How do you know which order is the right order

Not long after I became I Catholic, I heard about Secular Orders. My first thought was, “I can do that?!” I didn’t know such an option for married lay people even existed. Over the years, that desire has never left. At one point in time, I did the first year with the SFO. When it came time for the second year, I couldn’t find a sponsor whose schedule matched mine and who didn’t live on the other side of town (the other side of town being 40-ish miles away.) Then my husband lost his job, gas prices spiked, and even making the monthly meetings became impossible. In short, I wasn’t called to be a Franciscan. I also always felt like I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. It just wasn’t right. That was several years ago
This past summer, I discovered the Lay Dominicans. I researched them. I felt it would be a good fit, because before becoming a Catholic, I wanted to be an AofG pastor. I read constantly, study diligently, teach some classes occasionally, in short, I was already doing much of what the Dominicans are all about. I even find reading the Summa fun. (Okay, I’m weird.)
This Thanksgiving I got a spiritual director. She’s a Secular Carmelite. The last time we met, we started talking about Secular Carmelites. Partly because I have always been drawn to the Carmelite Saints. I had read Dark Night of the Soul before I even started RCIA, and by the time I came into the Church I had added Interior Castles and Story of a Soul to that list. I also attend daily Mass, go to the Adoration Chapel whenever I can spare even ten minutes before going to work, and I have had…experiences that while common in the Assemblies of God, don’t seem to be quite so common in the average Catholic Church, including God literally telling me to “go be Catholic” when I was looking for a job as a pastor.

The point is, both orders seem to fit parts of me. How do I discern which is the better fit? I have already submitted my application to the Dominicans for reception once my year of inquiry is over, and I don’t want to be an order-hopper, but I honestly don’t know which is the best fit for me.
Any input would be most appreciated.

Just shooting from the hip here, so hear with me.

I think that finding “the best fit” may be a bit of a red herring. The Secular Carmelites is a perfect fit for me, but that door kept getting shut in my face schedule-wise.

What you should really concern yourself with is what God is calling you to. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will lead you. The point of a being in one of these groups is to grow in holiness – God knows better than we ourselves do which group, at this moment in time, is the best fit for us.

I am sending in my application for the Postulancy of the Confraternity of Penitents tomorrow. In my humanity, I would never have chosen this group with its strict rule, and my certainty that there’s no way I could ever follow it – and the fact that it’s Franciscan and I’ve never felt a draw to secular Franciscans. But I have felt an intense peace about moving forward with this since I first stumbled upon them.

So how will you know? One way is just what you described – move forward and see if the pathway remains open. Another way can be to meet with current members and see if things “click.” You could also research the secular associations of the major orders, as well as groups like Opus Dei and go with the “best fit” test based on spirituality, location, schedule… Just keep in mind the purpose is to grow in holiness, and that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide you.

God bless you!



I think you are on the right track in asking this question. In reality there are 3 questions that you should be asking:

*]Can this group help me grow in holiness? Is it faithful to Magisterium?
*]Will this group help me grow in holiness? Is there a commitment on their part to help me grow?
*]Is it a good team fit? in terms of time, location, spirituality, promoting family life, etc.?

I hope this helps. God bless,

Fr. Scott, AVI
Apostles of the Interior Life

My delimma is that both “fit”. The Dominicans meet at my parish. My spiritual director, who lives very close to me, said we could carpool if I wanted to go with her. With my job, it’s the difference of starting an hour later on Saturdays, which I will more than likely have to do even if I remain with the Dominicans. If my spiritual director is indicitive of the Carmelites, then both groups “tick all the boxes” so to speak.
So far the only thing I found with the Dominicans that didn’t appeal was when we prayed the Rosary and Divine Office as a group and they raced through both. I’m used to praying the Divine Office with a group before Mass every morning where we go more slowly and prayerfully. With the Rosary, the race through seems to be a pretty common thing when praying it as a group. I just am unable to meditate on anything in thirty seconds or less!:smiley:

The one thing that the Carmelites do that the Dominicans don’t is that they start with Mass and Adoration, but since daily Mass finishes at 9-ish and formation doesn’t start until 11, I pass the time in the Chapel anyway, so my day begins with Mass and Adoration anyway.

I know God will make it clear in time. I just want answers…now. I’m not the most patient of people.:shrug:

What you wrote does give me some things to think about.

Hi Kris,

I’m glad you took some time to think. I will add this. Sometimes God is more interested in us taking “a step” than He is in us taking the right step. Sometimes the only way to discover what He wants is to guess and take it from there. Other times He Himself is indifferent as long as we get off the fence and get moving. I know this may seem overly simplistic. Yet similar advice can be found in St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Jacques Philippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Inner Peace. And those guys definitely know something!

God bless,

Fr. Scott, AVI
Apostles of the Interior Life

Thanks so much! I think for right now I will stay with the Dominicans, since I have already begun with them, but I am open to changing that if God makes it clear that I belong in the Carmelites. I could see one “danger” if you will in the Carmelites and that is that I already ponder things a lot. If I was in a contemplative order, I might end up “contemplating” all the time and not “doing” anything, if that makes sense. And since I do write and teach, I can’t spend *all *my time thinking. Even about God stuff.

I really appreciate your input! May God richly bless you, and thank you.

