The Pillars of Dominican Life:
Veritas — Truth
Every major religious order can sum up its mission and spirit in a word or two. For the Benedictines it is the Opus Dei, the celebration of the Divine Office, or Christian Prayer, as they are calling it these days. For the Franciscans, it is Poverty. The Jesuits have as their motto “Ad majorem gloriam Dei,” “To the greater glory of God,” which expresses their ideal of service to the Church. For the Dominicans, it is “Veritas” or “Truth,” which sums up in one word our thirst for the divine truth of the faith as revealed through Christ. If you look in the dictionary you will find that truth is defined as the quality of being in accordance with experience, facts or reality. There is in it always the element of objectivity; it is never completely subjective. This twofold character of truth is brought out by St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition: “truth is a correspondence of mind and thing.” In other words, we have truth when what is in our minds is in accord with the objective reality.
The Greeks began this search for truth around 600 B.C. and Western culture has been looking for it ever since, all too often with indifferent success. This is what we might call human truth, or that which we can know only with the human intellect. When Dominicans use the word, however, we mean divine Truth. The ultimate objective reality is God himself. Thus, we can have truth only when what is in our minds corresponds to what is in God’s. This ultimate Truth is totally and perfectly expressed in the eternal generation from the Father of the Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. As St. John tells us:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1: 1)
He goes on to say:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 14)
As he himself testified before Pontius Pilate:
For this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. (John 18: 37:b)
At the Last Supper Jesus told Thomas and all of us:
I am the way, the truth and the life. (John 14: 16)
Christ, then, is Truth Incarnate. Then he added:
No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14: 6b)
And the reason is, as St. John once again tells us:
The Word was the true light that enlightens all people. (John 1: 9)
Or as he himself said:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8: 12)
This light that shines forth from Truth Incarnate, the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the revelation he made to us for as he told us:
The one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world. (John 8: 26b)
Then he went on to say:
If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8: 31b-32)
This light of truth is not harsh, glaring, or cold but a warm, luminous, loving one for, after all, the God who is truth is also love. (v. I John 4: 8a) As St. Paul said in his great hymn on love:
Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (I Cor. 13:6)
In another place he said:
Living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4: 15 & 16)
Here it is obvious he is speaking about the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church. In his first letter to Timothy he is more explicit:
You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. (I Tim. 3: 15)
The Church, as we know, is the guardian of the truth revealed to us by Christ, preserving it intact from error and yet adapting that truth to meet new problems, questions and situations as they arise. Going through a long list of Bible verses can be tedious, but, in this case, it will serve to bring out the multi-faceted riches and beauty of the Truth to which the Dominican Order devotes itself. First of all, Truth as the Divine Being, the Word of God, is the object of our worship and contemplation. Secondly, as the revelation of Christ, it is the subject of our study and object of our apostolic work. Thirdly, we, as Dominicans, will be completely loyal to the magisterium of the Church, the pillar and foundation of truth. From these elements we can conclude that the quest for truth should colour, shape and mould every aspect of our lives. It has been well said that the love of divine truth is the soul of Dominican spirituality.
An important element to keep in mind is that it is impossible to separate love and truth because we must love what we see as good and divine truth is the highest good, for it is God himself. Our study should be done out of love so that we can come to a greater knowledge of the loving revelation of God to us. Our sharing of the truths we have learned and contemplated should be done out of love for those who walk in darkness and the shadow of death. Here, of course, we have the shining example of St. Dominic who dedicated himself and his Order to the proclamation of the truth.
