Saint Thomas d'Aquin
Frère prêcheur, docteur de l'Église (+ 1274)
Né dans une noble famille napolitaine, élevé à l'abbaye bénédictine du Mont-Cassin, Thomas choisit cependant, à 19 ans, d'entrer chez les Frères Prêcheurs. Ce n'est guère du goût de sa famille, qui le fait enlever et enfermer. L'ordre dominicain est un ordre mendiant, fondé quelques années plus tôt, et il n'avait pas bonne presse dans l'aristocratie. Au bout d'un an, Thomas peut enfin suivre sa vocation. On l'envoie à Paris pour y suivre les cours de la bouillonnante Université. Il a comme professeur saint Albert le Grand. Pour ce dernier, il faut faire confiance à la raison et à l'intelligence de l'homme pour chercher Dieu. Le philosophe le plus approprié à cette recherche est Aristote. Saint Thomas retient la leçon. Devenu professeur, il s'attelle à un gigantesque travail pour la mettre en œuvre. Connaissant très bien Aristote et ses commentateurs, mais aussi la Bible et la tradition patristique chrétienne, il élabore une pensée originale, qu'il expose dans de multiples ouvrages, dont le plus connu est la "Somme Théologique". Comme professeur, il doit aussi soutenir de véhémentes controverses avec des intellectuels chevronnés. Il voyage aussi à la demande des Papes. Mais c'est l'étude qui a toute sa faveur : à la possession de "Paris la grande ville", il dit préférer "le texte correct des homélies de saint Jean Chrysostome sur l'évangile de saint Matthieu". Il meurt sur la route, en chemin vers Lyon où il devait participer au grand concile de 1274.
Le 23 juillet 2010 - catéchèse sur saint Thomas d'Aquin consacrée à la Summa Theologiae, l'apogée de son œuvre en 512 questions et 2.669 articles. Le Docteur Angélique y expose avec précision et pertinence les vérités de la foi découlant de l'Écriture et des Pères, principalement de saint Augustin. "Comme la vie entière, rappelle Thomas, l'esprit humain doit être sans cesse éclairé par la prière et par la lumière qui vient du Ciel". Dans la Somme, a dit Benoît XVI, saint Thomas décrit les trois modes d'existence de Dieu: Dieu existe en lui même, il est principe et fin de toute chose, tout vient de lui et en dépend. Ensuite, Dieu se manifeste par la grâce dans la vie et l'action du chrétien et des saints. Enfin il est tout particulièrement présent en la personne du Christ et dans les sacrements découlant de sa mission rédemptrice".
Puis le Pape a rappelé que saint Thomas s'est tout spécialement intéressé au mystère eucharistique, pour lequel il avait une grande dévotion... A la suite des saints, attachons-nous à ce sacrement. Participons avec ferveur à la messe afin d'en retirer des fruits spirituels. Nourrissons nous du corps et du sang du Seigneur afin de recevoir continuellement la grâce divine. Arrêtons nous souvent devant le Saint Sacrement! Ce que Thomas d'Aquin a exposé avec rigueur dans son œuvre, et en particulier dans la Somme, il l'a également transmis dans sa prédication. Son contenu...correspond pratiquement entièrement à la structure du Catéchisme de l'Église Catholique... Dans une époque marquée par un fort souci de reévangélisation, ces thèmes fondamentaux ne doivent pas manquer car ils sont ce en quoi nous croyons, le symbole de la foi, ce que nous récitons comme le Pater et l'Ave Maria, ce que nous vivons en vertu de la révélation biblique, ainsi que la loi de l'amour...de Dieu et du prochain".
Dans son "opuscule sur le Symbole des Apôtres", Thomas explique la valeur de la foi. Grâce à elle les âmes s'unissent à Dieu..., la vie trouve sa juste voie et nous le moyen d'éviter les tentations. A qui pense que la foi est obtuse car on ne peut la prouver par nos sens, il offre une réponse complète. Ce doute est sans consistance car l'intelligence est limité et ne saurait tout connaître. Seulement si nous pouvions tout connaître du visible comme de l'invisible, ce serait une véritable faute d'accepter des vérités sur la simple base de la foi. Il est d'ailleurs impossible de vivre sans l'expérience de l'autre, là où la connaissance personnelle n'arrive pas. Il est donc raisonnable de croire en un Dieu qui se révèle, et dans le témoignage des apôtres".
Revenant sur l'article de la Somme consacré à l'incarnation du Verbe de Dieu, le Saint-Père a rappelé que pour saint Thomas la foi chrétienne doit être renforcée par le mystère de l'incarnation. L'espérance s'accroît et se renforce en pensant que le Fils de Dieu est venu parmi nous, comme un de nous, pour communiquer sa divinité aux hommes. La charité est renforcée car il n'y a pas de signe plus évident de l'amour que nous porte Dieu, ni de voir le Créateur se faire créature". Saint Thomas d'Aquin, a conclu Benoît XVI, "fut comme tous les saints un grand dévot de Marie, qu'il a magnifiquement baptisée trône de la Trinité, lieu où elle trouve son repos. Par l'incarnation, dans aucune créature autre qu'elle les trois personnes divines ne séjournent en plénitude de grâce et n'accordent d'aide par l'intercession de la prière". (source: VIS 20100623 610)
- Audiences générales du pape Benoît XVI, catéchèse sur la méditation de certains grands penseurs du Moyen-Age - Saint Thomas d'Aquin.
- Site officiel de l'Académie pontificale de Saint Thomas d'Aquin (en anglais)
- livres de Jean-Pierre Torrell (ordre des dominicains)
- Les œuvres de Thomas d'Aquin disponibles en ligne à la Éditions du Cerf (Dominicains)
Mémoire de saint Thomas d'Aquin, prêtre de l'Ordre des Prêcheurs et docteur de l'Église. Doué des plus hautes qualités intellectuelles, il transmit aux autres, par ses prières et ses écrits, sa sagesse éminente. Appelé par le pape lui-même, le bienheureux Grégoire X, au deuxième Concile général de Lyon, il s'y rendait, quand il mourut au monastère de Fossanova dans le Latium, le 7 mars 1274 et, bien des années après, en 1369, son corps fut transféré à Toulouse en ce jour.
La paix entre les hommes est mieux garantie si chacun se trouve satisfait de ce qui lui appartient. Ce qui convient le mieux à l'homme par rapport aux biens extérieurs, c'est de s'en servir. Sous cet angle, toutefois, l'homme ne doit pas posséder ces biens comme s'ils lui étaient propres, mais comme étant à tous. Il doit donc être disposé à en faire part aux plus pauvres, suivant le conseil de saint Paul.
Saint Thomas - Somme théologique
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100602_fr.html
Chers frères et sœurs,
La principale raison de cette estime réside non seulement dans le contenu de son enseignement, mais aussi dans la méthode qu'il a adoptée, notamment sa nouvelle synthèse et distinction entre philosophie et théologie. Les Pères de l'Eglise se trouvaient confrontés à diverses philosophies de type platonicien, dans lesquelles était présentée une vision complète du monde et de la vie, y compris la question de Dieu et de la religion. En se confrontant avec ces philosophies, eux-mêmes avaient élaboré une vision complète de la réalité, en partant de la foi et en utilisant des éléments du platonisme, pour répondre aux questions essentielles des hommes. Cette vision, basée sur la révélation biblique et élaborée avec un platonisme corrigé à la lumière de la foi, ils l’appelaient «notre philosophie». Le terme de «philosophie» n'était donc pas l'expression d'un système purement rationnel et, en tant que tel, distinct de la foi, mais indiquait une vision d'ensemble de la réalité, construite à la lumière de la foi, mais faite sienne et pensée par la raison; une vision qui, bien sûr, allait au-delà des capacités propres de la raison, mais qui, en tant que telle, était aussi satisfaisante pour celle-ci. Pour saint Thomas, la rencontre avec la philosophie pré-chrétienne d'Aristote (mort vers 322 av. J.-C.) ouvrait une perspective nouvelle. La philosophie aristotélicienne était, évidemment, une philosophie élaborée sans connaissance de l’Ancien et du Nouveau Testament, une explication du monde sans révélation, par la raison seule. Et cette rationalité conséquente était convaincante. Ainsi, l'ancienne formule de «notre philosophie» des Pères ne fonctionnait plus. La relation entre philosophie et théologie, entre foi et raison, était à repenser. Il existait une «philosophie» complète et convaincante en elle-même, une rationalité précédant la foi, et puis la «théologie», une pensée avec la foi et dans la foi. La question pressante était celle-ci: le monde de la rationalité, la philosophie pensée sans le Christ, et le monde de la foi sont-ils compatibles? Ou bien s'excluent-ils? Il ne manquait pas d'éléments qui affirmaient l'incompatibilité entre les deux mondes, mais saint Thomas était fermement convaincu de leur compatibilité — et même que la philosophie élaborée sans la connaissance du Christ attendait en quelque sorte la lumière de Jésus pour être complète. Telle a été la grande «surprise» de saint Thomas, qui a déterminé son parcours de penseur. Montrer cette indépendance entre la philosophie et la théologie et, dans le même temps, leur relation réciproque a été la mission historique du grand maître. Et on comprend ainsi que, au XIXe siècle, alors que l'on déclarait avec force l'incompatibilité entre la raison moderne et la foi, le Pape Léon XIII indiqua saint Thomas comme guide dans le dialogue entre l'une et l'autre. Dans son travail théologique, saint Thomas suppose et concrétise cette relation. La foi consolide, intègre et illumine le patrimoine de vérité que la raison humaine acquiert. La confiance que saint Thomas accorde à ces deux instruments de la connaissance — la foi et la raison — peut être reconduite à la conviction que toutes deux proviennent de l'unique source de toute vérité, le Logos divin, qui est à l'œuvre aussi bien dans le domaine de la création que dans celui de la rédemption.
En plus de l'accord entre la raison et la foi, il faut reconnaître, d'autre part, que celles-ci font appel à des processus de connaissance différents. La raison accueille une vérité en vertu de son évidence intrinsèque, médiate ou immédiate; la foi, en revanche, accepte une vérité sur la base de l'autorité de la Parole de Dieu qui est révélée. Saint Thomas écrit au début de sa Summa Theologiae: «L'ordre des sciences est double; certaines procèdent de principes connus à travers la lumière naturelle de la raison, comme les mathématiques, la géométrie et équivalents; d'autres procèdent de principes connus à travers une science supérieure, c'est-à-dire la science de Dieu et des saints» (I, q. 1, a. 2).
Cette distinction assure l'autonomie autant des sciences humaines que des sciences théologiques. Celle-ci n'équivaut pas toutefois à une séparation, mais implique plutôt une collaboration réciproque et bénéfique. La foi, en effet, protège la raison de toute tentation de manquer de confiance envers ses propres capacités, elle l'encourage à s'ouvrir à des horizons toujours plus vastes, elle garde vivante en elle la recherche des fondements et, quand la raison elle-même s'applique à la sphère surnaturelle du rapport entre Dieu et l'homme, elle enrichit son travail. Selon saint Thomas, par exemple, la raison humaine peut sans aucun doute parvenir à l’affirmation de l'existence d'un Dieu unique, mais seule la foi, qui accueille la Révélation divine, est en mesure de puiser au mystère de l'Amour du Dieu Un et Trine.
Par ailleurs, ce n'est pas seulement la foi qui aide la raison. La raison elle aussi, avec ses moyens, peut faire quelque chose d'important pour la foi, en lui rendant un triple service que saint Thomas résume dans le préambule de son commentaire au De Trinitate de Boèce: «Démontrer les fondements de la foi; expliquer à travers des similitudes les vérités de la foi; repousser les objections qui sont soulevées contre la foi» (q. 2, a. 2). Toute l'histoire de la théologie est, au fond, l'exercice de cet engagement de l'intelligence, qui montre l'intelligibilité de la foi, son articulation et son harmonie interne, son caractère raisonnable, sa capacité à promouvoir le bien de l'homme. La justesse des raisonnements théologiques et leur signification réelle de connaissance se basent sur la valeur du langage théologique, qui est, selon saint Thomas, principalement un langage analogique. La distance entre Dieu, le Créateur, et l'être de ses créatures est infinie; la dissimilitude est toujours plus grande que la similitude (cf. DS 806). Malgré tout, dans toute la différence entre le Créateur et la créature, il existe une analogie entre l'être créé et l'être du Créateur, qui nous permet de parler avec des paroles humaines sur Dieu.
Saint Thomas a fondé la doctrine de l'analogie, outre que sur des thèmes spécifiquement philosophiques, également sur le fait qu'à travers la Révélation, Dieu lui-même nous a parlé et nous a donc autorisés à parler de Lui. Je considère qu'il est important de rappeler cette doctrine. En effet, celle-ci nous aide à surmonter certaines objections de l'athéisme contemporain, qui nie que le langage religieux soit pourvu d'une signification objective, et soutient au contraire qu'il a uniquement une valeur subjective ou simplement émotive. Cette objection découle du fait que la pensée positiviste est convaincue que l'homme ne connaît pas l'être, mais uniquement les fonctions qui peuvent être expérimentées par la réalité. Avec saint Thomas et avec la grande tradition philosophique, nous sommes convaincus qu'en réalité, l'homme ne connaît pas seulement les fonctions, objet des sciences naturelles, mais connaît quelque chose de l'être lui-même, par exemple, il connaît la personne, le Toi de l'autre, et non seulement l'aspect physique et biologique de son être.
A la lumière de cet enseignement de saint Thomas, la théologie affirme que, bien que limité, le langage religieux est doté de sens — car nous touchons l'être — comme une flèche qui se dirige vers la réalité qu'elle signifie. Cet accord fondamental entre raison humaine et foi chrétienne est présent dans un autre principe fondamental de la pensée de saint Thomas d'Aquin: la Grâce divine n'efface pas, mais suppose et perfectionne la nature humaine. En effet, cette dernière, même après le péché, n'est pas complètement corrompue, mais blessée et affaiblie. La grâce, diffusée par Dieu et communiquée à travers le Mystère du Verbe incarné, est un don absolument gratuit avec lequel la nature est guérie, renforcée et aidée à poursuivre le désir inné dans le cœur de chaque homme et de chaque femme: le bonheur. Toutes les facultés de l'être humain sont purifiées, transformées et élevées dans la Grâce divine.
Une application importante de cette relation entre la nature et la Grâce se retrouve dans la théologie morale de saint Thomas d'Aquin, qui apparaît d'une grande actualité. Au centre de son enseignement dans ce domaine, il place la loi nouvelle, qui est la loi de l'Esprit Saint. Avec un regard profondément évangélique, il insiste sur le fait que cette loi est la Grâce de l'Esprit Saint donnée à tous ceux qui croient dans le Christ. A cette Grâce s'unit l'enseignement écrit et oral des vérités doctrinales et morales, transmises par l'Eglise. Saint Thomas, en soulignant le rôle fondamental, dans la vie morale, de l'action de l'Esprit Saint, de la Grâce, dont jaillissent les vertus théologales et morales, fait comprendre que chaque chrétien peut atteindre les autres perspectives du «Sermon sur la montagne» s’il vit un rapport authentique de foi dans le Christ, s'il s'ouvre à l'action de son Saint Esprit. Mais — ajoute saint Thomas d'Aquin — «même si la grâce est plus efficace que la nature, la nature est plus essentielle pour l'homme» (Summa Theologiae, Ia, q.29. a. 3), c'est pourquoi, dans la perspective morale chrétienne, il existe une place pour la raison, qui est capable de discerner la loi morale naturelle. La raison peut la reconnaître en considérant ce qu'il est bon de faire et ce qu'il est bon d'éviter pour atteindre le bonheur qui tient au cœur de chacun, et qui impose également une responsabilité envers les autres, et donc, la recherche du bien commun. En d'autres termes, les vertus de l'homme, théologales et morales, sont enracinées dans la nature humaine. La Grâce divine accompagne, soutient et pousse l'engagement éthique, mais, en soi, selon saint Thomas, tous les hommes, croyants et non croyants, sont appelés à reconnaître les exigences de la nature humaine exprimées dans la loi naturelle et à s'inspirer d'elle dans la formulation des lois positives, c'est-à-dire de celles émanant des autorités civiles et politiques pour réglementer la coexistence humaine.
Lorsque la loi naturelle et la responsabilité qu'elle implique sont niées, on ouvre de façon dramatique la voie au relativisme éthique sur le plan individuel et au totalitarisme de l'Etat sur le plan politique. La défense des droits universels de l'homme et l'affirmation de la valeur absolue de la dignité de la personne présupposent un fondement. Ce fondement n'est-il pas la loi naturelle, avec les valeurs non négociables qu'elle indique? Le vénérable Jean-Paul II écrivait dans son encyclique Evangelium vitae des paroles qui demeurent d'une grande actualité: «Pour l'avenir de la société et pour le développement d'une saine démocratie, il est donc urgent de redécouvrir l'existence de valeurs humaines et morales essentielles et originelles, qui découlent de la vérité même de l'être humain et qui expriment et protègent la dignité de la personne: ce sont donc des valeurs qu'aucune personne, aucune majorité ni aucun Etat ne pourront jamais créer, modifier ou abolir, mais que l'on est tenu de reconnaître, respecter et promouvoir» (n. 71).
En conclusion, Thomas nous propose un concept de la raison humaine ample et confiant: ample, car il ne se limite pas aux espaces de la soi-disant raison empirique-scientifique, mais il est ouvert à tout l'être et donc également aux questions fondamentales et auxquelles on ne peut renoncer de la vie humaine; et confiant, car la raison humaine, surtout si elle accueille les inspirations de la foi chrétienne, est promotrice d'une civilisation qui reconnaît la dignité de la personne, le caractère intangible de ses droits et le caractère coercitif de ses devoirs. Il n'est pas surprenant que la doctrine sur la dignité de la personne, fondamentale pour la reconnaissance du caractère inviolable de l'homme, se soit développée dans des domaines de pensée qui ont recueilli l'héritage de saint Thomas d'Aquin, qui avait une conception très élevée de la créature humaine. Il la définit, à travers son langage rigoureusement philosophique, comme «ce qui se trouve de plus parfait dans toute la nature, c'est-à-dire un sujet subsistant dans une nature rationnelle» (Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 29, a. 3).
La profondeur de la pensée de saint Thomas d'Aquin découle — ne l'oublions jamais — de sa foi vivante et de sa piété fervente, qu'il exprimait dans des prières inspirées, comme celle où il demande à Dieu: «Accorde-moi, je t'en prie, une volonté qui te recherche, une sagesse qui te trouve, une vie qui te plaît, une persévérance qui t'attend avec patience et une confiance qui parvienne à la fin à te posséder».
Je suis heureux de vous accueillir, chers pèlerins de langue française, venus particulièrement de France et de Belgique. Que votre pèlerinage à Rome soit pour vous l'occasion de découvrir toujours plus profondément le visage du Seigneur. Que Dieu vous bénisse!
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100616_fr.html
Chers frères et sœurs,
Mettons-nous donc nous aussi à l’école de saint Thomas et de son chef-d’œuvre, la Summa Theologiae. Celle-ci, bien qu’étant inachevée, est une œuvre monumentale: elle contient 512 questions et 2669 articles. Il s’agit d’un raisonnement serré, dans lequel l’application de l’intelligence humaine aux mystères de la foi procède avec clarté et profondeur, mêlant des questions et des réponses, dans lesquelles saint Thomas approfondit l’enseignement qui vient de l'Ecriture Sainte et des Pères de l'Eglise, en particulier saint Augustin. Dans cette réflexion, dans la rencontre de vraies questions de son époque, qui sont aussi et souvent des questions de notre temps, saint Thomas, utilisant également la méthode et la pensée des philosophes antiques, en particulier Aristote, arrive à des formulations précises, lucides et pertinentes des vérités de la foi, où la vérité est don de la foi, où elle resplendit et nous devient accessible, ainsi qu’à notre réflexion. Cependant, cet effort de l’esprit humain — rappelle saint Thomas à travers sa vie elle-même — est toujours éclairé par la prière, par la lumière qui vient d’En-haut. Seul celui qui vit avec Dieu et avec ses mystères pour comprendre ce qu’ils disent.
Dans la Summa de théologie, saint Thomas part du fait qu’il existe trois différentes façons de l'être et de l’essence de Dieu: Dieu existe en lui-même, il est le principe et la fin de toute chose, c’est pourquoi toutes les créatures procèdent et dépendent de Lui; ensuite, Dieu est présent à travers sa Grâce dans la vie et dans l’activité du chrétien, des saints; enfin, Dieu est présent d’une manière toute particulière en la Personne du Christ et dans les Sacrements, qui naissent de son œuvre rédemptrice. Mais la structure de cette œuvre monumentale (cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, La «Summa» di San Tommaso, Milan 2003, pp. 29-75), une recherche de la plénitude de Dieu avec un «regard théologique» (cf. Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 1, a. 7), est articulée en trois parties, et est illustrée par le Doctor Communis lui-même — saint Thomas — avec ces mots: «Le but principal de la sainte doctrine est celui de faire connaître Dieu, et pas seulement en lui-même, mais également en tant que principe et fin des choses, et spécialement de la créature raisonnable. Dans l’intention d’exposer cette doctrine, nous traiterons en premier de Dieu; en deuxième du mouvement de la créature vers Dieu; et en troisième du Christ, qui, en tant qu’homme, est pour nous le chemin pour monter vers Dieu» (ibid., i, q. 2). C’est un cercle: Dieu en lui-même, qui sort de lui-même et nous prend par la main, afin qu’avec le Christ nous retournions à Dieu, nous soyons unis à Dieu, et Dieu sera tout en tous.
La première partie de la Summa Theologiae enquête donc sur Dieu en lui-même, sur le mystère de la Trinité et sur l’activité créatrice de Dieu. Dans cette partie, nous trouvons également une profonde réflexion sur la réalité authentique de l’être humain en tant que sorti des mains créatrices de Dieu, fruit de son amour. D’une part nous sommes un être créé, dépendant, nous ne venons pas de nous-mêmes, mais de l’autre, nous avons une véritable autonomie, ainsi nous ne sommes pas seulement quelque chose d’apparent — comme disent certains philosophes platoniciens — mais une réalité voulue par Dieu comme telle, et qui possède une valeur en elle-même.
Dans la deuxième partie, saint Thomas considère l’homme, animé par la grâce, dans son aspiration à connaître et à aimer Dieu pour être heureux dans le temps et pour l’éternité. L’auteur présente tout d’abord les principes théologiques de l’action morale, en étudiant comment, dans le libre choix de l’homme d’accomplir des actes bons, s’intègrent la raison, la volonté et les passions, auxquelles s’ajoute la force que donne la Grâce de Dieu à travers les vertus et les dons de l’Esprit Saint, ainsi que l’aide qui est offerte également par la loi morale. Ainsi, l'être humain est un être dynamique qui se cherche lui-même, qui aspire à être lui-même et cherche, de cette manière, à accomplir des actes qui l’édifient, qui le font devenir vraiment homme; et celui qui pénètre dans la loi morale, pénètre dans la grâce, dans sa propre raison, sa volonté et ses passions. Sur ce fondement, saint Thomas trace la physionomie de l’homme qui vit selon l’Esprit et qui devient, ainsi, une icône de Dieu. Saint Thomas s’arrête ici pour étudier les trois vertus théologales — la foi, l’espérance et la charité —, suivies de l’examen approfondi de plus de cinquante vertus morales, organisées autour des quatre vertus cardinales: la prudence, la justice, la tempérance et la force. Il termine ensuite par une réflexion sur les différentes vocations dans l'Eglise.
Dans la troisième partie de la Summa, saint Thomas étudie le Mystère du Christ — le chemin et la vérité — au moyen duquel nous pouvons rejoindre Dieu le Père. Dans cette section, il écrit des pages presque uniques sur le Mystère de l’Incarnation et de la Passion de Jésus, en ajoutant ensuite une vaste réflexion sur les sept Sacrements, car en eux le Verbe divin incarné étend les bénéfices de l’Incarnation pour notre salut, pour notre chemin de foi vers Dieu et la vie éternelle et demeure presque présent matériellement avec la réalité de la création et nous touche ainsi au plus profond de nous-mêmes.
En parlant des Sacrements, saint Thomas s’arrête de manière particulière sur le Mystère de l’Eucharistie, pour lequel il eut une très grande dévotion, au point que, selon ses antiques biographes, il avait l’habitude d’approcher son visage du Tabernacle comme pour sentir battre le Cœur divin et humain de Jésus. Dans l’une de ses œuvres de commentaire de l'Ecriture, saint Thomas nous aide à comprendre l’excellence du Sacrement de l’Eucharistie, lorsqu’il écrit: «L’Eucharistie étant le Sacrement de la Passion de notre Seigneur, elle contient Jésus Christ qui souffrit pour nous. Et donc, tout ce qui est l’effet de la Passion de notre Seigneur, est également l’effet de ce sacrement, n’étant autre que l’application en nous de la Passion du Seigneur» (In Ioannem, c.6, lect. 6, n. 963). Nous comprenons bien pourquoi saint Thomas et d’autres saints ont célébré la Messe en versant des larmes de compassion pour le Seigneur, qui s’offre en sacrifice pour nous, des larmes de joie et de gratitude.
Chers frères et sœurs, à l'école des saints, tombons amoureux de ce Sacrement! Participons à la Messe avec recueillement, pour en obtenir des fruits spirituels, nourrissons-nous du Corps et du Sang du Seigneur, pour être sans cesse nourris par la Grâce divine! Entretenons-nous volontiers et fréquemment, familièrement, avec le Très Saint Sacrement!
