A Preacher’s Life – Speaking Like a Dominican

When I was taking my screenwriting classes, our professor assigned us to write a dictionary.  “Every group has its own nomenclature,” she said.  Every society has its own slang and version of short-speak.  Dominicans fall into this just as much as anyone else.  So without further ado…


FRIAR: from the Latin, fratres, for brothers, the proper name for a male member of the Order.

Fran AngelicoHOLY FATHER DOMINIC: If you don’t know who this guy is, I don’t know what to tell you.  St. Dominic de Guzman, first member and father of the Order of Preachers.  That is why many of us call him “Holy Father” Dominic, relying on his paternal assistance in the Order’s mission for the salvation of souls.

NOVITIATE: St Dominic’s is home to the Novitiate of the Western Dominican Province.  The Novitiate is a year-long program in which a young man learns the basics of the Dominican Order and the Western Province.  (The ins-and-outs of the Novitiate will be elucidated in a later post.)

Novices on their Southern Tour of the Province

Novices on their Southern Tour of the Province

NOVICES: Funny enough, many people say that a person in the novitiate is a novitiate.  No.  The novitiate it the program; a novice is a person in the program.  He is also one of the youngest members of the province, learning from the senior community on how to live the Dominican life.  And sometimes, the habits that they actually learn are helpful….

NOVICE MASTER: Father Anthony is the current (and my) Novice Master.  He is the man who guides the novices through the first year.

OFFICE: most would think that this would be a small cubicle a quarter of the size of a San Franciscan studio, and a lot more sad.  For us, Office is not a place, but a duty.  We gather for prayer as a community a number of times a day.  When we talk about “Office”, this is short of “Divine Office” or the “Liturgy of the Hours.”  This is the prayer of the Church, answering St Paul’s call to pray constantly.  Morning Prayer and Office of Readings commence at 7:15, midday at 12 noon, Evening Prayer at 5:00 and Night prayer at 9:00.  Religious and clerics are obligated to pray the Office daily.

photoPRIORY: what you call a house, we call a priory.  This is the private residence of the friars.

PRIOR: In Big Brother terms, the Prior is the head of house. He is a friar in solemn vows who has been elected by the friars of the house to lead them.  Our current Prior is Fr. Steve (who is also our Vocations Director).

PRIOR PROVINCIAL: So, if the Prior is the head of the local community, the Provincial is the head of all of the communities within the Province.  There are four provinces, or territories, of Dominicans the country.  Basically, the Western Dominican Province is Salt Lake City to the coastline, from the tip of Alaska to the Mexicali.  The Provincial leads the Western Province.

STUDENT BROTHERS: Once you are in simple, temporary vows, but are still in formation, you are considered a Student Brother.  They are not seminarians.  Seminarians are men in formation for a particular diocese.  We aren’t diocesan priests.  A brother of the Order, but a student, learning the ways of the theology, philosophy and the ways of the Order and vocation.  Student Brothers are, more or less, expected to go through two years of philosophy and four years of theology amongst a battery of other things before solemn, final vows and, for those called, Holy Orders.

STUDENT MASTER: The man in charge – he makes sure that the student brothers are attending classes, are getting spiritually ready for ministry, and are being well-formed in the Dominican mode.

ThomasTHOMAS: I remember when I was at Stanford, I said, “Now, according to Thomas—“  and the students were like, “—the apostle?” I was so ashamed of them. (Has anyone taught them anything?!)  St Thomas Aquinas, of course, the Angelic Doctor, the great theologian of the West, a man whose theology must be battled if you ever want to contradict Church Doctrine.  All Dominicans learn from his Summa Theologiae, written as the pinnacle of his prolific academic and holy career.



Now I know that I am missing some terms.  Being a Dominican myself, in some ways, there is some slang that I don’t even realize is slang.  I mean, afterall, I can always write another post…


Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!


A Preacher’s Life – Speaking Like a Dominican — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for a good summary of the order, particularly in SF. One thing, that was not mentioned == What should parishioners address the novices? Are they “bothers.” If not, what constitues a brother?

  2. Interesting question. The Novices, as such, are members of the Dominican Community. Yet, they do not have the grace of Holy Orders. Thus, the title “Brother” is fine.

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