From the very beginning of his work with the Albigensian heresy in Southern France, he recognized that knowing and preaching the truth was essential if heresy and false doctrines were to be overcome. There are certainly plenty of those in our day. While every age has thought of itself as being the worst of times, it is safe to say that our own can stack up with the most abysmal. To be sure there is an abundance of knowledge about all sorts of things but there is little understanding of what it is all about, of whom we are, of where we are going, of the purpose of life. What is needed most of all today, as it was in St. Dominic’s time, is a greater knowledge of the truth, particularly divine truth, the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. This holds true for every branch of the Order, friars, nuns, sisters and laity. The friars have as their mission preaching and teaching, writing learned articles and books, and using the media to spread the truth. It the Fathers and Brothers, but for the spread of the truth. The Dominican Sisters have as their work teaching in our schools and carrying on the many ministries they fulfill so capably. But, perhaps more effective and certainly more far-reaching, is the call of the laity to bring the truth into the workplace, the market place, our schools, neighbour-hoods, into every nook and cranny of society. This is something that only the laity can do. This does not require great learning. One does not need a Doctorate in Sacred Theology, or even a Master of Divinity degree to fulfill this calling. We must never forget that one of the most eloquent and effective proclaimers of divine truth was a laywoman who could not read or write – St. Catherine of Siena. It was she, or the Father speaking through her, who said about our holy father, Dominic:
But for his more proper object [Dominic] took the light of learning in order to stamp out the errors that were rising up at that time. He took up the task of the Word, my only begotten Son. Clearly he appeared as an apostle in the world, with such truth and light did he sow my word, dispelling the darkness and giving light. He was a light that I offered the world through Mary and sent into the mystic body of holy Church as an uprooter of heresies. Why did I say “through Mary”? Because Mary gave him the habit – a task my goodness entrusted to her. (Dialogue, no. 158)
One final note, the Dominican Order did not officially choose Truth as its motto until the last century, but it was a term commonly used long before that. Louis of Bavaria, who was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1314 to 1347, said, “The Order of Preachers is the Order of Truth which it defends with equal fearlessness and freedom.” And, of course, Pope Honorius III, in his second bull of confirmation of the Order issued in 1216, called us the “Champions of the Faith and true lights of the world, “ which recalls Christ’s words, “You are the light of the world. “ It is the light that shines forth from Truth.
Just thought you might like to know…
KISSING THE SCAPULAR
The scapular is the apron-like part of the Dominican habit. It is a very ancient as a part of monastic garb, being mentioned in chapter 15 of the Rule of Benedict as an item worn for manual labor. Originally short, it was lengthened in the early middle ages and sometimes connected by strips at the sides to make it cross shaped, as can been seen in the example of the famous Carthusian habit to the right. Originally not worn in choir, it had became a part of the choir habit for monks, hermits, and canons regular by the 1100s. We Dominicans wear it because we are in origin canons regular, having been approved as such in our foundation bull of Pope Honorius III in 1216.
It is the only part of our habit that is formally blessed at the profession of first vows. Older legendaries claimed that the scapular was added to our habit many years after the foundation because of a apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Bl. Reginald of Orleans during a serious illness, she saying “behold the habit of your Order.” This story does not indicate that the Virgin was adding the scapular to the original canons’ habit of the order. As canons regular, we already had the scapular–although the late legend interpreters did not know this. Thus the unfounded story. When Our Lady showed him the scapular, it was already part of the full habit of the Order he was to enter after being healed.
The practice of kissing the scapular is customary and was never a part of our legislation in a formal way. It was, and is, the custom in many provinces to kiss the scapular in choir after making a minor mistake in singing or reading, or when having to go around another friar to get to one’s stall. But this was not universal custom. In some provinces (cf. Caeremoniale, n. 797, f.n. 1) it seems that the practice was to touch the ground with a finger, or at least (for the less able) to try to do so. I have never seen that done, but in all the provinces I have visited, including my own, the practice of kissing the scapular in choir is very much alive.
Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. http://dominican-liturgy.blogspot.com/
We fly to be under your defense, O Holy Mother of God, for our prayers you do not despise in our necessity, but from all peril you continually free us, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin Mary. Amen.
