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FOR A REFLECTION ON DOMINICAN SPIRITUALITY

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The question about spirituality is the question of identity, because the question "who I am" can possibly only be answered from the individual interiority of the one who formulates it. All human sciences offer only fragmented and fragmentary responses about man. Possibly only spirituality is the one capable of offering a comprehensive and integrating vision of the deepest identity of each human being.

Spirituality or a spiritual life is not exhausted in religion. The spiritual life has a scope that transcends all religious phenomena. It is not possible to takethe words "spirituality" and "religiosity" synonymously. There may be many religious phenomena that lack spirituality. But the end of all religion must be spirituality. Religion unites us to divinity and opens us to the meaning of transcendence. Union with the divinity and openness to transcendence is what characterizes a spiritual attitude, a particularspirituality.

Christian spirituality is the expression of the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person. This action of the Spirit of God in each one makes possible, on the one hand, union with God and openness to his mystery. On the other hand, the action of the Holy Spirit in a person makes filiation possible (being and feeling a child of God) and fraternity (being and feeling brother to all) as the two fundamental expressions of an authentic spiritual life, of a life in the Spirit of God. Filiation and fraternity, within the framework of a Christian spirituality, must be lived in and throughthe Son, Jesus. Jesus is Son of God by nature. We are children of God by grace, because we have been adopted into the Son Jesus.

It is not possible to formulate a Dominican spirituality outside of a Christian spirituality. Dominican spirituality will always be called to be a form of Christian spirituality with a specific focus. This specificity is none other than the charisma and the grace of preaching. In other words, Dominican spirituality is born of the grace of preaching.

The grace and charisma of preaching was given to Saint Dominic. That is why every Dominican spirituality must have as a starting point the spiritual path travelled by Saint Dominic. This spiritual path of Saint Dominic is what we might call "the common trunk" whose sap feeds all possible manifestations of Dominican spirituality as spirituality of preaching.

The first biographers of Santo Domingo - in a special way the Master Jordan ofSaxony - drew us a biographical profile of Santo Domingo from which it is possible to follow the spiritual path of Santo Domingo. This spiritual path has several stages that we could outline in the following way:

  1. Birth and family nucleus:first contact of Saint Dominic with God. His family was his first school of spirituality and holiness.
  2. The experience of Gumiel de Izán:Saint Dominic, still a child, is entrusted to his uncle, the archpriest of Gumiel de Izán. It is the first contact with the ecclesiastical world from within.
  3. Palenciaexperience:the discovery of the value of study as an opening to knowledge and the discovery of compassion and mercy as attitudes that unite with God. Faced with the misery which he runs into, Saint Dominic sells his books - books were written on parchment, it make them very expensive- and in that way he helps the poor.
  4. The experience of the Cabildo de Osma:in this context, Saint Dominic experiences the benefits of regular life, of a life governed by a rule that is a project of life. In this project of life, he deepens his life of prayer and union with God through the reading of Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the desert, mainly the Institutesand theConferencesof John Cassian. According to Master Jordán, through this exercise in prayerful reading, Santo Domingo achieves purity of heart.
  1. The experience of the trip with Bishop Diego:in the Cabildo de Osma, through silence, prayer and study, Saint Dominic acquires sufficient sensitivity to perceive the great needs of the Church of his time. When crossing the south of France and the north of Italy, Santo Domingo discovers thatpreachingis the great needof the Church. From that moment he conceived the idea of ​​founding an Order that was called and that ?of preachers.
  2. The foundation of the Order of Preachers:the spiritual path of Saint Dominic reaches its climax in the foundation of the Order. Saint Dominic knows that he is sent to live the grace of preaching according to the patternof apostolic life. The ecstasy in Saint John of Lateran, in which St. Peter gives him a staff and St. Paul gives him a book, while he is told to go and preachbecause this is what the Lord has chosen youfor, it is the culminating point of the spiritual path of Saint Dominic.
  3. The dispersion of the first friars:after the foundation of the Order, Saint Dominic sent his friars with a well-defined project: preaching, studying and founding convents. Santo Domingo dies before the Order is five years old. This data is especially significant and tells by itselfthat the Order of Preachers is the fruit of the spiritual journey travelled by Saint Dominic.

The synthesis of Dominican spirituality can be found in the IV paragraph of the Fundamental Constitution of the Order of Preachers, since it makes explicit the fundamental elements that conform this spirituality: § IV.- And, since we participate in the mission of the Apostles, we also imitate his life according to the way devised by Saint Dominic, keeping us unanimous in common life, faithful to the profession of the evangelical counsels, fervent in the celebration of the liturgy - mainly of the Eucharist and the divine office-  and in prayer, regulars in the study, persevering in regular observance. All these things not only contribute to the glory of God and to our own sanctification, but also directly serve the salvation of men, since together they prepare and promote preaching, inform it and, in turn, are informed by it. These elements, solidly interconnected, harmoniously balanced and fecundating one another, constitute in their synthesis the life of the Order itself: an apostolic life in the full sense, in which preaching and teaching must emanate from the abundance of the contemplation.

 

In this way, the elements that make up the life of the Order are: the common life, the profession of the evangelical counsels, the sacred liturgy and prayer, the study and the preaching. These elements have to be firmly locked together, harmoniously balanced and fecundating one another. Only in this way do they constitute the Order's own life in its synthesis. Spirituality is essentially a life, a way of being.

Dominican spirituality is born of the charism and the grace of preaching. In the fertile ground of common life, harmoniously lived through the observance of the evangelical counsels, WE CONTEMPLATE the Word in study and prayer, WE CELEBRATE this Word in the liturgy, mainly in the Eucharist and the Divine Office, and we PREACH the Word through the different forms offered by the wide range of possibilities of preaching in the Order.

Word contemplated, Word celebrated and Word preached is the very heart of Dominican spirituality.

Fr. Angel Villasmil, OP