‘The chief motivation for your sharing life together is to live harmoniously in the house, and to have one heart and one soul seeking God’ [Rule of St Augustine, Chapter 1]
Blackfriars is first and foremost a community of Dominican friars, and the religious life of the friars in the Priory is at the heart of everything.
The religious community consists of both priests and Dominican student brothers who are in formation for the work of preaching the Gospel.
Our seeking of God is not an individual pursuit, but something we do as a community of friars. Wearing the same white habit and united by the same vows, we participate in a daily rhythm of praying the Divine office and the celebration of Mass, dedicated times of study and other common observances, which all serve in bringing us closer to Christ and to each other, and form us to proclaim the Gospel. In these essential aspects, our way of life has remained the same since the first Dominicans arrived in Oxford almost eight hundred years ago.
The work of preaching undertaken by the friars in Oxford is mostly centred on teaching Blackfriars Hall and Studium students, but also includes preaching at Mass, assisting in chaplaincy work, giving retreats and talks, and writing articles, book and other works of theology and philosophy. As the House of Studies for the English Province, the priory is the crucible in which Dominicans are formed for the work of preaching.
Our Identity as Dominican Friars
Our religious order, the ‘Order of Preachers’, was founded by St Dominic in around 1216. We were created as ‘mendicant friars’, living celibate and prayerful lives together as ‘brothers’, depending on the charitable support provided by others, with a special mission to preach the gospel.
This preaching mission has meant that, from the very start, our Order has had a strong presence in University towns, allowing us to develop our preaching abilities by engaging with the cutting edge of current intellectual debate. This engagement has produced intellectual giants such as our brothers St Albert the Great and St Thomas Aquinas. Read about our intellectual heritage.
It was for this reason that, only five years into the history of the Order, in 1221 friars were first sent to establish a community in Oxford. This community flourished until its destruction under Henry VIII. In modern times, the current priory was established in 1921.
The Priory of the Holy Spirit
Our community here consists of up to 30 men, though the numbers change every year as brothers finish their studies and move to other priories, and others come to join the community.
The friars themselves have a share in the running and governance of the house, and the community is guided and directed by the prior, who is the superior elected by the friars every three years. He is assisted in the day-to-day tasks by a small council including a subprior, a bursar, and other office holders. The community also meets regularly in chapter where fuller discussions are had, all of which contribute to shaping the life and work of the community.
The community falls into several groups: younger friars who are in full-time study, preparing for their priestly ordination; friars who are involved in our educational work here; and a small number of others who have been assigned to live here and are engaged in other preaching work in various ways.
Among those community members involved in our educational work are the Regent and Vice-Regent and the other Moderators, who oversee the activities of Blackfriars Hall and Blackfriars Studium, assisted by lay employees in the tasks of administration and teaching.