Study: a Dominican pillar

Study is one of the four pillars the Dominican life is built on, and it is a characteristic element of our tradition. To some, all this suggests is that the Order is – or should be – full of intellectuals who simply know a lot of stuff; and in the worst case: all head and little heart.
However, Dominican study, as a part of the Dominican way of life, is not simply a gathering of information. It is a quest for wisdom. It is seeking truth, in all its sizes, forms and shapes. Ultimately, it is seeking the One who is God’s Wisdom incarnate (1 Corinthians 1:24), the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
It is a contemplative exercise which is about getting to know a person and entering a relationship. 
For this to become a reality, our study must be integrated into our life, nourished by prayer, and marked by the practice of the Evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity and obedience.

Poverty is the starting point of any form of study. To acknowledge oneself to be poor is to admit to a lack, that one needs to receive something from others.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you
. (James 1:5)
This is the attitude of a mendicant. To admit to a minimum of intellectual and spiritual poverty is essential, because to learn something, we must first acknowledge that we actually have something to learn. That is why the monastic tradition teaches that humility is a necessary prerequisite for doing theology. 
However, if we study in a contemplative way, if we truly seek the truth, our studies will also make us humbler. As we approach the mystery of God, we will discover more and more how this mystery is beyond us, how our categories are too narrow, our words insufficient, our imagination limited. Towards the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas had the famous vision after which he claimed that compared to what he had seen, all his work was but straw. That is not to say that our learning is ultimately useless, but to confess with joy that God is always greater.
We must also be chaste in our study. This implies that we approach the truth, not as something we want to possess or use or dominate, but in love, ready to be its servant and to admire its beauty and splendour. The contemplative mind comes to see that the truth is beautiful! 
Also, we do not seek knowledge or wisdom to possess, use or dominate others, but to serve them and offer them what we have learnt as a gift for them to avail of freely.
Simply I learned about Wisdom, and ungrudgingly do I share - her riches I do not hide away; For to men she is an unfailing treasure; those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God, to whom the gifts they have from discipline commend them. (Wisdom 7:13-14)
There is a significant difference between seeking truth, or even the Truth, and seeking to be right. In the latter case, what I seek is really myself, while in the former, I go out of myself and turn towards something – or Someone – else. If I seek to be right this usually implies that someone else must be wrong, and that I want to assert myself over against them. If I seek the truth, on the other hand, I am open to the contribution of others, to all that can help me discover what is true.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)
Finally, obedience, attentive listening and putting into practice what we hear, is at the heart of any form of study. Unless we receive what we learn with an open mind and heart and are ready to have both our ideas and our behaviour changed – to be changed as persons – our study will be as fruitless as seed sown by the wayside or on rocky ground (cf. Mark 4:4-5). The Bible talks not just about knowing the truth, but also of doing the truth and living according to or in the truth (John 3:21; 1 John 1:6). Obedient study is willingness to adjust to the truth as we discover it, to be transformed to His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), to receive the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Only obedient study will lead us to true wisdom.
Study in our life is intimately linked to the other pillars: prayer, preaching and community. It is the four of them together who uphold and keep the Dominican life stable. Study is led and nourished by prayer, and flows back into it: prayer is born of and guided by our study. Both bear fruit in preaching as we pass on to others the fruits of our contemplation, and both contribute to unite us as a preaching community. Our community life offers new insights to be studied, prayed about and shared, as well as being the matrix in which all our life can grow and flourish. Here, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone […] the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)