Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

THE “SUMMA THEOLOGICA”, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS’ MASTERPIECE

St. Thomas surrounded by the Doctors of the Church.

Over the past two decades, there has been a resurgence in Thomism.  The Holy Father’s catechesis shows us how eloquent St. Thomas was through his composition of the Summa.  One of the great features of his work is the section on the virtues.  This of course could only be preached by one of lived it first. The late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira said,

“In truth, St. Thomas possessed all the moral virtues in a very high degree, and so closely bound together in his soul that they formed one whole in charity [the love of God], which, as he himself states, ‘informs the acts of all the other virtues.’

I hope that everyone will take up the task to study St. Thomas and his Summa.  If you find his work difficult to read (which it can be), I suggest The Tour of the Summa, by Paul J. Glenn.  Enjoy the Holy Father’s catechesis on the Angelic Doctor!

VATICAN CITY, 23 JUN 2010 (VIS) – In today’s general audience, celebrated in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope delivered the last in a series of three catecheses on the figure of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The Holy Father explained how St. Thomas’ masterpiece, the “Summa Theologica”, contains 512 questions and 2,669 articles in which the saint “precisely, clearly and pertinently” outlines the truths of faith as they emerge from “the teachings of Holy Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church, especially St. Augustine”. This exertion “of the human mind was always illuminated – as St. Thomas’ own life shows – by prayer, by the light that comes from on high.

“In his ‘Summa'”, the Pope added, “St. Thomas starts from the fact that God exists in three different ways: God exists in Himself, He is the principle and end of all things, so all creatures come from and depend upon Him. Secondly, God is present through His Grace in the life and activity of Christians, of the saints. Finally, God is present in a very special way in the person of Christ, and in the Sacraments which derive from His work of redemption”.

“St. Thomas dedicates special attention to the mystery of the Eucharist, to which he was particularly devoted”, said Benedict XVI, encouraging people “to follow the example of the saints and love this Sacrament. Let us participate devotedly in Mass in order to obtain its spiritual fruits; let us feed from the Body and Blood of the Lord that we may be incessantly nourished by divine Grace; let us pause willingly and often in the company of the Blessed Sacrament”.

The Holy Father went on: “What St. Thomas explained with academic rigour in his main theological works such as the ‘ Summa Theologica’ was also expressed in his preaching”, the content of which “corresponds almost in its entirety to the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Indeed, in a time such as our own of renewed commitment to evangelisation, catechism and preaching must never lack the following fundamental themes: what we believe, i.e., the Creed; what we pray, i.e., the Our Father and the Ave Maria; and what we live as biblical revelation teaches us, i.e., the law of the love of God and neighbour and the Ten Commandments”.

“In his brief ‘Devotissima expositio super symbolum apostolorum’, St. Thomas explains the importance of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God, … life is given a clear direction and we can easily overcome temptations. To those who object that faith is foolish because it makes us believe something that does not enter into the experience of the senses, St. Thomas offers a very detailed response, claiming that this is an inconsistent objection because human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything.

“Only if we were able to have perfect knowledge of all things visible and invisible would it be foolish to accept truth out of pure faith”, said the Pope. “Moreover, as St. Thomas observes, it is impossible to live without entrusting ourselves to the experience of others, when our personal knowledge does not extend far enough. Thus it is reasonable to have faith in God Who reveals Himself, and in the witness of the Apostles”.

Commenting on the article of the Creed concerning the incarnation of the Divine Word, St. Thomas says that “the Christian faith is reinforced in the light of the mystery of the Incarnation; hope emerges more trustingly at the thought that the Son of God came among us as one of us, to communicate His divinity to mankind; charity is revived because there is no more evident sign of God’s love for us than to see the Creator of the universe Himself become a creature”, said the Holy Father.

“St. Thomas, like all saints, was greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin”, Pope Benedict concluded. “He gave her a stupendous title: ‘Triclinium totius Trinitatis'; in other words, the place where the Trinity finds repose because, thanks to the Incarnation, the three divine persons dwell in her as in no other creature, and experience the delight and joy of living in her soul full of Grace. Through her intercession we can obtain any kind of help”.

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