St. Joseph Province Vocations

When Your Parents Don’t Support Your Vocation

road discernment

A religious vocation given to a son or daughter can be perceived as a great blessing to a family. It can also be perceived as a threat. If you think God is calling you to be a Dominican friar, and your parents are opposed, here are some things to keep in mind.
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Thomas Aquinas and Vocational Discernment

Fr. Romanus Cessario OP

Thomas Aquinas and Vocational Discernment – 

Vocation Weekend (14-16 November 2014)

Dominican House of Studies / Washington, D.C.

Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P.

(printable text)

(audio mp3 of talk)

  1. Vocations in the Church

I express my gratitude to Father Benedict Croell for the invitation to address you on the question of what “vocational discernment” according to the mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas would look like. This topic raises several issues of practical importance for those men who seek to embrace the vocation that God has ordained for them. Because the majority of you have been drawn to inquire about the sacrament of Holy Orders, I will frame my remarks mainly around the priesthood. However, what follows below can also be said of the vocation to Consecrated Life, specifically, the religious life that Dominican Cooperator Brothers espouse. I should like to recall by way of preamble that the Church recognizes only three ecclesial vocations whereby baptized men and women can sanctify themselves: Marriage, Consecrated life, and Priesthood. Each of these vocations enjoys its own objective or mission in the world and in the Church, its own form of consecration, and its own dwelling place: Married persons dwell of course in the Family; Consecrated persons occupy some form of fraternal life in communion; Bishops and priests—diocesan priests—live within their respective diocesan presbyterates. (1)

The existence within the Church of several forms of personal consecration, Matrimony, evangelical vows, and Holy Orders, raises the question of what today is known, almost universally in English, as “vocational discernment.” In other words, how do I know what God wants me to do? How do I discover God’s plan for my life? How do I learn the ways by which God will make me a saint? Because of the natural attractions that draw men and women together, discernment is not ordinarily applied to those who aspire to marriage. Instead, one finds the right spouse. It is difficult to imagine a proper courtship where, after a period of successful dating, one of the partners would turn to the other and say, “Honey, I think I’ll step back a bit and discern whether you are the right person for me.” Such a proposal would run counter to the normal development of the affective bonds of friendship that proper courting is designed to foster between a future bride and groom. Priesthood and Consecrated Life, however, enjoy no such natural pull or attraction. Why? Priesthood and Consecrated Life exist because of the Incarnation. Only Christ the High Priest gives legitimacy to a celibate priesthood and makes becoming a priest a justifiable option for a young Christian man. There is no such thing as a natural inclination or yearning toward remaining celibate. The divine command given to men and women, “Be fertile and multiply” (Gen 1:28), applies to every person on the planet. Those who cannot fulfill this command are called eunuchs (see Mt 19:12). Likewise, only the example of the virginal Christ allows men and women to imitate him by committing themselves to a life of consecrated virginity or chastity. The Sacred Scriptures in fact treat barrenness as a disgrace or reproach (see Lk 1:25).

Nothing draws a young man toward the priesthood that resembles the sense attractions that bring a young man and woman together. In the right order of things, these sexual attractions lead naturally, if you will, to the consummation of a marriage. Furthermore, the natural inclination toward sexual congress between a man and a woman proceeds without its depending too much on special tutelage. If God had made having intercourse as difficult as doing advanced calculus, the human race would have died out long ago. A vocation to the priesthood proceeds differently.

The “supernatural character” of the priestly vocation draws men according to its own dynamics. (2) One has to learn about the priesthood, about a religious order, in order to embrace these vocations within the Church. Faith-knowledge is required to learn fully about the priesthood. The eyes of faith however, as Saint Paul reminds us, see things “indistinctly, as in a mirror” (see 1 Cor. 13: 12). Because we must learn about the “supernatural character” of a priestly vocation, many people within the Church propose “discernment” as a way for a man to discover whether or not he should aspire to Holy Orders. Discernment, it is thought, should make indistinctness clear.

The same logic is applied to the vocation to Consecrated Life. For example, in the Archdiocese of Boston we have what is called “The Samuel Circle,” a program which presents itself as sponsoring evening gatherings for single men discerning religious life. (3) Again, since no natural inclinations, especially in the state of fallen nature, would lead a person to profess the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, “discerning,” as used in this context, proposes to clarify the indistinct. Note well that the supernaturally bestowed movement toward professing the evangelical counsels should not be confused with the temperamental preference that a person may possess to live a simple life, or even to remain a bachelor, or to settle for being a follower instead of a leader. The call to Consecrated Life, as to the priesthood, comes about only as a special gift of grace, one recognized, that is, through a glass, darkly. (4)

  1. The Word, “Discernment.”

In order to acquire a right understanding of vocational discernment, we need to take a few steps back. Truth to tell, the contemporary deployment of the term, such as we find in the above-mentioned phrase a “discernment group for single men,” may lead today’s aspirants for Dominican life to develop slightly skewed notions about how God draws men to priesthood and religious life. For Dominicans and for the whole Church, no better resource exists for getting to the truth of a theological matter than heeding what is taught by our Dominican brother, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and by the living commentatorial tradition that develops his thought. Let me alert you from the start that Aquinas, whose lifetime spans the second and third quarters of the thirteenth century, approaches the question of choosing a priestly vocation from an angle that much contemporary discernment talk ignores. He considers a clerical and religious vocation to constitute a state of excellence to which young men should aspire in order to adorn the Church with the good deeds that she needs to accomplish her mission. (5) Aquinas did not think of these vocations as lifestyle choices.

Before turning to see how Aquinas illumines one’s approaching a priestly vocation, we may usefully consider the several meanings of the English word “discernment.” What definitions of the noun “discernment,” one may ask, are current in today’s vocabulary? For its first meaning, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun “discernment” as follows: “The action or faculty of perceiving or noting a distinction between things; discrimination, differentiation.” (6) The nonpareil record of the English language goes on to observe that this meaning of the noun, “discernment,” is often accompanied by the prepositions “between” or “of.” Thus, one may rightly observe that, for example, a vocation to Dominican life requires clear discernment between diocesan priesthood and consecrated life. Or, living out a Dominican vocation requires of the Dominican the willingness to make a discernment of truth from falsehood. Secondly, the OED tells us that “discernment” may also denote “the action of discerning or perceiving by means of the sense, esp., by sight.” (7) For instance, “Light is required for the discernment of colors.” Thirdly, discernment carries the meaning of intellectual perception or apprehension: “the action or process of discerning or perceiving by means of the intellect.” (8) When this discernment involves good judgment about created things, it suggests, nowadays at least, refinement or good taste. For example, “Men and women of taste and discernment who know a good thing when they see it.” (9) When the discerning by the intellect involves religion, then the action takes on the character of a spiritual discernment, that is, the ability to make sound judgments in spiritual matters. The first instance given in the OED of this latter usage—one should note with care—dates from 1678. (10) Indeed, the phrase spiritual discernment appears first in English around the time of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (the second edition), that is, during the period known as Early Modern English. (11) In other words, the English expression, “spiritual discernment” comes into currency during the late seventeenth century. Talk, then, about spiritual discernment in English develops about 140 years after the establishment of the Jesuits (1540). Seventeenth-century translations into English of books that explained the Exercises of Saint Ignatius contributed to making spiritual discernment a familiar phrase. (12) In the next century, translations of the works of the Jesuit spiritual author, Giovanni Battista Scaramelli (1687–1752), especially, his little treatise on the discernment of spirits, may have contributed toward expanding the frequency of usage in English. (13)

