BLACK, WHITE AND SHADES OF GREY: FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON THE DOMINICAN LAITY

Just a few days ago, a temporarily professed American lay Dominican, Adam Cook, responded at some length to an article I published here last October. Many of the points he made will resonate with some of you; and his comments deserve attention, whether we agree or not. Here are five quotations from Adam’s text, with my own reaction.

  1. My fraternity barely speaks to each other, we never meet on big feast days, we have no apostolate together and when we get together they can barely keep up on the liturgy of the hours.”
    This is a familiar problem: fraternities that are anything but fraternal. The problem with praying the Liturgy of the Hours is one I had raised in the original article, and comes up periodically at Provincial, national and international gatherings. Why are so many lay Dominicans unfamiliar with this form of prayer? In our Rule we are solicited to pray Lauds and Vespers daily, yet many are at a total loss when a breviary is put in their hands. What are we doing wrong?
    Well, to some degree, at least in North Italy where I live, it’s simply a matter of the history of so many groups affiliated to the Dominicans. Often these groups met (and still meet) to say the Rosary, and perhaps went on modest pilgrimages to Rosary shrines; then, when the groups were modified and given the name of “fraternities”, all too often the members maintained their devotion to the Rosary without becoming, in the full sense, lay Dominicans – except in name. With newer members, formation should insist on liturgical prayer (among much else) and encourage the whole fraternity to observe the Rule.
    As to the very first observation, that “my fraternity barely speaks to each other”: I know of a fraternity that went some way to solving this problem simply by deciding to meet all day, one Sunday per month, and bring something to eat at lunchtime – a packed lunch, picnic style. Just sitting together informally (without the presence of the religious assistant) led to conversation between members who had barely known one another, and the atmosphere was transformed. I’m told that one 90-year-old member was thrilled – she had never had a picnic before!
  1. I joined the Dominican Laity because I expected it to be my opportunity to preach the Gospel, yet basically we’re told to be contemplatives, cloistered, with no means of actually witnessing to the consecrated life that we took vows to live.”
    Here I find myself in profound disagreement with our brother. Let’s start with his wish for an opportunity to preach the Gospel: what exactly does that mean? I have the impression – perhaps mistaken – that he is thinking of preaching as what the priest does in church, commenting on the readings of the day. And we certainly can’t do that – which may be frustrating, especially when the celebrant is not particularly inspiring: I suppose many of us have found ourselves thinking: “Good grief, I could do better than that”. I would love to be allowed to deliver a homily one Sunday, but it’s not going to happen. You have to be ordained. The contemplative nuns, the apostolic sisters, the co-operator brothers and the laity are not ordained, which means that they have not had the theological, scriptural training expected of a priest (and especially a Dominican priest). This seems reasonable to me, much as I don’t expect to be asked to treat patients with neurological disorders because I am not qualified in that field, although I have read a great deal about neurology and find it fascinating. And by the same token, I wouldn’t let anyone teach my university classes without my own specific training as a philologist; and I wouldn’t let anyone but a qualified, experienced plumber mess about with my pipes.
    So we can’t preach in the common sense of the word: giving the sermon in church.
    But that’s not the only way of preaching. What was Dominic doing when he stayed up all night with the innkeeper in Toulouse, talking and listening to him? Isn’t that preaching? And there’s more. Whenever we talk to our families or friends or acquaintances about our faith, we’re preaching. When you say that you won’t be going to this or that social occasion because you have a commitment in the parish or the Order, you’re preaching. When you choose not to follow certain political figures, you’re preaching. Moreover, precisely because we are lay, we can be inventive about preaching. Some preach by painting or sculpting; some by singing or playing a musical instrument; some by acting; some by writing. Or perhaps by arranging the flowers in church, or offering to drop in on someone who can’t come to church because of age or disability, or… go on, make your own list.
  2. Yet we’re supposed to be of equal rank with the Brothers, nuns, and sisters??? Uh… clearly not. I joined the Dominican Laity because I expected it to be my opportunity to preach the Gospel, yet basically we’re told to be contemplatives, cloistered, with no means of actually witnessing to the consecrated life that we took vows to live.”
    It’s not really a question of rank, is it? However, there are other points raised here which demand clarification. When did anyone ever tell Lay Dominicans that they were to be “contemplatives, cloistered”? Yes, we are invited to be contemplatives insofar as one of the basic principles of the Order is that wonderful line from Thomas Aquinas: contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere. The second part, contemplata aliis tradere, is crucial: we are asked to pass on to others the fruits of our contemplation. “Cloistered”? I have never met a cloistered lay Dominican. We go to visit friends and family; we have a meal in a restaurant; we go to the theatre, the cinema, a concert, a sports event; we work out in the gym; we volunteer in various organisations, secular or Christian, at local, national or international level. We are not and never have been enclosed. We witness to our faith. We have not taken vows – only professed religious take vows; we make promises. This is the crucial phrase from the text (which may have minor variations from one country to another – even between countries that have the same native language):
    I, (name), before you (name), the President of this Fraternity, and you (name), the religious assistant, representing the Master of the Order of Preachers, promise to live according to the Rule of the Dominican Laity for three years/my whole life”. This is not religious profession; and we are not consecrated. Although there is one small group in the Province where I live of “consecrated lay Dominicans”, who make the classic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and there may be other such groups elsewhere, they are the exception.
  3. We aren’t allowed to take the habit until we dieYou need something visible and out there to show people that you are not of this world. When my priest walks out people know what he’s a part of, when the brothers and sisters are around, people know they are Dominicans and they are religious.”
    The question of the habit is raised periodically at international meetings – most recently at the International Assembly in October 2018, where the participants overwhelmingly voted against the habit for lay Dominicans. For a start, it would give a mistaken impression: people would call us Father or Sister, and would be misled into thinking that we have a role which is not ours. It’s rather like wedding rings: I don’t wear one because I am unmarried, and in much the same way I don’t wear a habit because I am not a religious. God didn’t give me a vocation to the religious life; he gave me a vocation to the Dominican laity, and that’s fine with me.
    Certainly it would be good to have a universally adopted sign of our being Dominican, something we could wear all the time or alternatively at religious ceremonies of all kinds. The Dutch laity, when they go to Mass, wear a scarf with the Dominican shield on it (when I asked if it could be worn by other nationalities they said “no”). The Vietnamese wear a white tunic at Mass and at their meetings. Perhaps we could launch an appeal for proposed “signs” of this sort, and adopt one in all Provinces and Vicariates throughout the world, so that we recognise each other immediately wherever we go. But not the full habit, which would give entirely the wrong impression.
    Ironically, many Sisters (especially, I think, in the USA) have abandoned the habit and most friars wear it only in church. And furthermore, members of other lay branches of religious orders – Franciscan tertiaries, Benedictine oblates – wear secular clothes. The reasoning is clear: all of us are lay, and we don’t pretend to be anything else.
  4. Maybe the problem is with the Master and Curia, they just don’t know what to do with us.”
    I know that our brother Adam is not alone in feeling that the top ranks, so to speak, are completely out of touch with the laity. As I wrote in the original essay, we have all met friars – not necessarily in the Curia – who regard us as inferior, and this is sad. On the other hand, it was a Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe, who decided that the laity should have their own Promoter General, and subsequent Masters have confirmed this; the present incumbent is the fourth Promoter General. They have differing styles and approaches; inevitably, some of us will prefer one and some another; we are human, and so are they. In addition, since the Curia is based in Rome, it is much easier for those of us who live, if not in the Eternal City itself, at least in Italy, to meet the members of the Curia and talk to them. But we can always try writing a letter or an email. Anyway, they are there and they do care about us (some more than others) – ten of them were present and participated actively at the 2018 International Assembly.

