The Dominican Intellectual Tradition


The Constitutions of the Order of Preachers states that “St. Dominic, in founding the Order, was truly innovative; he intimately linked study to the ministry of salvation” (LCO, 76).

Thus for 800 years the Dominicans have fiercely devoted themselves to the rigorous study of Sacred Scripture, philosophy, the natural sciences, and theology. Our study, however, does not remain in the realm of arcane speculation. Instead it is handed on for the salvation of others through our preaching and teaching.

For the Dominican, “study is ordered to preaching, and preaching to the salvation of souls” (De Vita Regulari, VIII). Blessed Humbert gives an extensive list praising the usefulness and goodness of study, a list which cannot thoroughly be exhausted here:

–Study “forms the interior man” and gives life to the exterior practices of religious life.

–Study is useful for others since “we are not able to preach, or give counsel, or hear confessions, or sow spiritual truths, unless vigorous study dwells among us.”

–Study allows us to love God more since “the more we know about God, the greater occasion we have for loving and serving Him.”

–Study, especially of the Scriptures, refreshes and comforts the soul of the student.

The Dominicans pay particular attention to the study of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., since his works provide a systematic and deeply profound account of creation, human nature, morality, the spiritual life, the mystery of the Triune God, and the person of Jesus Christ. His masterful adaptation of philosophy into his theological work gives his writing an unmistakable depth and clarity in the manner which he is able to speak about God.

As perhaps the most brilliant human mind that the Church has ever seen, Aquinas’ teaching rings with a trustworthy, authoritative voice throughout every time and place that theology is studied. In fact, the Code of Canon Law exhorts all students of theology “to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries of salvation, with St. Thomas in particular as their teacher” (CIC, 252, §3).

Dominicans in every century have adapted, developed, and rediscovered the magnificent thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in their work of preaching the truth of the Catholic faith. Today’s friars are sent into the modern world as preachers of the Truth equipped by the vast wisdom accorded to them by the Angelic Doctor, whom his brothers now rely on for heavenly intercession.