It should come then as no surprise to discover that Saint Thomas Aquinas did not use the expression “spiritual discernment” in a way that corresponds to today’s accepted English usage. (14) In the about 300 times that Aquinas employs some form of the Latin verb “discernere,” he uses it to signify either sense discernment or, more frequently, the act of intellectual grasping. For instance, in his teaching about the difference between self-defense and capital punishment, Aquinas says, “A sinner is a man and as such is not by nature different from a just man, and this is why some public judgment is necessary to “discern” whether he is to be killed in the public interest.” (15) True enough, Aquinas cites the Latin Vulgate of Saint Jerome when he discusses the text of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 10, “to another the ability to distinguish between spirits.” The Latin Vulgate reads “discretio spirituum,” or the discretion of spirits. However, even in this context, Aquinas refers to a grace-bestowed intellectual capacity given to the saints that allows them to grasp the secrets of human hearts. (16) He does not entertain the view that this special endowment from the Holy Spirit that, in principle, only some Christians enjoy becomes the prerogative of all Christians so that they can discover their proper calling in life. Aquinas, as I have already said, approached the question of vocational selection from an entirely different starting point. For Aquinas, vocation arises as a matter of graced desire to pursue the excellent.

  1. Aquinas on “Vocation”

We can explore what principles Aquinas draws on to guide young men to a priestly or religious vocation within the Church by turning our attention to his treatment of what the medieval authors considered special callings in the Church. This discussion may be found conveniently at the end of the second part of the second part of Aquinas’s comprehensive Summa theologiae. (17) [What in Dominican Latin shorthand, we call the secunda-secundae.] For Aquinas, both Bishop and consecrated religious find themselves constituted in special “states of life” within the Church. (18) In the language of his day, and the language that was common within the Church until the Second Vatican Council, the special state that belongs to Bishops and religious is called “the state of perfection.” (19) And although one sometimes hears that after the Second Vatican Council, the universal call to holiness makes each of the three ecclesial vocations equal in excellence, the Church still teaches explicitly that the consecrated state, that is, for Dominicans, religious life, enjoys an objective superiority among the other “states” or vocations within the Church. (20)

Although no such explicit claim is made by contemporary Church documents for the priestly office, the fact remains that the priesthood enjoys its own priority over the other vocations. (21) One need only make the most modest of theological arguments to realize that the priestly office holds a higher place within the Church than does marriage. (22) In its normative form, marriage brings forth children destined to ensure the survival of the human race, new human beings who are called to share in the gift of everlasting life. Without the distinctive activities of the priest, however, no one gets easily, that is, ordinarily, to heaven. Only the priest administers the sacraments of salvation to both married people and non-ordained consecrated persons.

The teaching on “vocation” that Aquinas and the theologians of the Middle Ages and of the modern period, that is, after the Council of Trent, set forth has not been superseded by a new form of ecclesial egalitarianism as certain commentators are sometimes heard to assert. (23) The best way to describe the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council on the importance of Christian marriage requires a deepening of our understanding about the vocation to married life that Saint John Paul II did so much to explicate. He made this contribution, however, without diminishing the importance that priests hold within the Church nor the perfection of charity that consecrated persons propose both to embody and enact.

What the Church holds about the objective superiority of consecrated life and what she teaches about the indispensability and irreplaceability of the priest follows, in substance, what Saint Thomas Aquinas set down in his Summa theologiae. For the purposes of our present discussion, that is, how do I know that God calls me to the priesthood, we need to consider only one text. In Summa theologiae IIa-IIae, q. 184, art. 1, Aquinas asks “whether perfection is measured by charity.” (24) His answer is brief and one that should be familiar to all Catholics. Here is what Aquinas says in his own syllogistic formulation: “Anything is said to be perfect so far as it attains its proper end, which is ultimate perfection. But it is charity that unites us to God, who is the ultimate end of the human soul, since, as St John says, ‘He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him (1Jn 4:16).” Therefore the perfection of the Christian life consists principally in charity.”

The one who seeks entrance to the Dominican Order both desires and seeks to grow perfect in charity. Aquinas goes on to point out that religious take their name from the moral virtue of religion, the virtue whereby man offers something for the service and worship of God. Personal consecration to God makes of those who profess vows a living sacrifice, as the Third Eucharistic Prayer beseeches for all the members of the Church: “May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect.” (25) Dominicans, however, make of themselves a special kind of offering or sacrifice. They, as Aquinas points out, following the teaching of Pope St Gregory the Great, “consecrate themselves totally to divine service, offering themselves as a holocaust to God.” (26) The Christian tradition esteems holocausts above sacrifices. Sacrifices are partial in nature, whereas a holocaust is the offering to God of all that one possesses. The religious state with its vows of poverty and chastity and obedience offers to God the triplex set of goods that, as Aristotle taught, are required by the human creature: external goods, the goods of body, and the goods of the soul. (27) So the perfection of charity achieves its highest realization in the religious state, as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, nicely confirms. (28) Something analogical may be asserted for the diocesan priest who promises evangelical simplicity of life, celibate chastity, and obedience to his Bishop in order to practice pastoral charity and to serve the Eucharist.

  1. A Graced Approach to the Embrace of a Vocation

Aquinas does not encourage a man to practice a “discernment” of Dominican life in order to distinguish it from other possible vocations in the Church. The reason is simple. Growth in charity results only from a divine gift given. We call this gift, the gift of grace. Strictly speaking however, no one can discern a grace, no one may discover by human means whether or not he possesses sanctifying grace. The Church in fact disallows a direct knowledge of the presence of habitual grace in a given individual: “Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith.” (29) Aquinas reasons as follows: God is the principle and source of all graces given. God, however, remains “beyond the reach of our knowledge on account of his sublimity.” (30) So no man can discern with certainty, that is, grasp, perceive, apprehend, or judge, that he possesses the gift of divine grace. Aquinas, however, does allow that someone may come to an inferential knowledge of his state before God. He makes the point simply: “Something may be known inferentially by perceptible signs. In this sense someone can know that he has grace, for example by perceiving that he takes delight in God and despises worldly things, and by not being conscious of any mortal sin in himself.” (31) If you reflect on this form of faith-knowledge, you will realize that it does not take extended periods of introspection to acquire it. One may describe the knowledge as quasi-experiential. In a word, you love God and the things of God and you keep yourself free of grave sin. Otherwise put, you desire by a divinely motivated desire to accomplish the good works that God makes possible in the world. No one who finds himself drawn to consider entrance into religious life, especially Dominican life, should fail to recognize these desires in himself. If you are drawn to love and to serve God and if you take delight in the things of God, then you are being drawn to make of yourself a holocaust. You aspire to accomplish a noble deed. There are many young men of your age who are not considering entrance into religious life or the pursuance of a priestly vocation. They may be thought to comprise two groups: first, those upright young men who want to get married. These follow the natural rhythms that lead to the coupling of male and female, etc. And, second, those who do not delight in God and desire inordinately worldly things. These do not entertain holy desires and lack mature spiritual sensitivity. What matters most for those of you who are present at a vocation weekend? You know inferentially that you have received a grace from God and that this grace has moved you to come to a vocation weekend. To borrow the expression of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you are being moved toward receiving the “graces of state” that pertain to the priestly office. (32)

