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The Life of Virtue - Studiosity

Sunday, September 27, 2009
Study is one of the central components of Dominican spirituality. To be studious is to be appropriately eager to study. It is having the desire to apply one’s mind to something; to learn about it, to know it, so that one may understand it. To develop, foster and have the virtue of studiosity is a good thing. It is just as natural and proper for humans to desire knowledge, as it is to desire the pleasures of food and drink. Aristotle observes in his Metaphysics “all human beings have a natural desire for knowledge." Apart from this natural inclination, we are commanded by God to: “Study wisdom, my son, and make my heart joyful, that thou mayest give an answer to him that reproacheth." Ultimately we all desire to know that which is true, that which is Truth itself; and that Truth, which is God, wishes us to know him.

Studiosity is a desire; it therefore belongs to temperance. If we have an appetite for study, like all appetitive movements, it will need to be moderated. We can easily fall into the vice of curiosity, when we allow our pride to drive our yearning for knowledge. When we do this we try to put ourselves above God. We also do this when we separate our study from the due end: God. This does not mean that when learning about the Imperial German Armee-Inspektion or Cornish cheese- production, we have to insert God; but we must remember that what we are learning about is not the be all and end all of everything.

Also if we engage in study in order to sin, we put ourselves against God. We must be careful in what we study. This requires an element of humility. We might not intend to sin but we can easily fall into sin by studying things that might be above our intelligence. This can lead us into error. Likewise our natural curiosity can become superstitious. St. Augustine gives the example of many being excommunicated by their interest in studying demonology and witchcraft.

We must also remember that there is a hierarchy of our studies. At times we have an obligation to certain pursuits but also some areas are more important than others. We cannot let our curiosity take us off track. St. Jerome observed: "we see priests forsaking the gospels and the prophets, reading stage-plays, and singing the love songs of pastoral idylls." This is not to say that we can not have other studious interests, outside our primary focus, but they must be subordinate.

Mark Davoren


Sean Naughton commented on 12-Sep-2015 01:32 PM
Dear Mark, thank you for your wonderful summary of studiosity. I found the distinction between studiosity and curiosiity particulalry helpful. Do you have any advice or insights for those of us who teach children from age 5-11? God bless you, Sean Naughton (Primary school teacher, UK). Ave Maria

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