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Practical Wisdom

August 31, 2009

Last week I began auditing a course at Dominican House of Studies here in Washington, DC. During my first class, the professor was speaking on the unity in sacred doctrine of speculative wisdom and practical wisdom as discussed by St. Thomas Aquinas in Question 1 of the First Part of Summa Theologica.

My professor’s first example of a unity of speculative and practical wisdom was of someone we might describe as “crunchy”. Why do we call him “crunchy”? Because he eats granola. Why does he eat granola? Because he doesn’t eat meat. Why doesn’t he eat meat? Because he adheres to a philosophy where killing animals may cause ill effect in this life or the next. So in fact, according to this man’s beliefs, he is acting very honorably because his speculative and practical wisdom are united.

I thought too of my Muslim roommate during my freshman year of college. I found her to be the most honorable person I met that year. During the feast of Ramadan, she would wake up before the sun to pray, eat, brush her teeth, then go back to bed. Why? Because she was fasting from dawn to sunset. Why? Because she was purifying herself. Why? To worship Allah without impurity.

This lesson made me think about how Catholics act and why. Have you ever had someone ask you, why do you cross yourself? Why do you tell your sins to a priest? Why do you pray in front of abortion clinics? Why do you decline offers to “come back to my place”? Why do you pray the rosary?

These are some examples of how speculative and practical wisdom are united in our Catholic faith. By performing certain acts and knowing why we do them, we will be a witness to Christ and his Church. How do your actions reflect your Catholic faith?

Be doers of the word and not hearers only. James 1:22

For reference: Why Do Catholics Do That? by Kevin Orlin Johnson

Filed in: Moral Life • Tags:

Comments (1)

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  1. Michael says:

    A great question to ask, which I have found often leads to the question, why do I NOT do? Why do I NOT know? Enjoy the rest of your class!