Adam Cook’s response to the original essay has opened up the debate, and we have already had some reactions. I warmly recommend Br Bob Eccles’s comment on our Facebook page, which I copy here:

“I’m familiar with lay Dominicans from all over the world and have been a religious assistant and a provincial promoter through a period of renewal. I’ve lived and worked in three countries and belonged to 8 Dominican houses. The first thing I would say is that each Priory has its own tradition and history and special mission, and the Fraternities/Chapters are very different too. They are to govern themselves in our typical democratic way, think, discuss, vote! Their foundation documents give them all this independence and autonomy. The elements of the life – prayer, study, apostolate and community – are in a different balance every time. I have seen some very good courses of formation prepared for our Fraternities by gifted people for the Province, but they did not have the same success everywhere. Nobody’s fault! In another way the Lays are not like the Friars. The first responsibility of the Lays is to their couple, their family, and their work rather than to the Fraternity and that’s right. For the friars, our Constitutions say that each brother is responsible for his own formation (with the support of his teachers) and that’s even more true of Lay Dominicans. Just as each Priory has to work on its role in the locality so must the Fraternity. By the way, the friar who accompanies a Fraternity has NO VOTE in its decisions!!”

We will look forward eagerly to further comments from you all.

BLACK, WHITE AND SHADES OF GREY: FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON THE DOMINICAN LAITYhttps://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Ruth-Anne-Henderson.jpghttps://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Ruth-Anne-Henderson-150x150.jpgRuth Anne HendersonEnglishEssaySlider
Just a few days ago, a temporarily professed American lay Dominican, Adam Cook, responded at some length to an article I published here last October. Many of the points he made will resonate with some of you; and his comments deserve attention, whether we agree or not. Here are...
<p>Just a few days ago, a temporarily professed American lay Dominican, Adam Cook, responded at some length to <a href="https://www.fraternitiesop.com/slider/in-black-and-white-reflections-on-lay-dominican-formation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article I published here last October</a>. Many of the points he made will resonate with some of you; and his comments deserve attention, whether we agree or not. Here are five quotations from Adam’s text, with my own reaction.</p><ol><li>“<em>My fraternity barely speaks to each other, we never meet on big feast days, we have no apostolate together and when we get together they can barely keep up on the liturgy of the hours</em>.”<br />This is a familiar problem: fraternities that are anything but fraternal. The problem with praying the Liturgy of the Hours is one I had raised in the original article, and comes up periodically at Provincial, national and international gatherings. Why are so many lay Dominicans unfamiliar with this form of prayer? In our Rule we are solicited to pray Lauds and Vespers daily, yet many are at a total loss when a breviary is put in their hands. What are we doing wrong?<br />Well, to some degree, at least in North Italy where I live, it’s simply a matter of the history of so many groups affiliated to the Dominicans. Often these groups met (and still meet) to say the Rosary, and perhaps went on modest pilgrimages to Rosary shrines; then, when the groups were modified and given the name of “fraternities”, all too often the members maintained their devotion to the Rosary without becoming, in the full sense, lay Dominicans – except in name. With newer members, formation should insist on liturgical prayer (among much else) and encourage the whole fraternity to observe the Rule.<br />As to the very first observation, that “my fraternity barely speaks to each other”: I know of a fraternity that went some way to solving this problem simply by deciding to meet all day, one Sunday per month, and bring something to eat at lunchtime – a packed lunch, picnic style. Just sitting together informally (without the presence of the religious assistant) led to conversation between members who had barely known one another, and the atmosphere was transformed. I’m told that one 90-year-old member was thrilled – she had never had a picnic before!</li></ol><ol start="2"><li>“<em>I joined the Dominican Laity because I expected it to be my opportunity to preach the Gospel, yet </em><em>basically we’re told to be contemplatives, cloistered, with no means of actually witnessing to the consecrated life that we took vows to live</em>.”<br />Here I find myself in profound disagreement with our brother. Let’s start with his wish for an opportunity to preach the Gospel: what exactly does that mean? I have the impression – perhaps mistaken – that he is thinking of preaching as what the priest does in church, commenting on the readings of the day. And we certainly can’t do that – which may be frustrating, especially when the celebrant is not particularly inspiring: I suppose many of us have found ourselves thinking: “Good grief, I could do better than that”. I would love to be allowed to deliver a homily one Sunday, but it’s not going to happen. You have to be ordained. The contemplative nuns, the apostolic sisters, the co-operator brothers and the laity are not ordained, which means that they have not had the theological, scriptural training expected of a priest (and especially a Dominican priest). This seems reasonable to me, much as I don’t expect to be asked to treat patients with neurological disorders because I am not qualified in that field, although I have read a great deal about neurology and find it fascinating. And by the same token, I wouldn’t let anyone teach my university classes without my own specific training as a philologist; and I wouldn’t let anyone but a qualified, experienced plumber mess about with my pipes.<br />So we can’t preach in the common sense of the word: giving the sermon in church.<br />But that’s not the only way of preaching. What was Dominic doing when he stayed up all night with the innkeeper in Toulouse, talking and listening to him? Isn’t that preaching? And there’s more. Whenever we talk to our families or friends or acquaintances about our faith, we’re preaching. When you say that you won’t be going to this or that social occasion because you have a commitment in the parish or the Order, you’re preaching. When you choose not to follow certain political figures, you’re preaching. Moreover, precisely because we are lay, we can be inventive about preaching. Some preach by painting or sculpting; some by singing or playing a musical instrument; some by acting; some by writing. Or perhaps by arranging the flowers in church, or offering to drop in on someone who can’t come to church because of age or disability, or… go on, make your own list.</li><li>“<em>Yet we're supposed to be of equal rank with the Brothers, nuns, and sisters??? Uh... clearly not. I joined the Dominican Laity because I expected it to be my opportunity to preach the Gospel, yet </em><em>basically we’re told to be contemplatives, cloistered, with no means of actually witnessing to the consecrated life that we took vows to live</em>.”<br />It’s not really a question of rank, is it? However, there are other points raised here which demand clarification. When did anyone ever tell Lay Dominicans that they were to be “contemplatives, cloistered”? Yes, we are invited to be contemplatives insofar as one of the basic principles of the Order is that wonderful line from Thomas Aquinas: <em>contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere</em>. The second part, <em>contemplata aliis tradere</em>, is crucial: we are asked to pass on to others the fruits of our contemplation. “Cloistered”? I have never met a cloistered lay Dominican. We go to visit friends and family; we have a meal in a restaurant; we go to the theatre, the cinema, a concert, a sports event; we work out in the gym; we volunteer in various organisations, secular or Christian, at local, national or international level. We are not and never have been enclosed. We witness to our faith. We have not taken vows – only professed religious take vows; we make promises. This is the crucial phrase from the text (which may have minor variations from one country to another – even between countries that have the same native language):<br />“<em>I, (name), before you (name), the President of this Fraternity, and you (name), the religious assistant, representing the Master of the Order of Preachers, <strong>promise</strong> to live according to the Rule of the Dominican Laity for three years/my whole life</em>”. This is not religious profession; and we are not consecrated. Although there is one small group in the Province where I live of “consecrated lay Dominicans”, who make the classic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and there may be other such groups elsewhere, they are the exception.</li><li>“<em>We aren’t allowed to take the habit until we die</em> …<em>You need something visible and out there to show people that you are not of this world. When my priest walks out people know what he's a part of, when the brothers and sisters are around, people know they are Dominicans and they are religious</em>.”<br />The question of the habit is raised periodically at international meetings – most recently at the International Assembly in October 2018, where the participants overwhelmingly voted against the habit for lay Dominicans. For a start, it would give a mistaken impression: people would call us Father or Sister, and would be misled into thinking that we have a role which is not ours. It’s rather like wedding rings: I don’t wear one because I am unmarried, and in much the same way I don’t wear a habit because I am not a religious. God didn’t give me a vocation to the religious life; he gave me a vocation to the Dominican laity, and that’s fine with me.<br />Certainly it would be good to have a universally adopted sign of our being Dominican, something we could wear all the time or alternatively at religious ceremonies of all kinds. The Dutch laity, when they go to Mass, wear a scarf with the Dominican shield on it (when I asked if it could be worn by other nationalities they said “no”). The Vietnamese wear a white tunic at Mass and at their meetings. Perhaps we could launch an appeal for proposed “signs” of this sort, and adopt one in <em>all</em> Provinces and Vicariates throughout the world, so that we recognise each other immediately wherever we go. But not the full habit, which would give entirely the wrong impression.<br />Ironically, many Sisters (especially, I think, in the USA) have abandoned the habit and most friars wear it only in church. And furthermore, members of other lay branches of religious orders – Franciscan tertiaries, Benedictine oblates – wear secular clothes. The reasoning is clear: all of us are lay, and we don’t pretend to be anything else.</li><li>“<em>Maybe the problem is with the Master and Curia, they just don't know what to do with us</em>.”<br />I know that our brother Adam is not alone in feeling that the top ranks, so to speak, are completely out of touch with the laity. As I wrote in the original essay, we have all met friars – not necessarily in the Curia – who regard us as inferior, and this is sad. On the other hand, it was a Master of the Order, Timothy Radcliffe, who decided that the laity should have their own Promoter General, and subsequent Masters have confirmed this; the present incumbent is the fourth Promoter General. They have differing styles and approaches; inevitably, some of us will prefer one and some another; we are human, and so are they. In addition, since the Curia is based in Rome, it is much easier for those of us who live, if not in the Eternal City itself, at least in Italy, to meet the members of the Curia and talk to them. But we can always try writing a letter or an email. Anyway, they are there and they do care about us (some more than others) – ten of them were present and participated actively at the 2018 International Assembly.</li></ol><p>Adam Cook’s response to the original essay has opened up the debate, and we have already had some reactions. I warmly recommend Br Bob Eccles’s comment on our Facebook page, which I copy here:</p><p>“I'm familiar with lay Dominicans from all over the world and have been a religious assistant and a provincial promoter through a period of renewal. I've lived and worked in three countries and belonged to 8 Dominican houses. The first thing I would say is that each Priory has its own tradition and history and special mission, and the Fraternities/Chapters are very different too. They are to govern themselves in our typical democratic way, think, discuss, vote! Their foundation documents give them all this independence and autonomy. The elements of the life - prayer, study, apostolate and community - are in a different balance every time. I have seen some very good courses of formation prepared for our Fraternities by gifted people for the Province, but they did not have the same success everywhere. Nobody's fault! In another way the Lays are not like the Friars. The first responsibility of the Lays is to their couple, their family, and their work rather than to the Fraternity and that's right. For the friars, our Constitutions say that each brother is responsible for his own formation (with the support of his teachers) and that's even more true of Lay Dominicans. Just as each Priory has to work on its role in the locality so must the Fraternity. By the way, the friar who accompanies a Fraternity has NO VOTE in its decisions!!”</p><p>We will look forward eagerly to further comments from you all.</p>

