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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

The Spirit of St. Dominic

by Hubert Clerissac, O.P.

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.Profiles in Catholicism

The author, Father Humbert Clerissac was born in Roquemaure1864 in France in October 15, 1864 and he died in 1914 just before the outbreak of the Great War. The chapters that make up this book were originally retreat conferences preached in English by Pere Clerissac to his Dominican brethren in England over twenty years ago. The work has been translated into French and Italian; but it has never before been published in English. The present edition is a revised version of the 1914 text placed at my disposal by M. Jacques Maritain. Much of the life of the author was spent in itinerancy, in part due to the anti-religious legislation of the French secular government. His novitiate was in Switzerland and his priestly formation in Holland. This book is the fruit on one such retreat, preached in Hawesyard, England, in 1908 and edited by Fr. Bernard Maulany, O.P. is a spiritual classic.

Fr. Clerisssac’s book is magnanimous because it seeks above all to promote holiness, to encourage others to strive to live in Christ in a way that is truly noble and truly humble. The Dominican Order exists first and foremost to be a school of sanctity and of the communication of holiness to others. This is a work of balance. Fr. Clerissac sees that the Dominican Order is both “canonical” and apostolic. It is founded in a common life of study and prayer and it also tends outwardly to the evangelical apostolate. It is an Order with a doctrinal mission, concerned above all with the saving truth of divine revelation, but it is also an Order of divine love, that seeks to ignite the hearts of human beings with the heart of Christ. The Order is entirely ecclesial, existing at the heart of the Church for the service of the Church, the Order is also integral, with its own unique traits and way of life that are a precious resource for the Church in every age.

This book is a great work of spiritual theology that has a perennial relevance. Such is the case with this book. What was said one hundred years ago applies also in the 21st century, in the 800th jubilee of the Dominican Order, and in each age of the Order If we should wish to meditate upon the perennial grace given to the Order of Preachers, we should consider Fr. Clerissac’s vision in the Spirit of Saint Dominic? “May the fire of Christ’s truth burn brightly in our world?”

The spirit of prayer in the Church is the very breath of Christ’s soul. When the Eucharistic Elements have ceased to be present within us there still remains in the souls an invisible influence of the soul of Jesus Christ: Anima Christi santissima, sanctifica me. What then could better preserve in it’s the precious power of that influence than the daily practice of liturgical prayer? Truly in this respect, we can apply to ourselves, with a retouch which is but a development of their contents, the words of St. Paul “I love, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Truly we can say. “I pray now not I, but Christ prayeth in me.” We must not only love the Church as a Mother but also idealize her, and drive from us every thought of suspicion and diffidence. Let us remember St. Paul proclaiming the Church “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” and, after him St. Augustine saying that the Church is a virgin, and that the practice of purity in the Church is only an imitation of the virginity of her Faith. It is a sacred classic calling for holiness.

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