The Dominican Order and the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (Apostolicam Actuositatem)

A vocation to the Order of Preachers, most often referred to as the Dominicans, is one that has ancient ties to the deep traditions of our faith and yet is ever new.  It involves deep contemplation and action based on that contemplation.  Truth is the Preachers’ primary concern.

The Third Order allows those men and women that are laymen to work in the community of Preachers towards the same mission given to it by her founder, and perfectly in accord with the recent Church reiteration of the importance of the role of the laity in the work of the Church.

“In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a unity of mission…the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ…The characteristic of the lay state being a life led in the midst of the world and of secular affairs, layman are called by God to make of their apostolate, through the vigor of their Christian spirit, a leaven in the world (Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People).”

Through its pillars of study, prayer, community, and the apostolate, one can live out the call to “share the fruits of our contemplation (Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere).”

“On all Christians therefore is laid the preeminent responsibility of working to make the divine message of salvation known and accepted by all men throughout the world (Apostolicam Actuositatem).”

You cannot share what you do not know, and thus, prayer and study have the preeminent role in not only the right living of our own lives, but the conversion of sinners.  We are channels of God’s grace, mere instruments.  But, like soldiers, we have a responsibility to keep the instruments of our trade ready for combat.  Our war is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, and we follow the divine Commander.  Our prayer and our study are our training to be God’s soldiers, His hounds.

The life of community and of the apostolate follow upon our prayer and study.  We love our neighbor as ourselves and love him in and through Christ.

“This charity of God, ‘which is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:5), enables the laity really to express the spirit of the beatitudes in their lives (Apostolicam Actuositatem).”

The Dominicans have always held a special place for the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular.  The Gospel According to Matthew is said to have been carried everywhere by St. Dominic. To be a part of the Order of Preachers is to make a commitment to strive, with God’s grace, to live the teachings of Christ and to share them, lovingly but firmly, with the world.

To be a member of the Preachers, whether clergy or layman, is to be in the world, but not of the world.  As a community, we strive to “preach the Gospel to all nations” and to, within the temporal order, bring live the charity of God. “God’s plan for the world is that men should work together to renew and constantly perfect the temporal order (Apostolicam Actuositatem).”

I, especially, hope to build up others, that they may in turn do the same.  I believe, like St. Dominic, that we can set the world ablaze for Christ if we pray and work for His Kingdom each day. I wish to teach others, through my actions and through my words, to multiply these same efforts, for the salvation of souls.

The place of prayer can be overemphasized in no Christian life.  But the place of study in the Dominican Order is of special significance to me.  In the modern world, no less for certain than at any other time, we must be prepared to meet all people and cultures to preach and especially defend the truth.

Again, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council teaches this clearly:

“The formation for the apostolate presupposes a certain human and well-rounded formation adapted to the natural abilities and conditions of each lay person. Well-informed about the modern world, the lay person should be a member of his own community and adjusted to its culture.

However, the lay person should learn especially how to perform the mission of Christ and the Church by basing his life on belief in the divine mystery of creation and redemption and by being sensitive to the movement of the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God and who urges all to love God the Father as well as the world and men in Him. This formation should be deemed the basis and condition for every successful apostolate.

In addition to spiritual formation, a solid doctrinal instruction in theology, ethics, and philosophy adjusted to differences of age, status, and natural talents, is required. The importance of general culture along with practical and technical formation should also be kept in mind (Apostolicam Actuositatem).”

All religious orders and vocations outside of these orders have their place in the Church, and the various parts of the body, the various talents of each person and each community, are certainly needed.  But for me, a vocation to the Order of Friars Preachers seems most in conformity with the placing of my talents at the service of the Church, as she has called each of us to do.

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