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A DomipiCAP 

mopASCic seARcb 



Volume 13 Fall/Winter 1994 



Volume 13 Fall/Winter 1994 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is published by the Conference of the Nuns of the 
Order of Preachers of the United States of America. The Conference is an organization of 
independent monasteries whose purpose is to foster the monastic contemplative life of the nuns in 
the spirit of Saint Dominic. 


Sr. Mary Thomas, OP (Farmington) 

Sr. Mary Martin, OP. (Summit) 


Sr. Mary Paul, OP (Washington), Coordinator 
Sr. Claire, OP. (North Guilford) Sr Mary Thomas, OP (Buffalo) 

Sr. Cynthia Mary, OP. (Summit) 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is a spiritual and theological review written by the 
nuns. Its purpose is to foster the Dominican monastic contemplative life by the sharing of insights 
gained from study and prayer. It is published once a year as a service to the nuns. It is also 
available to the wider Dominican Family and others upon request. A donation of $8 00 to aid in 
the cost of printing would be appreciated, when possible. 

Contributions to this review should be researched and prepared with concern for literary 
and intellectual quality. Manuscripts submitted should be clearly typed, single spaced, on one side 
of the paper only. The deadline for manuscripts is September 1st of each year. Minor editing will 
be done at the discretion of the editors. If major changes are desired, these will be effected in 
dialogue with the authors. The editors, in consultation with the Conference Council, reserve the 
right to reject inappropriate manuscripts, though reasons will be given to the author with courtesy 
and encouragement. 

Contributions should be sent to Sr. Mary Paul, OP., Monastery of St. Dominic, 4901 
16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 20011. 



All Rights Reserved 


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Editorial ! 

Assembly Topics 

The World as We Know It 

Sister Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 2 

Preparing to Converse with Modern Culture 

Sister Mary Amata, O.P. (Washington) 6 

Culture Shock - Reflection on the Dynamics of Inculturation and Formation 

Sister Judith Miryam, O.P. (Summit) ll 

Christian Anthropology and Dominican Monastic Life 

Sister Thomas Mary, O.P. (North Guilford) 18 

Modern Psychology and Contemplative Life 

Sister Mary Regina, O.P. (Lufkin) 22 

The Question of Enclosure Today: A Response 

Sister Mary Rose Dominic, O.P. (Summit) 31 

At the Heart of Holy Preaching: Toward a Theology of Dominican Monastic 
Enclosure: History, Principles, Praxis 

Sister Lee, O.P. (Bronx) 41 

Dominican Monastic Life 

Theological Study in Dominican Contemplative Life 

Sister Mary Margaret, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 55 

Study in the Life of the Dominican Nun 

Sister Mary of Jesus, O.P. (Bronx) 63 

Grandsons of Saint Dominic 

Sister Mary Grace, O.P. (Washington) 68 

The Gospels 

Sister Mary Rose Dominic, O. P. (Summit) 74 

A Reflection on the Annunciation 

Sister Miriam, O. P. (Lufkin) 77 

Words from Mount Athos 

tr. Sister Maria of the Cross, O. P. (Summit) 7 9 

Theological Program Papers 

The Basis of Lonergan's Theological Method 

Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, O. P. (Buffalo) 8 6 

Yves Congar, Theologian and Contemplative 

Sister Mary Regina, O. P. (Farmington Hills) 8 9 

Scripture. Theology and the Nature of Doctrine in Aquinas and in the 
Thought of Postliberal Theologian George Lindbeck 

Sister Jean Marie, O. P. (North Guilford) 9 3 

A Letter to Rene Descartes, Progenitor of Modern Thought 

Sister Maria Agnes, O. P. (Summit) 102 


A Touch of Rain 

Sister Mary Angela, O.P. (Bronx) 10 9 

Morning in Guilford 

Sister Elaine, O.P. (North Guilford) m 


Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P.(Summit) 112 

The Still Center 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 113 

Mary of the Resurrection 

Sister Mary Regina, O.P. (Lufkin) 115 

Hymn to St. Augustine 

Sister Regina Marie, O.P. (Syracuse) 118 

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 119 

God's Miracle of Grace 

Sister Mary Augustine, O.P. (Syracuse) 120 

Book Reviews 

Taking the Word to Heart: Self and Other in an Age of Therapies 
by Robert C. Roberts, PhD. 

Sister Denise Marie, O.P. (Summit) 121 

Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla 

Sister Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 123 

Art Credits: 

Frontispiece and facing pages 54 and 108 
Sister Mary Michael, O.P. (North Guilford) 

Woodcut prints on pages 5, 21, 62, 85, 1 14 and 1 17 
Sister Mary Grace, O.P. (Washington) 


The 1994 issue of Dominican Monastic Search gives proof of considerable 
research, reflection and study on Dominican contemplative life, contemporary culture, and 
a variety of kindred topics.. Discernment is clearly at work in our writers. Much that was 
achieved in the Theological Formation Program is being shared with the membership of 
the Conference in a way that augurs well for the discernment we need to develop in the 
Dominican contemplative life and the conversation we seek to engage in with the world, 
as members of an apostolic Order 

Our theologians have been discerning in their assessment of multicultural trends 
and theories. They have shared with us research papers on Yves Congar, OP., Lonergan, 
Descartes and George Lindbeck, placing these in their historical settings so that we may 
better understand their various thrusts. And they have measured contemporary culture 
carefully in its relationship to the perennial values of Christian theological tradition, 
bringing out, particularly in the study on George Lindbeck, the teaching of St. Thomas 
which throws so much light on the moderns. 

Some thoughtful and thought-provoking essays dealing with topics planned for our 
next Assembly are also included in this issue. There are several fine contributions on the 
subject of enclosure. Modern psychology comes under review in its relationship to 
contemplative life, as well as Christian anthropology. Several papers address modern 
culture, a monastic approach to it, and the "culture shock" which affects newcomers to 
our life, and how we deal with this. 

As a final potpourri we have several offerings on study, and specifically theological 
study, seen as highly relevant to Dominican contemplative life; reflections on the 
Annunciation, words from Mt. Athos, and a delightful piece on the grandsons of St 
Dominic. Poetry and book reviews complete what we deem the fine, rich fare now set 
before you. 

If it is a gift to be able to write, it is equally a gift to be able to read. Not a few 
contributors have mentioned in the past that they would appreciate feedback concerning 
their articles. This is where you, the reader, come into the picture. How much 
discernment it takes to grasp the full content, and intent, of a piece of writing. How much 
courage it can take to give a sincere critique, or to ask an honest question which inevitably 
reveals one's own ignorance. Yet this could be a tremendous source of encouragement to 
our writers, and a spur to their increasing clarity of expression and accuracy in choosing 
the really right word to convey a thought. It is a matter of collaboration, in the end, and 
of strengthening the bond of understanding. It makes for growth. We would encourage 
every reader, therefore, to become a writer, so that we may all meet together in an 
ongoing conversation as we move toward relating Dominican contemplative life to 
contemporaty culture, through a fruitful discernment of the good. 

Sister Mary Thomas, OP 


Sr. Mary Thomas, OP. 

The Fundamental Constitution of the Order presents in Number VIII a 
brief and comprehensive setting for the dynamic of world/religious, new/old, 
change/tradition, openness/stability, a dynamic frequently encountered in the 
everyday situations of monastic contemplative life. A thoughtful study of this 
Number gives us a basic footing and throws considerable light on the question 
of Dominican contemplative life in conversation with contemporary culture. 

First, a look at the footing: "The fundamental purpose of the Order 
and the form of life flowing from it retain their value in every age of the 
Church. " (I) Thus the purpose and the form of life flowing from it are what 
we stand upon. These are essential and perennial values for us. As we learn 
the fundamental purpose of the Order from St. Dominic and ponder it in light 
of nearly eight centuries of Dominican history, we discover the vital 
relationship between what the Order is and the Dominican way of life which 
it generates. There must be this vital relationship. New developments can be 
measured against it so as to assure their validity. They must flow from the 
source. When they bear the impress of Dominic, we know we are on solid 

"Nevertheless, " continues Number VIII, "in times of greater change 
and evolution, as we are taught by our tradition, understanding and 
evaluation of these matters become particularly urgent. " 

Standing on firm ground, we perceive vast shifts in perspective, 
movements of change and turmoil which cannot fail to give us pause. 
Without the feel of "the rock whence we were hewn" under our feet, we 
could easily succumb to the contemporary angst by which we are palpably 
surrounded. We could yield to despair over the world as we know it today, 
or on the other hand we could jump into the fray with the idea of redirecting 
the wild waves that have swept over the past four decades. But standing firm 
on the rock from which we were hewn, and from this vantage point, we first 
need to seek the truth. 

As daughters of Dominic we need to grow in understanding of our 
world in order to reach an authentic evaluation of it. We need to seek, and to 
find, the truth about it, and to open ourselves to the truth it holds for us. This 
is the lesson of our tradition, a lesson which today has become "particularly 
urgent". (2) 

The work of exploration is vast. Whatever the field we consider, 
wherever we happen to be, or wherever our gifts may lead us, there is going 
to be confrontation, and we are going to experience the push and pull of the 
dynamics mentioned above. The area of theology, both dogma and Christian 
morality, is rife with problems and disputed questions today, which need to 
be met with informed understanding. The same can be said of philosophy and 
psychology. The nuns who have engaged in the Formation Program can give 
ample testimony of the huge amount of work to be done in bringing about 
some degree of harmony between conflicting schools of thought, through the 
overall transcendance of truth. 

On a more pragmatic level, present day economic trends present us 
with a mind-boggling complexity of options, which we need to analyse and 
assess according to the measure of truth. Pragmatic in their consequences, 
these trends often flow from philosophical mindsets which are in turn rooted 
in a relationship to God. Seeing so many of our contemporaries trapped in 
the uncertainty of confusion and conflict at the economic level is a real 
challenge to us. We can hardly throw any light, however, or be of much help, 
on subjects with which we have no more than a nodding acquaintance. 
Therefore we need to study the signs of the times astutely. Moreover, the 
doubts and concerns which plague people living "in the world" translate into 
similar uncertainties in the monastery. Here we have a strong incentive to 
work towards understanding, and to see and evaluate these trends in depth, 
discerning and testing what is good and useful". .(3) 

This last phrase points us to the positive aspect of our culture, which 
holds so much that is "good and useful"; as Dominicans we are challenged to 
seek this out and pursue it. Each person we encounter is "capax Dei", 
capable of being filled with God. No less, then, are the endeavors and the 
struggles of each person. There is the seed of life under what sometimes 
looks like a wasteland, struggling to grow up to the light, and it is for us to 
find and nurture it. 

"Let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that 
is honorable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love 
and admire— with whatever is good and praiseworthy. " (4) Indeed this word 
of Paul can describe the world as we know it. It is the better part of the 
world, the world "God so loved". (5) The shadow side, concerning which 
Christ said "I pray not" is there too. Contemplatives are caught up in this 
inherent dynamism as surely as are our contemporaries in the marketplace. 

Perhaps this tension can be aptly imaged in the ambivalence of 
computers in the cloister. Are they desirable? Undesirable? Out of place 9 
But they are definitely in place. In themselves, we can hardly call them 
inappropriate. Quieter than typewriters, functioning more smoothly and 
quickly in the day-to-day tasks of nuns who study, write, compose, create, 
translate, or simply transcribe, computers are, in themselves—that is, 
objectively—good and useful. It is how we see them and use them that makes 
all the difference. And the same could be said equally of soap and water, 
pots and pans, eggs and pie crust, needles, thread and the rest. "The fault, 
dear Brutus, is not in our stars/but in ourselves, that we are underlings" holds 
true for our times as pointedly as for Shakespeare's. (6) 

No. VIII further notes that "it is characteristic of the Order to renew 
itself courageously, and to adjust itself to these circumstances..." If this is 
what we are trying to do, then all is well, according to the mind of the 
Fundamental Constitution, as we continue "discerning ... testing ... and 
introducing the results into the unchangeable harmony of the fundamental 
elements of its life. " (7) 

We have experienced many efforts at renewal within the Order and 
within our monasteries since the Chapter at River Forest drew up the 
Fundamental Constitution. Throughout these decades the monasteries have 
grown closer. The Conference has strengthened the bonds of life and love 
between the nuns; our closeness to the Fathers and Sisters has grown apace. 
Within each monastery renewal has, hopefully, brought us into a deeper 
relationship with our blessed Father Dominic. In sober truth, renewal does 
take courage— the word is well chosen. Yet we know on Whom we lean for 
strength. Difficult as changes may be, when they are made in God and for 
God they carry their own reward of quiet peace. 

Perhaps the saving grace in all our efforts is the remembrance that "the 
time has become limited ... and those who are involved with the world 
[should be] as though they were people not engrossed with it. Because the 
world as we know it is passing away. " 


(1) Fundamental Constitution of the Order, No. VIII. 

(2) Ibid. 

(3) Ibid. 

(4) Phil, 4, 8. 

(5) Cf. Un4, 11. 

(6) Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2, in Complete Works, v. 3, 
Walter G. Black, Inc., Roslyn, New York 1965, p. 862. 

(7) Fundamental Constitution of the Order, No. VIII. 

(8) I Cor 7, 30-31. 


Sister Mary Amata, OP 
Washington, DC 

In this paper I will first consider the question: Why 
converse with modern culture at all? I will then try to antici- 
pate some of the difficulties we may encounter in the conversa- 
tion, and some of the benefits we can expect to gain from the 
di alogue . 


There are two sides to everything, so let us begin with the 
objections hiding behind this question. We're a silent communi- 
ty, praying in solitude, so why talk? Does a life of willing 
penance need the "conveniences" of the modern world? (1) Will 
it do us any good to have this conversation? 

It is not surprising that the answers to these objections 
are actually the very reasons for entering into the dialogue. We 
do indeed lead a life of prayer in solitude and silence, but it 
is a life that more than ever is in the world. We can no longer 
grow all our own food, or save all our benefactors' donations in 
the safe ! 

Each of us is a wondrous combination of body and soul, 
created in the image and likeness of God. If we are to be truly 
human we cannot ignore our intellects. As we learned from the 
(Baltimore) Catechism, we are made "to know, love and serve God 
in this world." Chief among the ways we come to know God in this 
world is through the use of our intellects. 

Being Dominicans, we are almost impelled to use our intel- 
lects. We are generally not of the school that is frightened of 
knowledge and study. Rather we are of the family of Dominic, of 
Albert and Thomas, of Catherine; we are seeking for light and 
truth, that we may know God better and thereby love and serve Him 
the more. This means that we cannot ignore the "modern science" 
of psychology, or even modern trends in philosophy and theology. 

1. In the Rite of Profession, the celebrant questions 
whether the Sister making solemn vows is "willing to live in 
solitude and silence, in persevering prayer and willing penance 
[as well as] in humble work and holiness of life?" See: Rite of 
Religious Profession , prepared by International Commission on 
English in the Liturgy, A Joint Commision of the Catholic Bishops 
Conferences and Secretariat for the Liturgy, National Conference 
of Catholic Bishops; Washington, DC, United States Catholic 
Conference; 1989, page 88. 

In fact, if we we do not enter into this dialogue with the 
world, who will be able to speak for us? We are not merely 
religious, or even merely cloistered religious. True, as C. S. 
Lewis might say, there is that aspect of our life "which is what 
it is and was what it was long before I was born and whether I 
like it or not." (2) But our constitutions, especially the 
Fundamental Constitution of the Order and the Fundamental Consti 
tution of the Nuns, make us who we are, Dominican contemplative 
nuns! And as such, we do have a contribution to make to the 
world. We are part of God's on-going plan of redemption. 

We cannot be content to be the "city set on the mountain- 
top," giving light to all who pass by, but not interacting with 
them in any way, shape or fashion. We must find ways to answer 
that plea expressed so eloquently in the midday prayer hymn: 

Help us, Lord, to teach 

The beauty of your ways, 

That yearning souls may find the Christ, 

And sing aloud his praise. (3) 


One of the first things that we can expect to happen to us 
in this conversation with modern culture, is to find ourselves 
labeled "counter-culture." This cannot come as a surprise, since 
the very word indicates something that is different, even "out of 
sync" from the ordinary and the "run of the mill" things that 
surround most people. 

When the world calls us "counter-cultural," do we understand 
this as a challenge to maintain our own identity? Or do we hear 
a persistent call to "get with it," and be like everyone else, to 
"go with the flow." 

If we find ourselves challenged to maintain our own identi- 
ty, then we must find a graceful, or better, a "grace-filled" way 
to be strong in our principles and decisions even when they are 
not understood. We can take our cue in this from Jesus' compas- 
sionate way of speaking, as when He said to the woman caught in 
adultery: "Neither do I condemn you. Go, and don't sin any 
more. " ( John 8:11) 

2. Mere Christianity , C. S. Lewis, New York, Macmillan 
Publishing Co., Inc., 1960, page 7. 

3. Text by W. W. Reid found at the Ordinary for Daytime 
Prayer in all 4 volumes of The Liturgy of the Hours, New York, 
Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1975. In volume A, this hymn is on 
page 626. 

However, the label "counter-cultural" might rather seem to 
be a continual urging to move in some new direction. In this 
case, we must remember the concerns for our contemplative life 
that moved Father Anicetus Fernandez to write in 1971: "... it 
follows that this multiplication of material goods which was to 
render people more perfect and more happy, had they been used 
according to God's purpose, in fact renders them more degraded 
and more unhappy." (A) 

In either case there are clearly decisions to be made. We 
must guard against allowing the many attractions of modern 
culture to create confusion and chaos by unnecessarily complicat 
ing our lives. As we learned in the years following the Second 
Vatican Council, if we simply follow the world's lead, we may be 
shifting our emphasis to what we can do and accomplish. Getting 
on this "bandwagon" could obscure our real values and mean that 
we risk losing our identity. 


I believe the first of several benefits we can expect to 
receive from this "conversation with modern culture" will be aid 
for our own contemplative life. For instance, we know that 
medical science and especially the disciplines of psychology and 
psychiatry have been studying the addictive process in every 
possible aspect. Surely we can expect to learn ways and means to 
get ourselves even more addicted to God than we already are! We 
can expect to be encouraged in our use of lectio and personal 
discipline as means to grow in prayerful union with God. Granted 
the modern world may not speak in these precise terms, but I 
believe the terms can be translated into our familiar usages. 
And that is one of the purposes of the dialogue, isn't it? 

Among other "practical" lessons we can expect from the 
world, there will surely be insights for the bursars of our 
communities. But the rest of us can also learn new ways of 
practicing poverty; the importance of conserving energy, recy- 
cling, effectively using our time, etc. are very current in 
today's society. 

As we "converse" with the modern world, we can expect new 
insights and thus a deeper understanding of the women who will be 
entering our communities in the future. And as we grow more 
comfortable with psychology, we will gain a better facility in 
knowing how to use the results of the psychological testing, etc. 
for our candidates and Sisters in formation. 

4. Book of Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preach 

ers , Published by Direction of Brother Damian Byrne, Master of 
the Order. USA, 1987, page 4. 

Another advantage to studying psychology and modern philoso- 
phy and theology will be a wondrous ability to know and love 
Jesus Christ more fully. Even knowing a little bit of "how we 
tick" from psychology and philosophy will give us insights into 
ourselves and Jesus. Through theology we will be able to build 
on these glimpses of what it means for human and Divine to inter- 
relate as we contemplate our Beloved. 

As our hearts grow and become more and more like Jesus' 
understanding and compassionate heart, we can more easily enter 
into dialogue with our brothers and sisters facing the tremendous 
moral challenges of today's world. We must ask the world to show 
us how many ways it attempts to fill that primordial longing of 
the human heart, that longing for truth, goodness and beauty that 
only God can fill. Understanding this, we will be more certain 
of how we can help others. We will see exactly what kind of 
"role models" our young people and our growing families desire to 
have us offer them. After all, we know that Jesus makes it 
possible to live in chastity and obedience. With Jesus we can 
speak to their hearts: "I have prayed for you, that your faith 
may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must 
strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32) 

We will see the immense need for intercessory prayer. The 
world itself is crying out for our prayer, both in those horren- 
dous situations of war and disease that seem to be out of con- 
trol, and in the everyday moments of simply trying to survive. 
Whether we know the individual or not, we know the need is there. 

Ultimately, we know the necessity of "being, before doing," 
and entering into this dialogue is an opportunity for us to help 
others come to know this reality. 


There are many things to share in this "dialogue with modern 
culture." We must more and more live in the wisdom of the 
householder Jesus spoke of in Matthew's Gospel: "bringing out of 
the storeroom things both new and old," (Matthew 13:52) lest we 
find ourselves in the predicament of these inexperienced garden- 
ers . 

I discovered a new plant in my little flower garden that 
produced beautifully delicate little blue flowers. The plant 
multiplied, and I even managed to transplant some of its shoots 
to another bare section of the plot. Alas, they are weeds, and 
now I can't get rid of them!!! As children, my brothers and I 
were strictly warned by our neighbor not to touch one of the 
bushes in her front yard. It was a very pretty bush, with lush 
foliage, but after she had planted it, she learned that it was 
POISON SUMAC! Now she would not even ask the man working for her 
to tear it out, because it was so lethal. 


St. Caesarius of Aries has good advice for us as we continue 
"discerning the good in our conversation with the modern cul- 
ture: " 

When we cultivate a field, we eliminate certain plants 
and take them out by the roots in order to sow good 
grain. The same should be true of our soul. We must 
uproot vice from it and plant virtues, extirpate what 
is harmful and plant what is useful, tear out pride and 
plant humility, cast out egoism and keep love, reject 
debauchery and love chastity. Just as you cannot plant 
good things in your field unless you remove what is 
bad, so you cannot plant the young shoots of the vir- 
tues in your soul unless you tear out the thorns and 
thistles of vice . 

... God has graciously given us our soul as his 
field to be cultivated with all our care. We should 
therefore set to work with all our energies with God's 
help so that when he comes to visit his field he will 

5. Christian Readings , Volume I (Year II) Easter to the 
17th Sunday of the Year. General Editor: John E. Rotelle, OSA. 
New York, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1972, page 151. 


Culture Shock: Reflections on the Dynamics of Inculturation 

and Formation 

Sr. Judith Miryam 
Summit, New Jersey 


My purpose in writing this paper is to examine how our contemporary 
culture interacts with monastic culture in the area of formation. As monastics, I 
believe our primary inculturation with modern society is through the young 
women who enter our life. "Each person is an embodied life statement, a self-saying 
which is uttered out of one's finitude" (1), and therefore a microcosm of the cultural 
forces which have shaped her. In welcoming a newcomer into our monastic family, 
we likewise invite her differences in values, perceptions, language, economic, and 
educational background. The exchanges and tensions of this continuing encounter 
should be looked upon as moments of growth for the community. In order to keep 
monastic life relevant in its timelessness, "we must recognize and understand the 
world in which we live, its expectations, its longings, its often dramatic 
characteristics". (2) By writing off the world as evil, we reject our culture's grace and 
goodness, and indeed the Creator himself, who looked on what he had made and 
saw that "it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). And, we opt to close off the future, 
echoing Nathanael's initial reaction to Jesus, "Can anything good come out of 
Nazareth?" (John 1 :46) 

These reflections are personal, offered "from the trenches", in the midst of 
my novitiate. Using our observances as flashpoints, I share my struggles in adapting 
and adjusting to the monastic lifestyle. Writing about my experiences without the 
weight of sufficient hindsight may appear premature, but I believe there is a value 
in the immediacy of my perceptions. My hope is that they may resonate with our 
sisters in formation, and foster a lively intergenerational dialogue in our 

A Radical Departure 

My choice to enter the monastery was greeted by my family with a mixture of 
dismay and bafflement, and by my friends and co-workers with wide-eyed surprise 
and gaping mouths. Their reactions confirmed for me the radical and counter- 
cultural nature of this lifestyle. My answers to their many questions concerning the 
monastic life were feeble attempts, at best, to explain the inexplicable. Fortunately, 
no one claimed to understand my choice, nor dissuade me from it. My co-workers, 
of various backgrounds and religious affiliations (or lack thereof), all supported me 
in my vocation. I felt a strong sense of "apartness" after telling the news of my 
entrance. At work, people who had never given any indication of the slightest 
spiritual leaning descended upon my desk to unabashedly share their experiences of 


God. A Baptist minister invited me into her office, and spontaneously prayed with 
me and for me that my "life of dedication to the Lord Jesus would bear much fruit". 
Seeing its powerful witness and sign, I realized that this vocation of mine was bigger 
than myself. I discovered that "the world continues to look to contemplatives, not 
just for some marginal concern, but as central and essential". (3) The positive 
response of these savvy New Yorkers surprised me, and revealed not just a strong 
tie of friendship but an inherent spiritual thirst common to all. 

First Steps 

The word I universally use in describing my groping days as a postulant was 
culture shock. The different customs and rituals of the monastic life, a 
"condensation of the experience of centuries" (4), were causes of alternate 
fascination and frustration for me. "There is a monastic way of doing things, a 
monastic way of living that may seem strange at first because the reasons underlying 
it are not immediately evident" (5). In an attitude reminiscent perhaps of a pre- 
schooler I subjected my novice mistress to a litany of "whys", not out of disrespect or 
disdain for these observances, but in order to see their spiritual underpinnings. My 
beginners' angst was heightened by the fact that many of these customs echoed the 
social mores of previous generations. Their foreignness is symptomatic of a culture 
which devalues law and common courtesy at the expense of individual expression. 
My passion for newness had to give way to an appreciation of tradition and ritual, to 
the "perennial values. ..embodied maintained and served by (our) observances" (6), 
practiced not for the sake of keeping up "monastic appearances" but for "calming, 
freeing, and stabilizing our responses" (7), allowing us to foster an attitude of life 
"intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart".(8) 

Common Life 

No experience prepared me for living harmoniously with twenty-one other 
women, of varied ages and backgrounds. Indeed, we are a "mixed bag of admirable 
and regrettable elements, such is the brokenness of our human nature". (9) I felt the 
ascesis of living in community in the daily rubbing of shoulders and souls. In a 
radical re-focusing, I had to expand my vision from a self-centeredness to a 
community-mindedness, which culminated in a realization that life in the 
monastery is not life in a vacuum. Our every action has an effect on others, for 
good or ill. This awareness is not meant to translate into a paralyzing self- 
consciousness; rather, its source is a loving concern for our sisters, building up that 
"school of charity" and atmosphere of recollection so vital to our life. In a 
commodity culture which treats people as things, objects to be utilized, or 
conversely ignored or "disposed of", life in community calls us to treat our sisters 
with reverence and compassion. I learned that community is a "place in which we 
must give each other courage when one's heart hesitates, forgiveness when one 
fails, and truthfulness when one is tempted by self-deceit". (10) 



Monastic enclosure represents a startling paradox to modern society. We 
choose to deliberately separate ourselves from the loved and familiar, to reach a 
deeper love of God, ourselves, and others. Our withdrawal from the world is not 
escape into a fortress, but rather "a particular and poignant way of engaging the 
world, in it and on its behalf". (11) My understanding of enclosure is as a means to 
foster solitude, to create that desert so necessary to our life of prayer, and its ultimate 
goal of union with God. Mindful of the value of structures that support and 
promote our life, I question aspects of our present enclosure legislation that 
continue to sustain the cultural trappings of the past, including a double standard 
between men and women monastics. 


Deadened and deafened by noise and activity, our culture revels in a lack of 
silence. "The pace, values, and preoccupations of this culture are inimical to the 
development of an unself-conscious inner life". (12) I lived and breathed in an 
atmosphere of media-generated background noise. Silence is revealing, and 
therefore embarrassing to us. I found monastic silence is a real shock to the system, 
emotionally and physically. Naturally voluble, I struggled to become supernaturally 
silent, learning to listen to the voice of our Lord. 


The shift from a personal spirituality to a liturgical spirituality was another 
area of challenge for me. "Liturgical spirituality focuses attention not on the 
worshipper and his or her subjective feelings but on God who is worshipped" (15), 
perhaps a hard lesson for a generation that is entranced with emotionality and 
"good feelings". The Liturgy of the Hours (with its attending intricacies) and the 
mechanics of singing the psalms were alien (and humbling) experiences for me. 
With no appointment calendars to fill, the passage of time became sanctified as I 
began to enter into the mysteries-charged rhythm of the liturgical year. 


My concept of study, the aspect that most attracted me to the Dominican 
contemplative life, also underwent some adjustment. I had to discard the 
utilitarian study habits of my college days—cramming for exams, a hasty 
consumption of required reading material, and term paper "vigils". For the 
Dominican, study is not an isolated, compartmentalized act. "We should love to 
study and study to love". (13) Our study is meant to be not only relevant to our life 
but transformative. It is designed not only to "nourish contemplation.. .(but also) to 
foster fulfillment of the evangelical counsels with a more enlightened fidelity". (14) 



One of the most difficult transitions was shaking off my culturally- 
conditioned attitudes toward work. In the monastery, the needs of our sisters 
eclipse efficiency and productivity. As a maxim in our monastery attests, 
"Relationships are more important than the quality of work to be done". "Hidden, 
humble, anonymous, even monotonous" (16), our work is devoid of glamour, 
status, and self-fulfillment. Long-used to defining myself in relation to my work, 
entering the monastery involved a certain loss of identity. Our work periods are not 
a break from our prayer. Called to pray without ceasing, our life sensitizes us to see 
and worship God in the mundane exigencies of our daily living. 

A Vowed Life 

In a culture which balks at commitment, the vowed life speaks loudly and 
clearly that our focus is Christ alone, that our life is ordered to him. "The vows are 
in fundamental contradiction with the values of much of society, particularly to the 
culture of consumerism which is rapidly becoming the dominant culture of our 
planet". (17) 

Our Dominican profession formula vows "obedience" to our way of life, 
"binding ourselves to Christ and the Church". (18) This most important and 
inclusive of the vows is also the most challenged by our society. The word 
"obedience" is rarely used, and when it is used, is employed negatively. Even the 
parent-child relationship feels more comfortable describing itself in terms of 
"dialogue". My view of obedience is conditioned by our culture's distrust of 
authority—and infatuation with autonomy and individualism. "We live in a world 
where all values are relative, equal, and therefore, without authority, truly matters 
of style". (19) I gradually discovered that obedience involves more than "doing 
what you're told". It is an attitude of listening to the will of God as revealed in 
those who guide and lead us. 


No vow is more ridiculed and scoffed at than chastity. Our sex-saturated 
society which delights in the "thingification of people" (20) is at a loss for words in 
attempting to understand the celibate's "inhuman", "unnatural" rejection of 
"sexual fulfillment". It writes off religious as sexually-repressed creatures who try to 
do the impossible by giving up sex. Even many in the Church express a certain 
uncomfortability in speaking of the charism of chastity, and prefer to describe it in 
merely utilitarian terms of freeing oneself for dedication to God alone. But, chastity 
is much more than a "grim necessity" (21), it is "a way of loving... that can lead to 
our flourishing as affectionate, whole human beings". (22) It is a challenge to 
enflesh the mutual love and self-giving of the Trinity itself. The openness of 
speaking about sexuality has contributed to a positive awareness of our bodies and a 
healthy acceptance of ourselves as sexual beings. Both are necessary prerequisites for 


living the rigors of this vow. We do not de-sex ourselves in embracing chastity. 
"God has become human, and invites us to do so as well". (23) 


Dropping one's nets and following our Lord is, unfortunately, devoid of the 
spontaneity of the apostles' response to the divine call. Our present generation has 
more baggage to get rid of in way of such encumbrances as apartment leases, stereo 
systems, cars, and credit cards. Planning for my entrance was a real exercise in 
asceticism, a moratorium on buying the unnecessary. It was a humbling experience 
for me to survey my accumulated possessions, a sense of my life flashing before my 
eyes. Severing the umbilical cord of consumerism is one of the primary struggles in 
leading a life in common. In the renunciation of personal property and the sharing 
of goods, we re-order our relationship to material objects from a grasping 
possessiveness and greed to a stewardship and inner freedom in the use of goods. In 
evangelical frugality, we learn to see all as gift from God, to be treated with care and 

Formation Today 

The young women entering our life today have the distinction of being the 
most probed and poked at generation in formation. With the initial formation and 
theological study programs in place, the completion of the Ratio Formationis 
Generalis, and increased collaboration among our monasteries, the formation 
period has become more sophisticated and strenuous. The application process for 
the majority of communities includes aspirancy and psychological testing—both 
increasingly useful tools in determining a candidate's fitness for our life. These new 
resources in formation have never been more needed at a time when the 
phenomena of dysfunctional families, commonplace unbelief, widespread divorce, 
and sexual permissiveness have all left their marks on initiates to our life. Many 
aspirants have faced situations unimaginable and, perhaps potentially intimidating, 
to members of the community. 

Talking About Our Generation 

We come from a wide range of life experiences. In the practical sphere, our 
work and educational backgrounds have equipped us with skills and aptitudes that 
enrich the community. Our questioning and critical attitude is emblematic of our 
search for meaning. We have a distrust for the artificial and superficial, and our 
quest for "the real thing" is a relentless one. A strong sense of the importance of 
interpersonal relationships places priority on an openness, freedom, and 
spontaneity in our communication. Marked by an informed idealism, we are aware 
of our culture's failings, and actively seek for solutions in alleviating the wounds of 
our world. Dominican formation refines these positive elements, as it calls us to 
"develop and integrate those human qualities which bestow greater personal 
maturity". (24) 



Inculturation includes "the notion of growth, of mutual enrichment of 
persons and groups" (25). This exchange and conversation with monastic values 
and culture finds its fullest expression in the area of formation. Our survival 
depends on an openness which allows for vulnerability in the risk of inviting 
others to share our life. Whenever a community accepts a young woman into its 
midst, the effect can be likened to opening a window, letting in fresh air, and 
perhaps even a strong gust of wind that shakes things up a bit. "Do we dare accept 
young people who have the daring to face new challenges with courage and 
initiative, knowing that they may well put into question much of what we have 
been and done?" (26) 

1 John F. Kavanaugh (SJ), Still Following Christ in a Consumer Society, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis 
Books, 1991, p. 67. 

