I was recently asked exactly what a “Dominican” is and how I came to be a member of the Anglican Order of Preachers (The Dominican Order), to which I took vows 15 years ago. I offer this brief explanation, and I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
Known as: The Dominican Order, The Order of Preachers, “Black Friars”
Date of Foundation: 1216
Founder: St. Dominic de Guzman, Priest of the Diocese of Osma
Motto: Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare (To praise, to bless and to preach)
At the beginning of the 13th century, St. Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish priest following the Rule of St. Augustine as a Canon Regular (a Priest attached to a cathedral), saw the need for a new type of religious order. It would be a preaching order that embraced a life of simplicity and poverty, much like the Franciscans that were founded around the same time.
After the “Order of Preachers” was formed, based on the Rule of St. Augustine, St. Dominic sent out the members of his new order to preach. This was new, as all the existing orders were organized in monasteries to which the people had come. This new Order of Preaches took the Word of the Gospel to the countryside and preached of faith and hope, not in king and country, but in Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.
The “Black Friars,” as they were called for the habits they wore, quickly grew and became known for their charisma in the preaching of the Gospel. Today, the purpose of Dominican Friars is to Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Word and deed and to celebrate the Sacraments to the Glory of God. Dominicans are also dedicated to personal prayer, to a shared life in community, and to life-long study. Life service and study is directed toward the pursuit of Truth, which we recognize as no other than the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
So how did I become a Black Friar in the Anglican Order of Preachers? Aside from the technical information about applications, novice years and Life Profession, there is a deeper truth that led me down this path. Along with the gift of life, God empowers each of us with specific gifts through which we serve him and in which we grow spiritually. Though there may be near infinite combinations of gifts, it seems that all combinations of gifts fit into several categories of spiritual disciplines.
As we explore and develop our spiritual life and as we seek a deeper communion with Christ, we become aware of a discipline through which we experience joy. This discipline is nothing more than the practice of spiritual inquiry that comes naturally to us. In other words, once we start down the path of spiritual direction and enlightenment, we will discover that we are already an Augustinian, Benedictine, Franciscan, Basilian, Carthusian, Cistercian, or perhaps a Dominican! This truth has been formalized over the years by the founding of these monastic orders and societies which recognize spiritual elation through specific charisma.
As I searched for God, I found the Dominican Order. It was not that wanted to join a club and found one I liked; rather, I simply came across that which I already was. As I read the words of St. Dominic I had a strange sense of déjà vu and a feeling of exhilaration because I felt I was reading something that I, in fact, had written.
I am a Dominican Friar because spiritually, I have always been one; I have simply been blessed to find the earthly gathering by that name. You are also called by God to explore and exert your spiritual gifts. You are already a religious, you just don’t know it. Seek and you shall find, and in finding you will be found.
Father Bill Burk†