Committed to Christ

The film portrays 21 year old Brother Robert, a novice in the Dominican Order and Sister Gisela Johanna who is 35 and a Dominican nun. We follow them for a full day and find out why they should want to commit themselves to the ancient Order’s requirements of poverty, celibacy and obedience at the beginning of the 3rd millennium after Christ.
An unusual day is such a secular nation as Germany.

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Up until the beginning of the 2oth century it was taken for granted that a Catholic family would send one of its children to the convent or monastery. This view changed by the middle of the century. German society, both in the East as in the West, became secular and pluralistic. The overall total of members of male Orders has reduced by 50 percent over the last thirty years. Today a good four and a half thousand men are living in monastic orders. In the women’s Orders just a few young nuns bear the weight of a reverse age pyramid. There are about 29 thousand nuns in Germany.

But there are still young men and women who ask to enter the Orders. For up to two years they are educated and trained in the Novitiate of the Order where they are examined and examine themselves to see whether they are fit for a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. Most of them take vows that cover a period of just a few years before they then decide to tie themselves to the Order for life. In Germany in 2002 120 women and 70 men became novices in an Order.

What is interesting is the trend. Those active Orders, mostly founded in the 19th century, which devote themselves to caring for the sick, or for education and work in schools and kindergartens now attract few women. It is very different with the contemplative Orders. They still have recruits. In these the women are shielded from the world in silence, contemplation, prayer and household work.

With both men and women there is the tendency for them to enter the Order after they have finished their studies or training and not straight from school.

The Dominican Order is based on the teachings and example of St Dominic (1170 – 1221). St Dominic saw his work as the task of bringing reformed heretics and schismatic reformists back into the mother church. He founded his first contemplative convent for reformed women and shortly later an Order for men was established.

In more than 100 countries throughout the world today there are more than 6 thousand men in the Dominican Order. 4 thousand women live within the Order as contemplative nuns. 30 thousand other women live in working convents many of which were created within the Dominican Order in the 19th century.

Three factors govern life within the Dominican Order and apply today in terms of challenge to one’s surroundings.

The Dominican convents and monasteries mostly lie in city and town centres and are confronted with the movement of the times and the ideology and curiosity of those living outside the cloisters

The Dominicans have an internal democratic understanding by which they collectively approve any regulation meeting the needs of the time. Nor do they elect or choose a superior for life. The elected Master of the Order in Rome maintains a flexible control over the fraternity.

The Dominicans see the preaching of the Gospels as their main task and use all the media for this purpose, the new media, newspapers, representative art and preaching itself. Their preferred area of operation is within an intellectual and academic environment.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2004
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