Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dominican Intellectual Life

Misericordia Veritatis
: The Call to the Intellectual life of the Order Today

2001 General Chapter at Providence College
Document on the Intellectual Life of the Order

(106) It is into a studious and concerned wisdom of this sort that Thomas Aquinas inscribes the Dominican vocation – contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere. Wisdom of this kind tells us not only of what is eternal, but also of the “...regulae contingentium, quae humanis actibus subsunt." “It belongs to the gift of wisdom not only to meditate on God but also to direct human actions. Such direction is concerned first and foremost with the elimination of evils, which contradict wisdom. That is why fear is called the beginning of wisdom, because fear moves us to move away from evils. Ultimately, it has to do with the aim of how everything might be led back to the order justly due it: something which belongs to the idea of peace." Sapiential study thus unfolds itself necessarily as intellectual compassion: a form of compassion which presupposes insight (intellectus) gained or developed by study; and a form of insight which leads to compassion. “For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate." Thus, even though God's mercy and compassion are made available to the world in a multitude of ways, through the Dominican charism it is available through study and the consolation of truth.

(107) Our constitutions point out the contemplative dimension of study by calling it a meditation on the multiform wisdom of God. To dedicate oneself to study is to answer a call to “cultivate the human pursuit of truth." One could say that our Order is born of this love for truth and of this conviction that men and women are capable of knowing the truth. From the start, the brethren were inspired by the innovative audacity of St Dominic who encouraged them to be useful to souls through intellectual compassion, by sharing with them the misericordia veritatis, the mercy of truth. Jordan of Saxony states that Dominic had the ability to pierce through to the hidden core of the many difficult questions of their day “thanks to a humble intelligence of the heart."

(115) Our confidence to take part in the quaestiones disputatae of our day must derive from our confidence that we are the heirs to an intellectual tradition which is not to be preserved in some intellectual deep-freeze. It is alive and has an important contribution to make today. It rests upon fundamental philosophical and theological intuitions: an understanding of morality in terms of the virtues and growth in the virtues; the goodness of all creation; a confidence in reason and the role of debate; happiness in the vision of God as our destiny; and a humility in the face of the mystery of God which draws us beyond ideology.

I have edited the citations to make the passages easier to read. The entire document can be found here.

(NB. Click "Providence General Chapter 2001 (Multilingual)." It's a pdf file. Then on the left, click "De Vita Intellectuali;" it starts on page 54.