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Vocation Retreat 2016: The Heart of the Dominican Vocation

Exploring a Dominican Vocation

Vocation Retreat 2016Eleven young women traveled from as close as Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, and as far as Virginia, Ohio, Texas, and California to attend the Vocation Retreat on the weekend of June 3-5.  During their stay the girls experienced many aspects of our life, beginning with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Divine Office, silent prayer and Eucharistic Adoration, and the rosary and spirit of Marian devotion.  It was beautiful to see their joyful enthusiasm to be at our monastery, learn about our Dominican life, and draw closer to Our Lord.

We spoke with the retreatants about God’s desire to share His life with us, and how our particular vocation as Dominican nuns is a response to that desire, as the elements of our life—community, liturgical and private prayer, study, work, silence, enclosure—work together to open our hearts to the height, depth, and breadth of His love so that His Word might bear fruit in us for the salvation of souls.

Providentially, Friday of the retreat weekend was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saturday was the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Alternating with our talks to the girls in the parlor, the retreat master, our Dominican brother Fr. Gabriel Torretta, wove together profoundly inspiring conferences revealing the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the beginning and end of the Dominican vocation, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the ideal modal of our life in response to God’s call.  He kept the girls laughing, too, so we know they were tasting some Dominican joy!  We share some of Father’s insights below.

The Sacred Heart and the Dominican Vocation


O God, who in the heart of Your son, wounded by our sins, bestow on us in mercy the boundless treasures of Your love, grant we pray that in paying Him the homage of our devotion we may also offer worthy reparation.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

As members of the Dominican Order, our goal is to be joined personally to the Heart of Christ to intercede for the conversion of sinners and to pour out the treasures of grace for the salvation of the world, Fr. Gabriel Torretta, O.P. told the retreatants in his Friday conference.  Quoting the Collect for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (above), Father showed how the Dominican vocation begins with the love of a heart wounded like Jesus’ with the knowledge of the sins of men, and consumed with a desire for mercy. “O God, what will become of sinners?” our Holy Father St. Dominic cried in anguished prayer throughout the night; and his only thought was to consecrate his life totally to Christ if only Christ could use his preaching as an instrument of grace poured out for the salvation of souls.

The cloistered nuns, too, share this charism, as they are united with the heart of St. Dominic, who was himself united with the heart of Jesus in praying for the outpouring of God’s mercy and ‘the boundless treasures of His love’ for the conversion of poor sinners, especially for those who are most abandoned and who can be reached not by the preaching of words but only by prayer.

The Marian Pattern of the Dominican Vocation

St. Agnes of Montepulciano stained glass window in the church of St. Dominic in Washington, DC; photo by Lawrence Lew, OPO God, Who prepared a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, graciously grant that through her intercession we may be a worthy temple of Your glory.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

How do we become like Jesus?  Through Mary.  We revere her Immaculate Heart, Father explained on Saturday, because her Heart is so conformed to Christ that she totally realizes in her person the goal of all human life.  To be conformed to Mary who is conformed to Christ and so given to the Father in the life of the Holy Spirit—this shapes our Dominican vocation.

Being formed in the Heart of Mary and brought to the Heart of Christ is not a private grace, but leads to an outpouring of grace, conversion and healing for the whole world.  The healing and elevating power of grace in our own life of conversion, leading to the outpouring of grace for others gives a particular pattern to the Dominican life, especially that of the cloistered nuns.

Father also shared some favorite examples from the life of St. Dominic and some of the Saints of our Order, illustrating the Marian pattern of the Dominican vocation.  “Mary is the mother of the fully lived human life”—and that is what we are living when we give ourselves totally, freely, and joyfully to God in the Dominican cloister.

Stained glass windows in the church of St. Dominic in Washington, D.C.; photos by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

Our Dominican Vocation

We only host official Vocation Retreat once every few years, but if you are a single Catholic young woman under age 30 and would like to learn more about our life or arrange a visit, we encourage you to contact the Vocation Directress.

Please keep the young women who attended our retreat in your prayers, that the graces they received over the weekend may bear abundant fruit in their lives—even the grace of a Dominican vocation.