All kings, in their different ways, have power over life and death. In the case of absolute monarchs and tyrants, this power is made manifest very clearly. A thumbs-down or a single phone call could result in the death of a troublesome subject. In these governments, the king is the cause of great fear and a sense of dependence in his people. In other places, the power over life and death is more subtle. We can imagine a medieval king who, through negligence of his duties, can cause the death of many. Without wise and prudent policies for knights and farmers alike, his kingdom will eventually collapse and death will come upon his people. His subjects may not be as consciously aware of it, but they too are dependent on the king for life.
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul. —Proverbs 22:24
Not by warriors’ hands the tyrant fell; not giants smote him, not heroes of the old time barred his path; it was Judith, Merari’s daughter, Judith’s fair face that was his undoing. —Judith 16:8
“Another round, Bill!” Coady had cash. Single, 23, and rich as a movie star—well, rich as a movie star who makes around $90,000 a year, relaxing in Manning, North Dakota. Manning? Just a little town north of Dickinson, south of Williston: Oil Country. What used to be a bar for farmers to get a drink on the weekend now has become the hub for young oil workers looking for a good time. They come from all over, setting out for the black-gold rush on the prairie. The blizzards and wind are enough to drive a guy crazy, but unlike the 49ers of old, the 09ers are guaranteed a paycheck and enough cash to leave whenever the land wins out. But sometimes the greatest storms they have to weather are more subtle.
Few doctrines are more widely misunderstood than the Catholic teaching on purgatory. One of the most common misconceptions is that this doctrine denies the efficacy of the redemption by requiring that we be punished despite Christ’s death on the cross. We can get a better sense of the true nature of purgatory with a little help from an early nineteenth-century Anglican curate who early in his life didn’t even believe in the doctrine.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI refers to his collection of books as his “old friends,” and in this, many friars preachers will surely sympathize with him. Ever since the earliest days of the Order, Dominicans have sought out books to feed the life of the mind and give grist for their preaching. The first friars were enjoined to read constantly, so that through their study, they may share the things contemplated for the salvation of souls. Since Dominicans were sent to preach and teach in universities across Europe, they had to grapple with the best minds and the most persuasive ideas of the day. What’s the use of a preacher if he can’t reach the minds, hearts, and souls of those he preaches to?
On November 9 this year, all eight of us first-year student brothers at the Dominican House of Studies were installed in the office of Lector. This office is a formal step towards ordination to the priesthood, but it is also an office with its own proper function of “reading the word of God in the liturgical assembly.” This office, like all of the Church’s offices, is one of service, witness, and a continual call to be transformed by the Gospel in order to live a more faithful life.
Truth is the end of the universe.
—St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, I.1
Truth envelops heaven and earth, and covers the natural and the supernatural on the roads of reason and faith. But not everyone sees a unity between reason and faith. Few actually wage war against religion. Many just find belief uncomfortable, and would prefer not to see creeds and confessions of faith spill into the realm of rational inquiry. Others keep faith apart from daily life, keeping difficult religious questions segregated from other aspects of their lives. The question remains—why do we need faith beyond natural knowing?
Four facts about the relationship between faith and reason can help us answer that question:
Before I entered the Dominican Order, I taught an introductory statistics class at a small college founded by Dominican Sisters in my hometown. Since the school was too small to have distinct departments for each scientific field, all of them, including mathematics, were housed in St. Albert Hall, a building named for today’s patron saint. A fitting attribution—for the thirteenth-century German Dominican friar was an expert not only in philosophy and theology, but also in several natural sciences: constructing an early greenhouse, discovering the chemical element arsenic, and developing experimental methods that would later become standard in modern science. For his integration of scientific domains and the newly-rediscovered philosophy of Aristotle with the study of divine revelation in theology, Saint Albert the Great is fittingly honored as the Doctor Universalis, the “teacher of everything.”
In Medio Ecclesiae, the first album from Dominicana Records, is now available for purchase as a CD. To order the CD online and have it shipped to you directly, click on button below or go to our Records page and click the button “Buy CD” towards the bottom of the page. If, due to the number of sales, the CD is on backorder, we will be sending more copies to our distributor as quickly as possible. For those in the Washington, D.C., area, the CD is available at the bookstore of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. For other locales, check the Records page periodically—we will list new locations as they are arranged.
Currently you will find the title track, the chant In medio ecclesiae, streaming on our Records page. In celebration of today’s release of the hard copy, we also offer you a chance to listen to an additional track, the beautiful hymn “Round Us Falls the Night,” at the top of this post.
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God? (Lk 17:18)
Around the world, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is fondly remembered as a devoted servant to her countrymen. She founded her congregation to serve Italian immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families. This was not simply window dressing: around the turn of the previous century, the challenges faced by Italian Americans (and other immigrant groups) were immense. While work was plentiful, it was often grueling and hazardous. Immigrants were despised by many for their ignorance of English and of American customs in general. Their neighborhoods lacked proper sanitation and health services, the cause of much suffering for the unfortunate residents. Tenement buildings, while a vast improvement on earlier urban housing, were often poorly maintained.
If you ask a Dominican to compare the success of the Order of Preachers to that of the Society of Jesus, you may be treated to the following jocular comment: “Well, the Dominicans were founded to defeat the Albigensian heresy and the Jesuits were founded to defeat the Protestant Reformation. How many Albigensians do you see running around today?”
As a convert and student of the Reformation I have always found this comment a bit ironic.