donderdag, februari 04, 2010

Studeren om te leren bidden

De Dominicaanse theoloog Romanus Cessario, werkzaam aan het St. John's Seminary in Boston, hield voor de seminaristen op het feest van Sint-Thomas van Aquino een schitterende preek.
Hier zijn enkele uittreksels waar ook onze seminaristen hun voordeel mee kunnen doen. Voor de gehele tekst, klik hier.

"Why does St. Thomas find a place in our chapel among the Doctors of the Church? The answer is easy. He is the first teacher of Catholic doctrine after the patristic period to receive officially, in 1567, the title, Doctor of the Church. Pope St. Pius V, another Dominican, made this innovation. He of course had studied closely the works of Aquinas. Pope Pius knew that Aquinas was a carrier of the Tradition, and that the Protestants were wrong to reject him."

"Ordinarily on the feast of St. Thomas, one encourages seminarians to take study seriously. It is not an accident that the Church arranges seminary formation around the program of intellectual formation. Study is what the seminarian should spend most of his time doing. To make this claim is not to assert a partisan view about the so-called pillars of formation. Professors favor intellectual formation. What else is new? It is rather to reach back to the quite Thomist approach to contemplation and study that dominated the reform movement in the sixteenth century-the same period that witnesses Aquinas made a Doctor of the Church. It was a movement instigated at the Council of Trent, which, as Father Guy Bedouelle observes, "agreed to conjoin doctrine and discipline, theology and practice, contemplation and action, and perhaps-even if this seems paradoxical to some-the temporal and the spiritual." In short, a reform that took up the deeply Catholic intuitions that Aquinas enshrined in his large corpus of writing. No either-or approach for us. Faith or works? Scripture or Tradition? Grace or sacraments? The Catholic outlook on Christian life is always "both-and." The history of Catholic theology since the sixteenth century confirms that "both-and" theology is a difficult subject to master. But master it the priest must. To cite some examples: Forgiveness andand causes. Christ, God and man. The Church, human and divine. The priest, John, Joe, Jim and another Christ. The list goes on.  
Study for the Catholic priest remains a contemplative act. We do not read theology books to discover the knack of doing this or that, we do not ponder divine truth so that we can acquit ourselves of professional responsibilities, we do not undertake study even to develop the high-end skills of management or technology. We study so we can pray. The study of theology and the practice of contemplative prayer flow from the one and the same act of divine faith whereby we accept the Truth about God. For the priest, contemplative study provides the inexhaustible and irreplaceable source of everything that he does. No short cuts are available. No one is exempt. The Church developed a Latin adage to capture this basic truth of priestly formation. Nemo potest dare quod non habet. You can't give what you do not have."

"For the Catholic priest, especially the diocesan priest, the separation of study and prayer brings catastrophic results. No one more than the priest needs the experience of contemplative study. The reason is the Headship that the Church confides to the priest. The priest is not ordained to see about the practical details of programs and everyday activities. He is ordained to preach from the abundance of his heart. The only way that the priest's heart obtains the abundance of divine truth that the world needs so desperately is through the prayerful study of divine truth. He needs to absorb it, to penetrate it, to make it his own, like breathing in and breathing out. St. Thomas recognized that study does not come easy. Like every good action, study requires a virtuous formation to ensure that our study achieves the desired effect. In fact, St. Thomas took the time to give advice to a certain confrere, a Brother John, on how to study. The text has come down to us. The final admonitions are in Aquinas's own words: "Whatever you are doing and hearing try to understand. Resolve doubts, and put whatever you can in the storeroom of your mind, like someone wanting to fill a container. Do not spend time on things beyond your grasp." Let this brotherly advice from today's Doctor urge us all on to the study of the Highest Truth."

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