Tag: The Church

Lighting the Path

Bringing His Knowledge to the World


St. Dominic was inspired by the conviction that knowledge is the surest path to Christ. He established his order to ensure that those who understood Christ most deeply could share their understanding with those needing light. Communally, all souls would grow together on God’s enlightened path and enjoy the eternal rewards of faithfulness.

The Dominican House of Studies (DHS) exists to perpetuate the mission of St. Dominic. Our revered institution receives learned individuals seeking to better understand Christ’s role in their lives, increases their knowledge, and then sends them into the world so that they may bring more souls to Him.

Current DHS doctoral student Father Thomas Aquinas Pickett, OP, embodies our mission. A self-described “cradle Catholic,” he was born to faithful parents who ensured he remained mindful of the worth and purpose of his soul.

Coupling the foundations of his parents’ teachings and the spiritual gift of intellectual curiosity bestowed upon him by God, Father Pickett has embarked upon a life’s quest for understanding. Acquiring knowledge is edifying for him, but his greatest desire is to share this knowledge to edify others.

Gaining and Sharing the Light

While spirituality and faithfulness were always present in his home, the world outside those four walls was much different.

“I grew up in an area where there are a lot of non-Catholics,” he recounted, “and they would either ask me questions or challenge me on certain things. It was imperative for me to articulate my faith. There were many misconceptions I had to correct.”

While he did not understand how people could lack such clarity, he learned that the perfection of God’s truth provided every answer he would ever need. This clarity set him on the path of a relentless pursuit of the light of Christ.

A Cradle Catholic’s Quest

As he matured, Father Pickett was most intrigued by the elements of his faith that he least understood.

“I was always intrigued by the mysteries of faith, not just to absorb what I was taught, but to question, understand, and challenge the tenets of my faith,” he reflects.

This profound curiosity led him to explore the depths of theological and philosophical questions as a philosophy student in his college years. This was particularly evident in his desire to understand prayer and its relationship with God’s plan.

“I started wondering if God knows everything already,” he shared, “why are we talking to Him? Or, if everything is following His plan, are we trying to change it when we’re praying? What does prayer actually do?”

In this period of questioning, he discovered the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, which profoundly transformed his understanding of prayer, God’s providence, and the essence of truth.

The Dominican Way

The Dominican Order’s commitment to preaching and teaching provided the perfect pathway for deepening his pursuit.

“St. Thomas Aquinas, with his analytical approach to theology, offered a framework that truly resonated with me,” he stated. “The Dominican Order’s charism of contemplation and sharing the fruits of that contemplation was exactly what I was looking for.”

This pursuit was not merely intellectual but a spiritual quest to live out the truths he discovered.

Formation at the Dominican House of Studies

The Dominican House of Studies has played a crucial role in refining both his intellect and spirituality. Here, he has learned that to share Christ effectively with others, he must first embody the Gospel’s truth in his own life.

“Theology at DHS is not just a subject of study but a way of life that demands a commitment to holiness,” he recalled.

“I remember a professor telling me very explicitly early on that theology can’t just be an academic discipline,” he continued, “to be a theologian requires knowing, loving, and serving Christ. Without that, you are doing an academic exercise, but without the grace necessary to truly understand what you are learning.”

Spreading the Word

Upon completing his doctorate at DHS, Father Pickett will serve as a professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. His deep knowledge and inspirational message will edify and enlighten others dedicated to holy service. His students will share the Holy Gospel armed with the truths they need to bring souls unto Christ.

As Father Pickett prepares to teach and form future Dominicans and evangelists, his story stands as a powerful witness to a faith that seeks understanding—a faith unwilling to settle for easy answers but instead dives deep into the Gospel’s heart.

“My journey from a curious child to a dedicated friar and theologian highlights the communal aspect of our pursuit of Christ. It’s not just about seeking answers for ourselves but for the entire world,” he explained.

A Beacon of Light for the World

His narrative is a vivid reminder that the path to Christ is both deeply personal and inherently communal. It underscores the importance of seeking Christ for personal enlightenment and as a mission to bring truth and clarity to others.

“I hope my story serves as a beacon of light for those navigating the seas of doubt and confusion, offering a path that leads to truth, clarity, and ultimately, to Christ Himself,” he concludes.

Through his journey, we are reminded of the transformative power of faith that seeks understanding, the importance of living the truths we discover, and the profound impact of sharing those truths with the world. His life is a living embodiment of the Dominican mission, illuminating the path to Christ in a world in desperate need of truth.

