Consecrated Life and the Dominican Vocation
Pope Francis has designated the year from the evening of Nov 29, 2014 to February 2, 2016 a “Year of Consecrated Life.” During this year the Holy Father calls the faithful to reflect on the witness of men and women who have dedicated their lives entirely to Christ and his Church, living by the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Throughout this year Dominicana will periodically offer posts directed to helping our readers better appreciate the life to which we (and thousands of others) have been called. To mark the beginning of the year, we offer a series on five different religious orders, reflecting on what they offer to the Church in general and how their particular character can help us to live out our Dominican life more faithfully. Read this series.
Preaching the Divine Attributes
What are “the divine attributes”?
Unless you read the Catholic Encyclopedia for fun, chances are you have no idea (or you think they’re an indie band). If that sounds about right, you have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, you’ll find yourself in pretty much the same boat as everyone else.
As it happens, the answer isn’t all that complicated: the divine attributes are God’s character traits; they describe what God is like.
So why care?
Clicking on the link BELOW will treat you to flowing sentences of golden prose like “our natural knowledge of God is acquired by discursive reasoning upon the data of sense by introspection,” followed by obscure scriptural snippets. Which is to say, if God “dwells in light inaccessible,” it sure seems like he’s splitting the rent with his coterie of characteristics. Which is to say, even if theologians can wrap their minds around the divine attributes, your average Christian can’t.
But that’s just wrong. The Christian life is about friendship with God, and friends know what their friends are like. God’s character traits can be known and loved by all of us. Our series, Preaching the Divine Attributes, will prove it to you. Our goal is to free God’s qualities from their ivory-tower prison, and to let you make their acquaintance, all in less time than it takes to listen to a weekday homily. Read this series.
Austen the Aristotelian
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Jane Austen novels are full of silliness and romance. However little known the merits of these works upon a first perusal, this truth is so well fixed in the mind of the reader, that they are considered as the rightful property of young women fixated upon a bygone era of balls and dresses with hardly any serious merit to recommend them to the reader of more practical and serious taste.
While the truthiness of such a claim may, in fact, be unassailable, the truth of this statement can hardly be considered as such. When Lionel Trilling offered a seminar on the works of Jane Austen at Columbia in 1973, he had to sit through two-and-a-half days of interviews in order to whittle a field of 150 interested students down to a more manageable maximum of 40. You very well may ask how many of those prospective students were young men, but, as a professor of mine once responded to such a question, this was Columbia in the 1970s; they were, most probably, nearly all men! Trilling himself relates that the ranks of these prospective students included more than one graduate student who ardently made his case to be allowed in the class.
So, what’s the big deal about Jane Austen? Why would anyone with half a brain, let alone someone seriously dedicated to the study of divine truth, care two straws about such novels? Unlike Trilling who concluded that the moral values portrayed in Austen’s novels were invariably a product of her era, I am convinced that these values have a timeless character, just as the novels have a transcendent appeal.
As the title of this introduction and the Dominican authorship of these posts suggest, Aquinas and Aristotle play no small part in my appreciation of the works of Jane Austen. Throughout this series, I hope to illustrate how many of the values found in Austen’s works belong just as much to the medieval and classical periods as her own. By showing how the virtues espoused by Austen’s heroines conform to a much earlier tradition, I hope to lead the reader to suspect that these values are just as applicable today. These works are not simply food for romantic fantasies. They provide us with serious and thoughtful reflections on how virtue ought to be lived out, particularly in regard to our relationships with others. Read this series.
The Divine Comedy: The Summa in Verse
What is the nature of true happiness? And how can we attain it? This, the most basic of human questions, serves as a guiding principle for two of the greatest masterpieces of the medieval period: St. Thomas Aquinas’s theological treatise, the Summa Theologiae, and Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy. For various reasons, many people don’t typically associate either of these works with the question of happiness. The Summa is commonly (and unfairly) considered an abstract, speculative treatise with little bearing on the real world; most high school English classes treat only the first part of The Divine Comedy, leaving students with the impression that Dante’s poem is little more than a perverse exercise in Schadenfreude. This week Dominicana presents a series seeking to correct these common misconceptions. The Divine Comedy has been called “The Summa in Verse,” reflecting how St. Thomas’s theology undergirds Dante’s glorious vision. Join us all week as the brothers explore the close connections between these two medieval prodigies and what their works can teach us about one of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Read this series.
