Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

– on the Lay Dominican Rule, then and now –
by Jan Frederik Solem, O.P. Oslo, 8 November 2009

This is a paper that was presented at a congress of the Lay Dominican fraternities in the Dacia vicariate (Nordic countries: Sweden , Norway, Finland and Denmark) in November 2009. It should in no way be considered an authoritative account of the development of the Rule of the Third Order / Lay Dominican fraternities, but rather as a “status report” on a work in progress.

My interest in the Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic goes back 18 years, all the way back to 1991, when I made my first profession to live according to this Rule and thus became part of the third wave of Lay Dominicans in Norway. But I still find it a challenge to make an “elevator speech” explaining what Lay Dominicans and our fraternities are all about. An “elevator speech” – also known as “elevator pitch” – is a clear, concise bit of communication that can be delivered in the time it takes people to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator. The Ladder of Perfection up, then talking about it in the elevator down!

The current Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic, 1987-2007
Our Rule since 1987 has – by design, as we shall see – the character of a fundamental law, short and simple, only establishing some general norms. But apparently not short enough for the typesetter of the Analecta of the Order, who dropped the second half of paragraph 12 so that we Lay Dominicans relied on an incomplete version of the Rule for 20 years! On the other hand, perhaps a little too general, so that when Master Damian Byrne promulgated it, he immediately felt a need to add a page of his own General Declarations to the five pages of the Rule! Even so, the Rule is as you know incomplete without a national or provincial Directory, so we set out to create our own for the Provincial Vicariate of Dacia – only to discover late in the process that the French national directory (of no concern to us) had in 1997 given place to a provincial directory (held in common by the Dominican Provinces of France and Toulouse, and their vicariates in Scandinavia, North Africa, Middle East and Vietnam – thus including a large part of the world's Lay Dominicans) that we knew nothing about but of course applied to us also. Fortunately, our Dacia draft was not very different from the provincial directory, so it was easy for us to adopt. Six more pages. The Rule requires, even it doesn't say so, a companion book of ceremonies for reception and profession, because “as we pray so do we believe and so do we live” – lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. A new ceremoniale for Dominican friars, nuns, secular institutes and lay fraternities was promulgated by Master Timothy Radcliffe as late as 1999. I have made no comparison with old ceremonials, so I'm not able to say whether this new one differs substantially from previous


editions. In any case it has never been part of the Rule itself, except for the simple formula used for profession – which is the same now as 700 years ago. Finally, following the International Congress of Lay Dominican Fraternities in 2007, the present Master Carlos Aspiroz Costa wrote a new set of General Declarations, and thus added a further four pages to our Book of Rules where some perceived loose ends have been tied up. Unless a future Master of the Order or the friars at some future General Chapter decide to shake us up – again – I hope we have reached a more stable phase, as far as the Rule is concerned. Counting the Rule, the two General Declarations and our Provincial Directory, we are now up to 16 pages of statutes.

