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Dominican rite


The Dominican Order began early on to feel the need for a unified rite like the Cistercians or Premontre. Some have argued that St. DOMINIC, who was very concerned about the liturgy, desired this and they profess as evidence the annotations in his Breviary, now at the Cloister of Monte Mario in Rome. Gleason thinks that this Breviary was St. Dominic’s and some think that it was probably a Cistercian book edited by him. There is evidence of a pre-Humbert rite in that Breviary, the Copenhagen Choir book, the Missal of Paris, the Diurnal of Engelberg (for Nuns), the Breviary of the Four Friars, and the Rau Missal. The fact that the 1228 Constitutions state that no friar was to change the day or night offices suggests a somewhat uniform rite. The general chapter of 1244 under the Master of the Order, John the Teuton, directed delegates to bring the rubrics of the Breviary, Missal, and Gradual (proper and ordinary chants of the Mass) to be corrected at the next chapter. A year later the chapter commissioned four friars to revise and unify the diversity of rites, chants, books, etc. which suggests that there was still no uniform Dominican Rite. The work of the four friars was not well received suggesting perhaps the Order was too attached to elements of local rites. In 1254 Blessed Humbert was elected Master and was authorized to correct the liturgical books used by his brethren. It seems that he accepted and simplified the work of the four friars. In 1256 the chapter approved his work which he enjoined on the Order. This was formally approved by Clement IV for the order in the bull Consurget In Nobis of July 7, 1267. The Codex Humberti at the Angelicum in Rome is Humbert’s typical edition of the Gradual, Missal for Community Mass, the Epistle book, Gospel book, side altar Missal, the Martyrology, book of Collects, Psalter, Breviary, Lectionary, Antiphonary, Ordinary, Pulpit book, and Processional, from which all copies of these books were to be made.

Sources. The sources of the Dominican Rite are complex. The only pre-Humbert books we have are St. Dominic’s Breviary, as well as the five books described above. The early Dominican Constitutions and Humbert’s Breviary shows the influence of Premontre; the chant seems to be a simplified version of CITEAUX and there seems to be influences of the CISTERCIAN RITE as well. This is not surprising since for his constitutions St. Dominic took from both the Norbertines and Cistercians quod arduum (whatever was strict), quod decorum (whatever was beautiful), and quod discretum (whatever was balanced). Some have also thought they detected influences not only of Rome, but also traces of Paris, Salisbury, Hereford, and Exeter.

Characteristics. The sobriety, simplicity and beauty of the Dominican Rite exercised great appeal. Many orders and dioceses adopted it. It was widespread in Scandinavia, the Baltic area, Italy, and even Armenia. The Low Mass featured the preparation of the chalice at the beginning of the rite, not unlike the Eastern rites or the Sarum use. The Confiteor was shorter and there was no psalm in the prayers at the foot of the altar. At the preparation of the gifts, host and chalice were offered in a single oblation and a candle was lit at the Sanctus on the epistle side of the altar. Solemn Mass featured the preparation of the chalice at the sedila by the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon in between the Epistle and Gospel. The latter was chanted facing ‘‘liturgical north,’’ where lived the pagans who needed conversion, and facing the processional cross which was held by the cross bearer flanked by two candle bearers. When the office was chanted in choir the unusual custom was maintained of one side of choir standing and chanting to the other side which sat and chanted back. Then both sides rose and bowed for the Gloria Patri and the pattern was reversed. Standing represented the active life of preaching while sitting represented listening and therefore the contemplative life. This custom is often still followed.

Current Status
. The Dominican Mass changed little until Vatican II, although revisions in the Roman Breviary in 1920 changed the Dominican Breviary substantially. Still the Rite continued with its own books accepting new feasts and rubrics from the Church, issuing a missal in 1965 and a Breviary in 1962. The extraordinary chapter of River Forest in 1968 commissioned the Master of the Order to adopt the Roman Rite after its full councilar reform. This was so that people in Dominican churches might better participate. This was requested of the Holy See and conceded by the Church on June 2, 1969, although the Master could grant individual friars (especially the old) permission to celebrate Mass in the Dominican Rite. Although some had wanted to keep the rite and adapt it to the new reforms (as did the Milanese Rite), nonetheless when the missal of Paul VI, with its offertory procession, was adopted as well as the new lectionary, distinctive Dominican elements in the Mass were few and far between. The same held true for the Breviary, for most wanted the new distribution of psalms, the new plan of readings from Scripture, and the complementary patristic readings. When all of this was accepted, little that was distinctively Dominican remained except for the feasts of the Order. In 1970 the pre-chapter commission on liturgy asked for reactions to the current liturgical situation as well as particular feasts for the universal Dominican calendar. Out of this process, the Chapter of Tallaught in 1971 commissioned periti to consult the friars and gather peculiar elements (both ceremonies and texts) so that venerable Dominican traditions could be passed on to the Dominican family and thus foster devotion. This was done and a liturgical directory was published in 1977 suggesting ways that former Dominican customs might be incorporated as options into the Roman rite Mass of Paul VI and into the reformed Liturgy of the Hours as well. In 1983 the Order issued its own supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours with Dominican texts for the feasts of the Order culled from the old Breviary, but also chose readings from other writings of Dominican saints and beati. In 1985 the order issued its own Missal and Lectionary with traditional texts for Dominican feasts. Both of these were issued in Latin and have been or are being translated into modern languages. In summary, one could say the Dominican Rite is no more, but preservation of traditional Dominican elements in celebrating Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours is an option and might be said to perhaps to be a usage or use in the Roman Rite.


Bibliography: D. A. MORTIER, La liturgie dominicaine, 9 v. (Bruges 1921–24). A. A. KING, Liturgies of Religious Orders (Milwaukee 1955). W. R. BONNIWELL, History of the Dominican Liturgy 1215–1945, 2d ed. (New York 1945). A. DIRKS, ‘‘De Novo Ordine Missae,’’ Analecta Sacri Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum 39 (1970) 572–74; ‘‘De Orationibus Sanctorim,’’ Analecta Sacri Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum 40 (1972) 514–25; ‘‘De evolutione liturgiae Dominicanae,’’ Archivum Fratrum Predaicatorum 50 (1980) 5–21; 52 (1982) 5–76; 53 (1983) 53–145; 54 (1984) 39–82; 55 (1985) 5–47; 57 (1987) 25–30. P. GLEASON, ‘‘Dominican Liturgical Documents from before 1254,’’ Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 42 (1972) 80–135. D. DYE, ‘‘Le rit dominicain a la suite de la reforme liturgique de Vatican II,’’ Analecta Sacri Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum 42 (1977) 193–306.


New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2003. Vol. 4. P. 837-838.

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