Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Rule of the Dominican Laity

I had been contemplating all week about writing about my reflections on the Rule employed by the Dominican Laity (Latin: Regula Fraternitatum Laicalium Sancti Dominici), but Tom beat me to it! So I'll just refer to him, at least for now:
The current Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic was definitively approved by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes on January 15, 1987. This is the fifth Rule for Lay Dominicans, with the others being approved in 1972 (on an experimental basis), 1964 (in response to Vatican II), 1923 (in response to the 1917 Code of Canon Law), and 1405 (the year formal papal approval was first obtained). The 1405 Rule is essentially the one by Munio de Zamora, OP, written in 1285 to supersede the many Rules written by and for the individual fraternities that sprang up around Dominican houses in different cities.

The official Rule is, of course, written in Latin. The story of translating this Rule into English is long and dull -- unlike the Rule itself, which is short and (in its way) surprising. The Latin text, along with some introductory material and an English translation made by "a team of Latinists of the English Province of Dominican friars," can be found here.

Since my Lay Dominican Chapter is reviewing the Rule according to a new translation (not yet on-line) -- more accurate than the one I'd promised to live according to for life several years back, less Latinate than the one the English friars produced -- I thought I'd post some comments on the Rule on my blog.

As mentioned above, the Rule itself is short, less than five pages leisurely formatted. This is consistent with the let's-get-on-with-it spirit of St. Dominic, who adopted the relatively brief Rule of St. Augustine for his new Order of Friars Preachers. In fact, without the animating spirit of St. Dominic, the Rule of his Lay Fraternities has no real life of its own. Those who promise to live according to this Rule, then, must take care that they don't substitute some other spirit -- or worse, inform their accord with no spirit at all and let it remain a dead thing.
I'm glad he brought up the issue regarding the translation of the Rule. The Dominican Laity Inter-Provincial Council met recently to review a uniform English translation of the Rule. Up until this point, the translation we had been referring to in the Southern Province was actually slightly different than the one used by the Eastern Province, and so on. The more I study the Rule, the more I appreciate its spirit. Tom is fundamentally correct: The Rule is short, flexible, and to-the-point, animated by Dominic's own spirit.

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