4 thoughts on “BLACK, WHITE AND SHADES OF GREY: FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON THE DOMINICAN LAITY”

  1. Ruth I am so pleased that you started this very important on-line discussion as over a period of 35yrs I have read and heard all sorts of explanations regarding Lay Dominican Fraternities making Promises & not Vows. By you answering the queries it confirms for all of us throughout the International World what is confirmed by the Rule. Some of us take our RULE & Dominican Life seriously, whereas for others it is possibly quite lose knit. As regards what we wear to distinguish us, I have always worn our Dominican Cross. Perhaps some only wear it to their Fraternity/Chapter Meetings, but I try to always wear it once I leave home. One of our Australian Bishops remarked when seeing me at a Function, “I see that you are still Advertising”. Thank you Ruth.

    Public CommentUserRuth I am so pleased that you started this very important on-line discussion as over a period of 35yrs I have read and heard all sorts of explanations regarding Lay Dominican Fraternities making Promises & not Vows. By you answering the queries it confirms for all of us throughout the International World what is confirmed by the Rule. Some of us take our RULE & Dominican Life seriously, whereas for others it is possibly quite lose knit. As regards what we wear to distinguish us, I have always worn our Dominican Cross. Perhaps some only wear it to their Fraternity/Chapter Meetings, but I try to always wear it once I leave home. One of our Australian Bishops remarked when seeing me at a Function, "I see that you are still Advertising". Thank you Ruth.
  2. Ruth, thank you for your thoughts, your words and your perspectives on these particularities. It is good to see that I am not alone in many of my thoughts.

    I would like to clarify that in many cases the organization of the fraternity, in my particular experience, has been the issue. I have contemplated on this for a few days and it seems that most of my woes come to pass due to leadership actions and these effects of secular minds on what should not be a secular endeavor. Let me explain.

    Firstly, we must look at the concept of promise and vow. When I took my “promise to live according to the rule of St. Dominic for…” that means that those things that have been agreed upon in the rule of St. Dominic, including the general declarations, directory and the liturgical act, all have a place in the formation, and the spiritual graces imbued upon the lay person who promises such things. Firstly, we must understand that no person who makes a public declaration to live according to a religious rule, and follow Christ, is not going to be imparted some grace in order to live said rule. This would be contrary to the Catholic understanding of God and his divine actions. To say otherwise would mean that Christ is a liar for he himself says, “Anyone who acknowledges me before men– the Son of God will acknowledge him before the angels of God.” (NAB Luke 12:8). We must also understand that the liturgical action, in which the religious promotor and president, given canonical jurisdiction to stand in the place of leadership and to receive the promises, states clearly “living the counsels of the Gospel” during the liturgical rite, which we all know to be the evangelical counsels. These rites were approved by the Vatican for use. Therefore, to make a promise to live according to the rule of St. Dominic you are implied to be living the evangelical counsels and making such promise before God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.” (CCC 915). While the sentence before hand leads us to understand that “chastity in celibacy” is the norm, the statement “…within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church…” would mean that since the “Third Orders” mentioned in the Canon Law, knowing that members of this third order may be married, is a recognized state of life, then anyone who makes public profession in the Lay Dominican Order would be classified as consecrated persons. Thusly we must understand what is the difference between the promise we make and the promise that the brothers and sisters make? The primary difference that I have been able to tell is their promise of stability in obedience. This is an implied action by the promises being received and promised to the superior of their friary/convent, instead of in general to the rule of St. Dominic, which in of itself is a promise of obedience.

    “I, brother N.N., make profession and promise obedience to God, and to Blessed Mary, and to Blessed Dominic, and to you Brother N.N in place of Brother N.N, Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, and to your successors, according to the Rule of Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Friars Preachers, that I will be obedient to you and your successors until death.”

    No part of this text states that a vow has been made, only a promise. Also the lacking of Chastity and Poverty inside of the profession text. So why are brothers and sisters still considered religious and “lays” are not??? Both our profession and the profession of the brothers and sisters in this instance are promises and both are not using a specified declaration of poverty and chastity but rather they are using an implied which is to say, because the superior, and Master of the Order has declared Poverty and Chastity, all Friars are to follow these evangelical counsels. They are also implied with the general text of the rule and constitutions. Again, this is is a theological and canonical issue. To say that one group has the form of “religious” while the other does not, and both state the word “promise” instead of one using the term “vow” and recognized as a religious does not make sense (Also the catechism states profession to be used, a term both are identified with). In fact it is very much an inconsistency. You cannot say either that the “religious” is to be given greater graces than that of the “lay” because of what they are promising. We must understand that the imparting of grace in of itself is up to the Lord and that may mean that the “lay” needs more grace to fulfill his mission while working 40 hours a week and also continuing his ministry as a youth worker, street preacher, missionary, etc. The promise of obedience to the superior is of particular note here. Lay Dominicans do not have this, nor should they because we need the freedom to move as the Lord moves us and sends us. Dominican Friars and Sisters should have an obedience promise to the superior and Master because of the simple fact that they are tied to the region, the province etc, unless so ordered to go by the Master of the Order.

    So my question in this instance is, how is the order clarifying these issues?