Let me make two important qualifications in order to avoid misunderstandings. First, that you are here because of a grace given does not mean that your life is now once and for all determined. The Church wisely provides for a period of preparation before a man definitively commits himself to a form of life such as that of a Dominican priest. In a word, the experience of grace that I have described above as quasi-experiential requires assessment. During the period of preparation, which lasts until solemn profession, the candidate or the Brother does what he can to increase the delight that he finds in God and godly things, while at the same time, he takes care to grow in virtue, which is the surest way to avoid committing a mortal sin. Second, the candidate in whom the grace to follow Saint Dominic is developing must take advantage of the means that the Church and the Order supply to grow in virtue. So he must frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation, receive sound counsel about how to live his life, and practice those mortifications that suit his stage of preparation. Once professed, the Dominican in simple vows gives himself over to the honest practice of the religious discipline that the Order imposes on him. The Order wisely confides those in formation to the care of a Novice and Student Master. These priests help the young Dominican to embrace the form of life that, as Aquinas teaches, enables a man to become accustomed to making of himself a living holocaust. Religious consecration, to return to a theme discussed above, does not come naturally. Dominican life begins as a grace given and, as I am in some position—thanks be to God—to testify, remains a grace given and, please God, Dominican life will end as a grace given. Anyone who thinks that he will become accustomed to the rhythms of religious life by thinking about the life, by thinking about how it might suit him, by thinking even about whether or not God wants this life for him, indulges in a dangerous pastime. Why? No amount of thinking or discerning will produce a cognitive certitude that one should enter religious life. Entrance into religious life comes only as a grace freely given just as one’s persevering in religious life results from a grace freely given and embraced. From start to finish, the divine propulsion that pushes a man toward the priesthood produces holy desires. Even though for both priesthood and religious life, the Church and the Order establish structures to ensure that the authenticity of a man’s desires is recognized not only by himself but by others. Ordinaries call to Holy Orders. (33) Provincials admit to a profession.

  1. What Steps to Take to Embrace the Grace of a Priestly Vocation.

The question that remains is, “What next?” What should a man do in order to make progress in the grace that has been given to him? He should not discern. Discernment places the vocation in the future. The one discerning gives himself over to wondering whether priesthood may find a place in his future. A question arises inevitably. When does discernment come to its completion, when does one no longer require discernment? Some answers to this question do not satisfy. For example, when a student leaves the seminary, there often appears a note that says in effect, “After some discernment, I’m leaving, Jack.” This reveals discernment gone awry. Again, there are unfortunate instances of ordained priests who announce that they have discerned their way out of the priesthood. However, the Church allows no such discernment. This amounts to discernment put at the service of betrayal. Whatever legitimate deployment of the discernment of spirits there may be, turning discernment into a calculated prognostication about how well I am going to handle a future vocation is not one of them. Once a man recognizes within himself a delight in serving God and the Church, a desire to grow in holiness of life, an excitement even about the adventure of the priesthood, he should not try to figure out how he is going to handle these movements. Rather, the first thing that such a man should do is pray.

The proper response to the realization that you are being drawn toward the priesthood is not to go to your room and begin a processes of self-reflection. The proper response brings you before the Blessed Sacrament where you say, “Thank you, Jesus.” Thank Jesus for the holy delight that you take in so great a gift and mystery as his priesthood. To make a prayer of gratitude does not require that you stop all further inquiry. You express gratitude to God for the grace to want to inquire further into the concrete realization of your desires. Not every man in this room will eventually receive the habit of Saint Dominic. Still, every man in this room must thank God for giving him the grace to desire to embrace a life of perfection. When you thank God for the grace that you have received, then you will discover the freedom to ponder what to do next. At this point, each of the three recognized ecclesial options remains open. And among vocations to consecrated life, there exist many options, which are not limited to the well-known religious families. After gratitude then, comes pondering.

Pondering is not another word for discerning. Pondering requires that a man consider something present to him. Discernment, as I said above, implies an exercise for deciding on a course of action to take in the future. For those who find this weekend an encouraging experience, you should undertake a further investigation into the nature of Dominican life. You need to become familiar with the grace that Saint Dominic introduces into the world. You need to discover what the Constitutions of the Order stipulate about our consecrated life. You need to take the steps necessary to discover the genius of Dominican life. Visiting Dominican communities usually falls among these steps; you come to see what Dominicans do. However, caution is required. The exercise of getting to know about Dominican life cannot be reduced to a sociological survey. The legislation that once governed the Order warned young Dominicans about making judgments on how Dominican life is lived out here or there. Instead, in very typical Dominican fashion, the admonition was given to follow the Constitutions, ut littera sonat, as the letter of these texts sounds. Likewise doing web searches for worldwide may or may not deepen your conviction about whether God has put the Order of Preachers in your future. Instead, revert to an old practice, read a book. A good way to ponder your Dominican vocation is to read a biography of Saint Dominic or to read accounts of the lives of Dominican saints. While you are inquiring into the spiritual character of the Dominicans, you also need to start practicing the virtues of a Dominican. No one can ponder sacred things and at the same time give himself over to carnal preoccupations. You can’t get drunk while reading a life of Saint Dominic and expect to profit from the reading. You can’t find inspiration in the heroic deeds of the Dominican saints and at the same time make not the slightest effort to reform your own life. While pondering, one must undertake a conversion of manners or mores.

Conversio morum is a monastic expression which includes poverty, chastity, and obedience, and more. In order to profit from your inquiry into Dominican life, you need to put your moral life in order—ordinarily with the help of a spiritual director. This admonition is not peculiar to Dominicans. Saint Paul counsels that the carnal man does not give himself over as easily to spiritual things as does the man who removes himself from even legitimate carnal pleasures (see 1 Cor. 7:32,33). Much of what is entailed in a reformation of life or conversion of life requires only common sense to discover. So I will limit myself to some obvious examples. If you are drawn to embrace holy poverty as a way of life, then you cannot immerse yourself in the enthusiasms of the consumer society. Your beguilement with the latest styles of clothing, the fastest cars, the best gadgets, including computer games, must diminish. The virtue that governs Dominican poverty is detachment. A Dominican uses things to complete the good works which he aspires to accomplish. However, these external things cannot become the center of his affective life.

If you are drawn to espouse the Truth, and to live chastely in order to do the good things that Dominicans do, especially to preach the Gospel, then you cannot follow the patterns of life that popular culture magnifies. Hooking up does not prepare one for the cloister. Growth in chastity requires guidance in most cases. Still, some general principles can be set forth that guide the man who aspires to Dominican life. First, autosexual pleasuring, such as masturbation, prepares a man for no known vocation in the Church. Satisfying the concupiscence of the eyes by viewing pornography thwarts the relational love in which the Dominican should delight. A man must prepare to contemplate, that is, to establish a loving relationship with God, and he must prepare to practice pastoral charity, the virtue of the priest, that is, to love the sheep of the sheepfold. These sanctifying activities are eminently relational. The man who has become accustomed to self-gratification, inevitably, depreciates his capacity for relational activities. Moral theologians rightly call the exercise of autosexuality oxymoronic. Sexual pleasure is made to knit together two people in a friendship called marriage. A fortiori, all forms of illicit relational sexual experiences impede a man from developing an appreciation for Dominican life. The Dominican must accustom himself to moments of affective solitude, as does any priest, and one does not prepare for this discipline by engaging sexually with women.

Before one receives the habit of Saint Dominic, he asks for God’s mercy and that of the Order. He does so lying prostrate before the Provincial. Prostration symbolizes religious submission. Modern culture tends not to celebrate hierarchical ordering. The best way to prepare for obedience is to repose confidence in the people that the Order asks to guide you toward final profession. Confessors and Masters alike. Pray, ponder, prepare. The man who aspires to join the Order of Preachers should undertake these steps. The Vocation Director will give other instructions. Prepare for obedience by following what he says.

