November 19, 2017
In this third of four Pastor’s Corners reporting on what the Dominicans who work in parish ministry identified as the qualities of Dominican parishes, I will mention a few things about study. From the beginning of the Order, study has been a part not only of Dominican preparation for preaching, but of Dominican prayer and asceticism. For us, study is both a discipline necessary for informed, intelligent, rational, preaching and a form of penance. Study is difficult, sometimes tedious, and is part of the life of prayer for the Dominican.
One of the things that the friars bring to our parishes is our intellectual heritage: the philosophy, theology and worldview of Thomism. Most of the friars involved in parish work do not consider themselves to be among the intellectuals of the Province, but we have all been formed by the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and his commentators. Recently I finished reading a book recently published by one of our professors at the Dominican school in Berkeley on the nature of causality which addresses some of the contemporary misunderstandings people have about how God acts in the world. It clarified my thinking and made me aware again of how our philosophy helps us identify mistaken perceptions taken as “normal” by society.
The friars in parishes have many opportunities to preach on God’s word, and so we challenged ourselves to nurture a love for scripture that deepens our own conversion to Jesus. It is from this ongoing, ever-deepening relationship with God that we can preach in a way that calls others to conversion, too – and this must be a mark of our parishes. They must be places in which we encourage spiritual change and conversion. That is the real fruit of effective preaching.
Other attributes of Dominican parish life that is associated with study includes regular ongoing catechesis for all – and here, I would say, our own parish can do better. This has to include catechesis for all the members of families. As people encounter Christ and experience conversion, inevitably they want to discern God’s will for their lives, and so, we said, our parishes should include programs to help the laity discover their gifts and call and receive a formation for living out that call in the world. In this way, our study is ordered to definitive pastoral needs.