Emily M. DeArdo



A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican

Catholicism, Dominicans, prayerEmily DeArdo6 Comments
St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s  The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

Lots of people, when they hear I’m a Lay Dominican, want to know what that means—and I realized I’d never written a blog post about it! So I’m way overdue to write one about what this vocation actually means. :)

(It’s going to be sort of long. Sorry. But thorough!)

When St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers (that’s what Dominicans are also called—and it's abbreviated OP, so if you ever wanted to know what that means, now you know!)

The “First order” is the friars and brothers—they are priests, or “cooperator brothers”.

The “second order” is the cloistered nuns, who live in monasteries. Yes. Monasteries for nuns.

The “third order” is the laity and the sisters (the sisters live in convents. Nuns are cloistered, which means they don’t go out of their monastery without a good reason and permission. Sisters aren’t enclosed.). Dominican sisters in the U.S. are involved in many ministries.

Now, third order laity members don’t look different than anyone else. We don’t wear a habit or any sort of insignia regularly. (Alas!) We can wear a medal of St. Dominic or another Dominican saint if we want, or a pin that has the shield of the order. But we don’t look any different than anyone else.

We make promises, not vows. They’re not binding under pain of sin, but we do take them seriously.

A “day in the life” of a lay Dominican actually depends on the person! It can look radically different for everyone. The rule of life for Dominicans is very flexible and allows for a lot of adaptation, which is one of its strengths.

However, in that day, the four pillars of Dominican life are probably represented. These are:

  • Prayer

  • Study

  • Community

  • Apostolate

El Greco,  St. Dominic In Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic In Prayer

Prayer is—well, prayer. A lay Dominican prays lauds and vespers from the liturgy of the hours and says a daily rosary. She attends Mass as often as she can, and attends confession frequently. A yearly retreat is a good idea. You’re taught how to pray the liturgy of the hours in your chapter meetings (at least I was), and you can use either the books of the breviary, or an app—whatever works better for you.

Since Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic, of course we are devoted to it! :) We try to say one set of mysteries—five decades—a day. If you can do more, great!

Bernardo Cavallino,  St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin

Bernardo Cavallino, St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin

So, how does that look in my day?

I say lauds, generally, right when I get up. I go downstairs, start the coffee, and start lauds. When I was working I said lauds at my desk before the workday began.

I say vespers around 5:00—if I’m going out to eat, or have evening activities, it’ll be later, whenever I get home. The rosary I try to say right after vespers, but if that’s not possible, then I say it before I go to bed. My love of the rosary was an early sign of a Dominican vocation. It’s long been my favorite way to pray!


Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.

Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.

In the above statue, you see St. Dominic holding a book. Study is key to the life of all Dominicans—St. Dominic wanted his family to preach the faith fearlessly. But to do that, they had to know the faith! That meant study. Even today you will find many friars assigned to universities around the world, where they interact with students and teach theology classes. Preaching is at the heart of the Dominican life—the holy preaching of the truth (“Veritas”) of Christ.

St. Albert the Great, a Dominican, gave us the scientific method. The “angelic doctor” of the Church, one of its mightiest theologians, is St. Thomas Aquinas, also a Dominican. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be a genius to be a Dominican. Blessed Margaret of Costello was blind and abandoned by her parents.

What you have to have is a love of study and sacred truth. This can mean daily bible reading, reading spiritual works, taking theology classes—whatever suits your interest. Sometimes chapters will study something together. But to be a Dominican, you have to love to read.

How do I do this? I’m generally always reading at least one spiritual book. I’m working on building the habit of daily bible reading (lectio divina). I love to read spiritual books and look forward to talking about them with my friends or writing about them here. You don’t have to read St. Thomas’ Summa. You can read “popular” theologians, like Scott Hahn or Bishop Barron’s writings. If you want, you can read the Summa! You can dive as deeply as you want. But you should always be learning more about the faith.


St. Dominic.jpg

Community doesn’t really always play a part in daily life—there are monthly/regular chapter meetings (every chapter varies, I think most meet once a month), but in daily life, there’s not a whole lot of contact. Certainly I have Dominican friends, including the friars that I personally know, but this isn’t an area where I have consistent daily contact. Some people probably do. For the friars, sisters, and nuns, of course, community is daily; it’s how they live.