Going back to the beginning
It is time to look back and ask ourselves whether our lay “Way of the Preacher” has changed in fundamental ways compared to our predecessors – I think especially of the first and second waves of Dominican tertiaries in Norway (under the direction of fr. Lutz and fr. Raulin, respectively) – or whether we must say of the successive Rules of Lay Dominican Fraternities through history that “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (The more things change, the more they stay the same)? Going back to the beginning, we can name many friars and nuns – saints and blesseds, many of them – from the times of Saint Dominic. But can any of you name the first lay preacher that can be connected to Saint Dominic? I will suggest the name of another Spaniard, Durand of Huesca. Durand was the intellectual star of the Waldensians, the Poor of Lyons, and one of Valdesius' first companions. The author of Liber antiheresis, he was perfectly capable of engaging in theological discussions, contradictory debates and verbal fencing matches; he had excelled in such skills during the struggle with the Albigensians. The Waldensians were a lay preacher movement, mostly orthodox in matters of faith on a pedestrian level, feeling called to preach and teach as best as they could – as local clergy often did a lousy job of it. They were as opposed to the Albigensians as any Catholics, but of course they were never mandated by bishops to preach and so were anathemised by the Council of Verona in 1184 for disobedience rather than for doctrinal heresy. Now, as you can imagine the Waldensian movement is a very interesting object of study in itself, but here I'm only concerned with Durand of Huesca. You see, in the Autumn of 1207 (after the death of Valdesius, it seems) he encountered bishop Diego of Osma, the superior of Saint Dominic, at a dispute in Pamiers. Durand was convinced by Diego, abjured his heresy, and resolved to live as a Catholic thereafter. Those following Durand formed what is known as the Poor Catholics. And naturally, the very first thing they had to agree to, was to give up preaching. Whenever friars are impatient with Lay Dominicans not living up to fanciful expectations of going out on the street to preach and similar good works, I suggest they remember it was their own predecessors who made people like us shut up 800 years ago! I will not go as far as saying that the Order of Penance of Saint Dominic are the heirs of the Poor Catholics (who folded after a generation as the original members died out), but I will point out to you that the ideals are exactly the same: to be good Christians (which for the Waldensians meant to be plain, true, no lies, no foul language, be nice to your neighbour and oppose capital punishment) attentively listening to the word of God, keeping in mind the maxim so descriptive of bishop Diego and brother Dominic's mission in Fanjeaux, Verba movent, exempla trahunt (“words move people, example draws them”). Being the proud father of two boys, I observe – admittedly not always with great joy – that they imitate me rather than doing what I say! 2

When the Master General Muño of Zamora wrote up the first universal Rule in 1285, the motivation may have been as much to protect us from being taken over by the Franciscans (who wanted to organise the whole Order of Penance under their auspices) as anything else. Various groups as well as lay individuals attached to the Order had been around all the way back to Saint Dominic's time.

The attraction of Catholic Action
The Rule of Muño of Zamora survived, with some small changes in 1405 and 1923 (adapted to the new Code of Canon Law of 1917) until 1964. Not yet as a consequence of Vatican II, but because of some friars' long-standing discontent with the traditional Rule. As far back as the General Chapter of 1938, there was a call for the Tertiaries to join forces with Catholic Action – and this unrest of friars continued after the War. Perhaps some friars had some romantic ideas of leading a new “Militia of Jesus Christ” into the cultural and political battlefield? The great number of spinster school-teachers that followed the Rule of 1923, that indeed specified giving religious instruction to boys and girls as a priority for Dominican tertiaries, was somehow not the right “raw material” that these friars were looking for. Too many penitents, too few militants, they may have thought. Their concerns make me think of my wife's late grand-aunt Majka who became a tertiary in Olomouc when she lodged with the Dominican sisters there, studying to be a school-teacher. After the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia after WW2, she was not allowed to teach because she refused to abjure her faith – and then had to work in a factory instead. But she taught those children of the family that didn't live to far way, and taught them well (my wife and sister-in-law), she did what she could for the local church, prayed a lot, had a well-stocked library because she read a lot too, and probably fulfilled the Rule in every possible way. I think many friars at the General Chapters have underestimated people like her, if they have not themselves been god-mothered into the Church and even all the way into the Order by them. Never underestimate old grand-aunts, just because they are wielding a rosary instead of a sword! Oh, they can be militant enough when militancy is called for. I will quote the Wikipedia article on the Militia of the Faith of Jesus Christ, as this a part of our heritage of which I know very little – and that may be true of some of you as well: “The Militia or Order of the (Holy) Faith of Jesus Christ (Latin: Militia Jesu Christi) was an ephemeral military order founded in Languedoc in or shortly before 1221. It owed its origins probably to Folquet de Marselha, the Bishop of Toulouse; Simon IV de Montfort, leader of the Albigensian Crusade; and possibly to Dominic of Caleruega, the founder of the Friars Preachers.” “According to the research of Raymund of Capua, who became a Dominican about 1350, the Militia was merged with the Dominican Order of Penance (Ordo de Pœnitentia Sancti Dominici) to form the Third Order of Saint Dominic. The constitutions of the two orders, that of Gregory IX for the Militia in 1235 and that of Muñón de Zamora for the Order of Penance in 1285, were very similar, though Muñón de Zamora expressly forbids the carrying of arms except in defence of the Church, which may have covered the Militia's activities.” Actually the Rule says this: Let not the brethren carry with them weapons of offence, unless for the defence of the Christian faith, or for some other reasonable cause, and with the leave of their superiors.

