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.

The Student Who Became a Papa

I arrived in Kenya on August 2, 2002. I hoped to teach at Tangaza College, where our brothers study theology, but, of course, it couldn’t happen that first semester, as classes were starting in two weeks.

Just to put my name in for future reference, I visited the College to introduce myself to the Director of Theology. As happens in all of our lives, a happy coincident occurred. (I know very well that it wasn’t a coincidence at all).

Two days before I walked into his office, the Director discovered that the Mariology lecturer would not be available that semester. So, two weeks after arriving in Kenya, I was in a classroom at Tangaza College.

I hope that God arranged this, at least, partially, for my students’ sake. I know for certain that teaching theology and eventually spirituality, philosophy, and even Latin has brought me tremendous graces and blessings. While I learned more than I taught, I hope my students learned something, as well.

The very experience of teaching sisters, brothers and future priests is more than rewarding. How many classrooms in the whole world are filled with students who are vowed to poverty, chastity and obedience – and follow regular schedules of prayer each day? Naturally, they are responsive! And, though I have only lived on two continents, I suspect that Africans may be the world’s most humorous people. And they are most respectful of elders!

I am always moved whenever I attend ordinations or priest’s funerals, as young priests remind me that I taught them in 2004 or 2010. They don’t seem to be too badly affected by the experience, although, perhaps, time heals wounds.

I am especially happy with our own Dominican friars, whom I once taught, as I see them doing good ministries and assuming responsibilities in our communities – and doing very well– even if the things they claim I said and did some years ago couldn’t possibly be true. Of course, I obey those former students who have become my superiors, such as our vicar provincial and the prior of our house. Imagine!

Often, at celebrations, I recognize young priests in the processions (naturally, some carry a few more kilos). I thank God that I have had a small part in their training. Their parents and families, those who formed them in their communities and many other lecturers have contributed much more. Still, I played a part, even if a minor one. Initially, I was touched when a priest informed me that whenever he is transferred, he always brings my notes with him – until he confessed that he never looks at them (this is technically known as “faint praise”).

Some former students are engaged in further studies and some are already lecturers. St. Thomas must have felt rewarded as his own students became teachers, as he remarks: “God governs thing that He makes some of them be causes of others in government; as a master who not only imparts knowledge to his pupils, but gives also the faculty of teaching others” (1a. 103, 7).

Some former students are in areas where there is great need. One former student told me that he is a chaplain in a refugee camp. Another creates schools in South Sudan, even though many schools have been demolished as a result of the civil strife. When I attended an ordination in Lodwar, one of the driest areas in Kenya, at least seven priests and a lay minister were former students and others may have been hiding.

Many of the former students serve the people in parishes, that is, they feed their people with the Word of God and enable them to encounter Christ in the Sacraments. Recently, I was moved during a conversation with a former student, now a parish priest, by all he was doing. I even thanked him. St. Thomas asserts: “The best kind of physician is not the one who devotes his attention to theory alone, but the one who can get down to cases; the same is true in other fields” (1a. 103, 7).

Some of my former students are sisters and brothers who are doing wonderful work. Some time I will put together more information about them.

Some of my students realized that God was calling them to serve Him as lay persons. Some of these use their knowledge and skills to help their parishes. Some are good husbands and fathers. Some have pursued studies in peace and development and contribute to make their countries better places.

Some former students have died in accidents. One student, Fr. Denis Carriere, a Quebec Missionary, whom I taught in 2003, died in Manchuria.

I would like to tell you about one former student in particular, Fr. Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill Missionary. I cannot say that I played a significant role in Fr. Cosmas’s life, although I taught him Mariology and Latin.

For some curious reason, I had saved some old assignments and came across them recently. The assignments were supposed to be anonymous but a few added their names, including Cosmas Ondari. He wrote:

Given that the rosary is a summary of the key moments of Jesus and Mary in fulfilling the plan of salvation, I usually reflect on these events and they inspire me. I also pray that through Mary, I may always stand firm in my life to live a holy and focused life in order to fulfil God’s will for me as a Christian.

