Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prayer, Study and Discipline: The Prayer Corner

I am a Dominican at heart, and I favor the ideal of how prayer and study ultimately complement one another. They are able to be fully integrated in our lives if we follow the advice of Saint Dominic. How we choose to spend our time in prayer and study is important. We study our faith not just for the sake of knowledge, but so that we can know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in turn share what He gives us with others. This all happens by God's grace of course. By grace, He elevates our minds and hearts above our natural state. This is not to say however that human nature is bad, this is one of the egregious errors of Protestantism. Yes, we have a fallen nature, but it is not totally destroyed and useless to us as human beings. As many Thomistic theologians have said, "grace presupposes nature, it does not destroy it." We are not trying to shed our human nature as if it were a curse, no we are praying for God's grace so that He may elevate it. We ask for His grace so that we may be "deified" or made more like Him. We want to do His will, and we can only know His will by His grace. There are many ways in which God gives us His grace, one way in which it is given is in prayer, and study. I say one way because truly prayer and study should not be separate entities. God gave man an intellect so that he may be able to observe objective truth. By His grace he then elevates man's intellect so that as he perceives reality, he may then gain the virtues of wisdom and prudence. God created man with an intellect, and through this intellect is one of the ways in which God speaks to man. When we set out to study we must have a right intention. We must not lose sight of the end which we are seeking, which is to do God's will and have eternal life.

I have a few simple recommendations to assist in your end goal. The first is to first pray to God to enlighten you in your studies. Pray before you study, and then make your study a kind of prayer. The second is to have a good book for daily spiritual mediation, and a nice copy of the Scriptures near by for daily reading. These should complement your other readings. I will be doing a couple of book reviews soon. One will be on a good book for daily meditation, and another will be on what Bibles to use. Finally last but not least, is to have a place in your house devoted to prayer and study. It used to be customary for Catholics to have prayer corners in their houses. You don't see this so much anymore. I have in my bedroom a corner designated for my prayer and study. In my prayer corner I have a desk, my reading material, a rosary, candles, and I am surrounded by icons, or holy images, which help to focus my thoughts on God. This is yet another way God speaks through our intellect. We see the icon of the Theotokos and Our Lord in her arms, and the thought of the incarnation comes to mind. I then contemplate on how Christ chose to perfect and elevate human nature, not destroy it. It is important that we have a designated place to go to pray, and study. I find it helpful to have a desk to sit at when I am reading something that is laborious, so that as I am reading I can underline passages in the book, or I can take notes on my laptop. If I do not want to mark up my expensive books, I use my laptop to record important notes as I read. If you have a short attention span and memory like mine, you need all of the help you can get. The prayer corner is a huge help to stay focused on your prayer and study. Stay tuned for more book reviews.

Below are a couple of videos that you may enjoy from the Dominican theologians, Fr. Bruno M. Shah, and Fr. Thomas Joseph White. Fr. Shah talks about Dominican study, while Fr. White talks a bit about Dominican theology, as well as nature and grace.


Alan Aversa said...

You would like this video, too: "The Intellectual Life and the Dominican Vocation" with Fr. Gilles Emery OP.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Thanks Alan. Fr. Emory is great, and his work regarding the Trinity in Thomistic thought is quite extensive.

Alan Aversa said...

Yes, his talk was crystal clear. I'm sure his work on understanding the Trinity is, too. I'll have to look into that. Thanks

Is this the book: The Trinitarian Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas? Thanks

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi Alan, he actually has 4 of them out now on the subject. I have two of them.

Trinity in Aquinas

Trinity, Church and the Human Person

The Trinity Theology of Aquinas

and his latest,

Trinity, an Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God

Alan Aversa said...

And he also wrote a seemingly good article in Nova et Vetera: The Threeness and Oneness of God (165kb)