The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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The Life of Virtue - Eutrapelia

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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The Life of Virtue - Studiosity

Sunday, September 27, 2009
Study is one of the central components of Dominican spirituality. To be studious is to be appropriately eager to study. It is having the desire to apply one’s mind to something; to learn about it, to know it, so that one may understand it. To develop, foster and have the virtue of studiosity is a good thing. It is just as natural and proper for humans to desire knowledge, as it is to desire the pleasures of food and drink. Aristotle observes in his Metaphysics “all human beings have a natural desire for knowledge." Apart from this natural inclination, we are commanded by God to: “Study wisdom, my son, and make my heart joyful, that thou mayest give an answer to him that reproacheth." Ultimately we all desire to know that which is true, that which is Truth itself; and that Truth, which is God, wishes us to know him.

Studiosity is a desire; it therefore belongs to temperance. If we have an appetite for study, like all appetitive movements, it will need to be moderated. We can easily fall into the vice of curiosity, when we allow our pride to drive our yearning for knowledge. When we do this we try to put ourselves above God. We also do this when we separate our study from the due end: God. This does not mean that when learning about the Imperial German Armee-Inspektion or Cornish cheese- production, we have to insert God; but we must remember that what we are learning about is not the be all and end all of everything.

Also if we engage in study in order to sin, we put ourselves against God. We must be careful in what we study. This requires an element of humility. We might not intend to sin but we can easily fall into sin by studying things that might be above our intelligence. This can lead us into error. Likewise our natural curiosity can become superstitious. St. Augustine gives the example of many being excommunicated by their interest in studying demonology and witchcraft.

We must also remember that there is a hierarchy of our studies. At times we have an obligation to certain pursuits but also some areas are more important than others. We cannot let our curiosity take us off track. St. Jerome observed: "we see priests forsaking the gospels and the prophets, reading stage-plays, and singing the love songs of pastoral idylls." This is not to say that we can not have other studious interests, outside our primary focus, but they must be subordinate. Read more

The Life of Virtue - Humility

Thursday, September 24, 2009

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The Life of Virtue - Modesty

Monday, September 21, 2009
Modesty, like so many of the Christian virtues, has been largely disregarded by Western liberal societies. In the latter half of the twentieth century, modesty in dress was rejected outright by radicals, particularly radical feminists, who saw it simply as a way for men to oppress women and of determining their self-image according to how they dressed. Any criticism of less than modest dress in women was taken to be a cynical attempt by men to make women feel ashamed of their bodies, and thus their identity, something that would in turn make them to be subservient to men.
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The Life of Virtue - Gentleness

Friday, September 18, 2009

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The Life of Virtue - Clemency

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Continence

Sunday, September 13, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Virginity

Friday, September 11, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Chastity

Wednesday, September 09, 2009
When chastity is spoken of in these times most people simply associate it with the edict of ‘not having sex outside of marriage’. Whilst this is not wholly untrue there is a lot more to chastity than one, or even a list, of prohibited actions. Chastity is above all a way of living our lives aright before God in accordance with right reason, living according to the example and teachings of Christ and being courageous enough to separate ourselves from the crowd and not bow to the mores of secular society.

Chastity has as its Latin root the adjective castus, meaning pure and we must remember that this purity for which we aim is not only bodily but it must stem from a purity of the heart and mind. We must strive to be pure as God is pure. This is why in striving for the virtue of chastity we must be aware that it really is an attitude to life, an approach that should govern not simply our physical actions but our thoughts and our words the very way we live before God and our neighbour.

Thomas Aquinas identifies for us two ways in which we can view chastity, the first he terms ‘properly’ and the second ‘metaphorically’ (Summa theologiae II.II 151, 2). The former relates to chastity as “a special virtue having a special matter, namely the concupiscences relating to venereal pleasures” and we can thus identify lust as the vice contrary to chastity. The second approach states that the “spiritual union of the mind with certain things conduces to a pleasure which is the matter of a spiritual chastity.” In other words, the human mind delights in a union with the things of God but when we stray and unite our minds to sinful pleasures we commit, in effect, spiritual fornication.

Society, of course, increasingly makes the possibility of straying sinfully in our minds all the easier. We are daily faced with a barrage of propaganda on a whole host of issues – particularly ‘lifestyle’ issues – which would draw us away from the example of Christ. To stray in thought is often a precursor to straying in deed. It is certain then that we must be watchful and brace ourselves against the many temptations which daily cross our paths. We must be mindful of the words of St Paul, "but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:3).

As the Church teaches, “the virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason" (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2341). Self-mastery over our unruly passions is vital if we are to be truly free and fulfilled and the choice is clear, “either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC §2339). This is no easy thing and we must all learn to persevere. If we fall we must try to pick ourselves up again as quickly as we can and seek God’s forgiveness. His mercy is abundant and we must put all our trust in Him because without Him we can make little progress. As Aquinas states “chastity consists principally in charity and the other theological virtues, whereby the human mind is united to God” (Summa theologiae II.II 151, 2). Charity then, the love of God for us and our love for Him must be our guide: if we can unite ourselves to Christ in prayer and persevere in this, His grace will allow us to flourish and to cultivate this most important virtue of chastity

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The Life of Virtue - Sobriety

Monday, September 07, 2009
At first sight the notion of sobriety as a virtue might seem rather dull, or even worse, puritanical, but St. Thomas is careful to make clear that this is not at all what he has in mind by this virtue of moderation in drink. Like all virtues, sobriety is a good and useful habit that is essential for those who are in the pursuit of a happy and peaceable life. The scriptures are full of exhortations and encouragements that counsel us always to show restraint when drinking, so as to avoid drunkenness, a state that is the cause of so much strife, violence and unnecessary heartache in our society: “wine drunk to excess is bitterness of soul, with provocation and stumbling” (Sirach 31:29). The need to know one’s limit in drinking and the harmful consequences of disregarding it can be plainly in any of our city centres on a Saturday night, where anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related fights are an all too frequent occurrence. Read more
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