Lay Dominican Formation
My journey of faith with the Dominican family, began in 1976 at The Church of St. Dominic in Mississauga. My heart was touched by the ability of the friars and sisters to preach and to live out the Gospel. They celebrated the different liturgies (Eucharist, Baptism, Vespers etc.) in a very joyful manner. I was drawn by their compassion, mercy and love for their community and for of all God’s people. They welcomed the stranger, homosexuals, divorced, or others that may be not in good standing with the church at that time. They welcomed the Vietnamese boat people, Muslim people who were fleeing a war in the Middle East and Africa. They welcomed of all Reformed traditions, including the Salvation Army orchestra to celebrate the Good Friday Liturgy. They had close dialogue with the local Jewish community. In their eyes there was no stranger or “other”, we were all brothers and sisters, all children of Abba/Mother. Like Jesus, they were truly catholic for all people. Every Lord’s Day was like Easter and Christmas. They reached out to the poor in spirit and to those who were economically oppressed. Their priority was not bricks and mortar but rather the living stones, the temple where God resides in the human heart.
At St. Dominic’s there were on-going scripture, theological, church history, adult faith, study and discussion groups. Shortly after Vatican II, they gave birth to a lay Dominican chapter. They have inspired and have empowered me to be minister of the Word, at work, at home, and to take on different ministries in the church. To name a few, I was a minister to the shut in, a Eucharistic minister, a catechist, a member of the social justice committee, a participant in “Christmas Caring and Sharing”. Eventually my journey led me to full membership as a lay Dominican.
For the last eight years I was the Formation Director for my local chapter. It is such a joy to journey with people who hunger for Jesus and Dominican spirituality. Currently I also journey via Skype with people who live in remote areas in Canada. At this moment, I am serving my second term as a member of the Canadian Lay Dominican Provincial Council, and I am in charge of formation for Canada.
Today I would like to focus on “Study” one of the four Dominicans pillars (the other three pillars are prayer, community, Mission/Preaching). The beginning of the formation process falls under the “Study” pillar.
How it all begins?
First, the inquirer or seeker contacts the local chapter or the Provincial Council with some questions.
After telephone and/or e-mail communication, if the seeker has an interest to meet face to face, we meet informally over coffee or tea to answer more questions and learn about each other. Once all the initial questions have been answered, we allow the seeker time to discern. If he or she wishes to continue the journey with us for approximately twelve months as an Inquirer, in a more formal way, he or she makes a request to initiate the process
The topics that I cover as a formation director during the inquiry process are as follows:
-The roll of the laity in the church
-Vatican II and lay Dominicans
-Life of St Dominic
-The four Dominican pillars
-Introduction to Dominical Spirituality
-St Matthews Gospel
-Preaching Hope in the Age of Despair
After completion of the inquiry process we take a break for further discernment. The Inquirer may ask us, the local chapter to accept him/her as a Dominican Novice. At the liturgy feast for All Dominican Saints, the Novice makes a one-year promise.
The Novitiate time lasts approximately for one year, and the following topics are part of this formation:
-The Images of God
-Lay Dominican History
-Iconic Brothers and Sisters of the Dominican family
-The Rule of the Laity
-The Community of Jesus, the Church
After a break over the summer holidays and further discernment, the Novice may continue his/her formation journey with the whole local chapter by making a one or three year promise.
After a five-year journey, he/she can make a life-time promise or become a Dominican associate.
Why is “Study” one of the important pillars in Dominican spirituality?
Here are some of the points to ponder.
Because of our active role in the apostolate, we, as Lay Dominicans, participate in a Lay Dominican Formation Program from cradle to grave. According to our Rule: “The purpose of Dominican formation is to mould, true adults in the Faith, capable of accepting, celebrating and proclaiming the Word of God”. Dominican spirituality is Christian spirituality. Dominican spirituality is of preaching, Incarnation, Christocentric, Veritas/Truth, spirituality that is rooted in Apostolic Evangelical Poverty and spirituality of Fraternal Community.
(Rule 11) The Church in “Apostolicam Actuositatem” promotes this desire for a mature, adult Christian who can speak with authority gained by reflective prayer, and “Study”.