Fra Angelico,  Coronation of the Virgin  (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)

Fra Angelico, Coronation of the Virgin (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)

Apostolate is “contemplating and sharing the fruits of contemplation”—a twist on St. Thomas’s saying (one of the mottoes of the order: “to contemplate and share with others the fruit of our contemplation.”) My blog is one of my apostolates; I write about the things I discover in prayer and study. The Catholic 101 series and the resulting book are fruits of my study, prayer, and Dominican vocation!

Some Dominicans I know are hospital chaplains; others are CCD teachers, work in homeless shelters, or make rosaries. There are as many apostolates as there are Dominicans. Mine tends to be more on the writing end, so it’s pretty daily for me. I write blog posts, or essays for Take Up & Read, or work on manuscripts that have to do with Christ and the Church. That’s my apostolate.

To sum up: A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican is drastically different for every one of us, but it’s always rooted in prayer and study, finds support in community, and brings forth fruit in the apostolate of each member.

Here are links to the Lay Dominican provinces in the U.S.

Eastern (that’s me)




Do you have any questions? Send them to me in the comments!

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 

Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 


Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Here is the Dominican saints series I wrote awhile back, and here is the specific post on St. Dominic, if you'd like to acquaint yourself better with the "preacher of grace." 

One of the mottoes of the Dominican order is veritas--truth--and I think we can all agree that we need truth today (maybe more than ever?). So if you're not already friends with St. Dominic, introduce yourself!

I am blessed to know so many sons of St. Dominic, his friars, and some of his daughters, the nuns and sisters (and of course the laity, of which I am a part). 

If you want to be especially Dominican today--pray the rosary! Yes, the rosary was given to the Dominican order, and spread throughout the Church. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!


Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Dominicans, dominican saints series, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast of St. Dominic! Today is a big day for me since I'm a Lay Dominican, and I intend to make it a good Feast Day!

If you're asking, St. Dominic who? Go here

For more on some of my favorite Dominican saints, go here

And today would be a great day to pray the rosary, since St. Dominic was the one who got it from Mary, and all that. :) From my St. Dominic piece: 

Besides the Dominican order, St. Dominic gave the church another treasure: the rosary. The rosary was given to St. Dominic at Prouilhe in 1214. Bl. Alain de la Rouche, a Dominican priest, spread devotion of the rosary in the 15th century. The habit of Dominican friars, nuns, and sisters includes a rosary worn on the left side of the body, where knights use to wear their swords, since St. Dominic said that the power of the rosary was more powerful than any other weapon. Pope Pius XI said that, "The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." 



St. Pope Pius V: Rosary Warrior

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment


Pope St. Pius V basically saved Christendom in Europe--not to mention Europe, period. That's right.

Well, OK. He didn't. The rosary did. But you'll understand more in a second. 

Pope St. Pius V is the only Dominican saint who was also a pope. (In the photo above, you can see his habit peeking out from under the surplice.) Born Antonio Ghislieri on January 17, 1504, he entered the Dominican order at the age of fourteen and took the name Michael (or Michele, in French and Italian) as his name in religion. 

(Side note: This is why you call Dominican priests/friars "Fr./Br. First name." They chose that name as their name in religion, and they're proud of it! So you can call them Fr. Michael, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Paul.) 

Michele was ordained in 1528 and was sent to the Italian town of Pavia, where he served as a priest for sixteen years. While there, he wrote many pieces against the Protestant Reformation. As prior of several Dominican priories, he insisted on discipline, overcoming the lax standards that had been the rule in these priories. He was elected pope on January 8, 1556, right before his fifty-fourth birthday. 

He was very important in ensuring the formality of the Mass, and asserted the importance of ceremonials in the life of the church. He also promulgated the 1570 version of the Roman Missal, which we know today as the "Latin Mass", "The Tridentine Mass", or "The Extraordinary form". (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI allowed this form of the Mass to be more widely celebrated following a molto proprio (meaning "on his own inititative"--it's a type of Apostolic Letter) promulgated in May, 2007.) 

He also declared Thomas Aquinas the fifth Doctor of the Church, and supported Mary, Queen of Scots, against Elizabeth I in England. (He's the pope who excommunicated Elizabeth.) He is also credited with the formation of the pope's signature white garments, since the Dominican habit is white. 

