instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Notes on the Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic, ii

What does the Rule tell us about Lay Dominicans?

At a minimum, it tells us what someone is getting himself into when he joins the Dominican Order as a Lay Dominican. The Rule includes (n. 14) the promise Lay Dominicans make*:
To the honour of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Saint Dominic, I, ___ ___, promise before you ___ ___, the President of this Fraternity/Chapter, and ___ ___, the Religious Assistant, in place of the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, that I will live according to the Rule of the Laity of Saint Dominic [for three years] / [for my entire life].
While not a religious vow, a public promise like that (preferably made during a Mass when it's a "for my entire life" promise) is serious business.

So what's in the Rule? It's divided into three sections:
I. The Fundamental Constitution for the Dominican Laity: This section explains how Lay Dominicans combine both the lay vocation and the Dominican vocation.

II. Life of the Fraternities: This section describes what all Lay Dominicans are expected to actually do to prepare themselves to grow in their vocation.

III. Organization and Government of the Fraternities: This section defines how the Lay Fraternities (called Chapters in my Province) are governed, at the levels of individual Chapters, the Provinces, and the whole Order (national and international councils are also mentioned).
We might say, then, that a Lay Dominican is someone who has promised to live a certain kind of life that is both lay and Dominican, and that is organized and governed in a particular way. Section I tells us what it means to be both lay and Dominican. Section II tells us what that certain kind of life entails. Section III tells us how the life is organized and governed. All three facets are involved in keeping the promise of a Lay Dominican.

*: In my Province, the nominal timeline is six months as an inquirer (we have six "postulancy" formation modules the inquirer is supposed to review with the Chapter formation director), followed by reception into the Order and one year of "novitiate" formation, followed by the temporary promise "for three years," followed by the "life" or "final" promise.