Quodlibet 12 – How much do Dominicans study?
People who know only a few things about the Dominicans are likely to know that the Order places greater importance on study than almost anything else, besides the vocation to preach. In the English Province, most students will study for a minimum of five years before ordination to the priesthood, and many will study for higher degrees after ordination, either immediately or following a few years of pastoral and preaching experience. However, for the Dominican, being engaged in theological study at some level is a life-long occupation, and does not merely end with formal studies during preparation for the priesthood. It is important that all Dominicans have a good knowledge of theology, because it is needed to preach the Gospel, to shape and influence our entire ministry. We might say that a certain intellectual curiosity is one of the signs of a Dominican vocation.
Despite our reputation for a love of learning, it is important to stress that not all Dominicans are academic high flyers: the call is, after all, to be preachers. Some may study and teach full time, others may spend much less time on the intellectual life. Our ongoing studies need not necessarily be high level academic research. But we need nevertheless to cultivate and use our intellectual gifts in whatever way we can to serve the mission in which we are engaged. This means that we also study a wide range of things, and try always to broaden our horizons. Being a good preacher means being able to speak to a wide range of people, people from different backgrounds, with their hopes and fears. Our study should have as its aim to improve our knowledge of the mysteries of salvation, but also, say, an awareness of the realities faced by the people to whom we preach. The skill is to unite the two aspects in such a way that the Gospel is being communicated to people in a way which they understand, and is true to their circumstances and experiences. So whether a brother is engaged in full time research and writing in Cambridge, teaches moral theology in the Studium here at Oxford, or is a hospital chaplain in Leicester, study of theology and its application to the work being carried out is essential, because it nourishes and sustains the individual, and gives shape, content and depth to his preaching and ministry.
The picture shows St Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church, patron saint of scientists, and teacher of St Thomas Aquinas. His feast is celebrated on 15th November. For an account of his life and work click here.