Fr Michael and Fr Justin are back to give a four-part series on prayer. Not only is there an overview about what prayer is, but also the major schools of thought about prayer, including the Dominican Point of View. Of course.
And one might think that the Dominicans’ point of view would be rather esoteric and intellectual. Afterall, ours is the intellectual branch of the Church—St Thomas Aquinas, St Albert the Great, St Catherine of Siena, we have two major schools of academia, both in Rome and Freiburg.
Yet Dominican prayer, or spirituality, is quite corporal.
Fr Michael and Fr Justin reminded me of a grand tale about Holy Father Dominic. While visiting the brethren in Bologna, St Dominic would keep vigil and pray for them while they slept. The novices, hearing Dominic pray, would sneak down to the main church and watch their father make his supplications to the Father.
And all the while, St Dominic would make a variety of gestures throughout the night. Genuflecting, bowing, prostrating, throwing his arms as though crucified. For the entire night, Dominic would make these gestures over and over again, till the sun rose.
Years later, the brothers knew that Dominic would have these nine ways of prayer, but we didn’t adapt them, as such, into the spirituality of the Order. …actually, that is a half-lie. We did, in a not sort of way. What we did is integrate a series of bows, genuflections and prostrations in our most ancient rites—a ritual in which men receive the habit, when they take vows, during Liturgy of the Hours and sometimes, during Mass. But all nine ways? Not exactly.
Anyway, I digress. What is important to note is that bodily worship—genuflections, bows, whatever—is more central to a Christian’s way of life that we would like to admit. Christ himself was fully human, yes? His ultimate sacrifice was, in a sense, a corporal one. He allowed His Body to be an Altar of Sacrifice. His Body was beaten, bloodied and bruised to death, till was he asphyxiated.
Many of us would rather pray quietly, mentally, and away from the noise. All well and good—yet we also remember that we may and should use our bodies in order to praise God. As Christ used his own Body to glorify the Father, so ought we. As Christ allowed his Body to be used as the gateway towards salvation, so ought we. As Christ’s Body is the narrow gate towards holiness, so ought ours.
It is St Dominic’s month, a time where we celebrate our Founder and Father. A time when we contemplate his contribution within the road of sanctification. Let us joyfully kneel, bow, lower our eyes and contemplate the wonder of our Creator, and use our bodies as an instrument of joy and praise.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!
May God bless Fr. Michael and Fr. Justin in their prayerful presentations.
“Spiritual joy arises from purity of the heart and perseverance in prayer.”
St. Francis of Assisi