You probably have been wondering when we would ever get around to talking about preaching. Your thinking may have been: if there is anything that is a pillar of Dominican life it would be preaching, and you would be completely correct. That is why it has been left until last. All the other pillars we have talked about exist to support and uphold preaching. In fact, it might more accurately be called the capstone of Dominican life, for it ties all the others together and with them forms the structure of Dominican life. Without it, they would merely be a series of decorative columns with no particular reason for existing outside of being beautiful.
You may be further wondering and saying to yourself: I can see how the Friars of the First Order can be preachers. They can get into the pulpit and preach the Word of God. I can even see how the nuns of the Second Order can be involved in preaching because they pray for the success of the Friars’ preaching, and without prayer we can do nothing, as St. Dominic saw so clearly. I can also see how the Sisters of the Third Order Religious can, in a broad sense anyway, be called preachers because they are teachers, run hospitals and do all sorts of works for the Church so competently and fruitfully. But can I as a layperson be a preacher and yet I belong to the Order of Preachers? How can I preach?
It is true that in English, preaching means pulpit oratory, but St. Dominic did not name his Order in English, but in Latin – Ordo Praedicatores – meaning those who are engaged in “praedicatio.” If you look in a Latin dictionary you will find that “praedicatio” means “making known” or “proclamation.” This has a much broader, much wider meaning than mere pulpit oratory. It would include writing and teaching, areas in which Dominicans in all branches of the Order have always excelled.
In this sense of proclamation or making known, lay Dominicans have a far broader range of activities available to fulfill their vocation than do the Friars, Nuns or Sisters. It would most certainly include the sharing of their faith by parents to their children, by teaching in Catholic schools or CCD classes for public school children. These are the obvious ones. But there are many more. But to find out how past Dominicans have utilitized the means they had available let us take a look at our Third Order Dominican saints as a starter. St Catherine of Siena endeavored to bring Christian principles into the innumerable conflicts between the various city-states of Italy and settle their disputes and she was quite successful at it. She was also successful at convincing the Pope to return to Rome and be truly the bishop of the Eternal City, a rather basic Christian principle. St Rose of Lima was devoted to her family which had fallen on hard times and used her talents to grow flowers and do fancy needlework to support her parents. She also cared for the sick, poor and oppressed of the city of Lima to the extent that she is known as the founder of social justice in the New World. But it was all done very simply and humbly. There were no social workers, no complicated forms to fill out. It was done on the basis of need out of love. St. Lorenzo Ruiz was a catechist who left his home, family and friends in the Philippines to go to Japan with the Friars to help them bring the people of that country to the Faith. In doing so, he gave his life as a martyr to witness for the Faith. Joined with him are the forty or more lay Dominican martyrs in the Far East. There is no more eloquent way of proclaiming, making known the truth of the Catholic Faith than giving your life for your beliefs, your faith.
But let us face it. It is quite likely that none of you are ever going to be called upon to give your lives for the Faith. You are not going to be able to settle disputes between city-states of Italy, because they do not exist any more and the Pope does spend a good part of his time in Rome. You may indeed have to support your parents through whatever talents you may have and you may be able to help the poor and afflicted in various ways, but you will not have to be pioneers in this field. But, this does not exhaust the possibilities for your contributions to the life of the Church. It seems to me that Internet is now providing all of us Dominicans, but especially you as Lay Dominicans, a marvelous opportunity to reach the world and inject truth in the numerous discussions that go on it. This a medium for our modern times. Another one is the example of living your faith fully and completely. More people are drawn to the Church by the example of Catholics than by any other reason. This is why the early Church grew so quickly. The pagans saw Catholics leading good moral lives, showing concern for one another, caring for each other, especially those who were poor and in trouble, such as widows and orphans. They used to say, “See the Christians; see how they love one another.” Certainly they were willing to die for their faith, but more importantly they lived it, which can be much harder in the long haul. St. Dominic saw the tremendous value of example as a essential quality of preaching. When the Cistercian monks arrived with their abbot dressed in full panoply, robed in rich materials with full pomp and circumstance he told them to get down off their horses, throw away their fancy clothes and appear as poor men. The Cistercians actually lived very austere lives but they felt they, as Papal legates, had to put on all this show to impress the heretics but St. Dominic knew that just the opposite was true. He then insisted that his sons and daughters should give this same example by their lives of poverty and austerity. This will hold true for you, as his sons and daughters. But what does it means for you as lay Dominicans? First of all, it seems to me, is that you are going to have to resist the subtle, insidious allures of materialism that surround us on every side. They provide us with all kinds of clever rationalizations for embracing their alluring temptations. This all of us must do, As Dominicans we must live as simply as we can. This, as St. Dominic saw, was essential for us if we were to give good example to others. Of course, the virtues we live by, our charity, our gentleness, our concern for and understanding of others are also important, as is our willingness to accept the unkindness, the thoughtlessness, the cruelty of those we work and live with. Nothing will win others more than our living our Christian lives, no matter how difficult it may be at times.
