Sunday, November 9, 2008

On Dominican Study: LCO 76-83

I offer these portions of the Dominican Book of Constitutions and Ordinations (LCO) on the ministry of study as a way to come to some understanding of how a faithful Christian might approach the study of the complementary interactions of philosophy, science, and theology. The following paragraphs show that it is possible for a faithful Christian, without subordinating one field to another, to be both scientifically astute and philosophically coherent. This uniquely Dominican element presents study (along with prayer, ministry, and community) as a means to the end of preaching and teaching the gospel. In other words, for OP's, study, our intellectual life today as a ministry, can never be separated from the fundamental charge and goal of our founder to preach Christ Jesus and him alone.

Chapter III


Art. I. -- On the Importance of Study and its Sources

76. St. Dominic included study, ordained to the ministry of salvation, as an essential part of his plan for the Order: in this was no small innovation. He, who himself always carried with him the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of Saint Paul, directed the brethren to schools, and sent them to the major cities "so that they might study, preach, and establish a convent." [Thus OP's do not understand study to be an end in itself but as a means to understand creation and its Creator more fully in order to better preach the gospel.]

77. I. Hence "before all else, our study should aim principally and ardently at this that we might be able to be useful to the souls of our neighbors." [So, no Ivory Tower-ism for OP's!]

II. By study the brethren consider in their heart the manifold wisdom of God and prepare themselves for the doctrinal service of the Church and of all mankind. It is all the more fitting that they should devote themselves to study, because from the tradition of the Order they are more specially called to cultivate mankind's inclination toward truth. [Since God's grace builds on our nature as rational animals we are inclined as a matter of both nature and grace to seek out, find, and make use of God's "manifold wisdom.]

III. Study of this kind must be pursued according to the different requirements of each subject; it requires strict discipline and the application of all one's abilities.

78. The light and source of our study is God, who spoke in former times and in different ways, and last of all speaks in Christ, through whom the mystery of the Father's will, after the sending of the Spirit, is fully revealed in the Church and enlightens the minds of all people. [If God is the "light and source of our study," then it follows that everything we study will be illuminated by God's light and found originating from God; therefore, biology, physics, math, music, literature, etc. are all limited manifestations of God's Self-revelation to His creation.]

79. The brethren should contemplate and study divine revelation of which Sacred Scripture and
Tradition constitute a single sacred deposit, and from the perennial instructional value of its overall plan, they should learn to discover the many paths of gospel truth, even in created things, in human works and institutions, as well as in different religions. [All truth is God's truth, so any truth we discover--regardless of the source--must be a revelation of God and capable of leading us to a fuller understanding of God and our relationship with Him. This does not mean that all sciences, all religions, all philosophies are true as a whole. It means that what is true in each is true insofar as the truth is found first and perfectly in Truth Himself.]

80. In all things the brethren should think with the Church and exhibit allegiance to the varied exercise of the Magisterium to which is entrusted the authentic interpretation of the word of God. Furthermore, faithful to the Order's mission, they should always be prepared to provide with special dedication cooperative service to the Magisterium in fulfilling their doctrinal obligations. [OP's are especially charged with assisting the magisterial office of the Church in researching, defining, defending, and promulgating the truth found in scripture and the tradition of the Church, making use of any and all sciences and philosophies that bring us more fully to God's final truth revealed in Christ Jesus. Though this path is wide, it is well-traveled and clearly defined, thus OP's are obligated as a matter of faith and obedience to adhere to the teachings of the Church, all the while finding better and better means of understanding and preaching and teaching these truths.]

81. The brethren should study attentively the writings of the Fathers of the Church and distinguished witnesses of Christian thought who, with the help of different cultures and the wisdom of the philosophers, labored to understand the word of God more fully. Following their thinking, the brethren should respectfully listen to the living tradition of the Church, seek dialogue with the learned, and open their mind to contemporary discoveries and problems. [Since the path to God's truth is both well-traveled and clearly defined, OP's are obligated to consider how our ancestors in the faith understood God's revelation in different ages and cultures. While obedient to these traditions (respectfully listening), OP's assist in the on-going task of creating a contemporary tradition that accounts for novel discoveries without inventing "new truths" in the wilds far from the well-traveled and clearly defined way.]

82. The best teacher and model in fulfilling this duty is St. Thomas, whose teaching the Church
commends in a unique way and the Order receives as a patrimony which exercises an enriching influence on the intellectual life of the brethren and confers on the Order a special character. [Thomas provides OP's with a nearly comprehensive synthesis of ancient and medieval wisdom that accounts for both the best of sacred tradition and reasoned discourse. Though Thomas is the master of Dominican synthesis, providing for us a formidable starting point, his work is subject to impovement and revision in light of the on-going work of creating a contemporary tradition.]

Consequently, the brethren should develop a genuine familiarity with his writings and thought, and, according to the needs of the time and with legitimate freedom, they should renew and enrich his teaching with the continually fresh riches of sacred and human wisdom.

83. Continuous study nourishes contemplation, encourages fulfillment of the counsels with shining fidelity, constitutes a form of asceticism by its own perseverance and difficulty, and, as an essential element of our whole life, it is an excellent religious observance. [Understanding study as a form of asceticism--"virtue in daily practice"--OP's pray when they study; that is, contemplative study in the service of preaching and teaching the gospel with the Church is prayer.]