The swinging 60's
OK. Back to the 1960s! As a response to the repeated calls for a new, simpler, more general Rule that were raised at the General Chapters, the Rule of 1964 was presented and promulgated to be 3

used ad experimentum for three years. Of course, we know by experience that it takes much longer than 3 years to get any experience with a new Rule – or any Rule at all, but... In any case, as the Rule of 1964 was actually slightly longer than the 1923 Rule, only making additions to it (Study is now included as a priority!) and moving some parts around, the friars were not pleased. How long was this new experimental Rule? Well, about as long as our current stack of statutes – but all in one well-ordered text of course. Thus the friars at the General Chapter of 1965 called for yet another experimental Rule. The Rule of 1968 was then approved ad experimentum for three years again – and this Rule was completely different, being prepared after Vatican II and above all tuned to the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam actuositatem. The 1968 Rule is essentially the blueprint of the 1987 Rule, even with a very similar General Declaration to accompany it. The most important change since 1968 seems to be that since 1987 we have a Religious Assistant instead of a Father Director.

Structure and government of fraternities
The practical consequence for our fraternity in Oslo, was that unlike the first and second wave of Norwegian tertiaries, we have never been... directed by a Father Director. We were promoted and advised by the late fr. Per Bjørn Halvorsen in the beginning, and then we were... kicked off to manage ourselves. On the other hand, we have often been nagging the Vicar Provincial, the Prior Provincial and even the Promoter of Dominican Laity for clarifications and discussions, so all in all I'm not sure today's friars have had much less work with us than yesterday's friars had with the first two waves! So we are now self-governing, and not subject to a Father Director. But the structure of a fraternity remains the same, and the Religious Assistant is still usually a friar. It is also worth mentioning that the reception of “private tertiaries” not attached to any fraternity has now been discouraged and restricted, while it used to be quite normal and widespread.

Suitable candidates AD 1405
“In the first place, that this Order may receive an increase from good to better, which is well known to depend for the most part on the reception of well-disposed persons, we will and ordain that no one be received to the Order of this fraternity, unless by the Father Master or Director, and by the Prior of the said fraternity, or with their leave, and with the consent also of the majority of the professed brethren of the said place. A diligent examination must first be made whether the candidate be of a virtuous life and good reputation, and in nowise suspected of heresy, but rather (as becomes a son of the Blessed Dominic in our Lord) a zealous lover of the true Catholic Faith, and its promoter as far as in him lies. Before any one receives the habit of this religion, he must fully satisfy his debts, if he have any, and be reconciled to his neighbours; as also have his last will made, following therein the advice of a discreet confessor. And let the same inquiry be made concerning women who seek admission into this Order; to whom, if they be married, no admittance is allowed to the fellowship of the said fraternity, save only with the leave and consent of their husbands, and that expressed in a public and written document. The same also we will have to be observed by men having wives, unless in one or both of the married parties there be some cause to prevent it, which in the judgment of discreet persons shall be deemed sufficient.” It is possible to be expelled also: “If any one be observed to have contracted any dangerous familiarity, and do not amend after being three times admonished by his superior, let him be excluded for a time from the public 4