In conclusion, I should like to draw to your attention an advantage of following the program that I have described. Each step described above draws you out of yourself. Self-preoccupation thwarts a man’s ability to live according to the designs of divine providence. Truth to tell, the key to reaching heaven lies in the abandonment to divine providence that the saints practice heroically. In the discussion that occupies the final questions of the secunda pars of his Summa, Aquinas mentions the word “providence” only once. It occurs when he is talking about the necessity of poverty for “religious perfection.” One objection says that poverty exposes one both to so many temptations, for instance, to steal, and dangers, for example, physical deprivations, that it could never contribute to living a perfect life. To which Aquinas replies that those who give up everything to follow Christ also “entrust themselves to divine providence.” Such as these need never fear that any harm will befall them. If there be a discernment to make—in the first definition of the English word—the discernment is whether I want either to follow my own designs or to commit myself to God’s providence. The whole Christian tradition replies to this Either/Or with a response in accord with that of Jesus himself: “Seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6: 33).

(1) For a brief discussion, see Romanus Cessario, O.P., “Vocation, a Grace from God,” National Catholic Register, 10-16 January 1999 and the account of my talk given at Christendom College in 2001 at (Accessed 9 November 2014).

(2) The general principle is set down in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), no. 1722.

(3) For information, see (Accessed 9 November 2014).

(4) See 1 Corinthians 13:12 as rendered in the King James Version: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

(5) See Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 185, art. 1: “Whether it is lawful to desire the episcopate?” What Aquinas allows for the Bishop may be applied also to lower clerics and religious, namely, it is lawful to desire these states of life for the good works that they accomplish.

(6)  Oxford English Dictionary, s.v “Discernment,” 1.

(7) Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Discernment,” 2.

(8) Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Discernment,” 3, a.

(9) Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Discernment,” 3, b.

(10) Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “Discernment,” 3, c.

(11) “A second edition followed in 1674, arranged into twelve books (in the manner of Virgil’s Aeneid) with minor revisions throughout and a note on the versification.” See (Accessed 8 November 2014)

(12) For example, see the 1686 English translation of D. Bouhours Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, vol. I, p. 46: “The Exercises which Ignatius compos’d at Manreza..adding to them divers Rules concerning Catholick Faith, Prayer, Alms deeds, Temperance, Scruples, and Discernment of spirits [Fr. le discernement des esprits].” This book by Dominique Bouhours (1628-1702), a Jesuit, is listed in the Boston College catalogue with the following notation: “John Dryden 1631-1700; Henry Hills -1689? printer.; Louis XIII, King of France, 1601-1643; Boston College High School, former owner,; Louis XIII, King of France, 1601-1643; Written in French by Dominick Bouhours of the same Society / Translated into English by a person of quality Published by His Majesty s command / London: Printed by Henry Hills, printer to the King’s most excellent Majesty, for his houshold and chappel 1686.”

(13) See Giovanni Battista Scaramelli, “Discernimento de’spiriti per il retto regolamento delle azione proprie ed altrui. Operetta utile specialemente ai Direttori delle anime,” first published at Venice in 1753.

(14) One standard authority acknowledges that the modern meaning of spiritual discernment is not found in Aquinas. See the article in The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4. 2nd ed. (Detroit: Gale, 2003): 765-767. For further information, see Joseph Pegon, “Discernement des esprits. IV. Période moderne.”in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité III (Paris: Beauchesne, 1957), cols. 1266-1281.

(15) Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 64 a. 3 ad 2: “Sed homo peccator non est naturaliter distinctus ab hominibus iustis. Et ideo indiget publico iudicio, ut discernatur an sit occidendus propter communem salutem.” The Blackfriars edition of the Summa (New York, 1975) translates the verb “discernatur” as “to decide.”

(16) See Summa theologiae Ia-IIae q. 111, art. 4: “et etiam occulta cordium, et quantum ad hoc ponitur discretio spirituum.”

(17) Aquinas also wrote three special treatises on religious life and those who may enter it. An Apology for the Religious Orders, The Religious State, the Episcopate, the Priestly Office, and An Apology for Religious Orders were each translated into English by J. Procter and published in London at the start of the twentieth century (1902).

(18) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Consecrated Life” (Vita Consecrata), 1996, no. 32, refers to the “fundamental states of life,” priests, consecrated, and lay.

(19) See Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 184: “De statu perfectionis in communi.”

(20) Vita Consecrata, no. 32: “As a way of showing forth the Church’s holiness, it is to be recognized that the consecrated life, which mirrors Christ’s own way of life, has an objective superiority.”

(21) Aquinas explicitly teaches that the priesthood considered in itself exceeds in dignity (ad dignitatem) the life of a non-ordained religious, e.g., the cooperator brother (an example that Aquinas himself uses). The reason that Aquinas gives to support his view applies as well to ranking Holy Orders above the laity: “through sacred orders one is committed to most worthy ministries in which one serves Christ himself in the sacrament of the altar [the Eucharist].” See Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 184, art. 8.

(22) For further information, see Romanus Cessario, OP, Theology and Sanctity, ed. Cajetan Cuddy, OP (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, 2014), chap. 7, “Aquinas on the Priest: Sacramental Realism and the Indispensable and Irreplaceable Vocation of the Priest,” pp. 133ff. Originally published in Nova et Vetera, English Edition, 8 (2010): 1–15.

(23) See the 1997 Interdicasterial Instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest,” especially “Theological Principles.”

(24) Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 184, art. 1 (Blackfriars edition, 1973).

(25) “Ipse nos tibi perficiat munus aeternum / ut cum electis tuis hereditatem consequi valeamus.” Roman Missal, Third Eucharistic Prayer.

(26) Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 186, art. 1.

(27) See Summa theologiae IIa-IIae q. 186, art. 7.

(28) See above, note 20; Vita Consecrata, no. 32.

(29) See CCC no. 2005.

(30)  See Summa theologiae Ia-IIae q. 112, art. 5. Aquinas does allow a special revelation from God to an individual; however, he envisages this as an exceptional case, e.g., what is said of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3 f.

(31) See Summa theologiae Ia-IIae q. 112, art. 5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats this teaching; see no. 2005.

(32) See CCC nos. 2004 and 1585.

(33) See CCC no. 1578: a man “must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church” (emphasis added).

Fr. Romanus Cessario OP is a member of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph (Eastern) and teaches at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.

RELATED: The Grace that St. Dominic Brings into the World

Tough Business

Just under 20 years ago, St. John Paul II completed his sixth visit to the United States, passing through New York, New Jersey, and Baltimore. The grounds of the seminary were flooded with thousands of people, and the Mass in Central Park was packed.

But even after the clamor and activity faded, Cardinal O’Connor, Archbishop of New York, noticed another trend. Twenty young men who had attended the rally at the seminary returned a few weeks later, to think more seriously about the priesthood. Several months later, fifteen more had inquired. Having decades of experience as a Priest, Cardinal O’Connor was not pollyannish over such inquiries. While rejoicing in such developments, he also sought to ground these men (and others responding to the Pope’s call) in service to God and His Church, rather than simply their own self fulfillment. He writes:

“The priesthood is a tough business–not grim, not gloomy, not a life for perpetual handwringers, but tough. I don’t know anybody who has more laughs than priests, or more love. But to pick up a cross and follow Christ is not for the fainthearted or the ambiguous. We need men who can handle the temptations of this pressure cooker culture without wilting. Souls need salvation, not scandal. Nobody who has to ask ‘what’s in it for me’ to become a priest should even consider applying…”

Ten years later, John Paul II was interred with 3 bags of coins, each containing 26 (for each year he had served as Pontiff). It served as both his entire compensation as Pope, and his severance package, but it had not been sought by him, nor did he need it. Instead, he received the One that is necessary.