    This also leads to the question of organization. Our fraternities need to be set up to be apostle and intentional disciple building machines. We have solved some of this with curriculum development, but still lacking in others. The fraternity should be a local place that the order can set up its house, develop its ministry in the city that it is at and work to gain funds and donations so that its members can bring Christ to the city and the region. We need to re-organize our fraternities, get our provinces to not only focus on the spiritual welfare of the fraternity by retreats, but also need to get them to provide ample amounts of training in fundraising, administration and recruitment. I’m 30 years old, look at my generation. We are the generation saying enough is enough with the liberal policies of the past 70 years. When you have groups like St. Paul Street Evangelization out there preaching, this should be the job of the Lay Dominicans. Our members should be able to take this flag up and grow the Church. If enough donations come in, we should be able to provide full-time employment for our fraternity members to continue this activity for the Glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Yet, we have other groups in the Church beating us to the very charism that we are suppose to be living??? When I say preaching, I understand that the role of the laity is outside of the parish. Everything within the territorial boundaries of the parish are the Priests to do as he wishes. As laity, it is our job to develop outreach programs, feed the poor ministries, power for the poor ministries, running missions for the Church as administrators when priests are at a shortage. This frees up the Priests, and especially our Dominican Brother Priests, to do the work of preaching inside of the parish and training our catechists and faith formation teams. Yet, we are out there, in the streets, in the gutter like miniature St. Francis’s doing the Church’s work as missionaries and apostles. This is the state of the laity, this is our job. When we read Gaudium et Spes, it tells us that we are to be “Leaven to the World”. Now we are able to enter into Master and Bachelor programs in Theology, Catechetics, Religious Education and Evangelization. Never in the period, or history of the Church has there ever been a more perfect time for us, as Lay Dominicans to step up and do the work mandated to us while living the charism and rule of St. Dominic.

    Saint Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Vita Consecrata stated that in those places where the Gospel would be hindered by the use of the habit, than a reasonable and recognizable sign should be given in place. He implored religious organizations in the Church to go back to their roots and regain their habit. I have been told the old St. Martin de Porres habit is gone now, banished by the Vatican. I have not found a single document to support this. If you could show me this document I would greatly appreciate it. Instead, what we have seen over the period of the past 70 years is religious orders getting rid of their habit, donning secular clothing to be more like the laity. We don’t need any more secular people, we need men and women who are going to be the “Light of the World”. That means getting out their preaching the Gospel on the street corners like St. Paul Street Evangelization. Getting out there and being involved in the public debate and showing what the Catholic Church teaches about equality and what true equality is about. Some of us are out there doing it on our own, in our independent ministries, this needs to be a communal action of the local fraternity. Our life should be about getting rid of the world, trying to live the evangelical counsels, which all Christians are called to live in a radical way to be lights to the world (see CCC 915). An outsider looks at the Monks, Friars and Sisters and they don’t understand them, they don’t see what is going on. They pay them no attention because they say, “How can they understand my struggles of not being able to pay bills? Watching my children starve? Not being about give them the life I dreamed?” So they are turned away. This is the same reason that many of my friends do not go to a celibate priest with marital problems, they go to the Married Deacon. Why? Because they feel they understand. When you see a Lay Dominican, living this radical acceptance of the Gospel and these evangelical counsels, it should show the laity that even that person, with a family and family responsibilities is capable of living the fullness of Christian life. What we need are married examples of how to live the Christian life. This is one of the reasons why Orthodoxy is growing so rapidly in the US. I know of three families that have converted to Orthodoxy because “the Priests are married and more easily relatable and the teachings are Catholic save for a few.” That last part was an exact quote I heard from a family I talked to about this issue.

    Your statement was that we don’t wear a habit because we are not religious. I am not quite sure that this is true when we look at the arguments made above. Unless there is something that the Congregation for Consecrated Life has stated that I have missed. We are children of St. Dominic, this is a fact. We are suppose to be able to “participate in the rights,…” of the Order. Well one of those rights is the habit of St. Dominic given to us by Mary through Blessed Reginald of Orleans to the Dominican Family. Seems like we gave that up on our own free volition for the curb appeal of secularization. Which by definition means “to lack religion”. We are suppose to participate in the Charism of the Order, well that’s to preach, but are our fraternities doing this? I don’t know, I am not at the top levels of our government. Yet, When we have other organizations that are doing this, and doing it better, I would say we’re behind the curb and we need to re-organize our fraternities, ensure they are properly funded, or given the means to raise funding, and to get our members out there to glorify Christ. We’re not a study club, we are the Order of Preachers. If I wasn’t apart of a religious order, living a religious rule it makes no sense to have the O.P. That’s what the O.P stands for at the end of my name. It means that I am a member, a Promised member of the Order of Preachers, a religious order of the Catholic Church, living a religious rule and way of life for the Glory of Christ Jesus in the Charism of St. Dominic. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (1 Corinth 9:16) for that is what Christ called me to when he called me to this Holy Order of St. Dominic.

    Yet, I digress. My perspectives and views are only one. Yet, when we truly live this prayer filled life that the Rule requires of us and we grow in deeper relationship with Christ, then one thing is certain, Christ is all. Our Holy Father Dominic shows us this when we hear of how he was always speaking “either to God or About God.” As we grow closer to Christ then our desire, no matter what our state of life because I feel like this is a huge misunderstanding, should be to tell others about Christ and to live a life of poverty, according to that state of life. A married person lives in poverty in his/her own family. They do not own anything, it is the ownership of the family. They do not go buy whatever they want, without first asking the spouse. These are different types of poverty, but still a promise of poverty followed. A married person also is obedient to their spouse and is chaste in there relationship. These things are the very concepts of the Eastern Churches, and have been in activity since the founding of the Catholic Church. We are all called to either be single or celibate but how we live that life is up to God’s divine intellect and his will. When we enter synergetically into this relationship with him we are able to be transformed and regain the divine likeness lost at the fall. Thusly, this action of living the rule should help us to be “perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).

