The Life of a Preacher
"St. Thomas Aquinas Preaching Trust in God During a Tempest," Ary Scheffer, 1824
“St. Thomas Aquinas Preaching Trust in God During a Tempest,” Ary Scheffer, 1824

Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P., famously wrote in his Summa Theologica that “as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate” (II-II.188.6co). This sharing of what has been contemplated is precisely the kind of preaching typified by the Dominican life.

Dominicans are called to a profound life of contemplation in order to engage in contemplative preaching. The term “preaching” is often used today as a broad term to mean many different things, but traditionally, preaching can be understood in four categories: (1) catechetical, which instructs about the faith; (2) moral, which exhorts people to live the faith; (3) apologetic, which seeks to remove obstacles to faith; (4) contemplative (or holy), which seeks to lead the faithful to an encounter with the living God.

This preaching “should normally draw the listener toward contemplation,” notes Fr. Thomas Phillippe, O.P., in The Contemplative Life. The Dominican should be able to play “matchmaker” between God and the faithful; to inspire in his audience the love of God. As our own Fr. Antoninus Wall, O.P., states in The Mixed Religious State in St. Thomas: “Preaching passes on to others the interior perfection of contemplation in the most complete manner since it not only moves the intellect to know the truth, but also the will to an affective and effective love for it.”

For the Dominican, this profound ability to move hearts and minds towards the love of God is brought on through a loving and faithful adherence to all of the elements of the Dominican life.