Sr Sabine Schratz, temporary professed, is a Dominican Sister in Ireland. What she finds challenging and enriching in the Dominican life is holding the balance between two worlds – the active and contemplative.
“I always had a fascination for religion as far back as the beginnings of primary school in Germany, where I was brought up. When I made the decision to become a Dominican Sister my father dug out an early school report which stated that I had a great interest in religious questions. I presume that, even at age seven, I had already started my “expedition” to find God!
As a Dominican Sister, I do and do not lead a normal life. Like everybody else, I go out to work. At present I teach at our Adult Education Centre in Sion Hill, assisting others to understand their faith. My work also brought me to Dominican Publications where I am editing a book on the saints of the Order, and I regularly contribute homilies and meditations to journals and books. But underlying everything (at least ideally…) is the spiritual side. It has its supports in a daily routine of Mass, Divine Office with the community and time for personal prayer. One of the Dominican mottos is “to contemplate and to share the fruits of contemplation with others”. The constant challenge is to let one flow into the other and back again. A spiritual tidal plant!
Being one of the youngest members of the Congregation, I am part of a group which organises regular meetings and conferences. We bring together members of different religious orders from across Ireland and the UK who are, like myself, at the early stages of formation.
I first encountered the Dominicans in Maynooth, where I spent an academic year as part of my degree in Theology and History from the University of Münster in Northwest Germany. My time at university was a period of great excitement where I was able to explore my faith, learning from like-minded people around me who lived what they believed.
As a postgraduate, I was offered a research post at Münster University and worked for several years in the newly opened Archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. Rome was an amazing experience. For the first time, I really understood that the Church is a global institution. Besides the highly exciting archival work, my time in Rome was shaped by a deepening of my spiritual life. I got in contact with the Sant’Egidio Community and often joined them for prayer. On Sundays I loved to spend quiet periods on the Aventine Hill, which houses the Dominican Headquarters. One day, browsing through the shop, I came across a book by Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominican Order. This prompted me to explore the Dominican spirituality, and, following the decision to spend some time off in Glendalough, I realised that I had met a Congregation of Sisters where I could find a spiritual home.
Becoming a Sister has been a hugely enriching experience. It hasn’t always been easy but has enabled me to discover a lot about myself. The Novitiate gave me a new kind of experience by working with people on the margins of society. Dominicans are preachers, literally by profession. The message I would love to be able to impart to the people I meet is the basic message of Jesus: that God cares about us and, in spite of everything, we can hope that “all will be well” (Julian of Norwich).
For any woman seriously considering religious life, I would urge her to have the courage to try it. My life as a Dominican and my work enables me to engage in dialogue, which has enriched my own faith and, hopefully, the faith of those around me.”