Part Two of the Portrait of a Cloistered Dominican Nun Series
The Dominican nun, having heard God call her to a vocation of love, longs to give herself completely to Him in love. She has seen the things the world has to offer – many of them good things, created by God and which can lead people to knowledge and love of God. She has grown in knowledge and perhaps began exercising her talents and skills by means of her education, a career, in her parish and relationships with family and friends. Yet, her heart is not satisfied: she realizes that even these good things of life on earth are passing away. She desires to give herself completely to the eternal: Supreme Goodness in Truth and Love. And she burns with love for the souls around her who are wandering in darkness, without the light of Truth.
She sets herself to follow in the footsteps of our Holy Father Dominic, who first gave himself to God in a life of contemplation, and then was sent by God as a “useless servant” to preach the Gospel to those living in darkness. The Dominican nun follows her Beloved into the desert and, in the example of Moses and Queen Esther, prays for God’s mercy and grace on behalf of lost souls. As her Beloved Jesus first expressed His thirst for souls while suffering on the cross, this desire burned in the heart of our Holy Father Dominic. A Dominican nun shares in this longing for souls and Dominic’s words continue to ring out toward heaven from the lips of his daughters and sons: “Lord, what will become of sinners?”
Look at a community of Dominican nuns and you will see all kinds of personalities, gifts and skills. Like a beautiful garden with a variety of flowers and plants, no two Dominican nuns are alike. There is no one “type” of Dominican contemplative; you cannot look at a person and say he or she has a “natural disposition” for contemplation. Rather, the contemplative life is a calling to a life of love, of affective knowledge of God, that is, knowledge of the heart (as opposed to the intellect). God can impart knowledge of Himself through love to the heart, and it is this knowledge that forms the core of the contemplative life. It is aimed at eternal things, a supernatural life of grace and the living out of the theological virtues (faith, hope and love) in a radical way. In this way, it is a life at the heart of the Church, a lamp on a hill as a sign to all the faithful of the life to come.
The Dominican nun has an apostolic heart and participates in the holy preaching of the Dominican Order. There are many kinds of preaching: catechetical, apologetics, and so on. But holy preaching is the essential function of the contemplative life. Holy preaching unveils the mysteries that are the objects of the faith and presents them as nourishment to the faith; it is divine because God uses the preacher as His instrument. Holy preaching is a gift from God and as such, the preacher must content himself or herself to wait on God and be used at His pleasure, in His own way and time. Jesus’ life was one of holy preaching. But it was not until after Pentecost, when the disciples had experienced the silence of contemplation with the Blessed Virgin in the Cenacle, that the Spirit came upon them and sent them forth to preach. A Dominican nun waits in silence and preaches as Mary – most often in her life of prayer and silence. Sometimes she preaches through a word of encouragement to her brothers and sisters, and the faithful with whom she comes in contact. And always her example speaks volumes as it shows forth our dignity as children and spouses of the triune God.
Want to learn more about how to discover the gifts God has given you and about cloistered, contemplative life as a Dominican nun? Contact Sister Joseph Marie to register for our upcoming “Come-and-See” Day. The deadline to register is fast-approaching!