Vatican II has three radical expectations of lay people, namely that they be:
(1) articulate in their faith,
(2) appreciative of creation, and
(3) zealous for building a better world. These expectations are radical, since they are the root of many other more specific expectations that Vatican II holds out for the laity. We Dominicans have embraced Vatican II expectations.
Everyone in the Dominican family (Order of Preachers), friars, sisters and laity, needs to be prepared to be a preacher, to become an Minister of the Word in their immediate setting, at work, play, and church. Our preaching is not limited to the pulpit in the church.
The whole world is our pulpit. Preaching is done not just by words but also by our deeds and by our simple life (poverty) style. Jesus and Dominic are perfect models.
“HE SUMMONED THE TWELVE…AND HE SENT THEM TO PROCLAIM THE KINGDOM OF GOD…THEN THEY SET OUT AND WENT FROM VILLAGE TO VILLAGE PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS.” (LUKE 9:1-6)
What St. Dominic accomplished in five short years, from 1216 to 1221, was incredible. He founded a democratic religious Order with six followers at the beginning. When he died, there were thousands. It was a totally new form of religious life made up of highly educated men, woman and lay people, whose mission was to preach the Good News of salvation/life to all corners of the earth.
St Dominic, like Jesus, was an itinerant preacher. He spoke to God and spoke only about God.
The Dominican Spirituality is valid only in so far as we take up the story of Jesus in our own way and make it real in our current time and situation.
Our task is to read and to love the Gospels, so we can say with Jeremiah:
“When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart.”
St Jerome put it well, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is Ignorance of Christ”.
As Dominicans we should have a daily acquaintance with the Scriptures. They should be read, meditated upon and prayed over until “I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2: 20)
Lay Dominicans draw their strength from these principle sources:
- Listening to the Word of God and reading Sacred Hebrew and Christian Scripture, especially the Gospels.
- Conversion of heart, according to the Holy Spirit and be inspired to build God’s Kingdom
You can’t love intimately the Triune God, unless you know the God that is found in Scripture, the God that, out of love has fashioned you, and all of humanity.
Scripture stories are Gods love stories to us. Jesus has revealed to humanity that His Abba/ Mother of all life and of all creation, loves us, is patient with us, is forgiving, and is compassionate.
Gods Will, is for the common good. In God’s Kingdom /Reign, no one is left behind.
To become a Dominican one must have a love of “Study”. This love of “Study” is not merely for its own sake, but also for the benefits it brings to one’s mind, heart and soul and to one’s ability to reach others with the truth. If you are contemplating a lay Dominican vocation, it may be because you love to read, “Study”, think, and talk about truth. By no means, however, does this mean you must be the “intellectual type”.
“WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE EVEN ZEAL IS NOT GOOD.”
(Proverbs 19: 2)
To a Dominican, “Study” is the contemplation of ‘Veritas’ (Truth) and God is Truth. Our Study is another form of Prayer, which is why the Dominican takes “Study” seriously.
“Study” should challenge us, to push out into deeper waters. Real “Study”, is the intellectual grappling with truth. Sometimes it might be necessary to read, re-read and ponder. The beauty of Dominican “Study” is that it can be done on different levels. We all come from different educational backgrounds and can be accommodated at our own level. The important thing is, to “Study”.
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe O.P. said it well, “Study is not one activity [amongst others] of a Dominican; it should enter into every aspect of our life. It is part of the way we grow in friendship with God, delight in his creation, and take pleasure in His presence. It is fundamental to our preaching…”.
Today, many Catholic Christians have a grade eight or grade eleven level of faith. With this level of faith, they can’t articulate their faith with Christian fundamentalists or with non-believers. Many Catholics become victims of current trends.
Do you like to “Study”?
Would you like to learn more about Jesus, about the Church, about Dominican, spiritual life?
Would you like to share the fruits of your “Study” with others?
Perhaps Jesus through the Holy Spirit is earnestly seeking you to be a Lay Dominican.
Contact your local Chapter, or the Provincial Chapter, or the local Dominican Priory or Convent.