I will share with you the story of Fr. Cosmas, through the words of Bishop Andrew Nkea, Bishop of Mamfe, in Cameroon, which he wrote on November 23, 2018:

“At about 3.00 pm local time, on Wednesday the 21st of November, 2018, Rev. Fr. Cosmas Omboto Ondari, a Mill Hill Missionary, who was in front of the Church of the Parish of St. Martin of Tours, Kembong, was shot and killed on the spot in cold blood.

Fr. Cosmas Ondari was the Parochial Vicar of the St. Martin of Tours Parish in Kembong since April 2017.

Bom in Gucha, in Kenya on the 19th of September 1985, Fr. Ondari joined the Missionary Society of St. Joseph, otherwise known as the Mill Hill Missionaries

He did his studies in Theology in the Tangaza University College in Nairobi. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained on the 26th of March 2017.

In April 2017, the Superiors of the Mill Hill Society appointed Fr. Ondari to Mamfe Diocese where he was then posted to the St. Martin of Tours Parish, Kembong as his first appointment, and which turned out to be his last appointment as a priest.

Already in December, 2017, when the security situation in Kembong was very tense, Fr. Ondari and his Parish Priest Fr. Tiberius Vouni, MHM, alongside with some of their parishioners, moved out from Kembong to Mamfe. The village of more than 5000 people was almost completely abandoned and many houses were burnt down.

In April, 2018, in a bid to give hope to the desperate population, many of whom were living in the bushes in horrendous conditions, Fr. Ondari and his Parish Priest courageously opted to go back to Kembong so as to encourage the people to return. Some of the people with whom they ran to Mamfe went back and sought refuge in the closed down premises of the Catholic School in Kembong.

It was in this context that Fr. Ondari was brutally and recklessly murdered on the 21st of November, 2018. Eye Witness accounts say that he was killed by Government Soldiers (Gendarmarie Nationale), who were shooting at random from their passing vehicle.

I visited Kembong Parish on Thursday the 22nd of November, 2018, and I personally counted 21 bullet holes made on the Church building of Kembong where at the time, the priest, the Catechist and many Christians were carrying out various activities in the Mission compound.

The blood of the murdered priest was still clearly seen on the cemented entrance to the Church just at the door. He died right in the house of God and it is our prayer that the God whom he served so well will welcome him into his eternal kingdom.

May the soul of Fr. Cosmas Omboto Ondari, rest in Perfect Peace.

+ Andrew Nkea, bishop of Mamfe”

A few days later, at the close of a requiem Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the Adams area of Nairobi, a large procession of priests filed by Fr. Cosmas’ coffin. Some priests blessed Fr. Cosmas and some blessed themselves. I asked Fr. Cosmas to bless me.

Bishop Andrew told us that an eighty-year old man in the church in Kembong told him, “We have lost our papa.” Bishop Andrew simply said, “He has done his work. He was a papa.”

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

Jubilee Year – In Sequela Christi

Jubilee Year – In Sequela Christi

Inspiration is from Fr. Didier Boillat, O.P. and Fr. Claver Boundja, O.P.

The jubilee we are talking about has its roots in the Bible. During the Jubilee year, individual life as well as community life is filled with favours from The Lord (Grace). Narrative of the Past with its shortcomings, its elements of disappointment, its struggles and hopes are linked to the present complex narratives in a moment of restful celebration of the life we receive as a gift from God. It is a time given to allow a chance for an authentic renewal full of hope. It is a time to reconnect with the newness of God who never gets old or tired. In the life of individuals and communities the presence of God reassumes everything in Christ. God changes everything and liberates everything. He brings everything in a deep movement of transformation.

It is God who offers Humanity the spirituality of the Jubilee. From the Biblical point of view, we know the Jubilee is related to the experience of Freedom, Abundance and Remission. In Leviticus 25, God appears as the one who rules the earth because he sets freedom for the whole creation. The Jubilee is celebrated after « 7 weeks of years », seven times seven years, meaning 49 years which is a symbol of perfection. The Jubilee start before the 49th year is completed, which is a sign of lack of perfection and continue in the 50th year which is the beginning of a new creation. There is a combination here of tension towards perfection in time which has to start afresh, breaking the limits of time. The jubilee is in connection with the sabbatical year symbolised by the gift of the land (Lv 25).