    My primary question is this, you said that “Father and Sister: that is not our role” well what is our role in your perspective? I have clearly laid out mine own. We do not have a clerical role. period. Our role, according to the Dogmatic Constitutions of the Church are to be “Leaven to the World” and as Members of the Dominican Order, we should be out there actually preaching the Gospel and bringing people to the Church. I’m afraid that the question of “role” has not been quite answered for my understanding, call me slow if you must, but I am not quite sure what you envision for the Lay Dominican Order. My vision is an army of Christians who, under the Banner of Christ in the charism of St. Dominic, can go out and evangelize and bring to fruit missions for the Church, active preaching in the streets, in the businesses, amongst friends, relatives and co-workers.

    Yet, again I am only one person. My thoughts are irrelevent in comparison to the awesome divine intellect of our Savior Jesus Christ and those that he has placed over me and this community. Yet, if my voice is to be heard, then I would have it heard for the glory of Him who has called us out of secularity and into the divine arms of Christ our King and God Himself. For me the secular world we live in is horrible and we should have nothing to do with it. Like our Holy Father St. Dominic, if I could sit in my church all day, pray and read my books, then I would. Yet, the necessity of the Gospel of Christ and the horrible state of this world, the love for my son and the world he will grow up in, leads me to this place in which I must preach. Not for myself, not for my reward, but rather for the Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the hopes in a Christian world that will be better for my son and my grandchildren. May Christ forgive me of any sin that I may have committed in this writing. For if I have said anything for my own reward then I pray that He would have mercy. Yet, I write only so that God would be glorified by a clarification of our role and missionary endeavor to bring the name of His beloved Son to all the world. So that we may all live this vocation that we have been called to, and for, the Glory of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

