As a Dominican Sister, I have come to understand and cherish the great value of having Study as an essential identity my religious life. As a young person, I had seen school and study as something which had to be done. Study was the thing which I did to pass tests. It was part of life, and definitely not exciting.
I met the Dominican Sisters when I went to college, and that experience transformed my life. There I saw women who were true scholars in their fields. They were not only committed to religious life, but to the entire concept of wisdom, knowledge, and scholarship. Minimalism in study was unacceptable: they represented to me the best of the medieval concept of the university where learning was a way of life. A mediocre student was not a student. I learned from the sisters that it is a scandal for a Dominican to live a mediocre life.
These Dominican Sisters showed in a tangible way the connection between study and faith. The purpose of study is to find the truth, whether the truth is Latin grammar or Dante’s poetry, or psychology terminology. Jesus said that He was the way and the truth and the life, so in the search for truth, God would be found. Wasn’t that the whole meaning of life? I thought so.
Over time, I came to love study. I loved the challenge, and I loved the satisfaction obtained from learning about an entirely new world of thought. Study is not an end to itself, or a way to impress other people. Graduate degrees establish professional credibility, but Study is a form of prayer. There will always be more to know, and someone will always be there who knows more, and recognizing this helps to keep the ego in check. How else could we find God unless we make room for Him?
I have been blessed in my religious life to have studied many things. I find too, that in the wisdom of God, everything I have learned or experienced in my study is somehow transformed into being of use in the ministry. Nothing is wasted when obtained by prayerful study.
In the Baltimore Catechism the first question was, “Why did God make me?” The answer, “To know him, to love him, and to serve him.” Without study, we can never know him. Study allows a Dominican to know God, then to love him, and finally, to serve him for the rest of our life. What a wonderful Dominican legacy!