What is said here was an idealistic vision. We know the Jubilee law was never applied fully. It was a kind of utopia leading to a different reality, inviting to another look of reality in order to break the normal usual rhythm of life. It was a law which aimed at consolidating the present of a busy people, having effects on social life. It was useful in strengthening family and social life. Family links and social ties were reinvigorated by a new look on earthly properties in view of a renewed fraternal and social life. We should not forget that the jubilee law was given during exile. Its intent was also to restore the spiritual renewal and shape a new vision.

The three elements of a Jubilee were the idea of repose and rest reminding the Creation Narrative (Gn1,1-24), the regulation of Freeing of Slaves which is found in the Code of the Covenant (Exodus 21 – 24) as well as in the Deuteronomy Code (Deuteronomy 12 – 26) and the Priestly Code (Lv. 17- 27), and the Remission of Debt, offering a new chance  to those who did not show responsibility and stewardship in managing their property and those who were sick (Lv. 25, 23 – 31).

That is why the jubilee year is more than a mere souvenir. The celebration of the Jubilee is crucial in order to prepare for the future. It is rooted in basic needs. It refers to the first paradise. It is a call to peace and harmony, not only with oneself, but also with brothers and sisters as well as with nature. In this context, the jubilee law is to be seen as a kind of contemplation leading to the gift of intelligence and wisdom. The social fabric regains its connection with the religious dimension in which reconciliation with God is achieved and allows fraternal reconciliation amongst ourselves. This work brings about real freedom in as much as people have rediscovered their dependency from God. Our fraternal life is strengthened by the fact that the awareness of being all pilgrims on this earth keeps increasing, knowing that our real citizenship is somewhere else. We can then be open to new possibilities for our social and community structures with a deep sense of forgiveness and reconciliation. This becomes even stronger in the New Testament.

It will be important here to understand the continuity with the Old Testament and the shift from the same Old Testament. Jesus’ public ministry started with these words from Isaiah 61, 1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, bind up hearts that are broken, liberty to captives and to blind new sight, to set downtrodden free, to proclaim the lords year of favour, comfort those who mourn”. Jesus said: “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen” (Luke 4, 16-22). The jubilee becomes a daily style of life. It is not linked with a given number of years any more. We are not told when this jubilee style of life intervenes. Jesus just says that he realizes in himself Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus introduces himself as having in him all the characteristics of a jubilee. He announces deliverance to captives, sight to blind people, remission of debt, liberation of prisoners, newness, abundance of life, presence of God in the midst of his people. It becomes then clear that the last judgement be focused on the jubilee year requirements. Have we been able to be present to our brothers and sisters in need? (Mt 25, 41-45; Jm. 2, 15-16). Fleeing in religious exercises and devotions is not enough. The disciple has to lay down his or her life as Jesus did, giving a living witness to Christ through charity (1 Jn. 3, 16). The poor in spirit (Mt 5, 3) will be the one whose detachment sets him or her free. He/she will live in this world which passes away as a citizen of another world governed by a jubilee law (1 Co 7, 31). 

Jesus Christ being the foundation of our Jubilee life, the Sequela Christi becomes our vocation. « Sequela Christi » is a response to Jesus’ call. Jesus did not conceive his mission as a solitary accomplishment. Starting from the communion he enjoyed since eternity with the Father and the Spirit, we see Him choose a group of simple men and ordinary disciples to be with him and share in his missions (Mt 4,19-22; Mk 3,7-19). This Sequela Christi is our permanent challenge through time and in our various locations as we have to stimulate hope, work for freedom and engage ourselves and our society in a transformative endeavour for integral liberation and human development.

The challenge then is there to face: How am I ready to give to myself, to my community and my Order a new chance? Am I ready for new possibilities for myself, for my community and my Order?

