strength.
The mixed life in which brotherly action far from damaging contemplation
ought, in principle, to redound to its advantage, supposes the theological
value of brotherly charity and this is precisely the heart of the Gospel.
"He who sees his neighbor sees God" is a celebrated and undoubtedly
authentic "agraphon." But this means that we must really see our neighbor
and really see him in a Christian way. We cannot look beyond him
distractedly while we are thinking about ways of acting but we must see
him, really see him and not some figure in a play or in a comedy, but this
man, this child of God.
This real interest can be sustained, or rather renewed only in God. For it
is God alone who can grant it and He grants it only to those servants who
turn to look at Him again and again. Disinterestedness is but a negative
aspect of the sovereign and absolute interest given to God. It is expressed
concretely in "a continued, prolonged, global loving gaze on the things of
God", in other words, in contemplation. The primacy of contemplation is
experienced as a vital necessity in apostolic work, not only because of the
communication of light, fervor and divine strength that we see others
profit from in the measure of our own disinterested union with God. To this
primacy the apostle is, as it were driven, as if he had heard a call for
Too terrifying is the disproportion between the needs of the world and the
human means of the apostle. Prayer of petition does not suffice as a
remedy; it must be bathed in the light of contemplation. To proclaim the
good news of the Gospel to the world as it now is, would be too great a
folly: therefore any evangelic activity that heightens the realization of
the divine transcendence, the need for personal purification and the desire
for vital union with God, is also folly.
The apostle who does not become an activist, necessarily loses his footing,
necessarily falls into God, necessarily renews his power, or I should say,
his powerlessness. This movement repeated makes him a contemplative: it
unifies him, it simplifies him, it gives him for a life hidden in God that
whole-hearted interest with which we are concerned about a matter of life
and death. Let us make it clear that this is not the felt-need of the
active man for God's help in the performance of a task that seems beyond
human power; this is the need of personally experiencing the things of God
to which the apostle must testify. Apostolic activity is efficacious in the
measure that the apostle while acting--to speak is to act--contemplates
those to which he testifies or whose recent memory he recalls. The test of
the mixed life is that action does more than proceed from previous
contemplation and that it actually accomplishes it.
A correct view of the integration of mixed life and contemplation is
obviously of capital importance to the apostle. It is no less important for
every Christian because every Christian ought to realize what he can of
this truth. In fact the traditional relation between contemplation and
action is closer than is usually understood. Action is the activity of the
moral virtues; it is the body, as it were, of the spiritual life and
theological activity is the soul. Action purifies our temporal being, puts
it in order and perfects it. As for contemplation, if it is only a part of
theological activity, at least it is an essential and necessary part
because our task here below is to make our apprenticeship as children of
God, as fellow citizens with the saints who enjoy light and eternal life.
In faith we begin this work which is to know the one true God.
God alone can reveal the intimate meaning of His mystery: this He normally
does through the illumination of faith and the savor of love, in proportion
to our acts of this love. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not a luxury.
They are a necessity to every Christian soul. They give no startling signs
of their presence except at the time of conversion and in cases of high
sanctity; in ordinary life they also have their normal, habitual and almost
surreptitious role similar to that of the unseen streams which flow beneath
the meadows and keep them always green. The doctrine of the necessity of
the gifts is essential for a balanced understanding of supernatural life:
this means that the normal state of the Christian is not one of lethargy
and that a certain genius, signal or minimal but always gratuitous and
which no cleverness can counterfeit, is the initial secret of all value in
life as in art. "From heaven comes the secret influence!" In affective
experience--and modern psychology has said very definitely how necessary
this is in our life--is found the equivalent of a grace which is more
profound than the most secret experience: an initiative from God, a divine
and totally gratuitous gift.
The meaning of man. Here we cannot ignore the remarkable character that
is given to all spiritual discipline by the doctrine of the human
composite--that is the soul and body, the soul the form of the body, the
act of the body. Angelism is ruled out and with still greater reason any
resentment against things of sense. Balance, moral health. This means the
modest wisdom of those who cannot dream of any despotism of the mind,--as
do Stoics and Cartesians--and it means the progress of political rule in
the inner world. Body, passions, imagination are all part of this. Liturgy
and monastic customs christianize them and in return are made perfect.
