Principles and Practice
DOMINICAN LIFE is DOCTRINAL
Teaching and defending the faith in the pulpit is the apostolate of the Order of Preachers. The Order has widened this primary apostolate to include teaching, and other ways of communicating truth. The classroom and the press are important channels of Dominican activity. Teaching the truth in any way whatever makes the Dominican merciful: one who “instructs the ignorant,” and “counsels the doubtful.” The Constitutions directly refer to this apostolate of mercy:
Our Order is known to have been founded from the beginning especially for preaching and the salvation of souls. Wherefore our study ought to aim principally at this that we might be useful to the souls of our neighbors. Intimately connected with this proper end is the teaching and defense of the truth of the Catholic faith both verbally in the schools and in much writing.
The special end of the nuns of the Order is “to implore for the labors of their brethren abundant fruit in holiness.” The pursuit of this end fulfills several of the spiritual works of mercy: one of them directly, when the nuns pray for their brothers and sisters who are engaged in the active apostolate; and the others indirectly, when through the graces they implore for their brethren they share in the instruction of the ignorant and participate in counselling the doubtful.
Dominican sisters have made further extensions of the Order’s apostolate of mercy. They not only teach but have undertaken the care of the sick and orphans. The mercy of the sisters is immediately evident from the opening, chapter of their Constitutions:
The principal and essential end of our congregation is the personal sanctification of the sisters. The secondary or special end is the education of Catholic youth, and/or the care of orphans, the nursing of the sick, the conducting of retreat houses, foreign missions and catechetical and social work.
A sister in the classroom or caring for orphans teaches the children entrusted to her. A good nurse or social worker is teaching all the time. These sisters teach their charges how to find Christ, how to know him, and how to love him.
Dominicans and Study
Teaching involves study. The Constitutions place “the assiduous study of sacred truth” among the essential means of achieving the Order’s end. Such devotion to truth gives a specific, particular flavor to the Dominican way of doing things. Humbert of Romans places our study in proper perspective: “Study is not the end of our Order, but is extremely necessary to secure its twofold end, namely, preaching and the salvation of souls. For without study neither can be achieved.”
St. Dominic had a deep appreciation of learning, study, and teaching. So profound was his love for the truths of the faith that he spent his entire life proclaiming them and was anxious to die for them. He wanted to spread the truths of faith to the ends of the earth. He so valued revealed truth that he always earned the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul. He “often admonished and exhorted the friars of the Order by word and letter to study constantly in the Old and the New Testament” As a student at Palencia, he was so anxious to begin the study of theology that he hastened through the liberal arts course.
When he felt that he had sufficiently learned the arts, he stopped studying them, as if he were reluctant to spend any longer time in these less fruitful studies, and turned to the study of theology. He spent four years in these sacred studies during which he drank avidly and incessantly from the streams of Sacred Scripture. So indefatigable was his zeal to learn and retain tenaciously the truth of those things which he was learning that ha would spend almost whole nights without sleep . . . . God added to him the grace of knowledge so that he might be ready not only to drink milk but to probe with humility the secrets of difficult questions and swallow the meat of inquiry with ease.
As this text indicates, study of theology in the medieval schools was study of Sacred Scripture. The master of theology was the master of the sacred page, that is, the master of Sacred Scripture. It was the bachelor of theology’s duty to expound the sacred books textually. To the master was reserved a profound doctrinal interpretation of the text. It is to St. Thomas tenure as master of theology that we owe his commentaries on the books of the Old and New Testaments. When St. Dominic prompted the early friars to study the Old and New Testaments constantly, he was telling them to study their theology — to know the truths of the faith, to drink them from the very font.
In setting a contemplative and apostolic end for his sons and daughters, the Founder gave them duties that cannot be fulfilled unless they study and proclaim the truth. When Bishop Foulques of Toulouse approved the Order of Preachers as a diocesan institute in 1215, Dominic had already impressed this doctrinal character on his Order. In the Bishop’s foundation charter we read: “We institute the Order of Preachers to stamp out heresy and vice, to teach the faith, and to establish men in a life of sound morality.” The Constitutions indicate these same ends: “Our Order was founded from the beginning for preaching and the salvation of souls.” It is impossible to do what the charter of 1215 proposed or what the Constitutions command without study.