While reflecting on these issues, Fr. Didier Boillat from Switzerland came back to a thought from Saint Augustine linking our life experience with its wounds to our present commitment in building the future: « There are three times: The present of the past, the present of the present and the present of the future. Those three types of times do exist just in our mind. The present of the past is memory, the present of the present is direct intuition, and the present of the future is the expectation » (Saint Augustin).


According to Fr. Didier, this leads us to develop three virtues:

  • Patience: Jesus told his disciples that they should allow time to help discern between wheat and darnel. This patience from God is a mark of the jubilee year.
  • Courage: One cannot enter the jubilee year if one is afraid of newness.
  • Prudence: Here we are implying the capacity to read the signs of time in order to respond adequately to challenges with a renewed vision.

In our “Sequela Christi” we should not forget our own wounds, the wounds of our brothers and sisters as well as the wounds in our society remembering that the wounds of the risen Lord have been a hermeneutical lieu of reconnecting with the historical Jesus (John 20,19) showing the extent to which the love of God can be offered.


Fr. Emmanuel Ntakatarutiman, OP



In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks of the three main virtues of the Christian life; faith, hope and love.  He says that these three last.  He also says that love is the greatest; “the greatest of these is love” (cf.1 Cor 13:13).  Christian believers esteem these virtues as theological, that is they give us a supernatural connection to God.  Moreover they direct all the other virtues including the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance so that we can live like Christ.  Together these seven virtues create the interior transformation of the Christian life.

In this edition of Lumen Gratiae we focus on the virtue of hope.  More than a feeling of expectation or desire, hope gives us certainty about the future.  We know that if we follow Christ authentically, if we walk in his footsteps, we will share in his heavenly life.  The strength for this sequela Christi comes from the grace He gives us in the sacraments, apart from which following Christ would be impossible.  As Dominicans we proclaim the sequela Christi as bequeathed to us by our holy father Dominic.

Several important events have transpired since our previous issue, events that strengthen the virtue of hope.  We will highlight these events in this issue.  They include the success of the Vicariate assembly which not only witnessed the election of the first native born Vicar Provincial, but also expanded the scope of Lumen Gratiae from simply covering the priory of St Dominic (Nairobi) to covering the entire East African vicariate.  In addition, we have witnessed the growth of the studentate and the novitiate.  However, with these signs of hope also come new challenges.  Facing these challenges with renewed hope will solidify our presence in East Africa and enhance our preaching and teaching as St. Dominic encourages us.  

In this issue we include reflections related to our life of study; a reflection on Lonergan’s work, Insight, and a reflection by Fr. Leo entitled Theology of Evangelical poverty.  We also include articles related to our communal life of fraternity and prayer; The Fraternal life at St. Martin de Porres and The Day the Cow Fell in the Pond.  In addition we include reflections related to our apostolic life; St. Dominic’s Kianja Parish and The Dominican Youth Movement.

We pray that the virtue of hope will increase in all of us.  In this regard we ask the intercession of St Dominic and the special intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary, the model par excellence of the virtue of hope.  May the Lord Jesus Christ increase our hope.

Keep us in your prayers.  We look forward to your feedback.

The Day the Cow fell into the Pond

The Day the Cow fell into the Pond

On Friday, August 30, about 1 PM, our biggest cow fell into our deepest pond. Fortunately, her neck remained above the water. Still, it was a pathetic sight, especially with the green algae dangling from her ears.

The workers had named her “Gula,” meaning “greedy,” in recognition of her enormous appetite. She managed to accumulate a weight of at least 200 kilograms, that is, about 450 pounds. She was also 8 ½ months pregnant

The farm workers pumped most of the water out of the pond. Still, her feet were sticking in the mud. Not for even the shortest second did I ever expect that we would get her out of the pond. The two farm workers and a grounds keeper, at least, were experimenting, gathering ropes and boards, though I don’t know why.

When the water was drained, a cement shelf about half way up the side of the pond was exposed. Two mechanics from our neighbors organized raising her onto the shelf. At this point, she was still cooperating as they guided her onto the shelf. As soon as she reached the shelf, she lay down and refused to budge. She had enough of being pulled and pushed.

Hope emerged when our two Masai watchmen (Askaris) appeared. The Masai are famous for their knowledge of cattle.