Another way of preaching that you as Lay Dominicans can do, is the sharing of your faith with others. You are going to run into people, as I am sure you do all the time, who have a false and twisted idea of what Catholics believe and they will challenge you. In these circumstances we should always follow St. Peter’s advice: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence. (I Peter 3: 16b- 17a) But to do this effectively you really have to know your religion thoroughly. There are so many false ideas out there about what the Catholic Church teaches, about the Scriptures and about morals.
When they say, Catholics worship Mary, how are you going to respond? When they present all kinds of false ideas about the Bible, how are you going to answer them? When they approve of abortion or contraception and condemn the Church for its positions on these matters, how are you going to reply to their arguments? There are answers and it is incumbent on you, as Lay Dominicans, to know them. This is where study comes in and why it is so necessary for Dominicans.
Admittedly, none of these are spectacular or glamorous ways of preaching, but they are most effective ways. You may not seem to have been effective and you may think you have failed to make any impression at all and, of course, you may not have. But you never know how God is going to use what you say and how you say it. We must keep in mind that rarely is one person responsible for the conversion of another. The process of conversion is something like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. People along the way slip in a piece or two until finally the puzzle is complete but the picture is not finished until every single piece is in place. God may be asking you to put in a few pieces but they are necessary. You will not know that, however, until the Last Judgement when you will see the whole picture, completed and perfect. That is, perhaps, the only way that any of us are going to be able to see the results of our preaching. Not even St. Dominic as he lay dying, knew that his work of preaching would continue long after his death. Little could he dream then that 768 years later it would still be going strong, still attracting men and women to its ideal. And so it is that each of us in our own way of bringing truth to the world share in his mission of praedicatio, of proclaiming the revealed Word of God to others. What a privilege we have, what a rich blessing from God is ours, that he has chosen us to share in this ministry, to be the children of Dominic. Let us thank God that he called us to be Dominicans. Let us pray that we will be faithful to our vocation. Let each one of us take seriously the charge of St. Paul:
Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship, perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. (II Timothy 3: 2-5)
If we do this, then we can say with him:
I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (II Timothy 3: 7 & 8)
READING-CHANNEL OF TRUTH From Spiritual Powerhouse
Truth is at the Very Heart of Real Dominicanism. A Dominican not interested in the truth would be even more an anomaly than a maestro not interested in music or a mother not interested in children. He simply would not make sense. All his training, all his traditions, all his life would be contradicted. Now a Dominican Tertiary is as much a Dominican as a Dominican religious and truth means as much to the one as it does to the other, or at least it should. The Tertiary may not have professional interest in truth as, lets say, the theologian, yet he has as great a need for the truth, in some cases even greater becouse he can more easily be taken in by error than his religious brother.