2 Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World, No. 4. 

3 Thomas Merton (OCSO), The Springs of Contemplation. New York, NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 
1992, p. 60. 

4 Adrian Van Kaam (CSSp), The Vowed Life. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1968, p. 27. 

5 Charles Cummings (OCSO), Monastic Practices. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1989, 
pg. 73. 

6 Ratio Forma tionis Generalis of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers, No. 21. 

7 Cummings, p. 73. 

8 Rule of St. Augustine. 1.3 

9 Cummings, p. 152. 

10 Merton, p. 54. 

11 Christina Fox, "Seeking God: Monastic Fidelity in an Age of Unbelief, Monastic Studies 18, 
Christmas 1988, p. 93. 

12 Ibid., p. 96. 

13 Letter of Fr. Timothy Radcliffe (OP) in Ratio Formationis Generalis . 

14 LCM 100, II. 

15 Cummings, p. 40. 

16 Ibid., p. 57. 


17 Fr. Timothy Radcliffe (OP), 'Vowed to Mission", IDL Number 319, April 1994, p. 78. 

18 LCM 19. II. 

19 Kavanaugh, p. 11. 

20 Ibid., p. 126. 

21 Radcliffe, p. 78. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Ibid., p. 77 

24 LCM 118, 1. 

25 International Theological Commission, "Faith and Inculturation" in David L. Schindler (ed.), 
Catholicism and Secularization in America, Huntington, EN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1990, 

p. 219. 

26 Radcliffe, p. 63. 


Sr . Thomas Mary 
North Guilford 

The purpose of this paper is to suggest that a Christian 
anthropology supportive of the goals of Dominican monastic life 
can be found in the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar. Von 
Balthasar, in his essay "Who is the Church?" offers an in-depth 
analysis of the feminine bridal nature of the Church, focusing in 
particular on the Marian f_iat wherein Mary made to God, through 
the gift of grace, the perfect nuptial response of faith to the 
vv'ord of God. In his penetrating study based on Scripture and the 
Fathers, von Balthasar illustrates how the Marian f_iat has become 
the archetype, principle and exemplar of the faith response of 
the entire Church. ^ 

Von Balthasar situates his study of Mary's cooperation, or 
f_iat, within a fundamental modality of human nature, that is, 
within the polarity of man and woman. Therefore, he returns to 
the story of their creation^ in Genesis 2, wherein he sees that 
Eve is fashioned from Adam, that is, he carried her within him, 
(potentially); and secondly, that woman is essentially an answer 
that comes to the man "at last": 

This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; 
she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of 
Man (Gen 2:23). 

According to von Balthasar, the word of Adam which is primary 
only attains fulfillment when it finds an answering word, that 
is, in the acceptance and return of the word of the woman, who 
corresponds to him. Although the response is latent within h im — 
for there can be no word without an answering word — the man is 
unable to produce it of himself. He can only receive it from the 
woman, as a freely-given gift of grace, in their encounter face- 
to-face. Here, in her answering gaze that "turns the man-who- 
sees into the man-who-is-seen", they are partners of equal rank, 
and dignity.-* 

^oman cannot be defined in simple categories. She is both 
dependent on man's word and independent in equality of persons. 
She is dyadic, that is, she represents a double principle in ner 
twofold orientation toward the man, as bride, and toward the 
child, as mother. She is "answer" which constitutes her as a 
person through dialogue, and she unites in herself the 
fruitful n ess of both, making her a principle of generation, 
whereas man represents only a single principle (word, seed). Von 


Balthasar sees woman as particularly designed to be the 
fruitbearing principle in the order of creation. She brings to 
man an answering fruit fulness in her receptivity of his 
fruitfulness. Yet she is not simply the vessel of his 
fruitfulness: her womanly nature is equipped with her own 
explicit fruitfulness intended to receive man's fruitfulness 
(which, in itself, is helpless) and bring it to its perfection. 
In this way she is the 'glory' of the man (1 Cor 11:7).^ 

Woman, therefore is a process which cannot be summed up in a 
simple definition. She is both the necessary "answer" if the 
word tnat calls to her is to attain its depth of meaning; and she 
is also the source: the "Mother of all the living" (Gen 3:20). 
So too, the Virgin Mary alternates from Virgin Bride to the 
Mother of the Church, from the answering Person to the Source of 
the race. As the immaculate Woman and the new Eve, Mary has 

a new source, according to which--in a way that is 
inconceivable to earthly minds--mother hood and the 
bridal state are intertwined and personal and social 
motherhood interpenetrate. ^ 

As Virgin, Mary brings Christ into the world; as Bride of Christ, 
she cooperates in the birth of the Church; as Mother of the 
Church, she forms the members into Christ. Through her answering 
fiat the Word passes over into flesh, the Head into the body, the 
body into eternal life. She is the place of superabundant 

The fiat given to the angel by the "handmaid of the Lord" is 
the fundamental act of Mary's entire life. It is also the 
fundamental act of the Church in each of her members. Therefore 
the Church, in her human dimension, is radically feminine. 
Although composed of men and women alike, the Church is the bride 
of Christ, and her supreme exemplar is the Virgin Mary in her 
archetypal surrender to God. All are called to be molded in the 
Marian f ia t : saying "yes" to Christ the Savior and with constant 
vigilance receiving the gift of divine love with all humility and 
thanksgiving . 

The specific and irreplaceable role of women in the Church 
has been fully brought to light in the extraordinary role played 
by the Virgin Mary. Indeed, in the Virgin Birth the male agent 
has no part, rather it is the Woman, in her hidden role as 
Virgin, Bride, and Mother, who shines forth as the indispensable 
human figure in the salvation of the world. Through the exalted 
role played by the Virgin Mary, the value and splendor of the 
womanly sphere is brought into prominence. The mystery of woman 
is, above all, an interior one. It shares in the inferiority of 
the mystery of the divine Spirit." 

This author would like to suggest that it is the primary 


mission of the religious woman in the Church to call all the 
members to this interiority. This is her unspeakable privilege, 
glory and service, a truly sublime and hidden role. It is 
essential, therefore, that the religious woman understand and 
accept that her primary and extraordinary activity be known only 
to God, just as the mysterious depths of one's spiritual life is 
"hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:5). By fidelity to her own 
interiority she reveals man to himself and directs those called 
to the apostolic life to look inward to their true selves--that 
secret dwelling place of the abiding Spirit--and to recognize and 
minister to this bridal inwardness in all God's people. 

Does not the feminine world, as virgin, bride, and mother, 
most aptly symbolize the Church's continual surrender to the 
divine initiatiive of Christ who desires to clothe his Bride with 
immaculate grace, recreating her in radiant beauty? Do not women 
mirror for the Church her noble vocation of bringing to birth the 
true Life of humanity? Every Christian woman, as she presses on 
to closer union with God, the Source of her being, and in 
dependence on Mary, her archetype, is a communicator of the 
divine love. How much more the hidden contemplative, who gives 
herself exclusively to the Word of her Divine-human Bridegroom, 
so that abiding in him, she may love the more. 


1 .Hans Urs von Balthasar, Exp lor a tions in Theology II: S pous e 

of_t_he Word , essay: "Who is the Church?", trans. A. V. Littledale 

with Alexander Dru (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), pp. 143- 
191. Previously published in Chu r ch and World (New York: Herder 
and Herder), 1967. 

2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo -Drama , vol. 3: Dramatis 
Pe rsona e: Pers ons in Christ , trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: 
Ignatius Press, 1992): "The first thing to be said about man, 
understood as the epitome of creation, is that he is most 
definitely not God, but he exists 'in the image and likeness of 
God', in a twofold tension: first, he shares an identical nature 
with all other individuals but exists in this nature as a unique 
conscious subject; second, he experiences the complementarity of 
man and woman; both are created by God, but the woman is made from 
the man" (p. 34U). In the theology of von Balthasar "the whole 
purpose of the redemption of the race of the First Adam by the 
Second Adam is to liberate mankind from all 'futility' (Rom 8:20) 
and to bring about that ultimate relationship between man and woman 
that is dimly anticipated in the paradise legend and set forth as 
a final destination in the 'marriage of the Lamb' in the book of 
Revelation. The man-woman relationship is thus shown to be an 
ultimate one" (pp. 289-290). 

For a more extensive study of the man-woman polarity see Hans 
Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. 2: Dramatis Personaej Man in 


God , trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), 
pp 365-382. 

3. Von 3althasar, Theo-Drama , vol. 3, p. 2d4. For a further 
discussion of the man as primary and woman as secondary, as well 
as of equal stature, see pp. 2 a 4 - 2 8 7 . 

4 . Ibid . , p . 2ti5. 

3. Ibid., p. 293. Von Balthasar notes that Peter Damien also 
calls Mary "the source of the living Source, the origin of the 
Beginning" (Serino 45; PL 144, 740ff.) quoted, no. 8, p. 291. 

6. For a similar and more expanded appraisal of the role of 
woman in the Church, see A. Feuillet, Jesus and His Mothe r, trans. 
Leonard Maluf (Still River, Ma.: St. Bede's Publications, 1984), 
p H . 191-254. 



Sr. Mary Regina 
Lufkin, Texas 

About forty years ago the late Fr. Philip Mulhern, O.P., gave a series of lectures entitled: 
"Psychological Predispositions to Growth in Grace." 1 In explaining the importance of the subject 
he said in roughly these words and in his best New England accent: "We are all a bit nuts, you 
know, and twisting our twisted selves back to God's normality for us is what this course is 
about." He further elucidated the subject by quoting a sainted psychologist's advice: "Work as 
if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God." 

This brings us to the consideration of the usefulness and limits of modern psychology in 
our lives as contemplatives. A good definition of psychology will be useful to our study- 
Psychology is the science dealing with the mind, mental processes and behavior 
and a psychologist studies these things. Psychiatry is the branch of medicine 
concerned with psychic problems requiring therapy and psychotherapy. A 
common form of psychotherapy is psychoanalysis, a technique developed at the 
turn of the century by the Viennese physician Sigmund Freud. Today most 
psychoanalysts are also psychiatrists. It is usual to refer to the technique as 
analysis and its practitioners as analysts. 2 

Psychology is a natural science and we should not fear it. All natural good is from God 
and reflects Him in many ways. It is our use or abuse of a good that matters. Both medical 
science and psychology have been and are being used to justify immorality. For example, we 
think of mercy killing and brainwashing as rather common abuses. It is important in our way 
of life not to allow either medicine or psychology to supplant the supernatural order and the 
means the Redemptive Incarnation has given us to grow in grace. That being said, it still 
remains true that psychology can be as great a benefit to us as medical science. 

We should give modern psychology serious consideration in our way of life because it 
can give us useful insights and helpful techniques in the area of self-knowledge. Few of us 
really enter deeply into the cell of self-knowledge, or our dark-side, as it is popularly called, 
consequently we never enter into the cell of the knowledge and love of God either. This cell of 
self-knowledge or dark-side is, in fact, our subconscious with all its buried treasures stored by 
our memory: some good, some bad, all of them affecting our mind-set and attitudes and actions 
that flow from them. 

Those of us who made our novitiate some forty years ago may not realize that our 
attitudes were formed, for the most part, on a non-scriptural foundation. Our Catholic schooling 
and social and domestic upbringing was strongly tainted by attitudes formed by a combination 
of Jansenism, the philosophical dualism of Rene Descartes and the world view of Newtonian 
physics. This gave rise within the Catholic Church to two forms of spirituality: The Western 
Model based on the three errors just mentioned and the Scriptural Model, the only true 
spirituality and the one that has been revived by Vatican II. 

This generation has finally been delivered by the Second Vatican Council from the 
destructive teaching called Jansenism, a distortion of the gospel and one of the 
heresies that insinuated itself into the mainstream of Catholic teaching. Jansenism 


taught that the body was totally corrupt and that the salvation brought by Jesus 
Christ was not universal. The symbol of the latter doctrine is the crucifix with the 
arms of Jesus lifted straight over his head, indicating that he was not embracing 
the whole world, but only a chosen few. This negative view of human nature as 
hopelessly corrupt led to the practice of extreme penances. The doctrine took 
hold in France and spread throughout Europe through the French emigres fleeing 
the French Revolution. It infiltrated Irish seminaries and eventually came to 
America through immigrant priests. This pervasively distrustful attitude toward 
human nature, together with a pathological fear of God, dominated most of 
Catholic educational institutions prior to the Second Vatican Council, long after 
Jansenism was condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities. 3 

The characteristics of the Western Model are negative. The Divine Indwelling is absent 
in its concept of self-outside-God and its attitudes. The predominant attitude that governs all 
the others is "me first." The self-made nun. We build an altar in our hearts, place our false self- 
image on it and adorn it with candles and flowers of self-righteous works. We are willing to 
give God a little room there if he cooperates by applauding and rewarding our achievements. 
Neighbor is only allowed if we can use him/her to exalt our self-importance in some way. 1) 
We initiate all good deeds and God rewards. "I have to prove myself worthy!" 2) External acts 
are more important than internal acts of humility and conversion of heart. Rituals and the 
exercise of the works of mercy stem from self-centeredness rather than from love of God and 
neighbor. 3) Our erroneous concept of merit is seen in an overarching concern about getting to 
heaven by our own efforts without the perfect love of God and service to neighbor. There is no 
mercy in this Western Model of spirituality. (Luke 18:9-11 and Matthew 5:6, 7) 

The characteristics of the Scriptural Model are positive attitudes. Reliance on the Divine 
Indwelling is the form of its concept of self-in-God. God is first, neighbor is equal to myself and 
I love him as another self. The mercy of God as shown in the life of Jesus motivates all our 
external acts. 1) God initiates all good deeds and we consent. 2) internal acts are more 
important than external acts. 3) Emphasis on love of God and neighbor. 4 

We can too quickly blame our forefathers for our Jansenistic tendencies. Self-centeredness 
is as old as Adam and Eve. Perhaps the best example of the two forms or models of spirituality 
is the Apostle St. Paul. Before his conversion he was a typical model of the Western type. He 
was not so much a legalist as a traditionalist. St. Paul had his spirituality built on traditions 
(plural), not on Tradition (singular) and with a capital T. 

Tradition is not the same as traditions. Christian tradition is the living experience 
of the gospel. Its practice demolishes the false- self system, with its false values 
and excessive demands based on our wounded sense of who we are and our 
consequent need to compensate. One lives tradition. One expresses it in one's 
life and in one's reactions to life as a genuine response to Jesus Christ. Traditions 
are human interpretations and are often exalted above the love of God and 
neighbor. Jesus inveighed against such attitudes. 5 

The Epistles of St. Paul are priceless! After his conversion of heart he gives his whole 
self to Jesus in service of the Mystical Body without reservation. He sees himself for what he 
really is in himself and what he is in God. (1 Cor. 15:9-11; 2 Cor. 4) 


God did not crush Paul nor change his nature nor natural gifts as the Western Model 
would have it. God fashioned Paul for a particular mission and simply opened his eyes to that 
mission by blinding him to other alternatives that reason might justifiably choose. Paul was a 
strong-willed man before and after his conversion. He was a super-achiever, excellent at 
organization and discerning good leadership for the churches he established. He was relentless 
in zeal but he was keenly aware that he was chosen and not the chooser. He reiterates over and 
over again the necessity of the Divine Indwelling and of putting on the new man, of being one 
with Jesus in building up the Mystical Body as we ourselves are being built up. 

Striving to become perfect in charity for the building up of the Mystical Body is our 
vocation as Dominicans. Our Rule, Constitutions and Perfectae Caritatis of the Second Vatican 
Council clearly state this. 5 Removing the obstacles to growth in charity can be facilitated by the 
insights and techniques that modern psychology has to offer. To say that the obstacles to growth 
in charity are original sin and personal sin built on that foundation is like saying that fish swim 
in water. That is good to know. If you are swimming it is just as important to know the vast 
difference between a gold fish and a shark. 

Without the experience of resting in God, all the capital sins can flourish without 
our actually being aware of the fact. One may think one is doing great things for 
God... but the seven capital sins, the results of the emotional programs for 
happiness unless confronted, will lead to burn-out or pharisaism, the occupational 
hazards of religious people. 

This is the reason why I say one can't do the spiritual life nowadays 
without some working knowledge of one's own psychology. Unless one develops 
a healthy self-identity, the psychological resources of the journey are lacking. 
People who have been injured in early childhood and do not have a strong ego 
because they were oppressed or abused do not have a self to give to God or 
anyone else... They prefer external obedience to inner transformation. But 
without personal responsibility for our emotional life, however wounded it is, the 
journey will never get off the ground. Our conscious life has to be the starting 
point, of course, but the biggest problem is our unconscious motivation. Both 
have to be changed. 7 

The assertion of modern psychology that the three energy centers are security (Jung), 
sensation (Freud), and the power center (Adler) is nothing new. They are found in the Old 
Testament books attributed to Solomon as a youth (Song of Songs), in middle age (Proverbs) and 
as an old man (Ecclesiastes). Confucius follows this pattern but Shakespeare divides the three 
centers into seven in As you Like It . 8 

Of the three psychiatrists already mentioned, it is Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) who 
returns to the biblical three ages with the very limited notion that security is the basic human 

Jung, Freud and Adler and to a large extent, non-christian psychology generally are one 
third right and two thirds incomplete. All three energy centers or basic human drives are God 
given and without them we would not be human. Our Lord himself had them as man and 
reading the four gospels in this light is very beneficial. It is crucial that we realize intimately 
that what we experience, our Lord experienced but without sin. God himself is our role model 
as man. Jesus had a subconscious as man and he reveals it to us in his attitudes and actions in 
the circumstances and towards persons as they present themselves to him day by day. Joys, 


sorrows, pain of body and soul, all of these were for him a reality he had to face and live with 
just as we do. 

The energy centers are good in themselves and can be considered in the light of the three 
vows as goods sacrificed for a higher good. 

Nor is there guilt necessarily associated with these different and dominant urges; 
wrong enters in only when there is disorder. Sex is not wrong; otherwise 
marriage would not be a source of happiness. The search for superiority is not 
wrong; otherwise man would never seek to develop his natural talents. Desire 
for property is not wrong, for property is the extension of personality. 9 

To understand the import of these energy centers in our lives we must realize that they 
are a basic part of our subconscious in infancy. They govern our emotional reactions and 
evaluations of persons and circumstances affecting us. Our values are based on these 
evaluations before we reach the use of reason and are necessarily self-centered. This false-self 
system is thoroughly in place by the age of seven or eight. At this point, if we are to grow in 
age and wisdom, the energy centers have to be brought under the control of reason and faith. 
Grace, the supernatural life of virtue, should begin at this point. Christian values have to replace 
those of the false-self system. This shows the value of a Christian family and education. 

Due to the effects of original sin, we come to the use of reason with the following 
program for happiness to deal with. Our security center produces exaggerated demands for 
survival and security. Our sensation center produces exaggerated demands for pleasure, 
affection and esteem. Our power center produces exaggerated demands to control situations and 
other people. Over-identification with our family, nation, ethnic or peer group leads to excessive 
dependency on them. Jesus' teaching goes to the heart of the problem: self-centeredness. True 
happiness, the Beatitudes, depends on letting go of security, pleasure and power as absolute or 
quasi-absolute goals. Jesus calls us to dis-identify with family, nation, ethnic or peer group if 
love for them prevents us from following the Gospel. In short, we are called to the practice of 
virtue as Jesus exemplified it for us. The presence of an upsetting emotion proves that 
something is wrong with us and not necessarily with the people or circumstance that we find 
upsetting. The gospel urges us to take responsibility for our emotions and to integrate them into 
the rational and intuitive levels of knowledge and choice. 10 

Modern psychology is a new light or approach to the age old human condition of original 
sin, personal sin and the mercy of God. "To know what it means to be human, we must look to 
the historic Jesus who alone in history is the fully, undistorted realization of humanity. 
Ultimately, it is this conviction that makes Christian Humanism different from Enlightenment 
Humanism." u 

The material of this study seems so familiar to us Dominicans because the model of 
philosophical psychology is based on the anthropology of St. Thomas Aquinas and presents the 
faculties and essential relationships of human nature insofar as these can be deduced by human 
reason. There are several "models" in current psychology. 1) The Evolutionary Model considers 
the human race as a unit. 2) The Existential Model is concerned with the development of the 
individual human person. 3) The Philosophical Model was constructed by St. Thomas. 4) The 
Model of Christian Growth, which is based on the degrees of prayer as described by mystics like 
St. Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross. 


Let us look at how these Models correspond to one another and see them as they are 
manifested in Jesus and in us. In the two models under Modern Science there will first be the 
title listed then the Evolutionary Model (O years B.C.), then the Existential Model with the 
corresponding age of the child. 

The first stage of development is called Uroboric (reptilian) Consciousness-5 million B.C. 
This first stage indicates the first year of life. The infant who has instinctual need for food, 
shelter, comfort, sense pleasure. The appetites of pleasure as described by St. Thomas come into 
play: love, hate, desire, aversion, joy and sorrow. The newborn Infant Jesus experienced these 
needs and made them known to his mother the same way all infants do and as we did with this 
exception: as there were not the effects of original sin in his psyche he did not demand the 
constant attention of his mother or those around him as infants often do, once they learn they 
can get attention by crying. The need of the infant is the feeling of security and it is here that 
the Security Center is established, responding to insecurity with anger (rage), fear or withdrawal. 
The Infant Jesus in the mystery of the circumcision and the flight into Egypt would have 
experienced aversion to pain on the emotional level. He would have sensed the fear of his 
mother and St. Joseph as they fled to Egypt. He would have also imbibed their resignation and 
peace in the Will of the Father and this, together with the love and affection he received from 
them, would have counter-balanced his emotional experience of physical and emotional pain, 
giving his Security Center a well-balanced foundation upon which to build further experiences. 

At this point I think it is only fair to say that the baptized infant of good Christian 
parents, though having the tendency to self-centeredness, is not as likely to have serious 
emotional disorders in its initial programming of the energy centers. In addition, each child has 
a guardian angel to enlighten it particularly by helping it to imbibe the Christian values of its 
parents on the emotional level. 12 

The second stage is called Typhonic (half human— half animal) Consciousness—200,000 
B.C. This corresponds with the age of the child from 2-4 years. Although some children come 
to the use of reason during this period, it seems to be more common that they just begin to be 
aware of themselves as being distinct from other people and objects. They have likes and 
dislikes, especially in foods and toys. They begin to use their imagination and memory while 
playing with their toys, inventing games with them. The only biblical record that we have of 
Jesus' childhood is that the family was accustomed to go up to the Temple each year, and when, 
in his twelfth year he was found missing, they looked for him among friends and relatives. This 
would indicate that he was considered a normal child and their friends and relatives did not 
mind having him around, most likely playing with his cousins. In adult life, his "brethren" are 
often mentioned as coming to see him or urging him to make the customary trip up to the 
Temple. It is during this period of the child's life, age 2-4, that the sensation and power centers 
are developed. This corresponds to what St. Thomas calls the development of the internal senses 
and the utility appetite: hope, daring, despair, fear, anger. The fact that nothing outstanding is 
noted in the New Testament about the early childhood of Jesus would indicate that he never 
did anything in excess or defect in his development of the internal senses or his normal human 
appetites. He enjoyed the things all boys enjoy but nothing that he did was overdone. 

The third stage is entitled Mythic Membership Consciousness— 10,000 B.C. This 
corresponds to the age of a child from 4-8 years. During this period the child begins to socialize 
as it can now speak and language development hastens the growth process. The intenonzation 
of the values of parents, culture and peer groups takes place unquestioningly. An over- 
identification with family, peer groups, nation, etc. is likely to take place. Most of us still have 


traces of this. Our parents are still somewhat glorified in our minds. We are not happy if 
someone puts them in an unfavorable light. We are still close knit to our classmates and club 
members of schooldays. Was the boy Jesus that much different? Yes and no. As the values that 
are formed during this period reflect themselves in adult life, it is fairly safe to say that Jesus 
loved Mary and Joseph as no other child has ever loved his parents, and this even on a human 
level. But even at the age of twelve he considered his heavenly Father's business as above all 
human ties. In his sermons he often made the distinction between customs of the day and 
charity, as is evidenced in the Sermon on the Mount and its following instruction. He also 
brought the "sons of thunder" to task for wanting to destroy the hated Samaritans. There are 
too many like references to be mention here, but from these it can be deduced that his value- 
system was well balanced and thought out. St. Thomas depicts this period as being the time 
when internal senses begin to develop reason, understanding, memory, conscience. The will 
comes into play in making decisions. In the model of Christian Growth the prayer life begins. 
Children are taught their prayers and learn to pray them by themselves. 

The fourth stage is called the Mental Egoic (rational) Level of Consciousness—3,000 B.C. 
to the present day. This embraces the age of 7-15 years. The child has full reflective self- 
consciousness and is capable of a moral act, good or bad. The intuitive powers of the brain open 
to the spiritual realm. The movement from self-centered values to values of compassion and 
unconditional love begins. In St. Thomas' guide this is still the period of the Active Intellect and 
Will. In the model of Christian Growth this is the period of Lectio Divina : prayer of simplicity, 
affective prayer, discursive meditation, reading the scriptures. We do have a biblical account 
of this period: the finding in the Temple. Volumes could be and perhaps have been written 
about this fifth mystery of the Rosary. It is not the purpose of this study to go into all the 
different kinds of Jesus' knowledge. The play or interplay of any of them would have had an 
impact on his human psyche. In this particular instance the word "insight" might best describe 
his intuitive understanding of scripture. For all who heard his questions and answers were 
amazed. This would also imply that his mind was advanced beyond his chronological years. 
He seems to have the goal of his life before him and is preparing for it. He wants to know how 
the teachers at the highest level of his people understand and interpret the scriptures. His 
answer to his mother seems to imply that both he and Mary and Joseph know that he is to be 
a teacher, namely the Messiah, and that they will not find him anywhere but in the Temple, that 
is, his Father's house. The mother's question and concern also shows that he has never done this 
before and this is his first move in the direction that would lead him further away from the 
vocation of carpenter to that of rabbi. It is interesting that Joseph is mentioned but the question 
does not come from the head of the household but from the mother. The boy Jesus has to make 
a choice at this point. Should he ask or demand to be enrolled in one of the rabbinical schools, 
should he run away or flatly refuse to return with them and pursue some other course as St. 
John the Baptist in the desert. The account explicitly says that he goes down with them and is 
obedient to them, rather than they take him back home. The choice is his. As the account 
continues we read that he grows in stature, wisdom and favor before God and men. He does 
nothing during this period to displease God and perhaps what is more astonishing, nothing to 
displease those who know him and live with him. The whole mystery shows plainly that the 
boy Jesus has a "will to power" but exercises it in obedience. His sensation center is exercised 
in respect for his parents and the elders of his people and for everyone for he displeased no one. 
His security center is well-balanced and manifests itself in not fearing to be absent from his 
parents nor afraid to make the decision to return with them. He has a respect for the rights and 
feelings of others. 

The next three stages of normal human development are not commented on much except 
by St. Thomas and the mystics. Little wonder, as we now move into a realm where either God 
or the imagination rules, truth or falsehood. 

The fifth stage is called Intuitive. St. Thomas calls this the operation of the passive 
intellect and the Will to God. The Model of Christian Growth places the night of the senses 
here. This would correspond to the temptation of Our Lord in the desert. The Divine 
Indwelling becomes manifest in the operation of the gifts of understanding, wisdom and 
knowledge. This is particularly evident in Jesus' answers to the devil. Council, piety, fortitude 
and fear of the Lord are remarkable in the way he uses and controls his emotions in this 
circumstance. While our Lord manifests the virtues and Gifts through out his public life they 
are very evident in this biblical introduction to that life. It is said by the mystics and particularly 
by St. Catherine of Siena, that few of us in our own lives of imitating Jesus get beyond this stage. 
Letting go of the controls and especially of being important to ourselves and allowing the Holy 
Spirit to dominate us is asking too much; or at least, we fear what will become of us if we do. 
Let us keep our role model Jesus ever before us. 

The sixth stage is called Unitive (Holiness). In St. Thomas' model this is called the still 
point of the soul. The model of Christian Growth has the night of the spirit begin here and end 
in the transforming union. Going up the scale of true prayer we have infused recollection, 
prayer of quiet, prayer of union and prayer of full union. Strictly speaking, these forms of 
prayer can be found in the lower stages but they predominate at this stage. Again Jesus 
manifests in his whole public life the various degrees of prayer but perhaps it is most beautifully 
presented in his prayer at the Last Supper and culminates in the agony in the Garden where he 
lives in his human psyche what his body will experience in the hours that follow, ending with 
his bodily death. During his whole life he says that he is one with the Will of the Father and 
to prove his point, he asks his opponents, 'Who of you can convict me of sin?" We are all 
sometimes called to practice heroic virtue. Especially at the death of a loved one, a very difficult 
obedience or accepting a debilitating illness. "Father if it be possible let this chalice pass from 
me. Not as I will, but as you will." 

The seventh stage is Unity (Wisdom). St. Thomas called this the Ground of Unconscious. 
The Model of Christian Growth - Night of Self. The Mystery of the Crucifixion. Our Lord leaves 
the Garden in full possession of himself and his one goal is the redemption of the human race. 
He is the head, we his members. He is in full command - the power control center - "Into Your 
hands I commend my spirit." His Sensory Center - He thinks only of the good of others - 
"Father forgive them for they know not what they do" and "Mother behold thy son. Son behold 
thy mother." His security Center - "My God, my God why have you forsaken me" and the 
psalm that continues from these opening lines. We can all identify with these sentiments 
especially in prayer for the Church. 

The last and eighth stage is called Ultimate. St. Thomas simply calls it God, meaning that 
God is all in all. In the model of Christian Growth it is called Unity- "The Christ" in the vision 
of St. Paul is the corporate personality of the human family open to transcendence. Total 
Submission to God. It is the mystery of the Death and Resurrection. If we have apprehensions 
St. Paul saves us by saying that we die and rise daily, for in the realm of grace there is no death 
without a resurrection. 

It is in times of frustration that our old habits which we selfishly built on the energy 
centers react according to our temperament. The typical ones are: withdrawal, refusing to face 


our problem; aggression, trying to control things to suit ourselves; dependency, trying to get 
someone else to do our job for us, inordinately seeking support and protection from our trial and 
capitulation, we are unwilling to conform but do so for the wrong motive. This is why it is so 
necessary to meditate on the life of Jesus. 

In prayer we may receive the consolation of the Spirit particularly in the beginning. 

But after several years of prayer, we always find ourselves in the desert, because 
that is the way to divine union. There is no getting well from the wounds of our 
early childhood except through the cross. The cross that God asks us to accept 
is primarily our own pain that we bring with us from early childhood. Our own 
wounds, our own limitations, our own personality defects, all the damage that 
people have done to us from the beginning of life until now, and our personal 
experience of pain of the human condition as we individually have experienced 
it - this is our true cross! That is what Christ asks us to accept and to allow him 
to share. Actually in his passion he has already made our pain his own. 13 

The modern psychology that is godless would have us believe that the human race, and 
each of us individually, can achieve stages 5-8 by ourselves. Among those groups that have 
tried perhaps the Marxists deserve the most credit. Their total failure is self-evident to everyone, 
even to themselves. Yet some keep trying. It is important for this reason to make sure that the 
psychology we use is Christian and follows the life of Jesus as its role-model. The techniques 
we choose in this line, though good in themselves are not good for every individual. Good 
choices must be made. The more popular ones are: centering prayer, journaling, the enneagram 
and the 12-steps. Just as in medical therapy bodily exercise is very good for all, yet a serious 
heart patient is not recommended to work out for 20 minutes on a Nordic/Track as this would 
mean certain death. But a daily walk could mean a longer life span. 

All the main religions of the world are very conscious of the evil we call original sin and 
its consequences. All try to escape this evil and find happiness and peace in whatever they 
think is God. None have the answer, although some have very subtle answers which eventually 
end in dissolution, presumption and despair of some form. The Catholic Church teaches that 
the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and was like us in all things except sin. He did 
not avoid suffering but assumed in himself all the consequences of our sins and sinfulness and 
by his passion /death and resurrection redeemed us and delivered us from all evil into the 
kingdom of his Father which is true peace and happiness. This is the only road to union with 
God, Eternal Life. 

The great privilege of contemplatives is that we are invited to share first in our 
own redemption by accepting our personal alienation from God and its 
consequences throughout our lives, and then to identify with the divine 
compassion in healing the world through the groanings of the Spirit within us. 
'The unspeakable groanings of the Spirit,' as Paul calls them, are our desires to 
bring the peace and knowledge of God's love into the world. The love that is the 
source of those desires is in fact being projected into the world and is secretly 
healing its wounds. We will not know the results of our participation in Christ's 
redemptive work in this life. One thing is certain: by bonding with the crucified 
One we bond with everyone else, past, present and to come. 14 



1. Mulhern, Philip, O.P. Psychological Predispositions to Growth in Grace . Columbus, OH: 

Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs, ca. 1954. (An audio tape) 

2. Family Word Find : A dictionary published by Readers Digest 1975, p. 629. 

3. Keating, Thomas, O.C.S.O. Intimacy With God . NY: Crossroads Publishing Co., 1994, p. 29. 

4. Keating, Thomas, O.C.S.O. The Spiritual Tourney . Snowmass CO: St. Benedict's Monastery, 

1994. (Video cassette series) 

5. Keating, Intimacy, p. 25. 

6. Flannery, Austin, O.P. Vatican Council II . Newport, NY: Costello Publishing Co., 1977, p.684. 

7. Keating, Intimacy, p. 120. 

8. Sheen, Bishop Fulton J., Footprints in a Darkened Forest. New York: Meredith Press, 1967, 

p. 3-5. 