About 5 pm, eleven of our brothers returned from playing football. They were soon joined by our prior. A variety of approaches were tried to lift the cow, but even 17 men could not lift such a cow, who had no intention of being lifted. Who knows what was going on in the cow’s brain and how she understood why these men were trying to raise her heavy body. One brother began to massage Gula’s head and speak to her – and it calmed her. Even St. Thomas knew that animals have feelings but it was a surprise to realize it.

My reflections became more miserable: good bye to the calf, good bye to the abundance of milk that comes after a cow gives birth (which we could sell), and what were we going to do with 450 pounds of beef after we stuffed the freezer and the refrigerator. We would have to have an ordination and invite everyone we knew.

Then, our prior came up with a plan. Our prior teaches philosophy and philosophers do not have a reputation for being practical but there are exceptions. And besides, the lifting was going nowhere, and no one else had any other ideas.

First, it would be necessary to get a hold of her legs and to turn her over onto her back. Have you ever heard of anyone turning a 450 pound cow onto her back? Not an easy task but with 17 men pushing and pulling, it happened!

Once that was done the prior told the men to tie her two front legs together and then tie her two back legs together. A search produced a heavy pole, which was run beneath the tied feet. Then with 8 men standing on each side of the shelf, lifting the pole, slowly by slowly, the upside down cow began to rise, not quickly, to be sure.

With our brothers and workers strenuously lifting, the cow was pulled to the top of the pond and turned onto solid ground, her feet untied, and she was rolled upside up. The cow appeared finished. Then she opened her eyes and looked around. Mustering what strength she had, she stood up and walked away from the crowd of muddy men. Within seconds, she was in the pasture, eating grass. A cow can get very hungry after such an experience, especially if her name is Gula.

We called the veterinarian to check on her. He inquired whether she was eating and, of course, she was. He said there was no reason for him to come. We asked him to check the unborn calf. His answer was the same, if the mother is eating, the calf is ok.

Other friars probably had the same experience I had, when I walked by the next day, Gula looked at me with big sad cow eyes. She never expected we would treat her in such a way. I told her I was sorry but really she had something to do with it in the first place.

Two weeks later, Gula gave birth to a healthy young bull, whom we named “Taabu,” “Troubles.”

Denis Vincent Wiseman, O.P.

St. Dominic Kianja Parish

St. Dominic Kianja Parish

We find ourselves pondering the feasibility of the new ministry at St. Dominic Catholic Church – Kianja (Kisumu).  Are we in a position to take on this new parish apostolate? Let us analyze some of its foreseen benefits and challenges.

In terms of benefits, the idea is good as it offers an apostolate for the priory in Kisumu (St Martin de Porres) which is the original house of the vicariate, and having a parish in the Archdiocese of Kisumu will help to establish in the Archdiocese. In addition, the parish will offer those in the formation program an opportunity for direct participation in a vicariate ministry. Previous chapters (meetings) of the Priory have raised the issue of more apostolates to help support the community. 

 It could also ensure economic sustenance for the priory, though presently minimal, there is hope for a better future. The parish would be an ideal place for fostering vocations to the vicariate, as the parishioners could also utilize our St Catherine of Siena retreat house and the proposed Shrine.

 We also project some few challenges including: The present minimal remuneration offered by Christian community, but which we anticipate to grow with time. As the Parish is new and just unveiled recently by the Archbishop, the Christian faithful together with the Friars will continue laboring to see it the Parish construction and structuring. 

 Though a new venture, the Christian community, in their simple but profound ways, have shown desire to grow in faith and support the ministers of the Word. Are we ready and disposed to journey with them?

 So far the Friars within the Priory have also yielded to the spiritual demands of the people of God and the local ordinary through their continued support through the weekly celebration of Holy Mass, administration of Sacraments and accompaniment in prayers.

As we near completion of the formal agreement with the Archbishop concerning this noble endeavour and implanting of a Dominican identity to Parish and Archdiocese of Kisumu, we beseech your prayers, advice and support.

May the hope, grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and blessed Dominic be with you!

 Charles Kato, op