St. John Paul II, pray for us!

Br. Leo Camurati entered the Order of Preachers in 2011. He is a graduate of Cooper Union in New York, where he studied Mechanical Engineering. Prior to entering the Order, he worked to administer an Engineering Standards Committee. He is a contributor to Dominicana Blog of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

(Source: Catholic New York, November 16, 1995)

Official 2014-15 Photo for Eastern Province Dominican Studentate

Dominican Student friars 2014-15

The Dominican Province of St. Joseph is blessed to have fifty-six men in post-novitiate formation at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. Of these friars, fifty-five are clerical brothers being formed for the priesthood, and one is a cooperator brother in initial formation. In this photograph, the student brothers are accompanied by three Dominican friars who serve as formators at the Dominican House of Studies: Fr. Andrew Hofer (master of students), Fr. John Baptist Ku (assistant master), and Fr. Dominic Langevin (assistant master). Please pray for our student brothers as they continue their formation.

The Studentate of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph
Dominican House of Studies, Washington DC, Fall 2014

Back row (left to right): Br. Athanasius Murphy, Br. Timothy Danaher, Br. Augustine Marogi, Br. Hyacinth Grubb, Br. Bonaventure Chapman, Br. Paul Clarke, Br. Raymund Snyder, Br. John Devaney, Br. Innocent Smith, Br. Philip Neri Reese, Br. Albert Dempsey, Br. Edmund McCullough, Br. Joachim Kenney, Br. Humbert Kilanowski, Br. John Mark Solitario, Br. Charles Shonk

Second row (left to right): Br. Gregory Pine, Br. Aquinas Beale, Br. Peter Joseph Gautsch, Br. Nicholas Schneider, Br. Irenaeus Dunlevy, Br. Ephrem Reese, Br. Constantius Sanders, Br. Clement Dickie, Br. Alan Piper, Br. Joseph Martin Hagan, Br. Leo Camurati, Br. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, Br. Mannes Matous, Br. Thomas Davenport

Third row (left to right): Br. Antoninus Samy, Br. Gabriel Torretta, Br. John Sica, Br. Michael Weibley, Br. Jonah Teller, Br. Isaac Morales, Br. John Dominic Bouck, Br. Pier Giorgio Dengler, Br. Norbert Keliher, Br. Boniface Endorf, Br. John Thomas Fisher, Br. Justin Bolger, Br. Louis Bertrand Lemoine, Br. Thomas More Garrett, Br. John Paul Kern, Br. Ambrose Arralde, Br. John Baptist Hoang

Front row (left to right): Br. Vincent Ferrer Bagan, Br. Patrick Briscoe, Br. Thomas Martin Miller, Br. Henry Stephan, Fr. John Baptist Ku (assistant master), Fr. Andrew Hofer (master of students), Fr. Dominic Langevin (assistant master), Br. Luke Hoyt, Br. Anthony VanBerkum, Br. Dominic Verner, Br. Jordan Zajac

Dominican Radio Spots – help us get the word out

Fr. Gillen on Radio

Linked below you will find our 30 second radio spots talking about the Dominicans and the current vocation boom in the United States.  Please share these with your local Catholic radio stations and generously support Catholic Radio where you live! We are especially grateful to Sacred Heart Radio in Cincinnati for helping us produce these. The music behind the spots comes from our student friars’ recent album, In Medio Ecclesiae (MORE INFO).


To be used within the territory of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph (Eastern). Please pass these along to your local Catholic radio station to help us get the word out about our upcoming vocation weekends!

September 19-21, 2014 vocation weekend (overbooked!)

November 14-16, 2014 vocation weekend (3/4 full!)

February 13-15, 2015 vocation weekend

March 27-29, 2015 vocation weekend


These can be used nationally for all four US Dominican provinces. Pass these along to your local Catholic radio station and help us get the word out!

“Dominicans proudly wear Our Lady’s Rosary…” (#1)

“To contemplate and to pass onto others…” (#2)

“Those of you who faithfully pray the Rosary for vocations…” (#3)


On the Qualities of Religious Life: St. John Paul II and the Angelic Doctor

When considering qualities of the states of life within the Church, it is helpful to look at what the Church actually teaches. Certainly these documents/texts should be prayerfully studied by any young man considering a consecrated religious vocation.  These selections come from Blessed John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas (the “Common Doctor” of the Church). The last text from our Dominican Constitutions shows how the life of the Friars Preachers, described by St. Thomas Aquinas, is “apostolic.”

Vita Consecrata 18:
The evangelical counsels, by which Christ invites some people to share his experience as the chaste, poor and obedient One, call for and make manifest in those who accept them an explicit desire to be totally conformed to him. Living “in obedience, with nothing of one’s own and in chastity,” consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection. His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth, a way which may be called divine, for it was embraced by him, God and man, as the expression of his relationship as the Only-Begotten Son with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. This is why Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective superiority of the consecrated life.

Summa Theologiae (II-IIae Q. 188, a.6) speaks about 3 kinds of religious life. “The difference between one religious order and another depends chiefly on the end, and secondarily on the exercise.” The highest is that which through an abundance of contemplation illuminates or overflows with teaching and preaching. (The second is the purely contemplative life. The third is the life which is devoted to exterior actions such as almsgiving and receiving of guests.)  In talking about the first form of life, it is succinctly summarized in the motto of the Friars Preachers, coined by St. Thomas Aquinas: “To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation.”

Fundamental Constitutions of the Order of Friars Preachers (IV):  “We also undertake as sharers of the apostolic mission the life of the Apostles in the form conceived by St. Dominic, living with one mind the common life, faithful in the profession of the evangelical counsels, fervent in the common celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist and the divine office as well as other prayer, assiduous in study, and persevering in regular observance. All these practices contribute not only to the glory of God and our sanctification, but serve directly the salvation of mankind, since they prepare harmoniously for preaching, furnish its incentive, form its character, and in turn are influenced by it. These elements are closely interconnected and carefully balanced, mutually enriching one another, so that in their synthesis the proper life of the Order is established: a life in the fullest sense apostolic, in which preaching and teaching must proceed from an abundance of contemplation.”

                Contemplative Dimension of Dominican Spirituality (Aumann OP)

Fr. Gillen on the radio in NYC

Fr. Gabriel Gillen OP on LIVE radio in NYC: WORD to LIFE that airs each Friday at 1PM EST on Sirius XM’s “The Catholic Channel”

Christ on the Cross: Exemplar of Every Virtue

Fra Angelico's Christ Crucified

“Isn’t the life of Dominican study rather dry and boring?” It’s a fair question. After all, carefully parsing the tightly argued articles of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae can seem far removed from the passionate intensity of a zealous pastor or an otherworldly mystic. In truth, Dominican study deepens the friar’s life of contemplation and prayer, and impels him to go out and preach these saving truths. The work of preaching in turn drives him back to still more study and prayer.

