What Do Dominican Sisters Do All Day?
From Sun up to Sundown
One question I get asked a lot is: “What do Dominican Sisters do all day?” That particular question always kind of makes me laugh because if I say to someone in response, “Well, what do you think I do all day?” The answer will always be, “Pray.” Yeah, like I pray all day long, 24/7, every single…..that would not even be human. That is certainly not the divine plan. Now, when Saint Paul says, “Pray all day.” He means do it by your life. We don’t stop and go to the chapel and do nothing else all day. Do we pray? Yes, we pray. We also do something else, and so do you, called work. And that’s very important to us. That keeps us balanced. And we love our work. And we play. We really enjoy our family life which is our community of sisters. We really enjoy the people that we work and play with outside the community.
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I’m going to quickly take you through a normal day. We teach as our apostolate in our community of Dominicans. Our life is really based on, number one, prayer. So you are correct if you say we pray a lot. We do pray a lot. That’s really who we are. We are professional pray-ers. How do you like that? We pray a lot. That’s who we are. Our spouse, remember, is Christ. And so we begin every day, with the bell going off (and it jars you), at 5:00am no matter what. It’s going off, and you get up, and you get yourself ready. By 5:30am, we sisters are in our chapels. No matter where we are teaching, where we are missioned throughout the world, we are in our chapels. And at 5:30, we begin with Eucharistic Adoration. When we founded the community 21 years ago, we decided on the name Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The Eucharist, he is our spouse, and so we wanted to highlight the fact that we are loved by, and committed to, Christ himself. He is our spouse.
Our spouse is in that tabernacle. Our spouse, we must see. So as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we wanted that Eucharist to be really celebrated. We wanted our spouse to be known to the world. And so we chose that title, and we begin each day with a Eucharistic hour. An hour of Eucharistic adoration. Also, the Dominican Order, was steeped and founded upon the liturgy but not just the mass, which is the highlight, but also the divine office, and so the liturgical calendar of the year guides us into the divine office. The liturgy of the hours.
And so we begin each day praying the first liturgy of the hours, which is Lauds, or morning prayer. So we pray that, in our Eucharistic adoration, as well as our meditation time in that. After the end of that particular hour, we go right into mass, because to sit and look at your spouse is never going to be enough. You want to take your spouse into your entire being and become a better person for that shared love. So we receive him, our spouse, in Eucharistic holy communion. And that is why the mass leads our day, along with our Eucharistic adoration. Once you’ve got that straight, the rest of the day is going to flow with his blessings. We need that. We are frail people, like everyone else. We need those graces. And we also have great, big, maternal hearts, and we know a lot of people who are suffering. Probably some of you have already called into our community and said, “Would you please pray for this intention? Would you put this concern of mine on your prayer board, so that the sisters can pray?” And so we take that very seriously, because we’re here for you, to pray for you, to pray for the entire world. And that’s the spiritual motherhood. So after mass, then we have a quick breakfast. You wouldn’t believe how quick it is.
Some people can’t believe we can eat as fast as we do, but we have to. Why? Because the professed sisters – that means they’ve already made their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – and depending on where they are in their education, go out to college classes and continue their education to get professional degrees in education, or go out to schools and teach all day. Either way, you run. One thing about our meals that I want to share with you, we are a Dominican Monastic community and the Dominicans go back 800 years. Part of the Monastic spirituality is the fact that we have a lot of silence. Because we need to recollect ourselves, to calm down, to chill out, to come to prayer, and mainly because we need to listen to God speak to us. One of the ways we do this in our meals, we have silence at the table. Silence as we eat. Saint Dominic would say we are feeding our minds and our hearts as we are feeding our bodies. Because it’s a whole person. It’s a totality that we each are and we bring out to the world.
So we begin the day with some intellectual stimulation and at this point, as I mentioned, most of the sisters are out to either study or teach. However there is another group of the community that stays at home. They are the youngest sisters. So for the first three years, they stay at home. They’re in what is called the novitiate, which really means the beginners. They’re the young ones. They’re the beginners. And so they have a lot to learn. No girl enters understanding religious life. She’s never lived it before, and it is a radically different kind of lifestyle, so she’s got a lot to learn. And it’s not just learning it in her mind; it’s becoming a part of who she is. It seeps into every cell of her body that she is a Dominican sister, and it becomes her identity. And from that, just as it has to with marriage, we focus on the world in a way as someone chosen by God for this vocation, just as married people would do also, and as people dedicated to their life pursuits. They come at the world with a reason and a presence and a desire. Our reason, our presence, our desire is always God.
And so these young ones have their own classes. They also have a lot of house duties. So until noon, there are at least two classes that they are in. They study things such as scripture, Dominican spirituality, Vatican II documents, convent life, church history, Latin, philosophy and all kinds of theology and great books. Our motto is Veritas, which means truth. And so it’s the hallmark of the Dominicans that we will study, and learn, and take to prayer, and deepen in our understanding of these great truths that God has given us, and take them out and preach and teach to the world. So they have a lot of study. But they also have, and I mentioned this, a lot of physical work in the sense of we get some of our dignity as human beings in what we produce.
Now, after that, we go back to the chapel. We have spiritual reading because, again, that’s an education that we put on ourselves to continue reading the doctrines of the church, the great works of the church history. Then we have vespers. Vespers are another part of the Divine office. The sisters at home have also added daytime prayer in there around noon, but everyone is there for 5 o’clock evening prayer or vespers. Another part of the Divine office, the Divine liturgy. And so we pray that together, and then we pray a rosary. After that, we come, and we have dinner. The meals reflect the liturgical calendar. So, if it’s a solemnity, we get to talk, and do we ever talk.
If it is a Ferial day, we have silence, and we have another reading. And we, again, are reading some of the greatest books in the history of Christendom, and we’re sharing them. And then we leave from that meal, and go out, and talk about them, and discuss them. And That bell saves us from ourselves. So at 6:30, that bell is ringing, and we go, and we just enjoy each other. And we play cards or we play games or we sometimes watch good movies that are out there or, sometimes, we just sit, and we continue conversations. But whatever it is, it’s the best family quality time.
But after that athletic or family time the bell rings again. We have 15 more minutes of spiritual reading, which again, is just relished. We then go into what, for many of us, is our favorite hour. Compline. Compline ends our day as we make a procession through the Compline Psalms. At the end of the Psalms, as Dominicans, an 800 year-old procession that we make to actually go up to the Blessed Mother’s alter carrying lighted candles and singing the Salve Regina. Now, I’ll let you in on one other thing. Dominican’s will go out of this life breathing their last with the sisters or the friars around them singing the Salve Regina. So at the end of each day of our lives, we go out, so to speak, of the active part of our lives into the silence, into the contemplation, into the rest, singing the Salve Regina. And so at the end of each day, we give it to Jesus through Mary in this Salve Regina as we carry the candles. And we end up at her alter giving ourselves, yet again, to Jesus through Mary. Again renewing the consecration that we make after mass every morning, the total consecration to Jesus through Mary by Saint Louis De Montfort, who by the way was a third order Dominican.
At 10 o’clock we have to be in our cells, the monastic term for our rooms and nobody fights that. We enter the monastic profound silence and you better be in bed because you won’t believe how quickly that bell rings again to get you up at 5:00am. God bless each of you and may we all meet merrily in heaven.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her Podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” Can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00pm EST from iTunes. The Podcast can be seen on YouTube at: GoLEDigital.
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