How to Pray the Dominican Way by Angelo Stagnaro
I’ve never prayed the Dominican way before, these 9 ways of prayer, but I am glad to get a little more background and understanding of these practices of prayer. To begin, Stagnaro writes that these ‘prayer forms brought St. Dominic to tears and inspired in him a love of Christ and His Blessed Mother’ (29). Prayer that instills a greater love for Christ is a form of prayer that I get behind. Stagnaro goes on to mention that these ‘ways of prayer connects body and soul’ and that ‘it is important to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you as to how things are going to unfold in your life’ (29, 31). As I began to pray in these forms at different periods during the week, I noticed that the very posture of my body was an indication of the state of my focus on Christ in prayer. Before, I wasn’t even fully aware that if my attention was divided as I was praying, typing on the computer or reading, then it became nearly impossible for my prayer to be focused.
The Second Way, Laying Prostrate Upon the Ground is a reiteration of the Jesus Prayer found in Luke Luke 18:13, “Jesus Christ, Son of God..” “..have mercy on me, a sinner.” We all have done wrong, continually fail to obey God and his commands, and use our power over us in evil ways. Being mindful of our sin shouldn’t cause us to crawl in a hole, but be better equipped to do battle with sin. Stagnaro reminds us wisely that, “Be mindful of your sins, especially those sins that have inspired sins in others around you” (41). Referencing Daniel 9:5 and Psalm 119, Stagnaro helpfully calls us to see how there is a trickle-down effect related to our sin, that it often inspires and tempts others to carry out the same actions, thoughts, and words. This mindfulness is a constant remembering that we live in the midst of the body of Christ and that sin has the capability to affect all parts of that body. Stagnaro goes onto note how the Orthodox Church has regularly used the Jesus Prayer from the Desert Fathers to Gregory Palamas to today. The prayer is full of simplicity and profundity, causing the one who prays it to look to Jesus for the cleansing from sin that only he can provide.
The Eighth Way of spiritual reading is a lost art indeed. Moving from reading a text, the Gospels or spiritual treatise to prayer and meditation combines the activities of the mind and the heart. As Christians contemplate upon the Word of God, this prayer time is never meant to provide isolation from suffering or people. Stagnaro writes, “Prayer is meant to motivate the Christian to make a difference in our world, specifically in helping our fellow man” (105). Until our praying leads to a ‘deluge of overpowering love for all humanity, then the person is lying to both himself and others’ (105). This might come off harsh, but it is the truth. Meditating, contemplating upon the Bible is not meant to be just a mental exercise but an engagement of the whole person for the kingdom of God. All kingdom activity is just that, activity with skin on, being involved in the brokenness of this world in practical ways. I am reminded in this chapter on the transformative effect that meditation, prayer and contemplation have upon the church and our world.
Overall, I thought this book was a good description of St. Dominic’s 9 forms of prayer. I made some modifications in the forms of prayer since I am Protestant that doesn’t follow Catholic teaching, but I thought these forms were applicable to all kinds of believers. Stagnaro did a wonderful job at getting to the heart, the essence of what Dominic was teaching concerning these forms of prayer.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.