BR. Patrick HYDE, O.P.
Central Province, USA
As long as I can remember, I always searched for something more. In college, I enjoyed a wonderful education from thoroughly decent professors. My mind was stretched to its breaking point then stretched further. The very core of my being wanted to know more about my God, my faith, and my Church. An introduction to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas was simply not enough. I needed to be engrossed.
I finally found that something more when I met the Dominicans. I encountered a community of men who would leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of Truth. Dominican study and the sacred responsibility we have of understanding and passing on the thought of our brother, St. Thomas, requires a willingness to look for Truth down every avenue past, present, and future. The Thomistic project is not stagnant. Rather, it continually evolves, requiring us to use different modes of thought to address new questions about how we think about God and how we think, in general.
Aquinas himself even identified a new virtue, studiositas, to prove the importance of intellectual searching in matters pertaining to God. The Book of Proverbs tells us, “Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart, so that I can answer whoever taunts me.” (cf. Proverbs 27:11). Thus, study is an integral part of the Dominican life. For us to be preachers of grace and faithful sons of the Church, we must know our faith, search our faith, and be enlivened by the endeavor.
After spending a summer working with Fr. Andy McAlpin, O.P., in the vocations office, I met many vocation candidates who come to the Order after encountering the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. Others might not know that St. Thomas was our brother, but they come to us because of a deep yearning in their hearts to seek, know, and, most importantly, encounter Truth.
This Dominican ideal of study can be more than a little intimidating. A life of study and prayer is increasingly counter-cultural in an instant gratification society. In both cases, study and a spirituality of study, are the necessary answer to the challenges of our time.
Study forces us not simply to settle for the easy, but to search ceaselessly for the good, the true, and the beautiful. When our culture rejects the value of each human life from conception to natural death, the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, or the preferential option for the poor, we must search all avenues for a coherent response while remaining rooted in Scripture and Tradition.
This is the mission of our Dominican study and, by extension, our school of theology, Aquinas Institute of Theology: to explore, as a community of faith, the complex questions of today by drawing upon Scripture and the Tradition of the Church while engaging contemporary modes of thought and ideas.
The Church has a right to expect this from Dominicans and from a Dominican school. St. Thomas gave the Order the mission of contemplata aliis tradere (“to hand on the fruits of contemplation”). Our gift to the Church is a life of study and preaching for the salvation of souls. It is often hidden work and it requires the generous support of our friends and benefactors.
Yet, as our increasing vocations indicate, it is an investment in the future of our Church worth making.