9. Ibid., p. 4, 5. 

10. Keating, The Spiritual Tourney . 

11. Ashley, Benedict M., O.P. Theologies of the Body . Braintree, Ma: The Pope John Center, 1985, 

p. 386. 

12. Ibid., p. 652. 

13. Keating, Intimacy, p. 34. 

14. Ibid., p. 36. 



Sister Mary Rose Dominic, O.P. 
Summit, NJ 

In any evaluation of the basic structure of religious life the question of enclosure holds 
a very important place, for this is one of the great foundation stones upon which the 
consecrated life rests. It has been present in the Church since apostolic times and will continue 
to be so in one form or another until the end of time. While the outward form may change 
from age to age, the nature and function of enclosure remains the same. 

What, then, is the nature and function of enclosure? It is intended as a protection and 
preservative of the silence and solitude of the cloister which is the House of God, and this, in 
turn, is intended to preserve the solitude of the sister's heart for God to whom she has 
consecrated herself. We could say, therefore, that enclosure is an aspect of solitude, that 
hunger of the human heart to be alone with God. For there is an aloneness in the heart of man 
which insistently makes itself felt in that interior call to come to God and abide always with 
him. This call, in the spiritual order, is as mysterious as the drawing power, in the natural 
order, of the magnet upon the inert iron. It cannot be ignored or indeed ultimately withstood 
for it knows no rest until the heart has surrendered itself to God, the Divine Lode Star, who 
eternally attracts it. 

It is this very important observance of the religious life with which we are confronted 
when we are considering enclosure. Of its nature it has many facets for it touches upon every 
aspect of our life which governs the silence and solitude of the soul in its relation to God. In 
our life as cloistered Dominicans, enclosure is conditioned and receives its specific form and 
aspect from the charism and mission of our holy father Saint Dominic in the Church; this in 
turn leads us to consideration of the question of our religious identity which determines the 
character of our enclosure. 

Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians touched upon the question of identity when 
he said, "There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is the 
one thing, and that of the earthly is another, there is one glory of the sun, and another glory 
of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory." ( 1 Cor 
15:40-41 ) The Church is a reflection of that cosmic mystery, for the number and variety of 
religious institutes is very great, and each glorifies God by its own specific charism. 

To Saint Dominic was given the predestined mission of contemplating through prayer 
and study the mystery of God, of being concerned with the truth of God and of defending this 
truth, by preaching, teaching and the manifold works of the apostolic ministry, against those 
who would deny the existence of God or his authorship of Creation. In the fulfillment of this 


mission he founded a religious order to continue his work in future ages. His order became 
known as "the Friars Preachers," whose vocation it was to guard the integrity of the faith by 
the study, teaching and defense of sacred doctrine. Since by its very nature the Order was given 
to the study of sacred truth, it was necessarily contemplative, but the vocation to spread and 
defend the teachings of the faith gave it also an active or apostolic character. 

Every branch of the Order was dedicated to this specific goal, though each in a different 
manner and degree. The Fathers were ordained to this mission in the fullest sense, being 
required by their profession to preach, teach and defend the faith actively. The active 
sisterhoods and all affiliated institutes and congregations participated to a lesser degree in this 
apostolic vocation. But where did the contemplative nuns stand, or what type of life did Saint 
Dominic envision for them? In a word, where must they look to discover their identity'? There 
is no more authentic source in which to discover it than the Rule and Constitutions which were 
designed by Dominic for the nuns of his Order. The Rule of Saint Augustine, by which he 
ordained that they be governed, expresses his basic concept of the religious life as he would 
have them follow it. 

The Constitutions, especially the basic Constitutions, deal in more detail with the 
various aspects and observances of the Dominican contemplative life, and despite the passage 
of the centuries or the various emendations and redactions to which these Constitutions have 
been subjected during that time, they essentially express today the original idea of Saint 
Dominic for the life of his contemplative nuns. 

He chose the cenobitic life for all his religious as distinct from the eremitical, for he was 
eminently "a family man" so to speak, and so he based his concept of the religious life on the 
idea of the family which in the design of God is the basis of all human society. While there is 
an eremitical element in every religious vocation, that element is usually confined within the 
precincts of the individual soul rather than in the external structure of the monastic life, except 
in the case of eremitical institutes. This is eminently true of the Dominican monastic life: it is 
truly "a common life." 

In order to get a clearer likeness of the Dominican cloistered nun. we must first look at 
the basic elements of the religious life that mold her according to the ideal of Saint Dominic. 
For just as in the material order the physical elements of geographic location, climate, etc., act 
upon and help to mold the physical features of the inhabitants of the various regions of the 
world, so the elements of religious observance as envisioned by the founder of an Order help 
to mold the spiritual likeness of his disciples. Thus the Jesuit is not a Dominican, nor the 
Dominican a Franciscan. The spiritual likeness of each differs according to the spirit of the 
founder. Let us look, then, at the basic elements of the cloistered life as envisioned by Saint 
Dominic since they give the Dominican cloistered nun her particular "Dominican" identity. 


Our holy father never intended the observances of the common life to be an end in 
themselves, rather each and every observance was designed to achieve the goal of his religious 
family. In the case of the cloistered nuns, this goal was twofold: the sanctification of the 
individual sister and her union with God through the practice of prayer, penance and the 
observances of the common life, and the sanctification of the Church together with the spread 
and preservation of the faith through the witness of her life and the efficacy of her prayer. 

First to be considered among the observances of our cloistered life is that of enclosure 
to which our holy father attached great importance as a means of establishing that atmosphere 
of peace and silence which are indispensable to a life of contemplation. For enclosure is the 
guardian of silence, and silence is the guardian of prayer. 

It is not possible in the culture of today, however, to observe enclosure as it was done 
in the days of Saint Dominic, yet the spirit of enclosure as he envisioned it is quite possible to 
all and is still one of the most valuable assets of the cloistered life. To abide by the spirit of 
enclosure today both the Church and the Order require of cloistered religious a prudent 
vigilance in everything that concerns the material enclosure itself and in all those observances 
which touch indirectly upon it, that is, those which involve contact with the secular world. 
These latter would include, for example, the matter of secular reading, the viewing of audio- 
visual programs, letter writing, parlor visiting and family contacts. In view of the new 
legislation which allows a much wider latitude to religious in the matter of enclosure, much of 
the responsibility for the faithful observance thereof will rest with the individual sister herself. 
In regard to the actual enclosure, the Church requires that all ingress and egress be limited to 
what is strictly necessary. 

It is obvious from the foregoing considerations that a certain amount of renewal is 
necessary in order to bring the observance of enclosure into harmony with the valid needs of 
modern culture while at the same time preserving its spirit, and this brings us to the question 
of renewal. The general renewal decreed by Vatican II touched upon every aspect of the 
consecrated life including enclosure, so that all religious institutes are preoccupied with the 
question of renewal. In any discussion of this important matter, it becomes quickly evident that 
any community naturally falls into two groups: those who are inclined to more progressive 
ideas and those of a conservative cast of mind. To preserve a reasonable balance it is necessary 
to study the mind and thought of the founder in order to discover one's true charism, which is 
the safest guide in this difficult undertaking. 

Renewal did not begin with the Second Vatican Council. It has been operative in the 
Church since the days of the apostles. Through the ages there have been certain chosen 
individuals and organs of authority within the Church whose divinely appointed mission was 
to renew the same. These organs of renewal were the great general councils of the past, for 
example the Council of Trent or Vatican Council I, or the great reformers of the Church 


through the centuries, men like Hildebrand. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Francis or Saint 
Dominic, and in our own times. Cardinal Newman. Saint Dominic was especially chosen by 
God to effect a great renewal with the Church, whose repercussions are still being felt today. 
Having perceived the root of the evils which beset the Church in his day he set himself to 
provide a lasting reform and in so doing was compelled to depart to a considerable degree from 
the accepted customs of monastic discipline at that time. But throughout his entire reform 
there was never a shadow of disdain on his part for the customs which he set aside, nor of 
rivalry with those who were in the field before him. Any such spirit would have dwarfed his 
stature and vision. Truly humble of heart, he was always willing to admit what was valid and 
worthwhile in tradition, while at the same time proceeding along a different path to the 
attainment of his own goals. 

This should be our approach to the work of our renewal. There should always be a 
sincere respect for what has gone before, realizing that the customs of former times were 
intended for the times which produced them. Indeed these very customs helped to mold great 
saints of the past, like our own Saint Thomas Aquinas or Albert the Great. It would be a great 
mistake to think that everything "old" is bad and everything "new" is good. The old may no 
longer be of service to the modern age but it is none the less good for that. If it must now be 
set aside, it should be done in a spirit of reverence and gratitude for the service it has rendered 
in its time. This is to think with the mind of the Church, an attitude which was characteristic 
of our holy Father. In this area of renewal, perhaps more than in any other the contemplative 
nun can reflect the beauty of Saint Dominic's ideal, remembering his counsel to his brethren: 
"I have made my chief study in the Book of Charity: it teaches everything." 

Now let us look at one of the most important aspects of our renewal, the question of 
enclosure, and one which of its very nature governs the solitude and silence of the soul in its 
relation to God. In any consideration of enclosure we must be careful to remember that the 
need for authentic enclosure is as real today as it was in the days of Saint Dominic, despite the 
great difference in culture that separates us in time from those far distant ages, for here we are 
dealing with the deepest wellsprings of the human heart which forever remain unchanged 
beneath the surface of every civilization. It is well to remember also that the grace of the Holy 
Spirit which guided the Church in the first days of Pentecost is the same which guides it today. 
Moreover, the rules which governed enclosure in former centuries were both prudent and 
beneficial, and developed from the experience of the ages. It takes sincere honesty, therefore, 
to discern to what extent the rules of enclosure should be modified while remaining faithful to 
its basic concept. 

In a systematic evaluation of enclosure there are certain points which need clarification. 
The first concerns the matter of egress from the monastery for the purpose of visiting a 
seriously ill parent or to attend a meeting. In regard to the first, the present ruling seems to 
convey the idea of a single visit for the comfort of the parent and the sister alike, as opposed 


to the idea of oft repeated visits during the same illness. Are we to distinguish here between 
a definite life-threatening illness of a parent and the chronic debility of old age, where the 
parent is not dangerously ill but rather in a stable condition? Do these two separate situations 
require different rulings? 

In the case of a seriously ill parent, should there be a definite ruling for the entire 
community, determining how often the sister should visit, how long she should stay and when 
she should return? If her family lives within easy reach of the monastery, within an hour's ride 
or less, would it be advisable to have her go in the morning, have a visit of several hours, and 
return to the monastery in the evening? In the case of a sister whose family lives far away, how 
long should her visit last, in like circumstances? Would it be sufficient, for example, to allow 
a day to go and a day to return, with two days for the visit itself? In the case of a parent who 
is not critically ill but rather in a stable chronic condition of debility from old age, for example, 
how often should sisters be permitted to visit, and for how long, whether in the case of those 
who live near or far away? 

The grave nature and importance of these problems cannot be over-estimated because 
lack of vigilance in this area can have very serious repercussions on the life of the sister herself 
and on the community as a whole. In the case of the sister herself, it cannot be denied that too 
much going back and forth to her family will gradually foster love of egress from the enclosure 
even when there is no sufficient reason to warrant it. If frequently indulged in, it may lead to 
a loss of her peace of soul and even to a loss of her vocation: such instances are not unknown. 
Most serious of all, if the sister's family perceives that home visits can be lightly arranged and 
easily prolonged, they may be tempted to ask or even to demand that she return home 
indefinitely to assume the care and responsibility of the seriously ill parent since she is free and 
unencumbered by the problem of earning a living as the other family members are; and this can 
be required even when there are other members of the family who should and could, without 
really serious inconvenience, assume the responsibility themselves. 

In regard to the community, too much going back and forth for home visiting may 
unsettle the monastic family and seriously disturb the peace and tranquillity of the house, 
besides burdening the sisters with the work of the one who has departed. Furthermore it could 
endanger the continuance of the major basic observances of the community, such as perpetual 
adoration or the solemn choral rendering of the Divine Office. 

Another important matter to be considered in relation to egress is the question of 
meetings, a new feature of cloistered life since Vatican II. How many meetings are really 
necessary? How often should they occur and how long should they last? Should there be a 
definitely established norm to govern all the monasteries in regard to these specific details? 
When we come to analyze it, there would seem to be very few occasions wherein meetings are 
really essential. While one or two meetings for orientation in regard to any given project or 


program might be helpful, to prolong them indefinitely would seem to be unnecessary, a mere 
waste of time and money. Once basic procedures have been established, the rest could be 
handled by phone or by mail. In this important matter of meetings we need to exercise 
vigilance and honesty to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous. 

It must be admitted that too many meetings can foster a love of travel and a desire to 
enjoy the diversion that such gatherings afford. It will be well to remember in regard to this 
important matter of meetings that the observance of a truly cloistered life is more precious than 
gold for it affects the whole basic structure of our life. 

Coming now to other observances which indirectly affect enclosure, we have the 
question of reading and letter writing. In the matter of reading, especially secular reading, the 
individual sister should exercise a prudent vigilance to enable her to preserve that purity and 
peace of soul which are necessary to her contemplative life. It requires both honesty and 
circumspection on her part to discern what quality of secular reading and how much is 
necessary in order to keep validly informed of important secular issues, as our Constitutions 
prescribe. The same holds true in the matter of viewing audio-visual programs. Lack of 
prudence or over-indulgence in this matter could quickly destroy the peace of soul in the 
individual sister or even of the entire community. With regard to the question of letter writing, 
the Constitutions require that the demands of justice and charity be fulfilled but unrestricted 
letter writing should be avoided. This could cause distraction of mind to the sister and in the 
end accomplish nothing for those whom it was intended to help. 

Lastly there is the question of family contacts. Love of one's own kindred is a natural 
instinct implanted in the human heart by God himself and is therefore a sacred obligation. But 
the instinct to show the proper reverence and appreciation for one's family and kindred has to 
be regulated, both in the interests of the individual sister and of the whole community. In this 
regard it is well to remember that the One who placed the instinct of family affection in the 
human heart is the One who also said, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not 
worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mat. 
10:37). Again the Holy Spirit through the inspired psalmist in the Old Testament counseled 
against too much preoccupation with one's family when he said, "Hear, O daughter, consider 
and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house, and the king will desire your 
beauty" (Ps. 45). These divine admonitions were intended to regulate, not to destroy, family 
affection. Charity and justice have their place in the matter of showing love and appreciation 
of one's family but too much concern or involvement in their affairs could distract the heart 
that had once emptied itself for God and thus prove seriously harmful to the sister's life of 

With the greater sense of responsibility expected of the individual religious today, the 
obligation of regulating the frequency of family contacts may rest largely upon the sister 


herself, so that a prudent vigilance on her part may be necessary to determine how much 
contact with family or relatives is required by justice or charity and how much, in the last 
analysis, is useless or peripheral. 

Now let us reflect for a moment on the practical problems of renewal. When we come 
to revitalize our observance, what concrete steps should we take? The most obvious would be 
to concentrate on those observances which consolidate and build up a good common life, with 
the necessary structures and restraints that are required to maintain a well-disciplined monastic 
life. In this matter it may be helpful to remember that the most important institutions in any 
nation are the most highly structured, for example, the Army. Navy or Air Force. Without 
structure and discipline, any institute, whether religious or secular, would ultimately 
disintegrate. In renewing our observance, therefore, we should overlook no detail for what at 
first sight might appear to be a mere trifling may in reality be very important psychologically 
to the building up of an authentic religious spirit, and it may be well to reflect here on the 
observation of Leonardo da Vinci: "Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle." 

It should be the concern of every member of the community to contribute to the 
establishment and preservation of a good religious observance, and far from seeking the 
distractions of secular society, they should seek to build up and sustain the internal life of the 
monastery. If there is a good religious spirit, with genuine charity and concern for the well 
being of every member of the monastic family, then there will be no need to seek for sympathy, 
understanding or diversion from secular society. 

In the light of these considerations, therefore, let us look for a moment at those 
observances which might merit our most careful consideration. The watching of audio-visual 
programs, the type of material viewed and the amount of time allowed for these programs 
should be established by the superior and the Chapter, care being taken that the frequency or 
duration of such programs should never be allowed to disrupt the normal daily schedule of 
monastic exercises or endanger the peace and tranquility of the individual sister or the 

The quality of secular reading and the time spent thereon should be regulated by the 
Prioress and the Chapter. The number of secular newspapers and magazines should be subject 
to frequent and careful scrutiny and if the number of secular or religious publications should 
prove excessive, care should be taken to reduce, or in some cases to eliminate altogether, the 
number of such publications, the perusals of which can prove to be little else than a source of 
distraction or a waste of time. 

The prudent regulation of the use of the phone cannot be over-estimated for it is an easy 
means of direct communication with the world and, like the viewing of TV, it can become a 
psychological addiction. Nothing, perhaps, more than an excessive use of the phone can lead 

to a spiritual deterioration of the community. Whether in regard to local or long distance calls, 
therefore, the sisters should be careful to limit phone calls to what is really necessary and the 
Prioress and Chapter should establish definite times for the making or receiving of phone calls, 
allowing also for cases of serious emergency. Both family and relatives should be informed of 
these official times and should be given to understand that they should not feel free to make 
phone calls at any time. It would be both desirable and advantageous to prohibit the use of the 
phone during Office or during meals. Sometimes it is failure on the sister's part to acquaint 
family or friends with the rules of the phone that can lead to abuse. If the rules are faithfully 
kept in regard to the phone, the enclosure will be made secure. 

Another very important area in regard to the observance of enclosure is the use of the 
parlor: this needs constant and careful supervision. Definite ruling in regard to parlor visiting 
should be established by the Prioress and Chapter, and practical steps taken to ensure the 
conscientious fulfillment of these norms. Parlor visits should not be allowed during Advent or 
Lent or during times of community retreat except for a grave and valid reason. This is one are 
in which the spirit of the world can surreptitiously enter to distract the mind and heart of the 
religious and if allowed to continue unchecked could lead to the devastation of common life. 
The sharing of meals with friends or relatives should not be allowed, for this practice can lead 
to a serious breakdown of monastic discipline where the taking of meals in common can be 
essential to the building up and preservation of community morale, especially in small 
communities. Nothing can be more depressing than to see an empty refectory where no one 
cares to come; meals shared in common are not only an ancient monastic practice but can be 
a powerful bond to unity the monastic family. It is for this very reason that all religious orders 
and congregations in the past strictly forbade the taking of food or drink, whether coffee, tea 
or wine, or snacks of fruit, cookies or other foods to the sister's cell except in the case of illness. 
It would be a wise and prudent decision to faithfully adhere to this practice where it still 
obtains, or to return to it where it has been abandoned. 

In the matter of contacts with outsiders, one final word of caution is necessary: this 
concerns the sisters' contacts with the workmen. With the exception of those deputed to deal 
with them, the sisters should be required to avoid all unnecessary contacts, especially during 
silence time. A few minutes of light conversation with the community in general might be 
desirable occasionally but recreation with the workmen, either by individuals or small groups, 
should not be allowed. 

Then there is the question of another practice which should be carefully and officially 
regulated to preserve the spirit of enclosure and the peace of the individual sister and of the 
community at large. For those who truly desire a renewal of the religious life, it would be very 
helpful to return to the practice of prohibiting the writing of letters during Advent and Lent 
except in cases of real necessity, for this could prove to be a serious distraction both to the sister 
herself and to the community. It would be helpful, likewise, to refrain from discussing family 


news or passing around photos or the like during those seasons of withdrawal from the world, 
for these practices may constitute a real hindrance to those who want to truly withdraw in 
solitude of heart during those sacred times. 

Now we come to a consideration of those religious observances which help to build up 
and consolidate community life. Besides the obvious practices of prayer, work, study, penance 
and regular chapter, there is the very important and often overlooked observance of common 
recreation. At present there seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding about the need for 
recreation, or the place it should hold in Dominican monastic life. One look at the facts, 
however, will reveal that it was part of Saint Dominic's vision for his nuns. To begin with, he 
based his concept of religious life on the cenobitic or familial tradition, and hence recreation 
is an essential part of his monastic structure. Indeed it was said of him that no one was more 
joyful in the Lord than he, and we know that he recreated with his nuns. 

Whether we view the question of recreation on a natural or supernatural plane, we find 
that it has a very important function in the life of the average individual and is reflected in the 
cosmic laws of the universe. For nature itself provides a time of rest for all living things in 
which their depleted strength can be restored. Thus night follows day, so that labor may be 
followed by rest. On the human plane, recreation is literally intended to re-create the individual 
as the word indicates. It is intended to rebuild what has been worn down by the hardships of 
daily life, to calm frayed nerves and to restore overwrought emotions to a proper balance. 
Science itself admits this basic need of the individual as a safeguard to both mental and physical 
health, and the Church in her canon law requires it for the same reason in the case of religious. 

In the life of contemplative religious especially, there is a very important need for an 
adequate amount of recreation, due to the natural tension which the enclosed life and the 
absence of outside contacts creates. It would be unwise, therefore, under any pretext whatever 
to dismiss the idea of recreation as being unnecessary or peripheral for the cloistered nun. 
True, there are many who argue that in view of the culture of today with its multiple 
possibilities of diversion, the traditional familial type of recreation is unnecessary, since the 
business contacts of the religious provide the necessary emotional outlet or diversion which is 
a means of getting out of oneself. While such contacts are possible in the case of the monastery 
officials, there are many sisters to whom such contacts are not possible and these also must be 
provided for. The very silence and solitude of the life of enclosure, if faithfully observed, is the 
greatest argument in favor of an adequate amount of recreation at fixed periods during the day, 
for this is the best safeguard to the observance of monastic silence. 

And then there is the advantage of family sharing which recreation offers. We hear so 
much today about the Dominican Family, but where can the family spirit be better fostered 
than in the daily recreations? Or how can we say that we are a family if we refuse to meet or 
greet each other in a family gathering? Recreation is a wonderful means of fostering and 


preserving common life which is an essential pari of Saint Dominic's vision for his religious. 
To be in the company of the sisters we love, to hear their voices and to experience their sisterly 
affection are among the greatest blessings of the religious life, and there is the added blessing 
of being enabled to know the sisters better during this period of sisterly sharing. Moreover, 
recreation provides an excellent opportunity of helping to bear one another's burdens as Saint 
Paul counseled (Gal. 6:2). 

Despite its obvious blessings, however, recreation has its penitential aspect and this is 
true in the case of certain temperaments more than others. Often the very sound of the chatter 
and excitement of recreation is enough to get on one's nerves. Yet these are only surface 
difficulties, for despite differences of temperament and character, we love our sisters and need 
their support. Beneath such surface friction there is a deep love and respect for those who share 
a common vision and a common goal, and we know that it is often during recreation that we 
find an opportunity to speak a word of comfort or encouragement to one who may be suffering 

Practiced in the spirit of our holy Father, recreation can provide the much needed 
diversion for the relief of tensions which is part of the life of any religious community. Who 
can assess the value of a joyful countenance at recreation or estimate its effects upon the other 
members of the community? It is in this particular area, perhaps more than in any other sphere 
of community life, that the cloistered sister can imitate the joy of our holy Father, of whom it 
was said that no one was more a community man than he, and that the very joy of his 
countenance was sufficient to make those who beheld him joyful. 

In the light of the foregoing considerations we can see the very important questions that 
have to be carefully weighed when dealing with the question of enclosure. In those points that 
are not sufficiently clear it might be helpful for the Conference to ask for an official 
clarification from the Order at the highest levels of its authority, and to petition that these 
clarifications be included in the new code of Canon Law for the benefit of all the contemplative 
monasteries. For the issues at stake here pertain to the very preservation of the life and 
structure of the Order, according to the mind of Saint Dominic. It will be well to remember, 
also, that those who seriously desire to excel in any secular profession enroll in the best and 
most efficiently-run institutes; anything less than the best, they will pass by. The same may be 
said of those who aspire to an authentic religious life. Today when religious find their 
novitiates empty, they ask in bewilderment, "Where are the vocations?" The young people 
could well reply, "Where is your observance?" How can we answer such a challenge? Let us 
answer with our lives! 




♦ ♦ ♦ (ACTS) ♦ ♦ * 

* * * ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 





: rom hi* 
cell Little 
looks lit 
rhc i>bb«- 
h'al build- 

by the 


by the 

circle of a 

ring is 
it* precious 

walls tell the manner of life ltd within 
them.Thcy art the mould in which are formed the 
live* tKat flow there. Lives intVie tjrip of« di>cif^inf 
wmch from every side directs rhem towardtne 
Cnurch. Unity or life. 

that in the hearrof| 

the Abbty there is* 
Lje-gmng spring 

well if not 

of ttiis hidden 
rhin^ 7 
Encircled by 
its necklace 
of graceful 
arches, it 
Sia,uis titit 


Little Placid 
knew how 
to a>aw 
water - by 
loving ob* 
the RmIc, 

'through the liturgy, prayer, listening forGcd's 
secret whisperings, by rhe"yes"h« saidto what- 
ever God sent him, both the rain tr the sunshine 
These are the faces of God, he would sav, and 
raise his head to receive the kiss, fn fVis 
way he entered 

The Abbey i*» 
world, an entity. 
Its centre isinit* 
very midst. The 
man in the street 
may have sa id rhis tr 
yet it is a littl«-kn»wn 
fact. God <4oe» n#f 
jive himself t« those 
who do nor love' 
they are then St'ued 
by a centrifugal 
force which pro- 
pels them beyond 
the enclosure — 
only rhor fut re- 
main inside. Uke 
cop* they spin 
round and raund, 
seeking in cre»- 
tures what they 
will not seek in 
God, bogging 
dawn in their 
own mire, 
madly m love 
with themselves. Bur Little Placid knows, 
^as do many others, 





1) Literal sense of monastic enclosure. 

2) Reasons for studying the issue of enclosure. 

3) Some practical issues. 


1) A conversation with MONASTIC ENCLOSURE Distinctive Dominican Aspects . 

2) What a theoloqical approach entails. 

3) A contemplative approach to the study of theoloqy. 


1) Philosophy as an important preamble to theoloqy. 

2) Two examples of the bearinq of philosophy on a theoloqy of monastic enclosure. 


1) Some contemplative withdrawal is common to every Christian person as part of the universal call to 

2) Withdrawal as formative, as producinq metanoia : philosophical and Christian. 


1) Why history is part of a theoloqical approach. 

2) Dominican history influencinq a theoloqical articulation of enclosure. 

3) Practical considerations. 


1) Theoloqical position reqardinq the hierarchy in the Church; their role in quardinq the charism of the 
purely contemplative life. 

2) A hermeneutic of Church law. 

3) Developinq our own particular law. 

4) The workability of current leqislation. 



1) As containinq in some manner all of Christian revelation. 

2) Scriptural themes related to monastic enclosure. 

3) The theme of eschatoloqical witness. 


1) Thomistic principles: (a) Ends and means; (b) Sacramental siqn 

2) Ecclesial dimension: (a) Social concern; (b) Relationship to charity and community; 

(c) Apostolic value 





(Talk given at the Prioresses' Meeting, Hay 1994 1 Sister Lee, O.P., Bronx) 


In the literal sense, monastic enclosure is simply the space within defined limits ordinarily reserved for the 
persons who live in a given monastery and beyond which they rarely go. It is immediately obvious that our 
concern with the topic of monastic enclosure is broader and deeper than the mere physical boundaries within 
which we live. We want to know from as many perspectives as possible why we choose to live within a monastic 
enclosure and all the implications of this choice for ourselves and for the Order and the Church. 

Why is this in-depth study of such concern to us today? Some of the reasons seem fairly evident. We have come 
out of an era when the rules for egress and ingress were so specific as to require little or no interpretation 
and the penalties for infractions were very severe including, as you may recall, excommunication. We have 
entered into a less structured and perhaps more benign period. In the past we may have simply accepted the 
discipline of enclosure and trusted it to do its work without trying to explain it. Now we are frequently faced 
with decisions that do not admit of simple resolution and about which there are a variety of opinions among our 
monasteries and even within each community. What seems like common sense or simple charity to one person is 
seen as threatening to true observance to another. 

Another reason behind our concern is the radical questioning of ourselves brought about by the scarcity of 
religious vocations. We are compelled to ask ourselves very searching questions about the nature of our calling 
and the nature of today's society and whether there can be vocations coming out of such a culture and what, if 
anything, we need to change to make it possible for a woman of this generation to live the Dominican 

contemplative life in 1994 and beyond. 

The 1987 Constitutions give us more responsibility in shaping the life of our community so that it will best 
create, foster and preserve an atmosphere conducive to contemplation. We call ourselves to this fidelity 
through our directories, our other chapter determinations and our daily decisions. In the matter of enclosure 
it is clear that unless each of us analyzes what it means and how it best serves the contemplative life, our 
decisions will become arbitrary at best. So, our primary aim is to look anew at this fundamental aspect of our 
vocation to deepen and enrich our understanding of it. A secondary, but vital aim is to help us in making 
responsible and effective decisions or experimentations that flow from this understanding. Both Father Byrne 
and Father Radcliffe have said that we may need to make some changes. But both have wisely added that we who 
have a call to the purely contemplative life within the Order must be the ones to determine from our lived 
experience what, if any, these changes should be. This is both a right and a responsibility. 

We don't need to linger over some of the familiar practical issues confronting us in the matter of enclosure 
because they are what we find easiest to think of discussing. A few of the more obvious ones that come to mind 

+ Attitudes toward community; the relationship between the community as a social unit and the larger 


+ The psychological impact of enclosure on the individual, e.g. does it foster normal human maturity 

and growth. 

+ Vocations: enclosure as a formative influence in contemplative life; is our present manner of 

enclosure possible for contemporary women? 

+ Ways of sharing our life: liturgy, retreats etc. 

1 The talk presumes the availability of additional material in the notebooks given at the meeting for each 


+ Monastic stability and restlessness. 

+ The idea of 'hiddenness', a certain anonymity foreign to today's culture 

+ Rest, getting away for a time, discussion about vacations. 

+ Exchange of personnel; going to other monasteries for other reasons. 

+ Use of communication media: telephone, radio, television, videos, mail. 


At the McLean Assembly in 1992 the prioresses mentioned enclosure as one of their primary areas of concern. 
Though I don't have anything new to say about it, I have tried to organize some of the major points. I thought 
that a practical approach would be to enter into conversation with the four articles in the book from Santa 
Sabina, HONASTIC ENCLOSURE: Distinctive Dominican Aspects (1993). 

When we start to investigate the topic of Dominican monastic enclosure we see that we are trying to articulate 
answers to some of the root questions about the mystery of our call and we realize it is inevitable that we will 
fail in some measure. Having rubbed elbows with a sizeable amount of failure in my lifetime, I'll make an 
attempt anyway. 

First, let me make a point about our approach to theology. Sometimes the objection is raised that the 
engagement of the Nuns with theology is not the same as it is for the Friars. It is true that our study is 
mainly concerned with deepening our own faith and contributing to the upbuilding of our own community since we 
are not called to public preaching of the Gospel. However, I don't think our study of theology in itself is 

In trying to work toward a theology of enclosure I started with the definition taught me by the English 
Dominican, Aidan Nichols in a course on theological method: "Theology is a disciplined exploration of what is 
contained in revelation." This "disciplined exploration" leads to the use of many related areas of 
investigation, and in the course of this talk I'll refer to a few of then. We should look at the manner in 
which monastic enclosure can be said to be "contained in revelation", but for now may we just presume that it 

The same professor insisted, and rightly so, that continued exposure to God and a God-centered vision of reality 
brings a greater quality of intuitive ability when it comes to theological judgement. Von Balthasar says, "All 
theology should be theology on one's knees." This is the Dominican contemplare . So, with this contemplative 
spirit in mind we will begin to make a modest attempt to move toward a theology of enclosure. There is need 
for much further development of many aspects but for the purposes of our meeting I hope that what is here will 
assist us in fruitful discussion and sharing of insights. 


An important preamble to theological discussion involves a look at what philosophy has to teach us about the 
subject under consideration. A full development of the bearing of philosophical thought on an understanding 
of enclosure for the sake of the contemplative life would be very interesting. I won't even pretend to do this 
here, but I would like to share a couple of examples. 

A recurring theme in philosophical thought is found in the phrase "the One and the Many." This has a bearing 
on a dimension of enclosure that is known in the literature as "stability": the interaction between the exterior 
phenomenon of the monastery as the place where a monastic lives his or her entire life and the inner attitude 
toward it that shapes and unifies the person. The connection between "the One and the Many" and monastic 
stability can be summed up in the words "simple" and "unchanging" which Saint Thomas lists as being among God's 
attributes. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, our striving is toward some participation in 

Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Theology a "d Sanctity," Word and Redemption: Essays in Theology 2 , 1965, p. 49. 


God's simplicity and changelessness by allowing an inner gatherinq of ourselves into the stability of God. The 
existential philosopher Heidegger said that human beings are meant to be "at hone in the gathering together of 
all things." 3 He adds that we often drift from this, losing sight of our true center and source which is the 
Holy. Monastic stability, lived as it is designed to be lived, has its unifying effect on the individual 
monastic person, on his or her community, and ultimately on the whole human community beyond its walls, the one 
Body of Christ. 

Another fundamental point is found in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher of the second 
century A.D., where he says this: 

Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, seashores, and mountains; and thou too art 
wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether the mark of the most common sort of men, 
for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more 
quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has 
within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquillity; and I 
affirm that tranquillity is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to 
thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as 
soon as thou shalt recur to then, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee 
back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest. . .This then remains: Remember 
to retire into this little territory of thy own, and above all do not distract or strain thyself, but 
be free, and look at things as a nan, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal. 

In this expression of his anthropology, Marcus Aurelius recognizes the basic natural human need to withdraw in 
silence from what is outside the self, retiring within in order be renewed by gathering one's spiritual energies 
and considering what is important in life. 