Stolid St. Thomas reveals the prayerful passion that lies just below the surface of his more famous works in his less well-known commentary on the Creed. In this section about Christ crucified, Aquinas puts his lifelong study of sacra doctrina to use as he dwells on his greatest desire: the God who made us, saves us, and draws us back to Himself. Non nisi te, Domine!

St. Augustine says that the passion of Christ can bring about a complete reformation of our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly need do nothing other than despise what Christ despised on the cross, and desire what Christ desired. There is no virtue that did not have its example on the Cross.


So if you seek an example of charity, then, “greater love than this no one has, than to lay down his life for his friends” [Jn 15:13]. And this Christ did upon the Cross. If, therefore, He gave His life or us, we ought to endure any and all evils for Him: “What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He has done for me?” [Ps 15:12].


If you seek an example of patience, you will find it in its highest degree upon the Cross. Great patience is exemplified in two ways: either when one suffers intensely in all patience, or when one suffers that which he could avoid if he so wished. Christ suffered greatly upon the Cross: “All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any sorrow like My sorrow” [Lam 1:12]. And with all patience, because, “when He suffered, He did not threaten” [1 Pet 2:23]. And again: “He shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter and shall be dumb before His shearer, and shall not open His mouth” [Is 53:7]. He could have avoided this suffering, but He did not: “Do you think that I cannot ask My Father, and He will give Me presently more than twelve legions of Angels?” [Mt 26:23]. The patience of Christ upon the cross, therefore, was of the highest degree: “Let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us; looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who, having joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” [Heb 12:1-2].


If you seek an example of humility, look upon Him who is crucified; although He was God, He chose to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to be put to death: “Your cause has been judged as that of the wicked” [Job 36:17]. Truly “that of the wicked,” because: “Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death” [Wis 2:20]. The Lord chose to die for His servant; the Life of the Angels suffered death for man: “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” [Phil 2:8].


If you seek an example of obedience, imitate Him who was obedient to the Father unto death: “For by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just” [Rom 5:19].


If you seek an example of contempt for earthly things, imitate Him who is the King of kings, the Lord of rulers, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom; but on the Cross He was stripped naked, ridiculed, spat upon, bruised, crowned with thorns, given to drink of vinegar and gall, and finally put to death. How falsely, therefore, is one attached to riches and raiment, for: “They divided My garments amongst them; and upon My robe they cast lots” [Ps 21:19]. How falsely to honors, since “I was covered with lashes and insults;” how falsely to positions of power, because “taking a crown of thorns, they placed it upon My brow;” how falsely to delicacies of the table, for “in My thirst they gave Me to drink of vinegar” [Ps 68:22]. Thus, St. Augustine, in commenting on these words, “Who, having joy set before Him, endured the Cross despising the shame” [Heb 12:2]. says: “The man Christ despised all earthly things in order to teach us to despise them.

Br. Henry Stephan entered the Order of Preachers in 2011. He is a graduate of Princeton University, where he studied Politics.

(Source: Expositio in Symbolum 4)

Timeline of the Life of St. Dominic

Testing by Fire with heretics and St. Dominic


1170 Dominic de Guzman is born in Calarogo, now Caleruega, Spain.
1184 Dominic attends the university in Palencia.
1190 Dominic is appointed to the canonry at Osma.
1203 Dominic accompanies his holy bishop to the Marches of France.
1206 On the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, Saint Dominic has a vision.
1207 Bishop Diego dies and Saint Dominic takes charge of the small band of preachers.
1208 Servants of an Albigensian count murder a papal legate, giving the heresy more political significance.
1211 Saint Dominic prayers save drowning pilgrimages.
1215 Dominic goes to the Lateran Council.
1216 Pope Honorius III succeeds Innocent III. Dominic set out for Rome to complete the foundation.
1217 The Founder is allowed to return to Toulouse in May of 1217.
1218 By January 1218, Dominic had walked back to Rome.
1219 Dominic then travels through France to his Spanish homeland, and then as far as Paris by June of 1219.
1220 The first General Chapter of the Order is held in Bologna around Pentecost, 1220.
1221 Death of St. Dominic – Friday, August 6, 1221, about 6 o’clock in the evening.

St. Dominic

Dominic de Guzman was born in Calarogo, now Caleruega, Spain. As the Middle Ages were approaching their peak, the pope grew in prominence beyond any king in Christendom. The spiritual life of the Church was in the process of renewal, but there was still ignorance and division that threatened to get worse. In the year 1170, the same year in which Saint Thomas Becket was martyred in England, Dominic de Guzman was born in Calarogo, now Caleruega, Spain, about 20 miles from the Cathedral in Osma.

Before his mother conceived him, she saw in a vision that a dog with a burning torch in its mouth would come forth from her womb and set the world aflame. Later, she saw the moon on his forehead, yet at his Baptism, his godmother perceived it as a star. The boy was christened probably after Saint Dominic of Silas whose nearby shrine was a favorite of his mother.

His parents were Blessed Jane or Joan of Aza, renown for her charity to the poor and her miracles, and a nobleman named Felix de Guzman. They lived in a tower in the little village of which they were the royal wardens. Their eldest son Anthony would become a Canon of Saint James, and their second, Mannes, would eventually follow his younger brother in the Order of Preachers. Mannes was laterbeatified. Two nephews of Dominic would also join the Order, sons most likely of his sister. As a boy, Dominic was sent to his mother’s brother to receive instruction for seven years. His uncle was a parish priest in Gumiel d’Izan. Even as a child, Dominic avoided games and denied himself the comfort of a bed to sleep on the floor.

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Medieval Book

1184 Dominic went to the university in Palencia. At the age of 14, he went to the university in Palencia, in the kingdom of Leon. Around that time, there was a terrible famine. To give alms to the poor, he sold his possessions, even his precious annotated books, thinking that the living skins of the famished were more important than the dead skins of his books. Music was studied in the quadrivium. Consequently Dominic loved to sing, particularly the Ave Maris Stella and the Veni Creator. His study of the arts lasted six years.

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Dominic accompanied his holy bishop in 1203 to the Marches of France, in the Languedoc region, because of a royal wedding. It was there that they were struck by the spread of falsehood. People were adopting Albigensianism which considered all material things to be evil. While at Toulouse, Dominic stayed up all night until he had persuaded the innkeeper to accept the true faith. About that time, the pope had called upon the Cistercian abbots to preach against this heresy. At Montpellier, Bishop Diego convinced them to abandon their ostentatious retinues. He himself put on the Cistercian habit and joined the mission, taking Dominic with him. From then on, the subprior was called “Brother Dominic.”

The preachers held disputations from town to town, attended by the lowly and the noble alike. At Fanjeaux, arbiters held a trial by fire for the manuscripts written by Dominic and his adversaries. The one written by Saint Dominic flew out of the flames three times. A similar miracle took place at Montreal.

The Albigensians were extremely austere, but Dominic surpassed them all by his charitable sacrifices. He might eat a bit of dried fish or a little bread and soup. Women who often fed him testified that he never ate more than two eggs, and his wine was about two-thirds water. Dominic wore an abrasive hairshirt, and had an iron chain forged around his waist. He slept very little, and when he did, it was always on the floor, preferably in the chapel. There, the fire of the Holy Spirit even dried his rain-soaked habit better than those of his companions who spent the night by the fireplace. Exhausted from his vigils, he sometimes napped on the side of the road. It was his practice to carry his shoes until he got to town. Once when he needed directions, people maliciously sent him along a path of briars, but he was always happy to bear a little more for the love of God.

