A customary is typically a work which lays out the customs of a Church, Chapel, or religious institution. The Customary of the House of St. Agnes of Montepulciano is a work in progress and will be added to and altered from time to time as needed.
Modern Orders within the Dominican family (outside of Rome) have made great movements forward in advancing the role of women within the regular life of the Family. Orders like the Order of Preachers Independent no longer require women called to the Dominican Family to join a separate order with missions quite separate and distinct from the Friars. Instead they are incorporated into one united Order focussed on the central mission of preaching and teaching. This movement has brought a wonderful new element to the Dominican family and has recognised the valid calling of women to teach and preach the Gospel alongside their male colleagues. This change though has brought about what can be seen as a modern deficiency in the full charism and life of the Dominican family.
As new Orders of Dominicans have sought to modernise their way of life and their calling they have lost sight of the first foundations established by our Blessed Father Dominic. As any student of St Dominic is aware the first religious foundation that he established was not the Preaching Friars but was rather a convent of Nuns. Many may see this merely as a matter of necessity due to having converted single women who needed to be cared for. However, in this first establishment the strong working of the Holy Spirit was present; before the work of the Preachers could begin in earnest a group of prayer warriors was needed to support the preaching by calling down the blessing of heaven. And so it needs to be with the modern Dominican Orders; we need to be careful to foster the calling of the contemplative prayer warrior Dominican alongside that of the Preaching Friar/Sister.
It is for that reason that permission was sought (in 2017) from the Father General of the Order of Preachers Independent to establish a House of Prayer (in a somewhat physical sense) centred on the property and home of a brother of the Order in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. The House shall be under the patronage of St Agnes of Montepulciano and shall be styled The House of St Agnes of Montepulciano.
The Mission of the House shall be:
- To uphold the work of the Dominican Family (the OPI/UOCC and its members in particular) in prayer and to call down the blessing of heaven upon their endeavours.
- To elucidate the modern calling of a Dominican Contemplative in the modern world and within the context of modern Dominican Orders
- To offer services of prayer/sacraments; workshops; lectures; classes etc. via online media
- To promote and spread the importance of Christian Contemplation within the life of the Church.
As the Order of Preachers Independent expands it is hoped that the House of St Agnes of Montepulciano can stand as a model for other Houses of Prayer to be formed for the upholding of the Order, the Church and the World in perpetual prayer.
The House of St Agnes of Montepulciano is an organisation that exists as an organic part of the greater Order of Preacher Independent; as a consequence the House has total fidelity and obedience to the Rule, Constitution and By-Laws, and superiors of the Order.
Due to the nature of the life of the House some flexibility must needs exists in the schedule. For this reason if need arises the schedule may be broken without grave concern; however due care should be taken to follow it as closely as possible.
The following horarium is for a typical week day; further flexibility on weekends is needed to balance family life with that of the commitment to the life of the House. However, as with any change to the schedule prayer and consideration should be given to prayer life of the House.
|5:00 am||Morning Prayer|
|6:00 am||Breakfast and the start of work outside of the House (Mid-day prayers to be said)|
|4:00 pm||Prayer and Study|
|5:00 pm||Evening Prayer|
|6:00 pm||Dinner and recreation|
|7:30 pm||Compline, Adoration and other devotions (silence begins)|
|8:30 pm||Study and Prayer|
It is said that St Dominic “rarely spoke except with God in prayer, or about God, and he exhorted the brethren to do likewise.” With this in mind the members are called to make the House (and more especially their hearts) a place of silence so as to rest in God at all times.
This silence is not to be observed with unnecessary rigidity but as a spiritual discipline of great value.
A Great Silence shall exist from the end of Compline/Adoration until the start of Morning Prayer.
As the rule of the OPI requires we should at all times identify our calling as religious in the Dominican tradition. As much as possible this should be through the Holy Habit of the Order as outlined in the official documents.
When not able to wear the Habit it is recommended that a “street habit” is worn consisting of something like the following:
- Blessed plain white scapular (the regular habit of the Order) under our clothing
- White Shirt/blouse
- Black trousers/skirt/slacks (with belt if possible)
- Black vest/coat/jacket (if needed)
- Dominican Cross
- Rosary (in pouch, ring, bracelet or some other form suitable in the workplace is acceptable)
- Head covering (Zucchetto/Skull cap/Veil – as a means of expressing our servitude to God and our always being overshadowed by his presence – OPTIONAL)
When vesting in the Holy Habit it is recommended that it is done so prayerfully using those traditional prayers of the Order of Preachers. When vesting in the street habit prayers such as those following may be useful to remind us of our representing Christ even in our secular pursuits.
Scapular: Show yourself a mother, he will hear your pleasing whom your womb has sheltered and whose hand brings healing.
Shirt: Clothe me, Lord, in the garments of salvation (cf Isa 61:10);
Belt: Encircle me, Lord, with justice and purity (cf Isa 11:5);
Rosary: May I pray ceaselessly and be in constant contemplation of the life of Christ.
Head covering: Come down, O Holy Spirit, and overshadow me that I may love God above all else (cf Lk 1:35) and be always a slave of Christ.
Works of Penance
Blessed Jordan of Saxony wrote that St Dominic was one “who while he lived in the flesh walked in the spirit, not merely refusing to satisfy the desires of the flesh, but extinguishing them,” As religious dedicated to the life of prayers we should also be dedicated to a life of penance, in imitation of the Saviour and St Dominic.
All forms of penance should be undertaken prayerfully and it is recommended that the advice of a confessor or superior be sought before undertaking any new form of penance.
Members of the House should fast on all those days laid out by catholic tradition. Particularly focus should be placed on fasting on all Wednesdays and Fridays, throughout Advent and Lent (with the exception of feast days). Good Friday should be a day of solemn fasting.
The particular manner of the fast should always be determined with the health and wellbeing of the one fasting in mind. The point of fasting is not to cause harm but rather to build spiritual fortitude by moving our focus from our carnal needs to spiritual pursuits.
The life of prayer is the focus of the House and should take precedence for all those who dwell within it.
The house shall be committed to saying the Daily Office (consisting of at least Morning and Evening Prayer and Compline) daily. The office may be said using any resource approved for use within the UOCC.
Members of the House shall partake of Communion Daily (it is acceptable that this be from the reserved sacrament during Morning Prayer) and are required to participate in the Mass each Sunday.
The Horarium should be altered on Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation to include the Mass and such other liturgical celebrations as are normative in the Catholic tradition.
Prayer should be at the centre of the life of the House and as such sufficient time should be set aside each day for private prayers and devotions.
As has always been the case within the Dominican Family the Blessed Mother should stand close to our hearts in all our devotions. With this in mind the Rosary should be held in special regard and the practice of a daily Rosary should always be seen as optimal.
Devotion to and veneration of Our Blessed Father Dominic and the Saints of the Dominican Family should also be key to our prayer life as they stand as mirrors and examples of how we should fulfil our vocation. The intercession of the Dominican Saints will be of great benefit to the Order in fulfilling its mission.
Ministry of the Word
Though the House is dedicated to the life of prayer this should not exclude it from the Ministry of the Word as lived by those who are called to the active life of preaching.
To facilitate this the House should provide ample time for the study of sacred scriptures and the preparation of works (sermons, lectures, courses etc.) for the spreading of the message of the Gospel.
Lectio Divina should stand at the heart of the practices of the House as a means of digesting the Word and of allowing God to speak His message to us.
At all times the house should remember one of the great mottos of the Order:
Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere
(to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation)
We may be called to a life focussed on contemplation and prayer in the Dominican tradition but we must always be open to sharing the fruit of our labours with a hungering world.