In its context, the quotation from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations contains a formative aspect, a conversion along 
Stoic lines is brought about by the inward retreat he recommends. He says it "cleanses the soul completely." 
When he explains the type of fundamental principles that should occupy a person's thought, he speaks of aligning 
one's conduct according to principles of prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice, whatever is incumbent upon 
the dignity of the human person as he understands it: "a spiritual, rational animal." 


Marcus Aurelius could not know that we are made in the image and likeness of God so his view of the human 
person, though very exalted, is deficient in many respects even in terms of Old Testament understanding. 
Neither could he know that we can close the door of this place of retreat that he discovered and pray to the 
omnipotent Creator-God as our Father who loves us, is concerned about us and answers our prayer. And the leap 
from the introspection he advises and the withdrawal of a Christian in prayer, conscious of the presence of the 
Trinity dwelling within the soul through grace, 6 is a leap across a chasm that cannot be bridged without a 
knowledge of revealed truth. Yet, it seems to me that Saint Thomas' principle that "grace builds on nature" 
applies very well to Marcus Aurelius' insight. Let me explain what I mean by this. 

Part of "the universal call to holiness" 7 emphasized by Vatican II entails for every Christian some measure 

3 James L. Psrottl, Heidegger on the Divine (Athens. Ohio: Ohio University Press. 19741. p. 96-98. Cited 
in Charles Cunnings, Monastic Practices (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 19861, p.180. 

4 Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Annius Verus , 121-180 A.D.1 MEDITATIONS , BOOK IV, 3, translated by George Long, 
Great Books of the Western World , Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor in Chief , Mortimer J. Adler, Associate Editor 
(Chicago , London . Toronto: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952 1, p. 263. 

John 14:17-19. 

Lumen Gentium . Chapter V: "The Call of the Whole Church to Holiness. 


of standing back from ordinary daily affairs from tine to tine in order to reflect and pray and listen to what 
God may be saying. We are familiar with the cell that our Saint Catherine of Siena spoke of constructing within 
herself when God took her from her solitude and placed her in apostolic service to her neighbor. Blessed Edith 
Stein, philosopher and Carmelite nun, foreseeing her impending imprisonment by the Nazis, wrote: 

I think it's a safe method to do everything possible to become an empty vessel for divine grace. "Set 
your heart free from everything, seek God, and you will find him" (Teresa of Avila). Of course it 
would be hard to live outside the enclosure, apart from the Blessed Sacrament. But God himself dwells 
within us, the entire Blessed Trinity, and as long as we know how to construct a well-protected 
interior cell and retreat there as often as we can, we can't lack for anything, anywhere in the world. 

Here Edith Stein indicates clearly the close relationship between the Christian contemplative stance and 
monastic enclosure. 

With Christian solitude and contemplation one enters into a radically different sphere from that of the 
philosopher, the sphere of supernatural grace, the divine life within us. As an ascetic practice monastic 
enclosure authentically lived, becomes a vehicle of that radical difference. It has a formative aspect that 
differs from that of a purely philosophical withdrawal since through it God brings about the work of his grace, 
a certain metanoia. The focus is upon God as Love, and one's viewpoint of God's entire creation is brought 
totally within that focus. It isn't contrary to the wisdom of the philosopher, insofar as this recognizes the 
true nature of the human person, but it transcends it. It encompasses the Divine wisdom by setting God at the 
center and ourselves and all other things in relation to that Center. It creates a readiness for the 
supernatural virtue of humility and the Spirit's Gift of Wisdom. Doctor Susan Huto says: 

Asceticism, in the simplest sense, means fine-tuning our powers of inner receptivity to pick up the 
subtle movements of the Spirit. . .It involves a turning away from all that is not God so that we can 
reclaim all in God. From a "destructive" point of view, asceticism is the discipline that enables us 
to smash the idols of our own making, avoid dissipation and distraction, clear up clutter, 
preoccupation, and excessive activity. It repels all forms of inordinate consumption and 
possessiveness. On the "constructive" side, asceticism reminds us of the truth of our creatureliness 
and renders us inwardly available at all times for God. It means that we are vigilant, ready, on guard 
when Christ knocks at the door. (Revelation 3:20) 

This is an apt way of describing the whole point of the observance of monastic enclosure. If all the walls and 
grilles and locked doors do not make us inwardly available at all times for God, ready for the gentle knocking 
of Christ, they are of no value whatsoever. Our trust that enclosure in some form can and should serve to do 
this is not based upon subjective experience alone, but upon the authority and wisdom of the ancient Christian 
tradition that has come to us across the centuries. 


This leads us to another aspect of theological inquiry, that of history. We develop "historical sympathy," a 
way of thoughtfully and respectfully looking at the attitudes and culture of our brothers and sisters of 
previous ages. For our purpose we investigate the practice of monastic enclosure as it developed and was 
expressed over many centuries. We try to understand what the cultural milieux might have been, what forces were 
at work in shaping this or that particular attitude, this or that particular way of understanding or expressing 
enclosure. This helps us to extricate the essential from the unessential. 

The history of the original inspiration of our own Order influences our articulation of a theology of monastic 

8 Blessed Edith Stein, Selbstblldnis in Briefen II, Teill 1934-1942, Edith Steins Werke, Bd.XI, Letter 278 
( Druten : De Haas und Waler /Freiburg-Basel -Vienna : Herder , 1977 ) , p. 118. 

9 Dr. Susan Muto, "Asceticism in St. John of the Cross," Word & Spirit, A Monastic Review, 13 "Asceticism 
Today" (Petersham: St. Bede ' s Publications, 1991), p. 61. 


enclosure with its distinctive Dominican aspects. One could say that we cane into being as a response to a 
dualism that considers the material world as intrinsically evil. The first nuns gathered together in Prouille 
by Saint Dominic were converts from a form of dualism known as the Albigensian heresy. As such they would have 
been very sensitive to the truth of the goodness of all of God's creation. Our own Saint Thomas became an 
outstanding theological interpreter of this doctrine. We are heirs of these beginnings. Dominican monasticism 
can be more aptly considered a flight into God, who is Goodness itself, than a flight from the world. We find 
ourselves to be one with a wounded but intrinsically good creation and we work to cooperate with God in its 
healing, the work of salvation in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word . We try to simplify our lives by eliminating 
those good things we don't need on our journey to God, and by not becoming selfishly attached to what we do 
need. It is only in this very importantly nuanced sense, coming out of our history, that we can speak of our 
Dominican monastic enclosure as being in some way a fuga mundi , a flight from the world. 

Father Leclercq's article from Dizionario deqli Istituti di Perfezione is excellent. Some additional material 
from Dominican history helps to complete the picture of our unique past for us. In your notebooks you will find 
a few specifically Dominican items. Father Leclercq suggests some practical implications of the history of 
enclosure to which I would like to add a few comments here and there: 

1) Laws relative to the enclosure of nuns developed rather late, at the end of the 12th century, shortly before 
Saint Dominic founded the Order. Naturally, the legislation tended to be stricter when refon was indicated 
and less so in periods of decadence. Eventually the legislation became universal throughout the Church in the 
West. This universality exists today through the norms of Venite Seorsum (1969), and the revised Code of Canon 
Law (1983). 

2) Laws tend to reflect the socio-cultural environment of each era. For example, the practice of parental 
arrangement of a child's vocation meant that many young women were placed in monasteries without having a true 
monastic vocation. One can assume that this could adversely influence the way in which enclosure was observed. 
We can expect that our own views and the views of those who come after us will also reflect our socio-cultural 
environment. Therefore we need to examine our culture carefully and sift out the transient from the perduring 
in order to make sound interpretations of the way we express enclosure. 

3) At times spiritual theories were developed to justify the law. Though it is important to make a logical 
distinction between the real reasons and the spiritual theories, abandoning the spiritual theories altogether 
would mean losing some very valid and valuable insights into the call to the purely contemplative life within 
the Church. The Dominican tradition of looking for the truth wherever it may be found assists us here. 

4) The history of enclosure legislation makes it clear that there is very little that is not directed solely 
to women monastics. This is a sensitive issue for women today. I'm not a radical feminist by anyone's 
definition, but in looking at the historical development of enclosure I have found myself struggling with the 
obvious gender-bias that has sometimes been part of the legislation. For example, the introductory part of 
Venite Seorsum contains a rich nine for a theology of enclosure but it strikes one as surprising and 
disappointing to find that the norms consequent upon it are only for women monastics. 


Perhaps this is a logical place to consider the legislation itself. In the process of reflecting upon the laws, 
our theological position concerning the hierarchy in the Church and what its rightful place is in guarding the 
Church's charism of the purely contemplative life is of crucial importance. 

In his article on enclosure in the legislation of the Church Father Hofstetter gives some hermeneutic principles 
to which I shall add a few observations: 

1) Read the documents in the light of the most recent ones. For example, interpret Venite Seorsum of 1969 in 
the light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. 


2) A principle behind the 1983 revision of canon law is the exclusion of discrimination between Institutes, 
especially between those of ten and women. Therefore, autonomous ( sui juris ) institutes possess their own form 
of life and legislation according to particular law (in our case, our Constitutions and local directories). 

Father Avagnina makes a helpful practical observation in this regard. He acknowledges the existence of 
discrimination and suggests a way of moving beyond it. He points out that Venite Seorsum allows for making our 
own particular law based upon our Constitutions. Once the community chapter makes an accurate examination of 
monastic enclosure in order to understand better its value, scope and orientation, it is prepared to create 
that aspect of its local directory. In the directory the community chapter makes practical, concrete 
applications which adequately correspond to the circumstances of that specific monastery. When approved by the 
Haster of the Order this becomes their particular law. 

Another helpful practice has emerged in submitting a list of habitual permissions for ingress and egress to the 
Local Ordinary. Many of our monasteries have done this in recent years and their experience has been very 
positive. The Ordinaries have been universally accepting of well thought out requests reflecting the needs of 
the community. Again, in effect, approval is given to regulations made by ourselves, coming out of our lived 


It becomes clear then that the norms of Venite Seorsum admit of much more flexibility for adaptation than was 
originally envisioned. They are quite workable for most situations. 

3) Father Hofstetter's last point is that the norms and laws can only be a help and support to the vital 
realities of persons and communities. I would just add that one reason for this is that norms and laws are 
given to guide a charism, a God-given gift affirmed by the Church and the Order not only for the benefit of an 
individual or a community but for the good of the entire Order and Church. 


Two other sources of theological insight into this charism are patristic sources and statements of the Church's 
magisterium which support the choice of the purely contemplative life. Obviously this could provide enough 
material for a separate talk. For now let me just mention that there are many patristic and magisterial 
references in the footnotes of Venite Seorsum . In the enclosure notebooks you will find these texts as well 
as all the Scripture references. 


Yves Congar says that "all of Christian revelation is contained in Scripture in some manner." 11 Of course we 
don't expect to find Scripture texts that explicitly refer to monastic enclosure. However, as we look at Venite 
Seorsum we find many familiar Scriptural themes underlying the Church's understanding of the purely 
contemplative form of life. In our discussion we might want to develop the relationship between these and the 
purely contemplative life. Some themes that emerge are: 

1) God's predilection for revealing hidden truths to human beings in solitary places. 

2) Abraham's call to leave his family and home as a figure of our long mystical journey to a homeland not of 
this world. 

3) The Exodus theme. 

4) The Paschal Mystery of Christ and the Church: the Word of God came into this world to deliver us from the 
domination of sin and through his death set us on the road to the Father. 

5) Jesus "led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." 

6) Jesus' frequent withdrawal to a lonely place to pray. 

10 "Enclosure and the Determinations of the Directories," pp. 69-71. 

11 Yves M.-J. Conqar , Tradition and Traditions (English translation, London: Burns & Oates , 1966 > , p. 377. 


7) The death of Christ as a real type of solitude. 

Another Scriptural theme comes in a marvelous passaqe from the prophet Zechariah symbolically expressinq the 
transcendent reality of which monastic enclosure should be a witness and siqn: 

The anqel who talked with me came forward, and another anqel came forward to meet him, and said to him, 
"Say to that younq man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villaqes without walls. . .For I myself will 
be a wall of fire all around it says the Lord, and I myself will be the qlory within it. . .Sinq and 
rejoice dauqhter Zion! For lo, I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord. Many nations 
shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be ray people; and I will dwell in your. midst. 
...Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling." 12 

This is brouqht to fulfillment in the Risen Christ. Jesus said "'Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will 
raise it up.'. . .he was speakinq of the Temple that was his body." 1 -* Further Saint Paul, in his famous 
speech in front of the Areopaqus, says to the men of Athens, "(God) is Lord of heaven and earth, he does not 
live in shrines made by human hands. . . indeed he is not far from each one of us. For 'In him we live and move 
and have our being.'"" Add to these the familiar twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation with its 
description of the new heaven and the new earth: "There is no Temple in the city, for its Temple is the Lord 
God the Almiqhty and the Lamb." What a maqnificent picture of the eschaton! God is Temple in whom we dwell, 
He is presence within, He is All in all and there is no need for any other form of enclosure. This is the 
"already-not-yet" of God's Kinqdom. Ideally even now, within the monastic enclosure, we live perfectly united 
with one another a life "harmoniously ordered to preservinq the continual remembrance of God." But the "not- 
yet" aspect is all too real as well and it is this that creates the need for decision-makinq in the matter of 
enclosure preceded by an in-depth theoloqical analysis of its essence. 


Father Avaqnina brinqs to bear two very apt theoloqical concepts used by Saint Thomas: l)ends and means; 
2 (sacramental siqn. He shows how these can contribute to a deeper understanding of monastic enclosure. 

Ends and Means; Ends and Means in LCM; Ordering of Goals; Ordering of Means. 

Father Avagnina adroitly shifts from the notion of "values and structures" to that of "ends and means," a 
welcome shift. At first glance the distinction may seem like one of those subtleties which sometimes give 
scholastic argumentation a bad reputation. But if you reflect on it a little you can see that there is a 
cohesiveness, an interdependence and integration present in "ends and means" that isn't necessarily present in 
the term "values and structures." It is not unlike what we understand when we say "body and soul." This is 
of primary importance when we discuss issues that might require experimentation or adaptation. In his article 
Father develops from LCM Chapter I, Article V: "Regular Observance," the concept of ends and means in relation 
to enclosure. Under the caption "Ends and Means in Your Constitutions" he points out a proper ordering of 
"ends" in the Christian and monastic life. The ends are: seeking God for Himself ; following Christ and placing 
ourselves in his school ; the radicality of the Gospel ; and contemplation , the specific end of the monastic life, 
its principle task and first duty. Next he develops an ordering of "means." In general, the principal leans 
given in our Constitutions for achieving the qoal or qoals are listed as elements : common life, the celebration 
of the liturqy and private prayer, the observance of the vows and the study of sacred truth. Father adds a 
subdivision of means, the less fundamental means, which he calls "means of the means." The "leans of the means" 
are listed in the Constitutions as helps in fulfilling the observance faithfully. Enclosure is one of these 

12 Zechariah 2:3-5, 10-lla. 

13 John 2:19, 21. 

14 Acts of the Apostles 17:24, 28b. 
iS LCM 74, IV. 


helps, along with silence, the habit, work and penitential practices. The fact that one thinq is an "element" 
and another a "help" doesn't mean that one is necessary and another is not. It just puts things in proper 
perspective and aids us in further clarifying our understanding of Dominican monastic enclosure. 

Sacraiental Sign 


Saint Thomas followed Saint Augustine in using the anthropological idea of sign to explain what the Sacraments 
are and how they fit into the ordinary psychological and pedagogical procedures of human life. A sign is always 
a sign of some thing (res). Behind the visible, tangible world of our experience lies the world of invisible 
reality, the world that is truly real. One has to look behind the sign to discover what it signifies. Saint 
Thomas added to this the notion that a sacramental sign itself should make sense in terms of the mysterious 
reality it signifies. This Aristotelian realism is important for the way in which we interpret and express 
monastic enclosure. It should make sense not only in itself, but also in a way that is intelligible to each 
culture and era. We need to balance this with another point. Although the sign should be comprehensible yet, 
if some misread it, the problem is not necessarily that the sign is wrong, the problem may be within the person 
wTongly interpreting it. It is crucial that we make this distinction when determining contemporary forms of 
enclosure. In this regard Father Avagnina suggests two questions we might profitably formulate in personal and 
communal reflection on enclosure. 1) What does enclosure mean to me and the community? 2) What does it mean 
to the people and what would we like others to understand better? How we answer these questions will influence 
our choices of the signs for intelligibly pointing to the underlying reality. 

Ecclesial Dimension: Social Concern; Community; Apostolic Value. 

A compelling concern of people today is in the sphere of social justice. The needs of others are brought to 
our attention with an immediacy unknown in former times. The world is referred to as "a global village" or as 
"the human family." Those who consider dedicating themselves to the purely contemplative form of life in the 
Church want a clear answer to the question of justifying this choice when the immediate physical and spiritual 
needs of others are so pressing. It becomes a moral issue for them as it is for us. Is the radical withdrawal 
that is expressed by monastic enclosure a selfish choice? We must articulate a believable responce not only 
by word but also by the clear witness of our lives. 

Community is another central concern for people today. One of the three reasons given in the Friars' 
Constitutions for observing enclosure in their houses is "that the intimacy of their religious family may be 
increased." 1 The upbuilding of community is no less a factor in our living of enclosure. Our Constitutions 
indicate this in many places. For example, we are spoken of as a church within the Church: 

It is God who now makes them dwell together in unity and on the last day will gather into the holy City 
a people acquired as his own. 

The nuns first build in their own monasteries the Church of God which they help to spread throughout 
the world by the offering of themselves. 

Some significant aspect of our consideration eventually includes the relationship between enclosure and 
community and the relationship between the enclosed community and society at large. In this vein Rodney Clapp 
suggests "remonking the Church." 19 He sees a need in today's cultural crisis for groups of lay Christians to 

16 In addition to Fr . Aviqnana's article some of the material is from notes taken during classes on the 
Sacraments given by Fr . Liam Walsh, O.P. 

17 Book of Constitutions and Ordinations of the Order of Friar Preachers , 1984, #41. The other two reasons 
given are: "so that our friars can better attend to contemplation and study? so that the character of our 
religious life and fidelity can be explained." 

18 LCM 1 : V; 3:11. 

19 Eodney clapp. "Remonking the Church," Christianity Today (August 1988>, p. 20-21 . 


pattern their lives on monasticism, living in close proximity to one another, with a modified withdrawal from 
the rest of society in a commitment to daily meetinq for common worship, Scripture study and service to the 
world - one possible response to the universal call to holiness. 

Martin Buber recounts a story in which a rabbi is asked why God is called a'1 ^ fc The Place . The reply of 
the rabbi is: "Han should qo into God, so that God may surround him and become his Place . "^ Perhaps this has 

a special relevance in contemporary society where people experience such fraqmentation in their lives. Another 
author speaks of the entire monastic community with its stability of place as pointinq to, indeed actually 
qeneratinq a stability of heart: 

To live within a community of persons who have one heart, one will, one purpose, namely, to stay in 
God's love by heedinq God's commands, is to reside mysteriously in God. Professinq stability in a 
particular cenobitic community is a profession of faith in this qreat mystery 

At the Assembly of 1996 we hope to look at contemporary culture in conversation with Dominican monastic life. 
We plan to examine this from many different perspectives, includinq that of Dominican monastic enclosure. There 
have been some excellent studies in recent years suqqestinq, as H. Francis Hannion has done, "that the tradition 
of Christian monasticism remains an unexplored source of Catholic wisdom both for diagnosing the cultural crisis 
of our time and for advancinq concrete directions for qenuine renewal" of society. In his article Hannion 
endorses the position of Cardinal Ratzinqer that authentic evanqelization is an intrinsic element of the 
Church's sacramental nature, that the concrete witness of the early Christian community is what converted the 
ancient world to Christianity. The witness of authentic Christian communities, such as monastic communities, 
will be the vehicle for evanqelization today. Ratzinqer says this: 

The new evanqelization is not to be attained with cleverly thouqht out ideas, however cunninqly these 
are elaborated: the catastrophic failure of modern catechesis is all too obvious. It is only the 
interaction of a truth conclusive in itself with its proof in the life of this truth that can enable 
that particular evidence of the faith to be illuminated that the human heart awaits: it is only throuqh 
this door that the Holy Spirit enters the world. 23 

As part of an apostolic Order, we want to know not only the witness value of our monastic community but also 
how our life contributes to the spread of the Gospel and to the salvation of souls. Often we hear that as 
Dominicans we should enqaqe in spiritual direction, qive retreats or do some other apostolic work thouqht to 
be compatible with Dominican contemplative life. Whether or not we do this is a matter for each community to 
decide. But before we entertain these possibilities we need to look at and be convinced about the apostolic 
value of the purely contemplative form of life in itself . One of the best and loveliest statements I know of 
comes from our own Constitutions and I'll quote it in part. 

Hindful of the first nuns whom the blessed Dominic established in the monastery of Prouille at the 
heart of the "Holy Preaching," the nuns, while livinq toqether in harmony, follow Jesus as he withdraws 
into solitude to pray. In this way they are a siqn of that blessed city Jerusalem which the brethren 
build up by their preaching. In the cloister the nuns devote themselves totally to God and perpetuate 
that singular gift which the blessed Father had of bearing sinners, the down-trodden and the afflicted 
in the inmost sanctuary of his compassion. 

20 Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasldim: Early Masters (New York: Schocken, 1968 t , p. 124. Cited in 
Cummings, p. 186. 

21 Mary Collins. "Rule and Gospel: the Meaning of Benedictine Vowing," Benedictines 35 (198(3:2). p. 34. 

22 M. Francis Mannlon, "Modern Culture and the Monastic Paradigm," Communio 20 (Fall '93). pp. 503-527 . 

23 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinqer, To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith. Hope and Love , trans, by Robert Novell 
( Hiddlegreen , Slough: St. Paul Publications , 1991 •) , p~! 96 . 

24 LCM 35, 1 . 


Called by God to a hidden life in the Church and in the Dominican Order we cooperate in our own salvation and 
in the salvation of our brothers and sisters in the world. God places within us a growing desire that His 
loving plan be fulfilled, He brings about within us an identification with all human beings in their neediness 
and a desire that all might be aware of God's unique love for them and be filled with God's saving gift of 
grace. This becomes a preoccupation and yet it remains a matter of faith, we may see nothing of the results 
of our efforts during our lifetime on earth. Perhaps in itself this is a very real part of our asceticism, our 
yielding of ourselves in love to God's plan, our efforts at a generous fidelity to our charism of the purely 
contemplative life in the Church and in the Order, counting neither the cost nor the gain. In her autobiography 
Saint Therese of Lisieux uses a very apt image from the Gospel to express this reality. She says that it is 
like breaking the ointment jar of our life and pouring it out entirely over the feet of Jesus sheerly for love 
of him. To most this is an apparent extravagance and waste in the face of the great and obvious needs 
surrounding us. A quotation from von Balthasar reenforces the truth about the apostolic value of the purely 
contemplative life. He writes: 

Contemplatives understand the act of total surrender to the triune God as the highest possible form of 
engagement on behalf of the world's salvation. They know that this calling burrows itself into 
hiddenness even as roots disappear into the ground. Above ground the visible church (and the Dominican 
Order) and her activity feed from these roots. How foolish it would be to pull roots out of the ground 
'so that for once they can be exposed to light and sunshine' - for the tree would then wither away. 


Another aspect of a theology of enclosure that needs to be pursued is its relationship to the liturgy. Perhaps 
this can be worked out at another time. The basic issue is twofold: (1) preserving the charism and clear 
witness of a purely contemplative community at prayer, and (2) recognizing that the liturgy we pray is the 
Prayer of the Church. After these are developed, a pastoral sense can guide our theological understanding. 
We can then find the best way, in our given circumstances, to accommodate the guests and casual visitors who 
attend the liturgy in our monasteries. 


A contemporary study of Dominican monastic enclosure would also be incomplete without some examination of the 
psychological considerations. Is it compatible with and does it foster human maturity and psychological growth? 
How can the particular tensions and misunderstandings inevitable in such uninterrupted and close living be 
handled best? I defer consideration of questions such as this to Doctor Moore's talk and workshop where they 
will be treated extensively. 

25 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Two Sisters in -the Spirit,: St.. Therese and Elizabeth of the Trinity (San 
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), p. 11. 




1. What is the advantage of using the Thomistic notion of "ends and means" when considering enclosure? 

2. "Contemplation is the specific end of the monastic life, its principle task and first duty." (Avagnina) How 
does your experience of enclosure foster the continual remembrance of God; in what ways could it do so more 
effectively? How is enclosure an aid to: (a) a Gospel way of following Christ; (b) the other observances: common 
life; liturgy & private prayer; vows; study? 

3. What is the formative value of enclosure in the contemplative life? 

4. "Enclosure can be violated in countless ways without even leaving the enclosure boundaries." (Avagnina) 

5. "Withdrawal from the world for the sake of leading a more intense life of prayer in solitude is nothing other 
than a very particular way of living and expressing the paschal mystery of Christ, which is death ordained 
toward resurrection." ( Venite Seorsum , I). Comment. 

6. What passages of Scripture best serve as a "law" of enclosure for you in order to follow Christ more 



7. a) How can the theological notion of sacramental sign be a valuable consideration in relation to enclosure? 
b) Can we make enclosed life a valid and comprehensible expression to the modern world; a meaningful, liveable 
discipline for today's candidate to our monasteries? c) In what appropriate way can we share our prayer life 
with others outside? 


8. In reading the quotation from Communicationes can you see an application to the place of the community 
chapter in fostering responsibility and maturity in each Sister and in the community? (p. 39-40, notebook p. 12) 

9. a) Why are both "rights" and "responsibilities" important to keep in mind when interpreting or formulating 
law? Our directory provides us with a way of adapting the Constitutions to each community's situation - our 
right & responsibility. In formulating it do we have in mind the charism of the contemplative life in the 
Church and in the Order that we are responsible to maintain? b) What is your theological position regarding 
the hierarchy of the Church and its place in guarding the charism of the Church's purely contemplative life? 

10. Fr. Avagnina acknowledges a certain discrimination historically with regard to enclosure legislation. What 
are some ways of "breaking through" this problem? 

11. "Many difficulties come from violating the principle for updating ecclesiastical law: 'according to the 
conditions of tine and place' of the life of the community. This is done either by maintaining an overly 
juridical perspectives or by absolutizing determined laws." (Hofstetter, p. 37) Can the opposite be a difficulty 
as well? How can we be faithful to the true purpose and spirit of the law ? 

12. Do you think our U.S. monasteries need to have diversity in the practice of enclosure? Is there sufficient 
trust and respect among them to do so? (Avagnina, p. 70) 

13. What are some of your fears about enclosure and adaptation? 

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Theological Study in Dominican Contemplative Life 

Sister Mary Margaret , . P . 
Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament 

Farmington Hills 

When the directives on religious life issued by Vatican II 
mandated each religious family to return to its roots and reap- 
propriate the spirit proper to each, certain elements came to the 
fore as of particular importance for Dominicans. Among these we 
find the heritage of study, even for the nuns, bequeathed to us by 
St. Dominic as an authentic observance of the Order. 

How is doctrinal study the key to the understanding of our 
call to be nuns of the Order of Preachers? Prayer and thinking are 
two very different experiences. What, then, does it mean to live 
one's contemplative life under the aegis of learning? May we say 
that, even as preaching for the brethren is meant to be the 
inundation of contemplation, it is the very human effort to under- 
stand and articulate the faith we hold that predisposes even the 
contemplation of the nuns? 

Different religious families are drawn in different ways. 
There are different forms that holiness takes and a wide range of 
gifts and virtues toward which each is specially oriented and which 
become for that group the way in which grace is communicated. We 
read in the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena that the Dominican 
family is "governed with a perfect rule and founded on the light of 
learning for My honor and the salvation of souls." 1 For us, 
knowledge, the search for understanding and the use of the mind 
predominate as our way to God, our form of the apostolate. 

The Dominican rule is 'perfect' because it is governed by 
Wisdom, that supreme science which knows all things in their first 
principle and as ordered to their final end. On the natural or 
human level, wisdom is an acquired habit which works through 
discursive reasoning to arrive at conclusions from principles 
concerning God. Since the principles involved are those of faith, 
truths supernatural ly revealed, and proceeds in light of faith to 
draw forth its virtual contents, it is synonymous with theology. 2 

Supernatural ly, divine wisdom is an infused gift of the Holy 
Spirit perfecting the virtue of charity. It, too, is a form of 
knowledge but as born of the experience of being united with God in 
love. It is an affective knowledge stemming from charity, a 
connatural understanding because we love, because in loving we 
ourselves become like the One we love. The more intimate the 
relationship, the more perfectly is the loved one known. The light 
of wisdom allows us, as it were, to enter into the very depths of 
God Himself and see all else as with His eyes. This gaze of love, 
wholly permeated with charity and effected by charity, we call 
contemplation . 3 


There is an 'acquired contemplation' also, as when the mind 
comes to rest after a process of reasoning, pondering, thinking, in 
an understanding of the conclusions reached. It is acquired because 
it is the result of study or discursive thought. It is 
contemplation because it is the vision of one simple truth — God, 
and all things seen in relation to Him. And it is wisdom because it 
looks upon the ultimate cause of truth, which again is God. 4 

These two forms of contemplation are perfectly balanced in 
Dominican life and, though they are infinitely distanced, we find 
no opposition between that wisdom which is the fruit of human 
effort and that divine wisdom which is pure gift of grace. Rather, 
we affirm both principles absolutely and unite them integrally, in 
a perfect subordination of the former to the latter. 

Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it, we say, by 
elevating it. 5 Nature and grace are not joint action or cooperation 
but analogously related and perfectly paralleled. 6 All is from God, 
all is from ourselves, in God; from God first, then from ourselves 7 
so that, while the whole saving impulse of our return to God is 
from grace, 8 we are simultaneously challenged to bring to 
perfection and make the best possible use of every gift and 
potential bestowed by God. 9 Grace shines out most fully the more 
richly endowed or well disposed nature itself is. 10 The bridge 
between nature and grace, that elevation of nature to grace, is 
found in charity, friendship with God, a non-causal relation of 
knowing and loving. 11 This is important to remember when we say that 
Dominicans emphasize the supremacy of the intellect because charity 
which resides in the will still remains the principal act of the 
Christian life. 12 We see grace as first cause operative in the will 
but terminating in knowledge which is essentially in the 
intellect, 13 while theology, though distinct from holiness since it 
requires only faith and the power of natural reason to practice it, 
is a mental operation which only reaches full perfection when 
animated by charity. 14 

Our view of the apostolate follows a similar line of reason- 
ing. The primary intent of Dominican spirituality is to bring its 
members to the heights of contemplation; but beyond this, 
contemplation itself is intended to fructify in the apostolate of 
souls. 15 The teaching of sacred doctrine and preaching derive from 
the fullness of contemplation, ie, from charity toward which 
contemplation itself is ordained, 16 but not as a means to an end 
since contemplation itself is the highest goal, the true goal of 
the Order. Apostolic activity is to flow out from contemplation as 
its consequence or as from a superabundant cause. We should say 
charity overflows to give light to souls and guide them to God. 17 

This is just as true for the nuns as it is for the brethren. 
We, too, contemplate, give to others the fruits of contemplation. 
Likewise, our lives by nature and by super-nature are ordered to 
understanding, animated by charity. Only the exterior form varies. 


While we, the nuns, do not hold the active apostolate of the Order, 
we do have a share in the ministry of the Word which is proper to 
the Order of Preachers. We 'listen to the Word, celebrate it and 
keep it in our hearts.' (LCM 96.1). We too spend ourselves totally 
for souls as we 'seek, ponder and call upon the Name of the Lord 
Jesus Christ in solitude so that the Word proceeding from the mouth 
of God may not return to Him empty but may accomplish those things 
for which it was sent.' (LCM l.II, cf . Is. 55,10). 

We have maintained that study of sacred truth is central in 
Dominican life. Why is this so? Perhaps it would not be untrue to 
say that the original impulse giving rise to the harmonious and 
balanced understanding of nature and grace upon which our 
spirituality is built was a relationship of reason to faith that 
was not afraid to give full scope to human intellectual powers 
precisely because it recognized both the affinity between human and 
divine as well as the absolute necessity of grace for even a single 
good act. If there were no likeness, the mind could not be put 
forward as a tool for learning and instruction; if of ourselves we 
can merit nothing, there can be no cause for pride in even the most 
brilliant insight, the most gifted preaching. Grace alone can 
produce the fruits of grace; our merit consists in charity, 

We find the union of learning and friendship with God stamped 
upon the Order at its very inception and personified in its 
founder. Europe at the beginning of the 13th century was 
experiencing a rich period of fresh intellectual expansion as 
universities were being founded to be urban centers of learning. 
The world was Christian but it was torn by schism, doctrinal 
deviations and heresies which threatened the faith at its very 
core. 18 St. Dominic, scholar from his youth as well as given to 
prayer and the celebration of the Divine Office, utilized both 
dimensions of his own personal experience as the base upon which to 
establish his Order of Preachers. It was his vision to bring the 
Apostolic way of life to birth within a movement of intellectual 
development as an antidote to the widespread error and confusion of 
a heresy that deceived by closely simulating Catholic doctrine. It 
was his hope to defend the faith he loved passionately and to draw 
others to embrace that same faith by means of knowledge firmly 
anchored in sound theological and philosophical principles. 

The nuns too, founded ten full years before the friars, were 
caught up in the same wave of Christian renewal. The original nine 
women gathered into the Monastery at Prouille were all converts, 
first among the fruits of the preaching of Dominic. Theirs was not 
a moral conversion but an intellectual reorientation in truth. 
Dominic fed them not with pious exercises or sentimental devotions 
but with sound doctrine aimed at nourishing the mind, increasing 
the understanding, exercising the reason, ordering it to faith. 