The Saint wanted the best education possible for his children. Soon after Bishop Foulques had issued his charter, the Founder enrolled his first sons for a course of theology at the cathedral school of Toulouse under Master Alexander of Stavensby. Early in 1216 the friars began to put up their first priory, that of St. Romanus in Toulouse. Jordan of Saxony, our only authority for this event, says everything he has to say about it in one short sentence. He doesn’t say how big it was, whether it was made of bricks, stone, or wood, or what street it was on. Only one thing stood out in his mind as worth recording: ” . . . it had cells for studying.”
In August, 1217, St. Dominic sent eight of his small band of sixteen to Paris. They went there, John of Spain informs us in the canonization process, “to study, to preach, and to found a priory.” They did just that, establishing St. Jacques priory and enrolling at the University of Paris, the mother university of the world. In 1218, Dominic founded another house at Bologna, the seat of the second university of Europe. The next year, when he visited Paris, he engaged the services of John of St. Albans, master of theology, to give his courses at the Dominican priory. This act incorporated St. Jacques into the University and gave it official status, making it the first house of studies of any religious Order at the first university of Europe. In 1220, when the King of Castile founded the University of Palencia, the Founder sent friars to that city. In the same year, the municipal authorities of Montpellier in southern France bean a university, and ho founded a priory there. In 1221, at the second general chapter of the Order, he sent thirteen friars to Oxford to open a house at the university, the third great intellectual center of Christendom. As Father Jarrett rightly remarks:
The main point to be noted . . . is the true objective of the friars on their arrival [in England] was Oxford. They halted at Cantebury and London, but it is clear that they as yet made no foundation in either of these places. This is a noticeable fact, and it supplies the keynote of the Dominican ideal. These friars arrived in England, strange and unknown, their dress unfamiliar, their fashion of life new and so far untried in these islands. They were welcomed in the ecclesiastical capital of the country, but they passed on. They arrived at the political capital where dwelt the government and the commercial center; but this too they left. It was the intellectual capital of England that they “finally reached.” They made their first settlement, not near the Primate, not the King but at the University, far in the Middle Ages it was a common saying that there were three great powers in Christendom, the Sacerdotium, the Imperium, and the Studium, and the greatest of these was the Studium.
It was quite in keeping with this tradition that the American Dominicans transferred their studium from Ohio to Washington, D.C., soon after the Catholic University of America opened its doors. As at Paris, the Friars Preachers were the first of the Orders to establish themselves at the new university, contributing both professors and students to the new institution. This coming of the friars was of tremendous significance both for the Province of St. Joseph and the university. His Eminence James Cardinal Gibbons, in an after-dinner address on the occasion of the Order’s Seven-Hundredth Anniversary 1916, expressed his gratitude for the timely support the Order brought to the university by establishing its House of Studies just off campus:
I shall confine my remarks to what the Order of Saint Dominic has done for the Catholic University of America. For the Dominicans have given a striking proof of such sympathetic friendship by rallying loyally to the support of the University in its hour of need. A hundred years from now, doubtless, the foundation of the University will be conceded to have been the greatest Catholic achievement of our times: and to the Fathers of St. Dominic will be justly accorded no small measure of the credit for its success . . . .
The University, as you know, has had its dark days — its days of trial and tribulation, when its very existence was threatened and the period of its usefulness seemed to be at an end. The clouds were, indeed, dark, for all appeared to be in a state of dissolution. It was just at this moment — a moment of almost despair on the part of the American hierarchy — that the Fathers of Saint Dominic came like brave soldiers to the rescue. They came to express their confidence in the University and their conviction that it must continue and must succeed. To all interested in the University their coming gave a moral support the value of which cannot be overestimated. To me, the chancellor, it was as a ray of light shining out in the blackness of night. Had they not come when they did, we should have lacked a sorely needed moral support without which the University might never have survived. The group of religious Orders that has now gathered about the University and is constantly being augmented, or are gathering, has but strengthened the confidence and confirmed the assurance given by the optimism of the Dominicans . . .
