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Intellectual Life

Dominicans in Pyrenees

Creatures endowed with intelligence

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Catholics are called to a love of God which both respects His transcendent mystery, and recognizes that our Creator has gifted us with the intelligence to know Him, and so love Him, as He has freely revealed Himself to us.

To be a Dominican is first to be struck by this divine revelation in all its complexity. God speaks to us in the created order of nature which reflects the dazzling glory, beauty, and reach of the divine mind, but also through the formation of a people, Israel, whose history and scriptures lead up to the advent of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Our vocation has its roots in the conviction that love for God therefore demands a passionate commitment to making what sense we can of the truth revealed to us in faith. There can be no genuine love of God which is not a willingness to open our mind to His divine Word.

The training of Friars

Such study is the work of a life time, though it has a more formal, institutional, form in a friar’s initial training. Through academic study of philosophy and then theology, both Scripture and Tradition, we come in the course of some six or so years to surrender some of our half truths or prejudices, and attend to the Church’s rich teaching. In this we draw especially on the wisdom of St Thomas Aquinas, with his concern for reasoned argument and attention to counter-arguments, as well as his crucial insight that God in Christ desires our knowing, trusting, friendship. This initial formation often leads to higher and more specialised studies later, so that we can in turn teach and share what we have learnt.

Such study is not divorced from prayer or spirituality. Heart and mind are closely connected. We cannot love what we do not know. We are chastened, humbled, interrogated, sustained by what we learn of God’s majesty, generosity, and mercy. Theology provides food for contemplation, the fruits of which we are called to communicate in our preaching.

The training of Friars

The intellectual apostolate

In the English Province, preaching, and our intellectual apostolate, takes a wide variety of forms. There is our online sermon site, Torch, our Oxford University Hall with its specialist centres in theology and public life, the many talks on doctrine and faith given by the brethren in dioceses, University chaplaincies, and elsewhere, books, articles, and blogs!

Some of us teach in schools and colleges; all of us want to explain the truth entrusted to us.

Blackfriars Oxford students