The Dominican way of life is a special form of Christian life. Dominicans do what all Christians do, but they do them in a Dominican way. All Christians pray; Dominicans pray in a special way (for example, praying especially the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary). All Christians are invited by our Lord to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience according to their states in life; Dominicans live these counsels after the model of St. Dominic. All Christians have a devotion to the Mother of God; Dominicans give a special emphasis to Marian devotion in their lives.
Because St. Dominic is the model for us all and the means by which the Holy Spirit gave us our form of life, Dominicans study and emulate St. Dominic’s life. Prayer is a principal means of growing in holiness, and we study both liturgical prayer (the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours) and private prayer. We consider how vocal prayer should mature into mental prayer and ultimately into contemplative prayer. Marian devotion, and in particular the Rosary, is especially dear to Dominicans.
Dominicans embrace the evangelical counsels and give a special emphasis to poverty. (The Dominicans were one of the original “mendicant” or “begging” orders.) Penance has been a prominent part of the Dominican Third Order since the time of its founding. Dominicans also study assiduously: first of all the Word of God, then theology, and whatever else serves to deepen our understanding of scripture and theology. Dominicans are not hermits or solitaries, but live a vibrant community life. And, of course, Dominicans are preachers, hence the official Latin title of our order: Ordo praedicatorum (Order of Preachers).
The specific practices of our way of life are to be found in two places. One is the Rule of the Third Order, the other is the Particular Directory of the Western Province. The Rule is valid for all Third Order members throughout the world. By necessity, therefore, the Rule is very general, so that it can be adapted to different cultures and situations. The Particular Directory adapts the Rule to the culture and context of the Western United States at this time. Each unit of the formation program contains a short passage from the Rule or Particular Directory.