This imposing array of facts demonstrates clearly the importance the Friars Preachers attach to learning. St. Dominic wanted his men near the universities where they could learn the sacred sciences under the best theologians of Europe. When he sent his sons to school it was clear that some of them would become teachers. That was one of the reasons for sending them. The Constitutions required every priory to have its professor as well as prior. But over and above that, it was impossible to take a degree at the medieval university without teaching, which was part of the training. It is not surprising to see the Dominicans at Paris acquiring their first professional chair in 1229 and their second in 1230, less than a decade after the Saint’s death. He was such a practical man that he put into the Constitutions at the first general chapter detailed regulations governing study, the duties of the master of students, and the student life of the friar. They permitted the brethren “to read, write, pray, sleep. and also, those who wish, to stay up at night to study” in their cells. The novice master was instructed to teach the novices, “how they ought to be so intent on study that day and night, at home or on the road, they read or meditate something.”
This was something new in the history of religious Orders. For the first time in a thousand years of monastic history, a religious Order incorporated into its rule sections dealing with the academic life. A deep significance attaches to this fact. By writing these laws into the Constitutions, St. Dominic sanctified study and learning. The regulations dealing with shady stand side by side, on the same footing, with the rubrics dealing with the conventual Mass, the Divine Office, prayer, and preaching. These laws made study a sacred obligation for every Dominican, an obligation that binds with the same force that prayer binds. Saints Albert and Thomas symbolize the sanctifying power and the sacred nature of learning pursued for the love of souls; the Church has declared the first the patron saint of those who study the natural sciences, the second the patron of all Catholic schools.
In the Order’s life there is no break in religious continuity when the friar steps from the chapel into the study room or classroom. In each place he fulfills a religious obligation. A Dominican is not less a religious when he leaves the choir. Study is an indispensable preparation for his spiritual life, preaching, teaching, and apostolate. For the nun, study is essential “for the devout and constant contemplation of Our Lord, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.” For the sister, it is necessary for her personal sanctification and for teaching or nursing.
The Order’s history shows that its members have been loyal to this intellectual heritage. Great schools have dotted the Dominican map: The College of St. Gregory at Valladolid, St. Stephen at Salamanca, St. Thomas at the Minerva and its successor, the University of St. Thomas in Rome, the Biblical School at St. Stephen’s in Jerusalem.
In the New World, before Harvard began classes in 1636, Spanish friars had built a chain of colleges and universities that stretched from the West Indies, through Mexico, into South America, and across the Pacific to the Philippine Islands. San Domingo, Havana, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Caracas, Bogota had Dominican colleges or universities awarding higher degrees. The University of Santo Tomas, founded at Manila in 1611, and still operated by Dominicans, is the oldest University in Asia. Today it has more than 30,000 students.
The force of this intellectual tradition led the American Dominicans in Kentucky, under the leadership of Father Fenwick, to set up a college as soon as they established a priory. St. Thomas College was the first Catholic college west of the Alleghenies and the third any place in the United States. This frontier institution failed after twenty years. The fathers founded two other colleges that had short lives, but they finally succeeded at Providence, Rhode Island. American Dominicans have become increasingly involved in education. The 17,000 American Dominican Sisters in the United States, most of whom are teachers and deeply aware of the Order’s doctrinal apostolate, have founded and staff twenty-four colleges and surely this is not yet the end.
The modern intellectual apostolate demands that teachers be trained academically. This was not so necessary in 1850, or even as late as 1920. But in the latter half of the twentieth century it is essential. If Catholic schools are to keep pace and have their place in the intellectual world, then teachers must be carefully prepared. The construction of college buildings, libraries, and research centers at Dominican priories and motherhouses and on Dominican campuses is a development that our Founder would approve.
He did not want the Order to stagnate. “Seed which is hoarded becomes rotten; when scattered it germinates,” was his dictum when he daringly sent his sons to every corner of Europe to open new frontiers in the history of religious Orders. Dominicans must keep moving and remain abreast of the times. If Dominic were living today, he would make changes and adaptations to keep his Order in harmony with twentieth-century developments. We know that he would do this because he wrote the Constitutions in such a way that needed changes can always be made. Old laws can be abolished, new laws put in their place, and whole new sections added to the Constitutions by using the machinery of the general chapters.
