The Veritas Dominican Schola in Bulgaria

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The Veritas Dominican Schola in Bulgaria
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As a contribution to the Chain of Preachers of Hope Lay Dominican Bogdan-Dominic Penev tells us about the Dominican professors teaching in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is a traditionally Orthodox country, Catholics being only about one percent of the population. The fact that orthodoxy is never influential enough on society results in three main consequences: poor general understanding of what Christianity is per se, strong dualistic notions in the thinking of the average Bulgarian and a bad image of the Catholic Church, reduced mainly to Crusades, Inquisition and sinful Popes. At the same time the average Bulgarian in her/his hunger for the truth may display extraordinary openness of mind. All this makes the presence of the Dominican Order in these lands a matter of utter necessity because it is capable of preaching the Good News, explaining it and defending it against misunderstandings by rational means. Yet, unfortunately, the Lay branch of our Order is the only Dominican entity in the country and the near future doesn’t seem very bright regarding possible Dominican mission. So, what to do?

The answer came by the end of the Jubilee year, when we had invited a famous Polish Dominican theologian to come to Bulgaria to give lectures on Thomism on the occasion of the Jubilee. It was Br. Michal Paluch OP, who was later appointed by the Master Rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and is now serving in this capacity. He was the one to take the issue seriously and came up with an idea how to make the Dominican way present without having Dominicans sur place.

Thus the Veritas Dominican Schola was established and its first course – Basics of Theology – initiated. Four times a year, a prominent Dominican theologian would come with a Saturday-long lecture session on major theological topics. The programme of the course is based on the classical university curricula of Theology, adapted and shortened, as if in a pill, for both laity to learn and clergy to refresh. So far, two sessions have taken place and quickly gained popularity in the parish, in the diocese and even among some (hopefully) future converts. The Fraternity for its part does its best to popularize the course by issuing flyers about it and spread them throughout the country, as well as advertising it on its Facebook page.

The course already has steady attenders who seem to be deeply moved by the knowledge of truth revealed to them and aspire to deepen it. The lectures are also being audio- and video- recorded and are currently being edited to be issued on the web; a written version is being prepared as well. As a whole the Schola puts an emphasis on and uses as a kind of motto the following sentences: “You will know the truth and it will set you free” (John 8:32), “In order to come to love one needs to get to know the object of one’s love” and “The truth is the accordance of the reason with reality” (St Thomas Aquinas).

During the sessions, the Fraternity also organizes a book market of mostly Dominican titles translated predominantly by its members. Recently, we translated and edited the Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena. Of note, the whole Summa Theologiae has also been translated into Bulgarian by a famous philosophy professor in Sofia and is also available to buy.

The Dominican Schola is a great way of serving Catholics in Bulgaria by offering them the good scholastic approach, helping them to strengthen their faith and to put in order their view on reality and thus become better Catholics in their everyday life. Also, this is a way of presenting the Dominican way to those who may find it attractive in their hearts and decide to follow it. At the same time it gives an opportunity to both local Church authorities and Order representatives to get to know each other, which, if God wills it, may end up in a Dominican mission in our country.

Veritas!

Bogdan-Dominic Penev OPs,
St Catherine of Alexandria LDF of Sofia, Bulgaria

 

(30 September 2017)