Fulton Sheen Week
From April 13-15, 2015, The Catholic University of America hosted “Archbishop Fulton Sheen Week.” As his cause for beatification is underway, the University chose this year to celebrate Sheen’s life, as 2015 marks the 75th Anniversary of Sheen’s first television appearance (Easter Sunday, 1940, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City).
In conjunction with CUA’s efforts to celebrate his life and promote his cause, Dominicana published blog posts on Sheen during this week of celebrations. Read this series.
The Nuns of the Order of Preachers
Since 1206, certain women have been called to devote their lives to prayer, penance, and sacred study, following a form of life devised for them by St. Dominic. It is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of our country that dozens of monasteries of cloistered, contemplative Dominican nuns still flourish today across the United States. We hope these posts will help you gain a deeper appreciation for the beautiful way of life led by our sisters in St. Dominic. Read this series.
St. Thomas and Catholic Social Teaching
When most people think of St. Thomas Aquinas, Catholic Social Teaching is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. We more typically associate St. Thomas with the philosophical thought of Aristotle, or with the Trinitarian theology of the Summa Theologiae, or perhaps (though more rarely) even with his biblical commentaries. Yet it’s interesting to note that Leo XIII, the pope who in a sense began the modern tradition of Catholic Social Teaching with his encyclical Rerum Novarum, also wrote Aeterni Patris, an encyclical commending the philosophical thought of St. Thomas to the universal Church. This suggests, at least indirectly, that St. Thomas may have something to teach us about the Church’s social teaching. This week Dominicana offers you a series looking at some themes in Thomistic theology and spirituality that can help articulate the logic that underlies the principles of the common good, subsidiarity, solidarity, and the dignity of the human person. We hope this series will broaden your understanding of the scope of St. Thomas’s thought, as well as help you see more clearly the beauty of Catholic Social Teaching. Read this series.
Opening the Book of Revelation
Br. Leo Checkai, O.P., composed the following series of posts about the Book of Revelation as a preparation for Advent 2011. The goal of the series is not to present a comprehensive commentary on the Book, but to provide readers with the skills they need to understand the prophetic language and context of the Book, thereby enabling readers to interpret it according to the Spirit in which it was written. Read this series.
Aquinas on Faith
What is faith? Who and what exactly do we Christians have faith in? Are all forms of unbelief equal?
The Christian faith is about God—not only because God is its subject-matter, but also because God is its source. God had something to say to us, something he thought it would be good for us to know, and something which, if he had not told us, we would not otherwise have known. The Christian faith, therefore, is a kind of knowledge, because it arises from a revelation, and the reception of this specific revelation establishes human beings in a new relationship to God.
It is important to be able to distinguish the genuine article of faith, not only because faith is our gateway to the Christian mysteries but also because faith itself is one of these mysteries. Receiving the gift of faith, we begin to be taken up into the re-creation of the world.
In order to foster a deeper appreciation of the virtue of faith, Dominicana asked a number of Dominican theologians to comment on St. Thomas Aquinas’ reflections on faith in his great work the Summa Theologiae. The blog posted nine short videos that focus on some particular aspect of Aquinas’ treatment. The series aims to demonstrate the ways in which the life of faith is not an unthinking acquiescence, but rather, as St. Augustine put it, to believe in Christ is “to think with assent.” Read this series.
This series, which offers theological, philosophical, and cultural commentaries on Pope Francis’ encyclical, was published in the days leading up to the Holy Father’s first visit to the United States, in September 2015. Read this series.
This series, published as part of the celebration of the 800th Jubilee of the Dominican Order, reflects on the lives of several holy cooperator brothers. Read this series.
Living the Mystery of Mercy
In his letter announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis declared that “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.” Following the Holy Father’s lead, we thought it right and just to offer some fodder for our reflection on and practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Read this series.
Jubilarians of the Province of St. Joseph
This series celebrates the religious lives and honors the fidelity of several of the Jubilarians of the Province of St. Joseph as part of the celebration of the 800th Jubilee of the Order of Preachers. Read this series.
The First Words of Christ
Christians have found varied ways of keeping and pondering Christ’s words. In Passiontide, Catholics traditionally meditate on the Seven Last Words of Christ, those saving words that he spoke upon the Cross. As we conclude Christmastide, Dominicana presents a meditation on the First Words of Christ. By this series of posts, we hope to offer a taste of the identity of Jesus Christ, so that these meditations may stir our minds to know Christ more and enflame our hearts to love him more. Read this series.