I am considering joining a lay Dominican order. I don’t know all the correct terminology, but I know the laity take vows, choose a religious name, and wear a very simple garment similar to a nun’s habit. When a nun takes her final vows, it is her marriage with Christ…what does it mean with a tertiary takes his or her vows? Is there any special symbolism involved?
The Dominican Laity do not make the public vows that professed religious make.
The Laity profess promises to live according to the rule of the Dominican Laity and Laity statutes within the province of Dominican Friars where they live. Their comittment to the order consists of praying the major hours of the Divine Office, a daily rosary and Mass , a yearly retreat and a monthly meeting. This is a very good thing, but it does not consist of putting ones entire life, twenty four—seven, under the control of the Dominican order as with the professed religious…
Not all Laity take a religious name and most wear a Dominican cross or little white scapular. Some wear a larger scapular at their meetings. But most do not wear a religious habit at this time—or even something that is close to one.
The vows of religious life comprise the totality of human life. Everyone is called to offer to God all that He has given to us. We are all called to offer our possessions and not be possessed by them. The religious goes a step further and actually relinquishes private ownership. We are all called to be chaste according to our vocation, but religious vow to be chaste to the point of being celibate. All are called to obey lawful authority, but religious put their entire life into the hands of others.
When Dominican cloistered nuns or active sisters or friars professes final vows their whole lives become a continual act of worship and a public sign that emphasizes the fact that God’s generosity to us all deserves the gift of ourselves to Him in return.
People join the Dominican Laity to share in the Order’s spirituality and mission. They become true lay members of the order. Many are married and have families. The vocations of the lay members of the order as well as the professed religious are complementary to each other and are true vocations; true responses to God’s call.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.