    Public CommentUserRuth, thank you for your thoughts, your words and your perspectives on these particularities. It is good to see that I am not alone in many of my thoughts. I would like to clarify that in many cases the organization of the fraternity, in my particular experience, has been the issue. I have contemplated on this for a few days and it seems that most of my woes come to pass due to leadership actions and these effects of secular minds on what should not be a secular endeavor. Let me explain. Firstly, we must look at the concept of promise and vow. When I took my "promise to live according to the rule of St. Dominic for..." that means that those things that have been agreed upon in the rule of St. Dominic, including the general declarations, directory and the liturgical act, all have a place in the formation, and the spiritual graces imbued upon the lay person who promises such things. Firstly, we must understand that no person who makes a public declaration to live according to a religious rule, and follow Christ, is not going to be imparted some grace in order to live said rule. This would be contrary to the Catholic understanding of God and his divine actions. To say otherwise would mean that Christ is a liar for he himself says, "Anyone who acknowledges me before men-- the Son of God will acknowledge him before the angels of God." (NAB Luke 12:8). We must also understand that the liturgical action, in which the religious promotor and president, given canonical jurisdiction to stand in the place of leadership and to receive the promises, states clearly "living the counsels of the Gospel" during the liturgical rite, which we all know to be the evangelical counsels. These rites were approved by the Vatican for use. Therefore, to make a promise to live according to the rule of St. Dominic you are implied to be living the evangelical counsels and making such promise before God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states "It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God." (CCC 915). While the sentence before hand leads us to understand that "chastity in celibacy" is the norm, the statement "...within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church..." would mean that since the "Third Orders" mentioned in the Canon Law, knowing that members of this third order may be married, is a recognized state of life, then anyone who makes public profession in the Lay Dominican Order would be classified as consecrated persons. Thusly we must understand what is the difference between the promise we make and the promise that the brothers and sisters make? The primary difference that I have been able to tell is their promise of stability in obedience. This is an implied action by the promises being received and promised to the superior of their friary/convent, instead of in general to the rule of St. Dominic, which in of itself is a promise of obedience. "I, brother N.N., make profession and promise obedience to God, and to Blessed Mary, and to Blessed Dominic, and to you Brother N.N in place of Brother N.N, Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, and to your successors, according to the Rule of Blessed Augustine and the Constitutions of the Friars Preachers, that I will be obedient to you and your successors until death." No part of this text states that a vow has been made, only a promise. Also the lacking of Chastity and Poverty inside of the profession text. So why are brothers and sisters still considered religious and "lays" are not??? Both our profession and the profession of the brothers and sisters in this instance are promises and both are not using a specified declaration of poverty and chastity but rather they are using an implied which is to say, because the superior, and Master of the Order has declared Poverty and Chastity, all Friars are to follow these evangelical counsels. They are also implied with the general text of the rule and constitutions. Again, this is is a theological and canonical issue. To say that one group has the form of "religious" while the other does not, and both state the word "promise" instead of one using the term "vow" and recognized as a religious does not make sense (Also the catechism states profession to be used, a term both are identified with). In fact it is very much an inconsistency. You cannot say either that the "religious" is to be given greater graces than that of the "lay" because of what they are promising. We must understand that the imparting of grace in of itself is up to the Lord and that may mean that the "lay" needs more grace to fulfill his mission while working 40 hours a week and also continuing his ministry as a youth worker, street preacher, missionary, etc. The promise of obedience to the superior is of particular note here. Lay Dominicans do not have this, nor should they because we need the freedom to move as the Lord moves us and sends us. Dominican Friars and Sisters should have an obedience promise to the superior and Master because of the simple fact that they are tied to the region, the province etc, unless so ordered to go by the Master of the Order. So my question in this instance is, how is the order clarifying these issues? This also leads to the question of organization. Our fraternities need to be set up to be apostle and intentional disciple building machines. We have solved some of this with curriculum development, but still lacking in others. The fraternity should be a local place that the order can set up its house, develop its ministry in the city that it is at and work to gain funds and donations so that its members can bring Christ to the city and the region. We need to re-organize our fraternities, get our provinces to not only focus on the spiritual welfare of the fraternity by retreats, but also need to get them to provide ample amounts of training in fundraising, administration and recruitment. I'm 30 years old, look at my generation. We are the generation saying enough is enough with the liberal policies of the past 70 years. When you have groups like St. Paul Street Evangelization out there preaching, this should be the job of the Lay Dominicans. Our members should be able to take this flag up and grow the Church. If enough donations come in, we should be able to provide full-time employment for our fraternity members to continue this activity for the Glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. Yet, we have other groups in the Church beating us to the very charism that we are suppose to be living??? When I say preaching, I understand that the role of the laity is outside of the parish. Everything within the territorial boundaries of the parish are the Priests to do as he wishes. As laity, it is our job to develop outreach programs, feed the poor ministries, power for the poor ministries, running missions for the Church as administrators when priests are at a shortage. This frees up the Priests, and especially our Dominican Brother Priests, to do the work of preaching inside of the parish and training our catechists and faith formation teams. Yet, we are out there, in the streets, in the gutter like miniature St. Francis's doing the Church's work as missionaries and apostles. This is the state of the laity, this is our job. When we read Gaudium et Spes, it tells us that we are to be "Leaven to the World". Now we are able to enter into Master and Bachelor programs in Theology, Catechetics, Religious Education and Evangelization. Never in the period, or history of the Church has there ever been a more perfect time for us, as Lay Dominicans to step up and do the work mandated to us while living the charism and rule of St. Dominic. Saint Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Vita Consecrata stated that in those places where the Gospel would be hindered by the use of the habit, than a reasonable and recognizable sign should be given in place. He implored religious organizations in the Church to go back to their roots and regain their habit. I have been told the old St. Martin de Porres habit is gone now, banished by the Vatican. I have not found a single document to support this. If you could show me this document I would greatly appreciate it. Instead, what we have seen over the period of the past 70 years is religious orders getting rid of their habit, donning secular clothing to be more like the laity. We don't need any more secular people, we need men and women who are going to be the "Light of the World". That means getting out their preaching the Gospel on the street corners like St. Paul Street Evangelization. Getting out there and being involved in the public debate and showing what the Catholic Church teaches about equality and what true equality is about. Some of us