Keeping the Order up-to-date is not only in agreement with our heritage and constant tradition, but is what the Church expects of its Orders. His Excellency Cardinal Larraona, Secretary of the Congregation for Religious and the Pope’s legate at the 1956 Conference of Religious at Notre Dame, told the assembled delegates that they must make the changes necessary to keep their apostolates modern. “By doing what your founders would do in your place, what they would do if they were living in your times, you will continue their work.” The master general and the general chapter have the right to make adaptations of existing law in St. Dominic’s name. When the master general gives his blessing, he gives the blessing of St. Dominic. Michael Cardinal Browne (then Master General) told American Dominicans when he was in the United States that he spoke in the name of our Founder, that what he said was what “our holy Father Dominic would say were he here with you.”
A Dominican should rejoice when the Order updates its apostolate. St. Dominic was an “up-to-the-minute” man of the thirteenth century. With the foundation of the Order, he met the problems of his day. These problems included bishops who did not preach, priests who did not instruct, people who did not know their faith. Schools founded in every one of the Order’s priories, in accordance with the Constitutions, soon formed an elite priesthood, preachers who were well-prepared to preach, confessors who knew how to admonish and advise, spiritual directors who could lead souls to sanctity, and learned theologians who were the theological leaders of the Church. Little wonder that popes and bishops drafted the friars, despite their reluctance, for all kinds of services. Well into modern times, when they wanted legates to go on embassies or to do special kinds of ecclesiastical work, they turned to the friars. Today, when secular clergy and religious are almost universally well-instructed, Dominicans are not called on so often to undertake these extraordinary duties.
St. Dominic would approve anything we do to meet modern conditions, provided we do not change the character of the Order. The basic problem is the same in all ages, that is, to teach the faith. Our Lord says to every age of apostles: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 19-20). But the message of salvation must be expressed in the language of the day. No Dominican today preaches like the friars of 700 years ago; he does not teach like they did. Perhaps they taught better, certainly St. Thomas did, but the methods were medieval, today they must be modern. The twentieth century Dominican must be a twentieth-century man. St. Paul said:
I have become to the Jews a Jew that I might gain those under the Law; to those without the Law, as one without the Law . . . that I might gain those without the Law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all. I do all things for the sake of the Gospel, that I may be made partaker thereof (I Cor. 9:20-23).
The Dominican must say: “I became an American to the Americans, that I might gain the Americans; a twentieth-century priest, that I might gain twentieth-century men.” He must understand the thought-patterns of his fellow-citizen, learn how he thinks, how he lives, how he is trained. The friar must take the eternal truths and adapt them, particularize them, to meet the needs of this decade. That is how St. Dominic, St. Albert, and St. Thomas acted. When the medieval Church sought a solution for the great ecclesiastical problems of the thirteenth-century, St. Dominic pointed the way with a new kind of religious Institute, a mixed contemplative and apostolic Order. When the theologians of Europe floundered in their attempt to cope with the eastern learning that was flooding the West for the first time after many centuries, Albert the Great, with the insight of genius, divined the situation and probed the needs of his time. He realized that neither flight from Aristotle, prohibition of his works, nor eclectic choice of his texts was the right solution. Christian thought must enter into this heritage and make it its own. But it remained for St. Thomas to complete the work. Albert prepared the way but never constructed an integral system of philosophical and theological thought. Thomas cut through the gropings and hesitations of his predecessors to construct the first system of philosophy since the Greeks and the first system of theology since Augustine. In his writings, Thomas dealt with every problem of the day. He was meek and mild, never raised his voice to an adversary, but he was a Christian gladiator who spent all the years of his professorship in the arena. He beat out the sword of Thomism in the forge of battle, on the anvil of combat, under the fire of enemies. Vital, contemporary problems were at issue in every campaign.
