Friday, November 13, 2020
The Spirit of St. Dominic by Fr. Humbert Clerissac Notes

This past week I finished reading through The Spirit of St. Dominic. This book is a collection of retreat conferences preached by Fr. Clerissac to his Dominican brethren in England in 1908. While Father Clerissac passed from this life to the next in 1914, his deep theological insights are still relevant to today's Dominicans and any theologian. As Father Thomas Joseph White, O.P. writes in his Introduction to the book, “a great work of theology has a perennial relevance.” And while this is a more theological work that would be over the head of some, there are still nuggets of wisdom that anyone could appreciate and learn from.

Here are some of my takeaways from this work:

The Dominican Apostolate

The Dominican Order was founded for the salvation of souls.

Dominicans are champions and not mere foot soldiers for the Faith.

While some great apostles converted whole peoples and nations, the mission of St. Dominic was universal and as all-encompassing as that of St. Paul.

Thus, the Dominican Apostolate is distinguished by both its quality and extension from other orders.

Applying even to the tertiaries, the predominance in us of an apostolic intention is our first conformity to the mind and soul of our Lord.

We must remember that the primitive constitution laid down by God stated of Dominicans to “speak only of or to God.” This was St. Dominic’s way of life.


We are bound, in virtue of our doctrinal mission, to present every object of our teaching as true. Our own lives out to be governed by the influence of the true.

The idea of the Dominican Order can be summed up as fidelity to the absolute.

The faith of which we are champions is the faith that sees all things as if through the eyes of God. As St. Thomas said, we see everything as if through God’s eyes, if through faith we adhere to the supreme truth for its own sake.

The end of our study and contemplation is to enable us to get a glimpse of absolute truth.

Doctrinal Apostolate

The Apostolate of the Order is necessarily a doctrinal apostolate.

For the Dominican, preaching has always referred to teaching the Faith and all things connected to the Faith.

There can be no exception to study in the life of a Dominican of at least 4 hours a day.

Study in its most comprehensive sense is an essential preparation for our doctrinal mission.

In our study and teaching, we must let our hearts and our wills follow the impulse of our mind for God.

All truth comes from God and returns to Him; our study must always bring us back to Him.

There is nothing wrong with studying the pagan philosophers. Whatsoever is true comes from the One True God. These pagan studies were allowed in Blessed Jordan’s Primitive Constitutions.


There are 2 tendencies with study: study only for a purpose of spiritual utility or study in the Dominican and Aristotelian sense. This latter sense bases study on the right of revealed truth and considers all provinces of science as “tributaries of truth.”

Liturgical Prayer

The official prayers of the Church should lead to divine contemplation.

Canonical life helps the two great Dominican duties: study and teaching.

For those who throw themselves wholeheartedly into liturgical prayer, it cannot fail to take possession of you in both body and soul.

Liturgical prayer transcends all personal considerations. The prayer of the Church is bigger than anyone engaged in it. No greater sign of devotion to Our Lord and His Church can be given than the surrender of our personal interests and their absorption in the universal interests of God.

The spirit of prayer in the Church is the very breadth of Christ’s soul. The daily practice of liturgical prayer is the ideal way to preserve in us the precious power of the divine influence, even after the Eucharistic elements which we have received in Holy Communion cease to be present in us. 

Through liturgical prayer we truly fulfill the words of Scripture: “I pray, now not I, but Christ prayeth in me.”

Other Notes

The two distinguishing qualities of the Order are nobility and keenness. 

The “two dangers that threaten our moral character are cynicism and vanity.” 

“We should try not only to elicit acts of virtue but also to reach before we die the firmness, joy, and constancy of their habitus. Our vows themselves are only means to this end: the vow is practically for nothing but that.”

Penance is one of the distinctive marks of the Order of St. Dominic. And contrition is the first source of penance – it is nowhere deeper and more efficacious than in the Sacrament of Penance. The purgative, illuminative, and unitive life all derive their force from this Sacrament.

Spiritual pride is extremely subtle; the most terrifying form of form is the refusal to aspire after progress in the supernatural life. There is no better place to crush our pride than in the Sacrament of Confession.

“The revelation of our vocation to participate in Eternal Life constitutes the most striking characteristic of the Gospel and its unparalleled greatness.”

Some of the greatest of saints (e.g. St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas) felt that never “were they so much masters of themselves, and never did they use their energy so generously, as when they gave to God the homage of all their human activity.”

“Our devotion, then, to Our Lord is devotion to the God-Christ, devotion to the Eternal Truth, to the Divine Word, living and personally united in the Sacred Humanity of Jesus.”

The Sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ is “the instrumental cause of grace for the justification, sanctification, and salvation of all souls.” The Sacred Humanity is the channel of Divine Grace. We “turn frequently to His adorable Humanity to derive force and strength from that mysterious and continuous intercession exercised by Him in heaven.”

There are three chief benefits of the Eucharist: the application of the Redemption to each of us in particular (i.e. the renewal of pardon and its extension to all our daily sins), the pledge of life eternal, and the increase of the supernatural life in us, by the growth of Faith, Hope, and Charity.

The austerities of the Dominican Order are inspired chiefly by the motive of protecting its purity.

Purity is an indispensable condition for carrying out the purpose of the Dominican Order.

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