Here are St. Thomas Aquinas’ rules for study: “Necessary Dispositions to Study” (sent by St. Thomas as a letter to a Dominican brother, as recorded in the work Thomistic Principles in a Catholic School, by Theodore Brauer and others, B. Herder Book Co., 1943):
1. Be not anxious to plunge immediately into the deep sea of wisdom, but advance by the streams that lead to it, (proceed from the general to the particular).
2. By considering simple things you will arrive at the profound.
3. Be slow to speak, and slower in frequenting places of talk.
4. Cherish the purity of your heart.
5. Pray ceaselessly.
6. Desire to keep to yourself, that you may be intimate with God.
7. Pay no attention to the affairs of other people.
8. Do not be familiar with anyone; familiarity breeds contempt.
9. Avoid at all costs the activities and talk of the outside world.
10. Avoid all useless visits
11. Walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men.
12. Pay no attention to the source of a lesson, but memorize any useful advice you might hear and do not memorize useless things.
13. Be sure that you understand what you read and hear, (all terms must be properly defined and understood per theological usage).
13. Never leave a doubt unresolved.
14. Take pains to lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, discarding all useless details.
15. Do not try to know things that are above you.
From Fr. A. D. Sertillanges, O.P. on Study (Taken from The Intellectual Life, Newman Press, 1956):
- Write down your resolve to study in black and white and repeat what you have written aloud; take copious notes on what is studied and re-examine them later.
- Set aside a certain part of each day to concentrate on the work at hand.
- Arrange one’s study time so that this time can be reserved without inconveniencing others or neglecting daily duties.
- Two to six hours a day spent in study is most fruitful.
- Eat a light breakfast, heartier midday meal, light dinner
- It is always better to work alone than with defective help.
- Also do manual work “for a change” when possible.
- Remember that everything depends on the connection of ideas, (integralism); genius is dependent on links.
- Hasten slowly; the consummation of steady constancy and patience is perseverance. What does it matter if times runs on when one is established in God?
- Remember that advisors are often irresponsible and indifferent
- Results sometimes come late, but they come.
- Put these counsels into practice, and you will attain what you desire, (St. Thomas Aquinas).
- Remember that in the introduction to his Summa, St. Thomas Aquinas tells the student it is for beginners! How far we have yet to go to even come close to rivaling the mind of this giant of faith.