Tuesday, April 30, 2013


As our readers know, the Dominican Sisters of Wanganui have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, but few people know that there have been traditional Dominicans here in Wanganui for longer than this—in fact nearly twenty years. In 1996, a year before Mother Micaela’s arrival in Wanganui, Fr Gentili, as parish priest, was delegated by the Dominican Friars of Avrille to receive the profession of Sister Mary Jacinta, the first traditional Dominican Tertiary of St Anthony’s parish.
Sister Mary Jacinta, and now several others, are members of the “Third Order of Penance,” which numbers in its ranks many famous Dominicans, from St Catherine of Siena and St Louis de Montfort to St Rose of Lima and St Martin de Porres.

While these famous four were vowed to chastity, many Tertiaries are married; the Third Order was established by St Dominic for lay people living in the world, who yet wished to participate in the apostolate of his friars by their prayers and by any material or apostolic help they could give. At first, for the men, this involved fighting in defence of the Church and its property against Albigensian heretics, but later Tertiaries were more often involved in corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like Blessed Albert of Villa d'Ogna (d. 1279), a peasant who begged from door to door for alms for the sick and poor and eventually built a hospice for their care. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the second Master General after St Dominic, was very active in encouraging vocations to this as well as the first Order (the Friars), and defended the Tertiaries’ rights as true Dominicans when many Friars thought they were more trouble than they were worth!

“The end of the Third Order is the sanctification of its own members by the practice of a more perfect Christian life and the promotion of the salvation of souls in a way that is suitable to the state of the faithful living in the world.”

As members of the Dominican Order, the Tertiaries are supported by the prayers and merits of all its members, and their prayers and penance in turn benefit the preaching work of the Friars, the teaching work of the Sisters, and the sanctification of all the members, which is the primary purpose of any religious order. They wear the scapular, the principal part of our habit given us by Our Lady herself, and share in the special patronage it symbolises, whereby she is our “shade from the heat, and from all dangers of body as well as of soul, in the hour of death, a bulwark and defence.” Once a month, they meet to pray together, to receive a short instruction on the rule or the Dominican spirit, and, if they are erected into a fraternity, to receive absolution for their faults against the rule. The rule itself organises their prayers, sacrifices and apostolate in a way that has stood the test of time and led many souls to heaven. No wonder that Pope Benedict XV said, "Among the means of holiness most useful and opportune for the defence and progress of Christian faith and morals in our day, we recognize the Dominican Third Order as one of the most eminent, easy, and secure."
“The means of obtaining this end, over and above the common precepts and duties of one’s state in life, are: the observance of this Rule, continual prayer, and as far as possible, liturgical prayer…”

As sharers in our motto of “Contemplari et contemplata tradere,” “To contemplate and hand on the fruits of their contemplation,” the Tertiaries’ first duty is to contemplate eternal truths. Priest-Tertiaries, like St Louis de Montfort, do this by their recitation of the breviary, the Divine Office, but other Tertiaries share in the official prayer of the Church through either:


The Little Office of Our Lady
The 15 Mysteries of the Rosary

The Paternoster Office.

To give them more time to assimilate the rich food contained in the Psalms or the mysteries of the Rosary, the Tertiaries have 15 minutes of mental prayer every day. Finally, they share in our special devotion for the souls in Purgatory by reciting the De Profundis for departed members, family and benefactors of the order.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Dominican Tertiary

 “…the practice of penance…”

Like St Dominic, who disciplined himself every night for his own sins and those of others, the members of the “Third order of Penance” strive to mortify themselves and make hearty reparation for all offences against God. While modern Tertiaries are dispensed from many of the more difficult prescriptions of the ancient rule, they adhere to its spirit through fasting on Fridays throughout the year and on certain vigils, by avoiding worldly amusements and vanity in dress, and by other penances as recommended by their confessor.

“Mindful of the traditions of our ancestors, Tertiaries should labour in behalf of the truth of the Catholic Faith and for the Church and the Pope, in word and deed, showing themselves to be ardent defenders of their rights in all things and at all times.”
The Tertiaries in Wanganui accomplish the second half of their motto, “contemplata tradere,” by helping in various ways around the parish; some are members of the Legion of Mary, which is excellent for directing one’s practice of the spiritual and, to a certain extent, the corporal works of mercy. They may help in any parish or Dominican apostolate; the constitutions especially suggest the teaching of catechism. Not everyone is called to advise the Pope like St Catherine or to nurse the sick poor in the backyard like St Rose of Lima, but all should do what they can to “devote their lives to the glory of God and the salvation of their neighbour in an ardent and generous spirit.”  

While it is helpful in the practice of the rule to have an established “fraternity,” or community of Tertiaries, for support, it is possible to become a Dominican tertiary no matter where you are, and the spiritual benefits are incalculable. We are happy to give any information we can and encourage vocations, for as Pope Pius XII said:
"We hope that the ranks of the Third Order will gather numerous young men and women who, without having a religious vocation, aspire to a more perfect Christian life, who aspire to make a more complete gift of themselves" and thus sanctify their own souls and countless others.
Tertiaries of Wanganui: From left: Sr Mary Rosaria t.o.p., Sr Mary Anthanasius, Sr Mary Jacinta t.o.p., Sr Mary Lucy, Sr Mary Philomena, Br Guy Dominic t.o.p.

Sr Mary Lucy and Sr Mary Rosaria cut the Feast Day cake
For more information you may contact the Dominican Sisters (if you are in New Zealand or Australia) or alternatively, you can write to:
Father Angelico O.P.
The Fraternity of Saint Dominic
Friary of La Haye aux Bonshommes
All quotes in italics from the Constitutions of the Third Order of Penance of Saint Dominic.