Dominic once told a pompous bishop, “… heretics are more easily won over by examples of humility and virtue than by external display or a hail of words. Should we not rather arm ourselves with devout prayers and, carrying before us the standard of true humility, proceed in our bare feet against Goliath?” As hard as he was on himself, nevertheless, Dominic was easy on others.

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On the night of July 22, 1206, the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, on a hill of Fanjeaux overlooking the little town of Prouille on the plain, Saint Dominic saw what appeared to be a globe of fire descending upon a shrine of Our Lady. The sign from Our Lady (or sign of God, “Seignadou” in the local dialect) occurred again the next two nights. From this, he understood that he was to establish a monastery of nuns at Prouille. In the months that followed, Dominic converted nine young women. Consequently, the first “Dominican” convent opened on the 27th of December. Saint Mary Magdalen, the penitent Apostle to the Apostles, therefore, would become the patroness and mother not only of the converted nuns of Prouille but of the Order of Preachers about to be born.

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In 1190, Dominic was appointed to the canonry at Osma, while pursuing theological studies. Around five years later, he was ordained to the priesthood. The Canons Regular were essentially clerics who customarily followed the Rule of Saint Augustine. He continued with this life for another nine years. During his nightly vigils, Father Dominic grew in holiness as he wept for sinners. Of the many books he read, he was particularly fond of the Conferences of the Desert Fathers by Cassian. When Dominic was 31 years old and the subprior of his community, his prior, Diego d’Azevedo, succeeded the Bishop of Osma.

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Bishop Diego returned to his diocese in 1207, but died soon after. Saint Dominic then took charge of the small band of preachers. Already at Prouille, there was a double monastery or priory next to the monastery, but the brothers were not yet bound to Dominic canonically.

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Unfortunately in 1208, servants of an Albigensian count murdered a papal legate, giving the heresy more political significance. As a result, the mission turned into a bloody crusade in the hands of aristocrats and their armies. In the course of the war, Churches were burned, and the preachers disbanded. Dominic, often alone, continued at the task for years, all the while serving the victims of violence.

Brother Dominic always hoped to be martyred but thought himself unworthy. So, he fled places of honor and drew near to mistreatment, to where people would spit and throw filth at him. Aware of looming ambush, he approached singing in plain view. His courage and faith, however, intimidated assassins.

At Muret, the Catholic force was vastly outnumbered, but they broke through the enemy line, killed the heretical King of Aragon and won a great victory, just as Dominic had foretold.

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In 1211, while the war continued , a group of English pilgrims were on their way to Saint James of Compostela in Spain. While crossing the River Garonne, the overloaded boat capsized. Dominic, in a nearby church, heard the cries of bystanders and soldiers. Many of the pilgrims were already underwater. Dominic prostrated himself, prayed and loudly commanded their safety in the Name of Jesus Christ. Immediately, the pilgrims emerged near the shore and were pulled to the riverbank. One of the pilgrims, named Lawrence, would be one of the first members of the Order of Preachers. In another incident, a ferryman demanded payment from Dominic, who then prayed and picked up a coin at his feet. Later, eyewitnesses would testify to these and many other miracles at his canonization process.

At Castres, Dominic was praying in the church. The prior sent one of the canons to fetch him for dinner. Seeing Dominic floating in the air, he returned to tell the prior who went to see for himself. So moved was he by the phenomenon, the prior, Matthew of France, became another of Dominic’s first followers. Eventually, a new group of preachers gathered to support his mission.

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Dominic meets Francis

Peter of Seila gave Dominic large stone buildings at Toulouse, and became his follower. While in this city, the small fraternity attended lectures in theology. Toulouse was the see of Bishop Foulques, who greatly supported the preachers. In 1215, Dominic accompanied Foulques to Rome for the Lateran Council.

While in Rome for the Council, it is believed that Saint Dominic met Saint Francis of Assisi. Both of them would establish a new kind of religious life,which is mendicant and apostolic. At a later time, one or the other founder got angry at his sons for extravagant buildings and held up the other Order as an example of simplicity. Members of both Orders call both saints “Holy Father.” For centuries, it has also been the custom for Friars Preachers to invite a Friar Minor to preach on the feast of Saint Dominic, and vice versa. Pope Innocent III was inspired to approve these new Orders because he saw in a dream one or the other of these saints reaching up to support the tottering Church, lest it fall to ruins. Today in Saint Peter’s Basilica, colossal statues of Saints Francis and Dominic flank both sides of the Chair of Saint Peter.

In Rome, Bishop Foulques and Saint Dominic petitioned Pope Innocent III for the right to establish a new Order of Preachers. Until that time, preaching was the proper function of bishops. The bold prospect of having an order whose priests cross diocesan boundaries to preach as needed would be a great privilege, yet clearly the time had come for such a development, and Dominic was worthy of the responsibility. So, the pope told him to return to his brethren, and with them, to choose an existing rule. Hence, after the council, Dominic and his companions chose the Rule of Saint Augustine. To this short monastic rule, constitutions were added. Therefore, the preachers would be generically monastic, yet specifically “friars” not always bound to a particular cloister nor to manual labor. For the friars, even the monastic elements of their life acquired an apostolic thrust; for instance, the Liturgy of the Hours was celebrated more succinctly so they could get on with study and the preaching of truth. Bishop Foulques then gave them charge of three Churches, to each of which priories were added. The first was Saint Romain in the cathedral city of Toulouse, and its priory was a model of simplicity. It was the summer of 1216 and the friars had grown in number to sixteen.

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Approval of Order of Preachers

Pope Honorius III succeeded Innocent III. Dominic set out, nevertheless, for Rome to complete the foundation. He arrived in September, but did not receive the papal bull of confirmation until December 22, 1216. In a second bull issued the same day, Honorius said, “We, considering that the brethren of the Order will be the champions of the faith and true lights of the world, do confirm the Order in all its lands and possessions present and to come and we take under our protection and government the Order itself, with all its goods and rights.”

The pope wanted Dominic to stay at the Lateran for awhile, so Honorius appointed him to be the Master of the Sacred Palace, that is, a theological advisor to the pope, a teacher of the papal court and a censor of books. Since then, the position has traditionally been held by a Friar Preacher. While in the Eternal City, Dominic made pilgrimages to the great Christian shrines.

Once, while praying in the old Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Dominic saw a vision. The Apostle Peter handed him a staff, and the Apostle Paul handed him a book. Together, they spoke to him, saying, “Go and preach, because you have been chosen by God for this work.” Immediately, it seemed to Dominic that he saw all his children preaching two by two throughout the world. From then on, Saint Dominic was often seen on the road carrying a walking stick and the Epistles of Saint Paul. He also carried the Gospel of Saint Matthew, and could recite these Scriptures by heart.

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The Founder was allowed to return to Toulouse in May of 1217, but the reunion was short. By August, our Holy Father planned to send his sons far and wide on the feast of the Assumption. They protested because it seemed that their small number would be too diffuse, but Dominic replied, “Do not oppose me, for I know very well what I am doing. The seed will molder if it is hoarded up; it will fructify if it is sown.” In time, his prophecy proved true. Instead of dissipating, the Order grew rapidly, and its fruit likewise multiplied.

