"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

"Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come and follow me!" Mt. 19:21

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Feast of the Angelic Doctor

Much can be said about the great insight Saint Thomas Aquinas can offer those considering a religious vocation, especially one in the Order of Preachers--indeed, much already has, on these very cyber-pages (like here and here, for example). On this his feast day, however, I would like simply to offer a prayer he composed "for ordering a life wisely" (ad vitam sapienter instituendam), an act which is at the very heart of discovering one's vocation and becoming a true follower of our Lord. Saint Thomas is said to have recited this prayer daily before an image of Christ, and imitating him in this regard is an excellent practice for anyone considering a Dominican vocation (or anyone at all, for that matter).

Saint Thomas Aquinas,
Carlo Crivelli, 15th cent.

O merciful God, grant that I may
desire ardently,
search prudently,
recognize truly,
and bring to perfect completion
whatever is pleasing to You
for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God.

Grant that I may know
what You require me to do.

Bestow upon me
the power to accomplish Your will,
as is necessary and fitting
for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God,
that I may not falter in times
of prosperity or adversity,
so that I may not be exalted in the former,
St. Thomas Aquinas (San Marco Altarpiece),
Fra Angelico, 1440
nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything
unless it leads me to You;
may I not be saddened by anything
unless it turns me from You.

May I desire to please no one,
nor fear to displease anyone,
but You.

May all transitory things, O Lord,
be worthless to me
and may all things eternal
be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without You
be burdensome for me
and may I not desire anything else
besides You.

May all work, O Lord,
delight me when done for Your sake
St. Thomas Aquinas (San Domenico Altarpiece),
Fra Angelico, 1425
and may all repose not centered in You
be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, my God,
that I may direct my heart to You
and that in my failures
I may ever feel remorse for my sins
and never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord my God, make me
submissive without protest,
poor without discouragement,
chaste without regret,
patient without complaint,
humble without posturing,
cheerful without frivolity,
mature without gloom,
and quick-witted without flippancy.

O Lord my God, let me
fear You without losing hope,
be truthful without guile,
do good works without presumption,
Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas,
Diego Velazquez, 1632
rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness,
and--without hypocrisy--
strengthen him by word and example.

Give to me, O Lord God,
a watchful heart,
which no capricious thought
can lure away from You.

Give to me
a noble heart,
which no unworthy desire can debase.

Give to me
a resolute heart,
which no evil intention can divert.

Give to me
a stalwart heart,
which no tribulation can overcome.

Give to me
a temperate heart,
The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas,
Francisco de Zurbarán, 1631
which no violent passion can enslave.

Give me me, O Lord my God,
understanding of You,
diligence in seeking You,
wisdom in finding You,
discourse ever pleasing to You,
perseverance in waiting for You,
and confidence in finally embracing You.

Grant that
as penance
I may be afflicted by Your hardships now,
through grace
I may rely on Your blessings on the way,
and in glory
I may enjoy You fully
in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You Who live and reign,
God, world without end.


(taken from Devoutly I Adore Thee: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas, Sophia Institute Press)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"The Four Last Things" (AUDIO)

These four talks (including full live recordings of the talks) on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven, Hell were given as part of an Advent Preaching series by our Student Brothers at St. Dominic’s Parish in DC, the University Parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlottesville, VA, and the general public at the Dominican House of Studies. Check them out!

Follow the daily writings of the Dominican Student Brothers of the Province of St. Joseph at www.dominicanablog.com

Interested in attending our next vocation weekend?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fr. Austin Litke OP on His Vocation to the Dominicans

Fr. Austin Litke OP shares a short testimony of his vocation.  He is a native of Henderson, Kentucky. He entered seminary to become a priest directly out of high school, attending the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. While studying abroad in Rome, he met the Order of Preachers - the Dominicans - and upon graduation, entered the Order in 2005. He was ordained a priest in May 2011 and is currently one of the chaplains at the Catholic Center at New York University and the University Church of St. Joseph in lower Manhattan.   This testimony comes from Totus Tuus.