assembly, and from intercourse with the other brethren. If, then, he do not correct himself, let him, with the advice of discreet brethren, be publicly expelled from the Order, and never be readmitted until his amendment is manifest to the whole fraternity. Also, if any one have used insulting words, amounting to defamation, to a fellow-tertiary, or to any one else, or have struck any one in anger, or have presumed to go to any forbidden place, or have committed any act of disobedience, or have been discovered to have told a lie wilfully to his superior, he shall be punished, by fasting on bread and water, or by exclusion from the public assembly, or even from all intercourse with the other brethren, more or less severely, according to the condition of the person and the degree of the fault. In like manner, if any one shall commit a mortal sin, let him be punished, with the advice of the greater number of the professed brethren, more or less severely, according to the degree of fault and the condition of the person; yet in such a manner that the punishment may serve as an example to others. Which punishment, if he shall refuse to undergo, let him, with the advice of the discreet brethren, be expelled from the Order. We will that the same be in all things observed with respect to the correction of the sisters.”

Suitable candidates AD 1923
8. In the first place, since the spiritual prosperity of this Order depends generally on the reception into it of well disposed persons, no one shall be admitted into the Third Order unless, in the prudent judgment of the Director, he has been proved, after careful investigation and sufficient test, to be a Catholic of devout life and good repute, sincerily desirous of striving after Christian perfection, and gives good reason to hope, especially if he be young, that he will persevere in his good resolution. Moreover, as a true spiritual son of St. Dominic, he must strive to be an ardent and zealous promoter of the truth of the Catholic Religion, and exemplary for his loyalty to the Church and the Roman Pontiff. 9. All, therefore, of both sexes, whether married or single, ecclesiastics or laity (except, however, Religious and lay people who already belong to another Third Order), who are thus well disposed, can be received into the Third Order of the Friars Preachers, provided that they have completed their eighteenth year, or, if the Provincial for a just reason should so permit, at least their seventeenth year. Married persons, however, are not to be received ordinarily without the consent of the spouse, unless there be a just motive for acting otherwise. The reverse side: 68. Should anyone be found guilty of a notable fault, and, after having been admonished by the Director, fails to amend, let him be corrected according to his condition and in proportion to the gravity or levity of his fault. He can even be temporarily excluded from the meetings of the Brethren; or even perpetually, with the consent, however, of the Fraternity, if after one or two admonitions he does not amend; nor can he be again admitted without the Council of the Fraternity. 69. Only the Master General of the Order or the Prior Provincial may, for serious reasons, expel a member from the Third Order; and this, in case of grave scandal, even without admonition.

Suitable candidates AD 1987 – actually 2007
The Rule ordains that requirements for admission should be part of the Directory, but in ours these are lacking – perhaps this is missing from other directories too, just taken for granted and thus a possible source of controversy. This “loose end” was tied up by Master Carlos in his General Declaration:


The Lay persons of St. Dominic are those faithful, who are baptized in the Catholic Church or accepted into it, confirmed and in full communion with faith, sacraments and ecclesiastical government, have been called in a unique way to the pursuit of Christian life and to raise up temporal realities through the charism of St. Dominic. And dealing with the dark side: The lay person who has made his temporary or perpetual promise and is found guilty of grave inobservance of the Rule or the Directory, or lacks ecclesial communion (faith, sacraments, government) or is the cause of public scandal among the faithful, after formal warning by the President of the Fraternity, if he persists in this behaviour, at the request of the council of the Fraternity, can be dismissed by the written decree of the prior provincial.

