Fr. Basil Cole, O.P. named Master of Sacred Theology
Emeritus Professor Father Basil Cole, O.P., was recently given one of the highest honors of the Dominican Order. He was named a Master of Sacred Theology and now follows in a long line of great theologians going back to the founding of the Order. With overwhelming support, the 2022 quadrennial Provincial Chapter of the Province of St. Joseph nominated Father Cole to the Master of the Order for this honor. After consulting other experts, the Master, Father Gerard Francisco Timoner, O.P. made Father Cole a Master of Sacred Theology on October 17th.
During vespers on Wednesday, January 10th in the Chapel of the Priory of the Immaculate Conception, the decree naming Father a Master was read and the insignia of the title were conferred. First, he received the ring as a sign that he has been espoused by Wisdom. In keeping with tradition, the ring is set with an amethyst stone. It also bears the shields of both the Dominican Order and the Province of St. Joseph. He was then given the black and red four-peaked biretta, which is a symbol of Masters of Theology, and is often worn during solemn academic ceremonies.
A festive dinner with guests and the community followed.
On Thursday, January 11th Father Cole delivered a magisterial lecture in Aquin Hall to an audience of nearly one hundred people. The title of his lecture was “Spiritual Beauty and the Challenge of the Life of Virtue.” Following closely the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, the singular Master of Theology, Father Cole elucidated the importance of the arts—particularly literature, painting, and music—in helping a person grow in virtue.
On receiving the honor, Father Cole noted that the honor belonged not just to him, but to all those who’ve encouraged him, supported him, and to all of his students over the years. He continues to write and publish. He has a number of manuscripts preparing for publication.
2023 St. Dominic Medal Recipient: Msgr. Andrew Baker
We are pleased to announce that Msgr. Andrew Baker S.T.D., Rector of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, will receive the Saint Dominic Medal at this year’s Commencement ceremony. This honor is awarded to those individuals who, through demonstrated competency in their life’s work, have advanced the ideals of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, thus promoting and bringing recognition to the charism of the Dominican Order. During Msgr. Baker’s tenure as rector has embodied the Pontifical Faculty’s commitments to truth and holy excellence by implementing innovative and effective programs to cultivate the formation of priests.
Msgr. Baker will give the commencement speech at this year’s ceremony on Friday, May 12 where both civil and ecclesiastical degrees will be conferred on the graduating students of the Pontifical Faculty of Immaculate Conception.
Due to limited capacity, attendance at the Commencement is by invitation only. Please pray for Msgr. Baker and the graduates of the Pontifical Faculty for God’s blessing in their work of proclaiming the clarity of Christ to a confused world.
Professor Jonathan Lunine
This semester, Prof. Jonathan Lunine, David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences at Cornell University, joined the faculty of the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies for a semester-long appointment as the McDonald Agape Visiting Scholar.
This partnership is made possible through a grant by the McDonald Agape Foundation, whose mission is encouraging Christian scholars and academic scholarship. The McDonald Agape Foundations grant, made to the Thomistic Institute, will support a visiting scholar at the Dominican House of Studies for one semester each academic year through the 2025-2026 academic year.
Lunine is Director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science and does research in astrophysics, planetary science, and astrobiology. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and among other awards is the recipient of the Jean Dominique Cassini Medal of the European Geosciences Union (2015) and the Basic Sciences Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (2009).
The author of several books, Lunine is also co-investigator on the Juno mission now in orbit around Jupiter, using data from several instruments on the spacecraft, and on the MISE instrument for the Europa Clipper mission. He is on the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, focusing on characterization of extrasolar planets and Kuiper Belt objects.
Lunine’s appointment at the Dominican House of Studies is for spring semester 2023. During his time in D.C., Lunine will co-teach a course titled “Knowing the Cosmos: Contemporary Astronomy, Theology, and Philosophy” with Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., associate professor of systematic theology at the Dominican House of Studies and Director of the Thomistic Institute.
The course “will engage fundamental questions about the visible order God has created, both from the perspective of contemporary astronomy, and from that of theology and philosophy, especially as informed by the principles of the Thomistic tradition,” according to the course description.
Lunine will also help lead an intellectual retreat for Thomistic Institute students, undertake academic research, and participate in the academic and spiritual life of the Dominican House of Studies. He has previously collaborated with the Thomistic Institute as a speaker for Thomistic Institute conferences and other events and has filmed several episodes for the Aquinas 101: Science and Faith YouTube series.
The Thomistic Institute is an academic institute of the Pontifical Faculty at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. It exists to promote Catholic truth in the contemporary world by strengthening the intellectual formation of Christians at universities, in the Church, and in the wider public square.
