(For How a Lay Dominican Prays, go here)
So, all throughout this long Dominican saints series, you may be wondering why I'm a Dominican. Well.....that's sort of an accident.
I was unknowingly surrounded by Dominicans in elementary school. My favorite elementary school teacher had been a Dominican sister. The sisters at the convent on our parish grounds? Dominicans. My family always had a devotion to the rosary, which was given to us by....Dominicans. (You should know that by now, at least!) I always have a rosary in my purse, and my bedposts have always bedecked with rosaries. The rosary is my favorite prayer. If I say I'm praying for you, it usually means you're getting a decade of the rosary, or, in some cases, my entire rosary.
I had always been drawn to the Liturgy of the Hours. I remember reading about them in one of my prayer books as a teenager, and I wished I knew how to pray this mysterious set of prayers. Back then, there wasn't internet like there is now--there were no websites to visit.
I've always loved reading and study. Well, OK, not math study. (Sorry, Dad.) But learning has always been fun for me. I read our World Book Encyclopedia for fun. Sometimes I click around on Wikipedia for fun. I'm a nerd, yeah, but I like expanding my knowledge. Unless it's math. :)
My patron saint for Confirmation was St. Therese, and I was definitely drawn to the Carmelites. As a child of John Paul II, the idea of redemptive suffering, of the meaning of suffering, was something I was attracted to, and something the Carmelites seemed to know a lot about. St. Teresa of Avila is also a saint I admire.
So, all of this was sort of conspiring to lead me to the Dominicans--even the Carmelites. :)
In 2010, I was looking for a way to deepen my spiritual life. I wanted more than just the prayers I was saying. I wanted a deeper, more cohesive prayer life. I knew some orders had third orders or lay associates. So I began to do a little web searching.
I found the third order Dominican website (now we're called Lay Dominicans, but I still like being called Third Order Dominicans...I'm old-school). It talked about the four pillars of the life: prayer, study, community, apostolate. A lay Dominican prays a daily rosary, and the liturgy of the hours. A Lay Dominican loves study and the pursuit of truth. Apostolates bring the truth we study out into the world, and community binds us together.
This sounded pretty good. Where could I find a chapter?
Oh, two miles from my office. Really.
At St. Patrick Church, which was run by Dominicans, there was a Lay Dominican chapter. I had also been toying with the idea of a new parish.
So on my lunch hour that day, I went to St. Patrick's, and attended Mass. I loved the priests. I loved the way the Mass was said, reverently and prayerfully. I loved that confession was offered every day!
I went into the office and filled out a registration form. Two weeks later, I went to my first Lay Dominican meeting.
I made life promises to the order last December, so they can't kick me out now!
So, yes, I made up my mind quickly. But I'd been around Dominicans all my life, and hadn't known it. I knew, instinctively, that my personality and temperament fit into this order the best. Third Order life, to me, is a deepening of my instinctual desires. I have the Liturgy of the Hours, I have the richness of Dominican community--which is almost 800 years old!--and I have a place where my spiritual life can flourish under the rule St. Dominic gave his first followers. It may not be as easy to identify as Franciscan or Carmelite or Benedictine spirituality, and one of the reasons I wrote the series on Dominican saints was to get some of them out there. We can be sort of forgotten. But Dominicans really are deeply embedded in the history of the church.