Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bene Scripsisti de Me Thomma

Today we honor one of the Doctors of the Church and arguably the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas. He has been given the title "Angelic Doctor" He was known by another nickname while studying at the cathedral school in Cologne. St. Thomas was very stout in physical stature and understood things very easily. He was thus quiet and reserved and his classmates nicknamed him the "Dumb Ox". His genius however was not missed on by St. Albert the Great, a Doctor of the Church himself, whom he studied under. While speaking in class he bellowed out "one day this Dumb Ox will be heard all over the world" St. Thomas Aquinas wrote of the nature of God, the nature of the Trinity, and the nature of Jesus Christ. He believed in the Natural Law and the "first principles" "this is the first precept of the law, that good is to be done and promoted, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this ..." He defined the four cardinal virtues as prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. The cardinal virtues are natural and revealed in nature, and they are binding on everyone. There are, however, three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. These are supernatural and are distinct from other virtues in their object, namely, God: "Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues." His greatest work Summa Theologica is a systematic summary for most of Christian theology. In it he gives his Five Ways for the existence of God. He left it unfinished however, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274. The Catholic Church has produce a myriad of great saints each doing God's work in their own humble way. In G.K. Chesterton's book on St. Thomas Aquinas, chapter one Chesterton writes in paralleling St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas " You can make a sketch of St. Francis: you could only make a plan of St. Thomas, like the plan of a labyrinthe city" His works have a had profound effect on Christianity and philosophy. "Bene Scripsisti de Me Thomma" "You have written well of me Thomas." The words of Christ to St. Thomas while he contemplated the crucifix in prayer.

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