"I started thinking about being a priest when I was 10 years old, because in my home parish there was a young priest who came and I started serving Mass, and the witness of his life, the way that he said Mass, the reverence with which he said Mass, the way that he dealt with people just really struck me and I just had this very deep sense that that's what I wanted to do when I grew up, that I wanted to be just like him. It took me almost 20 years later, when I was actually ordained a priest, to actually understand what that meant. On the day I was ordained I had about 80 people ask me 'Do you feel any different?' And, to be quite honest, the answer was no, I didn't feel different. But I knew that something was different because everyone from my mum and dad to complete strangers I met that day, treated me differently because I was a priest, because they knew that I'd been ordained for them, that I'd been set aside by God, to serve God and to serve his Church and to serve his people. It was no longer my personality or my gifts in particular, but because I was the priest, I was the one through whom God was working and they knew that I lived for them. "

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bro. Reginald Lynch OP on His Vocation to the Dominicans

Rev. Bro. Reginald Lynch OP is a transitional deacon stationed at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Columbus, Ohio.  He is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood at St. Dominic's Church in Washington DC on May 24, 2013. You are invited!

He recorded this witness before he was ordained, originally from Totus Tuus.

"Blessed Reginald was one of the first Dominicans, a companion of St Dominic, and received a special grace from the Blessed Mother - he actually received what we call the scapular of our habit from the Blessed Mother herself (which is the large rectangular white piece which hangs on the front and the back of the Dominican habit), as a sign of protection and motherly affection from the Blessed Mother. Blessed Reginald received this grace on what would have been his deathbed; he was about to enter the Order and fell deathly ill, but instead of dying St Dominic prayed for him and he received a special grace and was healed, by the intercession of Mary. At this instance Mary showed him the full habit which included the scapular .. So when Dominicans wear the habit, which is the sign of our life and our mission, you see integral even within the habit itself a sign of Mary's protection for us. And it's integral to Dominican prayer and to Dominican preaching so that when we think about the role of Mary in our life, we see her as deeply integrated in our own consecration to Christ, so that her motherhood of the Word of God becomes the motherhood of us as well. ... So when we live the Dominican vocation, in contemplation of the Word of God and in preaching, I like to remember this in particular, it helps me to remember the protection of Mary and her role in my own life, as a religious and a Dominican."

More on Blessed Reginald of Orleans
1. homily from Fr. Romanus Cessario OP
2. "A Second Elijah" from Dominican Nuns in Summit, NJ
3. article from Bro. Albert Signan OP of Western Dominican Province

Saturday, January 19, 2013

St. Thomas recommends the Dominican life - Part II

It has been a while since our last installment, in which we started to give the context of St. Thomas’s treatment of the religious life in his Summa Theologiae. We had seen that, by virtue of being treated in the Secunda Pars (Second Part), the religious life has something to do with “the rational creature’s advance towards God.” St. Thomas further introduces the Secunda Pars as being about the realization of God’s image, the image in which man has been created and by which man shares in the faculties of knowing and willing. It is through this knowing and willing that man plays a part in his own advance towards God, and the process of conforming the intellect and will to God is the subject of this Secunda Pars.

We also pointed out that the first five questions are foundational for the whole Secunda Pars, giving the last end of human life, which is the happiness that can be found in God alone. The happiness of which he speaks is not merely a fleeting pleasure but rather the deep and profound contentment or fulfillment of becoming what one is meant to be, i.e. of reaching one’s final end. The Latin word is beatitudo, which could also be translated as “beatitude” or “blessedness.” It is in this state of beatitude that the image of God will be perfected in us.