Solidarity AD 1405
“Let two of the brethren be deputed by the Prior, who, when they shall learn that any one of their number is sick, shall charitably visit him as soon as they can; and shall immediately exhort him to receive the sacrament of penance and the other rites of the Church; and, if necessary, they shall endeavour to minister to his bodily necessities also, so far as they conveniently can. If the sick brother be poor, let them endeavour to provide him with necessary from their own private property, or from the common property of the Order, as their resources shall permit. And let the sisters do the like with respect to their sick sisters.” “When any one of the brethren departs out of this world, let his death be announced to the rest of the brethren who are in the same city or place, that they may endeavour to be present at the funeral of the deceased, from which they must not retire until the body is buried. The same we will also have to be observed with respect to the deceased sisters. Moreover, within eight days immediately following the burial of the deceased, let every brother and sister say for his or her soul, the priests one Mass; the rest, those that know the Psalter, fifty psalms; those who do not, one hundred Pater nosters, adding at the end of each, "Requiem æternam," &c. And besides this, every Tertiary is obliged to have three Masses said in the course of the year for all the brethren and sisters, both living and dead; those who know it, must say the whole Psalter; those who do not are bound to recite five hundred Pater nosters.”

Solidarity AD 1923
44. Let visitors of the sick be appointed in the Fraternity, who, according to the wish of the Director, may charitably visit the sick brethren and endeavour to assist them spiritually and temporally. 45. The death of a member of the Fraternity shall be announced as soon as possible to the other members, who, unless lawfully prevented, should personally attend the obsequies for the deceased. 46. Moreover, within eight days from the receipt of the notice of the death, each member of that Fraternity shall recite a third part of the Rosary, hear one Mass and apply one Holy Communion for the soul of the deceased. 47. Each Tertiary shall daily say one Pater, Ave and Requiem for the living and dead of the whole Order. 48. Besides, each Tertiary shall annually have celebrated, or at least assist at, three Masses for the welfare of the Brothers and Sisters, both living and dead. And at the monthly meeting: 6

67. Let the suffrages for the living and the dead be said also, and absolution given from the faults committed against the Rule.

Solidarity AD 1987
8. They are, to the best of their ability, to live in true fraternal communion inspired by the beatitudes, and to express this in all circumstances by exercising the works of mercy and by sharing what they have with members of the fraternities, especially the poor and the sick; by offering suffrages for the deceased; so that that all may ever have one heart and one mind in God.

Prayers and sacraments AD 1405
In the original Rule, or rather the 1405 edition of it, we read: “The brethren and sisters shall say daily all the Canonical Hours, unless hindered by sickness. For Matins they shall say 28 Pater nosters; for Vespers, 14; for each of the other Hours, 7. Moreover, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they are bound to say for each hour as many Ave Marias as Pater nosters. For the blessing of the table, they must say one Pater noster. When they rise from table, they must, in like manner, say one Pater noster; and for thanksgiving, the Psalm Miserere or the Psalm Laudate may be said by those who know them. All who know the Apostles' Creed must say it once at the beginning of Matins; also before Prime, and at the end of Compline. But those who know and can say the Canonical Hours as clerics do, shall not be obliged to recite the above-mentioned Paters and Aves.” “All shall rise to Matins on Sundays and Festivals from the Feast of All Saints to Easter Sunday. In Advent and Lent they shall rise every night. Those, however, who are engaged in daily manual labour may say all their Hours in the morning as far as Vespers; and in the evening they may say Vespers and Compline together.” “All shall diligently confess their sins, and endeavour devoutly to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist (unless any one for some reasonable cause be forbidden by his confessor) at least four times a year, viz. at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the Assumption, or the Nativity of our Blessed Lady. But those who, out of devotion, desire to communicate more frequently, may do so with the blessing of God, having first asked and obtained permission of their Superior.” The old Pater noster Office was counted on beads, by the way – that's the way Saint Catherine of Siena prayed it. Note that “Those who know and can say the Canonical Hours as clerics do” were encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours even in the Middle Ages – as is also attested by the popularity of the Book of Hours among the pious nobility of the time. Saint Zdislava, born shortly before Saint Dominic died, grew up in a family of whom it is reported in a contemporary chronicle that the women every day went to pray the Office with the monks in the Cistercian monastery – the “Well of Our Lady” in Žďár – that the family had founded for them. A monastery in the neighbourhood so that you have somebody to pray with every day – if you can't find one, found one!