Photo by Jesse Winter
Resquiescat in Pace: Pope Benedict XVI
On the morning of Thursday, January 5th, the Dominican community at the Dominican House of Studies had a Memorial Mass for Pope Benedict XVI. The President of the Pontifical Faculty, Father Thomas Petri, O.P., celebrated and preached the Mass. His brief homily is below.
Quotations are from Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, and two book-length interviews with Peter Seewald: God and the World (published by Ignatius Press in 2002) and Last Testament (published by Bloomsbury in 2016).
Nobody who had followed the life, writings, and preaching of Joseph Ratzinger was surprised to learn last week that the last sentiment he articulated as he was fading from this world into the next was a simple profession of love for Jesus Christ.
His whole life was given over to that personal encounter with the Lord, which, he said, “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” It had certainly done so for him. He knew Jesus to be the way to the Father—the way, the truth, and the life.
We can see throughout Pope Benedict’s life a desire to grow closer to Christ, pursuing an ever deeper encounter with him, but not only that. He sought to bring Christ—his teaching and his life—into greater clarity.
With a certain meekness, trusting in the truth of the Revealed Word, the authority of the Church, and the power of reason and faith to work together, Pope Benedict was always prepared to clarify, defend, and illuminate Christ and his teaching against any attempt to relativize the Lord, his saving message, his saving presence, to the whims of the world.
He once said that he thought that the task of his papacy was “to highlight the centrality of faith in God, and give people the courage to have faith, courage to live concretely in the world with faith.”
The emeritus pope didn’t expect his papacy to last long, and thought this was the task that he could accomplish. His papacy lasted eight years.
His resignation was remarkable for a whole host of reasons that have been rehearsed and will continue to be rehearsed for years to come. But more remarkable is how long Benedict lived as emeritus pope; it was longer than he had reigned as pope.
Though he remained hidden, we nonetheless had glimpses of him for the nearly ten years of his life in a monastery through interviews, letters, and photos. We saw a pope freed from the burden of office who was able to return to his heart’s desire: contemplating and encountering the Lord.
He had the experience I suspect most older people have who take religion seriously, who take their faith seriously. After he retreated to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, he said that he had come to find “many statements from the Gospels more challenging in their greatness and gravity.” For him, Christ’s words had become more mysterious and awesome than before.
On the one hand, he noted, that in old age you’re more deeply practiced. “Life has taken its shape. The fundamental decisions have been made.” But on the other hand, you feel the difficulty of life’s big questions more deeply, and the weight of the problems in the world and in the Church more profoundly.
We should pray to the Lord to arrive at such a place in our old age.
Perhaps as a consolation, he said “one also feels the greatness of Jesus Christ’s words, which evade interpretation [as one gets older] more often than before.”
He always considered himself an average Christian. Someone who could always speak to Christ, who, nevertheless as a “lowly little man” did “not always reach all the way up to [the Lord].”
Pope Benedict always believed there would “be few people whose lives are pure and fulfilled in all respects.” But he hoped that there would also “be few people whose lives have become an irredeemable and total No.”
When asked in recent years about whether he feared death, he said this: “Despite all the confidence I have that the loving God cannot forsake me, the closer you come to his face, the more intensely you feel how much you have done wrong. In this respect, the burden of guilt always weighs on someone, but the basic trust is of course always there.”
He vowed that when he finally would stand before the Almighty, he would “plead with him to show leniency towards [his] wretchedness.” Surely, not for significant things, but for all the ways that he could have done better. All the omissions and deficient commissions.
That’s why the Church has a memorial Mass for him. Many memorial Masses.
Who can claim that at the moment of death he is absolutely ready to stand directly before God without shame and without sin? Certainly not Pope Benedict XVI.
He thought most people, faithful as they were, would find themselves in purgatory. Broken vessels that want to be put right.
“Purgatory,” he once said, “basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life…. When it comes down to it, we are all glad that God himself can still put right what we cannot.”
So we pray. We pray for this servant of the servants of God, Pope Benedict, that God put right in him everything that was wrong or broken. We pray his sins be forgiven.
That Father Benedict, as he once hoped to be known, be brought into the presence of God which he liked to think would be an “always new” encounter, “a perpetual, unending encounter, with new discoveries and new joy.” Forever.
Should he reach that place with Christ, as we confidently hope he will, we will then count on his prayers for the Church, which he loved as the bride of Christ, and which he served so well.
Praying for him now, we pray that one day, by the mercy of God, to benefit from his intercession. This is the Church’s final gift to him and her expectation in hope for him.
The portrait used in the image above was drawn by Igor V. Babailov