“Intentionally authentic” is how senior Maria Brandell described the community atmosphere of Beloved First Truth household. “Our community really is a by-product of our commitment to prayer and relationship with Jesus,” reflected the household’s coordinator, highlighting its steadfast devotion and priority of prayer.
Beloved First Truth, located on the third floor of St. Elizabeth Hall, is known primarily for being the only women’s household at Franciscan University of Steubenville that places a particular emphasis on Dominican spirituality. Also known as the Order of Preachers, the Dominican order is well-known for its charism of devoted study and the active and contemplative life. Founded by Sister Mary Michael, a Dominican religious sister, Brandell describes the household’s central focus as “a love of wisdom for salvation of souls.”
Beloved First Truth also places a special emphasis on the spirituality of St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th century third-order Dominican and doctor of the Church, who was well known for the counsel she offered the Holy Father during the Avignon Papacy. Specifically, the household focuses on the saint’s most famous quote: “If you are who God made you to be, you will set the world on fire.” Along with St. Catherine, the household also invokes St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, and Mary, Mother of the Church, as its three patron saints.
Brandell, who was inducted into Beloved First Truth in the fall semester of her sophomore year, reflected that when looking into and discerning households, the Dominican household attracted her because “it fostered what I already loved but also pushed me outside my comfort zone.”
However, Brandell also described a distinction in the way her household lives out the charisms of the Order of Preachers in comparison to the order’s members. “Our Dominican spirituality is particularly manifested for women on this campus,” explained Brandell. “In that way it differs from the life of the religious brothers and sisters of the order.”
As part of their household’s community life, the women of Beloved First Truth share nights of formation every Thursday. “We particularly look to Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life,” said Brandell. Each of these attributes of Christ reflect a specific charism of Dominican spirituality; the Way representing prayer, the Truth representing the love of wisdom and the Life representing active ministry.
In addition to formation nights, Beloved First Truth also has morning Mass and breakfast commitments on Thursdays in order to share prayer and fellowship. The household also prays the Dominican rosary together in St. Elizabeth Hall’s chapel at 7 p.m. every Sunday, with the household sisters’ business meetings following. Brandell described business meetings as a “bonding time” for the household.
On Tuesday nights, exemplifying a well-known characteristic of the Order of Preachers, the sisters host a “study night.” During this time, the household and visitors read and reflect on a chosen piece of spiritual reading. “We are very intentional about the book we choose,” said Brandell. “This semester we will be reflecting on the Book of Wisdom.”
Brandell particularly highlighted the growth she saw take place in her household last semester. “Last semester our theme was ‘Put Out into the Deep,’ and we focused a lot on prayer. This semester our theme is Wisdom 14:24, focusing more on active ministry,” she said.
Beloved First Truth will be having its Mug Sale fundraiser in the next few weeks. On Feb. 11 it will be taking custom orders, and there will be pick-up and regular sales on Feb. 18. In April, the household will be hosting an induction for the Rosary Confraternity, a prayerful organization through which members can receive special graces through daily recitation of the rosary.
Beloved First Truth is a household that emulates Dominican spirituality in all it does. Whether they are praying the rosary together or just sharing fellowship, the sisters of Beloved First Truth truly form a household seeking after “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”