sunnuntai 23. syyskuuta 2012

Lay Dominicans in Finland


Laymen in the order of preachers                           
 Nowadays there are circa ten different orders in Finland. One of them is the Dominican order.  What most people probably don't know is that besides nuns and monks there are also laymen and laywomen  in Dominican order.
Dominican Order in Finland has a library in Helsinki, which is also where the Dominican laity operates and holds there meetings.

On the day of Saint Catherine of Siena a day of open doors is arranged. After the mass or vesper, presentations are made about things in correspondence of a Dominican subject, this is followed by a tea or coffee gathering, where the main ideas are talked about. Saint Catherine, who belonged herself to the Dominican laity, is the saint patron of the Dominican laity.

The day of saint Dominic (1190 - 1237) is also celebrated on August the 8th with a mass or vesper.

In the fall, when celebrating the Holy Cross uprising, a pilgrimage  to the Holy Cross church in Hattula, about 100 km northwards from Helsinki,  is made together with Academicum Catholicum.

The history of Dominican laity  is actually only a bit younger than the other sections.
Already at the time of the first century the laymen and laywomen started uniting with the brothers and after a couple of decades a rule was established that created a format for those that wished to join the club as full privileged members, but without having to join the monastery.

In the laity rules, to study and pray and  tell the message onwards - are the main goals of a dominican. These values reflect well the spirit that is held up in throughout the whole order. Dominic sent his first brothers to recently established universities of his time. He made it clear that the studies of basic theological issues and in particular of the Bible was a mandatory ground for everyone, who wanted to establish a dialogue with other thinkers.

The reports of his contemporaries tell about the constant praying of Dominic, and especially of his grand pity towards those who, unlike him, had drifted away from God. When praying, Dominic often let it fall into preaching, and already at an early stage, he would send his pupils off out into the world to declare the word of God.

From the beginning Dominic saw and focused it into the mind of his followers, that in order for the declaration to be credible, the life of a pupil must be in exact reflection of the words that they spread. His strong wish to convince and spread the truth that he loved so much, was profound enough, that no use for authority (upon anything) was necessary.
On the other hand Dominic was a man of strong dialogue.
He would always impress his disciples with a clear and powerful speech, but he did this also with a certain humblness, because he knew that the truth has the ability to reform. This is according to the Jordanus Saxon, the writer of the autobiography  of Domenic.

The main focus phrase of the Dominicans has two directions, in Latin: contemplare contemplata aliis tradere. In other words : a contemplative life, movement inwards. Also otherwise  movement outwards: the descendence of what one has seen, the sharing of ones spiritual experience to others. It is fair to say, that throughout the whole history of the Dominican order  life is lived by the vibrant circle of these two strong main points.

One of those, who has successfully achieved to live life by these two points, was Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), the most known Dominican, who was declared a Teacher of the Church in 1970, just  few days after Teresa Avila. Catherine never lived in the monastery, but instead spoke of the monastery of her inner self, that she had built inside of her.
It was indeed her contemplative  lifestyle that drove the time of radical upbringing and also intensive rearrangement of the church, to achieve peace and serenity.

The challenges of the modern  Dominican laity

The bigger events and changes in our present time have not gone by unnoticed.  The vast progress, made by technology, the global perspective given by the media - all this requires for the  laymen to come up with new strategies to keep up the spirit, that is fondational quality of the order. The rule of the laity was reformed in a congress of the Dominican laity  in the year 1985, at Montreal, and a few years later the new "rules of the Dominican laity" was proclaimed. The new rule is more flexible than the recent one and takes to greater notice the differences in the lifestyle of the different groups around the world. On the other hand, a bigger emphasize is put onto a personal calling, also for the need to get a strong education in order to make it more understandable and thus better for the Dominican to spread the word. In many places, the strict observation of the society, for example, is put into priority.

Every province by themselves fill in the rules with their own local perspectives, that include orders on how to lead the groups, how the administration of the new members is done, the educational programs etc.

In the north, the cooperation of the laity groups is functioned locally/area wise. There are groups that work in Stockholm, Lund, Oslo and Helsinki.

Cooperation between the different laymen groups is frequent on a European level as well. When the Dominican laymen met in Prouille, in 1990, where the Dominican cradle has also once been, there were also representatives of various countries of Eastern Europe . In several eastern European countries laity  underground groups carried on with their lifestyles as Dominican brothers, even through the rough times of communism. An example of this would be Hungary. Seven groups succeeded to stay alive for three years, despite the ban of all religious orders. When the wall came down in 1989, a totally new field was opened for the Dominican seculars, as the need for religion and spiritual therapy was huge.

The membership in the Dominican laity is never only lined with one specific field to work with. When belonging to a Dominican laity, the membership is for life. It affects every part of ones life, throughout the soul and body. It means that every Dominican, laymen and - women, sisters and brothers, let themselves be filled with the spirit of the Dominic, and for it to be based on a quality relationship with God and loved one, who is the sign of the order . It all includes the entrance to the traditions of the order  with all its riches, also the knowledge of the fact, that this membership is more than simply an historical fact: it is a living connection. With the promised vow given by the Dominican brothers, it is expressed: "From now on you do not pray alone. The whole Dominican brotherhood  prays with you".

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