Penance is not directed against an enemy but associates the divided part of
self in love's sacrifice. Passions are, as it were, the primary matter of
the virtues; the virtues keep them in order and do more than oppose their
sallies, they capture all the fire and force and instinct of the passions
in the performance of good deeds. They are the grasp of the spirit over the
animal regions of our being. All the better if the passions on which they
feed are strong. This places more vital energy at the service of good.
Such optimism is not naive. Modern psychology's incontestable discoveries,
especially the findings of depth psychology are in no wise disconcerting.
All these were foreseen. The faithful disciples of Saint Thomas never
yielded to modern moralists who claimed to make everything clear, enumerate
sins and acts of virtue, weigh their gravity or their merits. The meaning
of the supernatural mystery is in perfect harmony with that of the mystery
of man and cuts short all pretension of being indeed true states and does
more than suspect mortgages that limit liberty in every way and claim we
are never free except on condition.
In the face of recent discoveries modern moralists have had to revise their
ways of thinking; those who live according to ancient and medieval
traditions (especially those of Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory) are like
men who dwell in a land where from childhood they have known wind, rain and
sun and where learned meteorologists have come to make accurate instrument
measurements of all these experiences.
Nevertheless man has greatly changed since the days of Saint Dominic and
Saint Thomas. His physical weakness, his bad nervous condition, his lowered
psychic tone oblige him to make radical changes in his program of penance.
Certain monastic customs would never in their present form be spontaneously
invented today, and although they quickly become more natural to those who
practice them than do the laws of the road to modern motorists,
nevertheless a certain uneasiness is felt about them. Imaginations have
changed even more; they have lost that prodigious vivacity which made
dreams and visions so frequent, blurred in primitive fashion clear-cut
distinctions about reality, and accompanied all intellectual activity with
vivid images. As a result minds today more frequently play truant. It
follows that spiritual life must now be lived under conditions very
different from those of bygone days. We do not always make the needful
adjustments. But the difficulties involve only secondary modes of practice.
They should help to reduce the routine interest paid in pious books to the
peculiarities of holy people of long ago, emotional traits, ascetic
practices, visions, speeches, judgments colored by ways of thinking now so
Only in this way by making far too many changes of doubtful validity, can
we find the norms of Dominican spirituality. This is a field for historical
curiosity rather than for fervorin fact it is often an embarrassment to the
latter. Above all in this modern age let us not pretend a credulity which
was genuine before conscience became more reflexive. This marvelous naiveté
which so attracted our Father Clerissac could never be of the essence of
Dominican spirituality because it was too closely linked to one period of
man's history. We have no choice; we are reflexive. We shall never retrace
our steps. Rather the impression of eternal light, the permanent contact
with the highest principles, the constant return to the sources must be a
source of joy to the champions of Truth.
The Gospel Counsels. The structure of the mixed life gives poverty,
chastity and obedience a somewhat unusual modality. This structure prevents
these means from being direct means of the apostolate in the way that a
natural means--let us take for example an instrument--is directly ordered
to its end. The great Gospel law of "the over and above" played a
particularly exacting role in this connection: "Seek first the Kingdom of
God and His justice and all this will be added to you". This is precisely
the law of all poverty. Elsewhere I have tried to show how profoundly
poverty is essential to the apostle. The hope of contemplation rigorously
strips the apostle according to the four lines of the Christian "mystique"
of poverty: the creature, the sinful creature is nothingness, and with all
the more reason has nothing in the presence of his Creator and Judge; the
child of God is dependent on the good pleasure of the heavenly Father; the
Christian conforms himself to Christ on the cross; the merciful man gives
all to relieve the limitless needs of human misery. The contemplative
intention stresses the profound dimensions of poverty which is always in
danger of becoming mere economy, purely utilitarian and horizontal. The
more the apostle stresses in external practice the relative nature of
goods, relative, that is, to the obligation of action, and the more he
renews in himself the meaning of the absolute, of the folly that the four
considerations recalled at the moment command, the more he proves his
sincerity in asking in each case: Is this absolutely necessary?
Chastity is always a particular case of general purity of life, of its
rectitude, of an integrity which allows no division and the absence of
compromise. It is the soul's superlative proof of fidelity to the Spouse.
The chastity of the contemplative and the apostle is a necessary property
of faith, the vision that pierces the all-pure mystery. It is, too, the
humble hope of spiritual fruitfulness.