One of the great problems of our day is the fact that the channels whereby the truth, the word of God, should reach our people are being gradually closed to them. One of the great tragedies of our day is that the people do not know it, or if they do, they either don’t care or don’t know what to do about it. Great and international news cartels deliberately “slant” the news to suit selfish local or national prejudices and thereby blackout truth usually in the name of strange and devious ideologies. Radio commentators make the most outrageous statements and millions of Catholic who should know better nod (the word is apt) their heads in tacit and placid approval. The truth of Jesus Christ is not so much attacked as it is ignored. It is almost as if He had never spoken, had never lived. The fact that over 75,000,000 of our people profess no belief whatsoever in the supernatural is a fairly good indication of where we are drifting.
In the face of all this organized and unorganized opposition to truth how is the Dominican Tertiary going to meet it? The following is merely a partial answer to this question treating just one phase (that of reading) of a problem that is complex and many-sided.
Dominican Spiritual Reading
One of the Tertiary’s first obligations is to become imbued with the spirit of the Order. Therefore, it is his duty to learn the history and tradition of his Order as well as the lives of the Dominican saints. A logical starting point would seem to be a good life of the Father and founder, St. Dominic, and for this perhaps nothing more appropriate could be suggested than the small but fascinating Life of St Dominic by the late Father Bede Jarrett, O.P. This is easy reading and catches some of the spirit of the Order it founder. Then there is the study, St. Dominic, Servant, but Friend by Sister M. Assumpta O’Hanlon, O.P. The Tertiary will also want to become acquainted with St Dominic’s most famous son, and intellectual and spiritual giant, Thomas Aquinas. For this purpose he might read St. Thomas Aquinas by G. K. Chesterton or the lively the Man from Rocca Sicca by Father Reginald Coffrey, O.P.
If the Tertiary be a woman she should make a special of the lives of the women Dominican saints, notably those of Third Order, St. Catharine of Siena and St. Rose of Lima. Very little has been written in English on St. Rose although two juvenile works (Angels of the Andes by Mary Fabyan Windeatt and Rose of the Americas by Sara Maynard) have appeared and are worth reading even by adults. Fortunately there is no such scarcity of literature in regard to St. Catherine of Siena. There comes to mind such books as The Mission of St. Catherine by Martin S. Gillet, O.P. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset. Saint Catherine of Siena by Alice Curtayne, St. Catherine of Siena by Jorgensen and the rare but invaluable Life by her confessor and spiritual director, Blessed Raymond of Capua. For a short sketch of all The Dominican saints (Including the recently Canonized St. Margaret of Hungary), The Tertiary might read Dominican Saints by the Dominican Novices.
There is also a vast field of what might be called general Dominican literature written by (and sometimes about) Dominicans. A few might be mentioned: Treatise on the Spiritual life by St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Dominic and his work by P’ere Mandonnet, O.P., all the works of Fr. Reginald Garriguo-Lagrange, O.P., with special mention being given to his well-known Christian perfection and contemplation. Fr. Garriguo-Lagrange’s works are excellent although that they are by means easy reading, especially for those who have had no philosophical or theological background. Other works are The Gospel of Jesus Christ by P’ere Lagrange, O.P., the late lamented biblical genius; all the spiritual works of Father Bede Jarrett, O.P., to mention just a few, meditations for layfolk, Our Lady of Lourdes, The House of Gold, and The Space of Life between; likewise the spiritual writings of such other English Dominicans a Reginald Buckler, O.P., who wrote The Perfection of Man Charity; Vincent McNabb, O.P. who wrote The Craft of Prayer, The Craft of Suffering and many other, an the talented Gerald Vann, O.P., who wrote among others Eve and the Gryphon, The Divine Pity and The Heart of Man.
Dominican Life, by R.D. Joret, O.P., is a book written especially for Tertiaries and one that all Tertiaries should read. Another splendid work is The Spirit Of St. Dominic by Humbert Clerissac, O.P. For those deeply interested in the liturgy there are Hymns of the Dominican Missal and the Breviary by Aquinas Brynes, O.P., Who has also recently written the life of one of our little known tertiaries, The life of Margaret Meto’la.
