A Tribute to the Angelic Doctor 7

St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (1225-1274)

I woke up this morning, realizing that today is the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, inspired to write a brief panegyric to the great saint and place this blog under his patronage.

Aquinas is best known for his monumental treatise, The Summa Theologiae. The Summa — one of his later works, completed by his companion and biographer, Reginald of Piperno, after his untimely death — was originally commissioned by Pope Urban IV, as a “studium” (students’ manual) for theology students. In 1323, less than fifty years after his death, it was cited in the cause for his canonization. As one of the cardinals in the canonization process noted: “Tot miraculis, quot articles” (there are as many miracles [in his life] as articles [in his Summa]), viz., thousands (see Wikipedia article).

Regarding his own work, near the end of his life, Thomas famously told Reginald: “All that I have written seems like straw to me” (mihi videtur ut palea).

Thomas was not only a great theologian, philosopher, and top class logician; he was also a man of deep religious conviction and faith. Of his greatest contributions to the Church, one cannot overlook his magnificent Eucharistic hymns, e.g., the Adoro devote, Pange lingua, and Lauda Sion, which he was commissioned to write for the liturgy of the feast of Corpus Christi. Here’s my favorite verse from the Tantum Ergo (attributed to Aquinas):

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.

Translation: Therefore, to so great a Sacrament, let us venerate by falling prostrate! And let the Old Law give way to the New Rite. Let faith supply assistance to our deficient senses.

Here’s a video compilation of the hymn, with the Latin text and translation into English:

Finally, one cannot go without mentioning Thomas’s sharp critical mind. In this regard, one of my favorite quotes from Aquinas is from his Commentary on Aristotle’s De coelo:

The fact that these phenomena can be explained in this way is no proof of the theory’s truth; for the same phenomena might be better explained in a wholly different way as yet unknown to men. (In de coelo et mundo II, 17, 451)

The fact that he issued this statement while commenting on a text that espoused a geocentric vision of the universe testifies to the fact that the great thinker’s mind was way ahead of its time. Yet few take note of his outside-the-box way of thinking when criticizing his “medivalistic views.”

I’d like to end with the saint’s own words, the Prayer of St Thomas Aquinas:

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.

Amen.  

St Thomas Aquinas, Pray for Us!

Recommended Reading:

7 comments

  1. One thing that really impresses me in S. Thomas besides his intelligence is his deep humility. He never took truth for granted and always was very fair with people that have different opinion to his.

    In the Summa Theoligiae, for example, he always starts each article exposing the “opponent’s” ideas. Only afterward does he start to present his own thought objectively, until he gets to the Truth.
    I think we need more of this nowadays!

    By the way… The Dumb Ox is a great book by G.K. Chesterton!
    He presents the S. Thomas Aquinas as The Saint that we should look up to in the 20th Century!

  2. Thy Kingdom Come!

    Dear Dr. James in Christ,

    Happy Feast Day of All Saints! I hope you’re doing fantastically! I just wanted to thank you after recently finishing my strengthsfinding! It took awhile since the book made the journey via boat, but I found it really helpful. Thank you so much for that and the many great helps you’ve given me throughout the year.

    Rome has been very nice, and I’m getting a bit more settled day by day. The subjects (I almost said ‘materials’) this year are additionally fascinating. I’m taking an extra seminar on Summa Contra Gentiles in English with Fr. Mitchell, and also an elective on Esthetics! Rome has been especially nice to be able to go to the beginning mass for the Year of Faith as well as the Canonizations of a couple of my favorite saints. The differences aren’t as shocking as I had expected. It’s not like the default font of word is Times Old Roman or that they use Roman Numerals all the time.

    Thank you very much again, and please be assured of my prayers!

    Yours in Christ,
    Br. Robert Wills, LC

    • Great to hear from you Br Robert! I am glad to know that Rome is treating you well and that you are taking some fantastic courses. Be assured of my prayers for you and the rest of the second year brothers from TW there, all my former students — and Hey, it’s All Souls Day — everyone else. God bless!

  3. Hi James, I tried to send you a email since last week, but your mail box is full, it says. Do you have another email you are using?

  4. James, quick question for you. You had some excellent insights/comments/observations about the film “No Country for Old Men.” This film has come up again in some exchanges I am having… But I can’t for the life of me remember the gist of your observations! Have you written about this somewhere? If not, do you think maybe, at your convenience, you could email me a summary of your take on the film and what we can get out of it? Hope your Lent is going fantastic so far… Peace in Him, Fr John Bartunek, LC

    • Hi Fr John! Great to hear from you!

      I don’t have anything written, but let me do that. I will send you an email by tomorrow with some reflections, thoughts, insights… to the best of my ability.

      Oremos ad invicem!

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