As to Dominican obedience, it is controlled by the love with which the
apostle contemplates God as highest wisdom. Order giving wisdom. This
obedience, of course, is the submission of the human will to the divine
will, recognized in the will of superiors. But it always considers the
order of things. A Dominican will never reduce obedience to the relation of
an inferior will, to the will of authority. A special kind of obedience
corresponds to each order because each order possesses a common good that
authority is bound to procure and for which it must be able to count on the
support of its helpers. This consideration of the order ensures that a
subject will never be obliged to say that his superior is right in a
situation where, the subject possessing fuller information, is perfectly
sure the superior is wrong; it also covers special prescriptions, which are
reduced to the strictly necessary, that is, to obedience to the nature of
things: the laws of charity, exigencies of vocation, exigencies of the
different duties in which authority itself invites the subject to take much
initiative. This same consideration of order would wish authority to
receive from inferiors an obedience of which the ideal would in no way be
blind but in the highest degree intelligent. It would protect them from
monastic paternalism and an authoritarianism found in congregations which
came into existence in the atmosphere of absolute form of government.
Dominican authority does not give orders to minors but to adults, to an
army of apostles democratically organized to give the gift of Truth to men.
Truth, it will be remembered, makes men free.
On this point we must notice what a mistake the sons of Saint Dominic and
Saint Thomas commit when their salutary hatred of all legalism degenerates
into some disdain for law. More than all others should they be inflamed
with zeal for laws which express and ensure the order of all things.
To bring all this to a conclusion nothing seems more suitable than to
recall the points of a rapid summary of Dominican spirituality given by
Father Mandonnet to the Swiss tertiaries.
Here a son of Saint Dominic can recognize his ideal. Innumerable, too, are
the souls outside the Dominican family who will find herein their own
Now, so complex is it that Father Mandonnet needs no less than eight
adjectives to characterize "Dominican spirituality" (the reason for the
quotation marks is obvious). He says that "Dominican spirituality is
enlightened, theological, contemplative, individualistic (we would call it
personalistic today), supernatural, apostolic, liturgical and ascetic."
Enlightened: "According to Saint Thomas, man ought to go to the
supernatural order with all the powers of his intellect. This is what he
understands by Saint Paul's 'reasonable service'".
Theological. This qualifies enlightened by signifying the exigency of
tending towards a wisdom ordered according to the highest principles and
developed by the correct reflection of intelligence. "Under this heading,
this spirituality is rigorously orthodox, exact in its beliefs, little
interested in novelties and private inspirations. Above all it places a
relative value on things: God one and triune above all, and Christ the
Redeemer as the only way of going to God... So that this spirituality
possesses great unity and constancy of principles. Their application, on
the contrary, because of the respect for the individual's varying aptitudes
produces models of many kinds of holiness".
Contemplative adds to the two first characteristics the tendency towards
the simplicity of the spiritual vision, and not just any kind of vision but
a vision granted by God and centered in God alone. The Dominican order,
writes Father Chevignard, "lives in the mystery of divine Truth".
These three characteristics refer especially to intellectual activity.
Father Mandonnet then lists three characteristics that are concerned more
especially with the will. He writes: "The will develops its own gifts,
seeking to perfect them in the order of nature and of grace so as to bring
the faithful soul to spiritual maturity. In the domain of will, Dominican
spirituality has great diversity. In this sense it may be said that its
fourth characteristic is to be individualistic".
Supernatural. This it is because "it has sovereign confidence in the
goodness, justice and mercy of God, and little in its own merits".
Apostolic. On this subject Father Mandonnet recalls the words of Father
Lacordaire which today, God be praised, are banal: "Do not say: 'I am going
to save myself'; rather say: 'I am going to save the world'". This we would
underline twice and strongly stress today because we see how truly
traditional it is. First, we would stress the attempt to achieve a
knowledge that is objective and sympathetic (one without illusions) of the
world to be saved, then we would stress the shattering character of divine
Mercy. To quote Father Chevignard once again: The Order wants to be in the
world "the witness to the Mercy of the Incarnate Word".
As for the last two characteristics, Father Mandonnet connects them with
man's feelings. These understandably come last. "Because Dominican
spirituality is convinced that our lower faculties always tend of
themselves to invade the field of our divine and intellectual life, it
seeks to correct this abuse by a moderate asceticism which leaves the soul
mistress of the body. In this sense Dominican spirituality is ascetic".