Like Rose of Lima, Pius V had to deal with a hostile navy--this time, the Turkish navy, in order to prevent Italy from being added to the Ottoman empire, and its Christians being forced to convert to Islam, or become slaves. Pius V had asked the Holy League countries to fight against this invasion. The Pope also asked all of Christendom to pray the Rosary for the success of the fleet.  On October 7, 1571, the pope and the Rosary Confraternity of Rome met to pray the rosary for the success of the Holy League ships against the invaders. Don Juan of Austria led the Holy League ships against the Turkish fleet, and routed the enemy near Lepanto, off the Greek coast. 

The Battle of Lepanto,  by an unknown artist. 

The Battle of Lepanto, by an unknown artist. 

Pius V attributed the victory to Mary's intercession. In the Church year, October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was originally the feast of Our Lady of Victory, but Pope John XXIII changed it to the current title. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 

Pius V died on May 1, 1572, of cancer. He was canonized on May 22, 1712, by Pope Clement XI. His feast day is April 30 (right after St. Catherine of Siena!)

Daybook No. 100

books, Catholicism, Daybook, dominican saints series, drawing, knitting, links, Sketchbook Skool, writingEmily DeArdo1 Comment

(yes, I need to change the photo. I'll do that soon. :-P)

Outside my window::

Sunny, cloudy, and breezy. By "cloudy", I Mean we've got a few clouds floating around. So I guess that means partly sunny? I have no idea. 


My blue and white stripped breton top (short-sleeved) and my Boden skirt with the seaside print. I get more compliments on this skirt than anything else I own, so basically I have to keep it safe forever and ever. :) I'm also wearing my Charleston goldbug bee earrings. 

In the CD player::

Sterling Road, by Cassie and Maggie. 


Today's the 11th, so I'm off to do Holy Hour as soon as I finish this. I'm part of the Summit Dominican's adoring rosary, so that means on the 11th of every month, I have a Holy Hour. (I chose the 11th because that's the date of my transplant) Last month, my holy hour was in Charleston. :) I'm taking a lot of intentions with me. 

Today is also the feast day of St. Clare, follower of St. Francis and foundress of the Poor Clares--Mother Angelica's order. 


Middlemarch, Persuasion, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose


Working on my Sketchbook Skool classes--I have to draw a piece of toast later today. :) I'm also working on a colored pencil drawing that I did in pen a few weeks ago. I'm adding the color now and trying some new techniques. We'll see what comes of it. 

Also, I'm starting a new knitting project, but more on that tomorrow. Sorry guys, it's not anything exciting....yes. That purl stitch! :) 

Around the House::

It's the master bath's week for deep cleaning so I"m working up there. It always amazes me how many dishes I manage to go through as one person. Really! 


This week I'm doing a series on Dominican saints, and tomorrow St. Thomas Aquinas is up. So far I've done St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. It came to my attention over the weekend that not too many people are familiar with the Dominican saints, so I'm going to try to rectify that. 

I've also got two September Real Housekeeping pieces being edited. We haven't come up with our October topic yet, so I'm waiting to see what it is before I start brainstorming ideas. 

I'm also playing around with a new idea for a novel that will be my 2015 NaNo piece. In the brainstorming stage now. 


Yoga yesterday, gym today--after Holy Hour. I'm sad that this summer has mostly been too cool to go swimming. 



St. Catherine of Siena: Doctor of the Church

Catholicism, dominican saints series, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

St. Catherine is one of the three Dominican doctors of the church (we'll get to the others later), and one of only four women Doctors of the Church (along with St. Therese of Lisiuex, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Hildegard of Bingen). 

She was the 24th (YES, twenty-fourth!) child (out of an eventual 25) born to her parents, Lapa and Giacomo di Benicasa. Giacomo was a cloth dyer. Catherine was born n Marc 25, 1347 in Siena, Italy, and was one of a pair of twins. Her sister, Giovanna, died soon after their birth. As a child, Catherine (or in Italian, Caterina) was so happy that her nickname was "Euphrosyne", which means joy in Greek. 