Ce que saint Thomas a illustré avec une grande rigueur scientifique dans ses œuvres théologiques majeures, comme justement la Summa Theologiae, et également la Summa contra Gentiles a été exposé dans sa prédication, adressée aux étudiants et aux fidèles. En 1273, un an avant sa mort, pendant toute la période du Carême, il tint des prédications dans l'église San Domenico Maggiore à Naples. Le contenu de ces sermons a été recueilli et conservé: ce sont les Opuscules, où il explique le Symbole des Apôtres, interprète la prière du Notre Père, illustre le Décalogue et commente l'Ave Maria. Le contenu des prédications du Doctor Angelicus correspond presque tout entier à la structure du Catéchisme de l'Eglise catholique. En effet, dans la catéchèse et dans la prédication, à une époque comme la nôtre d'engagement renouvelé pour l'évangélisation, ces arguments fondamentaux ne devraient jamais faire défaut: ce que nous croyons, et voici le Symbole de la foi; ce que nous prions, et voici le Notre Père et l'Ave Maria; et ce que nous vivons comme nous l'enseigne la Révélation biblique, et voici la loi de l'amour de Dieu et du prochain et les Dix Commandements comme explication de ce mandat de l’amour.
Je voudrais proposer quelques exemples du contenu, simple, essentiel et convaincant, de l'enseignement de saint Thomas. Dans son Opuscule sur le Symbole des Apôtres, il explique la valeur de la foi. Par l'intermédiaire de celle-ci, dit-il, l'âme s'unit à Dieu, et il se produit comme un bourgeon de vie éternelle; la vie reçoit une orientation sûre, et nous dépassons avec aisance les tentations. A qui objecte que la foi est une stupidité, parce qu’elle fait croire en quelque chose qui n'appartient pas à l'expérience des sens, saint Thomas offre une réponse très articulée, et il rappelle que cela est un doute inconsistant, parce que l'intelligence humaine est limitée et ne peut pas tout connaître. Ce n'est que dans le cas où nous pourrions connaître parfaitement toutes les choses visibles et invisibles, que ce serait alors une authentique sottise d'accepter des vérités par pure foi. Par ailleurs, il est impossible de vivre, observe saint Thomas, sans se fier à l'expérience des autres, là où la connaissance personnelle n'arrive pas. Il est donc raisonnable de prêter foi à Dieu qui se révèle et au témoignage des Apôtres: ils étaient un petit nombre, simples et pauvres, bouleversés par la Crucifixion de leur Maître; pourtant beaucoup de personnes sages, nobles et riches se sont converties en peu de temps à l'écoute de leur prédication. Il s'agit, en effet, d'un phénomène historiquement prodigieux, auquel on peut difficilement donner une autre réponse raisonnable, sinon celle de la rencontre des Apôtres avec le Christ ressuscité.
En commentant l'article du Symbole sur l'Incarnation du Verbe divin, saint Thomas fait certaines considérations. Il affirme que la foi chrétienne, si l'on considère le mystère de l'Incarnation, se trouve renforcée; l'espérance s'élève plus confiante, à la pensée que le Fils de Dieu est venu parmi nous, comme l'un de nous pour communiquer aux hommes sa divinité; la charité est ravivée, parce qu'il n'y a pas de signe plus évident de l'amour de Dieu pour nous, que de voir le Créateur de l'univers se faire lui-même créature, un de nous. Enfin, si l'on considère le mystère de l'Incarnation de Dieu, nous sentons s'enflammer notre désir de rejoindre le Christ dans la gloire. Pour faire une comparaison simple mais efficace, saint Thomas observe: «Si le frère d'un roi était loin, il brûlerait certainement de pouvoir vivre à ses côtés. Eh bien, le Christ est notre frère: nous devons donc désirer sa compagnie, devenir un seul cœur avec lui» (Opuscoli teologico-spirituali, Rome 1976, p. 64).
En présentant la prière du Notre Père, saint Thomas montre qu'elle est en soit parfaite, ayant les cinq caractéristiques qu'une oraison bien faite devrait posséder: l'abandon confiant et tranquille; un contenu convenable, car — observe saint Thomas — «il est très difficile de savoir exactement ce qu'il est opportun de demander ou non, du moment que nous sommes en difficulté face à la sélection des désirs» (Ibid., p. 120); et puis l'ordre approprié des requêtes, la ferveur de la charité et la sincérité de l'humilité.
Saint Thomas a été, comme tous les saints, un grand dévot de la Vierge. Il l'a appelée d'un nom formidable: Triclinium totius Trinitatis, triclinium, c'est-à-dire lieu où la Trinité trouve son repos, parce qu'en raison de l'Incarnation, en aucune créature comme en elle, les trois Personnes divines habitent et éprouvent délice et joie à vivre dans son âme pleine de Grâce. Par son intercession nous pouvons obtenir tous les secours.
Avec une prière qui est traditionnellement attribuée à saint Thomas et qui, quoi qu'il en soit, reflète les éléments de sa profonde dévotion mariale, nous disons nous aussi: « O bienheureuse et très douce Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu..., je confie à ton cœur miséricordieux toute ma vie... Obtiens-moi, ô ma très douce Dame, la véritable charité, avec laquelle je puisse aimer de tout mon cœur ton très saint Fils et toi, après lui, par dessus toute chose, et mon prochain en Dieu et pour Dieu ».
Je salue les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les jeunes collégiens et les Vietnamiens présents. Puissions-nous suivre avec générosité le chemin que saint Thomas d’Aquin nous indique ! Que la Vierge Marie vous accompagne ! Bon pèlerinage à tous !
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
SOURCE : http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100623_fr.html
Les cinq voies de Saint Thomas d'Aquin
PROLOGUE DE SAINT JEAN
« Dans le Principe était Le Logos, et le Verbe était tourné vers Dieu. Et c’est Dieu qui était Verbe. Ainsi en était-il dans le Principe en Dieu. Et tout ce qui devient est par lui, et rien de ce qui est devenu n’est devenu sans Lui. Et ce qui est devenu était vie en lui. Et la Vie était la Lumière des hommes. Et la Lumière luit dans la Ténèbre, et la Ténèbre n’a pas compris. [...] La Lumière véritable existait, éclairant tout homme qui vient dans ce monde. Elle était dans le monde, et le monde a été fait par elle et le monde ne la connaissait pas. Et elle vint dans son domaine, et ses vassaux ne la reçurent point. Mais à ceux qui la reçurent elle donna le pouvoir de devenir enfants de Dieu : à ceux qui croient en son nom qui sont nés, non pas du mélange des sangs, ni de la volonté de la chair ni de la volonté de l’homme, mais de Dieu. Car le Verbe s’est fait chair et a habité parmi nous ; et nous avons vu sa gloire : une gloire digne de l’Unique Engendré du Père ; la plénitude de la grâce et de la Vérité ».
PREMIERE VOIE : Elle est fondée sur « l’observation du mouvement des êtres dans le monde ». Le mouvement, défini comme le passage à l’acte d’un être en puissance relativement à cet acte, est causé par un autre être qui joue le rôle de moteur ou d’agent du changement, celui-ci à son tour est mû par un autre, mais on ne saurait remonter à l’infini dans la série des mouvements, car alors on ne pourrait assigner un commencement (fini) au mouvement. Mais si éternellement rien ne se meut, éternellement rien ne se mouvra et il n’y aurait pas de mouvement. Il faut donc poser l’existence d’un « Moteur Premier » non mû seul à même d’expliquer le mouvement, que tous reconnaissent comme Dieu !
DEUXIEME VOIE : Elle est fondée sur la notion et la réalité tout aussi aristotélicienne de cause. Tout être ou toute modification d’être advient comme l’effet d’un être antérieur (logique !) qui joue à son égard le rôle de cause et qui est lui-même l’effet d’un autre et ainsi de suite… Toutefois, comme le première voie, on ne peut aller à l’infini dans la série des causes, cela signifierait qu’il n’y aurait pas de commencement assignable et donc pas de suite ni de série causale. Il faut donc poser l’existence d’une « Cause Première » incausée « que tous appellent Dieu » !
TROISIEME VOIE : Elle est fondée sur la distinction qui n’avait pas retenu l’attention d’Aristote de « l’être possible » ou contingent et de « l’être nécessaire » (Dieu). Ici, Saint Thomas tire une partie de la pensée des philosophes arabes, en particulier d’Avicenne. Pour ce dernier, parmi les objets intelligibles que contemple le métaphysicien, il en est un qui jouit d’un privilège particulier : c’est l’être. Etre un homme n’est pas être un cheval ou un arbre, mais dans les trois cas, c’est être un être ou un existant ! Pourtant, cette notion n’est pas simple : elle se dédouble immédiatement en être nécessaire et être possible. On appelle possible un être qui peut exister mais qui n’existera jamais s’il n’est pas produit par une cause, on appelle nécessaire ce qui n’a pas de cause et, en vertu de sa propre essence, ne peut pas ne pas exister. Dans une métaphysique dont l’objet propre est l’essence, ces distinctions conceptuelles équivalent à une division des êtres. En fait, l’expérience ne nous fait connaître que des êtres dont l’existence dépend de certaines causes : chacun est possible mais leur causes aussi. La série totale des êtres est donc un simple possible. Il ne sert à rien d’allonger indéfiniment la série des causes : si les possibles existent, c’est qu’existe aussi un être nécessaire, cause de leur existence. Le Dieu d’Avicenne est donc le « Necesse esse » par définition, l’Être Nécessaire : il possède l’existence en vertu de sa seule essence ou encore, dit autrement, essence et existence ne font qu’un en lui, c’est pourquoi il est indéfinissable. Il est, quod est, mais si l’on demande ce qu’il est, quid est, il n’y a pas de réponse ! Son cas est unique. Dans cette troisième voie, (un peu longue, désolé !) Saint Thomas reprend donc à son compte non seulement la distinction entre le possible et le nécessaire mais aussi la marche générale de la preuve qui conduit à poser l’existence d’un Être Nécessaire que tous appellent Dieu !
QUATRIEME VOIE : « On voit en effet dans les choses du plus ou moins bon, du plus ou moins vrai, du plus ou moins noble » (Saint Thomas). Elle part de la constatation qu’il y a des degrés dans les êtres. En effet, il y a des degrés de beauté, de bonté dans les choses, qui ne s’entendent que par rapport au Beau, au Vrai, au Bon en soi. D’inspiration platonicienne et donc assez différente des trois premières, cette voie ne s’écarte pas néanmoins de l’inspiration aristotélicienne. Pour être clair, cette voie peut-être mise sous la forme syllogistique suivante : Des êtres possédant imparfaitement leur perfection la tiennent d’un être qui la possède par soi, ou sont causés par un être qui possède cette perfection dans ce genre (du bon, du vrai, du beau). Donc quelque Être possédant la perfection par soi est existant. En conclusion, « il y a donc un être qui est, pour tous les êtres, causes d’êtres, de bonté et de toute perfection. C’est lui que nous appelons Dieu ! »
CINQUIEME VOIE : Elle part de la constatation de « l’ordre du monde ». Elle peut-être considérée comme une application de la cause finale (quatrième cause reconnue par Aristote). Les divers êtres que nous voyons, les astres, les plantes, les animaux suivent un ordre qui délimite leur place, c’est l’ordre statique ou structurel, et leur mouvement ou évolution, c’est l’ordre dynamique. Il y a donc un Être intelligent par lequel toutes choses naturelles sont ordonnées à leur fin, et cet Être, c’est lui que nous appelons tous Dieu !
POUR CONCLURE… Si le mouvement (première voie), les causes efficientes (deuxième voie), ce qui naît et meurt ou le devenir des êtres (troisième voie), les degrés de perfection des êtres (quatrième voie), l’ordre manifesté par les choses inanimées (cinquième voie) permettent de conclure à l’existence de Dieu, c’est parce qu’ils existent ! Il suffit d’assigner la raison suffisante complète d’une seule existence quelconque empiriquement donnée pour prouver l’existence de Dieu.
--> En conclusion finale, pour continuer dans la pure logique de ce qui vient d’être dit, tout ce qui existe vient nécessairement de Dieu. Ceux qui affirmeraient le contraire même par un discours rationnellement "décoré" se trouvent dans l’erreur et non dans la Vérité. Ne l’oublions pas, notre Vérité Incarnée, c’est seulement Jésus-Christ, notre « LOGOS SUPRÊME » à tous !
SOURCE : http://notredamedesneiges.over-blog.com/article-3574621.html
Pintura sobre tabla de Pedro de Villegas Marmolejo (ca. 1575) destinada a una puerta de un realejo. Santo Tomás de Aquino, Santa Catalina de Siena y una visión de la gloria celestial. Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla.
Saint Thomas d'Aquin, prêtre et docteur de l'Eglise
Né dans une noble famille napolitaine, élevé à l'abbaye bénédictine du Mont-Cassin, Thomas choisit cependant, à 19 ans, d'entrer chez les Frères Prêcheurs. Sa famille, contrariée, le fait enlever et enfermer. Au bout d'un an, Thomas peut enfin suivre sa vocation. On l'envoie à Paris pour y suivre les cours en Sorbonne où il étudie sous la férule de saint Albert le Grand. Devenu professeur à son tour, Thomas s'attelle à un gigantesque travail pour mettre en œuvre la correspondance entre la philosophie d’Aristote, la Bible et la tradition patristique ; il élabore une pensée originale, qu'il expose dans de multiples ouvrages, dont le plus connu est la "Somme Théologique". Il déploie une activité prodigieuse entre l’enseignement, la participation aux débats philosophiques et théologiques du temps, les missions à l’étranger, l’étude et la vie spirituelle qui reste première et où il puise les ressources de son génie. Il meurt en Italie sur la route de Lyon où il devait participer au grand concile de 1274.
Mort le 7 mars 1274. Canonisé en 1323. Fête à la même date. Docteur en 1567.
Saluons aujourd’hui l’un des plus sublimes et des plus lumineux interprètes de la Vérité divine. L’Église l’a produit bien des siècles après l’âge des Apôtres, longtemps après que la parole des Ambroise, des Augustin, des Jérôme et des Grégoire, avait cessé de retentir ; mais Thomas a prouvé que le sein de la Mère commune était toujours fécond ; et celle-ci, dans sa joie de l’avoir mis au jour, l’a nommé le Docteur Angélique. C’est donc parmi les chœurs des Anges que nos yeux doivent chercher Thomas ; homme par nature, sa noble et pure intelligence l’associe aux Chérubins du ciel ; de même que la tendresse ineffable de Bonaventure, son émule et son ami, a introduit ce merveilleux disciple de François dans les rangs des Séraphins. La gloire de Thomas d’Aquin est celle de l’humanité, dont il est un des plus grands génies ; celle de l’Église, dont ses écrits ont exposé la doctrine avec une lucidité et une précision qu’aucun Docteur n’avait encore atteintes ; celle du Christ lui-même, qui daigna de sa bouche divine féliciter cet homme si profond et si simple d’avoir expliqué dignement ses mystères aux hommes. En ces jours qui doivent nous ramener à Dieu, le plus grand besoin de nos âmes est de le connaître, comme notre plus grand malheur a été de ne l’avoir pas assez connu. Demandons à saint Thomas « cette lumière sans tache qui convertit les âmes, cette doctrine qui donne la sagesse même aux enfants, qui réjouit le cœur et éclaire les yeux  ». Nous verrons alors la vanité de tout ce qui est hors de Dieu, la justice de ses préceptes, la malice de nos infractions, la bonté infinie qui accueillera notre repentir.
La Liturgie Dominicaine a consacré les trois Hymnes suivantes au grand Docteur qui est une des premières gloires de l’Ordre des Frères-Prêcheurs :
Que l’assemblée des fidèles se livre à l’allégresse ; qu’elle fasse entendre un chant de louange ; qu’elle célèbre le nouveau soleil dont les rayons dissipent les nuages de l’erreur. Thomas, sur le soir du monde, a répandu des trésors de grâce ; rempli des dons célestes, la sainteté et la sagesse ont éclaté en lui. Source de lumière, il nous fait connaître les splendeurs du Verbe, les Écritures que Dieu même a dictées, et les règles de la Vérité. Ceint de l’auréole de la doctrine, il brille par la pureté de sa vie ; la gloire des miracles l’environne ; il est la joie du monde entier. Louange au Père, au Fils et au Saint-Esprit ; daigne la Trinité Sainte, par les mérites de Thomas, nous réunir aux chœurs, célestes ! Amen.
Thomas, issu de noble race, embrasse en un âge encore tendre la milice des Prêcheurs. Semblable à l’astre du matin, il resplendit du sein des nues ; il réfute les erreurs des Gentils plus pleinement que ne l’avaient fait avant lui les docteurs. Il sonde la profondeur des abîmes, il met au jour les choses les plus cachées ; il éclaircit les saintes obscurités qui dépassent l’intelligence de l’homme. Il est un fleuve de Paradis qui s’épanche en quatre rameaux ; il possède l’armure complète de Gédéon : le glaive, la trompette, le vase et le flambeau. Louange au Père, au Fils et au Saint-Esprit ; daigne la Trinité Sainte, par les mérites de Thomas, nous réunir aux chœurs célestes ! Amen.
Célèbre, ô Église Mère, l’heureuse mort de Thomas, lorsqu’il fut admis à l’éternel bonheur par les mérites du Verbe de vie. Fosse-Neuve reçut la dépouille mortelle de celui qui était un trésor de grâces, au jour où le Christ appela Thomas à l’héritage du royaume de gloire. Sa doctrine de vérité nous reste avec son corps précieux, le parfum merveilleux qu’il exhale, et la santé qu’il rend aux infirmes. Ses prodiges le rendent digne des louanges de la terre, des mens et des cieux ; qu’il daigne nous aider par ses prières, nous recommander à Dieu par ses mérites. Louange au Père, au Fils et au Saint-Esprit ; daigne la Trinité Sainte, par les mérites de Thomas, nous réunir aux chœurs célestes ! Amen.
Gloire à vous, Thomas, lumière du monde ! vous avez reçu les rayons du Soleil de justice, et vous les avez rendus à la terre. Votre œil limpide a contemplé la vérité, et en vous s’est accomplie cette parole : Heureux ceux dont le cœur est pur ; car ils verront Dieu . Vainqueur dans la lutte contre la chair, vous avez obtenu les délices de l’esprit ; et le Sauveur, ravi des charmes de votre âme angélique, vous a choisi pour célébrer dans l’Église le divin Sacrement de son amour. La science n’a point tari en vous la source de l’humilité ; la prière fut toujours votre secours dans la recherche de la vérité ; et après tant de travaux vous n’aspiriez qu’à une seule récompense, celle de posséder le Dieu que votre cœur aimait.
Votre carrière mortelle fut promptement interrompue, et vous laissâtes inachevé le chef-d’œuvre de votre angélique doctrine ; mais, ô Thomas, Docteur de vérité, vous pouvez luire encore sur l’Église de Dieu. Assistez-la dans les combats contre l’erreur. Elle aime à s’appuyer sur vos enseignements, parce qu’elle sait que nul ne connut plus intimement que vous les secrets de son Époux. En ces jours où les vérités sont diminuées parmi les enfants des hommes , fortifiez, éclairez la foi des croyants. Confondez l’audace de ces vains esprits qui croient savoir quelque chose, et qui profitent de l’affaissement général des intelligences, pour usurper dans la nullité de leur savoir le rôle de docteurs. Les ténèbres s’épaississent autour de nous ; la confusion règne partout ; ramenez-nous à ces notions qui dans leur divine simplicité sont la vie de l’esprit et la joie du cœur.
Protégez l’Ordre illustre qui se glorifie de vous avoir produit ; fécondez-le de plus en plus ; car il est un des premiers auxiliaires de l’Église de Dieu. N’oubliez pas que la France a eu l’honneur de vous posséder dans son sein, et que votre chaire s’est élevée dans sa capitale : obtenez pour elle des jours meilleurs. Sauvez-la de l’anarchie des doctrines, qui a enfanté pour elle cette désolante situation où elle périra, si la véritable science, celle de Dieu et de sa Vérité, ne lui est rendue.
La sainte Quarantaine doit voir les enfants de l’Église se disposer à rentrer en grâce avec le Seigneur leur Dieu ; révélez-nous, ô Thomas, cette souveraine Sainteté que nos péchés ont offensée ; faites-nous comprendre l’état d’une âme qui n’est plus en rapport avec la justice éternelle. Saisis d’une sainte horreur à la vue des taches qui nous couvrent, nous aspirerons à purifier nos cœurs dans le sang de l’Agneau immaculé, et à réparer nos fautes par les œuvres de la pénitence.
 Psalm. XVIII.
 Matth. V, 8.
 Psalm. XI.
L’ange de l’École et de la théologie catholique commença sa vie religieuse au Mont-Cassin à l’ombre du tombeau du Patriarche du monachisme occidental, et la consomma, presque avec la gloire du martyre, au milieu des fils du même saint Benoît dans l’abbaye de Fossanova (+ 1274). Il convenait que saint Thomas vînt, en plein Carême, nous réconforter dans notre lassitude et confirmer par son exemple ce que chante l’Église à la louange du jeûne : Vitia comprimis, mentem élevas.
La gloire particulière de saint Thomas, sa vertu la plus éminente, c’est le profond amour qu’il nourrit pour la tradition de l’Église. Il s’identifia si bien avec elle qu’il en est devenu le représentant le plus autorisé. De fait, il est difficile de trouver, dans les annales du christianisme, un esprit plus lumineux, représentant mieux les perfections des esprits angéliques que celui de saint Thomas, qui, se basant sur les anciens Pères, donna, avec une précision admirable, une forme définitive à notre science de Dieu. L’admiration augmente quand on pense que ce monument de sagesse, de foi et de contemplation théologique n’est pas tant le fruit d’une étude longue et infatigable des livres, qu’une œuvre de foi, l’effet d’une prière habituelle, d’une intime union avec Dieu. Pour que l’œil de saint Thomas pût fixer avec assurance la lumière divine sans en être ébloui, il fallait qu’il fût fort et pur ; force et pureté qu’il obtint grâce à son parfait détachement de tout le créé et le sensible, et à sa vie intérieure intense en Jésus-Christ.
La fête de saint Thomas entra d’abord dans le calendrier de l’Église avec le rite simple ; mais saint Pie V, qui appartenait aussi à l’Ordre des Prêcheurs, lui accorda, à l’occasion de la réforme du Bréviaire romain, le rite double, avec l’office du Commun des Docteurs.
L’Ange de l’École qui, durant sa vie, avait illustré la Ville éternelle par sa demeure temporaire, par sa prédication et par ses miracles, eut, dès le XIVe siècle, une église à lui dédiée près du palais des Savelli, donc peu éloignée de son couvent de Sainte-Sabine. Aujourd’hui ce monument n’existe plus, mais, le culte de Rome envers le Saint se manifeste par la splendide chapelle qu’on lui a érigée dans le Titre de Sainte-Marie in Minervium, et par la petite église située près du Théâtre de Pompée, et qui est dédiée à sainte Barbe et à saint Thomas d’Aquin.
La messe est celle du Commun des Docteurs, sauf la première collecte et la première lecture qui sont propres.
Voici le texte de la belle collecte : « O Dieu qui, en illustrant votre Église par la merveilleuse science de votre bienheureux confesseur Thomas, avez voulu rendre cette doctrine féconde en saintes vertus, accordez-nous non seulement de pénétrer ses enseignements, mais d’imiter aussi ses œuvres. »
Sur cette splendide collecte reflètent leur lumière inspirée toutes les récentes encycliques et les documents pontificaux relatifs à l’enseignement de la théologie et de la philosophie thomiste, obligatoire dans toutes les académies catholiques. L’Église considère donc le Docteur angélique comme l’interprète autorisé et officiel de sa propre doctrine et de sa science de Dieu, si bien qu’elle met d’emblée en relation avec un éloignement des principes de saint Thomas, toutes les opinions et toutes les doctrines qui s’éloignent d’elle ; et cela, en vertu de sa longue expérience.
Dans la lecture (Sap., VII, 7-14), est exposé dans toute sa lumière le caractère surnaturel de ce qu’on appelle la science des saints, qui n’est pas simplement spéculative, mais agit efficacement sur la volonté, qu’elle plie et pousse au bien. Cette science, d’un caractère absolument gratuit, ne nous rend pas simplement doctes, mais elle fait de l’âme qui en est enrichie l’amie de Dieu. A la lumière de cette science, le charme des choses de ce monde se dissipe, et le jugement formé par l’âme au sujet des créatures est tout différent de celui qui est commun parmi les hommes. La raison en est que cette science met toutes choses dans leur vrai jour, quand elle les considère comme ordonnées à Dieu. Là réside l’harmonie de la vérité intégrale, la sagesse très haute et véritable, c’est-à-dire la connaissance de toutes choses par leur cause première et suprême qui est Dieu.
C’est surtout par l’aveuglement de l’ignorance que le démon fait de si grands ravages parmi les âmes. Qui ignorant et errant. Aussi les saints Docteurs qui, avec le flambeau de la sagesse de Dieu, dissipent parmi les pécheurs ces ténèbres de mort, remportent sur l’ennemi commun une splendide victoire et méritent donc un triomphe particulier. Par suite, les maîtres, les savants de l’Église et tous ceux qui, au moyen de la doctrine sacrée, formèrent les autres à la justice, resplendissent non seulement dans le ciel d’une gloire particulière, mais aussi dans la sainte liturgie, où ils sont célébrés par un culte spécial.
La liturgie est la foi manifestée par la prière.