In preparing to give a talk recently, I re-read the very first question of the Summa, which speaks of how sacred doctrine, though primarily a theoretical science, is also a practical science. The Secunda Pars is the part of the Summa that addresses practical matters, and St. Thomas foreshadows these first five questions in the very first question of the Summa (a. 5, c.): “The purpose of this science, in so far as it is practical, is eternal bliss; to which as to an ultimate end the purposes of every practical science are directed. Hence it is clear that from every standpoint, it is nobler than other sciences.” The first part of that line struck me: “the purpose of this science, in so far as it is practical, is eternal bliss.” Sometimes people think that St. Thomas is dry and boring, but I must say that this line caused me great excitement. It is so contrary to what we normally think of when we hear the word “practical.” Sacred doctrine, though primarily theoretical, is practical insofar as it brings us to heaven, our final end. All other practical sciences pale in comparison. This focus on the end of happiness in God has not always been as emphasized as it should be in Catholic moral theology, but St. Thomas places it as the foundation of his treatment of the moral life. Although some (false) caricatures might portray the religious life as anything but happy, it is precisely in this context of happiness that St. Thomas treats of it.

In the remainder of the Prima Secundae (First Part of the Second Part), St. Thomas treats of the principles of the moral life: first, of human acts, both those which are proper to man as well as the passions, which are common both to man and animals, and then of the intrinsic principles of human acts, which are habits of virtue and vice, followed by the extrinsic principles of human acts, which are law and grace. After this, in the vast majority of the Secunda Secundae (Second Part of the Second Part), St. Thomas treats of each of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) and moral virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) in detail, as well as the opposing vices and the corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit regarding each of those virtues. At the very end of the Secunda Secundae, he treats of “those things which pertain especially to certain men,” starting with gratuitous graces relating to knowledge, speech, and the working of miracles.

With the final two subsections of these things pertaining especially to certain men, we have come to the point to narrow our focus. First, we have the division of life into active and contemplative. The final subsection treats of man’s various states and duties, in particular of the state of the perfect, under which he treats the religious life. Lest we leave a wrong impression regarding this last point, let us be clear that St. Thomas does not claim that those entering the religious life or those in the religious life are “the perfect.” It is rather that the form of the life is especially directed toward perfection. By his placement of the religious life at the end of the Secunda Secundae, we see that St. Thomas views the religious life as a privileged form of the realization of the image of God in man.

Having seen the bird’s eye view of the first 412 questions of the Summa in these first two posts, we are now ready to land and explore the terrain of St. Thomas’s treatment of the religious life. In our next post, we will cover the distinction between the active and contemplative life.

See also: St. Thomas recommends Dominican life - Part I

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Phenomenology of the Vows: Chastity

St. Thomas being gird with the belt of chastity
*see also:

In this series so far we have looked at the vows from the perspective provided by Edmund Husserl’s account of phenomenology. Specifically we have used his concepts of intentionality and givenness to highlight aspects of the vows in general and poverty in particular. Intentionality means that thought is always of something, it is not just thought. Givenness means the thing thought is thought as it is given, in a particular way. The thing determines the way we think it. So we might sum up Husserl’s account as “Thought is about something as something.” Almost a tautology, but when interpreted along the above lines a profound reflection on our grasp of reality. In discussing the vow of chastity, I would like to add another important aspect of Husserl’s phenomenology to our tool kit: phenomenological bracketing.

Phenomenological bracketing, or bracketing for short, is an essential element to Husserl’s project, and it means something similar to its grammatical root. To bracket something is to “put it aside” in a way, to keep it out of consideration for the moment. For Husserl, Phenomenology is able to work with the concepts of intentionality and givenness because it brackets certain things out of consideration, thus phenomenological bracketing (or epoche, to use Husserl’s fancy Greek term). What does he bracket?
“The phenomenologist…must practice an epoche. He must inhibit every ordinary objective ‘position,’ and partake in no judgement concerning the objective world. The experience itself will remain what it was, an experience of this house, of this body, of this world in general, in its particular mode. (Phenomenology).”
James Watson and Francis Crick at the lab 
Husserl wants us to bracket out of consideration…the objective world! This seems to be the most radical version of skepticism and relativism imaginable — in order to understand the world we need to ignore or forget its existence! But Husserl’s whole project is about getting “back to the things themselves;” how can he possibly mean this?

Bracketing is the attempt to get behind the “natural attitude” of the world that we all have in everydayness. The “natural attitude” is the basic attitude of the scientist in the lab: the world is one of objects to be categorized and used in experiments; it is a world of utility. Husserl sees this as a fine attitude for science but he thinks it is not about reality in its entirety but if we want to know reality as reality, as it is, than we need to bracket the “objective” facts of the objects we see and attend closely to how we receive them in our experience of consciousness, in particular under the aspects of intentionality and givenness.

