THE RULE OF THE LAY CHAPTERS OF ST. DOMINIC
The Historical Development of The Rule
The Dominican Laity originated in its present form with the promulgation of the first Rule under Munio de Zamora, Master of the Order in 1285. The spiritual origin of the Laity was in the penitential movements centered around Saint Dominic, who gathered around himself groups of the Laity for the spiritual and material defense of the Church and for apostolic work. The Laity has existed, under various names, as long as the Dominican Order itself and has always performed specific functions and collaborated closely with the other branches of the Dominican Family. There have been five Rules for the Dominican Laity since the foundation of the Order. The first was that promulgated by Munio de Zamora in 1285, for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of Saint Dominic. The Rule of Munio, slightly amended, received papal approval in 1405. This Rule survived for centuries, serving the laity and being adopted for other branches of the Dominican Family.
The second Rule, adapted to the new Code of Canon Law in 1917, was approved in 1932 under Master Louis Theissling, with the title: Rule of the Secular Third Order of Saint Dominic. After Vatican II, the need was felt for a new Rule or an updating of the 1932 Rule; accordingly, the third Rule was approved in 1964. However, the General Chapter of River Forest in 1968 proposed a fourth Rule, which was promulgated by Master Aniceto Fernandez 1969 and approved on an experimental basis by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1972 under the title: Rule of the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic. With this title, reference to Third Order had disappeared, to be confirmed by legislation of the 1974 General Chapter at Madonna Dell ‘Arco, abolishing such terms as First, Second and Third Order.
Finally, after the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law and the Bologna Document on the Dominican Family, the General Chapter of Rome that same year, 1983, commissioned the Master of the Order to hold an International Congress of the Dominican Laity in order to renew and adapt its Rule. This, the fifth Rule, The Rule of the Lay Chapters of Saint Dominic, was approved by the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes in January 1987 and promulgated by Master Damien Byrne on January 28, 1987.
[Excerpted from The Dominican Laity Handbook, Province of the Assumption, Australia]