Saint Thomas : Jour de mort : 7 mars 1274. — Tombeau : à Toulouse ; son bras droit est à Rome. Image : On le représente en dominicain, avec un soleil ou une étoile sur la poitrine (symbole de l’illumination divine). Vie : Saint Thomas compte parmi les plus grands savants et les plus grands théologiens de tous les temps. Son œuvre la plus importante, la Somme théologique, qui contient l’exposé et les preuves de toute la doctrine catholique, est devenue dans les siècles suivants et est restée jusqu’à nos jours un livre classique. Au concile de Trente, la Somme était ouverte sur l’autel à côté de la Sainte Écriture. Sa profonde spéculation ne l’empêchait pas d’avoir une merveilleuse vie de prière dont il nous a laissé un précieux monument dans l’office du Saint-Sacrement. Malgré toute sa science, déjà fort admirée de son temps, il était modeste, d’une simplicité enfantine et d’une grande bonté de cœur. Il était doux en paroles et charitable dans ses actions. Il croyait tous les hommes aussi innocents que lui. Si quelqu’un avait péché par faiblesse, il pleurait le péché d’autrui comme si c’était le sien. La bonté de son cœur se reflétait sur son visage ; aussi personne ne le regardait sans être consolé. Il avait une compassion merveilleuse pour les pauvres et les nécessiteux. Tout ce qu’il pouvait donner en fait de linge ou d’autres objets, il le donnait volontiers. Il ne gardait pour lui rien de superflu afin de pouvoir subvenir aux besoins d’autrui. Son compagnon ordinaire, qui fut aussi son confesseur, attesta après sa mort : « Je l’ai toujours connu aussi pur qu’un enfant de cinq ans. Jamais un mouvement charnel ne l’a souillé et il n’a jamais consenti à un péché mortel. » Ce qui est remarquable, c’est la tendre dévotion de saint Thomas pour sainte Agnès. Il portait constamment sur lui les reliques de cette sainte, vierge et martyre. Il mourut le 7 mars 1274, à l’âge de 50 ans, à l’abbaye de Fossanova, près de Terracine en Campanie. Il est le patron des écoles catholiques et des théologiens.
Pratique : La liturgie est la foi manifestée par la prière. Nous devons cultiver en nous la foi et pénétrer toujours plus profondément dans ses mystères. — Nous prenons la messe du Carême et faisons mémoire du saint.
SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/07-03-St-Thomas-d-Aquin-confesseur#nh3
Antoine Nicolas, Saint Thomas d’Aquin, Fontaine de Sagesse, 1648, Notre Dame de Paris
par Antoine Nicolas (1648)
Ce tableau du XVIIe siècle témoigne de la ferveur des catholiques à l’égard de saint Thomas d’Aquin. Ce dominicain étudie puis enseigne la théologie à l’université de Paris au milieu du XIIe siècle. Ses écrits, rédigés à Paris, sont contemporains de l’ouverture de Notre-Dame.
Saint Thomas d’Aquin (1225-1274)
Né en Italie, Thomas d’Aquin entre dans l’ordre dominicain en 1244. Il vient à deux reprises étudier à l’université de Paris en 1245 et 1252. Il est probable qu’il fréquente Notre-Dame dont le premier chantier vient toujours juste de s’achever sous le règne de saint Louis. Parti enseigner la théologie à Rome, il retourne à Paris en 1268 alors que des querelles morales autour des pensées d’Aristote font rage dans l’Église. Là, durant quatre ans, il écrit la majorité de son œuvre. Ses propos questionnent la foi et l’existence de Dieu à travers la nature et la connaissance du monde. Ainsi, il associe théologie et philosophie. Somme toute, ses écrits portent sur l’âme, le corps, les passions, la liberté et la béatitude.
Considéré comme père spirituel de l’Église, inhumé à Toulouse puis canonisé en 1323, il obtient en 1567, à titre posthume, le nom de « docteur de l’Église ». A cette époque, ses écrits sont controversés par les protestants lors de la Réforme. Au milieu du XVIIe siècle, l’enseignement de saint Thomas d’Aquin est largement diffusé par l’Église catholique. Sa renommée s’accroit lorsqu’Ignace de Loyola le choisit comme maitre spirituel de l’ordre des jésuites, dont Louis XIII et Louis XIV soutiennent l’enseignement.
Identifiable par son titre de doctor angelicus, inscrit sur le piédestal, saint Thomas d’Aquin s’illustre assis au centre, vêtu de l’habit dominicain. Il tient un crucifix de la main droite, et un livre ouvert de la main gauche. Il porte également une parure composée d’un soleil d’or sur une chaine et une chape étoilée. C’est avec ces ornements qu’il apparait en vision au dominicain Albert de Brescia au XIIIe siècle. Saint Augustin explique que son enseignement a éclairé l’Église comme ce soleil sur sa poitrine. Par conséquent, soleil et chaîne dorée deviennent les attributs iconographiques de saint Thomas d’Aquin.
De part et d’autre du saint, des personnages tendent des écuelles pour boire à la source jaillissante. Une inscription au bas de la toile indique « Hi puros promunt divino e fontes liquores » qu’on peut traduire par « Eux tirent de pures liqueurs de la fontaine divine ». Sa théologie se compare à une « liqueur » spirituelle qui abreuve les âmes qui ont soif de connaître Dieu. Les religieux autour de saint Thomas d’Aquin appartiennent à divers ordres religieux : dominicain, carmélite, franciscain, capucin. Parmi eux, figure un roi (le jeune Louis XIV ?) paré de l’hermine. Deux jeunes gens au premier plan ont également accès à la source.
Antoine Nicolas, originaire de Langres, peint se tableau en 1648, l’époque de la Régence. A cette période, Louis XIV est un jeune roi mais ne gouverne pas encore. On ignore donc l’origine de cette commande. La communauté des Dominicaines de Saint-Maur-des-Faussés conserve le tableau avant de le donner au couvent dominicain de l’Annonciation du faubourg Saint-Honoré à Paris vers 1950. Le couvent en fait don à Notre-Dame de Paris à l’occasion du 700e anniversaire de la mort de saint Thomas d’Aquin.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682). Santo Tomás de Aquino, 1650, 96 X 68
De l’usage de l’encens
Nous ne pratiquons pas l’encensement comme un précepte cérémoniel de l’ancienne Loi, mais comme une institution de l’Eglise. C’est pourquoi nous le pratiquons pas de la manière dont il était prescrit dans l’ancienne Loi.
L’encensement a un double objet. D’abord le respect envers ce sacrement : en répandant un parfum agréable, on chasse la mauvaise odeur corporelle qui règnerait dans le lieu du culte et pourrait provoquer le dégoût.
Ensuite l’encensement sert à représenter l’effet de la grâce, dont le Christ fut rempli comme d’un parfum agréable, selon la parole de la Genèse : « Voici que le parfum de mon fils est comme le parfum d’un champ fertile. » Et du Christ elle découle jusqu’aux fidèles par l’office des ministres, selon cette parole de la deuxième Epître aux Corinthiens : « Par nous (le Christ) répand en tous lieux le parfum de sa connaissance. » Et c’est pourquoi, lorsqu’on a encensé de tous côtés l’autel, qui symbolise le Christ, on encense tout le monde selon l’ordre hiérarchique.
Saint Thomas d’Aquin
Le prêtre est établi comme un négociateur et un intermédiaire entre le peuple et Dieu, selon ce qui est dit de Moïse (Deutéronome V 5). C’est pourquoi il lui appartient de transmettre au peuple les enseignements divins et les saints mystères ; et aussi de présenter à Dieu ce qui, venant du peuple, doit passer par lui : prières, sacrifices, oblations, selon l’Epître aux Hébreux (VI) : « Tout pontife, pris parmi les hommes, est établi pour intervenir en leur faveur dans leurs relations avec Dieu, afin d’offrir dons et sacrifices pour le péché. » Les oblations que le peuple présente à Dieu sont donc remise aux prêtres, non seulement pour qu’ils les emploient à leur usage, mais pour qu’ils en soient les fidèles dispensateurs. Ils les emploieront en partie aux frais du culte divin ; une autre part sera destinée à leur propre subsistance, car « ceux qui servent à l’autel partagent avec l’autel » (I Corinthiens IX 13) ; une autre partie sera allouée aux pauvres qui doivent, autant que faire se peut, être entretenus sur les biens de l’Eglise, car notre Seigneur lui-même avait une bourse pour les pauvres, remarque saint Jérôme.
Il ne semble pas qu’ici le prêtre prie pour que la consécration s’accomplisse, mais pour qu’elle soit fructueuse. Aussi dit-il expressément : « Qu’elle devienne pour nous le Corps et le Sang... » Et c’est le sens des paroles qu’il prononce auparavant : « Sanctifie pleinement cette offrande par la puissance de ta bénédiction » selon saint Augustin, c’est-à-dire : « par laquelle nous soyons bénis », à savoir par la grâce ; adscriptam, c’est-à-dire « par laquelle nous soyons inscrits dans le ciel » ; ratam, c’est-à-dire « par laquelle nous soyons reconnus comme appartenant au christ » ; rationabilem, c’est-à-dire « par laquelle nous soyons dépouillés du sens charnel » ; acceptabilem, c’est-à-dire « que nous, qui nous déplaisons à nous-mêmes, nous soyons agréables par elle à son Fils unique ».
Le prêtre ne demande pas que les espèces sacramentelles soient transportées au ciel ; ni le corps réel du Christ, qui ne cesse pas d’être présent sur l’autel. Mais il demande cela pour le Corps mystique, car c’est lui qui est signifié dans ce sacrement ; c’est-à-dire que l’ange qui assiste au divin mystère présente à Dieu les prières du prêtre et du peuple, selon ce texte de l’Apocalypse : « La fumée des parfums monta des mains de l’ange avec les offrandes des saints. » L’autel céleste signifie soit l’Eglise triomphante elle-même, où nous demandons d’être transférés ; ou bien Dieu lui-même, à qui nous demandons d’être unis ; car il est dit de cet autel, dans l’Exode : « Tu ne monteras pas à mon autel par des degrés », c’est-à-dire : « Tu ne feras pas de degrés dans la Trinité. »
Par l’ange on peut encore comprendre le Christ lui-même, qui est « l’Ange du grand conseil », qui unit son corps mystique à Dieu le Père et à l’Eglise triomphante. (Saint Thomas d’Aquin).
La fraction de l’hostie a une triple signification. D’abord la division subie par le corps du Christ dans sa passion ; ensuite la répartition du Corps mystique selon divers états ; enfin la distribution des grâces qui découlent de la passion du Christ, comme dit Denys dans la Hiérarchie Ecclésiastique. Cette fraction n’introduit donc pas de division dans le Christ.
Comme dit le pape Sergius, dans un texte qu’on trouve dans le Décret : « Le corps du Seigneur est triple. La partie de l’oblation qui est mise dans le calice désigne le corps du Christ qui a déjà ressuscité », c’est-à-dire le Christ lui-même et la sainte Vierge, et les autres saints, s’il y en a, qui sont entrés corporellement dans la gloire. « La partie qui est mangée représente le Christ qui est encore sur la terre », c’est-à-dire que ceux qui vivent sur terre sont unis par le sacrement et sont broyés par les épreuves, comme le pain qu’on mange est broyé par les dents. « La partie qui demeure sur l’autel jusqu’à la fin de la messe est le corps du Christ demeurant au sépulcre : car jusqu’à la fin du monde les corps des saints seront dans les sépulcres », tandis que leurs âmes sont soit au purgatoire, soit au ciel. Cependant ce dernier rite - qu’une partie de l’hostie soit réservée jusqu’à la fin de la messe - n’est plus observé car il présentait des risques. Mais ce symbolisme des parties reste valable. On l’a exprimé en vers : « L’hostie est divisée en parties : celle qui est trempée désigne ceux qui sont pleinement bienheureux ; celle qui est sèche, les vivants ; celle qui est réservée, les ensevelis. »
Cependant certains disent que la partie mise dans le calice symbolise ceux qui vivent en ce monde ; la partie gardée hors du calice, ceux qui sont pleinement bienheureux dans leur âme et leur corps ; et la partie mangée symbolise les autres.
saint Thomas d’Aquin
De la prière
Auprès d'un homme, la prière s'impose d'abord pour lui faire connaître le désir de celui qui prie et son indigence ; elle a ensuite pour but de fléchir, jusqu'à le faire céder, le cœur de qui l'on prie. Or, ces deux choses n'ont plus leur raison d'être quand la prière s'adresse à Dieu. Nous ne voulons pas, en effet, quand nous le prions, lui faire connaître notre indigence ou nos désirs : il connaît tout. Le Psalmiste dit en effet : Seigneur, devant toi se trouve placé tout mon désir. Et dans l'Évangile de saint Matthieu, nous lisons : Votre Père sait ce dont vous avez besoin. Il ne s'agit pas non plus, par des paroles humaines, d'infléchir la divine volonté jusqu'à lui faire vouloir ce qu'elle rejetait auparavant. Car il est dit au livre des Nombres : Dieu n'est point un homme pour mentir, ni un fils de l'homme, pour changer. - Il n'est pas sujet au repentir, ajoute le premier livre des Rois.
Si la prière est nécessaire à l'homme pour obtenir les bienfaits de Dieu, c'est qu'elle exerce une influence sur celui-là même qui l'utilise. Il doit en effet s'attarder à la considération de ses propres pauvretés et incliner son âme à désirer avec ferveur et dans un esprit filial ce qu'il espère obtenir par la prière. Il se rend par là même capable de le recevoir.
Une autre différence se remarque entre la prière adressée à Dieu et celle adressée à un homme. Avant de se disposer à cette deuxième, il faut déjà la familiarité qui donne accès auprès de celui que l'on prie. Tandis que prier Dieu, c'est aussitôt nous introduire dans son intimité ; car alors notre esprit s'élève jusqu'à lui, l'adore en esprit et en vérité.
Et ainsi, en cette familière amitié que produit la prière, s'ouvre la voie pour une prière plus confiante encore. D'où l'on dit dans le Psaume : J'ai crié, - c'est-à-dire, j'ai prié avec foi, - parce que vous m'avez exaucé. On dirait que, reçu dans l'intimité divine par l'effet d'une première prière, il priait ensuite avec une confiance accrue.
Et c'est pourquoi, dans la prière adressée à Dieu, l'assiduité ou l'insistance dans la demande n'est pas importune ; au contraire, Dieu l'agrée. Car il faut toujours prier et ne pas se lasser, lisons-nous dans saint Luc. De là aussi, le Seigneur nous invite à la prière : Demandez et il vous sera donné ; frappez et l'on vous ouvrira.
Saint Thomas d'Aquin
SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/01/28.php
Accorde-moi, Seigneur mon Dieu,
Une intelligence qui te connaisse,
Un empressement qui te cherche,
Une sagesse qui te trouve,
Une vie qui te plaise,
Une persévérance qui t'attende avec confiance
Et une confiance qui te possède à la fin.
Saint Thomas d'Aquin
Prière avant la communion
Émail de Limoges représentant Saint-Thomas d'Aquin, vers 1600, Musée Paul-Dupuy, Toulouse
André Gonçalves (1685–1754) . Our Lady of Consolation with Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Goldrofe, and Saint Charles Borromeo, 1757. In the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Coimbra (Holy House of Mercy), Coimbra, Portugal.
André Gonçalves (1685–1754). Nossa Senhora da Consolação com Santa Catarina de Alexandria, São Tomás de Aquino, São Goldrofe e São Carlos Borromeu, 1757. Na Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Coimbra, Portugal.
St. Thomas Aquinas converses with Christ on the Crucifix, stained glass, Saint Joseph Catholic Church (Somerset, Ohio)
St. Thomas Aquinas, stained glass, Saint Joseph's Catholic Church (Central City, Kentucky)
Antiennes à Magnificat
Qu'il est suave, Seigneur, votre esprit !
Voulant montrer votre tendresse à vos enfants, par un pain très doux venu du ciel, vous comblez de biens les affamés, renvoyant les mains vides les riches dédaigneux.
O banquet sacré où est reçu le Christ, où se perpétue le mémorial de sa Passion, où l'âme est remplie de grâce, où nous est donné le gage de la gloire future !
Pacecco De Rosa. San Tommaso d'Aquino che riceve il cingolo della castità, Basilica di Santa Maria della Sanità
- Thomas Aquino
- Thomas of Aquino
- Angel of the Schools
- Angelic Doctor
- Doctor Angelicus
- Doctor Communis
- Great Synthesizer
- The Dumb Ox
- The Universal Teacher
- Universal Doctor
- 28 January
- 7 March (Fossanuova monastery near Terracina, Italy)
- 13 November as patron of Catholic schools (on the Dominican calendar from 1924 to 1962)
Son of the Count of Aquino, born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. Educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.
He studied in Paris, France from 1245 to 1248 under Saint Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. Ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. Taught theology at University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught in several Italian cities. Recalled by king and university to Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.
On 6 December 1273 he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.
His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.
- 7 March 1274 at Fossanuova monastery near Terracina, Italy of apparent natural causes
- relics interred at Saint-Servin, Toulouse, France
- relics translated to the Church of the Jacobins, Toulouse on 22 October 1974
- against storms
- against lightning
- book sellers
- Catholic academies
- Catholic schools (proclaimed on 4 August 1880 by Pope Leo XIII)
- Catholic universities
- pencil makers
- Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
- Society of the Sacred Heart
- University of Vigo
- Aquino, Italy
- Aquino-Pontecorvo, Italy, diocese of
- Belcastro, Italy
- Falerna, Italy
- Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, Italy, diocese of
- dove, usually speaking into his ear, sometimes as he writes
- teacher with pagan philosophers at his feet
- person trampled under foot
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- Book of Saints, by Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D.
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- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Golden Legend
- Illustrated Catholic Family Annual
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- Little Lives of the Great Saints
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- Prayer for Guidance, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
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- Pope Benedict XVI
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- Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master, by Robert Barron
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- Breviarium SOP: 28 January
- Breviarium SOP: 7 March
- Breviarium SOP: 13 November
- Brian Kranick
- Catholic Culture
- Catholic Fire: Angelic Doctor
- Catholic Fire: Prayer for Catholic Schools
- Catholic Fire: Favourite Quotes
- Catholic Herald
- Catholic Ireland
- Catholic News Agency
- Catholic Online
- Constance Hull
- Donald DeMarco: Five Remedies for Pain and Sorrow
- Donald DeMarco: Should Old Aquinas Be Forgot?
- Father John Cush
- Father Z
- Find A Grave
- Franciscan Media
- Independent Catholic News
- John Dillon
- Key to Umbria
- Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic
- Monsignor Charles Pope
- New Theological Movement
- R C Spirituality
- Saint Peter’s Basilica Info
- Saints for Sinners
- Saints Stories for All Ages
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Stephen Beale: Which Church Fathers Most Influenced Saint Thomas?
- Stephen Beale: Thomas Aquinas Says These 4 Things will Ensure Your Prayer is Answered
- Taylor Marshall: Who were the Favourite Authors of Saint Thomas
- Taylor Marshall: Three Favourite Stories of Saint Thomas
- Thomas Aquinas in English: A Bibliography
- Tom Pena: The Angelic Doctor
- Weird Catholic: Saint Thomas Believed in Ghosts
- Christian Apologetics #1
- Christian Apologetics #2: What is the relationship between religion and science?
- Five Ways
- Jimmy Akin: Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Occult
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- Summa Theologica 02: Trinity and Creation
- Summa Theologica 03: Angels and the Six Days
- Summa Theologica 04: On Man
- Summa Theologica 05: On the Divine Government
- Summa Theologica 06: On the Last End, On Human Acts
- Summa Theologica 07: On the Passions
- Summa Theologica 10: On the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity
- Summa Theologica 12: On Gratuitous Graces and the States of Life
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- Catechism, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
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- Commentary on Aristotle’s Treatise on the Soul, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Commentary on the Gospel of John, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Compendium of Theology, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Concerning Being and Essence, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Devotion of the Six Sundays in Honor of the Angel of the Schools, Saint Thomas of Aquinas, by Father Henry Joseph Fflugbeil, OP
- Elements of Moral Theology, Based on the Summa Theologiae, by John J Elmendort, STD
- Function of the Phantasm in Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Henry Carr
- Grounds of Non-Catholic Freedom in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, by Arhtur Maxson Smith
- Homilies for Sundays, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Introduction to the Metaphysics of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by James F Anderson
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- Meditations for Lent, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Meditations for Lent, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
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- Modern Thomistic Philosophy, v1, by R P Phillips
- Moral Teaching of Saint Thomas, v1, by Joseph Rickaby, SJ
- Moral Teaching of Saint Thomas, v2, by Joseph Rickaby, SJ
- Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Charles Jerome Callan
- New Things and Old in Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Ninety-nine Homilies of Saint Thomas Aquinas, translated by John M Ashley, BCL
- On Prayer and the Contemplative Life, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Philosophical Texts of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Thomas Gilby
- Philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Hans Meyer
- Physical System of Saint Thomas, by Father Giovannit Maria Cornoldi, SJ
- Political Ideas of Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Reactions Between Dogma and Philosophy, illustrated from the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Philip H Wicksteed
- Religious State, according to the Doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, by Canon Jules Didiot
- Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ideology, by Father Ferre
- Saint Thomas Aquinas and Medieval Philosophy, by D J Kennedy, OP
- Saint Thomas’ Political Doctrine and Democracy, by Father Edward F Murphy
- Summa Theologica, Part 1, Questions 1 – 26
- Summa Theologica, Part 1, Questions 27 – 74
- Summa Theologica, Part 1, Questions 75 – 102
- Summa Theologica, Part 1, Questions 103 – 119
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 1 – 46
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 47 – 79
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 80 – 100
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 101 – 140
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 141 – 170
- Summa Theologica, Part 2, Questions 171 – 189
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Questions 1 – 26
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Questions 27 – 59
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Questions 60 – 83
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Questions 84 – Supplement 33
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Supplement 34 – 68
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Supplement 69 – 86
- Summa Theologica, Part 3, Supplement 87 – 99, Appendices
- Summary Exposition of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s Philosophy of Knowledge
- Thomas Aquinas, by Father M C D’Arcy
- Thomas Aquinas, His Personality and Thought, by Dr Martin Grabmann
- Thomism and Mathematical Physics, by Bernard I Mullahy
- Treatise on Law, by Saint Thomas Aquinas
- Treatise on Man, by Saint 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. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
Charity is the form, mover, mother and root of all the virtues. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
If you seek the example of love: “Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends.” Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake. If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because “when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth.” If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. “For just as by the disobedience of one man,” namely, Adam, “many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.” If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is “the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink. Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because “they divided my garments among themselves.” Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for “weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head.” Nor to anything delightful, for “in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” – from the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas
The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
Most loving Lord, grant me a steadfast heart which no unworthy desire may drag downards; an unconquered hear which no hardship may wear out; an upright heart which no worthless purpose may ensnare. Impart to me also, O God, the understanding to know you, the diligence to seek you, a way of life to please you, and a faithfulness that may embrace you, through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen. – Saint Thomas Aquinas, from
Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge. – Saint Thomas Aquinas
- “Saint Thomas Aquinas“. CatholicSaints.Info. 18 October 2020. Web. 28 January 2021. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-thomas-aquinas/>
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After several Catecheses on the priesthood and on my latest Journeys, today we return to our main theme: meditation on some of the great thinkers of the Middle Ages. We recently looked at the great figure of St Bonaventure, a Franciscan, and today I wish to speak of the one whom the Church calls the Doctor communis namely, St Thomas Aquinas. in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, recalled that "the Church has been justified in consistently proposing St Thomas as a master of thought and a model of the right way to do theology" (n. 43). It is not surprising that, after St Augustine, among the ecclesiastical writers mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church St Thomas is cited more than any other, at least 61 times! He was also called the Doctor Angelicus, perhaps because of his virtues and, in particular, the sublimity of his thought and the purity of his life.
Thomas was born between 1224 and 1225 in the castle that his wealthy noble family owned at Roccasecca near Aquino, not far from the famous Abbey of Montecassino where his parents sent him to receive the first elements of his education. A few years later he moved to Naples, the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, where Frederick II had founded a prestigious university. Here the thinking of the Greek philosopher Aristotle was taught without the limitations imposed elsewhere. The young Thomas was introduced to it and immediately perceived its great value. However, it was above all in those years that he spent in Naples that his Dominican vocation was born. Thomas was in fact attracted by the ideal of the Order recently founded by St Dominic. However, when he was clothed in the Dominican habit his family opposed this decision and he was obliged to leave the convent and spend some time at home.
In 1245, by which time he had come of age, he was able to continue on the path of his response to God's call. He was sent to Paris to study theology under the guidance of another Saint, Albert the Great, of whom I spoke not long ago. A true and deep friendship developed between Albert and Thomas. They learned to esteem and love each other to the point that Albert even wanted his disciple to follow him to Cologne, where he had been sent by the Superiors of the Order to found a theological studium. Thomas then once again came into contact with all Aristotle's works and his Arab commentators that Albert described and explained.
In this period the culture of the Latin world was profoundly stimulated by the encounter with Aristotle's works that had long remained unknown. They were writings on the nature of knowledge, on the natural sciences, on metaphysics, on the soul and on ethics and were full of information and intuitions that appeared valid and convincing. All this formed an overall vision of the world that had been developed without and before Christ, and with pure reason, and seemed to impose itself on reason as "the" vision itself; accordingly seeing and knowing this philosophy had an incredible fascination for the young. Many accepted enthusiastically, indeed with a-critical enthusiasm, this enormous baggage of ancient knowledge that seemed to be able to renew culture advantageously and to open totally new horizons. Others, however, feared that Aristotle's pagan thought might be in opposition to the Christian faith and refused to study it. Two cultures converged: the pre-Christian culture of Aristotle with its radical rationality and the classical Christian culture. Certain circles, moreover, were led to reject Aristotle by the presentation of this philosopher which had been made by the Arab commentators. Avicenna and Averroës. Indeed, it was they who had transmitted the Aristotelian philosophy to the Latin world. For example, these commentators had taught that human beings have no personal intelligence but that there is a single universal intelligence, a spiritual substance common to all, that works in all as "one": hence, a depersonalization of man. Another disputable point passed on by the Arab commentators was that the world was eternal like God. This understandably unleashed never-ending disputes in the university and clerical worlds. Aristotelian philosophy was continuing to spread even among the populace.