All this is fine and good in a course on Husserlian phenomenology, but what does it have to do with the vows, in particular the vow of chastity? I think it is of immense value for understanding this vow especially in the current modern climate. Let me explain.

Of the three vows I think it is obvious that chastity (shorthand for celibate chastity for the religious) is the most difficult to understand in the modern world: It just doesn’t seem to make sense to most people on the street. It seems unnatural to refuse to marry. The great Dominican moral theologian Servais Pinckaers, OP makes this difficulty clear:
“The natural inclination to marriage is universal. Every human person has it, and it is the basis of an inalienable right. It is also the basis of natural law… Yet some may be called to renounce marriage and the exercise of sexuality (Sources of Christian Ethics, 448).”
I submit that the vow of chastity, at first glance, looks a lot like the process of phenomenological bracketing: both seem to be radical denials of the world and surely on the wrong track to understanding and living in the world. If we want to understand the world in itself, bracketing it from consideration surely does not seem to be the right thing to do. Just so, if we want to live a life of love in the world to the fullest, surely renouncing the most basic of human interpersonal inclinations is not the way to do it!

Fr. Servais Pinckaers OP
But just as when we better understood what Husserl meant by bracketing we saw the importance of it for his phenomenology, so too when we better understand what the Church and the Order mean by the vow of chastity we can see the importance and rightness of it. We can begin by realizing that just as the “natural attitude” is actually not natural at all according to Husserl, so too the “natural understanding” of human nature in modernity is not natural in traditional terms. This is because the “natural attitude” of the world in terms of human nature is physical, not natural; it does not admit in any significant way the spiritual aspects of being human, naturally human. And indeed if we were not spiritual as well as physical beings, then generation would be the greatest fruitfulness and chastity would be insane or at least undesirable. But we are spiritual beings, animals informed by a rational soul and the intellectual capacity to transcend the material to contemplate the forms of things below and things above. In fact, according to the Catholic tradition (among others) this is precisely what makes us humans in the first place: our ability to transcend the world in contemplation. And so, if this is what makes humans unique, then directing life towards this human activity is also perfectly natural. Servais Pinckaers, OP explains:
“The ideal of virginity received its legitimate status from nature itself, not indeed from the inclination toward generation but from the yearning for knowledge of divine truth, seen as humanity’s highest good. The choice of virginity or perfect chastity was therefore not opposed to the task of marriage, since it was motivated by the fulfillment of another task, which we might say was even more natural: the progress in the knowledge of truth and goodness for the benefit of all society (SCE, 448).”
The Dominican Constitution says something similar in terms of loving God “with an undivided heart:”
“The brothers who promise chastity ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’ follow in the footsteps of Saint Dominic who for the love of God preserved unblemished virginity throughout his life…We ought to value our profession of chastity as a special gift of grace, by which we unite ourselves more readily to God with an undivided heart, and are more intimately consecrated to him (LCO 25-26).”
Now, to be sure, the vow of chastity also allows a friar to better love all those around him:
“Dominic was so much on fire with zeal for souls that ‘he receive all in a broad embrace of charity and since he loved them all he was loved by all in return, spending himself fully in the service of his neighbor and with compassion for the afflicted’… Impelled by our apostolic vocation we are wholly dedicated to the Church, and thus to love humanity more fully (LCO 25-26).”
St. Dominic and his Friars Fed by Angels - G. Sogliani
Of course, contemplation of God and love of others are by no means from exclusive; far from it! The final object of our contemplation is God, the God who is Love. Our contemplation should lead to acts of love and charity to our brothers and sisters, and the vow of chastity allows us to respond to this loving contemplation in the most universal way. And this response of love, which is practiced first amongst our Dominican brothers, rebounds to the whole Church as we live out this radical gift of charity. As Fr. Pinckaers concludes:
“The power of the Gospel ideal of virginity enlivened by the charity of Christ is manifested notably by its ability to call forth new types of communities, consecrated to the evangelical life through renunciation, contemplation, and devotion. It is the proof, founded on facts and a long history, of the supernatural fruitfulness of Christian virginity (SCE, 452).”