Prayers and sacraments AD 1923
In the 1923 Rule, we observe that the recitation of the Marian Rosary has now found its place – in 1405, the Rosary had yet to be promoted by Saint Alain de la Roche (born 1428) and standardised by the Dominican Pope Pius V. Note that the Rosary was recommended in 19th Century tertiary handbooks as well, but the old Rule itself was never amended to mention it.


28. Tertiaries shall recite either the ancient Office which is the Pater noster, or the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to the Dominican rite, or the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. When unable to satisfy the above obligation, they may recite any one of the Little Offices approved in the Order, or even a third part of the Rosary. 29. If they recite the ancient Office of the Pater noster, they shall say : For Matins twenty-eight Paters and Aves, for Vespers fourteen, and seven for each of the Little Hours. They shall also say the Apostle's Creed at the beginning of Matins, before Prime and at the end of Compline. Matins may be said in the evening for the following day, or on the morning of that day; the Little Hours before mid-day; and Vespers and Compline towards evening. The Office, however, may be said at any time of the day, provided that the order of the Hours is regularly observed. 32. The Tertiaries shall, unless legitimately hindered, approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist at least twice each month. But if they do so more frequently, and even daily receive the most Holy Body of Christ, their devotion is to be commended. 33. Tertiaries should make very possible effort to assist daily at the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and piously and attentively unite with the priest who is celebrating. Likewise, they should devote themselves to mental prayer and works of piety in conformity with the spirit of the Order. I think I need to explain the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which seems by 1923 to have become the standard daily observance when not going for the Rosary (which probably had taken the place of the ancient Office of the Pater Noster for most tertiaries). The daily recitation of the Little Office according to the Dominican Rite is the same every day, while that of the Roman Rite is different for each day of the week. The Little Office was commonly printed in handbooks for Dominican tertiaries. Very handy! But actually not so “little” as the name might lead you to think; seven offices during the day and Matins in the night. Put together the offices would take about an hour, roughly comparable to praying the whole rosary.

Prayers and sacraments AD 1987
In the 1987 Rule, we are encouraged to pray just as much as the militants, penitents and tertiaries of old:
10. The following are the chief sources from which the lay members of Saint Dominic draw strength to advance in their proper vocation, which combines at one and the same time the contemplative and the apostolic: a. listening to the Word of God and reading the Sacred Scripture, especially the New Testament; b. daily participation (as far as possible) in the celebration of the liturgy and participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice; c. frequent celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; d. celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours in union with the entire Dominican Family, as well as prayer in private, such as meditation and the Marian Rosary; To which Master Damian Byrne hastens to add in his General Declaration: The Rosary is a traditional devotion in the Order. By it the mind is raised to an intimate contemplation of the mysteries of Christ through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore its daily recitation is commended to the lay brethren and sisters of St Dominic. And our Provincial Directory has something to say about this as well, discreetly placed in the study programme for members in temporary profession:


It seems natural that the newly professed gets used to celebrate every day at least Lauds and Vespers according to the Liturgy of the Order.

I think it would be fair to say that an hour a day at prayer would be considered normal.

Apostolic and charitable works AD 1405
The original Rule does not seem to specify any required or recommended apostolic and charitable works for Dominican tertiaries – so rather than words on paper, our saints and blesseds, martyrs, confessors and virgins, of the first seven centuries of our Order served as models for everyone. Let me mention only one: Saint Zdislava of Lemberk, wife, mother of four, foundress of the friars' convent in the North Bohemian town of Jablonné v Podještědí and a hospital where she became famous for healing people and even raising five people from the dead (to which we can add the miracle needed for the canonisation in 1995), was one of the first known Lay Dominicans, even considering that she died in 1252 – more than thirty years before Master Muño's Rule. Saint Zdislava is the patron saint of the Czech Dominican province and a Czech Congregation of Dominican sisters. And of all Czech families! I pray that Saint Zdislava will one day be named as co-patron of Lay Dominican Fraternities together with Saint Catherine of Siena and Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati. I also pray that her feast day in the Order will be moved to 30 May, which is her Czech feast day, when pilgrims come to Jablonné to celebrate and venerate her relics in the basilica.