are out there doing it on our own, in our independent ministries, this needs to be a communal action of the local fraternity. Our life should be about getting rid of the world, trying to live the evangelical counsels, which all Christians are called to live in a radical way to be lights to the world (see CCC 915). An outsider looks at the Monks, Friars and Sisters and they don't understand them, they don't see what is going on. They pay them no attention because they say, "How can they understand my struggles of not being able to pay bills? Watching my children starve? Not being about give them the life I dreamed?" So they are turned away. This is the same reason that many of my friends do not go to a celibate priest with marital problems, they go to the Married Deacon. Why? Because they feel they understand. When you see a Lay Dominican, living this radical acceptance of the Gospel and these evangelical counsels, it should show the laity that even that person, with a family and family responsibilities is capable of living the fullness of Christian life. What we need are married examples of how to live the Christian life. This is one of the reasons why Orthodoxy is growing so rapidly in the US. I know of three families that have converted to Orthodoxy because "the Priests are married and more easily relatable and the teachings are Catholic save for a few." That last part was an exact quote I heard from a family I talked to about this issue. Your statement was that we don't wear a habit because we are not religious. I am not quite sure that this is true when we look at the arguments made above. Unless there is something that the Congregation for Consecrated Life has stated that I have missed. We are children of St. Dominic, this is a fact. We are suppose to be able to "participate in the rights,..." of the Order. Well one of those rights is the habit of St. Dominic given to us by Mary through Blessed Reginald of Orleans to the Dominican Family. Seems like we gave that up on our own free volition for the curb appeal of secularization. Which by definition means "to lack religion". We are suppose to participate in the Charism of the Order, well that's to preach, but are our fraternities doing this? I don't know, I am not at the top levels of our government. Yet, When we have other organizations that are doing this, and doing it better, I would say we're behind the curb and we need to re-organize our fraternities, ensure they are properly funded, or given the means to raise funding, and to get our members out there to glorify Christ. We're not a study club, we are the Order of Preachers. If I wasn't apart of a religious order, living a religious rule it makes no sense to have the O.P. That's what the O.P stands for at the end of my name. It means that I am a member, a Promised member of the Order of Preachers, a religious order of the Catholic Church, living a religious rule and way of life for the Glory of Christ Jesus in the Charism of St. Dominic. "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel." (1 Corinth 9:16) for that is what Christ called me to when he called me to this Holy Order of St. Dominic. Yet, I digress. My perspectives and views are only one. Yet, when we truly live this prayer filled life that the Rule requires of us and we grow in deeper relationship with Christ, then one thing is certain, Christ is all. Our Holy Father Dominic shows us this when we hear of how he was always speaking "either to God or About God." As we grow closer to Christ then our desire, no matter what our state of life because I feel like this is a huge misunderstanding, should be to tell others about Christ and to live a life of poverty, according to that state of life. A married person lives in poverty in his/her own family. They do not own anything, it is the ownership of the family. They do not go buy whatever they want, without first asking the spouse. These are different types of poverty, but still a promise of poverty followed. A married person also is obedient to their spouse and is chaste in there relationship. These things are the very concepts of the Eastern Churches, and have been in activity since the founding of the Catholic Church. We are all called to either be single or celibate but how we live that life is up to God's divine intellect and his will. When we enter synergetically into this relationship with him we are able to be transformed and regain the divine likeness lost at the fall. Thusly, this action of living the rule should help us to be "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48). My primary question is this, you said that "Father and Sister: that is not our role" well what is our role in your perspective? I have clearly laid out mine own. We do not have a clerical role. period. Our role, according to the Dogmatic Constitutions of the Church are to be "Leaven to the World" and as Members of the Dominican Order, we should be out there actually preaching the Gospel and bringing people to the Church. I'm afraid that the question of "role" has not been quite answered for my understanding, call me slow if you must, but I am not quite sure what you envision for the Lay Dominican Order. My vision is an army of Christians who, under the Banner of Christ in the charism of St. Dominic, can go out and evangelize and bring to fruit missions for the Church, active preaching in the streets, in the businesses, amongst friends, relatives and co-workers. Yet, again I am only one person. My thoughts are irrelevent in comparison to the awesome divine intellect of our Savior Jesus Christ and those that he has placed over me and this community. Yet, if my voice is to be heard, then I would have it heard for the glory of Him who has called us out of secularity and into the divine arms of Christ our King and God Himself. For me the secular world we live in is horrible and we should have nothing to do with it. Like our Holy Father St. Dominic, if I could sit in my church all day, pray and read my books, then I would. Yet, the necessity of the Gospel of Christ and the horrible state of this world, the love for my son and the world he will grow up in, leads me to this place in which I must preach. Not for myself, not for my reward, but rather for the Glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the hopes in a Christian world that will be better for my son and my grandchildren. May Christ forgive me of any sin that I may have committed in this writing. For if I have said anything for my own reward then I pray that He would have mercy. Yet, I write only so that God would be glorified by a clarification of our role and missionary endeavor to bring the name of His beloved Son to all the world. So that we may all live this vocation that we have been called to, and for, the Glory of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.
  3. The first thought that occurred to me on reading the first few paragraphs of the American’s comments was “who is leading the fraternity he joined?” The whole of his future in the Dominican laity depends on those teaching and leading by example. My first year attending fraternity began my formation and the discipline instilled in me then was what carried me through so many years in the Order. One of the first things learned was the Lay Dominicans were important to the Order because they can reach people in the world that the friars and sisters cannot. In Fraternity we met once a month on a Sunday, as you said, bringing our lunch, and we spent the day together, hearing Mass together, discussing the Bible, praying together, (of which only one section was the Rosary). We ate together, learned all about each other and we became a small family, caring and seeking to help each other whenever or wherever, and this spilled over in our lives with everyone we met in life, and still does. We loved being together and tried to meet more often when possible. Our Spiritual Adviser only spent a certain time with us but was a welcome friend.
    I fear Adam Cook is being misled by whoever is leading his group. The Liturgy too, takes such a huge part of every day, and I don’t mean necessarily in time. The Office of Readings is a necessary Lectio Divina, which he should be gradually introduced to and shown its value in our lives. Regular formation is so important for the future of everyone. That too depends on the leaders.
    I completely agree with everything you said, but I feel so strongly that the love and joy of being part of our Order has to be learnt right from the first introduction and it sounds from Adam Cook’s comments that this is lacking. It sounds as if the leaders of his fraternity are a sad lot! Certainly not what St. Dominic taught or showed by his example. I think we should pray for them.