When we pray the rosary we are suppose to meditate on the mysteries. Even if it is faster or very slow we must be able to meditate on the mysteries rather than the words we pronounce. And we see the devotion to the most holy rosary in the Order of St Dominic in more perfect form for it is to them Our Lady dedicated this sacred devotion and they are faithful to it. It is only because of that today the rosary is the common prayer of the Catholics. As Pius XI says, it is on the rosary the very foundation of the Order of St Dominic is. And the Divine Office - Dominican recital of the office is like brisk walk. It is because Dominican life is dedicated to contemplation in which study as the search for the Truth is very important part as well as preaching.
The Dominican spirituality is the most balanced one according to Catholic Encyclopedia.
Therefore if you are still in the Order you may continue there as a Preacher of grace.

Thank you so much for the explinations. I like that you refer to it as a brisk walk. That helps me understand the method so much better. (I still prefer to go slower because I meditate on the mysteries better, but at least now I understand the faster method.:D)
I still haven’t reached a final decision. I want to visit the Discalsed Carmelites before finally deciding, however I am leaning more that way since studying the pillar of study. It seem the Dominicans grow closer to God through studying the natural world and then expounding on it. At least finding God in the sciences seems to be a common natural trait of those in the order I have been an inquirer with. Unfortunately, for me, I hate science. Always have. That and math were my worst subjects in school.
In my life the natural progression for me seems to be, prayer leads to contemplation which leads me to study to learn more, rather than study leads to prayer leads to contemplation. If I do become a Dominican that’s something I would have to work on.
I appreciate so much your taking time to respond to me. You are in my prayers, and may God richly bless you always!

I agree with you and I am happy with you that you have the right understanding that a Dominican should have. Unfortunately some of the Dominicans don’t have it. It is not the study the objective of the Order, but the salvation of all souls including oneself. A Dominican is called to contemplate the Divine Truth, i.e. God himself who is love, and share the fruits of its contemplation with others, because once we possess God we can’t sit inside not giving Him to others. And study is only one way of contemplation. It also includes prayer (which is personal too) and community life (see the importance of silence in Dominican spirituality and convents). Of course prayer leads to contemplation which leads to study to learn more, but study too can lead to prayer and contemplation. Otherwise there is no meaning study in the Church and the great efforts of the majority of the Doctors of the Church will be ignored. It is true that for a Dominican, study and contemplation are inseperable. However this study is not only of sciences (material world) but also the sacred science as well as the Scripture which is Jesus himself. As St. Paul says, my only desire is to know God. If someone has the right knowledge of God he can’t continue without loving him, because the very nature of God is love. It is quite true with all our relationships. The relationship deepens when we know each other in a better way. But again I say, study is not only from the books. If St. Martin de Porres and John Macias can be taken as the example we can understand the Dominican life better. The life of St. Dominic is also not something different. He was ready to sell his valuable parchments for the sake of poor.
Dominican life is a balanced life of active apostolate and contemplation in which constant search for the fullness of God is necessary (in whatever way is possible). Our contemplation should never end in itself.
Once God the Father compared the Order of Preachers with a perfect ship which can accomodate all sorts of people both sinners and saints, in His dialogue with St. Catherine of Sienna. This incident is mentioned in her masterpiece “The Dialogue”.
That may be why the Order has many who consider study from the books is everything. But it is the union with God by growing in holiness that we seek for, the eternal bliss.
I entrust you and me to Our Blessed Mother, the queen of the Rosary that she may lead us to the contemplation of the divine mysteries of our loving saviour. Amen

The following link may be usefull for you.
May God bless you.:slight_smile:

I wanted to wait to respond to until I had visited with the OCDS. I did that this past Saturday. I went with no expectations. I just wanted to find clarity, as there was no Dominican meeting this month. What I found…I can’t describe. I even factored in the fact that this month the OCDS met and celebrated Mass in the same chapel Bl. Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in when he was in Phoenix back in the 1980’s, Basically, I kind of was hoping that my visit would confirm that I belonged with the Dominicans - partly because any other decision felt like “quitting” and I hate that!

What I discovered is that I am, by nature a very contemplative person, and I always have been, and that while the Dominican Order fit part of me and my spirituality, it didn’t fit all of me and my spirituality, whereas the OCDS does. Given that I have always been drawn to the Carmelite Saints, especially St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese, it’s not so surprising, I suppose. I had read all three before I even became a Catholic.

Your advice really helped a lot. Everyone’s did. Most especially, the list of things to look for in an order, particularly “can, and will this group help me grow in holiness?” That was the big one, because all other things were equal - the Dominicans wanted to help me grow in holiness, and the timing, etc. worked either way. Sitting in the Aspirant’s formation class, I discovered that the OCDS speaks my language, if you will, which is always a key to growth - having people around you that express things in terms you can easily understand.

Again, thank you so much. And, as always, I pray God richly blesses you and all you do.

How joyful! You found your path! May God bless you and make you a saint :thumbsup:


Teresa and John are for everyone. And I do mean everyone.

When the church wants advice on prayer, they turn to the Carmelites. Just as preaching is the charism of the Dominicans, so the Carmelites teach us about prayer.

As to whether or not one is to make their ‘major’ Carmel is another matter entirely. A nun can be Carmelite, but can be Clare at heart.

“I never imagined myself as …” is common as well. Just open your heart, report for duty, and let the Spirit lead. You’ll be surprised where you end up.

There is also such a thing as isolated tertiaries. While it’s good to have community, build the cloister of the heart with your desire to belong entirely to God first. From that oblation, the rest of the individual spirituality will flow.


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