Thomas Aquinas, at the school of Albert the Great, did something of fundamental importance for the history of philosophy and theology, I would say for the history of culture: he made a thorough study of Aristotle and his interpreters, obtaining for himself new Latin translations of the original Greek texts. Consequently he no longer relied solely on the Arab commentators but was able to read the original texts for himself. He commented on most of the Aristotelian opus, distinguishing between what was valid and was dubious or to be completely rejected, showing its consonance with the events of the Christian Revelation and drawing abundantly and perceptively from Aristotle's thought in the explanation of the theological texts he was uniting. In short, Thomas Aquinas showed that a natural harmony exists between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great achievement of Thomas who, at that time of clashes between two cultures that time when it seemed that faith would have to give in to reason showed that they go hand in hand, that insofar as reason appeared incompatible with faith it was not reason, and so what appeared to be faith was not faith, since it was in opposition to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis which formed the culture of the centuries to come.
Because of his excellent intellectual gifts Thomas was summoned to Paris to be professor of theology on the Dominican chair. Here he began his literary production which continued until his death and has something miraculous about it: he commented on Sacred Scripture because the professor of theology was above all an interpreter of Scripture; and he commented on the writings of Aristotle, powerful systematic works, among which stands out his Summa Theologiae, treatises and discourses on various subjects. He was assisted in the composition of his writings by several secretaries, including his confrere, Reginald of Piperno, who followed him faithfully and to whom he was bound by a sincere brotherly friendship marked by great confidence and trust. This is a characteristic of Saints: they cultivate friendship because it is one of the noblest manifestations of the human heart and has something divine about it, just as Thomas himself explained in some of the Quaestiones of his Summa Theologiae. He writes in it: "it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God" and for "all belonging to him" (Vol. II, q. 23, a. 1).
He did not stay long or permanently in Paris. In 1259 he took part in the General Chapter of the Dominicans in Valenciennes where he was a member of a commission that established the Order's programme of studies. Then from 1261 to 1265, Thomas was in Orvieto. Pope Urban IV, who held him in high esteem, commissioned him to compose liturgical texts for the Feast of Corpus Christi, which we are celebrating tomorrow, established subsequent to the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena. Thomas had an exquisitely Eucharistic soul. The most beautiful hymns that the Liturgy of the Church sings to celebrate the mystery of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist are attributed to his faith and his theological wisdom. From 1265 until 1268 Thomas lived in Rome where he probably directed a Studium, that is, a study house of his Order, and where he began writing his Summa Theologiae (cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, Tommaso d'Aquino. L'uomo e il teologo, Casale Monf., 1994, pp. 118-184).
In 1269 Thomas was recalled to Paris for a second cycle of lectures. His students understandably were enthusiastic about his lessons. One of his former pupils declared that a vast multitude of students took Thomas' courses, so many that the halls could barely accommodate them; and this student added, making a personal comment, that "listening to him brought him deep happiness". Thomas' interpretation of Aristotle was not accepted by all, but even his adversaries in the academic field, such as Godfrey of Fontaines, for example, admitted that the teaching of Friar Thomas was superior to others for its usefulness and value and served to correct that of all the other masters. Perhaps also in order to distance him from the lively discussions that were going on, his Superiors sent him once again to Naples to be available to King Charles i who was planning to reorganize university studies.
In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas' earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realized, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then "was worthless". This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas' personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God's greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: "You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?". And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: "Nothing but Yourself, Lord!" (ibid., p. 320).
To Special Groups
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I send my greetings to those gathered during these days in Scotland for the centennial of the First Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which is now acknowledged to have given birth to the modern ecumenical movement. May we all renew our commitment to work humbly and patiently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to live again together our common apostolic heritage.
Lastly, I address the young people, the sick and the newlyweds, with the wish that each one may always serve God joyfully and love his or her neighbour with an evangelical spirit.
I would now like to remind you that at 7: 00 p.m. tomorrow, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I shall be presiding at Mass outside the Basilica of St John Lateran and it will be followed by the traditional procession to St Mary Major. I invite everyone to take part in this celebration to express together faith in Christ, present in the Eucharist.
Lastly, dear friends, I ask you to accompany with your prayers the Pastoral Visit to Cyprus on which I shall be setting out the day after tomorrow, so that it may be rich in spiritual fruits for the beloved Christian communities in the Middle East.
I am following with great trepidation the tragic events taking place close to the Gaza Strip. I feel the need to express my heartfelt sorrow for the victims of these most painful occurrences that disturb everyone who has at heart peace in the region. Once again I repeat with distress that violence does not settle controversies but rather increases their dramatic consequences and spawns further violence. I appeal to all who have political responsibilities, at both the local and international level, to seek constantly, through dialogue, just solutions in order to guarantee the peoples of the area better living conditions, in harmony and in serenity. I ask you to join me in praying for the victims, for their relatives and for all who are suffering. May the Lord support the efforts of those who never tire of working for reconciliation and Peace.
I send cordial greetings to the delegates gathered in New Orleans for this year’s Catholic Media Convention.
The theme of your meeting, “Spreading the Good News – Byte by Byte”, highlights the extraordinary potential of the new media to bring the message of Christ and the teaching of his Church to the attention of a wider public. If your mission is to be truly effective - if the words you proclaim are to touch hearts, engage people’s freedom and change their lives – you must draw them into an encounter with persons and communities who witness to the grace of Christ by their faith and their lives. In this sense, it is my hope that your days together will renew and refresh your shared enthusiasm for the Gospel. Notwithstanding the many challenges you face, never forget the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Dear friends, with these few words of encouragement, to all of you gathered for the Convention I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Saint Thomas Aquinas (2)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to continue the presentation of St Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of such value that the study of his thought was explicitly recommended by the Second Vatican Council in two documents, the Decree Optatam totius on the Training of Priests, and the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, which addresses Christian Education. Indeed, already in 1880 Pope Leo XIII, who held St Thomas in high esteem as a guide and encouraged Thomistic studies, chose to declare him Patron of Catholic Schools and Universities.
The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology. The Fathers of the Church were confronted by different philosophies of a Platonic type in which a complete vision of the world and of life was presented, including the subject of God and of religion. In comparison with these philosophies they themselves had worked out a complete vision of reality, starting with faith and using elements of Platonism to respond to the essential questions of men and women. They called this vision, based on biblical revelation and formulated with a correct Platonism in the light of faith: "our philosophy". The word "philosophy" was not, therefore, an expression of a purely rational system and, as such, distinct from faith but rather indicated a comprehensive vision of reality, constructed in the light of faith but used and conceived of by reason; a vision that naturally exceeded the capacities proper to reason but as such also fulfilled it. For St Thomas the encounter with the pre-Christian philosophy of Aristotle (who died in about 322 b.c.) opened up a new perspective. Aristotelian philosophy was obviously a philosophy worked out without the knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, an explanation of the world without revelation through reason alone. And this consequent rationality was convincing. Thus the old form of the Fathers' "our philosophy" no longer worked. The relationship between philosophy and theology, between faith and reason, needed to be rethought. A "philosophy" existed that was complete and convincing in itself, a rationality that preceded the faith, followed by "theology", a form of thinking with the faith and in the faith. The pressing question was this: are the world of rationality, philosophy conceived of without Christ, and the world of faith compatible? Or are they mutually exclusive? Elements that affirmed the incompatibility of these two worlds were not lacking, but St Thomas was firmly convinced of their compatibility indeed that philosophy worked out without the knowledge of Christ was awaiting, as it were, the light of Jesus to be complete. This was the great "surprise" of St Thomas that determined the path he took as a thinker. Showing this independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal relationality was the historic mission of the great teacher. And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them. In his theological work, St Thomas supposes and concretizes this relationality. Faith consolidates, integrates and illumines the heritage of truth that human reason acquires. The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge faith and reason may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption.
Together with the agreement between reason and faith, we must recognize on the other hand that they avail themselves of different cognitive procedures. Reason receives a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, mediated or unmediated; faith, on the contrary, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the Word of God that is revealed. St Thomas writes at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae: "We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science, because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed" (ia, q. 1, a.2).
This distinction guarantees the autonomy of both the human and the theological sciences. However, it is not equivalent to separation but, rather, implies a reciprocal and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to distrust its own abilities, stimulates it to be open to ever broader horizons, keeps alive in it the search for foundations and, when reason itself is applied to the supernatural sphere of the relationship between God and man, faith enriches his work. According to St Thomas, for example, human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of the Love of the Triune God.
Moreover, it is not only faith that helps reason. Reason too, with its own means can do something important for faith, making it a threefold service which St Thomas sums up in the preface to his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius: "demonstrating those truths that are preambles of the faith; giving a clearer notion, by certain similitudes, of the truths of the faith; resisting those who speak against the faith, either by showing that their statements are false, or by showing that they are not necessarily true" (q. 2, a.3). The entire history of theology is basically the exercise of this task of the mind which shows the intelligibility of faith, its articulation and inner harmony, its reasonableness and its ability to further human good. The correctness of theological reasoning and its real cognitive meaning is based on the value of theological language which, in St Thomas' opinion, is principally an analogical language. The distance between God, the Creator, and the being of his creatures is infinite; dissimilitude is ever greater than similitude (cf. DS 806). Nevertheless in the whole difference between Creator and creatures an analogy exists between the created being and the being of the Creator, which enables us to speak about God with human words.
St Thomas not only based the doctrine of analogy on exquisitely philosophical argumentation but also on the fact that with the Revelation God himself spoke to us and therefore authorized us to speak of him. I consider it important to recall this doctrine. In fact, it helps us get the better of certain objections of contemporary atheism which denies that religious language is provided with an objective meaning and instead maintains that it has solely a subjective or merely emotional value. This objection derives from the fact that positivist thought is convinced that man does not know being but solely the functions of reality that can be experienced. With St Thomas and with the great philosophical tradition we are convinced that, in reality, man does not only know the functions, the object of the natural sciences, but also knows something of being itself for example, he knows the person, the You of the other, and not only the physical and biological aspect of his being.
In the light of this teaching of St Thomas theology says that however limited it may be, religious language is endowed with sense because we touch being like an arrow aimed at the reality it signifies. This fundamental agreement between human reason and Christian faith is recognized in another basic principle of Aquinas' thought. Divine Grace does not annihilate but presupposes and perfects human nature. The latter, in fact, even after sin, is not completely corrupt but wounded and weakened. Grace, lavished upon us by God and communicated through the Mystery of the Incarnate Word, is an absolutely free gift with which nature is healed, strengthened and assisted in pursuing the innate desire for happiness in the heart of every man and of every woman. All the faculties of the human being are purified, transformed and uplifted by divine Grace.
An important application of this relationship between nature and Grace is recognized in the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas, which proves to be of great timeliness. At the centre of his teaching in this field, he places the new law which is the law of the Holy Spirit. With a profoundly evangelical gaze he insists on the fact that this law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Christ. The written and oral teaching of the doctrinal and moral truths transmitted by the Church is united to this Grace. St Thomas, emphasizing the fundamental role in moral life of the action of the Holy Spirit, of Grace, from which flow the theological and moral virtues, makes us understand that all Christians can attain the lofty perspectives of the "Sermon on the Mount", if they live an authentic relationship of faith in Christ, if they are open to the action of his Holy Spirit. However, Aquinas adds, "Although Grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring" (Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, a. 6, ad 2), which is why, in the Christian moral perspective, there is a place for reason which is capable of discerning natural moral law. Reason can recognize this by considering what it is good to do and what it is good to avoid in order to achieve that felicity which everyone has at heart, which also implies a responsibility towards others and, therefore, the search for the common good. In other words, the human, theological and moral virtues are rooted in human nature. Divine Grace accompanies, sustains and impels ethical commitment but, according to St Thomas, all human beings, believers and non-believers alike, are called to recognize the needs of human nature expressed in natural law and to draw inspiration from it in the formulation of positive laws, namely those issued by the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence.
When natural law and the responsibility it entails are denied this dramatically paves the way to ethical relativism at the individual level and to totalitarianism of the State at the political level. The defence of universal human rights and the affirmation of the absolute value of the person's dignity postulate a foundation. Does not natural law constitute this foundation, with the non-negotiable values that it indicates? Venerable John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae words that are still very up to date: "It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote" (n. 71).
To conclude, Thomas presents to us a broad and confident concept of human reason: broad because it is not limited to the spaces of the so-called "empirical-scientific" reason, but open to the whole being and thus also to the fundamental and inalienable questions of human life; and confident because human reason, especially if it accepts the inspirations of Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the cogency of his or her duties. It is not surprising that the doctrine on the dignity of the person, fundamental for the recognition of the inviolability of human rights, developed in schools of thought that accepted the legacy of St Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty conception of the human creature. He defined it, with his rigorously philosophical language, as "what is most perfect to be found in all nature - that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature" (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 3).
The depth of St Thomas Aquinas' thought let us never forget it flows from his living faith and fervent piety, which he expressed in inspired prayers such as this one in which he asks God: "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".
To Special Groups
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the many parish and student groups. I offer a warm welcome to all who have come from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!
Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, may you always find in Christ present in the Eucharist the spiritual nourishment to advance on the path of holiness; may Christ be for you, dear sick people, a support and comfort in trial and in suffering; and for you, dear newlyweds, may the sacrament that has rooted you in Christ be the source that feeds your daily love.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Saint Thomas Aquinas (3)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to complete, with a third instalment, my Catecheses on St Thomas Aquinas. Even more than 700 years after his death we can learn much from him. My Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, also said this, in a Discourse he gave at Fossanova on 14 September 1974 on the occasion of the seventh centenary of St Thomas' death. He asked himself: "Thomas, our Teacher, what lesson can you give us?". And he answered with these words: "trust in the truth of Catholic religious thought, as defended, expounded and offered by him to the capacities of the human mind" (Address in honour of St Thomas Aquinas in the Basilica, 14 September 1974; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, [ore], 26 September 1974, p. 4). In Aquino moreover, on that same day, again with reference to St Thomas, Paul VI said, "all of us who are faithful sons and daughters of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent!" (Address to people in the Square at Aquino, 14 September 1974; ORE, p. 5).
Let us too, therefore, learn from the teaching of St Thomas and from his masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. It was left unfinished, yet it is a monumental work: it contains 512 questions and 2,669 articles. It consists of concentrated reasoning in which the human mind is applied to the mysteries of faith, with clarity and depth to the mysteries of faith, alternating questions with answers in which St Thomas deepens the teaching that comes from Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers of the Church, especially St Augustine. In this reflection, in meeting the true questions of his time, that are also often our own questions, St Thomas, also by employing the method and thought of the ancient philosophers, and of Aristotle in particular, thus arrives at precise, lucid and pertinent formulations of the truths of faith in which truth is a gift of faith, shines out and becomes accessible to us, for our reflection. However, this effort of the human mind Aquinas reminds us with his own life is always illumined by prayer, by the light that comes from on high. Only those who live with God and with his mysteries can also understand what they say to us.
In the Summa of theology, St Thomas starts from the fact that God has three different ways of being and existing: God exists in himself, he is the beginning and end of all things, which is why all creatures proceed from him and depend on him: then God is present through his Grace in the life and activity of the Christian, of the saints; lastly, God is present in an altogether special way in the Person of Christ, here truly united to the man Jesus, and active in the Sacraments that derive from his work of redemption. Therefore, the structure of this monumental work (cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, La "Summa" di San Tommaso, Milan 2003, pp. 29-75), a quest with "a theological vision" for the fullness of God (cf. Summa Theologiae, Ia q. 1, a. 7), is divided into three parts and is illustrated by the Doctor Communis himself St Thomas with these words: "Because the chief aim of sacred doctrine is to teach the knowledge of God, not only as he is in himself, but also as he is the beginning of things and their last end, and especially of rational creatures, as is clear from what has already been said, therefore, we shall treat: (1) Of God; (2) Of the rational creature's advance towards God; (3) Of Christ, Who as man, is our way to God" (ibid.,I, q. 2). It is a circle: God in himself, who comes out of himself and takes us by the hand, in such a way that with Christ we return to God, we are united to God, and God will be all things to all people.
The First Part of the Summa Theologiae thus investigates God in himself, the mystery of the Trinity and of the creative activity of God. In this part we also find a profound reflection on the authentic reality of the human being, inasmuch as he has emerged from the creative hands of God as the fruit of his love. On the one hand we are dependent created beings, we do not come from ourselves; yet, on the other, we have a true autonomy so that we are not only something apparent as certain Platonic philosophers say but a reality desired by God as such and possessing an inherent value.
In the Third Part of the Summa, St Thomas studies the Mystery of Christ the way and the truth through which we can reach God the Father. In this section he writes almost unparalleled pages on the Mystery of Jesus' Incarnation and Passion, adding a broad treatise on the seven sacraments, for it is in them that the Divine Word Incarnate extends the benefits of the Incarnation for our salvation, for our journey of faith towards God and eternal life. He is, as it were, materially present with the realities of creation, and thus touches us in our inmost depths.
In speaking of the sacraments, St Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean his head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus' divine and human heart. In one of his works, commenting on Scripture, St Thomas helps us to understand the excellence of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when he writes: "Since this [the Eucharist] is the sacrament of Our Lord's Passion, it contains in itself the Jesus Christ who suffered for us. Thus, whatever is an effect of Our Lord's Passion is also an effect of this sacrament. For this sacrament is nothing other than the application of Our Lord's Passion to us" (cf. Commentary on John, chapter 6, lecture 6, n. 963). We clearly understand why St Thomas and other Saints celebrated Holy Mass shedding tears of compassion for the Lord who gave himself as a sacrifice for us, tears of joy and gratitude.
Dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, let us fall in love with this sacrament! Let us participate in Holy Mass with recollection, to obtain its spiritual fruits, let us nourish ourselves with this Body and Blood of Our Lord, to be ceaselessly fed by divine Grace! Let us willingly and frequently linger in the company of the Blessed Sacrament in heart-to-heart conversation!
I would like to propose some simple, essential and convincing examples of the content of St Thomas' teaching. In his booklet on The Apostles' Creed he explains the value of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God and produces, as it were, a shot of eternal life; life receives a reliable orientation and we overcome temptations with ease. To those who object that faith is foolishness because it leads to belief in something that does not come within the experience of the senses, St Thomas gives a very articulate answer and recalls that this is an inconsistent doubt, for human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything. Only if we were able to know all visible and invisible things perfectly would it be genuinely foolish to accept truths out of pure faith. Moreover, it is impossible to live, St Thomas observes, without trusting in the experience of others, wherever one's own knowledge falls short. It is thus reasonable to believe in God, who reveals himself, and to the testimony of the Apostles: they were few, simple and poor, grief-stricken by the Crucifixion of their Teacher. Yet many wise, noble and rich people converted very soon after hearing their preaching. In fact this is a miraculous phenomenon of history, to which it is far from easy to give a convincing answer other than that of the Apostle's encounter with the Risen Lord.
In commenting on the article of the Creed on the Incarnation of the divine Word St Thomas makes a few reflections. He says that the Christian faith is strengthened in considering the mystery of the Incarnation; hope is strengthened at the thought that the Son of God came among us, as one of us, to communicate his own divinity to human beings; charity is revived because there is no more obvious sign of God's love for us than the sight of the Creator of the universe making himself a creature, one of us. Finally, in contemplating the mystery of God's Incarnation, we feel kindled within us our desire to reach Christ in glory. Using a simple and effective comparison, St Thomas remarks: "If the brother of a king were to be far away, he would certainly long to live beside him. Well, Christ is a brother to us; we must therefore long for his company and become of one heart with him" (Opuscoli teologico-spirituali, Rome 1976, p. 64).
In presenting the prayer of the Our Father, St Thomas shows that it is perfect in itself, since it has all five of the characteristics that a well-made prayer must possess: trusting, calm abandonment; a fitting content because, St Thomas observes, "it is quite difficult to know exactly what it is appropriate and inappropriate to ask for, since choosing among our wishes puts us in difficulty" (ibid., p. 120); and then an appropriate order of requests, the fervour of love and the sincerity of humility.
Like all the Saints, St Thomas had a great devotion to Our Lady. He described her with a wonderful title: Triclinium totius Trinitatis; triclinium, that is, a place where the Trinity finds rest since, because of the Incarnation, in no creature as in her do the three divine Persons dwell and feel delight and joy at dwelling in her soul full of Grace. Through her intercession we may obtain every help.
With a prayer that is traditionally attributed to St Thomas and that in any case reflects the elements of his profound Marian devotion we too say: "O most Blessed and sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God... I entrust to your merciful heart... my entire life.... Obtain for me as well, O most sweet Lady, true charity with which from the depths of my heart I may love your most Holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and, after him, love you above all other things... and my neighbour, in God and for God".
To Special Groups:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a warm welcome to the numerous student groups present, and in a special way to those taking part in the programmes sponsored by the Foyer Unitas Lay Centre, the Anglican Centre of Rome and the Midwest Theological Forum. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Bahamas and the United States of America, I invoke God's abundant Blessings.
I now greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Today is the liturgical Memorial of St Joseph Cafasso and the 150th anniversary of his death. May the example of this attractive figure of an exemplary priest, to which I want to devote the next Wednesday Catechesis, help you, dear young people to experience personally the liberating power of Christ's love that profoundly renews human life; may it sustain you, dear sick people, in offering up your suffering for the conversion of those who are prisoners of evil; may it encourage you, dear newlyweds, to be a sign of God's faithfulness, also with mutual forgiveness, motivated by love.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
The great outlines and all the important events of his life are known, but biographers differ as to some details and dates. Death prevented Henry Denifle from executing his project of writing a critical life of the saint. Denifle's friend and pupil, Dominic Prümmer, O.P., professor of theology in the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, took up the work and published the "Fontes Vitae S. Thomae Aquinatis, notis historicis et criticis illustrati"; and the first fascicle (Toulouse, 1911) has appeared, giving the life of St. Thomas by Peter Calo (1300) now published for the first time. From Tolomeo of Lucca . . . we learn that at the time of the saint's death there was a doubt about his exact age (Prümmer, op. cit., 45). The end of 1225 is usually assigned as the time of his birth. Father Prümmer, on the authority of Calo, thinks 1227 is the more probable date (op. cit., 28). All agree that he died in 1274.
Landulph, his father, was Count of Aquino; Theodora, his mother, Countess of Teano. His family was related to the Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II, and to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and France. Calo relates that a holy hermit foretold his career, saying to Theodora before his birth: "He will enter the Order of Friars Preachers, and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him" (Prümmer, op. cit., 18). At the age of five, according to the custom of the times, he was sent to receive his first training from the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino. Diligent in study, he was thus early noted as being meditative and devoted to prayer, and his preceptor was surprised at hearing the child ask frequently: "What is God?"
About the year 1236 he was sent to the University of Naples. Calo says that the change was made at the instance of the Abbot of Monte Cassino, who wrote to Thomas's father that a boy of such talents should not be left in obscurity (Prümmcr, op. cit., 20). At Naples his preceptors were Pietro Martini and Petrus Hibernus. The chronicler says that he soon surpassed Martini at grammar, and he was then given over to Peter of Ireland, who trained him in logic and the natural sciences. The customs of the times divided the liberal arts into two courses: the Trivium, embracing grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the Quadrivium, comprising music, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy . . . . Thomas could repeat the lessons with more depth and lucidity than his masters displayed. The youth's heart had remained pure amidst the corruption with which he was surrounded, and he resolved to embrace the religious life.
Some time between 1240 and August, 1243, he received the habit of the Order of St. Dominic, being attracted and directed by John of St. Julian, a noted preacher of the convent of Naples. The city wondered that such a noble young man should don the garb of poor friar. His mother, with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow, hastened to Naples to see her son. The Dominicans, fearing she would take him away, sent him to Rome, his ultimate destination being Paris or Cologne. At the instance of Theodora, Thomas's brothers, who were soldiers under the Emperor Frederick, captured the novice near the town of Aquapendente and confined him in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. Here he was detained nearly two years, his parents, brothers, and sisters endeavouring by various means to destroy his vocation. The brothers even laid snares for his virtue, but the pure-minded novice drove the temptress from his room with a brand which he snatched from the fire. Towards the end of his life, St. Thomas confided to his faithful friend and companion, Reginald of Piperno, the secret of a remarkable favour received at this time. When the temptress had been driven from his chamber, he knelt and most earnestly implored God to grant him integrity of mind and body. He fell into a gentle sleep, and, as he slept, two angels appeared to assure him that his prayer had been heard. They then girded him about with a white girdle, saying: "We gird thee with the girdle of perpetual virginity." And from that day forward he never experienced the slightest motions of concupiscence.
The time spent in captivity was not lost. His mother relented somewhat, after the first burst of anger and grief; the Dominicans were allowed to provide him with new habits, and through the kind offices of his sister he procured some books — the Holy Scriptures, Aristotle's Metaphysics, and the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard. After eighteen months or two years spent in prison, either because his mother saw that the hermit's prophecy would eventually be fulfilled or because his brothers feared the threats of Innocent IV and Frederick II, he was set at liberty, being lowered in a basket into the arms of the Dominicans, who were delighted to find that during his captivity "he had made as much progress as if he had been in a studium generale" (Calo, op. cit., 24).
