THE ANGLICAN DOMINICAN HABIT
The vestments that Father Matthew wears are distinctively Dominican. In the Middle Ages, when religious orders were just being formed, Dominicans in England were called “Blackfriars” because their habit was mostly black (other orders wore grey or brown).
A “religious habit” comes from the Latin word habitus, which simply means “everyday clothing,” and it was the standard garment of a member of a religious group. It is also loosely related to “inhabit” which means “become a part of.”
The basic garment of the Anglican Dominican habit is the alb, from the Latin alba, meaning “white.” It symbolizes purity and is the same garment that a priest wears under the chasuble (the outer garment that is the color of the season).
Around the waist, we wear a black cincture (Latin for “belt). When I become “life-professed” – meaning making lifelong vows, my cincture will have three knots tied at the ends, each representing one of the vows. Members of the Order may also attach a rosary to the cincture, a reminder that Saint Dominic was a leading advocate of devotion to the Virgin Mary and the rosary.
By the way, Dominicans are “friars,” not “monks.” Monks live and work in a cloistered monastery and rarely leave it. Friars live “in the world” and support themselves as Saint Paul did, working at secular and sacred jobs.
Finally, over everything else is the capuche or “little cloak.” It is hooded for protection in bad weather, and it covers the shoulders. There is also a large cloak, the capa magna, which is sometimes worn in cold weather.
I hope this brief explanation makes my habit more meaningful to you when you see me in it. Feel free to ask any questions you may have.
THE ANGLICAN DOMINICAN RULE OF LIFE
Under the Canons of The Episcopal Church, a Religious Order is a group of people who take vows and live together. A Christian Community is also a group of people who take vows, but who do not live together, although they gather often for common prayer and community life.
Anglican Dominicans are a world-wide Christian Community, based in the United States, with members in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the Caribbean. We were founded in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, in 1999, and we have about 75 members today, most of them in the U.S. and Canada.
Our Rule of Life is based on three teachings given by Saint Dominic de Guzmán, a Spanish priest who founded the Roman Catholic Order that bears his name, in 1217 (we just celebrated the 800th anniversary of that founding).
The first teaching is our motto: To praise, to bless, to preach (Laudare, Benedicere, Prædicare in Latin) This sums up our calling and ministry. We are preachers, but in order to be successful at that, we need to be daily in prayer and praise to God, and we need to live lives that are a blessing to those around us. This sets a high standard, and since we are all human, we try and fail and try again for the rest of our lives.
The second doctrine of Dominicans is just one word: Veritas, or “Truth” in Latin. Dominic found his calling by becoming an itinerant preacher and teaching the truth of the Christian faith all over Western Europe. Sometimes he was welcomed, and other times, just like Jesus’ disciples, he was run out of town. Through it all, he remained committed to persevering in the truth as God had given it to him.
The last principle is a Latin phrase: “Contemplare et Contemplata Aliis Tradere,” which is translated, “to contemplate and to share the fruits of contemplation with others.” It has always been a Dominican commitment to study every day, and to use the fruits of those studies in our faith, our lives, our preaching, and our teaching.
Finally, we take what are known as “the evangelical counsels” or vows. You are probably familiar with poverty, chastity, and obedience. As Protestant Anglicans, our vows are as similar to those as they can be: simplicity of life and generosity with what God has given us, purity in our station of life (married or single), and faithful, humble obedience to all in authority over us (bishops, pastors, and elected leaders of the Order).