The Work for the Lord – the Novitiate of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph

April 12, 2011

Well we have arrived to St. Gertrude Priory in Cincinnati, Ohio which also houses our novitiate. I am on a road trip to visit our parishes/campus ministries in New York City, Ohio and Kentucky with a couple of vocation candidates after our last vocation weekend. We do suggest that a man plan to visit at least two houses/priories of our province outside of the Dominican House of Studies (& a vocation weekend) if they are serious about applying to our province.
We arrived to find half the novices repainting a new office for a secretary for the priory and the other half are out at their apostolates all day. Because of our number of novices, the novice master has to be creative in getting the necessary work done in the priory. It is simply not possible for all of them to paint two offices at the same time!
I remember when I first arrived to the novitiate (years ago) and told my novice master while we were doing yard work that I was told that “what manual labor is to the monk, study is to the friar”. As you can imagine, he was not amused and I promptly got back to work! The friar preacher must be hard working and practical from the smallest task to the greatest endeavor of preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls.
It is true that the genius of St. Dominic was to create a band of preachers in a common life who were intelligent and able to engage the culture. Indeed it is not possible to do this unless someone has various talents and levels of education. But the novitiate, as you can see, does in fact include manual labor among many aspects of formation.  Our formation recognizes that no matter what level of education a friar has, he must be formed to work and live the common life together with his brothers, both theoretically and practically, for the common mission of the Order: “to be helpful to the souls of our neighbors”.

The Dominican Constitutions offer a definition of the Novitiate as “…a time of probation directed to this purpose, namely, that the novices come to know more deeply their divine, and indeed Dominican vocation, experience the Order’s way of life, be formed in the Dominican spirit in mind and heart, and manifest their intention and suitability to the brethren (LCO 177).” These words serve as the foundation of any novitiate in the Order. Coming to knowledge of a religious vocation requires time, silence, prayer and solitude. There is a time to pray and there is a time to work. Our Constitutions and the law of the Church require that a novitiate last at least one year. Silence provides the framework in which the Dominican can pray and study, which must always precede our preaching.

2009/2010 Novitiate Classes for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph at St. Gertrude Priory

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