If reading Father Pickett’s story inspires you to support our mission to share refined knowledge of Christ with the world, please click here to support the Dominican House of Studies.

Lighting the Path

How the Dominican House of Studies Empowers Teachers to Send His Light Into the World

Sam Cabot
Sister Maria Catherine

It could be argued that there is no higher call than providing young souls with the Light of Christ so that they may draw on that power throughout their lives. Imparting the ability to discern good from evil is invaluable in a world where the differences between the two are increasingly blurred.

Dominican House of Studies’ alumna Sister Maria Catherine heeds this call. As a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, she instructs third through eighth graders daily at St. Mary’s Catholic School, a parish school in South Carolina.

Using lessons and instructional methods she honed and acquired at the Dominican House of Studies, she guides young people to an understanding of their value and purpose as children of Christ.

Formation at the DHS

Growing the faith of children and supporting families in their mission to bring Christ into their hearts is the mission of the Sisters of St. Cecilia. Women who enter the Nashville Dominican Sisters either have a bachelor’s degree in education or earn one after joining the community. To increase their effectiveness as teachers, the sisters remain devoted to studying and growing their knowledge of Christ throughout their religious lives.

Sister Maria Catherine came to the Dominican House of Studies to earn her master’s degree through an intensive five-year summer program. The Friars developed the program for sisters to study and understand the thoughts and teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae.

“I had already studied St. Thomas somewhat,” Sister Maria Catherine recounted, “but studying that with the Friars really brought me to understand Thomas’s love for scripture and to learn how to walk with my brother Thomas in a deeper understanding of the truth that the Lord’s giving in the scriptures.”

Understanding St. Thomas’s vision helped her see the whole plan of God and comprehend the richness of the life of holiness in Jesus that the Lord has in store for each of us. Gaining this deep personal knowledge has been foundational in Sister Maria Catherine’s continued devotion to God and her mission.

“The Friars taught me how to take St. Thomas as a guide in understanding myself,” she said, “and enriching my own vocation of belonging to Christ enhanced my service to the families and children I teach. I learned how St. Thomas explains the truth of the person so clearly, and it has enabled me to articulate the truth more clearly and guide young souls to the joys of Christ.”

Teaching the Children

Sister Maria Catherine finds great blessing in shining the light and directing young people to overcome the distractions today’s world bombards them with. All the technology they use, the entertainment they consume, and the activities they participate in to fill their time do not fill the hole in her students’ hearts.

“These kids never have the time to stop and see the bigger picture,” she said. “They never get a chance to ponder their direction and see the true beauty of life. The world has filled them with a need to have their time constantly filled with empty things, and there is a lack of seeing that every moment can have meaning if we allow Christ to give light, meaning, and joy to every minute.”

Empowering students to grasp this truth is no small feat. Sister Maria Catherine blends the knowledge her students have been given by loving parents in their home with the enlightenment she has acquired at the Dominican House of Studies and throughout her religious life. Through her joy and zeal, students move from knowing who Christ is to developing a personal relationship with Him. Establishing that relationship forms a greater understanding of their destiny in God and with God.

“We heavily focus on the magnanimity of the soul,” she said. “We make sure they understand that the Lord has a call for them and a purpose for them and that responding to His call has an impact on the whole world. It’s not just that Jesus loves them. It’s that He has a mission for them. He’s using them in ways they can’t even see. They light up when they come to understand that their life has a divine purpose.”

The Reach of Her DHS Formation

Gifted educators teach in the manner they learn. At the Dominican House of Studies, Sister Maria Catherine experienced firsthand the power of reading, discussing, and growing in knowledge as a group. During her studies, she realized that the discussions and questions that came up with her Sisters were similar to those of her students.

The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia often incorporate the Socratic method into their teaching, and the growth Sister Maria Catherine experienced through this style at the DHS refined her technique and purpose for employing it in her classroom.

“I really like to teach kids how to read a text in depth and learn how to analyze and dissect something meaningful and substantial,” she stated. “Then I have them discuss it with their peers. They learn to trust that they can think, reason, and know the truth of their faith.”

The impact of this knowledge is more substantial than bringing one young soul to Christ.

“It’s definitely effective for their personal conversion,” Sister Maria Catherine continues, “but it also teaches them how to evangelize and bring more souls to the Joy and Light of Christ.”

