Dominican religious life is lived at the threshold between the presence of God and the presence of our fellow human beings.
Katarinahjemmet was founded in 1928, seven years after French Dominican friars established a congregation at Neuberggaten in Oslo. This marked the return of a Dominican presence in Norway. Due to contacts between Father Béchaux and General Prioress Sister Dominique-Marie, four Dominican sisters came to Oslo to work with the brothers, on behalf of the Church in Norway.
In France, the sisters had worked chiefly with socially disadvantaged young women. In Norway they also opened a home for young women, Sankta Katarinahjemmet, yet here the objective was to create a Catholic milieu and to provide a place where people could encounter the church. The sisters realized that the Norwegian Catholic Church’s needs were different than those of the French Church, and they geared their activities accordingly.
In the sisters’ constitution it states: ‘We bear witness of the gospel by fully consecrating our lives to God’s service, so that people’s hearts may be won for God.’
This presupposes study – at whatever level – in order to deepen our own faith and to learn more about the world we live in, where we should live out our faith and build the Kingdom of God…
Preaching the gospel has many faces …
St. Dominic challenged us to work for the salvation of others with burning enthusiasm and all our energy.
An act of compassionate or a sermon – everything can be used to preach the Gospel.
Jesus did both: ‘Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.’ (Matt.9:23)
St. Dominic clearly saw the needs of his day. In St. Dominic’s spirit we attempt to be attentive and responsive to the needs of the Church and the world.
The sisters’ apostolate covers a wide scope, all in relation to their abilities, interests and educations, and in relation to actual needs. Thus the sisters today find themselves involved in highly divergent activities: care for the elderly, research, youth work, catechesis, media and information, icon painting and liturgical book publishing.
The sisters seek to live their lives according to the Dominican motto contemplata aliis tradere: What you contemplate, give to others. Give others the fruit of your prayer and study. It is a life lived in community, with liturgy, study and proclaiming the Gospel.
Live in community with others!
This is the foundation for the Dominican Order’s religious life: ‘And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meals with gladness and singleness of heart.’ (Acts 2: 44-46)
St. Dominic took his point of departure in St. Augustine’s monastic legislative code: ‘When you join together in a community, be of one soul and one mind… Live in peace and concord, and honour God in one another, for His temple you have become.’ The common life is thus conceived as a friendship, based on a common seeking after God.
‘Be faithful in prayer!’
Prayer is our deepest breath, an attitude to life that strives to see everything through the eyes of God. It helps us to see Jesus Christ in every person we meet, and a path to salvation in everything that happens. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us into this mystery. The more we live in the world, the more dependent are we on silence and prayer.
The Dominican religious life is a life lived in a field of tension – between the presence of God and the presence of our fellow human beings.
St. Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)
One of the great Dominican saints, knew a great deal about this tension, for she lived an active as well as contemplative life.
She speaks of her ‘inner cell’. To succeed in this, one must offer oneself completely.