Contemplative Life

The Contemplative Tradition

Institutes completely devoted to contemplation, composed of either women or men, are for the Church a reason for pride and a source of heavenly graces. By their lives and mission, the members of these institutes imitate Christ in his prayer on the mountain, bear witness to God’s lordship over history and anticipate the Glory which is to come.

Photo of a Dominican nun at prayer

In solitude and silence, by listening to the word of God, participating in divine worship, personal asceticism, prayer, mortification and the communion of fraternal love, they direct the whole of their lives and all their activities to the contemplation of God. In this way they offer the ecclesial community a singular testimony of the Church’s love for her Lord, and they contribute, with hidden apostolic fruitfulness, to the growth of the people of God. (Vita Consecrata, 8)

Since the beginnings of the Church, men and women have answered the special call to dedicate their lives solely to the contemplation of God. Communities of contemplatives such as the Dominican Nuns, Poor Clares, Discalced Carmelites, Benedictines, Trappists, and Carthusians share in the heritage of great saints. Among these are Saint Anthony the Abbot, Saint Pachomius, Saint Mary of Egypt, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Augustine of Hippo whose Rule is followed by Dominicans.

Dominican Contemplative Nuns

Photo of the nuns' statue of Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican OrderIn the year 1206, Saint Dominic brought together a group of women at Prouille, France, to form the first community of Dominican Nuns. From the very beginning of the Dominican Order, Saint Dominic associated his nuns with the Holy Preaching of the brethren through their lives of contemplation, liturgical prayer, work, and sacrifice. Saint Dominic founded the community of enclosed nuns ten years before he founded the friars, knowing that the success of his Order of Preachers would be dependent and intimately connected with the intercession of his spiritual daughters.

True to the contemplative tradition, the ultimate goal of our life as Dominican Nuns is to be free for God alone. This contemplative life is the best part of the Christian life. Contemplation has always held a most important place in the Church and our Order, but perhaps today it is more necessary than ever before to the Church, to the Order, and to Society. Our modern world has little time or space for reflection, meditation and quiet contemplation. The life of a Nun or Monk offers a powerful reminder and witness to the primacy of place God should have in the life of the Christian.

In the United States and Canada seventeen Monasteries of cloistered Dominican Nuns follow the way of life established by Saint Dominic eight hundred years ago. The elements constituting the Dominican life are the common life, the celebration of the Liturgy and private prayer, the observance of the vows and the study of Sacred Scripture. To fulfill these faithfully, the Nuns are helped by enclosure, silence, the habit, work and penitential practices.

Photo of a Dominican Nun at Eucharistic AdorationThe Nuns of the Monastery of Saint Jude keep Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, placing at the Throne of Jesus the intentions of those who commend themselves to the Nuns prayers. By spending time each day with Jesus in this way, we are able to keep a silent vigil with and for those in need of God’s love and mercy.

It is God who offers this call. If a soul has been praying and is open to hear His call, He extends His invitation. It really is an invitation, not a command. God simply desires a joyful and free response to His love. The message is not a letter or sound in the ear. It is more like a recurring thought, a persistent longing to be closer to God, to serve Him alone, to offer oneself for the salvation of souls.