Thomas immediately pronounced his vows, and his superiors sent him to Rome. Innocent IV examined closely into his motives in joining the Friars Preachers, dismissed him with a blessing, and forbade any further interference with his vocation. John the Teutonic, fourth master general of the order, took the young student to Paris and, according to the majority of the saint's biographers, to Cologne, where he arrived in 1244 or 1245, and was placed under Albertus Magnus, the most renowned professor of the order. In the schools Thomas's humility and taciturnity were misinterpreted as signs of dullness, but when Albert had heard his brilliant defence of a difficult thesis, he exclaimed: "We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world."
In 1245 Albert was sent to Paris, and Thomas accompanied him as a student. In 1248 both returned to Cologne. Albert had been appointed regent of the new studium generale, erected that year by the general chapter of the order, and Thomas was to teach under him as Bachelor. (On the system of graduation in the thirteenth century see ORDER OF PREACHERS — II, A, 1, d). During his stay in Cologne, probably in 1250, he was raised to the priesthood by Conrad of Hochstaden, archbishop of that city. Throughout his busy life, he frequently preached the Word of God, in Germany, France, and Italy. His sermons were forceful, redolent of piety, full of solid instruction, abounding in apt citations from the Scriptures.
In the year 1251 or 1252 the master general of the order, by the advice of Albertus Magnus and Hugo a S. Charo (Hugh of St. Cher), sent Thomas to fill the office of Bachelor (sub-regent) in the Dominican studium at Paris. This appointment may be regarded as the beginning of his public career, for his teaching soon attracted the attention both of the professors and of the students. His duties consisted principally in explaining the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard, and his commentaries on that text-book of theology furnished the materials and, in great part, the plan for his chief work, the "Summa theologica".
In due time he was ordered to prepare himself to obtain the degree of Doctor in Theology from the University of Paris, but the conferring of the degree was postponed, owing to a dispute between the university and the friars. The conflict, originally a dispute between the university and the civic authorities, arose from the slaying of one of the students and the wounding of three others by the city guard. The university, jealous of its autonomy, demanded satisfaction, which was refused. The doctors closed their schools, solemnly swore that they would not reopen them until their demands were granted, and decreed that in future no one should be admitted to the degree of Doctor unless he would take an oath to follow the same line of conduct under similar circumstances. The Dominicans and Franciscans, who had continued to teach in their schools, refused to take the prescribed oath, and from this there arose a bitter conflict which was at its height when St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure were ready to be presented for their degrees. William of St-Amour extended the dispute beyond the original question, violently attacked the friars, of whom he was evidently jealous, and denied their right to occupy chairs in the university. Against his book, "De periculis novissimorum temporum" (The Perils of the Last Times), St. Thomas wrote a treatise "Contra impugnantes religionem", an apology for the religious orders (Touron, op. cit., II, cc. vii sqq.). The book of William of St-Amour was condemned by Alexander IV at Anagni, 5 October, 1256, and the pope gave orders that the mendicant friars should be admitted to the doctorate.
About this time St. Thomas also combated a dangerous book, "The Eternal Gospel" (Touron, op. cit., II, cxii). The university authorities did not obey immediately; the influence of St. Louis IX and eleven papal Briefs were required before peace was firmly established, and St. Thomas was admitted to the degree of Doctor in Theology. The date of his promotion, as given by many biographers, was 23 October, 1257. His theme was "The Majesty of Christ". His text, "Thou waterest the hills from thy upper rooms: the earth shall be filled with the fruit of thy works" (Psalm 103:13), said to have been suggested by a heavenly visitor, seems to have been prophetic of his career. A tradition says that St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas received the doctorate on the same day, and that there was a contest of humility between the two friends as to which should be promoted first.
From this time St. Thomas's life may be summed up in a few words: praying, preaching, teaching, writing, journeying. Men were more anxious to hear him than they had been to hear Albert, whom St. Thomas surpassed in accuracy, lucidity, brevity, and power of exposition, if not in universality of knowledge. Paris claimed him as her own; the popes wished to have him near them; the studia of the order were eager to enjoy the benefit of his teaching; hence we find him successively at Anagni, Rome, Bologna, Orvieto, Viterbo, Perugia, in Paris again, and finally in Naples, always teaching and writing, living on earth with one passion, an ardent zeal for the explanation and defence of Christian truth. So devoted was he to his sacred task that with tears he begged to be excused from accepting the Archbishopric of Naples, to which he was appointed by Clement IV in 1265. Had this appointment been accepted, most probably the "Summa theologica" would not have been written.
Yielding to the requests of his brethren, he on several occasions took part in the deliberations of the general chapters of the order. One of these chapters was held in London in 1263. In another held at Valenciennes (1259) he collaborated with Albertus Magnus and Peter of Tarentasia (afterwards Pope Innocent V) in formulating a system of studies which is substantially preserved to this day in the studia generalia of the Dominican Order (cf. Douais, op. cit.).
It is not surprising to read in the biographies of St. Thomas that he was frequently abstracted and in ecstasy. Towards the end of his life the ecstasies became more frequent. On one occasion, at Naples in 1273, after he had completed his treatise on the Eucharist, three of the brethren saw him lifted in ecstasy, and they heard a voice proceeding from the crucifix on the altar, saying "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?" Thomas replied, "None other than Thyself, Lord" (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 38). Similar declarations are said to have been made at Orvieto and at Paris.
On 6 December, 1273, he laid aside his pen and would write no more. That day he experienced an unusually long ecstasy during Mass; what was revealed to him we can only surmise from his reply to Father Reginald, who urged him to continue his writings: "I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value" (modica, Prümmer, op. cit., p. 43). The "Summa theologica" had been completed only as far as the ninetieth question of the third part (De partibus poenitentiae).
Thomas began his immediate preparation for death. Gregory X, having convoked a general council, to open at Lyons on 1 May, 1274, invited St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure to take part in the deliberations, commanding the former to bring to the council his treatise "Contra errores Graecorum" (Against the Errors of the Greeks). He tried to obey, setting out on foot in January, 1274, but strength failed him; he fell to the ground near Terracina, whence he was conducted to the Castle of Maienza, the home of his niece the Countess Francesca Ceccano. The Cistercian monks of Fossa Nuova pressed him to accept their hospitality, and he was conveyed to their monastery, on entering which he whispered to his companion: "This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it" (Psalm 131:14). When Father Reginald urged him to remain at the castle, the saint replied: "If the Lord wishes to take me away, it is better that I be found in a religious house than in the dwelling of a lay person." The Cistercians were so kind and attentive that Thomas's humility was alarmed. "Whence comes this honour", he exclaimed, "that servants of God should carry wood for my fire!" At the urgent request of the monks he dictated a brief commentary on the Canticle of Canticles.
The end was near; extreme unction was administered. When the Sacred Viaticum was brought into the room he pronounced the following act of faith:
If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament . . . I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.
He died on 7 March, 1274. Numerous miracles attested his sanctity, and he was canonized by John XXII, 18 July, 1323. The monks of Fossa Nuova were anxious to keep his sacred remains, but by order of Urban V the body was given to his Dominican brethren, and was solemnly translated to the Dominican church at Toulouse, 28 January, 1369. A magnificent shrine erected in 1628 was destroyed during the French Revolution, and the body was removed to the Church of St. Sernin, where it now reposes in a sarcophagus of gold and silver, which was solemnly blessed by Cardinal Desprez on 24 July, 1878. The chief bone of his left arm is preserved in the cathedral of Naples. The right arm, bestowed on the University of Paris, and originally kept in the St. Thomas's Chapel of the Dominican church, is now preserved in the Dominican Church of S. Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, whither it was transferred during the French Revolution.
A description of the saint as he appeared in life is given by Calo (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 401), who says that his features corresponded with the greatness of his soul. He was of lofty stature and of heavy build, but straight and well proportioned. His complexion was "like the colour of new wheat": his head was large and well shaped, and he was slightly bald. All portraits represent him as noble, meditative, gentle yet strong. St. Pius V proclaimed St. Thomas a Doctor of the Universal Church in the year 1567. In the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris", of 4 August, 1879, on the restoration of Christian philosophy, Leo XIII declared him "the prince and master of all Scholastic doctors". The same illustrious pontiff, by a Brief dated 4 August, 1880, designated him patron of all Catholic universities, academies, colleges, and schools throughout the world.
Writings (general remarks)
Although St. Thomas lived less than fifty years, he composed more than sixty works, some of them brief, some very lengthy. This does not necessarily mean that every word in the authentic works was written by his hand; he was assisted by secretaries, and biographers assure us that he could dictate to several scribes at the same time. Other works, some of which were composed by his disciples, have been falsely attributed to him.
In the "Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum" (Paris, 1719) Fr. Echard devotes eighty-six folio pages to St. Thomas's works, the different editions and translations (I, pp. 282-348). Touron (op. cit., pp. 69 sqq.) says that manuscript copies were found in nearly all the libraries of Europe, and that, after the invention of printing, copies were multiplied rapidly in Germany, Italy, and France, portions of the "Summa theologica" being one of the first important works printed. Peter Schöffer, a printer of Mainz, published the "Secunda Secundae" in 1467. This is the first known printed copy of any work of St. Thomas. The first complete edition of the "Summa" was printed at Basle, in 1485. Many other editions of this and of other works were published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially at Venice and at Lyons. The principal editions of all the work (Opera Omnia) were published as follows: Rome, 1570; Venice, 1594, 1612, 1745; Antwerp, 1612; Paris, 1660, 1871-80 (Vives); Parma, 1852-73; Rome, 1882 (the Leonine). The Roman edition of 1570, called "the Piana", because edited by order of St. Pius V, was the standard for many years. Besides a carefully revised text it contained the commentaries of Cardinal Cajetan and the valuable "Tabula Aurea" of Peter of Bergamo. The Venetian edition of 1612 was highly prized because the text was accompanied by the Cajetan-Porrecta commentaries . . . . The Leonine edition, begun under the patronage of Leo XIII, now continued under the master general of the Dominicans, undoubtedly will be the most perfect of all. Critical dissertations on each work will be given, the text will be carefully revised, and all references will be verified. By direction of Leo XIII (Motu Proprio, 18 Jan., 1880) the "Summa contra gentiles" will be published with the commentaries of Sylvester Ferrariensis, whilst the commentaries of Cajetan go with the "Summa theologica".
The latter has been published, being volumes IV-XII of the edition (last in 1906). St. Thomas's works may be classified as philosophical, theological, scriptural, and apologetic, or controversial. The division, however, cannot always be rigidly maintained. The "Summa theologica", e.g., contains much that is philosophical, whilst the "Summa contra gentiles" is principally, but not exclusively, philosophical and apologetic. His philosophical works are chiefly commentaries on Aristotle, and his first important theological writings were commentaries on Peter Lombard's four books of "Sentences"; but he does not slavishly follow either the Philosopher or the Master of the Sentences (on opinions of the Lombard rejected by theologians, see Migne, 1841, edition of the "Summa" I, p. 451).
Writings (his principal works)
Amongst the works wherein St. Thomas's own mind and method are shown, the following deserve special mention:
(1) "Quaestiones disputatae" (Disputed Questions) — These were more complete treatises on subjects that had not been fully elucidated in the lecture halls, or concerning which the professor's opinion had been sought. They are very valuable, because in them the author, free from limitations as to time or space, freely expresses his mind and gives all arguments for or against the opinions adopted. These treatises, containing the questions "De potentia", "De malo", "De spirit. creaturis", "De anima", "De unione Verbi Incarnati", "De virt. in communi", "De caritate", "De corr. fraterna", "De spe", "De virt. cardinal.", "De veritate", were often reprinted, e.g. recently by the Association of St. Paul (2 vols., Paris and Fribourg, Switzerland, 1883).
(2) "Quodlibeta" (may be rendered "Various Subjects", or "Free Discussions") — They present questions or arguments proposed and answers given in or outside the lecture halls, chiefly in the more formal Scholastic exercises, termed circuli, conclusiones, or determinationes, which were held once or twice a year.
(3) "De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas" -- This opusculum refuted a very dangerous and widespread error, viz., that there was but one soul for all men, a theory which did away with individual liberty and responsibility. (See AVERROES)
(4) "Commentaria in Libros Sententiarum" (mentioned above) -- This with the following work are the immediate forerunners of the "Summa theologica".
(5) "Summa de veritate catholicae fidei contra gentiles" (Treatise on the Truth of the Catholic Faith, against Unbelievers) -- This work, written at Rome, 1261-64, was composed at the request of St. Raymond of Pennafort, who desired to have a philosophical exposition and defence of the Christian Faith, to be used against the Jews and Moors in Spain. It is a perfect model of patient and sound apologetics, showing that no demonstrated truth (science) is opposed to revealed truth (faith). The best recent editions are those of Rome, 1878 (by Uccelli), of Paris and Fribourg, Switzerland, 1882, and of Rome, 1894. It has been translated into many languages. It is divided into four books: I. Of God as He is in Himself; II. Of God the Origin of Creatures; III. Of God the End of Creatures; IV. Of God in His Revelation. It is worthy of remark that the Fathers of the Vatican Council, treating the necessity of revelation (Constitution "Dei Filius", c. 2), employed almost the very words used by St. Thomas in treating that subject in this work (I, cc. iv, V), and in the "Summa theologica" (I:1:1).
(6) Three works written by order of Urban IV --
- The "Opusculum contra errores Graecorum" refuted the errors of the Greeks on doctrines in dispute between them and the Roman Church, viz., the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, the primacy of the Roman pontiff, the Holy Eucharist, and purgatory. It was used against the Greeks with telling effect in the Council of Lyons (1274) and in the Council of Florence (1493). In the range of human reasonings on deep subjects there can be found nothing to surpass the sublimity and depth of the argument adduced by St. Thomas to prove that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son (cf. Summa I:36:2); but it must be borne in mind that our Faith is not based on that argument alone.
- "Officium de festo Corporis Christi". Mandonnet (Ecrits, p. 127) declares that it is now established beyond doubt that St. Thomas is the author of the beautiful Office of Corpus Christi, in which solid doctrine, tender piety, and enlightening Scriptural citations are combined, and expressed in language remarkably accurate, beautiful, chaste, and poetic. Here we find the well-known hymns, "Sacris Solemniis", "Pange Lingua" (concluding in the "Tantum Ergo"), "Verbum Supernum" (concluding with the "O Salutaris Hostia") and, in the Mass, the beautiful sequence "Lauda Sion". In the responses of the office, St. Thomas places side by side words of the New Testament affirming the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and texts from the Old Testament referring to the types and figures of the Eucharist. Santeuil, a poet of the seventeenth century, said he would give all the verses he had written for the one stanza of the "Verbum Supernum": "Se nascens dedit socium, convescens in edulium: Se moriens in pretium, Se regnans dat in praemium" — "In birth, man's fellow-man was He, His meat, while sitting at the Board: He died his Ransomer to be, He reigns to be his Great Reward" (tr. by Marquis of Bute). Perhaps the gem of the whole office is the antiphon "O Sacrum Convivium" (cf. Conway, "St. Thomas Aquinas", London and New York, 1911, p. 61).
- The "Catena Aurea", though not as original as his other writings, furnishes a striking proof of St. Thomas's prodigious memory and manifests an intimate acquaintance with the Fathers of the Church. The work contains a series of passages selected from the writings of the various Fathers, arranged in such order that the texts cited form a running commentary on the Gospels. The commentary on St. Matthew was dedicated to Urban IV. An English translation of the "Catena Aurea" was edited by John Henry Newman (4 vols., Oxford, 1841-1845; see Vaughan, op. cit., vol. II,) pp. 529 sqq..
In the introductory question, "On Sacred Doctrine", he proves that, besides the knowledge which reason affords, Revelation also is necessary for salvation first, because without it men could not know the supenatural end to which they must tend by their voluntary acts; secondly, because, without Revelation, even the truths concerning God which could be proved by reason would be known "only by a few, after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors". When revealed truths have been accepted, the mind of man proceeds to explain them and to draw conclusions from them. Hence results theology, which is a science, because it proceeds from principles that are certain (Answer 2). The object, or subject, of this science is God; other things are treated in it only in so far as they relate to God (Answer 7). Reason is used in theology not to prove the truths of faith, which are accepted on the authority of God, but to defend, explain, and develop the doctrines revealed (Answer 8). He thus announces the division of the "Summa": "Since the chief aim of this sacred science is to give the knowledge of God, not only as He is in Himself, but also as He is the Beginning of all things, and the End of all, especially of rational creatures, we shall treat first of God; secondly, of the rational creature's advance towards God (de motu creaturae rationalis in Deum); thirdly, of Christ, Who, as Man, is the way by which we tend to God." God in Himself, and as He is the Creator; God as the End of all things, especially of man; God as the Redeemer — these are the leading ideas, the great headings, under which all that pertains to theology is contained.
The First Part is divided into three tracts:
- On those things which pertain to the Essence of God;
- On the distinction of Persons in God (the mystery of the Trinity);
- On the production of creatures by God and on the creatures produced.
The First of the Second. The first five questions are devoted to proving that man's last end, his beatitude, consists in the possession of God. Man attains to that end or deviates from it by human acts, i.e. by free, deliberate acts. Of human acts he treats, first, in general (in all but the first five questions of the I-II), secondly, in particular (in the whole of the II-II). The treatise on human acts in general is divided into two parts: the first, on human acts in themselves; the other, on the principles or causes, extrinsic or intrinsic, of those acts. In these tracts and in the Second of the Second, St. Thomas, following Aristotle, gives a perfect description and a wonderfully keen analysis of the movements of man's mind and heart.
The Second of the Second considers human acts, i.e., the virtues and vices, in particular. In it St. Thomas treats, first, of those things that pertain to all men, no matter what may be their station in life, and, secondly, of those things that pertain to some men only. Things that pertain to all men are reduced to seven headings: Faith, Hope, and Charity; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Under each title, in order to avoid repetitions, St. Thomas treats not only of the virtue itself, but also of the vices opposed to it, of the commandment to practise it, and of the gift of the Holy Ghost which corresponds to it. Things pertaining to some men only are reduced to three headings: the graces freely given (gratia gratis datae) to certain individuals for the good of the Church, such as the gifts of tongues, of prophecy, of miracles; the active and the contemplative life; the particular states of life, and duties of those who are in different states, especially bishops and religious.
The Third Part treats of Christ and of the benefits which He has conferred upon man, hence three tracts: On the Incarnation, and on what the Saviour did and suffered; On the Sacraments, which were instituted by Christ, and have their efficacy from His merits and sufferings; On Eternal Life, i.e., on the end of the world, the resurrection of bodies, judgment, the punishment of the wicked, the happiness of the just who, through Christ, attain to eternal life in heaven.
Eight years were given to the composition of this work, which was begun at Rome, where the First Part and the First of the Second were written (1265-69). The Second of the Second, begun in Rome, was completed in Paris (1271). In 1272 St. Thomas went to Naples, where the Third Part was written, down to the ninetieth question of the tract On Penance (see Leonine edition, I, p. xlii). The work has been completed by the addition of a supplement, drawn from other writings of St. Thomas, attributed by some to Peter of Auvergne, by others to Henry of Gorkum. These attributions are rejected by the editors of the Leonine edition (XI, pp. viii, xiv, xviii). Mandonnet (op. cit., 153) inclines to the very probable opinion that it was compiled by Father Reginald de Piperno, the saint's faithful companion and secretary.
The entire "Summa" contains 38 Treatises, 612 Questions, subdivided into 3120 articles, in which about 10,000 objections are proposed and answered. So admirably is the promised order preserved that, by reference to the beginning of the Tracts and Questions, one can see at a glance what place it occupies in the general plan, which embraces all that can be known through theology of God, of man, and of their mutual relations . . . "The whole Summa is arranged on a uniform plan. Every subject is introduced as a question, and divided into articles. . . . Each article has also a uniform disposition of parts. The topic is introduced as an inquiry for discussion, under the term Utrum, whether — e.g. Utrum Deus sit? The objections against the proposed thesis are then stated. These are generally three or four in number, but sometimes extend to seven or more. The conclusion adopted is then introduced by the words, Respondeo dicendum. At the end of the thesis expounded the objections are answered, under the forms, ad primum, ad secundum, etc." . . . . The "Summa" is Christian doctrine in scientific form; it is human reason rendering its highest service in defence and explanation of the truths of the Christian religion. It is the answer of the matured and saintly doctor to the question of his youth: What is God? Revelation, made known in the Scriptures and by tradition; reason and its best results; soundness and fulness of doctrine, order, conciseness and clearness of expression, effacement of self, the love of truth alone, hence a remarkable fairness towards adversaries and calmness in combating their errors; soberness and soundness of judgment, together with a charmingly tender and enlightened piety — these are all found in this "Summa" more than in his other writings, more than in the writings of his contemporaries, for "among the Scholastic doctors, the chief and master of all, towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes (In 2am 2ae, Q. 148, a. 4) 'because he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all'" (Encyclical, "Aeterni Patris", of Leo XIII).
(b) Editions and Translations
It is impossible to mention the various editions of the "Summa", which has been in constant use for more than seven hundred years. Very few books have been so often republished. The first complete edition, printed at Basle in 1485, was soon followed by others, e.g., at Venice in 1505, 1509, 1588, 1594; at Lyons in 1520, 1541, 1547, 1548, 1581, 1588, 1624,1655; at Antwerp in 1575. These are enumerated by Touron (op. cit., p. 692), who says that about the same time other editions were published at Rome, Antwerp, Rouen, Paris, Douai, Cologne, Amsterdam, Bologna, etc. The editors of the Leonine edition deem worthy of mention those published at Paris in 1617, 1638, and 1648, at Lyons in 1663, 1677, and 1686, and a Roman edition of 1773 (IV, pp. xi, xii). Of all old editions they consider the most accurate two published at Padua, one in 1698, the other in 1712, and the Venice edition of 1755. Of recent editions the best are the following: the Leonine; the Migne editions (Paris, 1841, 1877); the first volume of the 1841 edition containing the "Libri quatuor sententiarum" of Peter Lombard; the very practical Faucher edition (5 vols. small quarto, Paris, 1887), dedicated to Cardinal Pecci, enriched with valuable notes; a Roman edition of 1894. The "Summa" has been translated into many modern languages as well.
Writings (method and style)It is not possible to characterize the method of St. Thomas by one word, unless it can be called eclectic. It is Aristotelean, Platonic, and Socratic; it is inductive and deductive; it is analytic and synthetic. He chose the best that could he find in those who preceded him, carefully sifting the chaff from the wheat, approving what was true, rejecting the false. His powers of synthesis were extraordinary. No writer surpassed him in the faculty of expressing in a few well-chosen words the truth gathered from a multitude of varying and conflicting opinions; and in almost every instance the student sees the truth and is perfectly satisfied with St. Thomas's summary and statement. Not that he would have students swear by the words of a master. In philosophy, he says, arguments from authority are of secondary importance; philosophy does not consist in knowing what men have said, but in knowing the truth (In I lib. de Coelo, lect. xxii; II Sent., D. xiv, a. 2, ad 1um). He assigns its proper place to reason used in theology (see below: Influence of St. Thomas), but he keeps it within its own sphere. Against the Traditionalists the Holy See has declared that the method used by St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure does not lead to Rationalism (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1652). Not so bold or original in investigating nature as were Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon, he was, nevertheless, abreast of his time in science, and many of his opinions are of scientific value in the twentieth century. Take, for instance, the following: "In the same plant there is the two-fold virtue, active and passive, though sometimes the active is found in one and the passive in another, so that one plant is said to be masculine and the other feminine" (3 Sent., D. III, Q. ii, a 1).
The style of St. Thomas is a medium between the rough expressiveness of some Scholastics and the fastidious elegance of John of Salisbury; it is remarkable for accuracy, brevity, and completeness. Pope Innocent VI (quoted in the Encyclical, "Aeterni Patris", of Leo XIII) declared that, with the exception of the canonical writings, the works of St. Thomas surpass all others in "accuracy of expression and truth of statement" (habet proprietatem verborum, modum dicendorum, veritatem sententiarum). Great orators, such as Bossuet, Lacordaire, Monsabré, have studied his style, and have been influenced by it, but they could not reproduce it. The same is true of theological writers. Cajetan knew St. Thomas's style better than any of his disciples, but Cajetan is beneath his great master in clearness and accuracy of expression, in soberness and solidity of judgment. St. Thomas did not attain to this perfection without an effort. He was a singularly blessed genius, but he was also an indefatigable worker, and by continued application he reached that stage of perfection in the art of writing where the art disappears. "The author's manuscript of the Summa Contra Gentiles is still in great part extant. It is now in the Vatican Library. The manuscript consists of strips of parchment, of various shades of colour, contained in an old parchment cover to which they were originally stitched. The writing is in double column, and difficult to decipher, abounding in abbreviations, often passing into a kind of shorthand. Throughout many passages a line is drawn in sign of erasure" (Rickaby, Op. cit., preface: see Ucelli ed., "Sum. cont. gent.", Rome, 1878).
Influences exerted on St. ThomasHow was this great genius formed? The causes that exerted an influence on St. Thomas were of two kinds, natural and supernatural.
Natural causes(1) As a foundation, he "was a witty child, and had received a good soul" (Wisdom 8:19). From the beginning he manifested precocious and extraordinary talent and thoughtfulness beyond his years.
(2) His education was such that great things might have been expected of him. His training at Monte Cassino, at Naples, Paris, and Cologne was the best that the thirteenth century could give, and that century was the golden age of education. That it afforded excellent opportunities for forming great philosophers and theologians is evident from the character of St. Thomas's contemporaries. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, St. Bonaventure, St. Raymond of Pennafort, Roger Bacon, Hugo a S. Charo, Vincent of Beauvais, not to mention scores of others, prove beyond all doubt that those were days of really great scholars. (See Walsh, "The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries", New York, 1907.) The men who trained St. Thomas were his teachers at Monte Cassino and Naples, but above all Albertus Magnus, under whom he studied at Paris and Cologne.