This formula shows that the character of this "ascesis" is more positive
than negative. Here, too, as when we spoke of contemplation and the
apostolate, we must point out its Christocentric nature. Asceticism is
necessary because without it there is no conformity with Christ in His
earthly state, that is to say, in His way of the cross.
It is surely a matter of great interest that the liturgical quality of
spirituality is connected with sensibility whose "instability and illusions
are to be feared" and by it "pacified and set in order". Today the liturgy
is held in higher honor than it was twenty years ago and now we know that
it can do much more than guide Christian sensibilities. We are re-
discovering the essential sacramentality of the Church and we see that the
deep meaning of every Christian life is the realization, within the limits
of a special vocation, of the Mystery of Salvation liturgically reenacted.
Today a return to biblical and patristic sources enables us to give
liturgy, understood once again in all its fullness, a value that includes
all the preceding characteristics. Above all, the Order which received from
its founder this testament: "Persevere in religion", wishes to give
resounding testimony of the apostolic exigency essential to a life whose
center is the altar.
Now, it will be easy, we think, for the different members of the Dominican
family -- religious, clerics or converses of the First Order, religious
women of the Second Order, regular tertiaries and lay tertiaries of every
variety--to recognize their patrimony and to realize its plenitude. And how
many Christians there are who can now see how close they can come to a most
perfect "resemblance" with Christ's "image", so clearly defined for them by
Finally the role of our Lady in the form recognized and loved by the Order
of Preachers is indicative of its spirit. In their chivalrous profession
formula Dominicans vow obedience to Mary after God. They have given the
whole Church the most excellent of all marian devotions--the rosary. They
have directed this devotion towards contemplation in the strict sense of
the word, a contemplation that is faithful to Gospel sources, a
contemplation in which every temperament of nature and grace easily finds a
personal method and which, through Mary's maternal influence, most humbly
and most sublimely little by little conforms the soul to Christ in the
integrality of His mysteries.
The rosary is a handy summary of the liturgical cycle. It is a privileged
form of preaching, of that total preaching which expresses itself in
praise. It combines sensible, affective devotion with strict theology. In
the Order, when these two tendencies are most perfectly developed, they
bring souls to Mary.
Saint Thomas Aquinas prayed tenderly to our Lady and declared that she
never refused him anything he asked; but he turned away from pious thoughts
about her which lacked "authority". He used to say: "In my opinion, we
ought not preach frivolities when there are so many things to be preached
about her which are absolutely true". In a similar vein Jean de
Montenegro, a Preacher of the fifteenth century, cried: "If honor and
reverence are due the glorious Virgin they ought first be expressed by
saying what is true about her".
Many sons of Saint Dominic in every age have contributed to an exaggerated
and questionable marian devotion while others have wasted their strength in
ill-natured and bitter arguments about the authentic privileges of the
Mother of God. Alas, both groups substituted the "law of degradation and of
high and complex reality", the law which is always entirely opposed to
multiple forms of "Dominican spirituality".
The admirable reserve of Saint Thomas on the subject of the Immaculate
Conception led to the glory and full understanding of this mystery.
Lacordaire's silence about our Lady and that of the preacher who one day
declared, as if it were a challenge: "Gentlemen, Mary is the queen of my
heart". And it is a modern Dominican who has explained with greatest
insight the singular way in which Mary's universal action and her own
effacement are one: the way a Queen who has no place in the constitution of
a state enjoys the most decisive influence in the depths of the King's
heart. In this same way the spirit of Saint Dominic cannot be distinguished
from the Spirit of Jesus. To beget souls for Christ, Saint Dominic conceals
himself in the light of this Spirit just as the woman of the Apocalypse is
clothed with the sun.
1 This is the understanding of God absolute, He Who alone suffices. This is
the correlative construction of the person by the affirmation of this
constitutive essentials. This is the "dwelling with one's self" which Saint
Gregory recognized in Saint Benedict. This is the apostolic necessity of
communicating with men in God, and not in the perishable. This is the
supernatural quality of action which has value only in its dimension of
height. This is the apostolic liberation in relation to the care of souls.
This is the separation from a "perverse generation" (Acts, 2:40), which
becomes more and more necessary the more one works for its salvation. This
is the withdrawal of one who dwells in God and who goes to men only in
virtue of a mission, not through natural eagerness. This is the refuge in
failure, trials, disappointments, in moments of the experience of personal
insufficiency, and of insoluble misunderstandings (the experience which
grows with reality of the grasp of the human situation), where there is
indeed no appeal except to God alone. Then we understand Saint Dominic's
practice of solitude and his words: "I speak only with God or of God".
