Shaped By God

Shaped by God
By Fr. Michael Mary Dosch, O.P.

Fr. Michael Dosch, O.P., served as novice master for the men who just made their first profession. We asked Fr. Michael to give some insight on the novitiate, in general, and on these men he helped form as novices.

A Dominican friar is a man who is always open to being shaped by God into a holy priest in imitation of St. Dominic, so the beginning of our life has to be one of learning how to be molded and to learn all about the Order and our founder. As men dedicated to Truth, we have to know the truths of what the Order is and what God is calling us to in order to pursue this high calling. It has been wonderful to see so many enthusiastic young men respond to God’s call and then open themselves up to a life of being molded by God.

Laying down their lives, 12 men profess first vows at St. Gertrude parish in Cincinnati this past August.

The novitiate touches on every aspect of life, fully immersing them into living it. The life rotates around the liturgical life of the priory with Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, quiet meditation in common, and lectio divina. The community life is everywhere, with common recreation and shared meals at the monastic- style refectory table, shaped as a giant “U” where everyone faces each other. The intellectual life is nourished by regular classes, special workshops, regular times scheduled for study, and the deep everyday conversations around the table. Since apostolic ministry is integral to being a Dominican, they all have weekly apostolates.

One of the radical differences that novices first need to become accustomed to is silence. It is the guardian of prayer, study, and religious life. Coming from a noisy world, the component of silence is something to become used to, to embrace, and to cherish. From this newfound peace, the novices have to learn to pray in a new setting, which takes some adjustment. There are many ways of praying, to which they are exposed. There is, of course, a communal dimension, so the schedule has a half hour of quiet meditation in the morning, at a time they do not decide, where everyone is in their choir stall praying silently as they see fit. They also have to find at least another half hour during the day of silent prayer, typically lectio divina. This allows them time to experiment and gives God the opportunity to show them the best practices of prayer for themselves.

The one type of prayer that is particularly Dominican is liturgical prayer. The highlight of the day is the conventual Mass, typically sung and, of course, preached by a Dominican priest. The divine liturgy is extended throughout the day with the Office of Readings (Matins), Morning Prayer (Lauds), Midday Prayer (Sext), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). The Rosary is prayed in common daily, sometimes for a common intention such as the weekly Rosary for our benefactors, both living and deceased.

Prayer is a bond that unites, but of course much of the novitiate focuses on community life. The novice master’s plan for the novitiate is extensive in this area, but much of it happens spontaneously. Most of every day is shared with their brothers!

My hope for the men who just professed first vows is that they become saints. May they be excellent Dominican friars and priests, ever being open to God’s invitation to be his supple instruments and to draw closer to him.

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