Sunday, May 2, 2010

Why Study Saint Thomas?

In my experience with fellow Catholics, it has been my observation that most are not familiar with the writings of St. Thomas' Aquinas. As a result, Catholic parishes have in large part been undermined by bad theological or philosophical principles. This fact is revealed in many ways, but most easily observed in how the Mass is celebrated in these parishes. Clergy and laymen alike have largely been duped by the modernist philosophies that pervade our time. While reading St. Thomas, or works that are written about him, may be challenging at first, the payoff in the end is enormous. It will take a couple of months to familiarize yourself with the terminology that is used in such works. Keep your computer close by so you can look up words that you are not familiar with. For those who are used to reading popular works that are published by companies like Ignatius Press or the like, (Which I am fan of) you will find works on St. Thomas to be quite heavy reading at first. But once you have labored through a few books you will find that you have been missing out on a great source of spiritual and intellectual nourishment that you just can't find anywhere else. 

In 1914 Pope Pius X wrote a Motu Proprio titled Doctoris Angelici. The Pope is quite blunt as to the importance St.Thomas has for the Church at large, especially when it comes to holding fast to the Catholic faith. If you have been putting off reading St. Thomas, or reading a theological work about him, put it off no longer. The time you have to invest up front in looking up philosophical terms in dictionaries, etc, will be well worth the payoff in the end. It may take you twice as long to read the first couple of books, but after you invest the time you will be well on your way to understanding and living your Catholic faith in much richer manner than ever before. You will also find that it is much easier to defend the Catholic faith by applying simple Thomistic principles to answer arguments that are brought against the Catholic faith. Although the Motu Proprio below was aimed more at clergy, it has great importance to all Catholics in today's Church. 

Excerpt from Doctoris Angelici

St. Thomas perfected and augmented still further by the almost angelic quality of his intellect all this superb patrimony of wisdom which he inherited from his predecessors and applied it to prepare, illustrate and protect sacred doctrine in the minds of men (In Librum Boethii de Trinitate, quaest, ii, 3). Sound reason suggests that it would be foolish to neglect it and religion will not suffer it to be in any way attenuated. And rightly, because, if Catholic doctrine is once deprived of this strong bulwark, it is useless to seek the slightest assistance for its defence in a philosophy whose principles are either common to the errors of materialism, monism, pantheism, socialism and modernism, or certainly not opposed to such systems. The reason is that the capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church.
We therefore desired that all teachers of philosophy and sacred theology should be warned that if they deviated so much as a step, in metaphysics especially, from Aquinas, they exposed themselves to grave risk. We now go further and solemnly declare that those who in their interpretations misrepresent or affect to despise the principles and major theses of his philosophy are not only not following St. Thomas but are even far astray from the saintly Doctor. If the doctrine of any writer or Saint has ever been approved by Us or Our Predecessors with such singular commendation and in such a way that to the commendation were added an invitation and order to propagate and defend it, it may easily be understood that it was commended to the extent that it agreed with the principles of Aquinas or was in no way opposed to them.
We have deemed it Our apostolic duty to make this declaration and order so that the clergy, both regular and secular, may clearly know Our will and mind in a matter of the gravest importance, and fulfil Our desire with the appropriate alacrity and diligence. Teachers of Christian philosophy and sacred theology will be particularly zealous in this respect, for they must bear in mind that they have not been entrusted with the duty of teaching in order to impart to their pupils whatever opinions they please, but to instruct them in the most approved doctrines of the Church.


Paul Hoffer said...

Have you read the Abbot Vonier's "A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist" which is a discussion of St. Thomas A's doctrine on the Real Presence, Transubstantiation, and the Eucharistic sacrifice? I am enjoying it very much right now/

God bless!

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi Paul. I do have that book on my shelf but I have not read it yet! It is on my list.