Consequently, before the great dispersion, the whole Order gathered for the last time at Our Lady of Prouille. The congregation was stunned by the unusual severity of his sermon, for on that day, he had inspired fear in them all. It was probably on that occasion that the brothers professed their vows in his hands; hence the custom of making profession on the Assumption is still common. Coincidentally, Saint Dominic appears today in the painting of the Assumption in Saint John Lateran. When the time had come, he sent most of the friars to the universities at Paris and Bologna. This emphasis on study has always been an integral component of Dominican formation. In fact, many professors soon entered the Order. Dominic, the first “Master” of the Order, sent other friars to Rome and to Spain, while the remainder continued the mission in southern France. About this time, our Father let his beard grow in hopes that he would be allowed to preach among the Tartars and receive martyrdom, but the opportunity never came.

To his brethren, Dominic was exemplary in mortification, doctrine and contemplation. Three times each night, he would whip himself to blood, once for his own salvation, a second time for sinners, and a third for departed souls. Later, other Dominican saints would do the same. Dominic habitually wept for sinners, in the towns he passed, while celebrating Mass, and during his vigils. He was heard crying: O Lord, what will become of sinners? Often on the road, he would either instruct his companions or wander off to pray. His most evident characteristic was that he always spoke to God in prayer or about God to others.

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By January 1218, Dominic had walked back to Rome. Around that time, an important canon lawyer, Blessed Reginald of Orleans, wanted to follow Dominic but became bedridden with sickness. Our Lady came to anoint him and to show him the full habit of the Order of Preachers. Reginald recovered and the Order soon adopted the addition to its habit, which was probably the scapular. Saint Dominic too had seen visions of Our Lady. Once he saw Her in the dormitory sprinkling the brethren with holy water as they slept. Therefore, today, the prior or prioress in every Dominican convent sprinkles the community at night prayers (Compline) during the Hail, Holy Queen (Salve Regina).

Due to the generosity of Pope Honorius, a Dominican priory was established at San Sisto (Pope Saint Sixtus II, Martyr) on the Appian Way. Dominic, having received a revelation from God, called the brethren to the chapter room to announce the proximate deaths of four friars, two physically and two spiritually. Soon thereafter, his prediction proved true, for two men died, and two others left the Order for worldliness.

The community at San Sisto had grown very numerous. One day, Dominic was informed by the procurator that their begging had produced almost no food. He ordered the brethren, nevertheless, to gather at table for their meal. He then prayed and suddenly two young men or angels, looking mysteriously alike, came into the refectory to dispense a portion of bread and wine to each friar. The same procurator told of a similar miracle on another occasion.

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Dominic then traveled through France to his Spanish homeland, and then as far as Paris by June of 1219. For a few days, German pilgrims, who traveled on the same road, fed him, so he prayed for the ability to speak their language, and the gift was given to him. Neither language nor locked doors could obstruct him. More than one porter wondered how he got beyond their gates. After establishing houses along the way, Dominic returned to Italy, stopping at Milan, Bologna, Florence and Viterbo. He was in Rome for Christmas.

The pope then asked Dominic to reform and organize the more or less independent nuns of the city. By February of 1220, he gathered many at San Sisto. The diplomacy he exercised to overcome protests and achieve this unfavorable organization must have been inspired. He called Mother Blanche from Prouille to take charge of the monastery. The friars meanwhile moved to the ancient Basilica of Santa Sabina, another donation from the pope. For centuries, the Masters of the Order have managed the Order from there.

Dominic is a saint because of his great charity, not because of his miracles, yet the greatness of his miracles is a sign of his love. Of all his well attested prodigies, the most remarkable are the resuscitations of the dead. Our saintly Father once rescued a workman who was crushed by a fallen wall at San Sisto. Another time, the nephew of a cardinal fell from his horse and suffered mortal injuries. Almost immediately, Dominic celebrated Mass. Hours passed before he raised the man to life, with all his wounds healed. In another case, a woman went to hear Dominic preach at San Marco in Rome, but later she returned home and found her little boy dead. She rushed the child to Dominic who brought him back to life. When the pope expressed his desire to publicize the miracle, Dominic threatened to leave town. People were already clipping bits of his habit for relics.

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Our Lady Gives the Rosary
The first General Chapter of the Order was held in Bologna around Pentecost, 1220. Centuries later, the democratic principles of the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers would influence nations. The Founder recommended that all economic matters be handled by the lay brothers, but the Chapter Fathers voted against him. Dominic preached throughout Italy for a year until the second General Chapter, once again in Bologna. By then, his health was declining, yet he continued to walk from town to town preaching. By mid summer, he had spent his strength. Heaven had warned the “Athlete of Christ” that his life was about to end. His work was bearing fruit. Already the Order had grown to eight provinces: Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy, Rome, Germany, Hungary, and England. By the time he reached Bologna in August, it was very hot and humid.

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Death of St. Dominic

The heat compounded his fever. He could no longer stand, but refused to be put on a bed. He lay on the floor of a borrowed cell, in a borrowed habit, for he had none of his own. He had bequeathed to his children this testimony: “Have charity one for another; guard humility; make your treasure out of voluntary poverty.” He then emphasized poverty, saying, “May my malediction and that of God fall upon him who shall bring possessions into this Order.” When asked about burial, he expressed his wish to be “under the feet of the brethren,” that is, under the feet of those who bring Good News. He assured them, “Do not weep, my children; I shall be more useful to you where I am now going, than I have ever been in this life.”

Near the end, he told the elders, “Till this day, God, in His mercy, has kept my virginity pure and unstained. If you desire this blessed gift of God, hold yourselves apart from everything that can conjure up evil, for it is by watchful care in this that a man is loved by God and revered by man. Be eager in your service of God; strengthen and widen this newborn Order; increase your love of God and your keen observance of the Rule; grow in holiness.” Only a few more words were exchanged. After his confession, he directed his sons to begin the Commendation of the Dying. During its recitation, he stretched his arms upward and died. It was Friday, August 6, 1221, about 6 o’clock in the evening: fittingly the Transfiguration, a feast regarding prophets and apostles. Saint Dominic had lived 51 years.

Miracles followed and devotion to the saint grew, so the church building needed to be expanded and Dominic’s body moved. Hundreds of people of every rank attended the Translation on May 24, 1233. When the stone covering his remains was lifted, a gentle aroma, like a sweet perfume, filled the air to the delight of all. The sacred relics have since been revered in a sepulcher befitting his glory. Within a year after the Translation of the Body, after collecting depositions and testimonies, Dominic was canonized a saint. His feast is celebrated on the eighth of August.

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2014 Reception of the Dominican Habit

2014 Dominican Novices

On August 8, 2014 the Dominican Province of St. Joseph received 12 men into their novitiate.  To read their bios click HERE.  To see many photos of the vestition click HERE.

Here are their religious names:

In the world…In the Order….

David – James (of Ulm)
Jeffrey – Pio Mary
Eric – Gabriel
Jacob – Raphael
William – Simon (of Cyrene)
Bruce – Reginald
Stephen – Martin
Joseph – Barnabas Marie
Alfredo – Josemaria
Joseph – Joseph Bernard
Kevin – Ignatius (of Antioch)
Daniel – Isaiah


Prepare yourself to possibly enter religious life

For one week we have 26 novices!

2013 and 2014 novices

2013 and 2014 Dominican Novices for the Province of St. Joseph with the prior and the new novice master


2014 Simple Profession in Ohio


On the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Friday, August 15, 2014) at 11:30AM in St. Gertrude Church, 6543 Miami Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45243 our 14 novices friars made their simple profession of vows.



Now since they have made their simple profession, they will be moving to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC to begin their studies in Philosophy and Theology. Please pray for them!

For men considering a vocation it was possible to arrive the night before, a reception followed. Plan to join us for our next vocation event!


What can I do now to prepare to possibly enter the Dominicans?