(3) The books that exercised the greatest influence on his mind were the Bible, the Decrees of the councils and of the popes, the works of the Fathers, Greek and Latin, especially of St. Augustine, the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard, the writings of the philosophers, especially of Plato, Aristotle, and Boethius. If from these authors any were to be selected for special mention, undoubtedly they would be Aristotle, St. Augustine, and Peter Lombard. In another sense the writings of St. Thomas were influenced by Averroes, the chief opponent whom he had to combat in order to defend and make known the true Aristotle.
(4) It must be borne in mind that St. Thomas was blessed with a retentive memory and great powers of penetration. Father Daniel d'Agusta once pressed him to say what he considered the greatest grace he had ever received, sanctifying grace of course excepted. "I think that of having understood whatever I have read", was the reply. St. Antoninus declared that "he remembered everything be had read, so that his mind was like a huge library" (cf. Drane, op. cit., p. 427; Vaughan, op. cit., II, p. 567). The bare enumeration of the texts of Scripture cited in the "Summa theologica" fills eighty small-print columns in the Migne edition, and by many it is not unreasonably supposed that he learned the Sacred Books by heart while he was imprisoned in the Castle of San Giovanni. Like St. Dominic he had a special love for the Epistles of St. Paul, on which he wrote commentaries (recent edition in 2 vols., Turin, 1891).
(5) Deep reverence for the Faith, as made known by tradition, characterizes all his writings. The consuetudo ecclesiae — the practice of the Church — should prevail over the authority of any doctor (Summa II-II:10:12). In the "Summa" he quotes from 19 councils, 41 popes, and 52 Fathers of the Church. A slight acquaintance with his writings will show that among the Fathers his favourite was St. Augustine (on the Greek Fathers see Vaughan, op. cit., II, cc. iii sqq.).
(6) With St. Augustine (On Christian Doctrine II.40), St. Thomas held that whatever there was of truth in the writings of pagan philosophers should be taken from them, as from "unjust possessors", and adapted to the teaching of the true religion (Summa I:84:5). In the "Summa" alone he quotes from the writings of 46 philosophers and poets, his favourite authors being Aristotle, Plato, and, among Christian writers, Boethius. From Aristotle he learned that love of order and accuracy of expression which are characteristic of his own works. From Boethius he learned that Aristotle's works could be used without detriment to Christianity. He did not follow Boethius in his vain attempt to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. In general the Stagirite was his master, but the elevation and grandeur of St. Thomas's conceptions and the majestic dignity of his methods of treatment speak strongly of the sublime Plato.
Supernatural causesEven if we do not accept as literally true the declaration of John XXII, that St. Thomas wrought as many miracles as there are articles in the "Summa", we must, nevertheless, go beyond causes merely natural in attempting to explain his extraordinary career and wonderful writings.
(1) Purity of mind and body contributes in no small degree to clearness of vision (see St. Thomas, "Commentaries on I Cor., c. vii", Lesson v). By the gift of purity, miraculously granted at the time of the mystic girdling, God made Thomas's life angelic; the perspicacity and depth of his intellect, Divine grace aiding, made him the "Angelic Doctor".
(2) The spirit of prayer, his great piety and devotion, drew down blessings on his studies. Explaining why he read, every day, portions of the "Conferences" of Cassian, he said: "In such reading I find devotion, whence I readily ascend to contemplation" (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 32). In the lessons of the Breviary read on his feast day it is explicitly stated that he never began to study without first invoking the assistance of God in prayer; and when he wrestled with obscure passages of the Scriptures, to prayer he added fasting.
(3) Facts narrated by persons who either knew St. Thomas in life or wrote at about the time of his canonization prove that he received assistance from heaven. To Father Reginald he declared that he had learned more in prayer and contemplation than he had acquired from men or books (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 36). These same authors tell of mysterious visitors who came to encourage and enlighten him. The Blessed Virgin appeared, to assure him that his life and his writings were acceptable to God, and that he would persevere in his holy vocation. Sts. Peter and Paul came to aid him in interpreting an obscure passage in Isaias. When humility caused him to consider himself unworthy of the doctorate, a venerable religious of his order (supposed to be St. Dominic) appeared to encourage him and suggested the text for his opening discourse (Prümmer, op. cit., 29, 37; Tocco in "Acta SS.", VII Mar.; Vaughan, op. cit., II, 91). His ecstasies have been mentioned. His abstractions in presence of King Louis IX (St. Louis) and of distinguished visitors are related by all biographers. Hence, even if allowance be made for great enthusiasm on the part of his admirers, we must conclude that his extraordinary learning cannot be attributed to merely natural causes. Of him it may truly be said that he laboured as if all depended on his own efforts and prayed as if all depended on God.
Influence of St. Thomas (on sanctity)The great Scholastics were holy as well as learned men. Alexander of Hales, St. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas, and St. Bonaventure prove that learning does not necessarily dry up devotion. The angelic Thomas and the seraphic Bonaventure represent the highest types of Christian scholarship, combining eminent learning with heroic sanctity. Cardinal Bessarion called St. Thomas "the most saintly of learned men and the most learned of saints". His works breathe the spirit of God, a tender and enlightened piety, built on a solid foundation, viz. the knowledge of God, of Christ, of man. The "Summa theologica" may be made a manual of piety as well as a text-book for the study of theology (Cf. Drane, op. cit., p. 446). St. Francis de Sales, St. Philip Neri, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Pius V, St. Antoninus constantly studied St. Thomas. Nothing could be more inspiring than his treatises on Christ, in His sacred Person, in His life and sufferings. His treatise on the sacraments, especially on penance and the Eucharist, would melt even hardened hearts. He takes pains to explain the various ceremonies of the Mass ("De ritu Eucharistiae" in Summa III:83), and no writer has explained more clearly than St. Thomas the effects produced in the souls of men by this heavenly Bread (Summa III:79). The principles recently urged, in regard to frequent Communion, by Pius X ("Sacra Trid. Synodus", 1905) are found in St. Thomas (Summa III:79:8, III:80:10), although he is not so explicit on this point as he is on the Communion of children. In the Decree "Quam Singulari" (1910) the pope cites St. Thomas, who teaches that, when children begin to have some use of reason, so that they can conceive some devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, they may be allowed to communicate (Summa III:80:9). The spiritual and devotional aspects of St. Thomas's theology have been pointed out by Father Contenson, O.P., in his "Theologia mentis et cordis". They are more fully explained by Father Vallgornera, O.P., in his "Theologia Mystica D. Thomae", wherein the author leads the soul to God through the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways. The Encyclical Letter of Leo XIII on the Holy Spirit is drawn largely from St. Thomas, and those who have studied the "Prima Secundae" and the "Secunda Secundae" know how admirably the saint explains the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost, as well as the Beatitudes, and their relations to the different virtues Nearly all good spiritual writers seek in St. Thomas definitions of the virtues which they recommend.
Influence of St. Thomas (on intellectual life)Since the days of Aristotle, probably no one man has exercised such a powerful influence on the thinking world as did St. Thomas. His authority was very great during his lifetime. The popes, the universities, the studia of his order were anxious to profit by his learning and prudence. Several of his important works were written at the request of others, and his opinion was sought by all classes. On several occasions the doctors of Paris referred their disputes to him and gratefully abided by his decision (Vaughan, op. cit., II, 1 p. 544). His principles, made known by his writings, have continued to influence men even to this day. This subject cannot be considered in all its aspects, nor is that necessary. His influence on matters purely philosophical is fully explained in histories of philosophy. (Theologians who followed St. Thomas will be mentioned in THOMISM. See also ORDER OF PREACHERS) His paramount importance and influence may be explained by considering him as the Christian Aristotle, combining in his person the best that the world has known in philosophy and theology. It is in this light that he is proposed as a model by Leo XIII in the famous Encyclical "Aeterni Patris". The work of his life may be summed up in two propositions: he established the true relations between faith and reason; he systematized theology.
(1) Faith and Reason
The principles of St. Thomas on the relations between faith and reason were solemnly proclaimed in the Vatican Council. The second, third, and fourth chapters of the Constitution "Dei Filius" read like pages taken from the works of the Angelic Doctor. First, reason alone is not sufficient to guide men: they need Revelation; we must carefully distinguish the truths known by reason from higher truths (mysteries) known by Revelation. Secondly, reason and Revelation, though distinct, are not opposed to each other. Thirdly, faith preserves reason from error; reason should do service in the cause of faith. Fourthly, this service is rendered in three ways:
- reason should prepare the minds of men to receive the Faith by proving the truths which faith presupposes (praeambula fidei);
- reason should explain and develop the truths of Faith and should propose them in scientific form;
- reason should defend the truths revealed by Almighty God.
St. Thomas did not combat imaginary foes; he attacked living adversaries. The works of Aristotle had been introduced into France in faulty translations and with the misleading commentaries of Jewish and Moorish philosophers. This gave rise to a flood of errors which so alarmed the authorities that the reading of Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics was forbidden by Robert de Courçon in 1210, the decree being moderated by Gregory IX in 1231. There crept into the University of Paris an insidious spirit of irreverence and Rationalism, represented especially by Abelard and Raymond Lullus, which claimed that reason could know and prove all things, even the mysteries of Faith. Under the authority of Averroes dangerous doctrines were propagated, especially two very pernicious errors: first, that philosophy and religion being in different regions, what is true in religion might be false in philosophy; secondly, that all men have but one soul. Averroes was commonly styled "The Commentator", but St. Thomas says he was "not so much a Peripatetic as a corruptor of Peripatetic philosophy" (Opusc. de unit. intell.). Applying a principle of St. Augustine (see I:84:5), following in the footsteps of Alexander of Hales and Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas resolved to take what was true from the "unjust possessors", in order to press it into the service of revealed religion. Objections to Aristotle would cease if the true Aristotle were made known; hence his first care was to obtain a new translation of the works of the great philosopher. Aristotle was to be purified; false commentators were to be refuted; the most influential of these was Averroes, hence St. Thomas is continually rejecting his false interpretations.
(2) Theology Systematized
The next step was to press reason into the service of the Faith, by putting Christian doctrine into scientific form. Scholasticism does not consist, as some persons imagine, in useless discussions and subtleties, but in this, that it expresses sound doctrine in language which is accurate, clear, and concise. In the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris" Leo XIII, citing the words of Sixtus V (Bull "Triumphantis", 1588), declares that to the right use of philosophy we are indebted for "those noble endowments which make Scholastic theology so formidable to the enemies of truth", because "that ready coherence of cause and effect, that order and array of a disciplined army in battle, those clear definitions and distinctions, that strength of argument and those keen discussions by which light is distinguished from darkness, the true from the false, expose and lay bare, as it were, the falsehoods of heretics wrapped around by a cloud of subterfuges and fallacies". When the great Scholastics had written, there was light where there had been darkness, there was order where confusion had prevailed. The work of St. Anselm and of Peter Lombard was perfected by the Scholastic theologians. Since their days no substantial improvements have been made in the plan and system of theology, although the field of apologetics has been widened, and positive theology has become more important.
Influence of St. Thomas (his doctrine followed)Within a short time after his death the writings of St. Thomas were universally esteemed. The Dominicans naturally took the lead in following St. Thomas. The general chapter held in Paris in 1279 pronounced severe penalties against all who dared to speak irreverently of him or of his writings. The chapters held in Paris in 1286, at Bordeaux in 1287, and at Lucca in 1288 expressly required the brethren to follow the doctrine of Thomas, who at that time had not been canonized (Const. Ord. Praed., n. 1130). The University of Paris, on the occasion of Thomas's death, sent an official letter of condolence to the general chapter of the Dominicans, declaring that, equally with his brethren, the university experienced sorrow at the loss of one who was their own by many titles (see text of letter in Vaughan, op. cit., II, p. 82). In the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris" Leo XIII mentions the Universities of Paris, Salamanca, Alcalá, Douai, Toulouse, Louvain, Padua, Bologna, Naples, Coimbra as "the homes of human wisdom where Thomas reigned supreme, and the minds of all, of teachers as well as of taught, rested in wonderful harmony under the shield and authority of the Angelic Doctor". To the list may be added Lima and Manila, Fribourg and Washington.
Seminaries and colleges followed the lead of the universities. The "Summa" gradually supplanted the "Sentences" as the textbook of theology. Minds were formed in accordance with the principles of St. Thomas; he became the great master, exercising a world-wide influence on the opinions of men and on their writings; for even those who did not adopt all of his conclusions were obliged to give due consideration to his opinions. It has been estimated that 6000 commentaries on St. Thomas's works have been written. Manuals of theology and of philosophy, composed with the intention of imparting his teaching, translations, and studies, or digests (études), of portions of his works have been published in profusion during the last six hundred years and today his name is in honour all over the world (see THOMISM).
In every one of the general councils held since his death St. Thomas has been singularly honoured. At the Council of Lyons his book "Contra errores Graecorum" was used with telling effect against the Greeks. In later disputes, before and during the Council of Florence, John of Montenegro, the champion of Latin orthodoxy, found St. Thomas's works a source of irrefragable arguments. The "Decretum pro Armenis" (Instruction for the Armenians), issued by the authority of that council, is taken almost verbatim from his treatise, "De fidei articulis et septem sacramentis" (see Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 695). "In the Councils of Lyons, Vienne, Florence, and the Vatican", writes Leo XIII (Encyclical "Aeterni Patris"), "one might almost say that Thomas took part in and presided over the deliberations and decrees of the Fathers contending against the errors of the Greeks, of heretics, and Rationalists, with invincible force and with the happiest results."
But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of the conclave to lay upon the altar, together with the code of Sacred Scripture and the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration. Greater influence than this no man could have.
Before this section is closed mention should be made of two books widely known and highly esteemed, which were inspired by and drawn from the writings of St. Thomas. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, composed by disciples of the Angelic Doctor, is in reality a compendium of his theology, in convenient form for the use of parish priests. Dante's "Divina Commedia" has been called "the Summa of St. Thomas in verse", and commentators trace the great Florentine poet's divisions and descriptions of the virtues and vices to the "Secunda Secundae".
Influence of St. Thomas (appreciation)(1) In the Church
The esteem in which he was held during his life has not been diminished, but rather increased, in the course of the six centuries that have elapsed since his death. The position which he occupies in the Church is well explained by that great scholar Leo XIII, in the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris", recommending the study of Scholastic philosophy: "It is known that nearly all the founders and framers of laws of religious orders commanded their societies to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St. Thomas. . . To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others, all testify that they are bound by this law." Amongst the "many others" the Servites, the Passionists, the Barnabites, and the Sulpicians have been devoted in an especial manner to the study of St. Thomas. The principal ancient universities where St. Thomas ruled as the great master have been enumerated above. The Paris doctors called him the morning star, the luminous sun, the light of the whole Church. Stephen, Bishop of Paris, repressing those who dared to attack the doctrine of "that most excellent Doctor, the blessed Thomas", calls him "the great luminary of the Catholic Church, the precious stone of the priesthood, the flower of doctors, and the bright mirror of the University of Paris" (Drane, op. cit., p. 431). In the old Louvain University the doctors were required to uncover and bow their heads when they pronounced the name of Thomas (Goudin, op. cit., p. 21).
"The ecumenical councils, where blossoms the flower of all earthly wisdom, have always been careful to hold Thomas Aquinas in singular honour" (Leo XIII in "Aeterni Patris"). This subject has been sufficiently treated above. The "Bullarium Ordinis Praedicatorum", published in 1729-39, gives thirty-eight Bulls in which eighteen sovereign pontiffs praised and recommended the doctrine of St. Thomas (see also Vaughan, op. cit., II, c. ii; Berthier, op. cit., pp. 7 sqq.). These approbations are recalled and renewed by Leo XIII, who lays special stress on "the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: 'His teaching above that of others, the canons alone excepted, enjoys such an elegance of phraseology, a method of statement, a truth of proposition, that those who hold it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error (ibid.).'" Leo XIII surpassed his predecessors in admiration of St. Thomas, in whose works he declared a remedy can be found for many evils that afflict society (see Berthier, op. cit., introd.). The notable Encyclical Letters with which the name of that illustrious pontiff will always be associated show how he had studied the works of the Angelic Doctor. This is very noticeable in the letters on Christian marriage, the Christian constitution of states, the condition of the working classes, and the study of Holy Scripture. Pope Pius X, in several letters, e.g. in the "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" (September, 1907), has insisted on the observance of the recommendations of Leo XIII concerning the study of St. Thomas. An attempt to give names of Catholic writers who have expressed their appreciation of St. Thomas and of his influence would be an impossible undertaking; for the list would include nearly all who have written on philosophy or theology since the thirteenth century, as well as hundreds of writers on other subjects. Commendations and eulogies are found in the introductory chapters of all good commentaries. An incomplete list of authors who have collected these testimonies is given by Father Berthier (op. cit., p. 22). . . .
(a) Anti-Scholastics -- Some persons have been and are still opposed to everything that comes under the name of Scholasticism, which they hold to be synonymous with subtleties and useless discussions. From the prologue to the "Summa" it is clear that St. Thomas was opposed to all that was superfluous and confusing in Scholastic studies. When people understand what true Scholasticism means, their objections will cease.
(b) Heretics and Schismatics -- "A last triumph was reserved for this incomparable man — namely, to compel the homage, praise, and admiration of even the very enemies of the Catholic name" (Leo XIII, ibid.). St. Thomas's orthodoxy drew upon him the hatred of all Greeks who were opposed to union with Rome. The united Greeks, however, admire St. Thomas and study his works (see above Translations of the "Summa"). The leaders of the sixteenth-century revolt honoured St. Thomas by attacking him, Luther being particularly violent in his coarse invectives against the great doctor. Citing Bucer's wild boast, "Take away Thomas and I will destroy the Church", Leo XIII (ibid.) remarks, "The hope was vain, but the testimony has its value".
Calo, Tocco, and other biographers relate that St. Thomas, travelling from Rome to Naples, converted two celebrated Jewish rabbis, whom he met at the country house of Cardinal Richard (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 33; Vaughan, op. cit., I, p. 795). Rabbi Paul of Burgos, in the fifteenth century, was converted by reading the works of St. Thomas. Theobald Thamer, a disciple of Melancthon, abjured his heresy after he had read the "Summa", which he intended to refute. The Calvinist Duperron was converted in the same way, subsequently becoming Archbishop of Sens and a cardinal (see Conway, O.P., op. cit., p. 96).
After the bitterness of the first period of Protestantism had passed away, Protestants saw the necessity of retaining many parts of Catholic philosophy and theology, and those who came to know St. Thomas were compelled to admire him. Überweg says "He brought the Scholastic philosophy to its highest stage of development, by effecting the most perfect accommodation that was possible of the Aristotelian philosophy to ecclesiastical orthodoxy" (op. cit., p. 440). R. Seeberg in the "New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia" (New York, 1911) devotes ten columns to St. Thomas, and says that "at all points he succeeded in upholding the church doctrine as credible and reasonable" (XI, p. 427).
For many years, especially since the days of Pusey and Newman, St. Thomas has been in high repute at Oxford. Recently the "Summa contra gentiles" was placed on the list of subjects which a candidate may offer in the final honour schools of Litterae Humaniores at that university (cf. Walsh, op. cit., c. xvii). For several years Father De Groot, O.P., has been the professor of Scholastic philosophy in the University of Amsterdam, and courses in Scholastic philosophy have been established in some of the leading non-Catholic universities of the United States. Anglicans have a deep admiration for St. Thomas. Alfred Mortimer, in the chapter "The Study of Theology" of his work entitled "Catholic Faith and Practice" (2 vols., New York, 1909), regretting that "the English priest has ordinarily no scientific acquaintance with the Queen of Sciences", and proposing a remedy, says, "The simplest and most perfect sketch of universal theology is to be found in the Summa of St. Thomas" (vol. II, pp. 454, 465).
St. Thomas and modern thoughtIn the Syllabus of 1864 Pius IX condemned a proposition in which it was stated that the method and principles of the ancient Scholastic doctors were not suited to the needs of our times and the progress of science (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1713).
In the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris" Leo XIII points out the benefits to be derived from "a practical reform of philosophy by restoring the renowned teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas". He exhorts the bishops to "restore the golden wisdom of Thomas and to spread it far and wide for the defence and beauty of the Catholic Faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences". In the pages of the Encyclical immediately preceding these words he explains why the teaching of St. Thomas would produce such most desirable results: St. Thomas is the great master to explain and defend the Faith, for his is "the solid doctrine of the Fathers and the Scholastics, who so clearly and forcibly demonstrate the firm foundations of the Faith, its Divine origin, its certain truth, the arguments that sustain it, the benefits it has conferred on the human race, and its perfect accord with reason, in a manner to satisfy completely minds open to persuasion, however unwilling and repugnant". The career of St. Thomas would in itself have justified Leo XIII in assuring men of the nineteenth century that the Catholic Church was not opposed to the right use of reason. The sociological aspects of St. Thomas are also pointed out: "The teachings of Thomas on the true meaning of liberty, which at this time is running into license, on the Divine origin of all authority, on laws and their force, on the paternal and just rule of princes, on obedience to the highest powers, on mutual charity one towards another — on all of these and kindred subjects, have very great and invincible force to overturn those principles of the new order which are well known to be dangerous to the peaceful order of things and to public safety" (ibid.).
The evils affecting modern society had been pointed out by the pope in the Letter "Inscrutabili" of 21 April, 1878, and in the one on Socialism, Communism, and Nihilism ("The Great Encyclicals of Leo XIII", pp. 9 sqq.; 22 sqq.). How the principles of the Angelic Doctor will furnish a remedy for these evils is explained here in a general way, more particularly in the Letters on the Christian constitution of states, human liberty, the chief duties of Christians as citizens, and on the conditions of the working classes (ibid., pp. 107, 135, 180, 208).
It is in relation to the sciences that some persons doubt the reliability of St. Thomas's writings; and the doubters are thinking of the physical and experimental sciences, for in metaphysics the Scholastics are admitted to be masters. Leo XIII calls attention to the following truths: (a) The Scholastics were not opposed to investigation. Holding as a principle in anthropology "that the human intelligence is only led to the knowledge of things without body and matter by things sensible, they well understood that nothing was of greater use to the philosopher than diligently to search into the mysteries of nature, and to be earnest and constant in the study of physical things" (ibid., p. 55). This principle was reduced to practice: St. Thomas, St. Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and others "gave large attention to the knowledge of natural things" (ibid., p. 56). (b) Investigation alone is not sufficient for true science. "When facts have been established, it is necessary to rise and apply ourselves to the study of the nature of corporeal things, to inquire into the laws which govern them and the principles whence their order and varied unity and mutual attraction in diversity arise" (p. 55).
Will the scientists of today pretend to be better reasoners than St. Thomas, or more powerful in synthesis? It is the method and the principles of St. Thomas that Leo XIII recommends: "If anything is taken up with too great subtlety by the Scholastic doctors, or too carelessly stated; if there be anything that ill agrees with the discoveries of a later age or, in a word, is improbable in any way, it does not enter into our mind to propose that for imitation to our age" (p. 56). Just as St. Thomas, in his day, saw a movement towards Aristotle and philosophical studies which could not be checked, but could be guided in the right direction and made to serve the cause of truth, so also, Leo XIII, seeing in the world of his time a spirit of study and investigation which might be productive of evil or of good, had no desire to check it, but resolved to propose a moderator and master who could guide it in the paths of truth.
No better guide could have been chosen than the clear-minded, analytic, synthetic, and sympathetic Thomas Aquinas. His extraordinary patience and fairness in dealing with erring philosophers, his approbation of all that was true in their writings, his gentleness in condemning what was false, his clear-sightedness in pointing out the direction to true knowledge in all its branches, his aptness and accuracy in expressing the truth — these qualities mark him as a great master not only for the thirteenth century, but for all times. If any persons are inclined to consider him too subtle, it is because they do not know how clear, concise, and simple are his definitions and divisions. His two summae are masterpieces of pedagogy, and mark him as the greatest of human teachers. Moreover, he dealt with errors similar to many which go under the name of philosophy or science in our days. The Rationalism of Abelard and others called forth St. Thomas's luminous and everlasting principles on the true relations of faith and reason. Ontologism was solidly refuted by St. Thomas nearly six centuries before the days of Malebranche, Gioberti, and Ubaghs (see Summa I:84:5). The true doctrine on first principles and on universals, given by him and by the other great Scholastics, is the best refutation of Kant's criticism of metaphysical ideas (see, e.g., "Post. Analyt.", I, lect. xix; "De ente et essentia", c. iv; Summa I:17:3 corp. and ad 2um; I:79:3; I:84:5; I:84:6 corp and ad 1um; I:85:2 ad 2um; I:85:3 ad 1um, ad 4um; Cf. index to "Summa": "Veritas", "Principium", "Universale"). Modern psychological Pantheism does not differ substantially from the theory of one soul for all men asserted by Averroes (see "De unit. intell." and Summa I:76:2; I:79:5). The Modernistic error, which distinguishes the Christ of faith from the Christ of history, had as its forerunner the Averroistic principle that a thing might be true in philosophy and false in religion.