2 Should we be still more explicit? Without any doubt an apostolic life
ought to be preferred to that of a less complete rule but lived in all its
beauty in the solitude of the cloister.
3. Certain forms of the apostolate must not be labeled Dominican, because
of their nature while other forms are not. To the first category doctrinal
works are said to belong. This is laughably pleonastic: for a so-called
apostolate not to be doctrinal would be not to be. Every activity which has
truly the right to be called an apostolate, that is the communication in
one way or another of divine truth, is within the Order's competence.
Exclusions must be made not for reasons of principle but because it is
impossible to do everything, and so in certain circumstances some forms of
apostolate must be preferred to others. Certain Dominicans are legitimately
set apart for activities that only remotely make preaching possible: in
this light what they do is part of the apostolate, just as various kinds of
apologetics, however lowly be the form needed, are functions of theology.
4. MANDONNET, VICAIRE and LADNER, "Saint Dominic," 2 vols. This has been
brought up to date in the brief but authoritative article by P. FERET in
the encyclopedia "Catholicisme."
5. Only in 1212 did his Order, after the example of the Friars Preachers
receive the true office of teaching the truths of faith.
6. "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; that as I have
loved you, you also love one another" (John, 13:34; 15:12,l7).
7. On the whole the best description that we know of "Dominican
spirituality" is to be found in Father Mennessier's "Saint Thomas Aquinas"
in the collection "Les maitres de la spiritualite chretienne;" We must
however point out the surprising omission of a chapter on sin and the
conduct it determines.
8. Cf. D. DUBARLE, "Optimisme devant ce monde."
9. One must read the splendid study of Pere DEMAN, "Pour une spiritualite
objective" which first appeared in "La Vie Spirituelle," 1945, then in a
pamphlet published by Procure Generale du Clerge.
10. This is the explanation given in a little book, "La Spiritualite
Medievale," by F. VERNET that is almost faultless (a rare thing in works of
11. "Principalis intentio" (lIa, IIae, qu. 180, art. I) are two forceful
words which say much more as we have tried to suggest, than one intention
among many others, or of an intention more notable than the rest. Now the
relation is surely not fortuitous between the formula Saint Thomas uses to
characterize contemplative life "principaliter intendere the contemplation
of truth ", and that of Saint Dominic which is found in the constitutions
which were adopted, at his instance, by the general chapter of 1220. This
is the celebrated test that every Dominican of the thirteenth century knew
by heart: "Studium nostrum debet principaliter intendere ut prosimorum
animabus possimus utiles esse".
12. The word comes to us from P. DEMAN.
13. An "agraphon," it will be remembered, is a saying of our Lord that
comes to us not from one of the evangelists but from some other source.
Saint Paul quotes an "agraphon" in Acts, 20:35 His words have the guarantee
of biblical inspiration. Quotations found in the authors of Christian
intiquity have not the same security.
14. Cf. My little book "Poverty," pp. 148-151.
15. Once again I shall limit myself to a few characteristics without
attempting a complete study, This is excluded by the very fact that so-
called Dominican spirituality is the spirituality of the common Doctor. A
masterful study has been made by MOUROUX, "The Meaning of Man."
16. An excellent picture of the multiple difficulties scientific psychology
seems to offer moral teaching is given In RIMAUD, "Les psychologues contre
la morale," October 1949.
17. Cf. PLE, "Saint Thomas d'Aquin et la psychologie des profondeurs,"
supplement to "La Vie Spirituelle," November 15, 1951.
18. "Poverty", chapter 3.
19. Reproduced in "France dominicaine," February 1951, pp. 35-39.
20. "La saintete dominicaine", "La France dominicaine," November 1948, p.
21. The "meditation" precedes the recitation of each decade. During, the
recitation of the decade there must be no meditation, to do so would be
head-splitting, but at each salutation we look once again very deliberately
at Mary in the mystery she is living with her Son. She will be our model in
our active correspondence to this mystery and will obtain for us its grace.
22. "Declaratio ad lectorem bisuntinum," qu. 5. Edition Mandonnet, III, p.
23. Very Reverend Father May-Joseph NICOLAS, in the "Revue Thomiste" of