Why be a Lay Dominican when I can become a Lay Cistercian, Secular Franciscan, Carmelite, or a Benedictine Oblate? Even Alcoholics Anonymous offers a Spiritual AA. Mrs. Faith Flaherty of the Lay Fraternities in the province of St. Joseph (USA) explains:
The answer is certainly personal, but the definitive response would be because of the spirituality and charism to which each individual has been called in their vocation. Think of the Lay Dominicans that have been called to martyrdom:
• St. TÔMA Nguyen Van De- one of the Vietnamese martyrs, died in 1839
• St. Marina of Omura-burned alive in 1634 in Nagasaki, Japan
• St. Gaspar Koteda-beheaded in 1601
Think of the many more Lay Dominican catechists, prison volunteers, chaplains and lay ministers of the Eucharist, who proclaim in word and deed the message of the Gospel, with no acknowledgement nor gratitude.
Who would do this thankless work bringing salvation to the masses, especially with no or little success? Would a member of Alcoholics Anonymous be willing to be martyred? Maybe the lay members of some of the religious orders would, but their approach would differ from that of the Lay Dominican.
When a man or woman is called to be a member of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic, they would have been attracted by a community of fraternity. And this community is extended to a bigger regional area, even to their nation. It’s even bigger than the national community. It is international. It is belonging to a religious order that dates back more than 800 years, founded by Saint Dominic.
This religious order, officially named the Order of Preachers, looks upon all its members as one family. All members of the Order of Preachers, whether a priest, cooperative brother, student brother, apostolic sister, nun, or laity, may add the suffix, O.P., to their name. The Dominicans have a long history of accomplishments. They serve God in many extraordinary ways. They are constantly learning. It has been said that Lay Dominicans have a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. They interpret the newspaper with a biblical scholarship lens. Lay Dominicans are out in the world and are very conscious of what is secular influenced, and are critical in their reading.
It takes at least five years of study before a Lay Dominican can make their final solemn promises. By that time, they know that they will never know everything. Hence, Lay Dominicans constantly have “on-going” formation. Reading is their favorite past time. They love to learn.
However, before study, Lay Dominicans pray. Prayer is so important that Saint Dominic established a convent of contemplative nuns before the friars. The nuns prayed for the success of Saint Dominic’s mission. Lay Dominicans follow a daily prayer schedule and take time for contemplation. Contemplation, Saint Thomas Aquinas said, is preparation for sharing our fruits.
Sharing the fruits of contemplation, drive Lay Dominicans towards an apostolate. All Dominicans are called to spread the Good News. Jesus Himself commands His disciples to go out and preach the good news (Mark 16:15). Whatever work each Dominican engages in, whether individually, or as a chapter, is considered an apostolate of preaching. Due to the Lay Dominican’s prayer and study, they are driven to action.
The Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic have a special vocation. Their spirituality gives them the ability to reach people and places that priests and other religious cannot reach. The Lay Dominicans especially are called to go out and preach like Saint Dominic did to the Albigensian innkeeper.
Certainly one can serve God as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, or a Lay Carmelite, Franciscan, etc., but the Lay Dominican has a specific call to a vocation of love of the Truth. This love stirs the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic to pray for understanding the Truth. This Truth drives the Fraternities to preach the Truth in all situations. Serving God as a Lay Dominican is a life centered in saving souls and thereby saving their own.
Thanks for the contributions of Mr. Michael Murphy, O.P., Mrs. Virginia Wacker, O.P., Mrs. Ann Devine, O.P., Mrs. Irene Gifford, O.P.
Mrs. Faith Flaherty, O.P.
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