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Based on a TIME magazine regular feature,
interviews with influential Dominicans appear occasionally on
November 24, 2008

David KammlerDavid Michael Kammler, OP
Promoter General of Dominican Laity

Fr. David Michael Kammler has been the Order's General Promoter of the Laity since 2007, a son of the Province of Teutonia, Germany, and former Prior of the now closed Dominican Study Centre of Walberberg near Cologne, the successor of the medieval ‘studium generale’, where St. Albert taught and St. Thomas of Aquinas studied.

1. What do you understand to be the role of the Lay Dominicans in the mission of the  Order?

Being members of the Dominican Family, that they dare more and more using their function as real members. St. Paul (cf. Ro 12.5) already exhorted the early Christian community at Rome not to regard each other less or more important within the body of Christ. So the Lay Dominicans are not the appendix of the Friars Preachers nor the outer "nice decoration" surrounding the face of our Order. It vitalizes the whole Dominican organism when all arms, legs, feet and fingers are activated. ‘Brain’ and ‘muscles’ have to work together ( - without reserving the role of the ‘brain’only to the friars and theologians!).

2. From your travels, tell us how the Lay Dominicans are preaching in the various cultures of the world?

In my travels this year, visiting 19 different countries, I am deeply impressed by the variety of contemporary Lay Dominican ‘pulpits’. Sometimes already in good collaboration with the Friars, Sisters and Nuns, the Lay Dominicans respond through their own typical vocation to the religious, spiritual and social needs of their respective societies. I think of Lay Chapters in Africa who take care of the refugees in migration and orphans, needy ‘on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho’, because of the political tribal conflicts. I mention the activities in Asia, in religious teaching for children, in hospitals for the sick and homes of the eldery poor people. I admire the courage of Lay Dominicans taking part as preachers at the daily Gospel reflection on the U.S. Dominican Preaching website. Not to forget the grandmothers and grandfathers who preach by keeping in loving contact with those ‘lost’ daughters and sons who don’t any more practice their faith, being catechists and faithful examples for their grandchildren.

3. How, do you think, might the Friars, Sisters, and Lay Dominicans collaborate more effectively and actively?

A good opportunity for our Dominican Family are the “Jubilee Novena”-Years until 2016 - commemorating 800 years after the official confirmation of our Order by Pope Honorius III - as a challenge for renewal of our vocation as Preachers in the spirit of St. Dominic. The Jubilee Novena started already two years ago with the reflection about contemplation as an essential element in our respective branches, lived exemplarily by the Nuns.  Starting always at the Feast of Epiphany, this year is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. Next year will be stressed on the person of St. Dominic as ‘Preacher of Grace’. A Dominican Family team, representing Friars, Sisters, Nuns and Lay Dominicans, could prepare concrete guidelines for projects on provincial and national levels to renew more intensively as well as bundle more effectively the single flames of our common vocation into one torch.

4. What is keeping us from that collaboration now?

When the members of an expeditionary group forget their destination, to which common objective they are on the way, then questions and struggles of third or less value become an improper importance. Which type of car is the best? What should be the colour of our bus? In which order must the different passengers be seated? Shall the windows be more opened or closed? Won’t it be easier driving the route in my private car?” It is time that we Dominicans use that comparative word Family not only in our documents, but live it inspite of all the varieties and sometimes troubles in which a real big family is involved. We should keep in mind and practice our common apostolic ‘expedition’ objective. The next years of Jubilee Novena could be a chance for a renewed Dominican ‘corporate identity’!

5. How should the Lay Dominicans of the various provinces view their differences from one another -- or to what extent should there even be differences?

I appreciate very much the promise of Jesus:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” (Jn 14,2). When that is provided for eternity, why should that not be possible also in the temporary house of our Catholic Church, especially in the Dominican ‘wing’, built on the essential four pillars: Prayer, Study, Community and Apostolate? In the spirit of mutual respect and love, the differences in realizing the combination of the ‘four pillars’ show something of the multiform and colorful structures of God’s Creation. I know, that my words may sound a bit ‘bloomy’. There is also a Dominican-Christian way of disputatio that helps to find the best route forward. We always will have to deal with those who are leaving the common foundation. But on the other hand: Unity does not mean uniformity. For all members of our Order the Master, as successor of St. Dominic, is that sign of unity in the diversity of the preaching charisms.

6. In what ways might the Lay Dominicans become more independent and self-regulating without losing connection with the Friars and Sisters?