The superficial modern reader, not knowing the back ground of Thomas’ life, might conclude from reading hip works, that these problems were very far afield indeed But as a master of theology at Paris, Naples, and Rome; Thomas was in the thick of all the controversies that were waging at the time. His was a constant dialogue, a continuous encounter with the best minds of the day in his opuscula especially, he handled correct problems
A century ago, Père Lacordaire lived a similar life in the arena.. He was alive to the needs of nineteenth century Europe as few men of his time. It is significant of the modernity and flexibility of the Dominican Order that when the ultra-modern Lacordaire, one of the founders of Liberal-Catholicism, decided to enter a religious Order he became a Dominican. He had studied the religious life in its every phase with the intent of embracing it and was well able to explain why he brought an old Order back to France instead of founding a new one of his own:
Even were God to give us the power of creating a religious Order, we feel sure, after much reflection, that we could find nothing newer, nothing better adapted to our own time and to our own wants than the rule of St. Dominic. It has nothing ancient about it but its history, and we do not see any necessity of torturing our minds for the simple pleasure of dating from yesterday.
Père Joseph Lagrange met the needs of the Church at the turn of the century with his pioneer work on the Bible. He answered the attacks of the Higher Critics by stealing their weapons. fie was so far ahead of other Catholic biblical scholars that only half a century later did they begin to catch up with him. The Order is proud of his work and the school he founded — St. Stephen’s Biblical School in Jerusalem, one of the world’s foremost centers of Scripture studies. Its professors are in the front-rank of biblical scholarship. The work of Père Henri Pire for refugees in our post-war world is so well-known that it need not be described.
St. Dominic would approve the work the Order is doing today. He approves of Dominican sisters teaching in classrooms of all schools from kindergarten to university. In the thirteenth century, our fathers taught only the sacred sciences in houses of study and universities. There were no other schools in that day except law schools and the schools of the guilds. Women seldom received a formal education. Today every young man and woman needs an education. It is absolutely normal for Dominicans to teach the youth of the day. It was normal in the thirteenth century to teach the sacred sciences to clerics, practically the only youth who received an education. It is certainly laudable today to teach the variety of studies that the young people of our day need — religion or theology, mathematics or music, biology or nuclear physics. Whether the Dominican teaches in school or in the hospital room, he can always say: “I am a child of St. Dominic.” All truth is Christian, because all truth comes from God. All these subjects are necessary today to fashion the whole man, the integral member of the Mystical Body of Christ destined for heaven. All education is directed toward that ultimate destiny. Dominicans of today must somehow be engaged in the field of education to achieve the Dominican apostolate — the salvation of souls through preaching.
The Sources of the Dominican Apostolate
How can the Dominican prepare for preaching and teaching in the Dominican way? He must do it in St. Dominic’s way, seeking to know Christ, to be united with him in the bonds of closest friendship. It was as a contemplative united to Christ that Dominic gained the grace of the apostle; a thought to which Dante, the poet-theologian of medieval Italy, gave lovely expression:
. . . And there was born
The loving minion of the Christian faith,
The Hallow’d wrestler, gentle to his own,
And to his enemies terrible . . .
And I speak of him as the laborer
Whom Christ in His own garden chose to be
His helpmate. Messenger he seem’d and friend,
Fast-knit to Christ; and the first love he show’d
Was after the first counsel that Christ gave.
Then with sage doctrine and good will to help.
Forth on his great apostleship he fared,
Like torrent bursting from a lofty vein;
And dashing ‘gainst the stocks of heresy,
Smote fiercest where resistance was most stout.
It is as “friend, fast knit to Christ” that Dominic became his “laborer”, “helpmate”, “messenger”. Before preaching Christ Crucified, Dominic spent long hours contemplating him:
He would remain before the altar or in the chapter room with his gaze fixed on the Crucified One, looking upon him with perfect attention. He genuflected frequently, again and again . . . . Thus there was formed in our holy father St. Dominic a great confidence in God’s mercy to. wards himself, all sinners, and for the perseverance of the younger brethren whom he sent forth to preach to souls.