There was nothing novel about the elements of Dominic's 
achievement: common study, holiness of life, preaching for the 
salvation of souls. Yet, the synthesis he wrought in founding the 
Order of Preachers was original, remarkable for its coherence and 
harmony, and profoundly solid. 19 Dominic gave doctrinal study the 
status of a religious observance on a par with the celebration of 
the liturgy, personal prayer and communal life because it, too, is 
ordered to contemplation. Yet, it was this incorporation of study 
of sacred truth into a Monastic life style ordered to an apostolate 
of preaching for the salvation of souls that transformed the 
earlier tradition into an entirely new configuration. We have now, 
not merely the more limited goal of personal growth, personal 
experience of God nourished by devotional literature intended to 
edify or to evoke admiration for the mysteries or to guide 
behavior, 20 but a search for understanding, a concern to achieve 
clarity by objective analysis and description, an effort to 
comprehend and articulate one's faith. Its testimony is not that of 
conscience but of intelligibility; its terminus is not one's own 
union with God but a communication of that gift to others. 

Study is an observance because it represents the gift of one's 
intellect to God in a human effort to understand the faith by 
deliberate, methodical and systematic reflection. As a religious 
act, theology is meant to lead the mind into the depths and 
fullness of its own potential in the very process of leading it to 
its own limits and beyond in a fruitful understanding of the faith 
it professes. 21 

Theology is not something exterior to faith. It is the faith 
come of age in a conscious evaluation and expression of its 
content. It is by engendering theology that faith comes to the true 
logic of its own perfection, that we take hold of it, make it our 
own. Theology is the incarnation of the faith in the very fabric of 
the human mind. 22 

Even as an act of worship, faith gives rise to thought. It is 
part of human integrity to wish to understand, to interpret and 
explain. 23 Because faith is experienced in structures, it demands, 
like all structures, that it be interpreted and understood. 24 The 
human mind is not illumined from above. We must wrestle with this 
world from point to point, even in matters of faith. 25 

Study of sacred truth may be distinguished from Monastic 
lectio in that it is analytical, scientific and critical reflection 
rather than devotional reading but the two cannot be separated. 
Both operations may engage the same texts, perhaps, but under 
different descriptions and to different purposes. Theology, because 
it is objective and universal, offers instruction and correctives 
to the mind. It removes ignorance and settles misconceptions and 
prejudices. It teaches us to purify the way our faith takes hold of 
its object. The use of analogy strips us of a sensory and 
imaginative way of thinking. 26 Its purpose is to prepare the soil 
of the mind for contemplation even as it augments the human level 


of one's communion with God. 

Lectio, on the other hand, is a subjective discipline ordered 
to personal growth and an appropriation of the faith into one's own 
life and behavior. It, too, prepares for contemplation but by 
touching the heart, awakening affectivity. It is an exercise of 
receptivity whereby we allow the Lord to permeate and penetrate the 
very fibers of our being. It will prevent theology from becoming 
sterile or empty of content. 

The Dominican approach to study is comprehensive. It admits 
scientific and probative functions without excluding the practical 
events and activity of our daily lives; it works through affective 
knowledge and draws on a wealth of imagery alongside its use of 
analogy. 27 

Study in Dominican Monastic life is always according to 
capacity (LCM 100. 1). For some it will remain very simple; for 
others, it will accord greater extension, deeper penetration, finer 
distinctions; and for yet others, it will at times be suspended 
altogether, ie. when one is seized by that knowledge of 
contemplation effected by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But always, 
for Dominicans, the intellectual powers are at work leading and 
evoking the complete response of the will, the heart, the principle 
of love 28 and tending toward a lofty view of the whole of the 
Christian life, seeing how its most varied aspects are united in 
their common principle and supreme end. This comprehensive view is 
wisdom which we contemplate as Divine Truth. 29 


Let us conclude our reflections on the value of theological 
study in Dominican Monastic Life by a consideration of Dominican 
spirituality under the beautiful title 'a spirituality of the Word 
Incarnate' . 3 ° 

The Word : The word is an act of one person addressing another. 
It is the medium through which we relate our thoughts and feelings 
to each other in a relational bonding, an I-Thou relationship, in 
which each party yet remains distinct. 31 

God too speaks, revealing to us His thoughts, His intentions, 
His very life, using human language we can understand and respond 
to. Words are integral to the divine/human communication: speaking 
and hearing, listening and responding, in an ongoing conversation 
between God and the world. 

The Word Incarnate : God Himself is Word: In the Godhead, the 
Image, the thought, the self-expression of the Father; in creation, 
the Word through Whom and in Whom and for Whom was made all that 
exists. In Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, God utters His final, 
definitive revelation concerning Himself and His plan for 


The Ministry of the Word : Both the Constitutions of the Order 
(LCO) and that of the nuns (LCM) refer to the Dominican calling as 
a 'Ministry of the Word.' The brothers, sisters and laity of the 
Order fulfill this task most obviously by their teaching of sacred 
doctrine and preaching. Their very lives are a continuation of the 
mission of Jesus Himself "who revealed God to men and presented men 
to God." 32 While the nuns 7 portion in actually proclaiming the Word 
of God may be limited, their personal engagement of that Word is 
correspondingly intensified. We listen to the Word, celebrate it in 
the liturgy, keep it in our hearts and bear witness to it by the 
example of our lives. (LCM 96.1). 

The Word we contemplate is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Wisdom of 
the Father, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and 
knowledge (Col. 2,3). He it is Who is the total and adeguate 
expression of the Father and Who in His Incarnation brought that 
wisdom to dwell among us. 33 He it is Whom we search out in every 
word of scripture, Who speaks to us in the voice of the Church and 
the sacraments of faith. He it is Whom we see in the beauty and 
order of creation, Whom we hear when our brothers and sisters call 
out for our love (cf. LCM 97.11), and to Whom, finally, we 
ourselves are configured in the grace of each present moment of our 

Doctrinal study is an integral part of Dominican Monastic life 
because it typifies the totality of the human counterpart to the 
work of grace in our souls. The 'perfect rule' of wisdom is both 
knowledge and charity, the Truth we contemplate, the Person we 
love. It is both human and divine, pure gift of grace incarnated in 
human understanding. The source of our study is God; He is our 
light all along its way (cf. LCM 101. I); the continual remembrance 
of God is the goal toward which we aim and the sign of authenticity 
for a nun of the Order of Preachers (cf. LCM 74. IV). 


1. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue , translated by Suzanne 
Noffke, O.P. (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 337. 

2. Jordan Aumann, O.P., Appendix 4, Blackfriars Summa . vol. 
46 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), p. 112. 

3. Luis M. Martinez, The Sanctifier , translated by Sr. M 
Aguinas, O.S.U., (Patterson, New Jersey: St. Anthony Guild Press, 
1957), pp. 186-189. 

4. Aumann, p. 112. 

5. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., "Character and Princi- 
ples of Dominican Spirituality," in Dominican Spirituality , ed. 
Anselm M Townsend, O.P. (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co, 1934), 
p. 59. 


6. Thomas Gilby, O.P., Appendix 6, Blackfriars Summa , vol. 
1, p. 82. 

7. Garrigou-Lagrange, p. 77. 

8. Gilby, Appendix 6, p. 82. 

9. Sister Mary Jeremiah, O.P., Heart of Jesus, Heart of 
Catherine , (Lufkin, unpublished manuscript, 1985), p. 68. 

10. Garrigou-Lagrange, p. 67. 

11. Gilby, Appendix 6, p. 82. 

12. Aumann , Appendix 5, p. 114. 

13. Aumann, Appendix 4, p. 113 (2a 2ae. 45, 2). 

14. Aumann, Appendix 4, p. 112. 

15. Simon Tugwell, O.P. The Way of the Preacher , (Spring- 
field: Templegate Publishers, 1979), p. 22. 

16. Garrigou-Lagrange, p. 66. 

17. Garrigou-Lagrange, p. 80. 

18. Guy Bedouelle, O.P. St. Dominic: The Grace of the Word , 
transl. by Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, O.P. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 
1987), p. 20, 40. 

19. Bedouelle, O.P. p. 48. 

20. Michael Casey, O.C.S.O., Athirst For God: Spiritual Desire 
in Bernard of Clairvaux / Sermon on the Song of Songs Kalamazoo: 
Cistercian Publications, 1988), p. 35. 

21. Franz Jozef van Beeck, S.J., God Encountered (San 
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), vol. 1, p. 36. 

22. M. D. Chenu, O.P., Is Theology a Science? , vol. 2 of the 
Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, transl. by A. H. 
N. Green-Armytage (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1959), p. 49-50. 

23. van Beeck, S.J., p. 163. 

24. Van Beeck, S.J., p. 35. 

25. Gilby, O.P., Appendix 5, p. 59. 

26. Thomas Phillippe, O.P., The Contemplative Life , transl. 
by Carmine Buonaiuto (New York: Crossroad, 1990) p. 94. 

27. Gilby, O.P., Appendix 5, p. 64. 


28. Jeremiah, p. 68. 

29. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., p. 63 

30. Ronald J. Zawilla, O.P., "Dominican Spirituality" in The 
New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality , ed. by Michael Downey 
(Collegeville: Michael Glazier, Liturgical Press, 1993) p. 290. 

31. Yves Congar, O.P. The Word and the Spirit , transl. by 
David Smith (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986) p. 9. 

32. St Irenaeus, "Against the Heresies" in The Liturgy of the 
Hours , vol. Ill (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1975) 

p. 1499. 

33. M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O., "Wisdom", New Dictionary 
of Catholic Spirituality . 



Sister Mary of Jesus, O.P. 
Bronx, New York 

Lord, teach me your way, 

how to walk beside you faithfully , 

make me single-hearted in fearing your name. 1 

The word "study" rarely appears in the Old Testament and then 
not usually in the context we, as twentieth century readers, would 
intend. But it seems to me that this psalm verse relates strongly 
to the concept of study with its implications of teaching and 
learning, faithfulness and perseverance, and a single-mindedness 
that can be all-consuming. This paper will deal with the topic of 
Study for the Dominican Nun, incorporating and defining some 
aspects of these aforementioned points. 

The first encounter with the Creator God is through the gift 
of his revelation, be it mediated through the Church, faith 
community, Scripture, Tradition, the Magisterium, Liturgy or art 
forms. God speaks and reveals: men listen and are called to 
respond. Through Baptism, they are made members of the faith 
community of the Church, are endowed with sanctifying grace and its 
concomitant aids, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit which aid 
in the growth of holiness through the development of virtue, 
through the moral life and ascesis. 

Through a deepened understanding of her baptismal commitment, 
the Dominican nun embraces God through a life of religious vows in 
the monastic setting according to the Constitutions of the Nuns of 
the Order of Preachers. As a Dominican, a daughter of Dominic, a 
"Sister Preacheress, " she is peculiarly engrafted to a tradition 
that is both monastic and apostolic. The nuns, founded earlier 
than the friars and dedicated to the contemplative life, 
nevertheless share in the heritage of their father: they are not 
...excluded from the ministry of the word. For they 
listen to the word, celebrate it and keep it in their 
hearts, and in this way proclaim the Gospel of God by the 
example of their life [LCM, #96] . 
From the beginning the nuns have sought to emulate the example of 
the friars whenever possible. 2 

The Formation Ratio and Constitutions of 1987 emphasize study 
as a vital observance in the life of the Dominican nun. 

Because study is formative, both as a discipline and as 
a means of human and personal growth, the development of 
a habit of serious and consistent study, integrated into 
the daily life of the monastery, will be an important 
aspect of the formation period. [Ratio, #27] 

[Study] nourishes contemplation, but also removes the 
impediments which arise through ignorance and informs the 


practical judgment. fosters the fulfillment of the 
evangelical counsels with a more enlightened fidelity and 
encourages unanimity of mind. By its very constancy and 
difficulty it constitutes a form of asceticism and aids 
mental equilibrium. [LCM, # 100,11.] 


Before commencing to a discussion of the relationship of 
theology and contemplation, it seems appropriate to define the 

Theology is the "disciplined exploration of what is contained 
in revelation," 3 God and his mysteries being the subject of that 
exploration. Congar presents theology as a reasoned account about 
God; a body of knowledge which rationally interprets, elaborates 
and orders the truths of Revelation. 4 

...contemplation is an act of the intellect superior to 
reasoning, a simple view of the truth; and when it is a 
question not of philosophical contemplation, but of that 
contemplation which the saints speak of, it springs from love, 
not only from the love of the knowledge habitual to 
philosophers, but from the love of God, from charity. 5 

Several aspects of the relationship between theology and 
contemplation come to the fore: each is or has been traditionally 
viewed as a form of prayer, both share in the common faith of the 
people of God, possess a rational approach, and a definite seeking 
for divine wisdom. 

The theologian and contemplative share at the most basic level 
the common faith and participation in the believing community 

through the inheritance of the sacred Scripture and Tradition, and 
in the universal call to holiness [ Lumen Gentium , #40] . 

The Greek fathers often used the word theology to describe the 
knowing and praying based on the ascetical life that leads to 
contemplation. If the theologian is one immersed in the Word and 
work of God, as the tradition has maintained, and a member of the 
faith community, then clearly the theologian or student of 
theology, like the contemplative, is called to prayer and prayerful 
meditation upon revelation. Evagrius said that: "If you are a 
theologian you will pray in truth, and if you pray in truth, you 
are a theologian. "° Throughout the early centuries, the 
theologian was one who prayed: his activity was prayer and sharing 
that experience. Not until Abelard in the 12th century does this 
view of theology recede before the more familiar definition of an 
intellectual discipline, an ordered body of knowledge about God. 
Reminiscent of the earlier view is Hans Urs von Balthasar's view 
that all theology should be "theology on one's knees," 8 and Congar 


points out that there is "incomparable profit in being both a 
rational and a mystic. God alone speaks well of God." 9 

Reason constructs faith into an ordered body of truths and 
statements in which what is first in intelligibility will be 
foundational to what follows. 10 This construct is essential as 
theological teaching and study, and contemplation, are rational in 
nature. They exist within a system of intelligence or reason in 
which order or hierarchy and unity are constitutive. Theology and 
contemplation live out of faith, but it is a faith shaped by 

Faith is a God-given simple and experiential knowledge of 
Christian belief. Wisdom, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, penetrates 
more deeply into the truths themselves, be it as theologian or 
contemplative. Like the wise man of the Bible, the theologian and 
contemplative are defined by an absolute consecration to the quest 
for divine wisdom, for penetration into the deepest truths. 

Thomas defines contemplation as an operation of the 
intellectual habit of wisdom or wisdom as the gift of the Holy 
Spirit, speculative or affective [ST 2a2ae 180, 1] . The former, 
the speculative, is generally considered as the realm of the 
theologian; the latter, the affective or intuitive, more that of 
the contemplative or mystic. The work of the theologian in 
searching revelation or in approaching his work in scientific 
inquiry, such as quaestio, exemplifies this speculative and 
intellectual approach. Mystical or infused contemplation 
presupposes a more intuitive and affective stance. 

The content of both theology and contemplation is certainly 
revelation and "disciplined" is descriptive of the approach 
appropriate to theology and theological reflection. But this is 
hardly the case in contemplation where the God-given gift cannot be 
anticipated, defined or apprehended in advance, and is pure gift 
rather than the result of human effort. 

Theological study and contemplation for the Dominican nun is 
a part of her monastic heritage. In his monumental book, Love of 
Learning and Desire for God . Dom Jean Leclercq speaks of the 
flowering of monasticism in the early middle ages emphasizing the 
interplay of reading and lectio, liturgy, private and communal 
prayer in fostering prayerful reflection and contemplation. 

...the whole mental atmosphere of monastic living was 

conducive to a spiritual rather than a speculative grasp 

of Christian truth. 11 

A major difference between monastic theology and that of the 
university view was the attention paid to experience. Lectio 
divina, a principal form of prayer and reading for the monastic 
tradition, is ordained to a real dialogue with God, for "we speak 
to God when we pray, we hear him when we read the divine sayings" 


(LCM, #97) . 

Monastic theology is a theology of admiration and 
therefore greater than a theology of speculation. 
Admiration, speculation: both words describe the act of 
looking. But the gaze of admiration adds something to 
that of speculation. It does not necessarily see any 
farther, but the little it does perceive is enough to 
fill the whole soul of the contemplative with joy and 
thanksgiving. 12 


Study is clearly important in the life of the Dominican nun as 
it is both a discipline and an asceticism. It aids in critical 
reading and thinking, and helps in the development of judgement. 
It is of value in prayer in providing material for lectio and in 
clarifying one's experience and growth in God. 

Theological study enriches contemplation and vice versa: the 
attempt of the mind to grasp intellectually leads to a desire for 
the experiential; the experiential penetration of truths looks for 
clarity of expression and understanding. That which is pondered 
leads to a greater longing and desire to grasp or lay hold of the 
mystery. One way of describing the difference between 
contemplation and theology is that in contemplation one is turned 
to God in love which becomes a kind of knowing, whereas theology 
can be seen as the knowing which leads into loving. 13 "Through a 
way of life in which prayer is central, one moves into union with 
the divine Object of theology." 14 

The following is my own re-working of the psalm verse, 
evocative of faith, theological study and contemplation, cited at 
the beginning of this paper: 

Lord keep me faithful in response to your call; 

teach me, wrap me in your word; 
bring me to purity of heart in your friendship. 

1. "Teach me" is strongly reminiscent of the plea recurrent in the 
wisdom literature of the Old Testament; "faithfulness" is seen as 
a prerequisite in this quest for the Almighty; "single-mindedness" 
is another translation in the beatitudes for "purity of heart" and 
suggests the deep-seated longing for the Beloved, the Friend. 
Psalm 86:11 (Jerusalem Bible translation). 

2. Although lost for centuries in the written texts, references to 
study exist in the earliest extant Constitutions for the nuns, 
those of the Monastery of San Sisto and the Montargis Constitutions 
which Humbert of Romans was to use for the 1257 codification. 


3. Aidan Nichols, OP, The Shape of Theology (Collegeville, MN: 
Liturgical Press, 1991), 32. 

4. Yves M-J Congar, OP, A History of Theology (Garden City, NY: 
Doubleday, 1968) , 206. 

5. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, The Three Ages of the Interior Life 
(B. Herder Book Co., 1948), p 281; emphasis added . 

6. Jean Leclercq, OSB, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God 
(London: SPCK, 1974), 282. 

7. Joseph Komonchak et al, ed. , The New Dictionary of Theology 
(Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989), "Theology," 1011. 

8. Nichols, Shape , 25-26, citing Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Theology 
and Society," Word and Redemption . 

9. Congar, History , 206. 

10. Congar, History . 206-7. 

11. Leclercq, 291. 

12. Ibid . . 283. 

13. Sister Mary of the Trinity, OP [FH], "Theological Study in the 
Life of Dominican Contemplative Nuns," Dominican Monastic Search 
(Volume 11, Fall 1992), 115. 

14. Leclercq, 290. 


Sister Mary Grace, O.P. 
Washington, DC 

For the past two years we have been the beneficiaries of the priestly 
ministry of Fr. Joseph d'Amecourt, F J , who has been studying at Catholic 
University and coming to us for Mass frequently. On April 6, 199 1 !, we met the 
Founder of the Congregation to which he belongs, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, 
O.P. This 82 year old French Dominican has spent most of his priestly years as 
a professor at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. In 1975, five of his 
students who were greatly impressed by his love for Aristotle and St. Thomas, 
were moved to ask him to help them form a community in order to study the 
theology of St. Thomas, completely consecrate themselves to Christ, and put 
themselves at the service of the Church. This was the planting of a small seed 
which is rapidly and steadily growing into a flourishing new establishment in 
the Church. 

What follows here is taken from notes hastily scribbled as Fr. Philippe's 
conferences were simultaneously translated for us by Fr. d'Amecourt and Bro. 
Dominique-Francois. He began with a little personal background. Father Philippe 
had two brothers in the Order, one being Father Thomas Philippe, one of the 
founders of the L'Arche communities. One of his sisters was a Dominican Nun and 
he has thirteen nieces and nephews who are Dominicans - almost as many relatives 
in the Order as St Bernard had in his order, he said. He also had a Dominican 
uncle, Father Dehau, who was very influential in his spiritual and intellectual 
formation and guided him to philosophical metaphysics with a view to making him 
able to speak well of Blessed Mother. 

The name of the Congregation Father Philippe founded, the Brothers and 
Sisters of St. John, stems from that same Marian direction. It was inspired by 
a desire to find a common root for the fledgling congregation with the Dominican 
Order of Father's profession. St. John, at the foot of the Cross, received Mary 
to be his Mother. Dominic, whom Father Philippe sees as resembling in many ways 
St. John, also received Mary as his Mother, to be preached through the Rosary. 
How well this quotation from Mystery of Mary by Fr. Philippe may be applied to 
St. Dominic as well as to St. John: 

Mary lives with John (Dominic), with the one given to her by Christ. 
She divinely adopts him so that all her treasure may be his. Mary 
keeps no secret from him, as child and priest. There is a wonderful 
sharing with respect to their ideal, their divine life, with all its 
demands and all its requirements. And this intimacy with John 
(Dominic) is the model, so to speak, of what happens with each of 
Jesus' beloved disciples, the other 'Johns' ('Dominies'). This life 
with John is as it were the superabundance of her contemplative life 
with the Father, and is a kind of milieu that disposes one towards 
new elans in love. 

"Letter to the Friends", #15, page 7. 


The Holy Father told Father Philippe to tell the Brothers of St. John that 
St. Dominic is their founder and Fr. Philippe, in turn, spoke to the Master 
General of his sons as the GRANDSONS OF ST. DOMINIC. It is thus that he 
considers the genesis of this newly-founded Congregation. 


Mary is the model of religious life - a fact that St. Thomas presents with 
great emphasis. Religious life is a divine means by which to grow in charity 
in the deepest and quickest way. It is the "express" way, Father said, and its 
growth is through the theological virtues. Mary helps us to grow in faith, hope 
and charity so that we come gradually to live the beatitudes which unite us with 
the Heart of Jesus. It is very important to understand the link between the 
theological virtues, the gifts and the beatitutdes as taught by St. Augustine 
and adopted by St. Thomas. 

It is in St. Thomas' commentary on the first letter of St. John, Fr. 
Philippe told us, that we will find most truly the heart of the teaching of the 
Angelic Doctor. In that commentary, St. Thomas speaks of St. John receiving 
Mary as Mother - the Pearl of Incomparable Price, which is the contemplative 
life and implies closeness to the Cross of Jesus. St. Thomas speaks of three 
qualities of St. John in which Fr. Philippe sees a striking resemblance to St. 
Dominic. St. John was youthful , analagous to joyful. In the Order of Preachers 
there is joy. Perspicacity , is the second quality - intelligence which all 
recognized also in St. Dominic and in the emphasis of his Order on the 
intellect. A keen intelligence is needed to keep the secrets of the Friend. 
Finally, St. John was noted for purity of heart , as also St. Dominic. The 
friend has to be able to see the Friend's heart. Fr. Philippe said that St. 
Dominic's great secret for his Order's fruitfulness is his contemplative 
sisters: we must carry our brothers with conviction and great strength. It is 
in this way that we can see our life as both contemplative and apostolic, he 


Fear of the Lord is built on poverty and St. Dominic placed great emphasis 
on it. That is the only sound construction. The Church is experiencing great 
storms and many houses are collapsing with incredible speed because they are not 
built on rock: they lack spiritual poverty, Fear of the Lord which is the 
beginning of Wisdom. It is the Fear of the Spirit of the Bridegroom. Always 
ask the Holy Spirit what he expects of you, Father advised. That is evangelical 
smallness. The poor are small: "Without me you can do nothing." This is the 
strength which St. Dominic meant in exhorting us to poverty in his Last 
Testament. Otherwise we are caught by the spirit of the world which is opposite 
to that smallness. As Jesus said, we cannot serve two masters. In 2000 years 
of Christianity we end with a race for money. The face of the world is led by 
money. The Holy Spirit demands this radical poverty in view of our loving - 
that is the end. Poverty is not pleasant. We love it because Jesus was 
preeminently poor. Poverty is an interior spirit and comes from fear of the 
Lord - fear of the bride who wants the love of the Bridegroom to be total. 



Poverty and obedience go together. If we are poor we obey more easily. 
When it is hard to obey know that it is because we are not poor enough. We 
should not have any personal projects. We are not here to make our own work. 
The work of God is one and it is the Cross. The measure of our poverty is that 
of the crucified Jesus who died in obedience. Anything we do outside of the 
will of God is sterile. Obedience is the sine qua non of fecundity. We have 
to struggle against a desire for efficiency and riches. They are different but 
they go together. Religious life is not made for efficiency and if anyone comes 
to it for that they have come in the wrong door. The Father prunes everything. 
The novitiate is a time of pruning. Our desires have to be given wholly to a 
spirit of obedience - adopting the good pleasure of God. Today, people seek 
autonomy and efficiency. Obedience obliges us to accept total dependence on the 
good pleasure of the Father. Pride has to disappear. Obedience kills pride. 
Pride wants to be first - to manifest self. Through obedience we are wrapped 
in the Holy Spirit, united to the Father, through Christ who has one desire: the 
good pleasure of his Father. 


A spirit of virginity is the great secret of religious life. Poverty and 
obedience are in view of a spirit of virginity. For us it is to love Jesus as 
a bride, in a mystical friendship; a union with the Heart of Jesus. Silent 
prayer helps us to live this intimacy. Beyond the sacrifice of the vows is this 
call of love. The three vows are the pruning of the Father so that we can make 
haste to this intimacy. Vows are the armor against the lust of the flesh, of 
the eyes, of the pride of life. Mary, at her Presentation, made the total 
commitment of herself. She shows us the way to complete surrender. For her it 
was not a consequence of sin; she has gone beyond that. For us the vows are 
what allow us to acquire the virtues. We will always need the armor of the vows 
to protect us against concupiscence. We have inherited a volcanic state in our 
human nature. The more saintly a person is the more he/she knows the power of 
temptation. Today the devil has the world in his clutches. We don't hear much 
about him because he is like a dog with a bone in his mouth. 


Father Philippe said that it is important to enter into this divine 
pedagogy which comes from Mary's heart. It is maternal, takes hold of us where 
we are to make us saints. We enter religious life to be led to holiness. She 
takes hold of us to unite us with Jesus who is the Victim of love and to permit 
us to be the source of love for those close to us in communal life. Religious 
life can only be perfectly realized in this aspiration to contemplative life. 
Mary is the one who consecrated herself to God totally. Our life, like hers, 
must be ordered to divine maternity in faith, hope and charity. Faith only 
grows in a contemplative way. There is an Article in the Sum ma with respect to 
faith in the question on the necessity of faith. Man is ordered by grace to the 
Beatific Vision. This is beautiful. The present Holy Father always underlines 
that theologians lack a sufficiently vigorous faith. The origin of the 
Christian life, the yeast, is faith. The world today tends only to see the 
dough. All that remains is a Christian culture, the dough, and the yeast of 
faith is not thought of sufficiently. Faith does not make us intelligent. 
Christians need not be intelligent. A Christian knows he is made for eternal 


beatitude - for face to face vision of God. Religious life allows us to live 
this necessity of faith and not to lose the inner spirit of faith. Today's 
faith is weakened, even by theologians who should be specialists. The yeast is 
lost in the dough. It must become vigorous. St. John existed for this. 


Asked later for more clarity on his concepts of the "yeast" and the 
"dough, " Fr. Philippe further explained. There are two conceptions of the 
doctrine on grace which were defended by Jesuits and Dominicans until the Holy 
Father put an end to the namecalling, if not to the dispute. Pius XI leaned 
towards the Jesuit position. Suarez, the Jesuit, maintained that grace only 
permitted human nature to be perfect. St. Thomas taught that grace brings in 
itself, by itself, the theological life with its own end and rhythm. The former 
concept is a sort of humanism which came to progressively override the concept 
of grace so that grace is buried in human nature. The yeast is buried in the 
dough and all that is considered is the dough (a Christian culture). 

St. Thomas always presented two analogies, as he did also with his 
teaching on grace. Do away with one and you do not have the complete picture. 

1) grace is given by God in our human nature to modify our life (a quality). 

2) taken from the passage in St. John of Our Lord's words to Nicodemus: "You 
must be born again." It is a question of new life, which has its proper rhythm. 
The second analogy is often dropped and we only think of the perfective quality 
of grace. But the words to Nicodemus speak of something that goes much further 
- to a new birth which has its proper development, that of faith, hope and 
charity which have their own proper life and transform human life and go beyond 
it. Faith is not only a quality; it is more: it gives us a new elevation. 
Dominicans respect this transcendency. Suarez made the exercise of the Gifts 
to be extraordinary. For St. Thomas it was the normal Christian life. For 
Suarez the supernatural life of contemplation is charismatic: it is rare. It 
is important to understand this because the Jesuts have a great influence. 
Theologians who see St. Thomas through Suarez, without going to the source, lead 
people astray. Then contemplative life becomes rare. But the demands of 
contemplation are inscribed in Christian life. 


It is silent prayer which allows us to cooperate in the action of the Holy 
Spirit. In St. Thomas' commentary on St. John's epistles we find great pearls 
of knowledge. He gives the mystical meaning of Cana. He doesn't quote the 
Fathers so he must be writing from his own lights, under the action of the Holy 
Spirit. It is the mystery of silent prayer. Our Lord was in the desert when 
he received the invitation to the wedding feast of Cana. He goes beyond the 
prophets in forsaking the desert for the feast. He gives new meaning to the 
teaching of love. It was in the context of a wedding feast that He taught about 
the mystery of silent prayer. For it we need to be transformed: the water 
turned to wine. 

We no longer understand silent prayer - no longer see the mysterious 
meaning of the Word of God. It is the Gift of God himself. That is the meaning 
of the wedding feast. Silent prayer is a divine exercise of the theological 
virtues, under the breath of the Holy Spirit. So let us ask Jesus to take hold 
of our hearts, of all that we are. It is the divine exercise of faith, hope and 


charity. We take the initiative with our acts of faith, hope and charity. This 
is what is so wonderful about adoration. We are so small. We adore in spirit 
and in truth. God creates me here and now; my soul is currently created. And 
so we thank him for creating us out of pure love. We recognize that all is from 
him and going back to him. We recognize our dependence on him. We call upon 
the Holy Spirit to come and grant us to exercise faith so that we may be in the 
presence of God, in Jesus. This takes place through the gift of fear that is 
the beginning of wisdom: a state of receptivity for all God's secrets. Our acts 
of faith, hope and charity place us in the presence of Jesus who gives himself 
totally in the Mass; we give ourselves in return, in reciprocity of silent 
prayer. It is the wedding feast of our souls with Jesus. St. Thomas adds that 
Mary is always invited, as at Cana, to our silent prayer but it is better for 
us to invite her. By ourselves we cannot do it. Each time is new, there are no 
methods for it. We offer ourselves as victims of love, gifts to the Father. 

We have in the Order the great tradition of St. Louis Grignon de Montfort. 
It is through Mary that we enter into divine intimacy with Christ's prayer. St. 
Luis says we are poor; we do not merit to enter silent prayer: we are beggers 
and we know it. When God allows us to enter, we discover our smallness. I can 
meditate when I want; I just do it. But I cannot enter silent prayer when I 
want. Do not seek silence, seek to love. Do silent prayer close to Mary. Sit 
next to her. Of course, she does not appear to your vision; she waits for your 
faith, hope and charity. Slowly she brings us to intimacy. When you go to 
silent prayer, invoke Mary. It is the presence of a Mother. There is no need 
of a method. Method is for orphans. If we forget we have the Holy Spirit and 
Mary, then we need a method. Mary is always present through the Holy Spirit; 
he uses her. 

Fraternal charity is the guardian of silent prayer. Doctrine is presumed 
as proper to Dominican contemplation. Contemplation is always love, fraternal 
charity, but it is true to say ours is a contemplation that presumes doctrine. 
It is the gift of wisdom that allows us to be in the presence of Jesus, the 
Father and the Holy Spirit. The end of it is the gift of the Trinity through 
Jesus' humanity. Certainly it is not always luminous. There are times of great 
aridity. It is always made in faith and can sometimes be very obscure. What is 
necessary is to consecrate the required time; to be faithful to the rendezvous. 
That is what is meant by regularity: not regular meals, etc. - regular 
faithfulness to prayer, at all costs. This is the most necessary thing. I once 
heard a religious say that after prayer he writes down the graces he received. 
This is very dangerous. I do not pray in order to receive graces of light. A 
wonderful lay-brother I knew said he received his best graces when cooking. He 
was a saint, cooking for 150 people every day; he did it in God's presence. 
The presence of God in the obscurity of faith gives meaning to our life. It 
blossoms in fraternal charity: to be for each other someone who gives because 
we are given to Jesus. Our closeness to each other is witness of Christ's love. 
Silent prayer is first of all an attitude of passivity, of poverty. God does 
it all and I do it all with him - in cooperation. It is divine passivity, not 
psychological: the gift of my entire self in adoration and the gift of my 
faculties - all given to him because he has given all to me, in the Eucharist, 
in his Word. In silent prayer I go beyond the signs so to adhere to the 
mystery. I want Jesus. He maintains me in this unity. 



