on a TIME magazine regular feature,
interviews with influential Dominicans appear occasionally on DomLIfe.org
November 24, 2008
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
where St. Albert taught and St. Thomas of Aquinas studied.
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
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
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
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
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