In the Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus" (18 November, 1893) Leo XIII draws from St. Thomas's writings the principles and wise rules which should govern scientific criticism of the Sacred Books. From the same source recent writers have drawn principles which are most helpful in the solution of questions pertaining to Spiritism and Hypnotism. Are we to conclude, then, that St. Thomas's works, as he left them, furnish sufficient instruction for scientists, philosophers, and theologians of our times? By no means. Vetera novis augere et perficere — "To strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new" — is the motto of the restoration proposed by Leo XIII. Were St. Thomas living today he would gladly adopt and use all the facts made known by recent scientific and historical investigations, but he would carefully weigh all evidence offered in favour of the facts. Positive theology is more necessary in our days than it was in the thirteenth century. Leo XIII calls attention to its necessity in his Encyclical, and his admonition is renewed by Pius X in his Letter on Modernism. But both pontiffs declare that positive theology must not be extolled to the detriment of Scholastic theology. In the Encyclical "Pascendi", prescribing remedies against Modernism, Pius X, following in this his illustrious predecessor, gives the first place to "Scholastic philosophy, especially as it was taught by Thomas Aquinas"; St. Thomas is still "The Angel of the Schools".
Kennedy, Daniel. "St. Thomas Aquinas." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.28 Jan. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm>.
Adriaen Collaert (1560–1618). Verheerlijking van de Heilige Thomas van Aquino. Thomas van Aquino, in het dominicaner habijt, staat op een fontein. Hij heeft vleugels, houdt een boek en schrijfveer in de hand en een duif blaast hem Gods woord in. Rondom hem doen monniken en kardinalen zich te goed aan het water van de fontein, symbolisch voor de inspirerende woorden in Aquino's geschriften. Engelen in de lucht dragen een banderol met een Latijns opschrift en twee wapenschilden. De prent heeft een Latijns onderschrift.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, of the order of the friars preachers, was a right sovereign doctor, high and of noble lineage, which was born in the realm of Sicily, and tofore that he was born he was shewed by divine purveyance. For in those parts there was a holy man in work and in renomee which with many other hermits led a right holy life, and all the people had him in great reverence. This holy man, replenished of the Holy Ghost, came to the lady and mother of this holy child, not yet born, and with great joy said to her that she had conceived a son, and she supposed that she had not conceived. Then the holy man said to her: Lady, be thou glad, for thou shalt bring forth a child which shall be called Thomas, and shall have great name and renomee through all the world in science and in holy life, and he shall be of the order of the friar, preachers. All the which things like as the holy hermit has said were accomplished in the name of the Saviour of the world, and to the glory of his glorious saint. When the child was born he was called Thomas by his right name. He had the world and the vanity thereof in despite, and for to live in the more holy and clean life he entered into the order of the friars preachers, and after, he was drawn out thereof by his brethren, and was closed up in a chamber in a tower two years. And because that by menaces ne fair words his brethren might not change his good purpose ne revoke it in no manner, they put in to his chamber a young damsel to the innocent child, for to subvert his good courage, and anon he took a brand of fire, and drove the damsel out of the chamber, which was come for to deceive him.
And after that, he put him in humble prayers, devoutly beseeching our Lord that by his benign grace he would always maintain his chastity. Anon as he had made his prayers two angels in marvellous habit appeared to him, saying that his prayer was heard of God, and they distrained him by the reins, saying: Thomas, we be sent to thee by the commandment of God, and in his name we gird thee with the girdle of chastity, which shall never depart from thee, ne shall be broken. The which gift was given to him of special grace, and was in him so fast and firm that he never after felt pricking of his flesh, and so kept him as long as he lived, as it appeared hereafter in his life. When he surmounted one of his adversaries with his ministers, his good mother considering and having mind of that which the good man had told to her, and shewed how he should be of the order of the friars preachers, and let him to be led to them peaceably, notwithstanding that tofore his brethren would have empeshed him of the entering in to the order, and of his study. For when he was returned in to the order by consent of his good mother he began to study, which was as sweet to him as it is to the bee to make the honey, and like as of the bee the honey is multiplied, right so in like wise was by this glorious doctor the honey of holy scripture. Whereof he made marvellous books in theology, logic, philosophy, natural and moral, upon the evangiles, in so much that the holy church throughout all the world of his holy science is replenished. And as he thus profited he was sent to Paris. Then his brethren, heard that he should depart, anon came after him, saying that it appertained not that a child of so great lineage as he was, should be in the order of mendicants ne of truants, and all to-rent his coat and cope, and would have taken him away from his good purpose. And when he was restored to the order to serve and give praising to our Lord, he set all his intent to study, in thinking on God when he was in contemplation that his thought was replenished with great joy. For many times were, as he was in a secret place and set all his intent in prayer, he was seen lifted up many times without aid of anything corporal. This then is well a holy doctor, for thus as he set not his thought in this world, he set all his heart and his thought toward God, and was enhanced as he that had not had no flesh ne bone, ne any weight. We read that the blessed doctor desputed, read, or wrote, or argued, or did some other virtuous thing, and after when his prayer was past, anon he had in his mouth that which he should dispute or write as if he had tofore long studied in many books. All which things he shewed secretly to his fellow, named friar Reynold. To whom privily he shewed all his other secrets as long as he lived, and would that none other should know it, to the end that the vain glory of the world should not surprise him. For the science that he had was not of human study, but was of the administration divine by the prayers and service that he did to our Lord. This holy man is then as Moses was, which was given to the daughter of Pharaoh. For like as he was taken out of the sea and saved and rendered unto the said daughter, right so the blessed doctor, not withstanding that he was born of the great lineage of the Earl of Alquin was by the purveyance of God rendered to his mother holy church, and cast out of the flood of this world, and enhanced and nourished by the paps and mammels of the scripture of holy church. And like as Moses made many marvellous signs tofore the children of Israel, in Iike wise hath this blessed doctor and his science and blessed doctrine in destroying errors always preached verity and truth, as his holy life witnesseth.
As on a night this glorious doctor was in his orisons and prayers, the blessed apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and induced him in holy scripture, and especially of the prophecy of prophets all entirely and holy. This then is a holy doctor to whom the chancellor of heaven and the doctor of divine scripture have opened the gate; and he that was ravished to heaven hath shewed to him the secret of all the verity. And thus this blessed doctor is taken from the world and made burgess of heaven he being yet in the earth.
On another time as he was in the convent of his order at Naples, being in the church in devout prayers he was enhanced and lifted up from the ground the height of two cubits and more. Then a friar that saw him was much abashed and amarvelled, and after, was heard a clear voice of the image of the crucifix tofore whom the holy man was turned and made his prayer, the which voice said unto him: O Thomas, thou hast written of me, what reward wilt thou have for thy labour? Saint Thomas answered to him: Lord, I will none other reward but thyself; for he himself wrote in his time and made the service and office of the precious sacrament of the altar. And for as much as on a time a question was moved among the scholars of Paris how the accidents might by right be without subject, and hereof made they doubt, and determined all wholly unto that which the glorious doctor should say, which thing he clearly shewed to them. And for so much as said is that the demand or question was moved of our Lord, it was given to understand of the end of his life which was nigh. And as he was sent for of the Pope Gregory the tenth, he went by Champagne into the realm of Sicily, he began to be sick in such wise that he lost entirely his appetite. And in passing by the abbey called Fossenew of the order of the Cistercians, he was prayed greatly of the monks that it would please him to come to their abbey. His sickness began for to increase from day to day, and yet notwithstanding his malady, he ceased not to sow and spread his holy doctrine of divine scripture and sapience, and then he was prayed of the monks for to expound to them the canticles.
And that time it happed that in that monastery was seen a star three days tofore his death in manner of a sun, whereof they were abashed what it might signify, but certainly it signified that the holy man should depart out of this world within three days, and that appeared well, for when the holy man was dead the star was no more seen, and it was in the year of our Lord twelve hundred and fifty-four. And anon brother Reynold, his fellow, witnessed in truth, part saying and openly preaching in this wise; I, friar Reynold, have heard many times and now, the confession of this glorious doctor, and have always found him clean and net as a child of five years of age, for he never consented ne had will in mortal ne deadly sin. And it is not to be forgotten what marvellous tokens were shewed when the blessed doctor should depart out of this world and of the entry of the perdurable felicity which was granted to him. For a friar, much devout, saw in the hour of his death the holy doctor reading in the school, and Saint Paul entering into him. And Saint Thomas demanded him if he had had good and true understanding in his epistles. Then Saint Paul answered to him: Yea, as good as any creature living might have. And above that Saint Paul said to him: I will that thou come with me and I shall lead thee to a place where thou shalt have of all things more clear understanding. And it seemed to the friar that Saint Paul drew Saint Thomas out of the school by his cope. Then this friar began to cry, saying: Help brethren, for friar Thomas is taken from us, and by the voice of this friar the other friars awoke and demanded that friar what he had. Then he told to them and expounded this said vision, and the friars made inquisition of the truth, and found that it was so as the friar had said, for in the same hour that the friar had so cried, the holy doctor departed out of this world. And like as he had had in divine sapience and science a doctor and teacher, right so in his passing he had a leader unto the glory perdurable. And long after that he was put in his sepulchre, the monks doubted that the holy corpse should have been taken away against their will, for the glorious doctor had commanded that his body should be borne to Naples, forasmuch as he was of that place. Wherefore the monks translated his body from one place to another, wherefore the prior of the abbey was in the night grievously reproved in a vision of Saint Thomas. The prior, which doubted the judgment and sentence divine, commanded that the body of the Saint should be remised in the place that they had taken it from, and as soon as the sepulchre was opened there issued so great and sweet an odour that all the cloister was replenished therewith, and it seemed not that anybody had been buried there, but it seemed that there had been all manner of spices, which body they found all whole in all his members. The habit of his order, his cope, his scapulary and coat, were all without any evil corruption, and the odour of his precious body and his habit were sweet smelling by evident witnesses seven years after that he was translated, and the body was translated all whole. Our blessed Lord hath honoured his blessed saint with many marvellous signs and miracles. By his benefits and merits he hath raised some from death and some from wicked spirits, and from the puissance of the fiend, and many from divers maladies, which have been brought to health by the grace of God and the merits of this glorious saint.
We read also that there was a friar much devout, called brother Albert, which on a day was much devoutly in prayers tofore the altar of the Virgin Mary, and two reverend persons, marvellously shining, appeared to him. That one of those twain was in the habit of a bishop and the other in the habit of friars preachers, which had a crown on his head round beset with precious stones, and about his neck two collars, one of silver, the other of gold, and on his breast he had a great stone which of his brightness cast out many rays of clearness and illumined all the church, his cope that he had on was full of precious stones, his coat and scapulary were all shining of whiteness. When the friar saw this sight he marvelled much. Then he, that was in the habit of a bishop, said to him: I am Austin, that am sent to thee to the end that I may show the glory of brother Thomas Aquinas which is in heaven in glory like unto me, but he precedeth me in the order of virginity, and I him in dignity pontifical. Many other signs and miracles hath our Lord showed unto the honour and glory of his glorious saint, Saint Thomas, whose merits be unto us aidant and helping. Amen.
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordinaries in Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See. Venerable Brethren, Greeting and the Apostolic Benediction.
1. In a recent apostolic letter confirming the statutes of Canon Law, We declared that the guide to be followed in the higher studies by young men training for the priesthood was Thomas Aquinas. The approaching anniversary of the day when he was duly enrolled, six hundred years ago, in the calendar of the Saints, offers Us an admirable opportunity of inculcating this more and more firmly in the minds of Our students and explaining to them what advantage they may most usefully derive from the teaching of so illustrious a Doctor. For science truly deserving of the name and piety, the companion of all the virtues, are related in a marvelous bond of affinity, and, as God is very Truth and very Goodness, it would assuredly not be sufficient to procure the glory of God by the salvation of souls-the chief task and peculiar mission of the Church-if ministers of religion were well disciplined in knowledge and not also abundantly provided at the same time with the appropriate virtues.
2. Such a combination of doctrine and piety, of erudition and virtue, of truth and charity, is to be found in an eminent degree in the angelic Doctor and it is not without reason that he has been given the sun for a device; for he both brings the light of learning into the minds of men and fires their hearts and wills with the virtues. God, the Source of all sanctity and wisdom would, therefore, seem to have desired to show in the case of Thomas how each of these qualities assists the other, how the practice of the virtues disposes to the contemplation of truth, and the profound consideration of truth in turn gives luster and perfection to the virtues. For the man of pure and upright life, whose passions are controlled by virtue, is delivered as it were of a heavy burden and can much more easily raise his mind to heavenly things and penetrate more profoundly into the secrets of God, according to the maxim of Thomas himself: “Life comes before learning: for life leads to the knowledge of truth” (Comment. in Matth., v); and if such a man devotes himself to the investigation of the supernatural, he will find a powerful incentive in such a pursuit to lead a perfect life; for the learning of such sublime things, the beauty of which is a ravishing ecstasy, so far from being a solitary or sterile occupation, must be said to be on the contrary most practical.
3. These are among the first lessons, Venerable Brethren, which may be learned from the commemoration of this centenary; but that they may be the more clearly apparent, We propose to comment briefly in this Letter on the sanctity and doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and to show what profitable instruction may be derived therefrom by priests, by seminarians especially, and, not least, by all Christian people.
4. Thomas possessed all the moral virtues to a very high degree and so closely bound together that, as he himself insists should be the case, they formed one whole in charity “which informs the acts of all the virtues” (II-II, xxiii, 8; I-II, Ixv). If, however, we seek to discover the peculiar and specific characteristics of his sanctity, there occurs to Us in the first place that virtue which gives Thomas a certain likeness to the angelic natures, and that is chastity; he preserved it unsullied in a crisis of the most pressing danger and was therefore considered worthy to be surrounded by the angels with a mystic girdle.
This perfect regard for purity was accompanied at the same time by an equal aversion for fleeting possessions and a contempt for honors; it is recorded that his firmness of purpose overcame the obstinate persistence of relatives who strove their utmost to induce him to accept a lucrative situation in the world and that later, when the Supreme Pontiff would have offered him a mitre, his prayers were successful in securing that such a dread burden should not be laid upon him. The most distinctive feature, however, of the sanctity of Thomas is what Saint Paul describes as the “word of wisdom” (I Cor. xii, 8) and that combination of the two forms of wisdom, the acquired and the infused, as they are termed, with which nothing accords so well as humility, devotion to prayer, and the love of God.
5. That humility was the foundation upon which the other virtues of Thomas were based is clear to anyone who considers how submissively he obeyed a lay brother in the course of their communal life; and it is no less patent to anyone reading his writings which manifest such respect for the Fathers of the Church that “because he had the utmost reverence for the doctors of antiquity, he seems to have inherited in a way the intellect of all” (Leo XIII, ex Card. Caietano, litt. Encycl. Aeterni Patris, 4th August, 1879); but the most magnificent illustration of it is to be found in the fact that he devoted the faculties of his divine intellect not in the least to gain glory for himself, but to the advancement of truth. Most philosophers as a rule are eager to establish their own reputations, but Thomas strove to efface himself completely in the teaching of his philosophy so that the light of heavenly truth might shine with its own effulgence.
6. This humility, therefore, combined with the purity of heart We have mentioned, and sedulous devotion to prayer, disposed the mind of Thomas to docility in receiving the inspirations of the Holy Ghost and following His illuminations, which are the first principles of contemplation. To obtain them from above, he would frequently fast, spend whole nights in prayer, lean his head in the fervor of his unaffected piety against the tabernacle containing the august Sacrament, constantly turn his eyes and mind in sorrow to the image of the crucified Jesus; and he confessed to his intimate friend Saint Bonaventura that it was from that Book especially that he derived all his learning. It may, therefore, be truly said of Thomas what is commonly reported of Saint Dominic, Father and Lawgiver, that in his conversation he never spoke but about God or with God.
7. But as he was accustomed to contemplate all things in God, the first Cause and ultimate End of all things, it was easy for him to follow in his Summa Theologica no less than in his life the two kinds of wisdom before referred to. He himself describes them as follows: “The wisdom which is acquired by human effort . . . gives a man a sound judgment with regard to divine things according as he makes a perfect use of reason. . . But there is another kind of wisdom which comes down from above . . . and judges divine things in virtue of a certain connaturality with them. This wisdom is the gift of the Holy Ghost . . . and through it a man becomes perfect in divine things, not only by learning but also by experiencing divine things” (II-II, xlv, 1, ad 2; 2).
8. This wisdom, therefore, which comes down from, or is infused by, God, accompanied by the other gifts of the Holy Ghost, continually grew and increased in Thomas, along with charity, the mistress and queen of all the virtues. Indeed it was an absolutely certain doctrine of his that the love of God should ever continually increase “in accordance with the very words of the commandment: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with thy whole heart’; for the whole and the perfect are one same thing. . .
Now the end of the commandment is charity from a pure heart, and a good conscience and an unfeigned faith, as the Apostle says (I Tim. i, 5), but no standard of measure is applicable to the end, but only to such things as conduce to the end (II-II, clxxxiv, 3).” This is the very reason why the perfection of charity falls under the commandment as the end to which we ought all to strive, each according to his degree. Moreover, as “it is the characteristic of charity to make man tend to God by uniting the affections of man to God in such a way that man ceases to live for himself and lives only for God” (II-II, xvii, 6, ad 3), so the love of God, continually increasing in Thomas along with that double wisdom, induced in him in the end such absolute forgetfulness of self that when Jesus spoke to him from the cross, saying: “Thomas, thou hast written well about me,” and asked him: “What reward shall I give thee for all thy labor?” the saint made answer: “None but Thyself, O Lord!” Instinct with charity, therefore, he unceasingly continued to serve the convenience of others, not counting the cost, by writing admirable books, helping his brethren in their labors, depriving himself of his own garments to give them to the poor, even restoring the sick to health as, for example, when preaching in the Vatican Basilica on the occasion of the Easter celebrations, he suddenly cured a woman who had touched the hem of his habit of a chronic hemorrhage.
9. In what other Doctor was this “word of wisdom” mentioned by Saint Paul more remarkable and abundant than in the Angelic Doctor? He was not satisfied with enlightening the minds of men by his teaching: he exerted himself strenuously to rouse their hearts to make a return of His love to God, the Creator of all things. “The love of God is the source and origin of goodness in things” he magnificently declares (1, xx, 2), and he ceaselessly illustrates this diffusion of the divine goodness in his discussion of every several mystery. “Hence it is of the nature of perfect good to communicate itself in a perfect way and this is done in a supreme degree by God . . . in the Incarnation” (III, i, I). Nothing, however, shows the force of his genius and charity so clearly as the Office which he himself composed for the august Sacrament. The words he uttered on his deathbed, as he was about to receive the holy Viaticum, are the measure of his devotion to that Sacrament throughout his life: “I receive Thee, Price of the redemption of my soul, for the love of Whom I have studied, kept vigil and toiled.”
10. After this slight sketch of the great virtues of Thomas, it is easy to understand the preeminence of his doctrine and the marvelous authority it enjoys in the Church. Our Predecessors, indeed, have always unanimously extolled it. Even during the lifetime of the saint, Alexander IV had no hesitation in addressing him in these terms: “To Our beloved son, Thomas Aquinas, distinguished alike for nobility of blood and integrity of character, who has acquired by the grace of God the treasure of divine and human learning.” After his death, again, John XXII seemed to consecrate both his virtues and his doctrine when, addressing the Cardinals, he uttered in full Consistory the memorable sentence: “He alone enlightened the Church more than all other doctors; a man can derive more profit in a year from his books than from pondering all his life the teaching of others.”
11. He enjoyed a more than human reputation for intellect and learning and Pius V was therefore moved to enroll him officially among the holy Doctors with the title of Angelic. Again, could there be any more manifest indication of the very high esteem in which this Doctor is held by the Church than the fact that the Fathers of Trent resolved that two volumes only, Holy Scripture and the Summa Theologica, should be reverently laid open on the altar during their deliberations? And in this order of ideas, to avoid recapitulating the innumerable testimonies of the Apostolic See, We are happy to recall that the philosophy of Aquinas was revived by the authority and at the instance of Leo XIII; the merit of Our illustrious Predecessor in so doing is such, as We have said elsewhere, that if he had not been the author of many acts and decrees of surpassing wisdom, this alone would be sufficient to establish his undying glory. Pope Pius X of saintly memory followed shortly afterwards in his footsteps, more particularly in his Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici, in which this memorable phrase occurs: “For ever since the happy death of the Doctor, the Church has not held a single Council but he has been present at it with all the wealth of his doctrine.” Closer to Us, Our greatly regretted Predecessor Benedict XV repeatedly declared that he was entirely of the same opinion and he is to be praised for having promulgated the Code of Canon Law in which “the system, philosophy and principles of the Angelic Doctor” are unreservedly sanctioned. We so heartily approve the magnificent tribute of praise bestowed upon this most divine genius that We consider that Thomas should be called not only the Angelic, but also the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church; for the Church has adopted his philosophy for her own, as innumerable documents of every kind attest. It would be an endless task to explain here all the reasons which moved Our Predecessors in this respect, and it will be sufficient perhaps to point out that Thomas wrote under the inspiration of the supernatural spirit which animated his life and that his writings, which contain the principles of, and the laws governing, all sacred studies, must be said to possess a universal character.
12. In dealing orally or in writing with divine things, he provides theologians with a striking example of the intimate connection which should exist between the spiritual and the intellectual life. For just as a man cannot really be said to know some distant country, if his acquaintance is confined merely to a description of it, however accurate, but must have dwelt in it for some time; so nobody can attain to an intimate knowledge of God by mere scientific investigation, unless he also dwells in the most intimate association with God. The aim of the whole theology of Saint Thomas is to bring us into close living intimacy with God. For even as in his childhood at Monte Cassino he unceasingly put the question: “What is God?”; so all the books he wrote concerning the creation of the world, the nature of man, laws, the virtues, and the sacraments, are all concerned with God, the Author of eternal salvation.
13. Again, discussing the causes of the sterility of such studies, namely curiosity, that is to say the unbridled desire for knowledge, indolence of mind, aversion from effort and lack of perseverance, he insists that there is no other remedy than zeal in work with the fervor of piety which derives from the life of the spirit. Sacred studies, therefore, being directed by a triple light, undeviating reason, infused faith and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, by which the mind is brought to perfection, no one ever was more generously endowed with these than Our Saint. After spending all the riches of his intellect on some matter of exceptional difficulty, he would seek the solution of his problem from God by the most humble prayer and fasting; and God was wont to listen to His suppliant so kindly that He dispatched the Princes of the Apostles at times to instruct him. It is not therefore surprising that towards the end of his life he had risen to such a degree of contemplation as to declare that all he had written seemed to him mere chaff and that he was incapable of dictating another word; his eyes even then were fixed on eternity alone, his one desire was to see God. For, according to Thomas, by far the most important benefit to be derived from sacred studies, is that they inspire a man with a great love for God and a great longing for eternal things.
14. He not only instructs us by his example how to pursue such a diversity of studies, but also teaches us firm and enduring principles of each single science. For, in the first place, who has provided a better explanation than he of the nature and character of philosophy, its various divisions and the relative importance of each? Consider how clearly he demonstrates the congruence and harmony between all the various sections which go to make up the body as it were of this science. “It is the function of the wise man,” he declares, “to put things in order, because wisdom is primarily the perfection of reason and it is the characteristic of reason to know order; for although the sensitive faculties know some things absolutely, only the intellect or reason can know the relation one thing bears to another. The sciences, therefore, vary according to the various forms of order which reason perceives to be peculiar to each. The order which the consideration of reason establishes in its own peculiar activity pertains to rational philosophy or logic, whose function is to consider the order of the parts of speech in their mutual relations and in relation to the conclusions which may be drawn from them. It is for natural philosophy or physics to consider the order in things which human reason considers but does not itself institute, so that under natural philosophy we include also metaphysics. But the order of voluntary acts is for the consideration of moral philosophy which is divided into three sections: the first considers the activities of the individual man in relation to their end and is called ‘monastics’; the second considers the activities of the family group or community and is called economics; the third considers the activities of the State and is called politics” (Ethics, I, I). Thomas dealt thoroughly with all these several divisions of philosophy, each according to its appropriate method, and, beginning with things nearest to our human reason, rose step by step to things more remote until he stood in the end on “the topmost peak of all things” (Contra Gentes, II, lvi; IV, i).
15. His teaching with regard to the power or value of the human mind is irrefragable.
“The human mind has a natural knowledge of being and the things which are in themselves part of being as such, and this knowledge is the foundation of our knowledge of first principles” (Contra Gentes, II, 1xxxiii). Such a doctrine goes to the root of the errors and opinions of those modern philosophers who maintain that it is not being itself which is perceived in the act of intellection, but some modification of the percipient; the logical consequence of such errors is agnosticism, which was so vigorously condemned in the Encyclical Pascendi.
16. The arguments adduced by Saint Thomas to prove the existence of God and that God alone is subsisting Being Itself are still today, as they were in the Middle Ages, the most cogent of all arguments and clearly confirm that dogma of the Church which was solemnly proclaimed at the Vatican Council and succinctly expressed by Pius X as follows: “The certain knowledge of God as the first principle of creation and its end and demonstrable proof of His existence can be inferred, like the knowledge of a cause from its effect, by the light of the natural reason, from creation, that is to say the visible works of creation” (Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum of the 1st September, 1910).
The metaphysical philosophy of Saint Thomas, although exposed to this day to the bitter onslaughts of prejudiced critics, yet still retains, like gold which no acid can dissolve, its full force and splendor unimpaired. Our Predecessor therefore rightly observed: “To deviate from Aquinas, in metaphysics especially, is to run grave risk” (Encycl.Pascendi of the 8th September, 1907).
