Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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What would St Thomas make of Pleasantville?

Monday, January 30, 2012
I recently saw the film Pleasantville for the first time. It's about two 1990's teenagers, David and Jennifer, who are magically transported into a 1950's sitcom called Pleasantville where they are forced to play the characters Bud and Mary Sue. In Pleasantville, everyone is pleasant to each other, it never rains, and the school basketball team never lose a game. But there's a catch. Pleasantville is very dull. It's literally in black and white. There's no art, no books, no sex, no creativity. That is, until David (Bud) and Jennifer (Mary Sue) are transported into this world.

Now the film has some very positive aspects. The film is beautifully made; as colour, joy and passion comes into this world, it really draws our attention to the beauty of creation, and to how we so often fail to recognise this beauty. Surely St Thomas would appreciate this aspect of the film. But what I think St Thomas would strongly object to is the attempt to retell the Adam and Eve story. Before David (Bud) and Jennifer (Mary Sue) were transported into Pleasantville, it was an ordered world of innocence, dull but nice. There are enough hints to suggest that this is how we are to think of the Garden of Eden.


At one point, a beautiful girl offers Bud (David) a nice red apple, and it is at this moment he realises that all this beauty and colour that is beginning to come into this world cannot coexist without evil. What is happening is a kind of felix culpa, a happy fault. Now for St Thomas, this retelling of the Genesis story just wouldn't hang together. St Thomas believed that before the Fall, the garden would have been very beautiful, Adam and Eve would have had passions, they would have had sex, and in fact, their joy and appreciation of creation would have been much more intense than it is now:
sensible delight would have been the greater in proportion to the greater purity of nature and the greater sensibility of the body (ST 1a,q98 a.2)
When this foreign element of sin came into their world, it dulled their senses, they became repressed and the world became a less delightful place. The Fall of Man wasn't a happy fault because it brought colour into our world, but because it merited such and so great a Redeemer. Read more

Scripture Study Day in Leeds

Thursday, January 26, 2012
Earlier this month Fr. Richard Ounsworth OP and I were invited by the Leeds Cathedral Young Adults Group to lead them in a study day on scripture. I enjoyed the day immensely, it was a pleasure to get to know this lively group of young Catholics and good to see such enthusiasm for the faith. Over the course of quite a full programme, which included an exploration of some of the various 'types' of Christ found in the Old Testament and an introduction to the theology of St.Paul, one of the particpants expressed his surprise and delight to discover that 'the Bible is Catholic.'

I thought this was an interesting and revealing comment. Perhaps in the past there has been a tendency to separate scripture and tradition. Perhaps there has even been a slight suspicion of the scriptures, an anxiety that they are a bit 'Protestant' and opposed to Catholic sacraments and liturgy. One of the objectives of the Second Vatican Council was to allay such fears and draw Catholics attention back to the scriptural foundations of the Church's teaching and life. This, it was hoped, would facilitate a spiritual and evangelical renewal of the Body of Christ.

Fr Richard speaking in Leeds

For the Council, neglect of our scriptures means the neglect of our own Tradition (in the fullest sense) and the neglect of our mission. This scriptural outlook of Vatican II was interestingly anticipated by Bede Jarrett OP, the founder of Blackfriars Oxford and Provincial of the English Province between 1916-1932. In 1908 Fr. Bede wrote to congratulate a Brother who was to be assigned to the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem for higher studies declaring: 'Scripture is the study above all others that appeals to the religious side of the English character.'

This, it seems to me, is as true now as it was then, and perhaps the English fascination with the Bible is not as distinctive or unusual as Bede Jarrett implies. If we are to preach effectively to societies that have lost touch with their Christian roots then we must preach with words that 'seem to come from God' (1 Peter 4: 11). Studying and meditating upon the word of God would seem to be an excellent preperation for such preaching. The increased interest of young Catholics in scripture must therefore be a tremendous sign of hope for the future.  Read more

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Christian Unity in the First Millennium

Friday, January 20, 2012
When we talk about divisions among Christians, it’s all too easy to suggest that everything was just great until 1054, when there was the schism with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and then there was a further split in the West at the Reformation, and all our problems stem from those two events. Leaving aside the question of whether 1054 is really the date when East and West definitively split, this schema overlooks the struggles to maintain the unity of the Church, some more successful than others, that went on throughout the first millennium. Read more

Fruits of Study 2: Why Do We Have a Clergy?

Thursday, September 01, 2011
The presence of clerics within the Catholic Church is, to many critics, inside and outside the Church, a problem and stumbling block. From the outside the Roman Catholic Church can seem like a “notoriously clerical affair”. It is often perceived that having a ‘clerical class’ amongst the people of God, acting as “rulers of God’s people”, is in direct opposition to Christ’s call for his followers to be characterized by profound humility. However to understand the need for bishops, priests and deacons within the Church, one must start by showing that the clergy was divinely established by Christ and present within the Apostolic Church. Read more

Fruits of Study: Introduction

Friday, August 26, 2011
Study plays a central part in Dominican life, and informs all our writing and preaching, so that it could all be called the fruit of our study. Read more

Thinking Faith and the Grand Design

Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Last week Brother Robert Verrill attended the Thinking Faith week at Boarbank Hall and he gave a talk about Stephen Hawking’s latest book ‘the Grand Design.’ Here is a summary of his talk. Read more

Aquinas Colloquium, Blackfriars, Oxford

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Artefacts from the Provincial Archives

Thursday, February 03, 2011
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If Love it is ... Aquinas Lecture 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011
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St Thomas Tweets

Saturday, July 17, 2010
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