A day in the life of a Capitular

General Chapter Chronicle 6 - Day n°16 - 07/29

If you think that a General Chapter is boring, you are wrong. Fr. Martin Ganeri explains why in the following interview. 

 Fr. Martin is  Provincial of England and Scotland.
 He studies  Classical Indian Religions, Theology and Philosophy of Religion  and Holy Scriptures.
 He's currently  reading  an historical book about Caesar Augustus.
 He's a member  of the General Chapter Commission for Restructuring and  Collaboration.
 His favorite Italian  dish is  “Zuppa inglese” (English soup)… and by the way, in England it is  known as Italian cream!


How does a day in the life of a Capitular Father looks like?

Every day has the same structure. We start off with lauds and mass at 7.00, followed by breakfast, of course. And then we begin the day's work at 9.00. We have four sessions of work. From 9.00 to 10.30, from 11.00 to 13.00, from 15.30 to 17.00 and then from 17.30 to 19.00. We finish the day with vespers at 19.30 and then dinner at 20.00.

Some of the sessions are plenary. That is when all the capitulars come together to discuss topics in common. The other sessions we work in commissions into which all the capitulars are divided as a member of one commission. The commissions who want to hear what the Chapter as a whole has to say on certain topics are allowed to raise questions.

Towards the end of the process, when the work of the commissions has been done and they have produced a document, each of these documents are discussed in the plenary sessions and then the Chapter will vote either to accept or reject them or will suggest amendments.


It sounds very boring...

No! for me it's fascinating! It is the first time I have come to a General Chapter. I was only elected Provincial 3 months ago, so it's a very new experience. It is a very wonderful experience to meet the Dominicans from all over the world.

At the same time, it is hard work: all committee work, you know, has its frustrating moments, because you are trying to listen to a variety of opinions and to reconcile them. That is quite a challenge. I think all the Dominicans find it hard work to be together in this way for three weeks.

But I also think that you can see how the work of the Chapter takes shape as you go on. You start off with a set of topics to discuss and, indeed, there is a long period of discussion in order to produce a document to become a law of the Order. Then it's introduced to be discussed by everyone and eventually becomes the law. You can see that there is real progress over the days and weeks. And that is what makes it exciting.


Do you allow yourself distractions during your work?

I have kept listening, partly because I have been the secretary of my commission... so I have to take notes.

The type of democratic governance that we have in the Order is one in which we have lots of discussions. It is a matter of humility and of penance: humility, to know that you don't always get what you want done, and penance, in that you do what you may not find all that interesting or agreeable.


What you do in your free time?

Free time? What free time? We have no free time!

Capitulars and student friars are the same, then!


The Chronicler