    Public CommentUserThe first thought that occurred to me on reading the first few paragraphs of the American’s comments was “who is leading the fraternity he joined?” The whole of his future in the Dominican laity depends on those teaching and leading by example. My first year attending fraternity began my formation and the discipline instilled in me then was what carried me through so many years in the Order. One of the first things learned was the Lay Dominicans were important to the Order because they can reach people in the world that the friars and sisters cannot. In Fraternity we met once a month on a Sunday, as you said, bringing our lunch, and we spent the day together, hearing Mass together, discussing the Bible, praying together, (of which only one section was the Rosary). We ate together, learned all about each other and we became a small family, caring and seeking to help each other whenever or wherever, and this spilled over in our lives with everyone we met in life, and still does. We loved being together and tried to meet more often when possible. Our Spiritual Adviser only spent a certain time with us but was a welcome friend. I fear Adam Cook is being misled by whoever is leading his group. The Liturgy too, takes such a huge part of every day, and I don’t mean necessarily in time. The Office of Readings is a necessary Lectio Divina, which he should be gradually introduced to and shown its value in our lives. Regular formation is so important for the future of everyone. That too depends on the leaders. I completely agree with everything you said, but I feel so strongly that the love and joy of being part of our Order has to be learnt right from the first introduction and it sounds from Adam Cook’s comments that this is lacking. It sounds as if the leaders of his fraternity are a sad lot! Certainly not what St. Dominic taught or showed by his example. I think we should pray for them.
    1. I completely agree with you in many respects here. If my experience was like what you describe then that would be awesome. I have a unique experience in which before I joined the lay Dominicans, I was a novice for the Franciscan order as a friar. I have seen first hand the transformative power of the liturgy of the hours and on reflecting on the writings of the church fathers. We worked, lived and moved as one unit. Some of my fondest memories was time spent in the friary in formation.

      When I joined the tertiaries, I expected much of the same, but it seems like it’s all business. Unless some article of business needs to be attended, things are pretty quiet. Maybe this is an American problem? I am not sure but what it sounds like from both yourself and Ruth, my woes don’t seem to exist in other places.

      Update: I would like to apologize for the rant up top. It came to my attention that this issue is one of a sui juris issue in regards to canon. The Roman church does not recognize third orders “canonically” as religious, but the eastern codes make no distinction and persons of the third order are classified as religious.

      As for our activity and role, while I understand the concepts that were given to me during formation, I think that the curriculum needs to be updated to address Pope Francis. All persons are subject to the Holy Pontiff. His calls to evangelize and bring greater fruit I believe call for us to re-examine ourselves and our direction. Coming from an evangelical background, I believe we need to be out there. Yet this is just my opinion.

      Public CommentUserI completely agree with you in many respects here. If my experience was like what you describe then that would be awesome. I have a unique experience in which before I joined the lay Dominicans, I was a novice for the Franciscan order as a friar. I have seen first hand the transformative power of the liturgy of the hours and on reflecting on the writings of the church fathers. We worked, lived and moved as one unit. Some of my fondest memories was time spent in the friary in formation. When I joined the tertiaries, I expected much of the same, but it seems like it’s all business. Unless some article of business needs to be attended, things are pretty quiet. Maybe this is an American problem? I am not sure but what it sounds like from both yourself and Ruth, my woes don’t seem to exist in other places. Update: I would like to apologize for the rant up top. It came to my attention that this issue is one of a sui juris issue in regards to canon. The Roman church does not recognize third orders “canonically” as religious, but the eastern codes make no distinction and persons of the third order are classified as religious. As for our activity and role, while I understand the concepts that were given to me during formation, I think that the curriculum needs to be updated to address Pope Francis. All persons are subject to the Holy Pontiff. His calls to evangelize and bring greater fruit I believe call for us to re-examine ourselves and our direction. Coming from an evangelical background, I believe we need to be out there. Yet this is just my opinion.

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