About 7 years ago, through a Dominican Spiritual Director I met when I was in Arizona (in a land far, far away from the east coast here). I was introduced to the concept of being a Lay Dominican. To a woman who was literally days away from joining a convent, the week before I was supposed to start veterinary school, this seemed like a more prudent way to accomplish my goal. This goal was to grow closer to Jesus and to try to help others on a path to Holiness too. Turns out I didn't need to dramatically say "No" to family and being a veterinarian, I could choose a path that allowed me to do both.
So 7 years ago, when I began looking at becoming a Lay Dominican, I began going to a group that... hmm... shall we say... didn't exactly follow the magisterium of the Church? Let's just say the Dominican call to "study" was definitely being followed in trying to study what was right and what was not so much in line with who we are called to be as Catholics. I'm not one to judge, and I don't know a whole lot, but the Church Fathers, the Catechism and St. John Paul II are good sources of catholocism to follow.
I moved out here to the East Coast. I hadn't been totally sold on being a Lay Dominican by the last group. My former spiritual director in Arizona, a priest in the Dominican Order was a good example, let's just say, knowing his virtues and his intellect did not make me paint all the Dominicans with the same brush. I wasn't exactly completely sold on the idea of becoming a Lay Dominican, but I knew I wanted a Dominican spiritual director. When I say spiritual director, I simply mean a priest you can go to for regular confession, talk through problems and concerns and get guidance. It's kind of like having a running partner. If you know someone else is going to meet you at 5:30 in the morning to go running, you're a lot more likely to get yourself out of bed than if no one holds you accountable. If you go to the same confessor month after month and your committing the same sins with the same frequency... well, you get the idea...
I found the Dominican House in my area and I contacted a prior about obtaining a spiritual director. He simply told me to show up at the next Lay Dominican meeting and then he would see about getting me one. Well, I went to the meeting and after approximately one meeting a month, plus hours of reading and additional times in small groups for instruction and discussion, along with charitable works and other activities, it comes time for me to take my final vows. As a Lay Dominican (and with most religious orders too) you take a 1 year vow, then a 3 year vow then a final vow. Well, with my stint in Arizona and some other things I'll get into at another time, here I am, 7 years later, vowing to be a Dominican. The old joke I've told a couple of people
is, "Live like a Jesuit and die as a Dominican." Dominicans and Jesuits kind of have a rivalry thing going on. Jesuits and Dominicans typically both like wine and philosophy, but let's just say the Dominicans perceive the Jesuits to be taking it easy with some disciplines. Now you want to die as a Dominican, especially if you need a lot of prayers said for you, because the Dominicans are really good as saying prayers for their deceased brethren.
It actually came down to a point where I was talking to a fellow Dominican and wanted to make sure my vows were all in order. They said, "what does it mater? We all know you are a Dominican and living as a Dominican." I said, "if I get in an auto accident or something happens to me, I don't care if you think I'm a Dominican. I want to BE a Dominican! They understood and no more questions were asked.
To make a long story short (well, not short, but at least not as long), I was kind of procrastinating on becoming a Dominican. I was talking to a friend about my hesitation to make promises as I wanted to become "better" first. In a way only a true friend can- she told me, "you're not going to ever be perfect, so don't use that as your excuse." She also went on to say, "perhaps you should have the faith that when you make your full profession, God will give you the graces you need to be more disciplined." The vows we say as we become Lay Dominicans do include, "with God's help." So I pray that God will give me the graces to rise in Holiness as a Dominican and I know that with Him lifting me up I will get far closer to Him then I would on my own.