St Catherine of Siena speaks of prayer as ‘the cell of self-knowledge’ and Sirach teaches us that ‘the prayer of the humble person pierces the clouds’ (35:17). Personal prayer is essential for the self-knowledge without which personal maturity is impossible. Christ himself spent time conversing with Holy Father in solitude. As the ultimate hour of his altruistic sacrifice drew near it was in personal prayer that he could find solace.
For Dominicans ‘The celebration of the liturgy is the centre and heart of our life, the basic source of our unity’ (LCO 57). This refers not only to the Eucharist but also to the Liturgy of the Hours which structures our day and to which St Dominic was always faithful. The liturgy draws us out of ourselves, to pray with Christ and the Church and so to grow in compassion for all. Through the variety of seasons and rites, celebrating the liturgy in its diversity, we praise God and our communion with Him is deepened. LCO 105 §II describes the Eucharist as ‘the source and summit of all evangelization’ while LCO 60 calls us to frequent reception of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.
The liturgy is a privileged place for hearing the Word, receiving it in joyful celebration, and allowing ourselves to be formed by the power of its truth. It is a goal of Dominican life to make people realise how service of the Word of God brings together everything in our lives: we contemplate the Word of God in prayer and study, we welcome the Word and celebrate it in the sacred liturgy, we allow the Word to shape our lives through the other observances of conventual life, and we proclaim the Word through preaching.
The Nine Ways of Prayer
These ways of prayer were the actual practice of our Holy Father. Standing, bowing, sitting, kneeling, genuflecting, raising arms, are part of the nine ways. St. Dominic knew that the gestures of the body could powerfully dispose the soul to prayer. In this experience of bodily prayer, the soul in turn is lifted to God in an act of praise, thanksgiving, and supplication. These ways of prayer are a glimpse into the inner life of St. Dominic and his intense love for God
The Dominican devotion to Rosary is an innate quality of the Order by virtue St Dominic having being given the Rosary by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Pius XI had stated that the very foundation and principle of the Dominican Order is the Rosary. (Robert Feeney, The Rosary: “The Little Summa”.) Devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, is at the heart of Dominican spirituality. In the Rosary we are with Mary, pondering the mysteries of the Word made flesh. Rosary is the sword and shield for every Dominican who sets out to preach the Word and defend the people of God against forces of evil.