Topic: Study

Br. Christopher Wetzel, O.P.'s picture

Evangelization and the Order of Preachers

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One month ago, on March 11th, Fr. Bruno Cadoré, the Master of the Order of Preachers, was received by Pope Benedict for a short private audience. The Pope and Fr. Bruno discussed the state of the Order and the main themes addressed by the most recent General Chapter in late August and early September when Fr. Bruno was elected as Master. Going forward, the Pope encouraged the Order to focus on evangelization as a core component of the charism of the Friars Preachers. He specially highlighted the following dimensions:

    • Careful attention to the life-search and the spiritual quest of our contemporaries


    • The importance of studying and teaching theology in the line of the solid tradition of reflection initiated by Thomas Aquinas


    • Theology’s essential spiritual dimension


    • The vital bond between theology and worship


    • The particular challenge to theology posited by dialogue with new cultures and sciences – a clear sign of our relation with the world


    • The role of statistics in evangelization


    • Appropriate care given to the human, religious and theological dimensions in initial formation


  • The hope that our evangelizing efforts will give our contemporaries the possibility and the joy of a personal relationship with Jesus.

Many of these points are integral aspects of the historical Dominican charism of preaching. Certainly, the nature of Dominican religious life as a "mixed" life that joins contemplative aspects such as the common prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours with the active apostolate of preaching shows the "vital bond between theology and worship" and "theology's essential spiritual dimension". Similarly, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, as a member of the Graduate Theological Union, reflects the importance of the teachings of Thomas Aquinas and also the need to bring his teaching to contemporary discussions of philosophy and theology. The one point that stood out for me in this list is, "The role of statistics in evangelization". Although statistics is certainly not among the list of typical courses offered by a seminary or formation program, effective evangelization demands an intimate knowledge of the situations and circumstances in which evangelization is to take place. This, however, must be more than an experiential familiarity with a culture and based on anecdotal evidence. As crucial as personal relationships are to the endeavor of spreading the gospel, it is just as important to have a quantitative understanding of the factors influencing the way individuals grow into their faith (or lack of faith) beginning from childhood.

If you would like to see this process in action, I recommend Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adultsby Christian Smith and Patricia Snell. Based on a study by the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame, this work describes the religious life of young adults using statistics and representative case studies drawn from the lives of 200 young adults. The study began with a diverse group of 200 or so teenagers who participated in in-depth interviews. Through follow-up interviews, the transformation of faith as these people matured into adulthood was tracked and statistically analyzed in depth. This analysis can then provide a basis for designing evangelization programs and approaches that address fundamental needs and problems in the growth of faith that might not be readily apparent or might appear relatively unimportant.

Br. Boniface Willard, O.P.'s picture

Fr. Bryan Kromholtz, OP, on EWTN

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Recently, Fr. Bryan Kromholtz, OP, Regent of Studies for our province and a professor at the DSPT, was interviewed by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, for his EWTN program “Sunday Night Prime” (still listed by its old name, “Sunday Night Live,” in some DVRs). Their topic of conversation is Fr. Bryan’s recently published book, On the Last Day: The Time of the Resurrection of the Dead according to Thomas Aquinas, as well as the “Last Things,” including heaven, hell, and purgatory, resurrection, the return of Christ in glory, the last judgment, the new heavens and the new earth. The program will be aired on EWTN on Sunday, 3 April at 4pm Pacific time, with repeats at 11pm, then again on Monday 4 April at 6am, and on Saturday 9 April at 2pm.

Aquinas on the Immaculate Conception

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In 1854, Pope Pius XI promulgated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is the Catholic belief that the Blessed Virgin was preserved from all stain of original sin from the moment of conception. This unique grace was made possible in view of the redemptive work of Christ.

Occasionally, one will hear the claim that St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. While it is true that many Thomists after Aquinas denied the doctrine and argued against it, Aquinas’ own position is more complex and often oversimplified. The task of understanding his position is made more difficult in light of the modifications and changes to his teaching over time. I would like to offer some thoughts on the time of the sanctification of the Blessed Virgin, focusing on p. III, q. 27, a. 2 of the Summa Theologica. While I will not be able to cover every important point, this will hopefully give some perspective on the teaching of Aquinas.

In this particular article, Aquinas considers whether the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before animation (animation is the infusion of the human body with the rational soul). Aquinas argues that the sanctification of the Blessed Virgin before animation is unintelligible for two reasons. First, only rational creatures can be sanctified, because the notion of grace, properly speaking, does not belong to non-rational beings. Thus, it would not make any sense to say that chairs, daffodils, earthworms, and human gametes are able to receive grace. Second, if the Blessed Virgin was sanctified before animation, she could not have incurred original sin. It would then seem that she would not be in need of a savior, which is false. Aquinas then comes to the conclusion that sanctification must have occurred after animation. But does this exclude the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? In saying that sanctification occurred after animation, does this exclude the possibility of sanctification in the moment of animation?

I believe that one could reasonably argue for an answer in the negative to both questions. In order to see this point, we must make a distinction between posteriority in nature and posteriority in time. Posteriority in nature is the idea that a thing must be before it is of such a sort. For example, a flower must be before we can even begin talking about whether it is a rose or a daisy. But this notion does not imply posteriority of time. After all, it is not as if my flower exists at some moment in time before it is a rose—my flower is both a flower and a rose at the same temporal moment. Thus, ‘rose’ is posterior to ‘flower’ in nature, but not in time. In our case, it is clear that Aquinas has posteriority of nature in mind, especially in light of his first reason against sanctification before animation. But it is not entirely clear that Aquinas also has posteriority of time in mind. A reasonable conclusion is that Aquinas is silent on the matter of whether sanctification occurred at the temporal moment of animation.

Br. Emmanuel Taylor, O.P.'s picture

Have You Noticed a Lack of Posts This Week?

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The lack of posts is because the Dominican student friars are on Spring Break!

It is Spring Break, but we are not on vacation. Rather, we are using Spring Break to get caught up on reading for classes and beginning to write our papers. It is enjoyable to have time to study this week. For me, it is also helpful that I love my classes, especially Contemporary Christology and Trinity.

Spring Break is a good time to study, but I also enjoy a change of scenery. My best spring break as a Dominican was a couple of years ago, when I received an invitation to bring a small group of brothers to use a cabin in the mountains. We went up to the Sierra Nevadas, which were laden in snow. In the nice, simple wood cabin, we all pulled out our books and sat at the dining table and in chairs around the fireplace. The roaring fire radiating heat mellowed our moods and fueled our study and conversations.

This really is a typical picture of Br. Matthew, poring over philosophy, while Fr. Raphael—then a student friar—chats away.

May this week be full of the Lord's peace!