Beneath the Crucifix he merited the “double spirit” of contemplation and action, the grace to take upon himself, in the words of the heavenly Father in the Dialogues of St. Catherine of Siena, “. . . the office of the Word, my only-begotten Son. And at once he appeared before the world as an apostle, sowing my word with much truth and light. He was a light that I placed in the world by means of Mary.”
All saintly Dominicans became apostles at the feet of Christ. St. Thomas was devoted to the Blessed Sacrament; St. Albert to the Eucharistic Heart. Bl. Henry Suso carved the sacred Name of Jesus on his breast. St. Catherine of Siena accomplished everything “in the Blood of Christ”. It was Christ, the Divine Truth, “God of God, Light of Light”, whom they sought in their devotions. The Friar Preacher must become so wrapped up in Christ, that he can speak of nothing else. With St. Paul he must say: “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). As a man of prayer, he will preach and teach “Christ and him crucified” no matter where he preaches or teaches, because in his own life he has become “another Christ”.
The Dominican, therefore, must prepare to preach and teach by becoming a contemplative. Contemplation must be primary in his life; he must be a contemplative committed to the apostolate. It is his ideal to contemplate and to have the fruits of his contemplation, of his life of prayer, flow into his apostolate. His apostolic work will bear fruit to the extent that he is personally holy. His apostolate must be “shaped in the sanctuary, the choir, and the cloister.” The Dominican’s contemplation must be Christlike and redemptive. He must see Christ in those who hear him, in those he teaches, in those he nurses. As the early Christians put it: “He who sees his neighbor sees God.” Each listener, each student, each patient has been redeemed by Christ, in a sense, is Christ. The Dominican apostle must see Christ in each human being, whether an energetic child or an aged sick person, even the most annoying, the one who tries his patience most.
The Dominican contemplative preparing for preaching and teaching must never feel that time given to prayer is time stolen from the apostolate. Nor must he regret it when duty calls him from the choir to the classroom or the pulpit. His prayer and study are not sealed off in separate compartments; rather, there is a constant ebb and flow: from prayer to study, from study to prayer. He must never become an “intellectual”, in current slang, an “egg-head”, a person who has no use for prayer and the things of the spirit; one who is all head and no heart. It is sometimes said that it is Dominican to be an “intellectual”. It is, but not with quotation marks. A Dominican intellectual is first a man of prayer; he is a prayerful intellectual. Prayer seasons and warms his learning, gives it life, frees it from the cobwebs and dust of ponderous tomes.
The most-outstanding teachers of the Order have studied and taught as contemplatives. St. Albert, the greatest scholar of his generation, was also a saint, and formed a saint. Here is how Thomas of Cantimprè, one of Albert’s Dominican students, describes his teacher:
As a student over a long period, I have seen and noted that almost every day for many years when Master Albert was regent of theology, he so devoted himself to prayer, day and night, that he recited the 150 psalms of David every day.
Some modern authors, commenting on this passage, say that Cantimprè must have made a mistake; he meant the seven penitential psalms, not the psalter. But he was a learned friar; he knew much better than we do, from personal experience, what the seven penitential psalms and the psalter are. There is only one psalter and it is composed of the 150 psalms of David. But Albert was not distracted by the noises and diversions of modern life. Then Cantimprè continued: “He dedicated himself to the canonical hours, his lectures, and disputations.” In fact, he used a word that drawing-room minds might consider inelegant. Where I said “dedicated”, Cantimprè said “sweated” — Sudavit. Albert “Sweated over the canonical hours, his lectures, and disputations.” It means being supremely attentive and painstaking. Then Cantimprè concluded: “Is it any wonder that such a man, advancing in such a holy and upright way, should make more than human progress in virtue?” William of Tocco also wrote about Albert in his life of St. Thomas, telling us that, “this wonderful master offered his students simultaneously the knowledge of wisdom and the example of a holy life” — the perfect teacher.
Perhaps it was from Albert’s example that St. Thomas learned the close connection between goodness of life and learning. Leo XIII, proclaiming him Patron of Catholic Schools, found that he possessed these two qualities in an eminent degree: “The Angelic Doctor is great no less in his virtue and holiness than in his doctrine. Virtue is the most excellent preparation for training the powers of the mind and for acquiring learning.”