Why The Work of the Dominican House of Studies Matters

St. Dominic believed that God wanted truth and knowledge to be the typical path to salvation and wanted all to have it. The Dominican House of Studies continues St. Dominic’s mission by equipping Sisters and Friars with the tools they need to evangelize Christ’s Light to the world.

“I love the imagery of St. Dominic with his torch setting the world on fire with the love of Christ,” Sister Maria Catherine shared. “I am grateful the Lord saw fit to invite me to DHS and be a part of His process. Refining my knowledge of His Word and strengthening my bond with Him has prepared me to bring as many souls to Him as possible by spreading His joy and filling the holes in the hearts of the children I teach.”

Sister Maria Catherine moves young people to eschew the hollow distractions of the world and instead fill their hearts and minds with the solid Word of Christ. Those who receive His Word will influence others to seek the same joy and happiness.

Consider yourself and your circle. You may not have the same opportunity to evangelize Christ’s love to young people as this great sister and DHS alumna does, but pray for His guidance in finding opportunities to bring more souls to Him in any way you can.

Sam Cabot

Fr. Basil Cole, O.P. named Master of Sacred Theology

Daniel Smith

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.

Daniel Smith

So Much Time and So Little to Do

Chumaks leisure Ivan Aivazovsky

We always seem to be busy with so little time and so much to do. There always seems to be a list of tasks a mile long. Tasks get added to that list faster than we can complete them. Many of these tasks became impossible during the height of COVID. Locked down with nowhere to go and no one to see, some of us had free time for the first time since we were children.

As restrictions from the pandemic have loosened we may be thinking, “What a relief to be busy again!” We no longer have to figure out what to do when there is nothing that needs to be done. We have all our responsibilities back, responsibilities we’d missed because they were what gave structure and meaning to our lives. This is what the lives of adult, productive members of society are expected to look like, but the pandemic made us ask, “What do I do with my time when there’s nothing more to produce and all my responsibilities have been met?

The pandemic may have brought this question to the forefront, but it is the same question that parents have to ask once their children leave home, that the aging have to ask as they retire from work. What do we do with the time when we aren’t working? The question can, of course, be asked earlier. It can even be asked now. In fact, as Christians, the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath compels us to ask this question every week. How do I rest on Sunday? How we approach Sunday can then serve as a paradigm for how we approach other situations where we find ourselves with time on our hands.

Sunday is meant to be a day of rest, a day of leisure. It’s a day when we spend our time doing things other than work. The worship of God is an obvious feature. Sunday should be a time when we pray, especially at Mass. While spending time with God is the most important way of resting on Sunday, it is not the only way. Leisure time can be spent enjoying the company of friends and family. This happens at church, but also Sunday dinner or visits to grandparents. These can be occasions for conversations wherein we all become philosophers, asking the deep questions of life while unpressed for time. We can think about who we are and stop long enough to recognize God’s grace in our lives. These activities show that resting on Sunday and enjoying leisure consist in far more than the absence of labor. These are the times wherein the bare necessities of survival have been met and the full flourishing of human life is expressed. For an extended discussion on what constitutes leisure, I highly recommend Josef Pieper’s, Leisure: The Basis of Culture.

Learning to enjoy leisure helps us flourish as wayfarers, but it also prepares us for eternity. As we allow the rest of Sunday to penetrate more of our lives, we prepare for eternal life when that rest will be our whole life. We will have no responsibilities in heaven. The worries and anxieties of Martha will no longer press upon us (Lk 10:38-42). Every need will be satisfied. Heaven will be all leisure. Alongside Mary, we will sit at the feet of Jesus. There will be only one thing necessary: to join all the saints and angels in worshipping and praising God. We will have so much time and so much to do!

Image: Ivan Aivazovsky, Chumaks Leisure

Originally posted on Dominicana Journal


Spiritual Hunger


At a convent of the Missionaries of Charity, my mother once made twelve bags of food to give to the homeless. She and the sisters then went to one of their usual spots in my hometown to hand out the bags of food, where there were never more than twelve people. However, upon arrival my mother discovered that there were, not twelve, but thirty-six homeless. Panicking, she told one of the sisters that they should go to another spot because there would not be enough bags of food for the crowd. The sister replied that my mother should start praying the Memorare prayer. So the sisters and my mother gathered the homeless together, prayed with them, and my mother proceeded to hand out the bags of food. When the last bag was handed out, everyone had a bag in their hands.

