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Dominican Mottos: Veritas

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dominicans have a few mottos which encapsulate their purpose and mission. Frequently cited is veritas (truth). The other two most commonly quoted are laudare, benedicere, praedicare (to praise, to bless, to preach) and contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation).


According to the Bible, God is the source of truth: ‘The sum of thy word is truth’ (Ps 119:160), ‘I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right’ (Is 45:19). He guides his people in his truth: ‘Lead me in thy truth, and teach me’ (Ps 25:5); ‘Teach me thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth’ (Ps 86:11). St Thomas Aquinas states that there ‘not only is truth in [God], but he is truth itself, supreme first truth’ (Summa Theologiae I.q16.a5).

In Jesus Christ the whole of God’s truth became manifest, ‘full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14). He came as ‘the Light of the world’ (Jn 9:5) and as ‘the Truth’ (Jn 14:6) to testify to this: ‘For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth’ (Jn 18:37). His disciples continue in his word because ‘the truth will make you free’ (Jn 8:32).

To follow Christ is to liv
e by the Spirit he sent, ‘the Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:17; 15.26; 16:13), who bears witness to Jesus and sanctifies the disciples in truth (Jn 17:17). Loving the truth (2 Th 2:10) and ‘speaking the truth in love’, they grow into the fullness of their head, Christ (Eph 4:15). To be a Christian is to be a member of Christ’s body (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 5:30) — the Church (Col 1:24) — which is ‘the pillar and bulwark of the truth’ (1 Tim 3:15).

Catechism teaches us that human beings naturally tend toward the truth; they are morally bound to seek truth, to adhere to the truth once they come to know it, and to direct their whole lives in accordance with what the truth demands (n. 2467).

The conviction that God is our beginning and our end, that we come from him and are going to him, that he himself is truth and that truth will set us free, is the ground of all Dominican action. As the hymn Adoro te devote (allegedly by St Thomas Aquinas) says, ‘Truth himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true’. In the final analysis everything is about love: who we love and how much. But in order to love God and our neighbour better, we must know God and ourselves better. Love is served by knowledge.

St. Dominic sought ‘the salvation of souls’ by preaching truth to his hearers. He
instituted study as Dominican asceticism so that we might preach truth soundly and convincingly. St. Thomas Aquinas, like every good Dominican, firmly believed that there was all truth somewhere but also that there was some truth everywhere. He took all objections seriously, carefully distinguishing any truth in it from its error. This is the basis of the modern theological use of the term ‘dialogue’: the pursuit of truth is a shared journey of discovery.

Dominicans cannot be interested in quashing their opponents. They seek to buil
d with everyone on the same edifice of truth. Our pursuit of truth necessarily entails that we should also explain and defend the truth, in the old-fashioned sense of the word ‘apology’. Pope Honorius III, who officially approved the Order, told St. Dominic that he was ‘convinced that the brothers of your Order will be champions of the Faith and true lights of the world’.

The great Dominican St. Catherine of Siena summed up our ideal with her prayer ‘God grant that I may always be a lover and proclaimer of truth, and that for the sake of truth I may die’ (Letters, 277). In this love for truth, the great model for Dominicans is Our Lady, Mary, the mother of Jesus. She opened her heart and mind to the truth God sent her (Lk 1:38; 2:19, 51) and sought God’s will for herself and others (Gn 2:5) in spite of the pain it brought her personally (Lk 2:35; Jn 19:25). Recognising her son as Truth, Mary pondered his words (Jn 2:4) and the events of his life (Lk 2:19, 51).

This reflection, written by Fr Leon Pereira OP, is available in leaflet form at Blackfriars, Oxford


Anonymous commented on 10-Oct-2017 06:54 AM
So is truth the word of the lord and is seeking truth engaging in conversation and dialogue? Any answers would be appreciated, thank you!

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