The contemporaries of St. Thomas were impressed by his habit of turning to prayer when he ran into difficulties in his studies. Reginald of Piperno, his companion for many years, made the following statement to one of his classes shortly after the funeral of his master:
My dear brothers, while my master lived I was prevented by him from revealing the wonderful things I know about him. Among these was this, that his knowledge, which was amazing beyond that of others, was not the result of human genius but of prayer. For always before he studied, disputed, lectured, wrote, or dictated, he would have recourse to the help of prayer, begging with tears to be shown the truth about the divine things he had to investigate. By the merit of this prayer, the things that were doubtful before he began to pray, became, after his prayer, wonderfully clear to him.
Reginald cited this striking example of such recourse to prayer:
On another occasion it was an obscure text on Isaias that puzzled him. So much so that for many days he could not get any further with it, though he prayed and fasted assiduously, begging for light to see into the prophet’s mind. At last, one night when he had stayed up to pray, his companion overheard him speaking, as it seemed, with other persons in the room. Though what was being said the companion could not make out, nor did he recognize the other voices. Then these fell silent and he heard Thomas calling, “Reginald, my son, get up and bring a light and the commentary on Isaias. I want you to write for me.”
(St. Thomas had a difficult handwriting which was regular but hard to read. A trained paleographer of the Leonine Commission has estimated that it takes six months to learn how to read it well. After his first ten years as professor, St. Thomas stopped writing his works. He made outlines and dictated to his secretaries, one of whom was Reginald).
So Reginald rose and began to take down the dictation, which ran so clearly that it was as if the master were reading aloud from a book under his eyes. This continued for an hour, and then Thomas said, “Now go back to bed, son: there is little time left for sleep.” (But Reginald wouldn’t go. He refused to move until Thomas would tell him who had been speaking with him.) At last Thomas said, while tears ran down his cheeks: “My son, you have seen the distress I have suffered lately because of that text which I have only now finished explaining. I could not understand it, and I begged Our Lord to help me, and tonight He sent His blessed Apostles to me, Peter and Paul, whose intercession I had also begged for; and they have spoken to me and told me all I desired to know. But now, in God’s name, never tell anyone else of this as long as I live. I have told you only because you urge me so strongly.”
If the Dominican wants to teach in the Dominican way, he must do so with a sense of mission. The word “mission” comes from Latin: mittere, to send. He must teach as one sent by the Church. It is true that only the bishops officially teach. They send the priests. And just as the bishop cannot do it all alone but sends priests, so priests cannot do it alone, but need the sisters. Sisters are not official teachers in the sense that bishops and priests are, but they collaborate with the priests, teaching with a definite commission from the Church herself to do so.
Members of the Order must enter their apostolate with a love for truth. All truth is one, but in our poor human way we can only understand it by dividing it into subjects of study. All truth is a reflection of God, the first Truth. All truth comes from him and leads back to him. Love for truth must permeate the entire life of the Friar Preacher. His pursuit of truth is the heart of his preparation for the apostolate; it is the burden of his message when he preaches, teaches, counsels, or instructs. It conditions all he does or says: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
When the Dominican rises from prayer and ascends the pulpit or enters the classroom, he must go as Christ went into the roads of Palestine, as the Apostles went into the highways of the world, as Dominic went through the Albigensian country and across the plains of Lombardy — “seeking souls, preaching the word, being urgent in season, out of season; reproving, entreating, rebuking with all patience and teaching” (II Tim. 2:2).
That was how St. Dominic wanted his children to preach and teach, imitating his own indomitable spirit. John of Spain gives us a graphic description of that spirit:
Filled with compassion, he most ardently desired his neighbor’s salvation. He himself preached often and in every way possible exhorted the brethren to preach. He sent them out to preach, begging and urging them to be solicitous for the salvation of souls. Confiding greatly in God, he sent even the ungifted ones to preach, saying to them: “Go confidently, for the Lord will give you the word of preaching and be with you, and nothing shall be wanting to you.” They went out and it happened to them just as he had said.