This happened when I was a child, and because of it, the Gospel story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand has always struck a special cord in my heart. This story also seems to have hit a special cord with the Gospel writers as well, given that it is the only miracle that is recounted in all four Gospels (Matt 14:13-21Mark 6:34-44Luke 9:10-17John 6: 1-14)

The evangelists knew the significance of this miracle story not only because the miracle itself shows the powerful and providential care of Jesus for his people, but also because of what Jesus is pointing towards in this miracle. This miracle points us to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary is presented and where Jesus gives his Body and Blood to the Church as the healing food for our souls. In fact, the Book of Revelation even shows us that the same liturgy we celebrate in the Mass on earth is celebrated in Heaven. Each Mass, we should call to mind the communion of saints and angels all around us.

This all came together in the most beautiful way during one of my summer visits home. I was at mass right next to my mother. I watched as a packed congregation on a Saturday noon mass came up for communion. I couldn’t help but see us in the same light as the five thousand whom our Lord looked on with pity. Just as the five thousand were hungry for food, we were spiritually hungry for our Lord. As the apostles stood in the place of Jesus when they brought food to the five thousand, so the elderly priest stood in persona Christi as he slowly distributed the Eucharist from person to person along the communion rail. 

Studying to be a priest of Jesus Christ, I can now see how, by reflecting on my mother’s miracle story, Jesus was using that event to point me to something higher. God will always look with pity on his children and will always provide priests of Jesus Christ to offer up the eternal sacrifice of Jesus for the sanctification of souls. Let us remember that every time we come to mass, we are entering into the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and pray for a renewed spiritual hunger for Jesus in the Eucharist. Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.

Image: Fra Angelico, The Institution of the Eucharist

Originally posted on Dominicana Journal


Why the Chair of Saint Peter Will Never Break

Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)

Few experiences are as unexpectedly unnerving—and embarrassing—as settling yourself into a chair only to have it buckle and break, dropping you flailing on the floor. Chairs are supposed to be secure and trustworthy, things that hold us up and protect us. Most chairs will eventually fail; one won’t. Today we celebrate that sturdiest of chairs, the Chair of St. Peter.

While the physical Chair of St. Peter, magnificently encased in bronze by Bernini, has proved surprisingly durable for a sixth-century piece of wooden furniture, the spiritual stability it represents is eternally rock solid. The pope’s teaching authority is a gift Christ gives to the Church which, like a good chair, gives stability and security to our faith. 

What prevents the pope’s chair from collapsing, however, is not bronze, but the true rock: “And the rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). Jesus Christ is the true foundation of the Church’s faith, “a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; whoever puts faith in it will not waver” (Isa 28:16). Peter’s office calls out to us “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4). Peter became a rock of faith because he first came to that living stone. 

But Peter wasn’t always so solid or stable. His faith had to be compacted and molded and then reinforced. When Peter stepped out of his boat to join Jesus walking on the water, the waves of disbelief beat down his weak faith. Yet he knew to call out to the one who could steady him, grasp his hand, and set his feet on solid ground (Matt 14:22–33). 

Before his Passion, Jesus told Peter “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32). When Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would arise from the ashes of his denial and reinforce the faith of the Church, the Lord assured us he would accomplish it. Jesus promised to make the shifting sands of Peter’s faith into a solid bedrock for the Church. 

That promise of Christ holds good for all the popes from Peter to Francis. Their ability to steady the faith of others doesn’t depend on the strength of their own wisdom but on the word of Christ. Even if the chair seems to wobble—as during the Renaissance, for example—the office of the pope has never given way to error about God. We see this exemplified in the life of Peter, the first pope. He could fortify his brothers because he didn’t just follow what he wanted or thought right. Instead, he was open to being led where he did not initially want to go, stretching out his hands to be led by Christ (John 21:15–19). Saved from the waters of doubt and disbelief he can reach out his own hand to strengthen his brothers and secure their faith. Regardless of who is pope, it is Christ who stretches out the pope’s hand to draw us to know and love God.

Dominican priest and theologian Father Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges once wrote, “Towards Rome ever goes the road of the heart and the mind; it can always be traversed; the true faithful traverse it daily.” We go to Peter to find Christ. He leads us to know and believe in him, not as the world thinks of him—“Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Matt 16:13)—but as he really is. This is why we celebrate Peter’s chair. We don’t have to fear the embarrassment of this chair collapsing beneath the weight of confused ideologies and worldly distortions. When our hearts and minds traverse the way to Rome, they can settle down secure.

Image: Photo by Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)

Originally posted on Dominicana Journal