Dominicans and the Challenge of Thomism
In early July some eighty friars gathered at the priory of St Joseph in Warsaw for a four day conference on ‘Dominicans and the Challenge of Thomism’. Organised by brothers from Warsaw, Toulouse and Washington it brought together teachers and students who have specialised in various aspects of the thought of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the Order’s greatest theologian.
The mornings were given to plenary sessions concerned with Aquinas’s philosophy, systematic theology, and moral teaching. Some of the Order’s most renowned exponents of Thomism spoke including Lawrence Dewan OP of Ottawa, Serge-Thomas Bonino OP of Toulouse, Gilles Emery OP of Fribourg, Romanus Cessario OP of Boston, and Wojciech Giertych OP of Rome. The afternoons were devoted to work in smaller groups where shorter papers were given by scholars from around the world.
Most of the participants came from Europe or North America but there were also brothers from Australia, Vietnam, China and Nigeria. Those who attended from the British Isles were Vivian Boland OP, director of the Aquinas Institute at Oxford, Simon Gaine OP, now of the London community and lecturer at Blackfriars, John Harris OP, regent of studies of the province of Ireland, and Alan O’Sullivan OP, an Irish Dominican who studied at Blackfriars and is currently completing doctoral studies at Fribourg.
For enthusiasts of the thought of Aquinas it was a veritable banquet of rich food and fine wine. Again and again the enduring principles of Aquinas’s philosophical and theological approach were shown to have lost none of their relevance in the task of thinking through contemporary challenges in the Church and in the world. The form of life best adapted to the study of Aquinas’s writings was recalled, a life of contemplation (for Dominicans this means both study and prayer) in what Thomas’s teacher, Albert the Great, called the joy of the society of friends – either a college of professors who also share faith and prayer together, or a Dominican community which is always, as our French brothers put it, une ecole de theologie.
Some of the friars leaving the priory church after one of the offices (note fr Simon Gaine on the left wearing his distinctive sun hat). For more photographs of the event see here. For the conference website see here.