ORDO FRATRUM PRAEDICATORUM CURIA GENERALITIA
Rome, May 4t”, 2001
Mrs Patricia Robinson
European Council of Lay Dominican Fraternities
I have received your message sent yesterday, in which you express your desire for my presence at the Vth European Assembly of Lay Dominican Fraternities in Fognano. I have no doubt that both you and the members of the Council will understand the reasons why I cannot come, much to my regret. Every year, the General Council of the Order meets in plenary session in May and November. We spend the whole month working day and night. That’s the way it is in an Order which has taken up St. Dominic’s challenge to preach the Word of God to the world! It will be good to bear this in mind when you plan the next meeting, if you hope for any members of the General Council to come and make an appearance. This work is especially intense this May because it is the last Plenary Chapter of my nine years as Master, and the days that you have chosen are even more impossible because they coincide with the Feast of St Dominic which we celebrate then because most of the brethren are away in August. I spent much time trying to find a way to be with you, but alas it could not be done.
I promise you that you will much in the thoughts and prayers of all the Cóuncil. All the documents of the recent General Chapters have stressed time and again how central you are to the mission of the Order. This was the principal thrust of the wonderful meeting in Manila. The lay fraternities have a central role not only in the life of the Order, but also in our preaching. Sometimes when I speak to Dominican lay people in some parts of the world (by no means everywhere!), I have the impression that you sometimes suffer from a feeling of being neglected and unappreciated by other branches of the Dominican Family. This pains me deeply and I apologise on behalf of the brethren for any hurt. Often in the past the brethren have thought of the Dominican laity as the objects of our attention, who are there to listen to the brethren, rather than as co-subjects, fellow preachers. I talk frequently with the brethren about this and urge them to open their eyes to see all the wonderful partners we have in our mission. This is changing but such changes do not happen rapidly.
How can you respond to this? I have just a few inadequate words to offer. First of all, the only way to change the brethren will for them to see that you are indeed preachers. At the heart of the life of the preacher is joy in the gospel. The preacher cannot restrain himself or herself from sharing this, whatever the reception. When the brethren see this joy in the gospel, and the impulse to spread the good news, then they will know, without doubt, that here are partners for the mission. They will not need documents to prove it. It is the joy that we find in St Paul, who had to preach, even though he was often treated so badly by the local Christians, who dismissed him and did not take this tent maker seriously. So let this searching how to preach be at the centre of your meeting, however much you may be tempted to complain about the brcthren. I often am too, just as I am sure that they complain about me!! Be creative and imaginative in your reflections on how to carry the gospel to the world.
How áre you to do this? This is for you to imagine and not for me. Ideally all the Dominican Family will dream together, but let the laity start now. The Laity in the Church have their own identity and dignity, which is to be lived to the full. The sacraments received by the laity are a source of God-given aid for the task of making the presence of God real in the world. In the Church, the non-ordained are the majority. What in practice does it mean to bring the joy and hope of salvation to the world in which you live?
By the very nature of your identity, you are placed where St. Dominic sent his friars in the hot places of culture, intellectual endeavour, and social change. How do you experience the meeting of the word of faith and the word of the secular world? What insights and services can you offer in the evangelisation of the mind? Our preaching is deeply influenced by the theological tradition which is ours, with its fundamental intuitions: the goodness of creation, the utter mystery of God beyond all our conceptions, God’s friendship with us, the blessing of our power to reason and the goodness of debate, the respect of the equality of all human beings. How can this vibrant tradition bear fruit in the worlds in which you live?
These are just a few quick thoughts that may provoke you in your questionings during the Assembly. May St. Dominic re-ignite your charism as you debate, pray and celebrate together. Pray for the next General Chapter, that it may help the whole Dominican Family to move forward in our preaching.
Your brother in St Dominic
fr Timothy Radcliffe
Master of the Order