God wants you to live in great mercy. Mercy is not only for the apostolic 
life but for fraternal life also. We must forgive all the time. The first 
thing we see is the faults of the others. We must never criticize. We must 
have Christ's gaze, ask for this in the daily singing of the Salve Regina . We 
did not choose our sisters: Jesus did. Fis choice is stronger than cultures. 
It is said that Americans cannot be contemplatives. This is not so. Christ 
assumed all cultures and purifies them all. An African Bishop said he could not 
understand the term "inculturation"; it is Christ in all his purity that is 
needed, not inculturation. Faith is beyond culture. It is a gift of God; we 
are born from above. Contemplative life surpasses culture. Faith makes us live 
awaiting the Beatific Vision. Fraternal charity is the fruit of contemplative 
life: it allows us to love as Jesus loves and because Jesus is beyond culture 
we can love as Jesus loves in the radical poverty of the Cross. Jesus has 
chosen each of us; that is why we must have infinite respect for each. Father 
Emmanuel who joined our community late in life, had a dream in which he saw many 
young people and was invited to choose those whom he wished for our 
Congregation. This he enjoyed doing and at the end, Jesus said to him that he 
would take all the others. He understood by this that he had chosen in a human 
way. Jesus chooses our community for us. We would make mistakes. With the 
Holy Spirit there is no age: all are small children, fragile; those who have a 
great desire to love God he chooses to be the friends of Jesus. 

And so ended the conferences, but not the sense we had and still have, of 
having been in contact with someone very precious, holy, prophetically touched 
and appointed to do a special work in the Church. We are grateful to have met 
Father Philippe, to have heard his words and gleaned a little of what it must 
have been that drew the five young students to him and motivated them to ask 
for his spiritual help. 

Note: The publication "Letter to the Friends" cited at the beginning of this 
article is available from the Brothers of St. John in Laredo, TX, USA. 



Sr. Mary Rose Dominic O.P., Summit, N.J. 

All that the Church holds and teaches concerning the Person 
and Mission of Christ, she receives essentially from the gospels, 
those unique documents which were written by the four evangelists, 
Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Every history of Jesus, every 
commentary on His life, however learned, must ultimately go back 
to the gospels as to a primal source. The gospels are unique 
among the literature of all ages: they stand alone and apart, 
unequalled and unrivalled as written testimonies; this fact, ev- 
eryone, whether friend or foe will readily admit. They were not 
written as history, strictly speaking, but simply as a written 
testament of what Jesus did, so that the knowledge of His Person, 
life and work might be preserved for future ages. 

St. John described most perfectly what the gospels were 
meant to be, when he said : "That which was from the beginning, 
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we 
have looked upon and our hands have handled, the Word who is life- 
this is our subject. That life was made visible: we saw it and we 
are giving our testimony, telling you of the eternal life which 
was with the Father and has been made visible to us. That which* 
we have seen and have heard we are telling to you" (1 Jn. 1:1-3). 

But the gospels are far more than mere written records, 
they are divinely inspired records whose real author was the Holy 
Spirit (1). For it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the thought 
which they contain, leaving the evangelists free to set forth that 
inspired thought each in his own way. Indeed in a certain sense 
we could say that the words of the psalm were fulfilled in them: 
"My tongue is the pen of a writer that writes swiftly" (Ps. 45:2). 

Of the four evangelists who wrote, Saints Matthew and John 
were actually apostles of Jesus: St. Mark was a disciple of St. 
Peter so that his gospel could almost be called a gospel of St. 
Peter. St. Luke was a disciple of St. Paul and much of what he 
wrote was probably learned from that apostle so that his gospel 
could almost be called the gospel of St. Paul. 

Like all the works of God, the gospels which at first 
glance might appear to be very simple are seen upon deeper inves- 
tigation to be most mysterious and profound. It is only upon such 
investigation that many interesting points become evident even to 
the most unreflective mind and guickly make one realize that here 
we are confronted with more than human testimony. There is the 
question of authorship, for example. 

Matthew was a tax gatherer, that is, a publican and there- 
fore a member of one of the lowest ranks of Israel's society. 
Mark also was a member of the ordinary working class, while John 


was a fisherman. At the time of Christ formal education was far 
removed from their sphere of life, while higher education was al- 
together out of the question. St. Luke alone was a man of education. 
He was a physician by profession and tradition says that he was 
also a skillful painter; he wrote his gospel in fluent Greek. 

It is natural to expect therefore that owing to a lack of 
formal education the gospels should reveal literary defects in 
grammar or spelling yet despite such defects they are masterpieces 
of literature. No commentary however erudite, that has been written 
on the gospels, can ever equal the gospels themselves, nor can even 
the most learned treatises on the life of Christ ever etch as they 
do, the features of the living portrait that looks out from the 
pages of the gospel. To examine these praiseworthy and scholarly 
works side by side with the gospels is like contemplating a beau- 
tiful canvas side by side with the living landscape. 

The canvas though beautiful in itself can never compare with 
with the living beauty of the landscape which it portrays for it 
lacks the breath of life. The beauty of the setting sun, the living 
shades of light which suffuse the sky at dawn, the living breeze, 
the flowing waters the beauty of the flower decked fields in Spring, 
all these can be depicted on the canvas but without the breath of 
life which animates nature itself. The gospels are much like that". 
They possess a living beauty which no writer or artist can ever 
duplicate . 

Another point of interest about the gospels which we can see 
at a glance is the fact that the evangelists made no attempt to be 
in perfect agreement about what they set out to record; rather 
when reading their accounts we get the impression of a group 
discussion among eyewitnesses of some history-making event which has 
recently occurred. In such a discussion each would be anxious to 
relate what impressed him most, so that one might include a detail 
that another might not trouble to mention. This is what happened 
in the case of the evangelists: all of them have recorded the most 
important events in the life of Jesus, at least by allusion but 
the details are supplied sometimes by one and sometimes by another, 
so that often it is only by piecing together all four accounts 
that we can get a complete picture of what really happened. 

The first three evangelists seem to have been preoccupied 
with showing Jesus to be truly Man, though they also show His 
Divine Nature as God; they wrote ,so to speak, of the Man who was God. 
St. John on the other hand takes a completely different approach: 
he stresses the divinity of Jesus though also clearly showing His 
humanity. We might say that he wrote of God who was Man. But though 
his approach is from an opposite angle, in both cases, that is in 
the case of the synoptics and of John, the face of the living 
Christ which looks out from the four gospels is one and the same. 
We might say that all approach the mystery of Christ from different 
angles yet all conclude with an identical portrait. Only God in 
His infinite wisdom could have achieved such a marvellous effect 
with such imperfect instruments. 


Succeeding ages have subjected these gospels to a most 
searching scrutiny and verbal battles have raged around almost 
every word they contain; they have been carefully examined from 
every possible angle both as literary and historical works. Their 
historic content together with the various senses in which their 
message can be interpreted have all been carefully investigated. 
Their literal, figurative, mystical, typical and spiritual sense 
have been carefully pondered, and from this searching scrutiny they 
have emerged unscathed (2). The crystal beauty of truth shines upon 
every page, and since truth can never contradict itself, the 
gospels can never be destroyed. 

Beneath superficial divergencies there exists a marvelous 
harmony and the living face of Jesus which looks out from the four 
gospels is as fascinating today as when He spoke to the multitudes 
by the shore. Moreover, His voice which speaks from the gospels is 
still as majestic and compelling as when He first said to His 
disciples: "Come follow Me!" All are drawn by a mysterious fascina- 
tion to contemplate Him as though in fulfillment of His own proph- 
esy: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things 
to myself (Jn. 12:32). 


Cf . Documents 
(New York 
1966), p. 115 

Of Vatican II 

Rev. Walter Abbott S.J. et al. 
Guild Press: America Press: Association Press, 

Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture : (Camden 
Toronto: New York: Edinburgh: Nelson, Thomas &Sons, 1953), 
p. 48-49. 

Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, (1953 ed . ) , p.54f. 



Sister Miriam, O.P. 

"The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of Yahweh 
tilled the Tabernacle. " (Ex. 40:35) 

"The power of the Most High will overshadow you: therefore, the one 
born will be called holy, Son of God. " (Lk. 1:35) 

The Holy Spirit hovered over Mary as over the Tent of Meeting and 
upon her assent of faith impregnated her womb with the seed of divine 
charity, Jesus. The ground had been prepared to receive the seed through 
the gift of the Immaculate Conception. 

It is interesting to note in the dictionary, that in addition to the usual 
definition of "hover" — to brood over, the word may also be used as a noun - 
- a canopy or other device for holding the heat of a brooder near the floor 
or ground so that it is available to young birds or animals cared for in the 

The womb of Mary, continually overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, 
served as a "hover" nurturing Jesus from His conception to His birth. The 
relationship of love between Mary and Joseph and the atmosphere of 
religious worship served as a "hover" as Jesus grew to maturity, increasing 
in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and men. (Lk. 2:52) "The 
Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us and we sa w his glory ..." 
(Jn. 1:14) At the Transfiguration Moses and Elijah "hovered" with the 
Holy Spirit preparing Jesus for His passion and glory. 

It is no coincidence that we are presented in such a short time within 
the liturgical year the whole gamut of the Incarnation/Redemption — from 
the Annunciation to the Passion-Resurrection. How does this apply to us? 
How can we reflect these mysteries in our own lives? With the gifts of faith 
and hope that have been freely given us, we can live out these virtues and 
come to the glory of eternal charity at our own resurrection. We, too. have 
been nurtured from our conception as a seed in our mother's womb, 
matured by the relationships of family and with the gift of our monastic 

vocation and are surrounded with an atmosphere of Eucharistic religious 

We are called to an intimacy and union in the heart of the Trinity as 
Mary is. The hard part is to keep that conscious awareness alive and 
burning in our hearts; to open ourselves to receive and respond to that call 
to intimacy; put aside all obstacles and resistance; and see and support this 
gift in one another. The gift of Jesus to Mary is the gift of Jesus to us, and 
she is our mentor and guide on the way to glory. By fostering our unity and 
striving to preserve that charity among us we can continue to be that 
"hover," that device, as you will, that maintains the heat of the Holy Spirit, 
radiating that warmth in an increasingly cold and secular world. 

"/ ha ve come to bring lire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing 
already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress 
till it is over!" (Lk. 12:49-50) Jesus longs to reign as King in all hearts and 
wants to share that thirst for souls with us as members of His Mystical Body 
— true daughters of the Church as St. Dominic formed us to be. 

These are mysteries that are so unbelievable that only the Holy Spirit 
revealing them to us can make them at all plausible. Let us continue to 
nurture these gifts within our own hearts, renewing them daily, and 
encourage them in each other. Being called together by the Lord Himself, 
it is here that we will grow and mature in our faith, hope and love as we live 
through Jesus" passion at the foot of the cross with Mary and come with 
them to glory, the hope of our own final resurrection and the Triumph of 
the Church. 

Webster's Third New International Dictionary . Springfield, MA, 
G. & C. Merriam Company. 1971. 

Feuillet, Andre. Jesus and His Mother . Still River. MA, St. Bedes 
Publications. 1984. 



Jean-Yves LeLoup, O.P. 

(La Vie Spirituelle, Jan.-Fevr. 1979) 

Tr. Sister Maria of the Cross, O.P 
Summit, New Jersey 


fThe first commandment is "Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is 
one Lord." "Listen." God asks us to listen. 

Before prayer can be a word coming from ourselves, it must 
be a listening. A psychiatrist once told me, "The day a patient 
begins to listen to me or to really listen to others, to accept 
them, to welcome them, he is cured." If you listen to God, if 
you really welcome His Word, if you really embrace His Presence, 
then you're cured, you're saved. You become a mother of God--as 
Mary did, who "pondered all these things in her heart." 

"0 God, give me a listening heart." The Fathers also say 
that the root of sin is the f orgetf ulness of God, lack of atten- 
tion to Him. "Listen, be attentive." God is there. And you? 
"Adam, where are you?" 

HOne day they asked Abba Agatho, "Of all the practices, which is 
the one that demands the most labor?" He answered, "Forgive me, 
I think that there's no greater labor than praying to God. As 
soon as a man wants to pray, the demons try to prevent him; in- 
deed, they know that nothing is a greater hindrance to them than 
prayer." And really, how could falsehood or vanity penetrate a 
heart that prays? Pride no longer has a way of entry to the world 
to sow war and discord. 

ITIf we've sold all our goods, it's so that we can buy a precious 
pearl. If we haven't married, if we have renounced wealth and our 
own will, it's so that we can acguire perpetual prayer. If we've 
been freed from all worldly cares, it's so that we can pray to God 
with a pure heart. And besides, prayer should be the monk's only 

IFIn order to reduce every temptation to nought, there's nothing 
like the Lord's command "Pray without ceasing." In order to re- 
cover our freedom as children of God and our primeval beauty ac- 
cording to His image and likeness, there's nothing like the un- 
ceasing invocation of His Name. 

^Whatever you're doing, in church, in your cell or at work, do all 
for God's glory: that is, with a heart that loves Him and prays 
to Him. "Close your door and pray to the Father in secret." Close 
your mouth. Remember Jesus Christ present in your heart; remember 
His Spirit and may love teach you to pray in truth "Abba, Father." 


ITIf you knew the gift of God , Who He is Who wants to pray in you .. . 
First of all, you must accustom your body and your lips to 
prayer. You can remain standing before the icon of Christ and the 
Mother of God, make prostrations and repeat aloud the Name of 
Jesus, the cry of the blind man and the publican. The prayer of 
the heart is a gift of God: it will be given to you when God 
wills. While waiting, you can dispose yourself to receive God's 
gift; you can offer Him your body, your lips, your thought, and 
He will make you the temple of His Spirit. 

UThe guality of our prayer doesn't depend on us; it's God's work. 
However, the guantity does depend on us. We can repeat the Name 
of Jesus tirelessly. Like the importunate widow, we must say 
without ceasing, "have mercy," and God will show us His mercy. 

HWhat good are great discourses on prayer, if you don't get down 
to work on it? Only by praying do you understand prayer. Don't 
worry about knowing what prayer is. Whatever the words may be-- 
the Liturgy, the psalms, invocation of the Name--don ' t let your 
mind wander. Stay glued to the words. "The One before Whom you 
stand is the Living One." 

Go to a guiet place, sit down, direct your mind toward your 
heart--toward what you feel is the deepest part of your being-- 
and fix there the Name of Jesus. It's hard, but if you persevera 
Jesus will really come to dwell in you; and then you'll be able 
to turn to His Father and our Father without useless thoughts, 
and you'll be able to go to your brethren without useless words . 

I "To pray is to give your heart's blood," said Staretz Silouan. 
Only those who have loved much understand that word. It's a very 
good thing to pray like this, because this is how Jesus prayed 
to His Father before entering into His Passion. 

ITMoses loved his brethren to the point of begging to be blotted 
out of the Book of the Living in which he was inscribed, if the 
people were not pardoned for their sin (Ex. 32:32). Paul wished 
to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his Jewish brethren. 
Look at the saints, and you'll see that the roots of prayer are 
in love . 

ITThe art of prayer, that art of loving of which the Gospel speaks 
to us, demands our whole attention, all our breath. So one who 
hasn't totally renounced himself and his petty desires won't be 
able to attain to it. You don't become a good flutist by learning 
to type. If you want to pray, don't do anything else: let your 
heart be free from all cares. 

ITThe prayer of the heart, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have 
mercy on me"--this means "grant me, grant all men, Your mercy." 
Lord Jesus, send Your Holy Spirit upon me: this means, "You're 
there and here I am; may Your will be done, I abandon myself to 
You. " 

1TThe prayer of the heart leads us to silence. It's futile to speak 
of what happens in this silence; but if you don ' t emerge from it 
with more love for your brethren and more gratitude toward God , it ' s 
a silence of the devil. 

ITIf you want to build a temple, you must begin by digging the 
foundations. God is the One Who builds the temple; your part is to 
sink the foundations, or more exactly, to allow the foundations to 
be hollowed out in you. Offer Him lots of your time, your lips, your 
breath. It is with all this that He hollows out in you the place of 
His rest. 

SIThe repetition of the Name of Jesus is not like the continuous 
recitation of a Hindu mantra. For you, the end is not merely the 
cessation of all thought; it's a meeting with Someone. 

The hesychast ' s silence doesn't rejoin the void that is the 
matrix of the universe. The hesychast's silence is the silence of 
the beloved who contemplates the Lover. These are still images, 
you tell me, and the reality is beyond all images. That's true, but 
this is the language of the Bible; those who refuse it generally 
refuse Revelation. 

HThe Infinite Being, Eternal, Unknowable, Beyond everything, is re- 
vealed as Personal. Mystical experience, in that case, is no long- 
er fusion, a mingling of the wave and the ocean, but incomprehensi- 
ble love: a union of liberties, of free wills. God does not de- 
stroy man and man is not dissolved in God. 

The Fathers often use the image of an iron blade plunged into 
the fire. In such a case you can say that the iron burns and the 
fire is sharp. They're only one thing, and yet their natures are 
not mingled. This is how it is in the union of man and God. 

^There's alot of talk these days about technigues of prayer, and 
hesychasm or prayer of the heart is ranked among these technigues. 
There are many technigues for embracing someone, but without any 
doubt the best is to forget every technigue and really love. It's 
because we lack faith and love that we need technigues in our re- 
lations with God. 

fin hesychasm, the technical part tends to be forgotten as one 
progresses. What good is it to repeat someone's name, if we don't 
know him and don't love him? The power of the Name of Jesus will 
only become perceptible to our heart according to our faith and 
our love. 

HWhile we shouldn't expect everything from a prayer technigue, nei- 
ther should we deny its value. We're not pure spirits, and it's 
already a work of God's mercy that we're looking for ways to be 
united with Him. 

To bring food to your mouth, you can use a fork or your 
fingers; but you don't eat your fingers: like the fork, they're 
only instruments. 

Likewise, according to the discernment of your spiritual fa- 
ther, you can use a prayer technigue to bring the Name of Jesus to 
the heart of your being. But see that you don't idolize that tech- 
nigue and think that it's efficacious in and of itself. A paint- 
brush is effective when it's perfectly supple in the artist's 
hands; but it hasn't the talent to draw your face by itself. 


Hit's true that here on Mount Athos we have fewer external occa- 
sions of sin; yet we're at the heart of every temptation. You can ' t 
imagine what battle we have to fight. As you can see from the life 
of Saint Antony, the desert is the arena where man confronts the 
demons and the "headguarters of the demonic in this world." If with 
God's grace we leave this arena having won the victory, it's the 
entire world that is purified. The monk must be a luminous point, 
a dawning glow of the new creation. 

HAbove all we have to struggle against evil thoughts. Sin doesn't 
begin until we give our consent to it. Prayer helps us to destroy 
evil at the root, as soon as it's proposed to our free will in an 
often imperceptible fashion. The Name of Jesus is the Rock against 
which we must crush the heads of the children of Babylon--that is, 
evil thoughts newly-surfaced in our spirit. 

HWhen your heart and spirit are being gnawed by evil thoughts and 
you already feel passion--f ear , or desire--mount ing up within you, 
flee like those Israelites bitten by the serpents in the desert. 
Look at the bronze serpent Moses erected on the mountain: look at 
Jesus Christ raised on the Cross and "you will be healed of the 
venom injected into your hearts by spiritual serpents." 

Listen to what another of our Fathers says on this subject: 
"When someone makes fun of you, fix your eyes on your Lord. For 
your sake, He too was dishonored; they even treated Him like one 
possessed. If they scorn you, fix your eyes on your Savior when they 
spat in His face. If you're bitten by a vainglorious thought, re- 
member this word: 'When you have done all that you were commanded 
to do, say "We are useless servants; we have done only what we 
should have done,"' (Lk. 17:10)." 

"If, on the other hand, you are tempted to disdain your bro- 
ther because he is weak and sinful, fix your eyes on Him Who was 
more solicitous for sinners, publicans and prostitutes than for 
the just who have no need of conversion. When you're tormented by 
carnal desires or disgusted by our holy way of life, fix your eyes 
upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith--He Who 'instead 


of the joy He had, endured the Cross and scorned its infamy, and 
is seated at the right hand of God's throne 1 (Heb. 12:2). Look un- 
ceasingly at the Cross and the glory of Him Who dwells in your 
heart; the serpents' venom will be powerless, and the light of your 
God will shine down into the secret places of your soul." 

HOur thought is something extremely mobile, and to master it is a 
difficult thing. Evagrius of Pontus traces evil thoughts to eight 
principles: gluttony, lust, greed, sadness, anger, sloth, vanity 
and pride. He also says, "Whether or not all these things trouble 
our soul does not depend on us. What does depend on us is whether 
they linger there and begin to move the passions." Examine your- 
self on these eight points, and see how these thoughts can come 
to birth in you to make you lose peace and the remembrance of God. 

HOur Fathers went further in the knowledge of the human person than 
our modern psychologists. They saw the root of evil and disease in 
the assent of our free will to evil thoughts. Their art consisted in 
the education of man's freedom. They wanted men to have in them 
"that mind which was in Christ Jesus"; they didn't lose time ana- 
lyzing their subjects' early childhood. Instead, they told them, 
"You're loved by God today as the person you are. If you want , you 
can change your life and become a new man, in the image and likeness 
of your Creator. Enter the arena of your heart. Stick it out, stand 
firm in the fight, and you'll know peace. God is with you. Be cured 
of your illness; sin no more, lest worse befall you." 

IT'Tt is from the heart that evil schemes proceed: murder, adultery, 
debauchery, theft, the bearing of false witness, slander." There, 
according to the Gospel, is where you find the cause of evil. No 
greater service can be rendered to humanity than this purification 
of the heart. And the hope of one who carries on this fight is the 
beatitude promised by Jesus: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for 
they shall see God." 

HThese days there's a great tendency to blame others for the evil in 
ourselves and in the world. "It's my past," some people say, "the 
traumas of my early childhood." It's society, bad teaching , and so on 

The monk accuses only himself. You're really free when you know 
you're responsible for everything. If you learn there's a war some- 
where, say "It's my fault" and fight against the pride and hatred 
in your own heart. If you learn there's a famine somewhere, look at 
all the bread in your cupboard that you stole from the ones who are 
starving. When you see the Churches divided, say "It's my fault so 
long as there remains in me a single bad thought against my brother . " 

HPride is the most redoubtable thing: a single proud thought, and 
all the gifts God has given you, all your efforts to progress in 
virtue, go for nothing. Between you and God is a "me" which is an 
idol. The happiest man is the one who is no longer tormented by any 


proud thought; the screen of the "me" is no longer "between him and 
God, between him and others. He sees." 

HBefore everything else, ask God for discernment; it's the origin 
of every good thing. Remember Solomon's prayer: he didn't ask for 
wealth or greatness, but for wisdom--an intelligent heart to discern 
what is good; and all the rest was given him besides. 

^TSince Pentecost, Christ's law no longer consists in a code of ex- 
ternal precepts. The new law is the interior presence of the Holy 
Spirit Who transforms our hearts by giving them the taste for and 
the will to accomplish what is pleasing to God. So you should be 
very attentive to the sometimes extremely subtle inspirations of 
the Holy Spirit . 

HMuch discernment is needed to recognize in an inspiration what 
comes from yourself and your more or less wholesome nature, what 
can also come from satan who is used to transforming himself into 
an angel of light, and what really comes from the Holy Spirit. It's 
very important to discern the origin of the inspirations we re- 
ceive, to discern what motivates us in our depths. A good act can 
be vitiated by an impure motive. You must be vigilant, but with- 
out surrendering yourself excessively to introspection. Trust in 
God, don't delve into what is lofty, and ask your spiritual father 
for advice rather than torture your spirit. 

ITIf you pray with an unwavering attention and thus walk in God's 
presence, you'll feel instinctively what is in harmony or what is 
dissonant with the Spirit of God. 

ITAlways have at heart this desire to put into action what conforms 
to His love, and He will enlighten you. "As I live, says the Lord, 
I do not wish the sinner to die, but that he be converted and live." 
(Ez. 18:23) 

1TMy spiritual father often told me that any thought in which calm 
and humility do not predominate is not according to God. Rather, it 
is manifestly a so-called "good" inspiration coming from the evil 
spirits. The Lord comes with calm; but everything from the enemy is 
accompanied by trouble and agitat ion--and always, you'll notice, by 
concern for one's own glory. 

^Sometimes rapacious wolves may appear in sheep's clothing. Some 
thought or other seems inoffensive and pious to you. "By their fruits 
you shall know them." The fruit of the Spirit is peace, humility, 
love, trust. The enemy's fruit is disturbance, the bloat of pride; 
you feel divided within yourself, and then there rises within you 
this terrible distaste for the life which is the devil's breath. 

HBefore undertaking an important action or work, sit down and in 
accordance with the advice in the Gospel, ask the Lord for His 

Spirit and see if the work or action is in harmony with His will. 
If that work won't make you progress toward Him in love, renounce 

^Everything should be done with discernment. The Fathers say that 
things which go beyond moderation come from the demons. 

(To be continued) 



by Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, OP 
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary 
Buffalo, New York 

The philosophico-theological program of Bernard Lonergan exhibits a comprehensiveness 
of scope uncommon among 20th century thinkers. A look at the table of contents from his book 
Insight ' reveals an author addressing a diverse array of problems pertaining, for example, to the 
canons of empirical method, to classical and statistical scientific analysis, to the nature of space 
and time, of common sense and of political order, to questions of interpretation, as well as to 
religious life and theology His subsequent book. Method in Theology, 1 and his later articles do 
not narrow this scope but expand it Lonergan's contributions to these diverse fields display a 
conviction that a theologian concerned with an understanding of human cognition may contribute 
something of real significance to an understanding of all the above-named issues, for in each of 
them human cognition is central and decisive. My primary objective in this essay is to describe 
that cognitional theory which is central to and undergirds Lonergan's approach to theology 

Bernard Lonergan held that the solution to the deepest problems of Christian systematic 
theology is to be found by attending to the nature of human consciousness/ His theory of how 
human persons know and think about the world around them attempts to identify a natural 
patterning among human intellectual operations Indeed, Lonergan studied the products of 
intelligence in order to identify that patterning Moreover, he recommended an understanding of 
that patterning as a means of overcoming some of the disarray with which the human mind usually 
approaches its specific tasks. 4 

It appears that Lonergan's effort to identify the patterns of human cognition focused on 
the nature of mental activities or operations. Thus, while there are many conceptual issues treated 
in his works, concepts are always understood as changeable, revisable and abandonable, whereas 
mental operations, constituting as it were the basis for all change, revision and abandonment, form 
a constant 

To focus too much on concepts is to underestimate the powers of in- 
tellectual discovery and to imagine consciousness as a kind of container 
for concepts rather than to consider it an awareness immanent in 
cognitional operations themselves. 5 

Because there are mental operations that are conscious, mental operations may be 
described, but what Lonergan sought was more than description. Just as one distinguishes, 
compares, analyzes, explains and makes judgments regarding the objects of one's experience, so, 
on this view, self-consciousness makes these efforts possible regarding oneself. 6 

His theoretical differentiation of cognitional operations begins by distinguishing image, 
insight and concept. Lonergan insisted that "the act of understanding transcends images in such a 
way as to grasp the unimaginable principles that make images to be the way they are." 7 In this he 
followed Aquinas' theory of insight into phantasm, which itself drew upon the theories posited by 
Plato and Aristotle concerning the general principle of nous. To a greater degree than these 
philosophers, however, Lonergan strictly distinguished between the act of understanding and the 
concept that communicates it. This process of conception formulates an insight in such wise as to 
help occasion the insight in the minds of others, even though no concept fully embodies or 
encompasses the insight itself. 8 

Thus concepts are in one sense subject to stasis, for they are the 
unchanging products of inquiry rather than elements of the dynamic 
process itself; in another sense they are indeed changeable, for the dynamism 
of inquiry may at any time submit concepts to further scrutiny, and revise 
or replace them. An unhealthy conceptualist stasis infects cognitional 
theory when concepts are regarded as absolutes, which is to say, when the 
products of intelligence are mistaken for the essence of intelligence itself 9 

The second major distinction in Lonergan's cognitional theory is between understanding 
and judgment, "the former act responding to the questions of who, what, when, where, why, how, 
and the latter providing a 'yes' or 'no' to the single question concerning whether one's 
understanding is correct." 10 According to Lonergan, this distinction is taken from Aquinas and 
John Henry Newman, yet, as one examines the early chapters of Insight, one finds that Lonergan 
is responding to contemporary issues in the methodology of science as well as in theology, and 
offers his distinction as an informed response to the problem of distinguishing and relating 
hypothesis and verification." 

In fact, he placed the norms for judgment —the guiding directives behind the process of 
verification— within the mental operation of reflection. Lonergan's thinking on this score is 
markedly Aristotelian, for he held with Aristotle that inquiry is part of human nature and has a 
natural telos. Further, every time a question is asked it identifies a set of conditions that must be 
met if a rational affirmation is to be made. Identifying the fulfillment of those conditions is a 
matter of understanding which data are relevant and which further relevant questions must be 
asked. At some point a term is reached ~ thereafter one can see any further pursuit of evidence 
would be irrelevant, and failure to pass judgment at such a point would be considered irrational 
indecisiveness.' 2 

By observing in an objective manner the mental operations of attending, understanding, 
judging and deciding, and formulating his conclusions into a theory of how the human mind 
knows, Lonergan intended to make possible the more productive structuring of inquiry In other 
words, this objectification is the basis for a method. It might appear that this sort of 
methodological ambition is no different from that pursued by Rene Descartes, who tried to 
institute a method so perfect in its directives as to overcome all seeming differences in native 
intelligence and talent. Bernard Lonergan seems to have been entirely free of such an ambition. 

for no matter how explicit his objectification when he theorized about the patterning of human 
cognition, he recognized that intelligence must function in concrete circumstances and in response 
to particular concrete problems. 

the human intellect cannot possess insights apart from puzzlement about 
and within certain concrete circumstances However, if one knows what 
kinds of operations are necessary to carry forward a line of inquiry, then 
one might be better able to order tasks within a particular inquiry, and 
one may anticipate in a general way the type of intelligibility that will 
be uncovered in any successful inquiry. 13 

The cognitional theory I have tried to describe provides the basis for Lonergan's 
theological methodology Indeed, in his book Method in Theology, he states that the 
transcultural sensitivity theologians need to do their work adequately may be acquired through 
attention to one's own mental operations. 14 According to Lonergan, who displayed an 
appreciation for the changes constitutive of modern Western culture, the theologian must employ 
understanding, judgment and decision in order to evaluate the content of the Christian tradition 
thus far and to determine what one is to make of it in the future. 15 


1 Bernard Lonergan, SJ, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 2nd ed (New 
York: Philosophical Library, 1957). 

2. Bernard Lonergan, SJ, Method in Theology, (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972). 

3. Lonergan, Insight, pp. xii-xiii, xvi-xix. 

4. I am grateful to Professor Paul Kidder, of Seattle University, for this explanation and 
for offering me a general introduction to Lonergan's philosophical method 

5. Lonergan, Insight., pp. 320-321 , and B. Lonergan, A Second Collection, edd. W.F.J. 
Ryan and B.J. Tyrrell (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974), pp. 74-75. 

6 Lonergan, Insight, pp. 322ff. 
7. Ibjd, pp. 3-9. 

8 D J Keefe, "A Methodological Critique of Lonergan's Theological Method," The 
Thomist,, (January, 1986), pp 28-65 

9 Lonergan, Insight, 8. 

10 Ibjd, pp. 271-277. 

11 Ibjd, pp. 3-11. 

12 Ibid., p. 284. 

13 Lonergan, Method in Theology, p. 9 
14. Ibid, p.46. 

15 Hugo Meynell, "Bernard Lonergan," The Modern Theologians, ed David Ford, 
(Oxford Basil Blackwell, 1989), vol 1, pp 208-209 




Sr. Mary Regina, O.P. 
Farmington Hills, MI 

The remarkable Dominican, Fr. Yves Congar, O.P., turned ninety April 13, 
1994. The man is as large as his years. He has been a pillar of the Church, 
and a wonderful expression of the motto of the Order of Preachers in his personal 
life and in his expression of theology: to contemplate and to give to others the 
fruit of your contemplation. His reflection on God and revealed truth in the 
light of the past helped to usher in the light that streamed into the Church when 
Pope John XXIII opened wide the windows of the Second Vatican Council. 

I want to stress at the very outset that Yves Congar is not just a 
theologian, but a contemplative theologian. What is the difference, and why does 
it make a difference? The study of divine Wisdom can take one of two directions: 
judging through inclination (per modum inclinationis) or judging through 
knowledge (per modum cognitionis) . St. Thomas teaches that judging 
(theologizing) by inclination is the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul with the 
individual's response to grace in faith. To judge by knowledge is simply man's 
effort through study only. 1 Put the two together and you have Yves Congar, you 
have a contemplative theologian. 

Congar is not a speculative theologian as such. His theology is not in the 
higher regions of philosophical hairsplitting, but rather in the here and now 
needs of the Church. Still, his theology comes out of an intellect diffused with 
faith which necessarily penetrates practical realities. 

Congar's theological approach reflects the influence of his initial 
theological training and the influence of persons and events of his early years. 
Before the age of twenty he was studying Thomism in a Parisian seminary when the 
study of Thomas was not popular. Then it was his good fortune to have the early 
influence of great Thomistic philosophers such as Jacques Maritain and Garrigou- 
Lagrange. Neither of them, however, approved of the historical approach known 
as "Palaeo-Thomism", which Congar gradually understood so keenly. The young 
Frenchman, Congar, discovered the Dominicans and subsequently entered the Order, 
taking his studies at the Dominican House "Le Saulchoir" in Belgium. 

Historical theology, highly criticized by so many in the Church at that 
time, was expounded at Le Saulchoir and laid the sound groundwork in the mind of 
Congar. Today we can clearly see the different divisions of theology and ascribe 
particular functions to each. Positive theology, a division that studies the 
data of revelation with a critico-historical methodology, was not universally 
accepted. All the same, these areas of theological pursuit were stepping stones 
for the developing mind of the young friar. He meditated on them, exercised 
these inner theories intellectually, learned more about them with his 
interactions with people and gradually wrote about them. Congar was busy all his 
life going from theological seed, to young green plant, to mature and fruitful 
teaching- -theologizing. 


