A group of people sentenced to life imprisonment are among the 200,000-strong Dominican family throughout the world.
Lay promoter for the Dominicans Fr David Kammler showed a gathering of people in Palmerston North on 3 April a greetings card the lifers had given him in thanks for his presence and visits.
Through forming a lay Dominican family, they have hope for the future, he said. ‘They recognise that God’s grace grants us a new future and so have vowed not to discuss their past lives and crimes.
‘Every saint has a past, but every sinner has a future.’
Reflecting on the gospel reading of the day about Moses in front of the burning bush, Fr David showed a picture of Moses holding a staff and taking off his sandals because he was on holy ground.
Yahweh sent Moses off to journey, over the border, out of his comfort zone. ‘Treading on the ground, barefoot, he would be in touch with reality just as we are when we walk barefoot over stones.’ The burning bush symbolises energy, enlightenment, love, compassion and enthusiasm.
The Dominican charism is to praise, to bless and to preach. Fr David reminded us that we are special and part of an interdependent family. He described St Dominic as the father of good news and showed us a picture depicting Ss Peter and Paul giving St Dominic a staff to journey with and a bible to preach with.
The way we follow Jesus is through professing/preaching the gospel.
Fr David then took us on an inspiring journey to all corners of the earth, visiting lay Dominican families including 3000 Dominican sisters, 6000 friars and 190,000 lay members.
Prayer, study, community and preaching are elements in all branches, some of which consist of people sharing the same household, in others people come together to pray, study or work together at regular intervals.
‘An example of the extended Dominican community in Europe is when they pray together at 8pm on Tuesdays for the special intentions requested by people all over Europe on their website.
In Vietnam 105,000 professed lay Dominicans have been allowed to gather in small groups because the communist government sees them as harmless.
A huge diocese in Mexico (200,000 square kilometres) with many lay Dominican leaders that come together to learn about the many different Christian sects among them, so that they can respond appropriately to what is taking place and to the number of Catholics going to join other denominations. They are discerning the signs of the times.
Many members of communities live separately but meet regularly to work, pray and celebrate.
They do so within and not apart from their parishes.
Like St Paul, we preach in the market place and the pulpits of the lay Dominicans look much the same wherever Fr David goes.
He finds people preaching through example in our secular environments through engaging with politics, with society and using modern media.
He gave an example of a family of lay Dominicans working out how much time they had to spare, when and for how many families. They gather on Saturday mornings for a day of solidarity and prepare a meal for 80 families.
They provide catechesis, prayer and games for the children, showing active love. In this way they authenticate the word of God. Dominican schools also preach through education and sharing values.
He reminded us that our formation as lay Dominicans involves conformation (formation as a Christian); information (political awareness, attentiveness to what is happening in our communities) and transformation, putting social justice principles into practice.