Sunday, January 6, 2013

March for Life 2013 Schedule for Dominican House of Studies

We just wanted you all to know that once again our friars will be in full force at the National March for Life 2013 here in Washington DC. Be sure to look for our banner: "Dominican Friars for Life" and come say hello to us. For more information on the March click here.  EVERYONE IS INVITED TO THESE EVENTS with our friars:

Thursday, Jan 24, 2013Memorial of St. Francis de Sales
     1-2:15 PM:      Tour #1 of Dominican House of Studies (DHS)
     2:30-3:45 PM: Tour #2 of Dominican House of Studies
     4:30 PM:          Office of Readings & Vespers (evening prayer) in DHS chapel
     5:30 PM:  friars depart DHS for Vigil Mass for Life at Shrine
     6:30 PM: National Vigil Mass for Life at National Shrine
                   20 minutes after the Vigil Mass ends, we will pray Compline (night prayer)
                   in the DHS chapel, all are invited

Friday, Jan 25 – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul 
     6:00 AM Holy Hour with 6:20 preaching, 6:30 Lauds (morning prayer),
             benediction in the lower Crypt Church in the Basilica of the National Shrine
     8:00 AM: Community Mass in chapel of the Dominican House of Studies (across the street)
     11:30 AM: Friars depart DHS for the March. We will be gathering in front of the east side of the
                       Smithsonian Castle, near the carousel. Look for the “Dominicans for Life” banner.
     5:30 PM:   Office of Readings & Vespers (evening prayer) DHS Chapel
     7:30 PM – 8:30 PM: Holy Hour for Life in Main Chapel, Dominican House of Studies
                       Solemn Exposition with chant, compline (night prayer), Benediction, Salve
                       Procession with Dominican Litany of our Lady, Confessions available in front
                       parlors of house.
                                                Light reception to follow. All visitors are welcome.

Saturday, Jan 26 – Memorial of SS. Timothy and Titus
      8:00 AM: Community Mass in Chapel of the Dominican House of Studies:
                                                                                       Installation of Acolytes
     10:00 AM – 11:30 AM: Prayer outside of Planned Parenthood (1106 16th St. NW).
                                            Meet at the clinic at 10 AM.

                        Questions? Contact the Pro-Life Coordinator at dhs.prolife@gmail.com

*this page will be updated with further details as they are made available
(from website for Dominican House of Studies)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

FOCUS Conference 2013 or Bust!

A good number of our friars (and friars from the other provinces) will head to Orlando for the national conference (SEEK 2013) for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) together with 6,200 college students from around the country.


Friars coming include:
-Fr. James Brent OP, Director of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity (AWC) & professor at Catholic University
-Fr. Jonathan Kalisch OP, Chaplain (vocation story) & Fr. Chris Saliga OP, Assistant Chaplain of our campus ministry at Dartmouth College
-Fr. James Cuddy OP, Chaplain of our campus ministry at Providence College (vocation story)
-Fr. Austin Litke OP, Assistant Chaplain of our campus ministry at New York University
-Fr. Stephen Alcott OP, Assistant Chaplain of our campus ministry at University of Virginia
-Fr. Benedict Croell OP, Director of Vocations for the Eastern Province Dominicans and friars from other other provinces of the USA including: Fr. Steven Maekawa OP (Western province) Fr. Andy McAlpin OP (Central province), and Fr. John Pitzer OP (Southern province).

FOCUS is one of the more extraordinary movements happening in the US on college campuses. They thrive wherever the environment is secular and so where they are located on campuses across the US, the campus ministries are booming.  Say a prayer for all those participating that the Lord will touch their hearts and help them in efforts for the New Evangelization!
Nashville Sisters, Fr. James Brent OP and Fr. James Cuddy OP
at FOCUS SEEK 2013 conference in Orlando.