In regard to the historical method, Etienne Gilson greatly influenced 
Congar, but perhaps his most prominent guide, particularly in ecumenism, was his 
teacher, Marie-Dominique Chenu, O.P. This led to an inner yearning for unity 
among Christians that has lasted all his life: 

Congar selected as the subject of his 'lectoraT thesis (an internal 
Dominican degree) in 1928 Mohler's favored theme, the unity of the 
church. On the eve of his ordination to the priesthood on July 25, 
1930, he prepared himself by meditation on Jesus' high-priestly 
prayer for the unity of his disciples in John 17, with the help of 
the commentaries of Thomas and the contemporary biblical scholar 
Marie-Joseph Lagrange. This he recognized in retrospect as the true 
launching of his ecumenical vocation/ 

In Germany he absorbed fully a knowledge of Luther and Lutheranism. In 
Paris he attended lectures by theologians of the Reformed Church, who were 
strongly influenced by Calvin. In Protestantism, Karl Barth's emphasis on the 
powerful here and now influence of the Word of God fed the fire in his soul. 

Yves Congar's teaching gifts were applied to establishing the Institute of 
Medieval Studies at Toronto. He picked the Modernists' "animal" apart to reject 
the bad and accept the good. At first he concentrated on fundamental theology 
in his lectures, but gradually ecclesiology became the song of his heart and 
lips. Ecclesiology was his springboard for ecumenism. The man Congar was a 
mixer and not one to limit his experience, so it was natural that he associate 
himself with the bi-ritual Byzantine-Latin monastery of Amay and Dom Lambert 
Beauduin. He made Anglican friends and saturated himself in the history of the 
Church of England on one front and, good Dominican preacher that he was, he went 
from one French city to another sermonizing on the Christian Unity Octave. 3 

Just as Father Congar became fully established in his theological pursuits 
of teaching, preaching and writing, he was conscripted into military service as 
chaplain at Colditz during the Second World War and then to become prisoner. 
Soon after, and just as swiftly, yet another event occurred that caused a great 
shaking of the ground. It was the war of the soul, the darkness of suffering, 
the purification of the theologian. In a word, Rome had silenced Yves Congar, 
O.P. and his fellow French Dominican confreres who taught and thought as he did, 
who had made a leap of truth too far ahead of their time. 

What exactly happened? These good men were roundly admonished for what was 
feared to be 'Semi-Modernism'. A Dominican, the master of the sacred palace, no 
less, Fr. Mariano Cordovani, protested "that the emphasis of the Saulchoir men 
on historical context would end up by turning theology into cultural 
anthropology, deprived of any real hold on its divine subject-matter, 
revelation" . 

It was absurd! When told he could no longer lecture, write or have any 
communication with Le Saulchoir, his contemplative base served him well, and his 
obedience was immediate, humble and resolute. His books, volumes that became 
milestones of theological thought for the entire twentieth century and were the 
very rock foundation of the spirit and documentation of Vatican II, were then, 
in 1954, on the Index of forbidden books! 


Congar knew the Holy Office had many objections to his writings on 
ecumenism, the laity, the organic nature of tradition and reform in 
the church. These writings, whose second editions had inevitably 
been blocked by Rome's censors, were advocating the ecclesiology of 
Johann Adam Mohler, who viewed the church as an organism with 
different points of activity and charisms. 5 

Congar was obedient. All the same, he would be less a Dominican if he 
shrank from the truth. He simply said in honesty: "I don't take back what I have 
written and taught. I accept the full weight of the truth which I have spoken." 6 

When John XXI 11 became Pontiff and inaugurated the Second Vatican Council, 
Congar and the suppressed theologians of his calibre were fully reinstated. So, 
too, was their teaching voice. Yves Congar was quickly positioned as theological 
consultant to the preparatory commission for the Council. At the Council he 

helped write the 'Message to the World' at its opening, and worked 
on such major documents as Dei verbum, Lumen gentium, Gaudium et 
spes, Ad gentes divinitus, Unitatis redintegratio, Presbyterorum 
ordinis, and Dignitatis humanae. 7 

If that isn't stunning enough, Pope Paul VI appointed him to be a member 
of the official Catholic-Lutheran commission in 1965. That same Pontiff 
appointed him to the Pontifical International Theological Commission to widen the 
vision for the work on the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope John Paul II set his seal 
on Congar's theological brow by inviting him to participate in the Extraordinary 
Synod of 1985, but ill health and age prevented his attendance. 

We could well be at the end of our resume, but a word must be said about 
the movement of Ressourcement which was a retrieval of the great tradition of the 
past. Congar and theologians of his thinking felt that by picking up on the 
sources they could make the faith more alive in the twentieth century. I mention 
this here, because at the inception of the Vatican II, Resourssment gained 
prominence; then suddenly, another movement, Aggiornamento, clouded it. This 
movement was imbued with modernization and veiled tradition and the sources. 
With reference to Ressourcement, George Lindbeck writes: 

Its power was most dramatically evident on the Roman Catholic side. 
De Lubac, Congar, Rahner, Kung and Ratzinger, to mention some of the 
better-known councilor progressives, all joined at the time in 
seeking renewal first through return to the patristic and biblical 
roots. This was their way of updating the church, of escaping from 
the post-Tridentine rigidities which had been intensified by the 
ant i -modernist reactions of the nineteenth and early twentieth 
centuries. Paradoxically, they triumphed over the conservatives and 
advanced the cause of modernity by being more traditional than 
anyone else: they appealed to traditions earlier than the medieval 
and counter-Reformation ones which the traditionalists favored. 
Without their mastery of both the spirit and the letter of Scripture 
and the fathers, it would have been impossible to formulate and 
defend the reforms of the liturgy, of the understanding of the 
church and of ecumenism, of the place of the laity, and of religious 


1 iberty. 8 

Only now in 1994, do we see significant and growing signs of a pick up on 
Ressourcement, the movement that Yves Congar promoted so well and so adeptly for 
the good of the Church. 

Fr. Yves Congar, a prolific theological and spiritual writer, presented 
wonderful classics in his field. Perhaps his Meaning of Tradition , History of 
Theology and I Believe in the Holy Spirit are the most significant. Who can 
tell? Yet as a contemplative, a man of prayer, he forgets his theological 
insights. He only remembers that God alone is supreme: 

The psalms mean so much to me. They are the daily bread that 
nurtures my hope, they give voice to my service of God and my love 
of him. Would that I could penetrate all the wealth they contain as 
my lips shape their words. 9 

Would that we could say the same after our long labors of love and 
testimony of God's action in our lives. Would that we could live a theology that 
engenders so much faith. For Congar had written of theology that "all the light 
comes to it from the premise of faith. Theology is truly the scientific 
development of faith, the science of faith.'" 

1. Summa Theologiae , la, q.l, a. 8, ad 3m. 

2. Aidan Nichols, O.P. (ed. David F. Ford), The Modern Theologians, 
Vol. 1 . (Blackwell, Cambridge USA) 220. 

3 . ibid . 221. 

4. ibid . 22. 

5. Thomas O'Meara, 'Raid on the Dominicans': The Repression of 
1994, (America, February 5, 1994, Vol. 170, No. 4.), p 11. 

6 . ibid . 

7. The Modern Theologians . Vol., 222 

8. George Lindbeck (ed. David F. Ford), The Modern Theologians. 
Vol.11 . (Blackwell, Cambridge USA) 258. 

9. Yves Congar, O.P., Called to Life . (Crossroads, NY), 19 

10. Yves Congar, O.P., The History of Theology . (Doubleday and Co., 
Inc., Garden City, NY), 248. 



bister' jean Mane, O.P. 
North Gut 1 ford 

T ne study of Thomas' idea of sacra doctnna and an article dv George 
_mabect- that we were recuired to read in the washincton theoloqv course aave 
tne impetus to do this paper. T nomas ' concent of sacra ooctnna is cent-.? I 
tc tne development o^ his thought in tne Summa and tnerefore important to 
oecome familiar witn and understand. I have found the thouqnt of Thomas 
especially helpful in lookinq at modern pluralism and approaches to faith 
precisely because ne writes from sucn a unified perspective. I will oegm 
with a qeneral overview :t Thomas' thought on revelation, faith, doctrine and 
the interpretative teachina authority in tne Churcn, and then present some o~ 
tne mam points in Georqe Lindoeck's thouqht on tnese topics. Final ly I will 
take up a comparative view of ooth men's thouqht. 


An important beqmmnq point in understanding Tnomas thcugit on tne 
meaning and place of scripture in tne Church is that he does not use the terms 
revelation and scripture svnonymous 1 v. For Thomas revelation, strictly 
soeaMnq. is first of a" 1 the knowledqe necessarv for salvation which was 
revealed by God to the prophets and apostles. T his revelation reached its 
full expression in Jesus Christ, the Word oecome flesh. It is secondanlv 
communicated as a word, that is the written word of the scripture. Thomas 
writes that though scripture is not the same as revelation, it is tre 
indispensable means by which revelation is transmitted. For Tncmas scripture 
is clearlv normative m cnaracter. The use of tne term canonical' to 
distinguish this collection of writings f^om all others indicates that 
scripture is to be a quide and rule in all teachings giver in the Church. 
Thomas maintains that the content of scripture is to oe regarded as an optima 
regula veritatis (best rule of truth)."' He sees scripture as oinding upon 
tne whole Churcn: the apostles and their successors, as well as tne laity. 
Final lv, in Thomas' view the assurance of our faith does not rest on numan 
reason or authority, not even on tne accstles themselves, but rests precisely 
on the fact that the content of revelation is trutn bestowed on us ov God. In 
this we have the basis of the transcendent reality of our faith. 


St Thomas does little more than lav down the mam principles ot 
doctrinal development. He makes a distinction between the substance and tne 
statement of faith. The suostance of faith lies in the unchanginq reality ot 
God. The statement of the faith is faitn as expressed in human words in order 
to clearlv and succinctly transmit an understanomq of tre revealed 
mysteries. Fo r Thomas the suostance of faith nas oecome the suostance of 
the articles of faith." Therefore the creed and the doctrines of the Church 
are a I so part of the rule of faith for the Churcn. 

Both Scripture and Tradition teach that the tull revelation was 
completed ov Christ anc nothing new mav pe added to it. All tne truths o r 
faith are implicitly present for us in the aoostolic teaching. Thomas teaches 


that the faith of tne ancents and the modems is identica' 1 . sucn is the umtv 
of truth Dossessed in the Church, He states clearlv that transmission of tne 
faith after the apostolic period is not a declaration of anv new doctrine or 
ratth. "but f or the aovernance o T ~ human activities. Nevertheless ' r e 
Church's understanding of tne trutns of faith that have oeen revealed grows. 
Sjcn unders' n nas of faith are stated in doctrinal Drcocsitions. a 
doctnnai proposition is formed hv tne thinking anc reflection of tne Churcn 

oiven ef ltive form bv tne magisterium. : It is ?. statement of faith 
that is not merelv woros but an art'culation or the 'living faitn given tc us 
jesus Christ. The ceveiooment of doctrine does net take Dlace as a growt 
in the substance of revelation or the deDos^t or faith out as a mamfestatic 
ano explication of its message. 

Tnomas writes that scripture is in itself clear anc sufficient out 
cecause of the _i imi tecness and fallibility o T human understand! nci it needs 
-i r oretat'on. He savs in order to o"aw tne truth out cf the scnoture 
orgeo studv is r ecji reo. "Tnat is whv the r e was a need to draw succinct lv 
together out of the scriptural teachings some clear statement to be set De- 
al 1 for their belief." ~homas considers the Aoostles Creed to ce a 
summarv of the truth contained in scnoture correct iv interpreted." When we 
•ook at tne articles of faith in this wav. the content of scnoture and tne 
content of the oroDcsitions of faith are identical and what can be said o-" one 
mav be aDDlied also to the other. Therefore Thomas can 'state tnat the 
articles of the creed, whicn constitute the onncwia of theology, have oee r ~ 
given immediate a Ceo -'er revel at lonem (directly from God througn 
r eveiatior.) The a r ticles of faith, then, have a normative "unction witmr 
the Church and can be termed reaula fidei. ' Thomas can eouailv affirm tnat 
it is tne scnoture alone that is the_ r eaula fiaei because he sees tne creed 
as Dresenting the truth of scnoture. The articles of faith are rot ]ust 
truths, but saving truths. . assent to them is a binding condition, not for 
intellectual consistency, but for our living in the umtv of Christ's 
oodv. ' ■ Scnoture and the teachina of tne Church thus constitute a umtv. 
The teaching authority of tne Church functions in order to Dreserve tne unit 
of oeiief. It is infallible because it is derived from scnoture and it 
reoresents a true interpretation cf its content. 

r homas does not focus on the magi steri urn as sucn. out on the transmitted 
confession of faitn. The imoortart realitv is the truth communicated bv Geo 
tnrough the Droohets and aoostles whicn is to remain in the Cnurcn. 
''e*ers to Christ's Dromise to tne discioles that he would send tne Somt of 
Truth and also to Christ's Draver that Peter's faith nay not fail. ; The 
teaching role of the Church is decisive in shaDinq the course of theologies 
discourse and in determining which Drooositions are to be held or reiecteo. 
r ne Fooe has the oower to make a final decision in matters of faitn s? ~ 
■ - true interpretation of the meaning of faith is keDt intact within tne 


decree Lindbeck presents a particular aooroacn to the scripture and r > 
tne nature o f doctrine. Both his teaching on the meaning of scnoture in 
Christian community and his tneorv of doctrine a^e influenced oy a cu r 

Tuistic pmlosoorv. His method is certain ly different from tnat of £ 
Thomas and poses some interesting cuesfons and Drcblems. His understa 


of the authoritative role of scripture and the nature of doctrine are 
intimatelv related. 

Lindbeck sees the scripture as the authoritative formator of Christian 
community and r he source of the umtv of faith. For rrm. scriDture a; so gives 
the basis tor a common lanauage in the theological oresentation of tie 
mysteries of faith. * He oresen r s the scrioture as a rule or faith wmch 
cives tie defm-nq principles that are needed to constitute the identity snd 
practice of Christian community. He writes that tne early Church's 
Christo'loaical rea.dmq of tne Hebrew scriDtures 'was constitutive of the 
Christian canon. ' He states that: it was Scripture — initially Hebrew 
Scripture reaa Christological 1 v — which had the consensus, community and 
institution-bin laing power to make of these [earlvj communities the 
overwhelmingly dominant and therefore Catholic Church." He consicers 
Christianity as preeminent iv a religion of tne booK. ' In this he is 
apoealinq to the modern cultural/ 1 inquistic aoorcacn witn its emphasis on 
textual ity. A "central core of privileged and familiar texts' gives unify and 
cotesi veness to cultures and communities. Such texts are a guide to 
thought and action in the encounter with changmq circumstances. In an 
irtratexual approach the be never finds the rule of faith not in the Jesus o t 
history or a metaphysical Christ of .faith out in a conformity to the Jesus 
depicted in the biblical narrative. r Intratextual theology is descriptive. 
that is. its "intelligibility comes from skill, not theory, and credibility 
comes from good performance, not an adherence to independently formuiatec 
criteria. " 

For LindbecK. then, the authoritative character of scripture comes from 
tne bible as narrative. This is what he terms as intratextual ity , an 
important reality in the cultural /l inguistic approach, we urderstano the 
meaning of religious reality, signs and symbols by their intratextual ity , 
their place within a story. LindbecK proposes an intratextual cheoloqy: 
"intratextual theology redescribes realitv within the scriptural framework 
rather than translating it into extrascriptural categories", such as 
interpreting the scripture in metapnvsical , ohenomeno logica 1 or existential 
categories. :J In a cultural/ linguistic framework the proper way to 
determine what the word "God" signifies is Ov its use within religion and tne 
ways this use shapes reality and experience rather than first establishing its 
brooositional meaning. Tms is what is meant bv saving that theoiogv in tne 
cultural/linguistic mode is intratextual." 

To understand what Lincbeck means by saying the scripture is tne rule 
of faith" it is necessary to look at his thought on tne nature of doctrine. 
He treats of doctrines as though thev were rules or regulative principles. 
For rim doctrines a r e not primarily propositions stating truth-claims witn an 
ontological reality in God, the first truth. Put rather rules which regulate 
tne life of faith in the Christian community. He qives the example that to 
say that "Jesus Christ is Lord" is not so much an onto logical statement o T 
what Jesus is in himself as what he is as mv Lord and savior and how that is 
meant to Pe formative in Christian communal living and worship. Lindbeck 
views religions as analogous to languages. He writes: "Doctrines acouire 
their force from their relation to the grammar of a re i ig ion. . . Some doctrines, 
such as sola fide in Christianity, are explicit statements of general 
reaulative principles. Put most doctrines illustrate correct usage rather than 
define it. Thev are exemplary instantiations or paradigms of the application 


of ru'es." The wav in win en one excellences the world religiously is 
determined through the practice of one's inneritec religion. In a regulative 
, - ew the most Drcminent function of church doctrines oecomes tneir use not as 
truth-claims but as ccmmuna>iv authoritative ^ules of dialogue, attitude and 
action.-" In a regulative node l . rules could aopl> m ore circumstance but 

t another. Lirdbeck s emphasis nere. in soeaMna of doctrine as regulative, 
presents a strong empnasis or the orthooraxv of doctrine. 

:■ Lmdbeck's cul tural/ i inquistic mooes Drooositional truth ana fa 
rest on language within the :ommumtv when it is used to form Christian 
tnrougn Draver, worship ana preacmng. He considers ritual, Draver ana 
eomple as tne important realities in religion rather' than exp'ncitiv 
formulated statements of faith. :J It is nere. accordinq tc hi? arqument, 
that human beings exhibit tneir truth or falsity ana them correspondence or 
lacK of correspondence to the ultimate Mvsterv of God. r he function of 
ooctrines is to: "intenorize a set of ski lis bv practice and training. Ore 
learns how to f eel , act. end think in conformity witn a religious 
tradition' .- : Lmdbeck's ooint is that what is of primary importance is not a 
knowledge about the religion or its teachings out about how to be religious 
concrete 1 v. 

Lindbec'r distinguishes between ' intrasvstemat ic' and 'ontologica; trutji 
statements. ' Intrasvstematic' truth, the cultural/linguistic model, means 
that truth mne r es in a correspondence of truth-claims with the forms o^ a 
lived Christianity. : Ontoioqical' tnuth is that trutn which corresponds tc 
reality. The first he calls the truth of coherence, that is truth statement 
wrier are a oa<-t of a total pattern of soeakma. thinking, feeling ana 
actinq. He goes on to apply this to such statements as : God : s Three and 
One. 1 and ; Christ is Lord.' They are true on i v as parts of this total pattern 
and thev are false 'when their use in any qiven instance is \n.consistent with 
wnat the pattern as a whole affirms of God's Peing and wi 


Lmdbeck is often ambiguous in present 1 fig his belief; at times ne also 
seems to suooont a mild prooositional ist view. In his book he suggests that 
creedal statements do not make first-order truth claims. He later qualifies 
that bv statina tncuqn the primary purpose of doctrines is not to make truth- 
claims, thev can possibly make such truth claims. But that they snoulo.make 
such truth-claims is not essential to the cultural/linguistic approach.- 
Lmdbeck soeaKs instead of a religion being categor 'ca 1 1 v true. He writes 
"Adeauate categories are those which can oe made to aoplv to what is real, and 
which therefore make possible. ^thouan thev do net guarantee, oropos i t mna . 
practical and symbolic truth. :! ne savs that a religion, as actua Iv lived, 
may be pictured as a single a 1 1-encomoassirg proposition. He then d''aws the 
conclusion that it is a true proposition to the extent that its ob.iectivit - 
a r e inte-ionzed in individuals and communities in such a wav as to conform 
tneir very existence to the jltimate reality and goodness that lies at the 
heart of things. It is a false proposition to the extent that this aoes not 
Doen. T ne truth of a propositional statement is dependent on whether t 
is ' i -ed within Christian community and not oased on the tact that a faith 
proposition is a true statement of faith whether it is embraced b\ js c 

[i his article on "Scripture. Community and Consensus", ne recognizes 
rta n oroblems existinq in the postliberal churcn. These are a lack cr 
umtv an d communal sense of what is or is not Christian and the lacn of 


authoritative interpretation. Lindbeck states that it is essential to nave 
a criterion for ludaement in order to attain some measure of consensus on how 
to chanae and what to retain, otherwise community ana communal authority 
become immobilized. He "oiaces the interpretation of the scripture at the 
center of the crisis because communal authority, in tne Christian sohere. 
deoends on consonance with the Bible.' 


The medieval world of fhomas Aauinas and the post liberal theologi^a 
world of George Lindbeck are of course verv diverse, "nomas uvea and 
explicated his thouqht at a time when the Church and society we~e a whole anc 
theoloav's roots in scripture and tne tradition of tne Church was simply i.aken 
for aranted. Theoloqv itself was viewed as one science. Aau mas sees theoloqv 
as inseparable from God's revelation ana faith. It is. accordinq to turn, 
instruction in the knowledqe of salvation and a participation in the 
transmission of that revealed truth which is essential for our sal vat: ion." 
In other words it is the extension of scriptural teaching and parr of the 
continuinq tradition of teaching and impart inq doctrine which will always oe 
found within the Church. The subject matter of theoloqv is the transcendent 
realitv of God in himself and then his saving deeds in the economy of 
salvation. Todav theoloqv, as all of life, is specialized and 
compartmentalized. Thomas' concept of theoloqv (sacra doctrinal as rooted ifi 
scripture ana faith and part of the unfoldinq of the tradition of belief is 
not the view in which moderns define or, to a great extent, practice theoloqv, 
In our society and in the Church also we deal with tremendous plural itv ^ 
thouaht. It is within this gambit that Lindbeck theologizes. 

Let us now take up aqain the main points listen under Thomas' and 
Lmdbeck's thouqht in order to see the contrasting values in their 
Lindbeck sees scripture as formative of Christian community. It is those 
privileged texts tnat qive unity and identity to the Church.'" Lindbeck's 
primary focus is on the content of the scripture text in itself, which is 
-bout God's interaction with his people ana how that is to be translated into 
a lived Christian reality, and not on Goa's being in itseif. Thomas 
approaches reliqion first from the reality of God speaking and not from 
intratextual ity. The text of scripture teaches a wav ot living but aisn 
reveals the God who speaks and dwells in the midst of his people. As we hav>- 
noted above, Thomas distinguishes between revelation and its written 
expression in scripture. Revelation is God's speaking the word of trutn rr 
the prophets and apostles, and it is that revealing word, handed down m r - 
tradition, which forms Christian community and is tnen eventually given 
textual ity ov the community itself. Thomas would never call Christianit 
religion of the book. For Thomas revelation is the knowledge revealed : • Gou 
in Jesus Christ which is necessary for our' salvation. It is this reve- e- 
truth and God's oresence among his people which is primary for Thomas, 
we see Thomas' focus is on the ontological reality of God himself reved v: 
Jesus Christ. Here Thomas stands firmlv in the Catholic belief in th<^ 
metaphysical underpinnings of faith ana theologv which beam with tne 
transcendent reality of God revealing himself, imparting the truth to m 
creation. In the theology of Lindbeck doct me and scripture do nor n. 
primarily to express some universal dimension of experience against win 
and practice can be measured. " Lindbeck does awav with the 
metaphysical /ontological reality as the first and primary definition r • 


doctrine. Scripture tco functions first as normative cf tnr-stian communal 
living rather than as statemei i - * the trutn ot God. 

Thomas' approach to the wort< of theologv is also different f >m tl - 
■ Ibeck. Thomas would agree en the Drimarv relations! d ;: r tneo oa^ 10 rail 
reve at 101 I to tne senctures out ha would also grant the valid ltv of 

tn 111 1 eflective expression of scripture in theoloqica terms. In 
.. f ^e important auestion is "what is authoritative for theolci Tne 
oored in tne dispositions ot I istian faitn m it; • c 
^eveiation. The disumtv among tneoioaies in the Cnurch can certain 1 - 

lav and a great dea I or pluralism has arisen wi ich obscures •■ - 
suooorts the faith, what we are dealing with is the very nature of 
theoloaical thinKing itsel 1 "' ana the role of - T ^ 1 itati/e sources m e ■ • r 
theoloqv. Theoioqv has a ro!e of not onlv writinq intricate arguments but 
• enqtneninq the faith ana understand ; na of the sensus r, :e 

In c;" ti ^distinction from Lindbeck. Thomas does consider the Creecs as 
statements o f the Church's belief which mace ontological truth- lams. 

* of belief does not '"est mere'v in the proposition but in the realitv that 
is expressed and that realitv is indeed meant to be formative of Christ • 
living."" Doctrines are a sou r ce of Christian virtues ana noliness life 
oreciselv because tnev make truth-c : aims aoout the realitv of Goc ana his wi 1 1 
for cur salvation. Doctrines are a teaching about God as he 'S, as ie has * 
declared himself to be. not merely as he mignt be inferred to be from the 
experience of our environment. ' The fact that doctrines are urooos ~io 
related to an onto logical truth which is net dependent on tne suoiect does not 
mean that they are not meant, to be radical lv formative 3f Chris 1 • iivma - 
faith, fhemas too values r .he imoortance of tne practice cf the faun 
expressed through oraver. worship and preaching but for him such pract 
f'ows trom faith-knowledge and tre intellectual response of the person to the 
saving action of Christ. Our faith and its expression in worship have 
coamtive implications also. Thomas believed there is somethinq we can tru . 
say of God. Doctrine itself becomes requlat ve Christian speecn, iusing he - 
Linabeck's image of languaqe). safeguarding tne truth of Christian revelai 
• ) which 3ur worship and praver make reference. 

r homas and Lindbeck accroach the idea cf authentic interpretation m the 
Church differently, ^ere Lindbeck develops his thesis ooth from the ziewooint 
of the cultural /l inquistic perspective and from that or a Lutheran theo'ogiao 
whose tradition is that of so/a scrwtura. He ecogrnzes a crisis or 

'erp r etation in the churches todav and believes there needs to be in the 
Church community the power of interpretative understanding of wnat la 
revealed. But he believes that this can be accomplished bv tne self- 
referential and self- interpret ing power of scripture itself, read and 
unaei I od bv the faith community. Lindbeck writes of the umtv that a common 
aoproacn to scripture initial lv gave to the Protestant Reformation. 
ultimately -ucn an approach could not unite the Reformation churches nor was 
it free r rim misinterpretation. This has been one of the problems cf s< 
scrwtura. a arse cart of the crisis of authority in the Protestant 

todav is the lack of an authoritative i rite pretai ion in the pre •• 

f 1 ret of interpretations. 

Tr)e Catholic Churcr does not refer to scripture as self-referential 
interpreting. For us as catholics, 'revelation' or (iod speaking is be 


scripture and tradition. Tne interpretation of the Churcn community includes 
bo t h the unique role of the maqisterium and tne se/'sus fide Hum under the 
oower of the Ho : v Soirit as part of tne operative gifts given to trie church 
enabling her to interpret revelation and to be faithful to coa ' s call. This 
was Thomas' theological position, as stated earlier in tne article. For T nomas 
me teaching authority of rhe Church is given as a ntt from Christ oreciselv 
to preserve tne unitv of belief. in rhomas ' theological oresentat ion, 
scripture and the teaching of the church constitute a unit v. i he teach >nq oi 
rhe Church and doctrines themselves are understood essential lv as authent : 
interpretation of the scripture. Inaeea there is needed another authoritative 
source besides scripture for legitimate interpretation without error. in 
Lindbeck's discussion of infallibility the auestion of truth is not raised nor 
does he really deal with the need for an infallible authority in tne face or 
crisis of interpretation within the Church and its resulting disunity. 


I have drawn several important conclusions from this study which are 
valuable for reading and reflecting on the work of faith and theology today. 
First, the great value of studying St Thomas lies in the clearness of Thomas' 
thought ano its unified presentation. It helps us to get back to some of the 
essential elements of our faith ana to grasp again the mterrelatedness of 
revelation, scripture, doctrine, tradition and faith in the cohesive and 
synthetic presentation that St Thomas gives it. It is a view that has almost 
become alien to manv today because ot the plurality existing in the world. 
The second point, related to the first, is that rhe separation or" orthodox 
statements of our faith and its practice is a modern phenomenon, at least, m 
theory. As Christians who are also sinners we have alwavs fai ! ao in fully 
living the truth of our faith. 

The whole framework of Thomas' teaching ■ s that of ;ominu forth fron Goo 
a n d returning to God. We know truth and the wav in which Christian life is to 
be lived as a gift given from above which is tne transcendent reality or our 
faith. This I think is the ultimate auestion we are addressing, that is, the 
cohesiveness or" Christian belief and the fact that this benef is a gift, not 
originating in the human community but in the revelation of God. In order for 
us to remain faithful to the revealed word of truth we are promised the gift 
of the Holy Spirit guiding us into the understanding of that truth, and we 
have the words of scripture, the lived reality ot tradition ana the 
maqisterium which aPide in the Church until Christ returns. The transcendeni 
reality of our faith is that truth which is bestowed on us ov God. God's 
saving knowledge finds completion in our acceptance of what has been revealed 
bv the transformation of our iives. as we read in the letter of James, we are 
to be not only hearers ot the word but doers of rhe word. 


I. George A. Lindoeck is a Luthe r an. postliberal theologian whc is i-v. 
Ecumenism. He is Pitkin Professor of Historical Iheoloqv and Fellow 01 
Silnman 00 liege. Vale University. 


I jsec tnese two LindbecK sources ror the article: 

The Nature of Doctrine: Re laion ana Theology in a Post liberal ^qe. 

( Phi lade 'Dhi a: The Westminster Press. 1984). Hereafter referred to as 

Doct r me. 

"ScriDture, Consensus and Commumtv . biblical . t ei "e r .r."oi in Crisis: ne 
Ratzinger Conference on Bible and Church,, John Neuraus. Ea., iGrand Raoias: 
Wllilam B. Eerdmans Publishing Companv, 198. j i. 

Fc r f u-tner cntiaue en nndbeck's t.heorv: Review Symposium: Linabea s 

Nature ot Doctrine, " T he Thormst . vol 49. No. j. Julv, 1985. This :. tains 

articles ov William Ptacher. Colman O'Neill. O.P.. James J. Bucklev and Lavia 

Mackenzie ( Phi idae iohia: Fortress Press). 52. 

3. "ncnas Aauinas. Summa Theologiae, Thomas GiIdv.O.P., Vo ■ . ( 1a. 11 
Christian Theoloqv," (New v orK: McG r aw-Hili Book Ccmcarv, I9t>4), 105. 

4. [bid, 106. 

5. Thomas Aauinas. Summa thecloq-ae. Roiana Potter. O.P.. ProDhecy ana Other 
Chansms." \/o\. *5 (2c2ae. 1 7i-l78). (New Ycrk: McGraw-Hill Book Comaanv, 
1970 I . 17a, 5. ad 3. 

6. T nomas Acumas. Sunma Theologiae. !\C. O'Brien. 'Faith, vol. J1 i2a2ae. 
7), (New *ork: McGraw-Hill Book Comoanv, 1974), 2a2ae. I, reblv. Ra~th can be 
cons^aerec from two oersoect ives: the oersoecfive of the realitv oeiievea 

ii . and then tre obiect of faith is something non-comoos ite. i.e. tne very 
reality about which one has faith: second, from tne oersoectue or the ire 
oe'ievipq. ana then the obiect or faitn is somethinc conoosite in the torn 
a prooosition . 

7 . Ibid. 2a2ae. i , 9, ac. 

8 . I b i a . 

9. Persson, oo. cit. 59. 

10. O'Brien, od. cit., 2a2ae. 1. r 0. aa 3. 
' 1 . ^ersson , cc. cit., *0. 

12. Gil by, od. cit. , 107. 
' . Ibia. 2a2ae. I . 9. 

1 4. Doctrine. 82. 

15. Scripture, Consensus, and Community. " 78. 
" . bid, v 6 . 

'. Ib-d. 9*. 


18. Doctrine, 120. 

19. Ibid, 131. 

20. Ibid, 118. 

21. Ibid, 114. 

22. Ibid, 81. 

23. Ibid. 17-18. 

24. Ibid, 36. 

25. Ibid, 35. 

26. Ibid, 64. 

27. Ibid. 68. 

28. Ioid. 47-8. 

29. Ibid, To illustrate tnis uinabeck uses the example ot a mao. He writes: 
"A maD. let us stipulate, becomes a proposition, an affirmation about how to 
travel from one place to another onlv when actually utilized in the course of 
a lournev. To the extent that tne mao is misread ana misused, it is a oart of 
a false proposition no matter how accurate if may be in itself. Conversely, 
even if it is in manv ways m error in its distances, proportions, and 
topographic markinqs, it becomes constitutive of a true proposition when it 
quides the traveler riahtlv. " He then qoes on to form this conclusion from 
his example: 'to draw the moral of the metaphor, the categorically and 
unsuroassab 1 v true religion is caoable of be ma rightly utilized, of guiding 
thouqht, passions, and action in a way that corresponds to ultimate reality. 
and of thus being onto logical i v (ana orooosi tionally ) true. Put is not always 
and perhaps not even usually so employed, ' 51-52. 

30. Scripture, Consensus and Community,'' oo. cit., 74. 

31. Ibid, 90. 

32. Persson, op. cit. 71-2. 

33. The idea of the scripture as formative ot Christian community is also m 
the Lutheran tradition of sola scriptura. 

34. William Placher, "Revisionist ana Postliberal rheologies and tne Public 
character of Theology," The Thomist, Vol 49. No. 3, July, 1985, ^08. 

35. Gi iby, oo. cit, la, 2. ad 2 . 

36. Ibid, appendix 6, 82-83 

37. Doctrine, oo. cit. 99-104. 



Sister Maria Agnes, 
Summi t 

"All at once there came to him another dream in 
which he thought he heard a loud and piercing 
sound which he took for a peal of thunder... 
and having opened his eyes, he perceived a great 
multitude of sparks of fire about the room." 

