When Dominic founded the Order of Preachers, the premises of the various branches of the Dominican family were already present. Nuns, brothers and lay people participated from very the beginning of the Order in it‘s dissemination. This intuition of a common mission, of complementary charisms have probably contributed in preventing that traces of our father Dominic would be erased over time.
Each branch has developed its own way of preaching and always striving to reach humanity. The trunk of the tree has increasingly deepened and widened it’s roots in the same earth, branches intertwining and darting in all directions to reach as many people as possible over time. While in the medieval world, the brothers travelled as beggars along the roads to show a new way by which to live the Gospel to the rich clergy of the time, the Apostolic Sisters of the 19th century devoted themselves to caring for the sick and education. The creativity born of many talents joined, along with strong fraternal ties, have spun a web in which each thread contributes it’s color to the work of our founder and continues to carry the message of the gospel in the present world. Even today, if the nuns pray for a humanity in crisis in a world that rejects the dogmas of religion, the lay bear witness to their faith at the heart of their families and their workplaces. The tree is not dead, far from it!
In our Dominican history, each branch was called to develop their own vocation while supporting and seeking unity with the other branches. It is this unity in diversity and complementarity which makes it so rich even today. It allows us to meet the different needs of our world in search of meaning: need for spirituality, to live in harmony with creation, to love and be loved, for a world of justice and peace, of sharing and solidarity. Working together, following our different charisms, allows us to go further in the mission entrusted to us.
Lay people today, like their predecessors, fully share the mission of the Order as they are: men, women, couples, parents, workers, doctors, artists … at the heart of the world and its technological challenges, alert to every human suffering that they encounter in their environment. Each in their own way, they help bring to life the vision of Dominic whose flame of faith was to bring light to the world. I think of Cathy who opens her Church every morning, of Daniel who shares his expertise in ethics in hospital settings, of Benoît supporting a psychiatry project in Benin, and of Andrea who teaches theology. There are so many parishes or social projects in which the laity pour their heart and soul to be faithful to the Word. There are just as many collaborations with brothers, sisters or nuns that help perpetuate our common mission, while the vital forces diminish in many communities. So many fraternal gestures between members of a fraternity or from a fraternity to another make us brothers and sisters in Truth. Each lay Dominican I have had the chance to meet is for me a living witness of the Dominican ideal. I am constantly amazed, inspired, stimulated by the commitment and generosity manifested everywhere and in abundance. It is such that it can only come from one source, God.
This family, to which we belong, is not a blood family, yet each member shares the same genetic background which binds us. It is always fascinating to see how easy it is to identify with any Dominican around the world, regardless of culture or the branch in which they live. The shared joy in our fraternal welcome, the way in which we live our celebrations, this concern for the suffering of the world, the constant search for Truth, makes us part of the same family united by the same ideal of life.
The creativity born of many talents brought together, the strength of fraternal ties, have spun a web where each thread adds it’s color to the work of our founder and continues to carry the message of the gospel in the present world. May this eight hundredth anniversary of the Order give us all the joy of contemplating the fruits of what has been accomplished and the courage to carry always further the light of our faith.
May God bless the Dominican family and all his works worldwide in this Jubilee year!
Christine Husson o.p., responsible for the Province of St. Dominic of Canada