To mention just a few others there are: The life of Christ by Pe’re Didon, O.P., St. Thomas Aquinas Meditations and God Cares for You, both edited by E.C. McEniry, O.P., the classic Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Jordan of Saxony’s letters of Spiritual Direction translated by Norbert F. Georges, O.P., The Way of the Blessed Christ by Father Kienberger, O.P., Our Lady of Fatima by Archbishop Finbar Ryan, O.P., and the Marian classic (Written incidentally by a Tertiary priest) True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by Saint Louis de Montfort.
Many Tertiaries, of course will want to go into the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. This can be a life-time occupation and study. The Laity has been given invaluable help in this matter by courses and lectures inaugurated in various parts of this country for this purpose. Most of these courses, presented to layfolk in the non-technical language that they can grasp, have been based on the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Entire Summa Theologica can now be obtained in English. A book that has been practically universally used has been the marvelous Companion to the Summa, A four volume masterpiece by the late Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P. This work is just what it’s title claims to be, a companion and not a substitute for the Summa, at the same time being a splendid Synthesis of St. Thomas classic work. Striking figures and example make it comparatively easy for the lay reader to grasp some of the more difficult ideas. Another book that might prove most helpful to the Tertiary is The Basic Works of St. Thomas Aquinas edited by Anton Pegis. This two volume work of several thousand pages contains substantial parts of the Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles. The Holy Name society National Headquarters, N.Y. C., has a series Theology for laymen which would be ideal for the study club purposes.
The Tertiary pursuing Thomistic studies will not find the road easy, nevertheless his hard work will be well repayed in obtaining a solid grasp in Catholic doctrine.
General Background and Social Reading
It goes without saying that Tertiaries should have much more than a passing or casual acquaintance with Sacred Scripture, particularly the New Testament. Christ, His words and His doctrine must become a part of the Tertiary’s very life. This can be accomplished in part by a daily reading of the Sacred Scripture as Well as through and intelligent use of Missal wherein so much of the Scripture is to be found. The Imitation of Christ should be familiar to the Tertiary. Both the Scripture and the Imitation can be used quite effectively as helps in meditation.
Other non-Dominican spiritual writers should be given careful consideration, for example, the works of father Edward Lee, C.S.Sp., Abbot Marmion O.S.B., Pe’re plus S.J., Caryll Houselander, Hubert van Zeller, O.S.B., no tot mention the classic spiritual writers such as St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis de sales, to cite a few.
Nor should the great social, historical and economic writers of our day be neglected. we are living in a day of great transition, not to say upheaval. The writers of men like Dawson, Belloc and Chesterton, should not only be read but might well be taken as texts for study groups and discussion clubs. They have a message for our day that is largely being overlooked, much to our shame and disadvantage. They deserve a careful hearing and Dominican Tertiaries should be among the first to face squarely the truths they have to offer, however bitter the dose. That great Dominican, Father Vincent McNabb, O.P., has, in his social writings, a message for our time that rings stronger and truer as our world drifts more and more surely into chaos. Perhaps a good work of Father McNabb’s to begin with would be Old principles and the New Order.
In this field of the social order Dominican Tertiaries should be keenly alive to the pronouncements of the Holy see and should literally snap them up as quickly as they are delivered. The Morning after any important Papal pronouncements the full text has been appearing in The New York Times and frequently in The Herald Tribune. There should be such a demand for copies of these issues that newspaper publishers all over the country would immediately see the advantage (even financial) of printing these important, epoch-making pronouncements in full. Whether it be a Encyclical Letter or merely an important talk, all Catholics, and particularly all Tertiaries, should be alert to the one voice in our world that speaks truth fearlessly and unashamedly and, at the same time, command a world-wide hearing.
1. Give your thoughts on Louis of Bavaria’s comments about the Order of Preachers.
2. Write any questions you have on “The Rule and Directory for Lay Dominicans of the Province of Saint Martin de Porres”.
Luke 17 – End
Catechism of the Catholic Church
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