Again we welcome you all, particularly those who were not able to come yesterday evening. We thank God that you arrived here safely even if you have had a long or difficult journey.
We welcome you not only for yourselves but those whom you bring in your hearts: the other members of your provinces.
We have an exciting programme that we hope you will find not only fruitful but enjoyable. One of the most important objects of this Assembly is to get to know each other and enjoy each others company in the presence of God.
The Purpose of this Assembly is, and I quote: to discover ways of listening to and responding to the Word of God.
The aims include:
- to inspire and encourage each other in our mission of Preaching;
- to continue to work towards the creation of links throughout Europe;
- to establish ways bringing together those interested in similar projects;
- to share our experiences and to learn from each other the joys and pains of our lives as Dominicans and to deepen our faith by listening to and responding to the stories of witness;
- to discern and respond to the needs of our word;
- to pray and celebrate together our gift of faith and the joy of being members of the Dominican Family.
So that is what we are going to do.
The vocation of Lay Domincans was to be, from the outset, an apostolat in the world. In the earlier days, before joining, one had to have paid debts and have been reconciled to all enemies. The postulant, once accepted, was forbidden to leave – except to enter another religious order with solemn vows. The ceremony of Profession was and is, a real canonical entrance into the Order. We are not Dominican Laity. We are Lay Dominicans.
Our purpose is fundamentally the same as that of the priests, brothers, nuns and sisters, for the Spirit has led us into the Dominican vocation. And so we have a great deal about which to celebrate.
At the end of the 15th century there was a change in terminology, the General Chapter of 1481 and 1484 refer to the Third Order of Penance and to Tertiaries.
The Third Order Chapters of the past have now become Lay Dominican Fraternities according to the Rule of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic.
I repeat: we are not Dominican Laity. We are Lay Dominicans.
Juridically, members of the LDFs are incorporated into the Dominican Order, not just into the Family (Rule 14). “To be incorporated into the Order, members must make profession which consists of a formal promise by which they propose to live according to the spirit of St. Dominic and according to the way of life prescribed by The Rule.”
Tha candidate makes a promise, very like that of the friars for, initially, a period of enquiry, followed by a Temporary Profession for one to three years or “my whole life” or according to the Directory of each Province.
Canonically LDF members are considered “tertiaries” by the Church. Legally LDF members belong to the Order of Preachers via the friars.
Through the friars they pertain to the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and not to the Pontifical Council of Laity. The Prior Provincial has the ultimate authority and responsibility of the LDs within his province. The Master of the Order presides over all the Fraternities in the world (Rule 19).
Our Rule 11 states “The objective of Dominican Formation is to form adults in the Faith, capable of accepting, celebrating and proclaiming the Word of God”.
Rule 12 “Every Dominican must be prepared to preach the Word of God”.
The Fraternities are autonomous.
Articles 16 and 17 specify that it is the responsible lay person (i.e. President or Responsable according to the language ) in the fraternity who, with the religious assistant, admits the postulants and also, together with the religious assistant, receives their temporary or final Profession.
The duty of the religious assistant is to help, teach and strengthen the fraternity members in the evangelical and apostolic life according to the traditions of the Order. It is not to organize the Fraternities. This is the duty of the Fraternity Council.
The number of Lay Dominicans who promise to live by the Rule is greater than any other branch of the Dominican Family, estimated to be more than 74,000 in 1998.
The General Council made it possible for the Lay Dominicans to participate in the ministry of the Word, the prophetic function of Christ. “Christ, the great prophet… fulfils His function not only through the hierarchy that teaches in His Name and with his power, but also through the laity, whom He also makes His witnesses by granting them the sense of faith and the grace of speech (cf Ac 2 18-2; Rv 19.10) so that the power of the Gospel may shine on everyday, family and social life… The members of the laity become powerful messengers of faith in what is hoped for…. This evangelical action…. made by witnesses of word and deed, assumes a specific character and a particular efficacy from the fact that it is carried out in contemporary society. (LG 35)
What have we to celebrate? A vocation in the Dominican Order following the footsteps of so many great saints and blessed, not because they worked miracles or were famous but because of their holiness. We celebrate the fact that we have been chosen to do God’s work by preaching his Word anywhere at any time – with one exception. There is no reason why a Layperson should not give an exhortation or a brief instruction. At last some Lay Dominicans are asked to do this.
There is an indication that the friars are now taking us seriously and are welcoming our collaboration in many activities. There is a great deal of this going on in the various countries, the expertise of the Lay Dominicans being used to advantage.
We do not wish to appear to be always on the receiving end but must offer our time, our talents and our gifts for the good of the Order and for the glory of God who gave them to us.
We belong to a large, diverse, complicated, warm-hearted Family. We have brothers and sisters in all parts of the world praying for us. I understand that some people joined the Lay Dominicans because of the promise that there would be prayers for them when they were dead!
We don’t want to be regarded as another solidarity. We have a vocation. We are true members of the Order of which we are proud. We have a great divotion to St. Dominic. We have a lot for which to be thankful…. so let’s celebrate!
ECLDF President 1998-2001