From the Dream of Descartes 
November 10, 1619 


Dear Mr. Descartes, 

In one of your dreams during the winter of 1619, you made a. 
statement that the spirit of truth had opened to you the treasures 
of all the sciences. In that sweeping vision, you claimed the 
discovery of a new wisdom for humankind -- a universal method of 
deductive reasoning applicable to all the sciences; a universal 
science that would make man master and possessor of nature. The 
world owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your fundamental 
contribution to science, the invention of analytic geometry. 
Analytic geometry set the pace for the development of the calculus, 
a most powerful mathematical tool in the study and exploration of 
space, thanks to Leibniz and Newton. Who would deny its importance' 
Calculus, as anyone knows, can solve problems in the analysis of 
motion that had been spawned by Aristotle's definition of space as 
place , one of the ten categories. You probably read Aristotle from 
Scholastic texts while you were a student at the college at La 
Fleche; did you? 


and t 




tion . 




new b 


y, i 

he m 
n ph 
ng o 




i los 
ica 1 
s , i 
f yo 
g of 

e bee 
ophy . 

art , 
ur wo 

a ho 
and m 

, this 
n on a 
y craft 

, I lis 
rds. S 

use , f i 
ateria 1 

be written, 
course on Method 


letter is crying out to 

binge rereading your Pis 

ed Meditations on Philosophy 

as I ponder this priceless heritage of 
ening", for us Dominicans, is a kind of 
eutics being the science of interpreta- 
ten with care, actually drawing out the 
o, here I am, ready to accompany you in 
y. Your journey can be compared to the 
rst by pulling it down and starting with 
s. You have radically departed from 


Classical and Medieval Philosophy. Your point of departure and 
return is systematic and radical doubt. 

Let me glean the arguments from your method. You say knowledge 
based on authority is to be rejected because even experts are some- 
times wrong; knowledge from sensory experience is untrustworthy 
because people sometimes mistake one thing for another as with 
mirage and optical illusion; knowledge based on reasoning is also 
unreliable because one often makes mistakes as, for example, when 
adding or subtracting; and finally, knowledge may be deceptive and 
illusory when it comes from dreams, insanity and the devil. These 
are sound arguments and I will agree with you up to a certain point. 
Because these arguments involve metaphysics, psychology and 
medicine, they are not to be taken narrowly and naively. What about 
your dreams, Mr. Descartes? 

Then you propose that the correct method in arriving at 
philosophical truth is to doubt everything until one can find an 
idea that is clear and indubitable. And you say you have discovered 
one such idea; the individual's recognition that he is thinking and 
that therefore he exists. Cogito ergo sum : I think therefore I am. 
That famous phrase has become your sel f -def ining script and your 
public manifesto ♦ It will be written all over your philosophy. 
This candid analysis of your own consciousness is not an exuberant 
rhetoric on your part. In fact, you have nailed it down as the 
fundamental part of your philosophical doctrine. 

Eleven centuries earlier, Augustine of Hippo had said the same 
thing; that a human being is a thinking self whose consciousness 
(that he is thinking) is evidence for the fact of existence. 
Significantly, Augustine's ergo sum was the starting point of his 
philosophical ascent to the transcendent Supreme Being. Augustine's 
cogito does not leave out the Word, the se 1 f -utterance of that 
Supreme Being who is within and outside the cosmos and beyond the 
empirical science that you had envisioned for humankind. 

Back to our philosophical journey. Therefore, when you are 
thinking, even if deceived, you exist. The very act of thinking 
justifies accepting as certain the existence of the person who 
thinks it. Am I following you? But you see, Mr. Descartes, if all 
one can know for certain is that he exists, and if one adheres to 
your method of doubting all that is uncertain or improbable, then 
he would be limited to the view that nothing exists but the thinker 
and his thought. Good grief! You are also saying that you can 
doubt the existence of objects in the external world because there 
is possibility that your ideas of the external world do not 
correspond at all to reality. I see the tables, chairs and piano 
in our community room. In my mind they are there. I sit on the 
chair, write on the table and play the piano. Are they still there 
when I leave the room? Yes, they are still there and I "carry" 
the idea of their existence in my mind. 


However, you insist that you cannot doubt your own conscious- 
ness because the doubt itself is a conscious act. Aha! So the 
self keeps bouncing upon itself in its se 1 f -certainty against an 
uncertain world. Therefore, only the ideas that are as clear as 
the ego cogitans (thinking self) must be true, for if they were 
not true, the ego could also be doubted. But cogito ergo sum 
cannot be doubted, and in fact, should not be doubted. Therefore, 
you say all clear and distinct ideas must be true. Your argument 
moves seductively, but if we pause for a moment, I am beginning 
to find it questionable 

The mind is now separated from its world, the world of the 
senses. How are you going to put it back into the world? To be 
sure, you may invoke God's help because you are finite and 
imperfect. You say you have innate ideas of a God who is perfect, 
a self -grounding Being. Does this idea come from yourself? No, 
you say this idea must have been produced by this perfect Being. 
Therefore, God must exist. And because he is perfect, he does 
not deceive human beings. It follows that the world also exists . 
Is this an ontological proof of God's existence? Far from it. 
Your intuition says finite existence must be grounded in some self- 
grounding reality. It is not a philosophical argument but a 
feeling. Your philosophy is spinning around this premise. You 
are now restoring the ego cogitans to the world from which your 
doubt has removed it. And now you are saying that God is good; 
he would not have created the human mind so that it is deceived 
by the visible cosmos. If man uses his reason properly, he can 
have valid knowledge of the external world. The ego cogitans , 
the scientific knower is now restored to the world, a Cartesian 
world. But it is an incomplete and abstract self! Thus, you 
have orchestrated God's existence into your methodic doubt. 
First, you establish the existence of your mind, then of God in 
your innate ideas, and after him the visible cosmos. In that 
order. Watch out! We are swimming against a tricky undertow 
here. We have reached the watershed point: the mind/body split. 
Why? Because the thinking self has become the center and essence 
of the human soul. And the body, a body of atoms in motion,, is 
subject to mathematical calculation. This gives me a deep 
interior chill. I see the picture of the soul resting upon a 
chunk of matter. The creep! 


How then do you bring the true and concrete self into your 
philosophy? Where is the human "I" that lives and breathes and, 
immersed in memories, reflects upon experience; the self that 
thinks, wills and yearns for God without reserve? Mr. Descartes, 
have you tasted the tang of frost in October and reveled in 
autumn's foliage? Have you listened to, say for example, 
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and lived inside the music to savor 
not only the sound but the texture, breadth, depth, color and 
intensity of each melodic line and harmonic progression? Even 
now, as I write these lines, I can hear the brief cadenza of a 
songbird in our garden. It is real! Surely, I can distinguish 
between a birdsong and the sound of a FAX machine. Have you 
watched the blue and lilac sky pulsating with stars after sunset? 
Of course, science can explain the magnificent view in terms of 
light years, substances and the refraction of air. But there is 
much more to it than meets the eye of the most powerful telescope. 
Science cannot measure the multiple relations between the human 
person - body and soul - and the visible universe. Philosophical 
science would fall short of arguments when it reaches the utter- 
most limit of empirical data and when it is confronted with 
mystery. Can mathematical physics eff the ineffable? You cannot 
imagine the power of images to illuminate the mind, move the heart, 
touch and heal the subconscious. What I am trying to say is that 
I am fully alive and human in my five senses when I experience trow 
totally surrounded I am by the many manifestations of God's Word. 

As an undertow of the dichotomy in your philosophizing, will 
the rational self be able to handle the emotional crosscurrents, 
conditioned reflexes, the strain and stress in a body of physics 
that is alien to the thinking self? The human soul, Mr. Descartes, 
is much more than reason. The soul cannot be separated from the 
body because man cannot be real except as body and soul. After 
your Discourse on Method , you wrote a treatise on the Passions 
of the Soul . I have not read it yet, but following the line of 
your arguments, I get the picture of the thinking self -- calm, 
isolated, invulnerable, godlike -- observing its feelings with 
cool, appraising eyes. From the sovereign position of reason, 
these alien feelings are mere objects to be observed, judged and 
kept at bay. 

Your rules for reasoning are cautious and cold as icebergs: 
first, accept nothing as true that is not self-evident; second, 
divide problems into their simplest parts; third, solve problems 
by proceeding from simple to complex; and finally, recheck the 
reasoning and see to it that nothing is amiss. These are all 
mathematical procedures for the proof and explanation of visible 
and tangible things including the external manifestations of 
emotions and behavior. This method of reasoning does not suffice 
for man. It implies that there is no other reality beyond 
sensible appearances. It even removes the foundation of revealed 
religion. No Word can be heard beyond the cosmos. There is a 


numb, a radical joylessness and an impoveris 
person in this doctrine. It is true that ph 
humanistic mission to society. Philosophy i 
the range and depth of human culture, includ 
you have enthroned science as first philosop 
You have glorified reason by putting a wedge 
experience and rational consciousness, and b 
reality and empirical data. t can see why r 
to understand the cosmos and to promote huma 
you exalt the thinking self by saying that i 
pray to God to change things because human b 
themselves on their own. In your philosophy 
is circumscribed within the cosmos. Thus, y 
ascent of the soul from visible and tangible 
and eternal realities. Mr. Descartes! You h 
human soul and crucified it on the cross of 

hment of th 
i losophy ha 
s concerned 
ing science 
hy , Mr . Des 

between sp 
etween ulti 
eason is ne 
n happiness 
t is impert 
eings can i 
, the human 
ou have bio 

things to 
ave dismant 
phi losophic 

e human 
s a 

cartes . 
i r i tua 1 

B u t 
inent to 

eked the 
led the 
al science 

Jean-Paul Sartre would echo your philosophy three hundred 
years later. He would divide being into two kinds: the being of 
things or being-in-i tse 1 f , and the conscious being or being-for- 
itself. The being of things, Sartre tells us, is inert; the thing 
is what it is. A conscious being, on the other hand, is never 
just what it is. It can either fall below or soar above its level 
of capacity. The problematic here is that consciousness never * 
quite coincides with the person's being. But the being of a 
conscious person is not merely the being of a thing. What is being? 

My brothe 
exist. Existe 
creature. Thi 
distinction of 
true identity 
existing reali 
modern philoso 
are real preci 
The garden abl 
sun-soaked pin 
real because t 
thought creati 
character of a 
God has creati 
everything tha 
can be known, 
grasped . You 
unknowable. L 
Human reason c 
insights, concer 
are neverthele 
lead us to the 
that is known. 
Word which is 
diminish the i 
God ' s image . 

r Thomas Aquinas talks of principles by which things 

nee is distinct from the essential entity of a 

s is a sublime truth of Christian metaphysics; the 

essence and existence in every creature and their 
in the Supreme Being who gives existence to every 
ty . Aquinas would, to a larger extent, agree with 
phers that real things are something thought . They 
sely because they have been fashioned by thought, 
aze with colors, the air filled with the scent of 
e needles and the taste of raspberry sherbet are 
hey are not only experienced by the senses but are 
vely by a form-creating mind. They have the 

spoken word. These things have a nature because 
vely thought and spoken them. Truth dwells in 
t has a nature. And because they are created, they 

You say the essence of things cannot be completely 
are right, except for the fact that things are not 
ook beyond the rose to the meaning of the rose, 
an penetrate to the essence of things. Man's 
ning the essence of things, though not exhaustive, 
ss true. That is why knowledge of the world should 

affirmations of God. We know God implicitly in all 
The human mind is a light lit up by the Divine 
at the center of man's rational activity. Does this 
ntegrity of reason? No, because man is created to 


I have brought this up because you refute Aquinas by saying 
that the mind (soul) is a spiritual substance with clear and 
distinct ideas -- ideas that are innate and not acquired through 
sensible experience. You believe in the soul's immortality 
because it is unextended and cannot be broken into parts, unlike 
the body which spreads out in space and is subject to mathematical 
calculation. What will happen after death? Will the mind or 
soul be completely cut off from the knowledge of individual 
bodies? If what the soul knows of matter is only the general 
idea of extension in space, then how can it remember the faces of 
friends after death? If bodily associations and memories are gone 
after death, then the individual personality is lost. Flow then 
can we be reunited with loved ones? 

human bein 
The body b 
the mind ( 
but the hu 
to say tha 
through th 
concepts . 
provable f 
Supreme Be 
justify yo 
there are 
wisdom and 
confront u 

ding to 
1 unity 
g is pr 
sou 1 ) a 
man per 
t human 
is an e 
e sense 

We arr 
act whe 
ing . H 
ur mora 
no abso 

s in ev 

Aquinas , 
ecisely th 
to the ess 
lone which 
son compos 


does that 
s , and fro 
ive at the 
n these co 
ow do we a 
1 choices 
lutes and 
? These a 
ery concre 

is ex 

is t 

ed of 

is a 



m the 





no f i 

re no 

te si 

and so 
the wo 
of the 
he ult 

n imag 
y of c 
? It 

ness o 
s open 
this t 
rm met 
t abs t 

ul are a 

rd immed 

n immedia 
iate. Th 

ial unit 
human p 
imate be 
and soul 
e of the 
orpora 1 
means we 
ry exper 
f truth 

up to t 
o moral 

human s 
ract que 
n of dai 

y of body 

erson . I 

arer of k 


total hu 
and spir i 

ience we 
beyond th 
he transc 
va 1 ues? 
i tuat ions 
1 foundat 
s t i o n s . T 
ly life. 


e real 

and soul, 
t is not 
now ledge , 
s continues 
man being . 
tua 1 

e rea lm of 
How do you 

ion for 

solely on 
other hand 
and then p 
theology i 
as beyond 
God. Aqui 
Reason is 
laws. You 
human lang 
becomes th 
the proces 
This knowl 
intruder i 
Not so, sa 
read his e 
faith and 

ne philosophy deals 
the autonomy of rea 
the light of natura 
, accepts faith and 
roceeds to conclusi 
s rationally derive 
doubt for the simpl 
nas denies the dual 
able to operate wi 
know, Mr. Descarte 
uage and expressed 
e object of active 
ses of reasoning ar 
edge leads to conte 
n the realm of myst 
ys my brother Aquin 
ucharistic hymns? 
contemplation in Aq 

with ultimate rea 
son because the ph 
1 reason. The the 

authority as his 
ons using reason, 
d from principles 
e reason that they 
ism between faith 
thin faith accordi 
s, the Word of God 
in words. Thus, t 
and conscious know 
e integrated in th 
mplation. Many th 
ical union and con 
as, and I agree wi 
See how reason ope 
uinas ' Pange lingu 

1 ity . Aquinas 
ilosopher relies 
ologian, on the 
starting point 

Why so? Because 
that are accepted 

are revealed by 
and reason, 
ng to its own 

is incarnate in 
he mystery of God 
ledge in which 
e 1 ight of faith. 
ink reason is an 
templation . 
th him. Have you 
rates within 
a gloriosi . 


We have come to the end of our exciting journey with human 
consciousness -- the solitary mind stalking the body. The 
dualism of your philosophical system had lost its appeal by the 
end of the seventeenth century. However, the exploration of 
relationship between mind and matter persists to this day. I 
hear echoes of your Meditations in the works of your progeny -- 
Newton, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Voltaire, Hume, Berkeley, Kant, 
Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Engels, Russell, Moore, 
Heidegger, Sartre, and countless professors in the academe. 
Many of them will decry your errors, but errors do point to 
truth, don't they? The present concern is not the person 
thinking but an impersonal objectivity. Indeed, you are the 
progenitor of the ghost in the machine, the disembodied 
consciousness in technology. 

The intellectual adventure of modern man continues to the 
third millennium. An awesome thought! Will man continue to 
search for a philosophical method that involves no metaphysical 
and religious foundation? I would argue for the genuine 
wisdom, the timeliness and timelessness of Thomistic philosophy. 
Adieu! Au revoir! 



Barrett, William, Death of the Soul: From Descartes to the 
Computer . New York: Anchor Press, 1986. 

Descartes, Rene', Discourse on the Method/Discours de la methode 
Bilingual edition translated by George Heffernan. Notre 
Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993. 

Descartes, Rene''. Meditations on Phi losophy/Meditationes de la 

prima philosophia . Bilingual edition translated by George 
Heffernan. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame 
Press, 1993. 

Pieper, Josef. The Silence of St. Thomas . Translated by John 
Murray, S.J. and Daniel O'Connor. New York: Pantheon 
Books, 1957. 

ca6e us memoiu/ co bolb uour. 

ipcs awb sba^e aoaiL potoei^. 

ba ca6e as aMoei^s^awoiM^ 
so ^;F)ac, seeiN^g uour^ Aoob- 

vie 5s, cae rrngb^ sb^ 6 x55e 
taisbom opj/ociR only — 
begoc^ew Son, Awb noa gaue 
as ]^R_ee cuill ^o lo6e rabox 7 
oaR aH6eR.s^cQw6iM5 sees 
oh8 kwocas op uour ^r.uxV), 
QMb ^;o 5^)aRe ^b^; op 
dour Y)o\y SpiRi^c-^b^^ 1H G 

op sieNa 





Sister Mary Angela of the Bronx, 

whose poem. "The Touch of Rain" 

was a third place winner in the 

1994 National Library' of Poetry Contest! 


Drought! The terrible lip gnawing dryness! 

The throat thirsting pain of no water 

I have known!... in body and mind. 

Like dark stretched bark, flat against a tree, 

broken and shattered, my spirit could find 

no comfort. It screamed across the years 

In dust and hotness. 

It burned in my cracked clay, and buried its 

face in the emptiness of space. 

Then.. one day.. I heard it! 

The gentle pounding wetness on my window pane. 

The shaking thunder and lightning flash 

that pushed me out, where I stumbled about, 

so dry. .with wet eyes, in the rain. 

Oh! Could you guess how soaked were the shining 

drops? And as new years flew by, 

Again and again, I stepped onto the walk 

And stood, all wet, with dry eyes, in the rain. 

Sister Mary Angela, Bronx 



Catholic New York June 16. 1994 

Published Poet 

Contemplative nun blends writing with life of prayer 


Sister Theresa Stickley, O.P.. a cloistered 
Dominican at Corpus Christi Monaster.' in the 
Bronx, has been writing poetry since she was a 
girl in California's High Sierras. She joined the 
Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Adoration more 
than 45 years ago, at age 17, and began writing 
seriously in her 20s. 

Last month she was published for the first time. 

'I think it's wonderful," she told CNY. "It's like 
a dream." 

Sister Theresa's poem "The Touch of Rain" 
appeared in "Dance on the Horizon," an anthol- 
ogy published by the National Library of Poetry 
in Owings Mills. Md. The poem compares drought 
to spiritual dryness and rain to the consolation 
that follows 

She wrote. "The throat thirsting pain of no 
water/I have known!. body and 
mind. ../Then. day... I heard it' The gentle 
pounding wetness on my window pane/The shak- 
ing thunder and lightning flash/that pushed me 

Comparing the soul's seasons with nature's 
changes is a favorite theme she traces to the 
influence of her parents, Margaret Mary' and Rus- 
sell Stickley of Fresno, Calif. 

"I think I was born with a poetic soul," she said. 
"My father was a treeman. We used to live in log- 
ging camps, and I'd go out and sit under the trees. 
It stirred a sensitivity in me to nature." Her 
mother used to write poetry — often about her six 
children — and read it to her. Poetry is especially 
well suited to expressing love, concern or pain, 
she said. 

"It's a way of speaking that is different, and it 
touches the deeper parts of your soul," said Sister 

"I grew up in a religious atmosphere," she said. 
"God was very close to me. Even in the woods He 
was very close to me. That triggered my love for 
writing poetry." 

She fits writing into a monastic schedule that 
includes community and private prayer and 
household work. Sometimes ideas come while 
she is working in the kitchen or walking in the 
monastery' garden. 

"I tuck them in the back of my mind," she said. 
"At night when everything is quiet I'll put it 

Writing fits easily with the rhythms of contem- 
plative life, she said, explaining. "Your poetry' 
stems from your soul, your thinking and your 
reading. The life of prayer is very conducive to 
poetry. When you're in communion with God, it's 
something that's very precious. The beautiful 
mysteries of our faith come out in poetic form." 
The great mystics of Catholicism and other 
faiths have expressed their deepest inner expe- 
riences through poetry, she said. 

In "The Nail." published in the nuns' newslet- 
ter, she imagines that she is the nail that pierced 
the feet of Christ. 

Sister Theresa uses her baptismal name when 
she writes but is known in the monastery by her 
religious name, Sister Mary Angela. She spent 42 
years at the Monastery of the Angels in Los 
Angeles before coming to Corpus Christi in Sep- 
tember 1992. 

"It's a whole new culture," she said. "I'm still 
learning to talk New York style." She loves it 
here. "In Los Angeles there is no snow; there are 
no seasons. Here, it's almost like being back in 
my old Sierra home." She also loves New- 

"The people here are wonderful," said Sister 
Theresa. "New York has its own personality." 


Moaning in GuiLpood 


Come, let us wake the birds 

Its time for them 

to sing with us 

our prayer, our lauds 

The cardinal is here, 

sparrows a flock, 
the solo robin, 

That dear delirious distraction- 

They all inspire us 

when we rouse them 

Dread of a whole long day 
alone with God' 
gives way to peace, 
to sweet release, 
to praise, 

Presence in His love 


Side by side 

we work our stony ground. 
Even today 

something blossoms 

a quiet empathy, 

a peace between us. 

This plot will never yield 

the hundredfold, 
Yet labor loved 

will secretly enrich 

our soil our hearts, 

And they are His; 
He finds them good. 

Sr. Elaine OP 
North Guilford 



Little islands in a sea of blue 

Gliding by to see us through. 

Blankets of powdery white fur 

Wrapping moutains in the snow. 

Creamy marshmallows topping trees 

Erasing shadows on the grass. 

Huge angels rushing inflight 

With feathery wings in sight 

Animals of every sort 

Fading into ripples on the shore 

All transfigured 

Seeing then 


Sister Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 


The Stift Center 

(Deep in the stilt center of the soul 
In incomprehensible depths 

There is a thirst 

That is thirst unquenching, 

'Here no light is needed 

Tor the eyes are brightened to darkness, 

Where afire burns in the stilt night, 

Where an untouched hand leads. 

In the imageless realm, 

In unpeopled presence 

fl (presence pervades 

The emptiness with (Being, 

Jlnd soundlessness with Voice. 

Centered in awareness 

Jit the listening point 

No ear records the voice of Stillness, 

!Nb eye can trace its wordless message. 

!Nb scent or savor faintly distills 

The memory of the passing of the Spirit, 

Wo touch of falling petal stirs awareness 

On the passive surface 

Of its hidden springs. 

Here in the mystery around the Tire 

Of the f ortified center, 

"Unmolested and free 


The passive spirit rests in joy, 


(Burn tfree of desire, 

^testing even white it waits 

Vpon the (presence 

and the baptism of 'Tire. 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.V., Los )\ngeCes 



Sr. Mary Regina 
Lufkin, Texas 

The Woman of Faith arose 

in our night 

stepping softly into 

earth's darkness. 

Her companion followed 

robed in ponderings of 

preceding hours: 

Mystery's mysterious Love. 

No sound but determined tread - 

her feet on worn path 

to the 

City of the Dead! 

The tomb 

held its seals more tightly 

for fear - of what it knew not. 

Standing over earth's sleeping power, 

her companion, seeing the garden 

kneel in reverence, 

stepped back, 

sensing a sacred moment. 

She stood erect, 

beauty flawless, without equal, 

robed in peace. 

Hers was the fullness of grace 

and majesty, by right, 

born so. 

As Bathsheba before King David 

she was there to claim her rights, 

the divine covenant, angel-offered 

and signed with her fiat. 

Promises that must be fulfilled 

or all was lost - 

irrevocably lost. 

Earth's power sought deeper 

slumber, drunk with 

powerlessness before her. 

Lifting her gaze upward - upward 

in faith, 

her song of hope burst forth 

in sweetness till then unknown, 


piercing creation and 
Eternal Silence. 


Earth's blackness shivered, 
quivered to breaking point. 
Tomb's finality meaningless 
she turned again 
heavenward, embracing 
Word with word's love, given 
by Word. 


Her word found grace in 
Eternal Motion. 
Sound and silence fell 
prostrate for want of 

Again, upward, ever upward 
her gaze piercing, embracing 
All with all. 


Earth's many waters vibrated 

to its hope. 

Trinity reeled, bent 


to its loveliness. 

Jet of light 

from tomb's black emptiness 

pierced the sealed stone, 

broadened and enveloped 


The Eternal Solomon stood 

before her in splendor 

with the diadem 

she had crowned him with 

on the day of his nuptials 

in her womb. 

He embraced her 

into Love's Mystery 

lifting her to himself 

with tenderness unknown 


to human love, 

yet human, 

so terribly human. 

Solitude from her dwelling 

called to them. 

Her companion, 

robed in newness of Mystery, 

stood forth, prince 

of angelic hosts. 

He unsheathed the two-edged sword, 

wielded it in command 

piercing heavens, earth and under earth! 

Peals of ALLELUIAS burst forth 

like bells of St. Peter's 

on festival great. 

Their music filled all 

of time, space and place, all of 

Eternity, never to end as 

it was timeless. 

Rolling hell's stone aside, 

the angel sat upon it. 

Earthly power slept on for want of 



Hvmn lo Si. Augustine 




Once proud Patrician bound by sin P 

God, through His love, your soul did win; 
He led you from the world apart 
Into the garden of His heart. 

He bade you take. He bade you read 
And to His counsels you paid heed. 
"Beauty so ancient, yet so new. 
How late. How late have I loved you." 

The Holy Spirit with you walked. 
And in the humble way you talked: 
"My heart," you said, "will restless be 
Until it rests, dear Lord, in Thee." 

O loving Saint obtain for me 
A love far deeper than the sea; 
And with His love so great, so vast 
A true repentance for the past. 

Open my mind to think with Thee 
Upon the Blessed Trinity, 
To know the One who has no end. 
Yet strive His truth to comprehend. 

We praise You, Father, gracious one; 
And You, O Christ, most loving Son, 
And You, loved Spirit Who impart 
Grace to the truly faithful heart. 

by Sister Regina Marie Gentry, O.P. 
Syracuse, NY 
(8-8 8-8) 


Kyuwe cawnol acm, you* lovlonete 

-K^vw feedA vote of the AeiaAc. 

Qf\Q<yuefr cc/ce a aeacon ow* ow lawa. 

QsiLaJce &uv {j&ailA otvpn, oviaAt. 

GyW yew* aa&A eyes wAeve 

\z/Ae i/uena&r* o£neave<n, Utllviest, 

^SStiAU us lAeve ich/A {\/ua#i ^0teaOj 

LxWe^/e^ sAeuerea, fevevev- o/est. 

^—/ladfen iat y&uv <x><m/ui&ii<maJe Aunas 

&Ae awA/Una foam cfA&nifence. 

k^/adA ivt yow cov^na Ao/a 

TA^tfaMutled innocence. 

(jyfcve eacA liltce one cUten/can, 

Qfti you* {velccwwna avace. 

^n£c/d in, youv ^ne/Ae^ly yaxe 

vJuv coi^n^y, lAe wAole Awmcwi voce. 

85d~ &e&H*. @.<&. -&» cA^U 



Qods miracle of Qrace 
Sends forth His Light 
To melt all hearts 
With Love TH.vine - 
find lifts ones spirits 
grown forlorn 
find brings nezo hope 
And (Peace unfqwzim. 

In Qod alone 
The soul will find 
Strength to rise 
And give Him thanks 
Receive (Him now into your heart 
Let not a moment pass apart. 
His warmth floods in 
To set you free 
To live with Him ... 

Sister 9dary Augustine, O.l*. 
Syracuse, 9& 


TAKTNG THE WORD TO HEART: Self and Other in an Age of Therapies. Robert C. 
Roberts, Ph.D. Grand Rapids. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 
1993. 315 pages. 

In considering the 1996 General Assembly theme of Dominican Contem- 
plative Life in Conversation with Contemporary Culture I would like to offer this 
book as a useful tool for critically discerning one of the major influences of our 
culture - that of the modern psychologies. Who of us has not experienced the all- 
pervasiveness of "pychobabble" in talk shows, magazine articles, books, or homilies? 
And yes, might it not even possibly enter our monastery Chapter meetings? After 
reading Taking the Word to Heart, I pondered thoughtfully the extent to which I 
myself have dabbled in the babble and to what extent the "word" of modern 
psychology can subtly infiltrate and even skew our understanding of the saving 
Word of the scriptures. In the introduction. Dr. Roberts describes the situation 
tongue-in-cheek, "We hear about sensitivity and openness and being in touch with 
our feelings: about being vulnerable and going with the flow and having a healthy 
self-concept and experiencing growth. We seek spontaneity and personal presence 
and unconditional acceptance and being real and in touch and human; after all. life 
is a process. We learn to accept ourselves and avoid anxiety and depression by 
avoiding global self-evaluation, irrational self-talk, and thinking we can't be happy if 
life isn't perfect. We seek to get in touch with our unconscious, or the child within. 
We class ourselves as introverted or extraverted. as feelers or thinkers, as sensers 
or intuitives. Smother-mothers have learned to describe themselves as 
codependent. We welcome accountability, try to invest ourselves in our decisions, 
and feel pressure to become more self-disclosing and assertive: we worry about our 
self-esteem, our identity crisis, our mid-life crisis, and communications 
breakdowns with our significant others. Do you hear what I'm saying?" 

As Christians and a fortiori as Dominicans we are people of God's Word, 
called daily to take it to heart and thus to be formed by the sound of His voice. 
Accordingly, the major contention of the book is that although God's Word is the 
source of all deepest and truest healing, this message is garbled by the din of alien 
voices making confusing and often contradictory claims about what it truly means 
to be a human person. The modern therapies, though claiming to be non-directive 
do, in fact, offer their clients a "word" even a "philosophy of life," which can be 
very much a mixed blessing. The insights and practices of each psychology can be 
quite good and helpful when adapted for Christian use but they also have the real 
potential to form us in ways that are inconsistent with our calling to Christian 
maturity and holiness if received uncritically. 

The author, Robert C. Roberts has been professor of philosophy and 
psychology at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois for the past ten years and his book 
is a very praiseworthy effort towards the fruitful integration of psychology and 
Christianity. Beyond such integration, he posits the crucial need today of a highly 
developed Christian psychology that is not simply derived from the secular ones but 
explicitly formulated in conversation with them and drawing heavily upon the 
riches of scripture and vital Christian tradition. Along this line, the book 
concludes with a rather lengthy chapter entitled Christianity as Psychotherapy. 





Part I of the book. Therapy as a Heart Forming Word gives us a tour of six of 
the more prominent options we have seen in therapeutic psychology over the past 
century. It is written in a non-technical style and interspersed with appropriate ■ 

stories which make the therapeutic concepts concrete and easy to grasp. After i 

delineating the major teachings of each psychology, he clearly points out the 
continuities and the discontinuities with our Christian doctrine and discipline. 
Although Roberts is non-Catholic the insights he offers do not seem, for the most I 

part, foreign to Catholic ears. The six psychologists he chooses to focus upon are 

1 . Carl Rogers and his school of "unconditional positive regard and warm 

2. Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). 

3. B.F. Skinner, the father of Behavior Therapy and its offspring 

"Assertiveness Training." I 

4. Ivan Boszormenji-Nagy and his insights into Contextual/ Family Therapy. ■ 

5. Carl Jung and his world of the conscious and unconscious mind, the 
process of individuation and the "religion" of self-exploration. 

6. Heinz Kohut and the "drive" to become a fully developed self. The 
difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism. 

In Part II, Relating to One Another, Roberts begins to sketch the general I 

lines of a distinctively Christian psychology by discussing important relational 
topics such as competition, envy and forgiveness. In treating of competition and 
envy he again highlights the formative (or deformative) role of our contemporary 
culture by referring to the PBC, the philosophy of beak and claw and distinguishing, 
it from the "playful competitiveness," which is the counterpart Christian virtue. 
The section concludes with topics on hospitality, marriage and parenting, ■ 

friendship and church fellowship. These are areas in which the author's non- ] 

Catholic frame of reference is more noticeable but even if one treads quickly over 
this section. I think it is safe to say that the book as a whole can lend a significant 
contribution to our efforts to understand and converse with the culture of our day 
and consequently with the people who come to our communities to a greater or 
lesser degree already "formed" by the culture. 

Sister Denise Marie, O.P. 




by Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York 1981, 
319 pages, $15.00 cloth bound. 

In this historic Year of the Family, Karol Wojtyla's book on family life 
and sexual morality could hardly be more timely. Though first published 
twenty-two years ago, the book gives a solid, lucid and muscular presentation 
of Catholic tradition on marriage and the fundamental ethical principles of 
marital love which remain perennial and unchanging through history. 

At the time of Vatican Council II the author was appointed by Pope 
Paul VI to the Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family and 
Birth, and brought to his task his expertise in these areas, garnered from 
extensive study, research, and lecturing at the Catholic University of Lublin 
and many years of pastoral experience as confessor and confidant. 

In the present volume, which has been revised and benefits by the able 
translation of H. T. Willetts, we have an invaluable exposition of the Church's 
teaching on the human person, human sexuality, love, friendship, chastity, 
justice, sexology and ethics. The author develops each of these topics first 
from an anthrological and philosophical viewpoint, taking into consideration 
related positions and schools of thought most characteristic of our times. He 
critiques these positions, and goes on to show what we may gain from an 
understanding of them, and how they can be redirected to the building up of 
truly Christian morality. 

This book can be recommended to all Christians of our times, and 
particularly to the young, as a valuable source of information. Further, it 
provides a solid ground and basis for understanding, so desperately needed 
in view of the current confusion, conflict and confrontation of our world. It 
is, in itself, a history of confrontation. It points to the hope, the possibility of 
solutions through openness to truth and grace. 

Sr. Mary Thomas, Buffalo 





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