A very good question: How to avoid also a pious ‘instrumentalisation’ of the Lay Domincians by the Friars and Sisters? In a family, the different members educate each other by sharing their experiences. So also the Lay Dominicans are not objects of a one-way formation by the religious branches. The Friars and Sisters are also the learners, formated by the Lays’ experiences of profession, social situation, conditions of life outside the priories and convents, where they are the experts.  By that experience, the organizational structures are changing. A good example was the presence of the Master of the Order, Fr. Carlos, the local Prior Provincial and the Promoter General at the International Congress of Lay Dominican Fraternities/Chapters at Buenos Aires in March 2007. We were very welcomed guests - encouraging, supporting, clarifying, when necessary. But not one of us friars was involved in deciding about the contents of the Resolutions

They were later approved by the Master of the Order, but prepared and finalized independently. On the other hand: The connection with the Friars and Sisters can be sometimes very helpful, when the organized Lay Dominicans need protection and promotion in possible conflicts with the local diocese or civil authorities. For instance, that will be most important on the subjects of Justice, Peace and Care of Creation.

7, What do you think is the most effective way for Lay Dominicans to celebrate their vocation in the Church and still identify with a religious Order?

My advice would be: Not to withdraw from their parishes, but to be involved, as far as possible, in the liturgical and pastoral parish activities. The best example is the involvement of Lay Dominicans in Vietnam. There are 103 000 (!) professed Lay Dominican in that communist country. They have their daily prayers from the Dominican prayer book in their parish churches, are in their formation supported by the parish priests and the bishops who recognize the four Dominican pillars as supporting the evangelization and Christian apostolate within their respective regions. During my visit to South and North Vietnam last April, I learned how effective  cooperation can be --  not only within the different branches of our Dominican Family -- but also with diocesan structures. Surely also the ‘rough wind’ from the communist government keeps the Vietnamese catholic community together. But also in many other parts of the world the Christian faith does not regulate the common sense. So we sisters and brothers of our Order should keep being Dominican within and not apart from the Church.

8. Any plans to visit the USA any time soon?  How will you manage to meet with the Lay Dominicans while you're here?

As I am neither the ‘superior’ nor the ‘inspector’ of Lay Dominicans worldwide, I usually  accept visits where I am invited. My intention during my stays, preferably during conferences where a number of delegates meet: is to learn from the conditions they live their Dominican vocation; to inform them about the situation in other places and countries and to encourage better cooperation within the Dominican Family. So I could join already this year the Interprovincial Council of the Lay Chapters of North America having met near Detroit MI, as well as the Chapters around Washington DC and the Norfolk MA – prison Chapter. Unfortunately it was not possible for me to accept an invitation of the Dominican Associates for the Sisters of Akron and Colombus to their annunal meeting at the end of October. But I am very interested coming in closer contact with the many members of our Dominican Family associated to the sisters. It is not at all a matter of goodwill but of coordinating the possible date! In any case, I am highly interested in intensifying our Dominican relationship with the USA Lay Dominicans within the next few years.

9. If you could ask Dominicans in the US to read one  book, what would it be, and why?

Spontanously I would say: “Read one of the books of the biblical Prophets!” Because there you find exciting examples of a typical preaching vocation, really a ‘thriller’, describing what can happen when listening to God’s surprising vocation. Sometimes hesistating, coming into conflict with religious and political authorities, but not giving up, being driven and encouraged by what St.Paul long time later formulated: “Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel!”( 1 Cor 9.16). That exclamation, by the way, will accompany us Dominicans as the General Theme for the Jubilee Years 2009-2016. As a German, I am not so well informed about recent American literature. But as a contemporary book I would recommend “The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality” of our brother Paul Murray OP. Reading that book, we are reminded very well again of the joy being Christians within the Order of St. Dominic.

10. If you could have dinner with any living or deceased person, who would it be, and why?

I already got an invitation to dine with a person, deceased and living: Jesus! That will be a big party I am highly motivated to join! Because there I will meet – hopefully – all those who I am interested in sharing that dinner. In the meantime for me every simple or extraordinary actual dinner invitation is an ‘appetizer’ to that great banquet. Am I too unpolite in my choice? I hope not. Because my answer to your fictive question will become once reality!

Editor: Thank you David, it was wonderful to connect with you.

David: My pleasure.

Special thanks to Karen Wood, OP, (Holy Name province) for recommending the questions.

Papal Address to Laity Council

Lay Dominican Congress
Argentina, 2007

Rule of the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic

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