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Art has often been used as a means of inspiring and educating the masses. Throughout the season of Lent our own Fr. Michael Morris, O.P., Professor of Religion and the Arts at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and an ongoing contributor to Magnificat, is offering a series of video reflections on famous pieces of art. You can find the series at dspt.edu/lenten-art, with a new video being added each week. And if you're in the Bay Area, be sure to join Fr. Michael at DSPT on Wednesday, March 18th for this year's Aquinas lecture -- Saint Thomas Aquinas in Art and Legend: An Iconographic Study of the Angelic Doctor. Space is limited; learn how to watch online, or RSVP to attend by clicking here.
Life as a Dominican is rooted in four areas, what we typically call the four pillars: prayer, study, common life, and ministry. Based on these pillars, we’ve developed four tips to help you have a better Lent. They all require a little bit of time, but with a little bit of effort they are all possible.
Tip #1: Prayer
Spend more time with the Lord in prayer. If you can’t make it to Mass every day, then try to spend at least ½ an hour in silence each day. You might also consider signing up for Eucharistic adoration, or praying the Stations of the Cross once a week. If you like to exercise, then think about praying the rosary while you run or jog on the elliptical machine.
Tip #2: Study
Spend time reading and studying the Bible each day. There are lots of stories that are fitting for Lent. “Noah and the Flood” can be found in Genesis 6:9 – 9:17. The Book of Exodus, which tells the story of Moses and the 10 Commandments, has 40 chapters. Read at least one each of day of Lent and you’ll be done by Easter. The Book of Lamentations, which is only 5 chapters, is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. We pray these sad songs during Tenebrae starting on Holy Thursday. And of course, any of the Gospels would be appropriate. Mark is the shortest, but Matthew, Luke and John have more parables and miracles.
Tip #3: Common Life
Spend less time on social media, and spend more time being social face-to-face. Think about inviting a friend out for a walk, or to have a picnic in the park. Better yet, invite someone to Mass, or to Stations of the Cross. You never know what impact your presence may have on someone else, but Scripture tells us that where two or three are gathered in His name, the Lord is present.
Tip #4: Ministry
Spend more time doing something for others. Sign up to serve meals at your local homeless shelter, or gather supplies for the food bank. If you don’t have a lot of time to take on more activities, think about how your wealth can benefit others. Everyone gives up something for Lent. Consider donating the money you would have spent on your daily coffee to your favorite charity instead.
May the Lord bless you during this holy season, as you grow closer to him and the celebration of his resurrection at Easter.
The Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes at the Shrine of St. Jude at St. Dominic's Church in San Francisco begins on February 3, 2015. This year's preacher is Fr. Reginald Martin, O.P., Director of the Rosary Center in Portland, and Prior of St. Albert's in Oakland. Father Reginald has travelled to Lourdes many times, serving as a chaplain to the Order of Malta during the pilgrimages they host for the sick and infirm.
--By Br. Thomas Aquinas Pickett, O.P.
Despite the incredible connections available to us through roads, language, and the internet, we live in times of great confusion. Modern men and women tend to divide their lives into disparate compartments. Thus it is not uncommon to hear people speak of their work life, family life, public life, private life, social life, and spiritual life. But how many lives do we actually live?
Instead of having a single goal, or telos, to which all our actions are ordered, we have become shattered and imbalanced. This division prevents us from growing as a whole person, from living a whole and unified life. We have lost sight of the virtue and gift of wisdom.
But when we pursue wisdom, it is then that we are able to answer correctly the question: “What should I live for?”
Within the Order of Preachers we have one of the best guides in our pursuit of wisdom (sapientia) -- St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P.
St. Thomas notes that it is the task of the wise man to order things well. Order not only involves putting things in their proper place (like putting socks in a sock drawer), but also seeing and judging the intrinsic value of things in relation to another. Hence a soldier is “out of order” if he were to speak impertinently to a general. Order also involves directing things to act appropriately, which is why we say that something is “out of order” when it doesn’t work.
St. Thomas guides us in wisdom because he clearly shows us the order of reality, and the order by which we must live and act in accord with that reality. One of the great fruits of wisdom that we find in St. Thomas is that the order of reality and order of action coincide -- actio sequitur esse (action follows from being). Reality has something to say about our lives, and our lives must reflect the reality in which we live.
Imperial Rome was built on stone roads connecting once far-off metropolises and agricultural markets. In the present, the internet and satellites allow us to connect to people and ideas with near instantaneous speed. As we see throughout history, the more connected we are, the greater our abilities, the more opportunities we have to perfect ourselves and our communities.
And yet the 20th century is still marked by wars and turmoil.
The great existential despondency of the modern age flows from a rejected view of reality. St. Thomas, however, faithfully serving the Christian revelation of Scripture and holding true to right reason, guides us to seek our happiness by becoming what we truly are: men and women made in the image and likeness of God. This simple truth, this window into reality, was what drew me to the study of St. Thomas Aquinas.
From the tranquil profundity of the Summa Theologiae, to the exalted wonder of the Commentary on John, St. Thomas Aquinas has given me a connection to reality, a connection to Christ, which informs and nourishes every aspect of my life. This connection is what the world needs most. By following St. Thomas’ wisdom, rooted in Scripture and the Sacraments, I am following a wisdom that is ordered to God, that is ordered by God.
G.K. Chesterton wrote that “Homo Sapiens can only be considered in relation to sapientia and only a book like that of St. Thomas is really devoted to the intrinsic idea of sapientia.” My prayer is that the study of St. Thomas Aquinas may continue to flourish in these days, that men and women may regain their connection to God with minds alight with learning and hearts aflame with charity.
 Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology by Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
 St. Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
Three Sisters as seen from St. Benedict Lodge, McKenzie Bridge, Oregon