A Vida Intellectual – ‘The Intellectual Life’

A Vida Intellectual – ‘The Intellectual Life’

The famous French Dominican philosopher of the early 20th century, Antonin Sertillange, published a work entitled “The Intellectual Life” in which he presented a practical guide to progress in scholarship.  Sertillange held that scholarship is natural.  Human beings have a natural vocation to the intellectual life.  All human beings have a need to develop their intelligence, to engage in study and to search for truth.  In this way they imitate God whose image in the human person includes the intellect.   The intellectual life searches for truth and so leads to God.  The fulfilment of this Christian vocation requires personal commitment to study, time spent in prayer, and participation in community life.

Sertillange held that the intellectual life involves virtue; one must love the truth.  Study that comes from virtue seeks above all union with God.   Virtue turns mere study into genuine pursuit of truth, with the end being the highest truth; God Himself.

Still, the intellectual life has other considerations, as well.  It requires physical health, as well.  As the saying goes, a healthy mind requires a healthy body. The material goods of human nature are important, even though the intellectual goods have priority.  We share with animals physical goods, but it is the intellectual goods that distinguish us.  So when physical goods take priority over intellectual goods, the body becomes an enemy, not a friend, and the human person is diminished, for all physical goods have as their purpose to promote the intellectual goods.  Even sleep has as its purpose the production of ideas.

Intellectual pursuit means focusing on particular ideas, but never one idea to the exclusion of others, lest a certain prejudice develop by which one comes to see reality from a single point of view.   Following the example of St. Thomas Aquinas, the intellectual life requires information from various sources, all in pursuit of the one truth.  The nature of truth is that the search never ends.

Finally, the intellectual life requires us to be efficient in our study.  It is not enough simply to study.  We need the intellectual virtues that help us to understand and retain what we have learned.  Because all the virtues are connected, we need to practice all the virtues if we wish to study well.    Only then may we formulate our own thoughts and cheerfully give to others the fruits of our contemplation.

Br. Danilson Lopes, O.P.

15th November, 2019

Pope St. John Paul II: The faithful Servant of Christ

Pope St. John Paul II: The faithful Servant of Christ

Most people are familiar with today’s saint, Karol Wojtyla, Pope JP II.  Born in Poland in 1920, he died in 2005 at the age of 85, after serving as pope for 27 years, the 2nd longest papacy in history, and the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years.   He was inaugurated pope on this day in 1978.

JP II was beatified 8 years ago in 2011 and canonized a saint 3 years later in 2014.  Both his beatification and canonization took place on Divine Mercy Sunday, the 1st Sunday after Easter.  For his many accomplishments as pope and for his scholarship he is sometimes referred to as John Paul the great.

Karol was the youngest of 3 children.  His sister died before he was born.  His mother died when he was 8.   His older brother died when Karol was 13. 

Karol was athletic.  He played football.  Many of his friends were Jewish.  In fact, his first girlfriend was Jewish.  He performed the mandatory military training, but refused to fire a gun.  He had a talent for languages and eventually became fluent in 12 languages.

During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany in WW II, he worked as a laborer in the rock quarries where he worked long hard hours and sustained many physical injuries.  In 1941, when he was 21, his father died, leaving him as the only surviving member of his family.

It was after his father’s death that Karol decided to become a priest.  He studied in secret because of the oppressive Nazi occupation.  During his seminary studies he avoided Nazi imprisonment and execution by hiding in basements.  He also helped to prevent many Jews from being sent to Nazi concentration camps where they would certainly be killed.

He was ordained a priest at the age of 26.  He then studied for his doctorate in philosophy at the Dominican university of the Angelicum under the famous Dominican scholar Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.  During that time Karol visited Padre Pio who predicted that he would be pope.

While teaching at the University of Lublin Karol organized a group of students who regularly met for prayer and philosophical discussions.  The group also went on hiking, biking, skiing and kayaking trips.  All of this while under the repressive regime of soviet communist occupation.

At the age of 34 he earned a 2nd doctorate, a doctorate in theology, in which he wrote about Catholic moral theology based on phenomenology and personalism. 

Karol wrote a great deal of theological and philosophical works, as well as plays and poetry, always presenting Catholic teaching in a way that the modern world could accept it.    

At the age of 38 he was made auxiliary bishop of Krakow, the youngest bishop in Poland.  6 years later he was made the archbishop of Krakow.  He participated in the Vat II and was the main architect of the principal document Gaudium et spes.  

At the age of 47 he became a cardinal, and at the age of 58 was elected the 264th pope.

Despite the many hardships he had to endure, JP II remained faithful to Christ throughout his life.  That is what made him a saint.  He embodied the words of today’s psalmist; “here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”  He proved to be that blessed servant who Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel as constantly on watch for his master.

Today we enjoy his special intercession.  St JP II, pray for us.

Fr. Gregory Maturi, O.P.

How far with the Mission Appeal? The Director of Development reports

How far with the Mission Appeal? The Director of Development reports

The East African Vicariate (EAV) seeks to become a vice province within the next twenty years.  It will require the vicariate to become financially independent.  To this end, the Vicar and his Council recently established a vicariate development office headed by a director of development whose role is to coordinate fund raising for the vicariate.  These experimental efforts involve sending African Dominicans from the vicariate to work in the US during the long break of the academic year.  Those sent combine parochial ministry with fund raising efforts.