Catherine had her first vision when she was five or six. On her way home with her brother, she saw Christ in glory, attended by the apostles Peter, John, and Paul. At age 7, she vowed her entire life to God. This vow was tested at the age of 16, when her sister died, and her parents tried to force her to marry her sister's husband. Catherine undertook a severe fasting regime as part of her prayer against being married against her will, and her prayers were answered. From these experiences, she later said that people should "build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee." Catherine maintained a constant state of prayer and awareness of God, even when she was outwardly attending to other things. 

Catherine chose to live an active and prayerful life, not becoming a mother or a wife, but also not becoming a nun. After a period of severe illness, Catherine's mother took her to the local "Mantellate", or third order Dominicans, and asked them to take her daughter. Catherine received the Dominican habit from the local friars, despite the strenuous objections of the Mantellate, for up until that time the women had all been widows. Catherine lived at home in almost total silence and solitude. She often gave away her family's food and clothing to the poor.

statue of St. Catherine of Siena at the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia's motherhouse, Nashville, TN

statue of St. Catherine of Siena at the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia's motherhouse, Nashville, TN

At about age twenty-one, Catherine experienced a "mystical marriage" with Jesus, where she received a ring that only she could see. After this, she gradually retreated from her life of solitude and entered the work and life of her family, and began helping the ill and poor of Siena, working in hospitals and in the homes of the sick. Other people were drawn to Catherine's joy and piety, and began to help her in her works. 

If this was all St. Catherine did, she would still be a commendable example of the Dominican charism and saintly behavior. But she did even more. Only taught to read by the Mantellate, Catherine could not write, but yet she felt drawn into the wider world of politics. She traveled through northern and central Italy advocating reform of the clergy and advising people on the spiritual life. She fought to have the papacy returned to Rome from Avignon, and kept up correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, through which she asked him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She eventually convinced him to return to Rome and take up residence there. Her involvement with the papacy is why she is often seen holding a boat in art--the boat is the Barque of St. Peter. 

In 1377, she learned to write, and wrote her Dialogue of Divine Providence, still relying on her secretaries for writing some of her correspondence. The Dialogue is her major work, and was written between October of 1377 and November of 1378. It is a dialogue between the soul and God Himself, and much of it was written while Catherine was in deep ecstasy. Her letters are considered great works of Tuscan literature, and some 300 of them survive. 

She died in Rome on April 29, 1380 at the age of thirty-three. 

Throughout her life, she practiced rigorous abstinence from food. She was a daily communicant and also received the stigmata. Catherine's mother, Lupa, helped Catherine's confessor, Bl. Raymond of Capua, O.P., write her daughter's biography. She was canonized in 1491 and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. 

Her feast day is April 29th, and she's the patron of illness, Italy, Europe, miscarriage, the sick, nurses, sickness, and the saint to invoke against fire. 

Possibly her most famous quote is: If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire (from her letters).

Tiepolo's  St. Catherine of Siena

Tiepolo's St. Catherine of Siena

St. Dominic

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdo2 Comments
St. Dominic performing penance; the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

St. Dominic performing penance; the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Today is the feast day of my "spiritual father", St. Dominic. As a Third Order/Lay Dominican, I am always happy to celebrate his feast day, and glad that God has given me a vocation to this great order. 

Here's Pope Benedict XVI on St. Dominic and his friars. Here, the Pope talks about St. Dominic and prayer.  

Dear friends, St Dominic reminds us that prayer, personal contact with God is at the root of the witness to faith which every Christian must bear at home, at work, in social commitments and even in moments of relaxation; only this real relationship with God gives us the strength to live through every event with intensity, especially the moments of greatest anguish. This Saint also reminds us of the importance of physical positions in our prayer. Kneeling, standing before the Lord, fixing our gaze on the Crucifix, silent recollection — these are not of secondary importance but help us to put our whole selves inwardly in touch with God. I would like to recall once again the need, for our spiritual life, to find time everyday for quiet prayer; we must make this time for ourselves, especially during the holidays, to have a little time to talk with God. It will also be a way to help those who are close to us enter into the radiant light of God’s presence which brings the peace and love we all need. Thank you.

There are three branches of the order: the friars, the nuns, and the sisters/laity. The order is celebrating its 800th anniversary next year!