At the last meeting of our local chapter of Lay Dominicans, a newcomer slipped me a piece of paper that asked simply, “Why do you want to be a Lay Dominican? What do you get out of it?” As a result of writing my response, I have come to realize that the main mission of the Church is also the special charism of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic. This article will answer my friend’s question by discussing the layperson’s role in the Church and how that relates to the charism of the Lay Dominicans.
The Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic in 1216. Within a few years, the order had organized itself into three branches: the friars, the nuns, and the laity. Each branch of the Order is separately governed under the leadership of the Master of the Order. The branch of the laity are called the “Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic,” “Lay Dominicans,” or formerly the “Third Order of Preachers.” The Lay Dominicans worldwide number approximately 150,000, compared to around than 6,000 Friars.
The Church Exists to Evangelize
Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelism in the Modern World) written 10 years after the close of Vatican II, refocused the Church on its central mission: the eternal salvation of souls. So important is Evangelii Nuntiandi that Pope Francis calls it “the greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day.” Address of June 23, 2013, at 2.