The experiment began last Fall when three African Dominicans from the vicariate worked in US parishes for one month.   We extended the program this year to three months. 

Preliminary results show that the program is promising.  The African Dominicans had a wonderful experience working in the US parishes and were able to raise a significant amount of money for the vicariate.   As well, Dominicans from the Province enjoyed working with the African Dominicans, and they hope to continue this cooperation. 

Fr. Greg Maturi, OP, the development director for the vicariate, coordinated these efforts, as well as do some fund raising of his own.  This past Summer he worked in the Tidewater area of southeastern Virginia (Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach).  He also did some fund raising at three of the naval bases there (Little Creek Amphibious Base, Fort Story, and the Norfolk Naval Station), as well as in New York City and in Ohio.  His efforts were very successful both in terms of the money raised and the connections established for future fund raising.  We hope that in the future African Dominicans will be able to serve in these places, as well.

Fr. Greg’s fund raising is Dominican in nature.  It involves going from Church to Church, preaching at Mass and getting to know the people.   Typically it involves spending two weeks in a parish, preaching at Mass for three weekends, as well as the intervening two weeks of daily Masses.  This time frame gives the parishioner’s time to hear him preach, learn about the mission, and get to know him personally.  It also gives the pastor a two week vacation.  After each Mass Fr. Greg offers self-addressed envelopes that people may use to make donations to the Dominican Mission in Kenya.  He invites them to take one home, pray about it and think about, and if they choose to make a donation they can either mail in their donation or bring it to the church.  This method of fund raising has a number of advantages over a one-time collection, and it seems to be more comfortable for the people.  It also allows Dominicans to have an on-going relationship with those who donate.

Asking for money is very humbling but it is part of our life as mendicants.  It requires us to live simply, for we have a fiduciary responsibility to those who give us money to use it frugally.  After all, they made a sacrifice in giving it to us, so we have to make sacrifices in how we use it.  

The Dominican mission in East Africa is a worthy cause, and Americans happily give to it.  They are very generous.  They love their Catholic faith and so wish to see the Church in Africa grow.   Moreover, they benefit from giving, because only when we spend our money in a way that pleases God may it make us happy.

Silver Jubilee: Mass and Thanksgiving

Silver Jubilee: Mass and Thanksgiving

This year Fr. Greg Maturi, OP (1st left) celebrates 25 years of priestly ordination.  He was ordained on 20 March 1994.  He and his three classmates celebrated their anniversary this year on 24 August at the very Church in which they were ordained, namely St Dominic’s in Washington DC.  Fr. Romanus Cessario, OP preached while the Provincial, Fr. Ken Letoile, OP, gave some closing remarks.  41 Dominican priests concelebrated the Mass, and after the Mass a reception took place in the parish hall.

Although being a priest is very rewarding, it is not easy.  A priest encounters may temptations to live a comfortable, convenient and superficial life.  Celibacy presents a great challenge, but equally challenging is living a life of humility and simplicity.  The things of this world are seductive, and priests need to fight the temptation to live in a worldly way.  To this end pope Francis has made it his signature issue to encourage religious priests to live more authentically their vow of poverty.   He even encourages diocesan priests, who do not take a vow of poverty, to live simply and not imitate the habits of a consumeristic and self-centered culture. 

We Dominicans have an advantage in this area in that we have the patrimony of such great saints as St Thomas Aquinas who though a great scholar, lived a humble and simple life.  Perhaps he learned it from his professor, St Albert the Great, who while bishop of Regensburg refused even to ride a horse, so great was his humility and simplicity.  These great scholars realized that what was most important for a priest is living as a humble and simple life.  Most of all we have the example of St Dominic, who himself lived as a humble and simple priest.  We see this truth especially in the inheritence he bequeathed to us:  “have charity for one another, guard humility, and make voluntary poverty your only treasure.”

The great restorer of Dominican life in 19th century France, Henri Lacordaire, best described the priesthood this way:

To live in the midst of the world, without wishing its pleasures;
To be a member of each family, yet belonging to none;
To share all suffering; to penetrate all secrets; to heal all wounds;
To go from men to God and offer Him their prayers;
To return from God to men to bring pardon and hope;
To have a heart of fire for Charity, and a heart of bronze for Chastity;
To teach and to pardon, console and bless always.
My God, what a life; and it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ.

The Councilor for Formation meets the Student Brothers

The Councilor for Formation meets the Student Brothers

The student friars at Saint Dominic’s Priory, Nairobi, are delighted to have met and shared some light moments with Frere Roger Giase OP, the Inter-Africa Order of Preachers (IAOP) councilor for formation and promoter of studies, on the evening of 10th September 2019. Frere Roger, a Dominican Friar of the Vice Province of Congo, explained his role and duties in the IAOP. Such duties include promoting collaboration in the IAOP entities, sharing information on matter of formation (including respective Rationes Formationis Particularis), organizing student meetings and promoting the on-going formation of formators.

Roger also had the opportunity to listen to the student brothers on various topics of interest, such as, offering their suggestions for the forthcoming IAOP students meeting. They also expressed positive sentiments and encouragement for continued collaboration in formation among different entities in Africa. The Eastern Africa Vicariate was hailed as a good example in this move, as she hosts friars in formation from at least three other entities, namely, the Vice Province of Southern Africa, the Vicariate of Angola and the Vicariate of Rwanda-Burundi.

We continue praying for a united and prosperous IAOP!

Saint Dominic, ora pro nobis!