Apostolic and charitable works AD 1923
40. Following the example of the Apostolic Patriarch Dominic, and the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena, Tertiaries should be animated with an ardent and generous desire for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. 41. Mindful of the traditions of our forefathers, the Tertiaries should labour by word and deed for the truth of the Catholic Faith, for the Church and the Roman Pontiff, proving themselves their valiant defenders in everything and always. Let them also assist in apostolic works, especially those of the Order. 42. They should devote themselves, under the direction of Superiors, to works of charity and mercy, either singly or collectively, according to the circumstances of the time and local necessities, and as far as their condition and capacity will permit. 43. They should also help the Parish Priest in the pious works of the parish, and particularly, where it is necessary, in giving religious instruction to boys and girls.

Apostolic and charitable works AD 1987
5. They follow the example of Saint Dominic, Saint Catherine of Siena and our forbears who illumined the life of the Order and the Church, and strengthened by their fraternal communion, bear witness above all to their own faith, listen to the needs of their contemporaries, and serve the truth. 6. They pay careful attention to the principal goals of the church’s present-day apostolate, driven in a special way to show real compassion to all who are troubled, to defend liberty and to promote justice and peace.


9. Whilst taking part in the apostolate with the brothers and sisters of the Order, members of the fraternities are to share actively in the life of the Church, always prepared to work with other apostolic associations.

12. Every Dominican must be prepared to preach the Word of God. It is in this preaching that Christians, baptised and strengthened by the Sacrament of Confirmation, exercise the prophetic office. In today’s world, the preaching of the Word of God must extend in a special way to defending the dignity of the human person, as well as life and the family. Promoting Christian unity and dialogue with non-Christians and non-believers is also part of the Dominican vocation. Note that it was this second half of article 12 that disappeared without a trace for 20 years!

Study was not mentioned at all in our Rule until it was inserted in the experimental Rule of 1964. Not that all tertiaries through the ages were as uneducated as Saint Catherine of Siena – many could read, and read a lot. Even wrote a lot! But it was not required. You did not have to be a scholar. You could faithfully attend meetings and listen to Father's instruction, visit the sick, pray the rosary and attend Mass on a daily or weekly basis and be a model tertiary. On the other hand, it was not common for people in the old days to have been at school for 12 years or more, as it is now – at least in Norway. To require study in 1923 (not to mention 1405, when books were rather more scarce) would have been unreasonable; to require it now is not only reasonable but necessary. I think that another reason for introducing study, could be to keep us busy and out of mischief – a compensation for removing the requirement for tertiaries to ask Father Director for permission if one wanted to attend some wordly amusement, or at least inform him afterwards!

The “elevator speech”
Comparing what the successive Rules have said about Community, Prayer, Apostolic works and Study, I think I can safely conclude that the essence of what it means to be a Lay Dominican and to be a member of a Lay Dominican Fraternity has not changed all that much. The text of the Rule has changed, but you know... Some of us are passionately studying the Rule, the history of the Rule, and and perhaps even working to change this or that small detail somewhere in our growing book of statutes – while most of you are just getting on with Dominican life! Only a week ago, at a Catholic bloggers' meeting, I was asked – as so often before – what are Lay Dominicans, anyway? I have answered this question many times before, but have often felt the need of a well-formulated “elevator speech” that Lay Dominicans of all ages would nod at. I tried to come up with one for the purpose of this talk, but... it's not easy! But I have thought of a beginning, which is a start. A quote from a thirty years old movie, The Blues Brothers: We're on a mission from God.


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