17. Philosophy is undoubtedly a most noble science, but as things are not constituted by divine Providence, it must not be said to excel all others, because it does not embrace the whole universality of things. Indeed, in the introduction to his Summa Contra Gentes, as also to his Summa Theologica, the saintly Doctor describes another order of things set above nature and eluding the grasp of reason, an order which man would never have suspected unless the divine goodness had revealed it to him. This is the region in which faith is supreme, and the science of faith is called Theology. Science of this kind will be all the more perfect in man in proportion as he is the better acquainted with the evidence for faith and has at the same time a more fully developed and trained faculty of philosophizing. There can be no doubt that Aquinas raised Theology to the highest eminence, for his knowledge of divine things was absolutely perfect and the power of his mind made him a marvelously capable philosopher. Thomas is therefore considered the Prince of teachers in our schools, not so much on account of his philosophical system as because of his theological studies. There is no branch of theology in which he did not exercise the incredible fecundity of his genius.
18. For in the first place he established apologetics on a sound and genuine basis by defining exactly the difference between the province of reason and the province of faith and carefully distinguishing the natural and the supernatural orders. When the sacred Vatican Council, therefore, in determining what natural knowledge of religion was possible, affirmed the relative necessity of some divine revelation for sure and certain knowledge and the absolute necessity of divine revelation for knowledge of the mysteries, it employed arguments which were borrowed precisely from Saint Thomas. He insists that all who undertake to defend the Christian faith shall hold sacrosanct the principle that: “It is not mere folly to assent to the things of faith although they are beyond reason” (Contra Gentes, I, vi). He shows that, although the articles of belief are mysterious and obscure, the reasons which persuade us to believe are nevertheless clear and perspicuous, for, says he, “a man would not believe unless he saw that there were things to be believed” (II-II, i, 4); and he adds that, so far from being considered a hindrance or a servile yoke imposed upon men, faith should, on the contrary, be reckoned a very great blessing, because “faith in us is a sort of beginning of eternal life” (Qq. disp. de Veritate, xiv, 2).
19. The other branch of Theology, which is concerned with the interpretation of dogmas, also found in Saint Thomas by far the richest of all commentators; for nobody ever more profoundly penetrated or expounded with greater subtlety all the august mysteries, as, for example, the intimate life of God, the obscurity of eternal predestination, the supernatural government of the world, the faculty granted to rational creatures of attaining their end, the redemption of the human race achieved by Jesus Christ and continued by the Church and the sacraments, both of which the Angelic Doctor describes as “relics, so to speak, of the divine Incarnation.”
20. He also composed a substantial moral theology, capable of directing all human acts in accordance with the supernatural last end of man. And as he is, as We have said, the perfect theologian, so he gives infallible rules and precepts of life not only for individuals, but also for civil and domestic society which is the object also of moral science, both economic and politic. Hence those superb chapters in the second part of the Summa Theologica on paternal or domestic government, the lawful power of the State or the nation, natural and international law, peace and war, justice and property, laws and the obedience they command, the duty of helping individual citizens in their need and co-operating with all to secure the prosperity of the State, both in the natural and the supernatural order. If these precepts were religiously and inviolably observed in private life and public affairs, and in the duties of mutual obligation between nations, nothing else would be required to secure mankind that “peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ” which the world so ardently longs for. It is therefore to be wished that the teachings of Aquinas, more particularly his exposition of international law and the laws governing the mutual relations of peoples, became more and more studied, for it contains the foundations of a genuine “League of Nations.”
21. His eminence in the learning of asceticism and mysticism is no less remarkable; for he brought the whole science of morals back to the theory of the virtues and gifts, and marvelously defined both the science and the theory in relation to the various conditions of men, both those who strive to attain Christian perfection and fullness of spirit, in the active no less than in the contemplative life. If anyone, therefore, desires to understand fully all the implications of the commandment to love God, the growth of charity and the conjoined gifts of the Holy Ghost, the differences between the various states of life, such as the state of perfection, the religious life and the apostolate, and the nature and value of each, all these and other articles of ascetical and mystical theology, he must have recourse in the first place to the Angelic Doctor.
22. Everything he wrote was securely based upon Holy Scripture and that was the foundation upon which he built. For as he was convinced that Scripture was entirely and in every particular the true word of God, he carefully submitted the interpretation of it to those very rules which Our recent Predecessors have sanctioned, Leo XIII in his Encyclical Providentissimus Deus and Benedict XV in his Encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus. He laid down the principle “The chief Author of Sacred Scripture is the Holy Ghost. . . But man was the instrumental author” (Quodlib., vii, 14, ad 5), and would not allow the absolute historicity of the Bible to be doubted; but on the basis of the meaning of the words or literal sense he established the fecundity and riches of the spiritual sense, the triple nature of which, allegorical, tropological and anagogical, he expounded with the most ingenious commentary.
23. Lastly, our Doctor possessed the exceptional and highly privileged gift of being able to convert his precepts into liturgical prayers and hymns and so became the poet and panegyrist of the Divine Eucharist. For wherever the Catholic Church is to be found in the world among whatsoever nations, there she zealously uses and ever will continue to use in her sacred services the hymns composed by Saint Thomas. They are the expression of the ardent supplications of a soul in prayer and at the same time a perfect statement of the doctrine of the august Sacrament transmitted by the Apostles, which is pre-eminently described as the Mystery of Faith. If these considerations are borne in mind as well as the praise bestowed by Christ Himself to which We have already referred, nobody will be surprised that Saint Thomas should also have received the title of the Doctor of the Eucharist.
24. The following very relevant conclusions may be drawn from all that has gone before. Let Our young men especially consider the example of Saint Thomas and strive diligently to imitate the eminent virtues which adorn his character, his humility above all, which is the foundation of the spiritual life, and his chastity. Let them learn from this man of supreme intellect and consummate learning to abhor all pride of mind and to obtain by humble prayer a flood of divine light upon their studies; let them learn from his teaching to shun nothing so sedulously as the blandishments of sensual pleasure, so that they may bring the eyes of the mind undimmed to the contemplation of wisdom. For he confirmed by his precept, as We have said, his own practice in life: “To abstain from the pleasures of the Body so as to be certain of greater leisure and liberty for the contemplation of truth is to act in conformity with the dictates of reason” (II-II, clvii, 2).
Wherefore we are warned in Holy Scripture: “. . . wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins” (Wisdom, i, 4). If the purity of Thomas therefore had failed in the extreme peril into which, as we have seen, it had fallen, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor.
25. Inasmuch, therefore, as We see the majority of young men, caught in the quick-sands of passion, rapidly jettisoning holy purity and abandoning themselves to sensual pleasures, We instantly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to propagate everywhere, and particularly among seminarians, the society of the Angelic Militia founded under the patronage of Thomas for the preservation and maintenance of holy chastity and We confirm the privileges of pontifical indulgences heaped upon it by Benedict XIII and others of Our Predecessors. And that the Faithful may be persuaded the more eagerly to enroll in this Militia, We grant members of it the privilege of wearing instead of a cord a medal round the neck impressed on the obverse with a picture of Saint Thomas and the angels surrounding him with a girdle and on the reverse a picture of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.
26. But inasmuch as Saint Thomas has been duly proclaimed patron of all Catholic schools because he marvelously combined both forms of wisdom, the rational and the divinely inspired, because he had recourse to prayer and fasting to solve the most difficult problems, because he used the image of Christ crucified in place of all books, let him be a model also for seminarians, so that they may learn how to pursue their studies to the best advantage and with the greatest profit to themselves. Members of religious communities should look upon the life of Saint Thomas as upon a mirror; he refused even the highest dignities offered to him in order to live in the practice of the most perfect obedience and to die in the sanctity of his profession. Let all the Faithful of Christ take the Angelic Doctor as a model of devotion to the august Queen of Heaven, for it was his custom often to repeat the “Hail Mary” and to inscribe the sweet Name upon his pages, and let them ask the Doctor of the Eucharist himself to inspire them with love for the divine Sacrament. Priests above all will be zealous in so doing, as is only proper.
“For Thomas was accustomed, unless prevented by illness, to say Mass daily and heard another Mass said by his socius or some other friar which he very often served,” declares the careful historian of his life. But could anyone find words to express the spiritual fervor with which he said Mass himself, the anxious care with which he made his preparation, the thanksgivings he offered to the divine Majesty after he had said it?
27. Again, if we are to avoid the errors which are the source and fountain-head of all the miseries of our time, the teaching of Aquinas must be adhered to more religiously than ever. For Thomas refutes the theories propounded by Modernists in every sphere, in philosophy, by protecting, as We have reminded you, the force and power of the human mind and by demonstrating the existence of God by the most cogent arguments; in dogmatic theology, by distinguishing the supernatural from the natural order and explaining the reasons for belief and the dogmas themselves; in theology, by showing that the articles of faith are not based upon mere opinion but upon truth and therefore cannot possibly change; in exegesis, by transmitting the true conception of divine inspiration; in the science of morals, in sociology and law, by laying down sound principles of legal and social, commutative and distributive, justice and explaining the relations between justice and charity; in the theory of asceticism, by his precepts concerning the perfection of the Christian life and his confutation of the enemies of the religious orders in his own day. Lastly, against the much vaunted liberty of the human reason and its independence in regard to God he asserts the rights of primary Truth and the authority over us of the Supreme Master. It is therefore clear why Modernists are so amply justified in fearing no Doctor of the Church so much as Thomas Aquinas.
28. Accordingly, just as it was said to the Egyptians of old in time of famine: “Go to Joseph,” so that they should receive a supply of corn from him to nourish their bodies, so We now say to all such as are desirous of the truth: “Go to Thomas,” and ask him to give you from his ample store the food of substantial doctrine wherewith to nourish your souls unto eternal life. Evidence that such food is ready to hand and accessible to all men was given on oath at the hearing of the case for the canonization of Thomas himself, in the following words: “Innumerable secular and religious masters flourished under the lucid and limpid teaching of this Doctor, because his method was concise, clear and easily followed . . . even laymen and persons of little instruction are eager to possess his writings.”
29. We desire those especially who are engaged in teaching the higher studies in seminaries sedulously to observe and inviolably to maintain the decrees of Our Predecessors, more particularly those of Leo XIII (the Encyclical Aeterni Patris), and Pius X (the Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici) and the instructions We Ourselves issued last year. Let them be persuaded that they will discharge their duty and fulfill Our expectation when, after long and diligent perusal of his writings, they begin to feel an intense devotion for the Doctor Aquinas and by their exposition of him succeed in inspiring their pupils with like fervor and train them to kindle a similar zeal in others.
30. We desire that lovers of Saint Thomas-and all sons of the Church who devote themselves to higher studies should be so-be incited by an honorable rivalry in a just and proper freedom which is the life-blood of studies, but let no spirit of malevolent disparagement prevail among them, for any such, so far from helping truth, serves only to loosen the bonds of charity. Let everyone therefore inviolably observe the prescription contained in the Code of Canon Law that “teachers shall deal with the studies of mental philosophy and theology and the education of their pupils in such sciences according to the method, doctrine and principles of the Angelic Doctor and religiously adhere thereto”; and may they conform to this rule so faithfully as to be able to describe him in very truth as their master. Let none require from another more than the Church, the mistress and mother of all, requires from each: and in questions, which in Catholic schools are matter of controversy between the most reputable authorities, let none be prevented from adhering to whatever opinion seems to him the more probable.
31. Therefore, as it behooves the whole of Christendom worthily to celebrate this centenary-because in honoring Saint Thomas something greater is involved than the reputation of Saint Thomas and that is the authority of the teaching Church-We desire that such celebration shall take place throughout the world from the 18th July until the end of next year wherever seminarians are in regular course of instruction, that is to say not only among the Preaching Friars, an Order which, in the words of Benedict XV, “must be praised, not so much for having been the family of the Angelic Doctor, as for having never afterwards departed so much as a hair’s breadth from his teaching” (Acta Ap. Sedis, viii, 1916, p. 397), but among other religious communities also, and in all seminaries and Catholic colleges and schools to which he has been appointed for heavenly patron. It is only proper that this Eternal City in which Aquinas was once master of the Sacred Palace should take the lead in holding such celebrations and that the Pontifical Angelical College, where Saint Thomas may be said to be at home, and the other academies in Rome for the education of priests set the example in these holy rejoicings.
32. In virtue of Our Apostolic power and for the purpose of increasing the splendor and profit to be derived from this celebration, We grant the following privileges:
1) That in all churches belonging to the Order of Preachers and in all other churches or chapels to which the public has or may have access, more particularly in seminaries, colleges or other institutions for the education of priests, prayers may be said for three or eight or nine days with the pontifical indulgences attaching to them which customarily attach to prayers said in honor of the saints and the blessed;
2) That in the churches of the Friars and the Sisters of Saint Dominic the faithful may once on any day they choose in the course of the centenary celebrations, after duly confessing their sins and receiving Holy Communion, obtain a plenary indulgence toties quoties they pray before the altar of Saint Thomas;
3) That in churches of the Order of Saint Dominic, priests, members of the Order or tertiaries, may, in the course of the centenary year on any Wednesday or the first free day of the week, celebrate Mass in honor of Saint Thomas, as on his feast-day, with or without the Gloria and the Credo, according to the ritual of the day, and obtain a plenary remission of sins; those present at any such Mass may also obtain a like indulgence on the usual conditions.
33. In addition, a disputation shall be held in seminaries and other institutions for the education of priests on some point of philosophy or other important branch of learning in honor of the Angelic Doctor. And that the festival of Saint Thomas may be kept in future in a manner worthy of the patron of all Catholic schools, We order it to be kept as a holiday and celebrated not only with a High Mass, but also, at any rate in seminaries and among religious communities, by the holding-of a disputation as aforesaid.
34. Finally, that the studies to which Our young people devote themselves may, under the patronage of Aquinas, daily yield more and more fruit for the glory of God and the Church, We append to this Letter the form of prayer which the Saint himself was accustomed to use and exhort you to see that it be widely published. Let any person duly reciting it know that by Our authority an indulgence of seven years and seven quarantines is granted him.
35. As an augury of divine favor and in testimony of Our paternal benevolence, We most affectionately grant you, Venerable Brethren, and the clergy and people committed to your care the Apostolic Blessing.
Given at Rome at Saint Peter’s on the 29th day of June, the feast of the Princes of the Apostles, in the year 1923, the second year of Our Pontificate.
Giovanni Battista Bertucci (1495/1516). Saint Thomas Aquinas, 1512-1516, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The thirteenth century was a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, which was not without its dangers. In the enthusiastic pursuit of learning, students flocked by thousands to the great Universities, which, unhappily, were as often schools of infidelity as of faith. The philosophers of the age owned but one master, and he was a heathen. “Aristotle,” says Lacordaire, “was taken to be the representative of wisdom; and, unfortunately, Aristotle and the Gospel did not always agree;” and many, entering on the unexplored sea of thought without a guide, made hopeless ship-wreck of their faith. The great professors who were the oracles of the day were not always proof against the seductions of vanity, and sometimes tried to make themselves a name by striking out bold theories in matters where original speculation is seldom friendly to the faith.
It was amidst the confusion of these new opinions that Saint Thomas Aquinas was given to the world to mark out the limits of Christian philosophy, and to form the separate materials of dogmatic, moral, and speculative theology into one grand and finished structure, whilst at the same time he enriched the Church’s liturgy with some of the most beautiful of its devotional formularies, and displayed in his life and character all the virtues and winning graces of a Saint.
Picturesquely situated in southern Italy on the top of a rugged cliff flanking a spur of the Apennines, gmd overlooking the rushing waters of the Melfi, there stood in mediaeval times the fortress of of Rocca-Secca. Here Saint Thomas was born about the year 1225 (authors are not agreed as to the precise date); and to the neighboring little town of Aquino he owed his surname of Aquinas. The count, his father, was nephew to the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and on his mother’s side, he was descended from the Norman Barons who had conquered Sicily two centuries before. The Aquino family could claim relationship with Saint Gregory the Great, and was allied by blood to Saint Louis of France and Saint Ferdinand of Castille.
The future vocation and sanctity of the little Thomas had been predicted to his mother, the Countess Theodora, by a holy hermit of the name of Bonus; and, whilst he was yet an infant, God’s watchful Providence over him was manifested in a striking manner. A terrific thunderstorm burst over the Castle, and his nurse and his little sister were struck dead in the very chamber in which Thomas slept on unharmed. This circumstance accounts for the great fear of thunder and lightning which the Saint is said to have had throughout life, which caused him often to take refuge in the church during a thunderstorm, even leaning his head against the Tabernacle, so as to place himself as closely as possible under the protection of our Lord.
The words Ave Maria were the first which his baby lips were heard to utter. Long before he could read, a book was discovered to be an unfailing means of drying his tears in all his childish woes; he would delight in handling it, turning over the leaves with infantine gravity.
When only five years old, his education was begun by the monks of the celebrated Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, which was only a few miles distant from Rocca-Secca.
The monks found that their new pupil was a grave, quiet child, who loved to spend much of his time in the church, and was never without a book in his hand. He had considerable influence over his young companions, whom he was always ready to help, and to whom the sweetness of his disposition rendered him very dear; but he cared little for the sports of childhood, in which he seldom took part. One day, when the rest of the merry band were playing in the woods, Thomas was standing apart in silent thought; the monk in charge of the boys inquired the subject of his reflections. The child raised his head and said: “Tell me, master, what is God?” This was his oft-repeated question, and it showed that the whole bent of his mind and heart was already directed heavenward.
At ten years old, he had made such progress in his studies that his parents resolved to send him, under the care of a tutor, to the newly-founded University of Naples. Before doing so, however, they took him to spend some weeks with them at another of their castles at Loreto, a spot afterwards destined to become so famous as the resting-place of the Holy House of Nazareth. A famine prevailed at the time, and Thomas delighted in distributing the abundant alms which his charitable parents had set aside for the poor. He carried his liberality so far that the steward of the castle complained to his father. The Count waylaid the child as he was hurrying with bread to the gate and sternly asked what was hidden under his cloak. Thomas let go the folds, and there fell to the ground, not the food which he had taken, but a profusion of lovely and sweet-scented flowers.
On his arrival in Naples, the extraordinary talents of which he had already given proof under his Benedictine teachers, became more and more manifest, whilst at the same time he made rapid progress in the science of the Saints. He was continually held up as a model to his fellow-students in a way most painful to his humility; but the modesty, sweetness, and gentleness of his character preserved him from envy, and gained for him universal affection. He shunned all occasions of evil, and devoted his leisure hours to prayer and good works. The Dominican church became one of his favorite resorts; and, as he poured forth his soul in prayer before the altar, bright rays of light were more than once seen to issue from his countenance.
A holy Friar, named John of Saint Julian, who had witnessed the wonderful sight, one day said to the pious youth: “God has given you to our Order.” Thomas threw himself on his knees, saying that he had long and ardently desired to take the habit, but that he feared he was unworthy of so great a grace. The Community joyfully admitted the young student; and, whilst still almost a boy, he was publicly clothed in the white habit of Saint Dominic.
The news soon reached the ears of the Countess Theodora, his mother, who, recognizing in the event the fulfillment of the holy hermit’s prophecy, hastened to Naples to congratulate her son. Thomas and the brethren, however, who were ignorant of her dispositions, were much alarmed at the idea of the impending visit, and, in compliance with his own earnest entreaties, the novice was hurried off to the Convent of Santa Sabina in Rome. Thither his mother followed him, but she was unable to induce him to consent to an interview. The General of the Order, Johu the German, was on the point of starting for Paris and resolved to take Thomas and three other companions with him; and they accordingly left Rome together.
When Theodora found herself thus foiled and mistrusted, she became furious against the friars, and sent orders to her two elder sons, who were then serving in the Emperor’s army in Italy, to waylay their brother and bring him back to her. The little party of friars were overtaken and seized as they were taking their midday rest by a wayside fountain. The rough soldiers tried to tear the habit from Thomas’s back; but his stout resistance compelled them to give up the attempt. His companions were suffered to continue their journey, whilst the young novice was carried off to his angry parents at Rocca-Secca.
The Countess was now determined that he should never be a Dominican; and his father, who would gladly have seen him assume the Benedictine habit, that, like one of his uncles, he might rise to the dignity of Abbot of Monte Cassino, was equally determined that he should never belong to the despised mendicant Order he had embraced. Tears, threats and entreaties proving powerless to shake the Saint’s resolution, he was imprisoned in one of the towers of the Castle, where he had to suffer cold, hunger, and every sort of privation.
His two sisters, Marietta and Theodora, to whom he was tenderly attached, vainly endeavored by their affectionate caresses to induce him to yield to his mother’s wishes; but they were themselves won to a life of perfection; and both eventually died in the odor of sanctity, one as a Benedictine Abbess, the other in the married state as Countess of San Severiuo. Through their instrumentality, Thomas was enabled to obtain books and clothes from his Brethren at Naples. During his captivity, which lasted considerably more than a year, he managed to commit to memory the entire Bible and the five books of the “Sentences,” the theological text-book of the time. His earliest writings are said to belong to the same period.
On the arrival of his brothers, Thomas’s constancy was put to a yet more terrible trial. The two young officers conceived the infernal project of introducing a woman of evil life into his chamber; but with a flaming brand snatched from the hearth the Saint indignantly drove her from his presence. With the same brand he then traced a cross upon the wall; and, casting himself on his knees before it, besought of God to grant him the gift of perpetual chastity.
As he prayed, he fell into an ecstacy, during which two angels appeared to him and girded him with a miraculous cord, saying: “We are come from God to invest thee with the girdle of perpetual chastity. The Lord has heard thy prayer; and that which human frailty can never merit, is ensured to thee by the irrevocable gift of God.” The angels girded him so tightly that he uttered an involuntary cry of pain, which brought some servants to the spot; but Thomas kept his secret to himself, and only revealed it on his deathbed to his confessor, Brother Reginald, declaring that from that day the spirit of darkness had never been allowed to approach him. The girdle was worn by the Saint till his death, and is still preserved at the Convent of Chieri in Piedmont.
By this time his family had discovered that his firmness would not be overcome by persecution. Though unwilling to acknowledge themselves beaten, they connived at his escape, and, like Saint Paul, he was let down from the tower in a basket to the Friars, who by appointment were waiting below. They carried off their rescued treasure to Naples, where he was immediately admitted to profession. One more attempt was made to shake his constancy by an appeal to the Pope, who summoned him to Rome; but the Saint pleaded his cause so well that the Holy Father was convinced of the reality of his vocation. In order to satisfy his family, however, and to secure in an important post the services of so gifted a subject, the Pope proposed to make him Abbott of Monte Cassino, whilst still continuing a Dominican. But Saint Thomas implored so earnestly that he might be allowed to remain a simple religious in the Order he had chosen, that his Holiness yielded, and strictly forbade any further interference with his vocation.
To put him beyond reach of further molestation, the General of the Order took him with him to Cologne, where he became the disciple of Blessed Albert the Great, the renowned Dominican professor of the day. When Saint Thomas found himself safe within the convent walls, he devoted himself with ardor to the work of his sanctification. His time was divided between prayer and study. His humility enabled him to conceal his vast powers of mind; and his absolute silence at all the scholastic disputations, rendered more conspicuous by his commanding stature and the portliness of his figure, led his companions to call him “the dumb ox of Sicily.”
A good-natured fellow-student offered to explain the daily lessons to him, an offer which the Saint humbly and gratefully accepted. But one day the young teacher came to a difficult passage, which he interpreted wrongly. Then the Saint’s charity and love of truth triumphed over his humility; and, taking the book, he explained the passage with the utmost clearness and precision. His astonished friend begged in future to be the scholar, to which Thomas consented, on condition his secret should be kept. Shortly after this, a paper written by the Saint and containing a masterly solution of a most abstruse question, fell accidentally into the hands of Blessed Albert. Astonished at the genius it displayed, he next day put the learning of his saintly disciple to a public test, and exclaimed before the assembled students: “We call Brother Thomas ‘the dumb ox;’ but I tell you he will one day make his bellowing heard to the uttermost parts of the earth.”
Work in His Order and in the Church
In the summer of 1245, a y ear after Saint Thomas’s arrival at Cologne, the General Chapter commanded Blessed Albert to proceed to Paris in order to take the degree of Doctor in that University, and he obtained permission to take Brother Thomas as his companion. The two Saints set out on foot, staff in hand, carrying on their shoulders the breviary and Bible, to which Brother Thomas added the book of “Sentences.” At midday they rested by some spring to eat the food they had begged on their way. At night they generally found shelter in the guest quarters of some monastery. In this manner they reached the convent of Saint James at Paris, where Saint Tomas became the model of the whole Community, by his spirit of prayer, his profound humility, perfect obedience, and universal charity. He tried to imitate the virtues he observed in his brethren, and judged himself utterly unworthy of living in such saintly company. Never was he known to utter an idle word; when he did speak, the charm of his heavenly conversation filled all who heard him with spiritual consolation. A celestial grace beamed from his beautiful countenance; so that some said they had only to look at him to feel within themselves a renewal of fervor.
A young Franciscan was at this time studying at Paris, Bonaventure by name, to whom Saint Thomas became knit in bonds of closest friendship; they, who were in after ages to be honored in the Church as the Seraphic and Angelic Doctors, were dear to each other on earth as Jonathan and David; and after their three years of study, they were raised together to the degree of Bachelor of Theology, in 1248. In the November of that year, Blessed Albert was sent back to Cologne, again accompanied by Saint Thomas, who taught under his direction. Scholars were not slow to discover that the two Dominican professors excelled all others, and the new school at Cologne was soon filled to overflowing. Saint Thomas’s lessons fully bore out the five principles of teaching which he has himself laid down, viz., clearness, brevity, utility, sweetness, and maturity. He possessed a wonderful gift of communicating knowledge, so that more was learnt from him in a few months than from others in several years.
It was soon after his return to Cologne that the Saint was raised to the priesthood; from that time he seemed more closely than ever united to God. He used to spend many hours of the day and a great part of the night in the church; whilst offering the Holy Sacrifice he shed abundant tears, and the ardor of his devotion communicated itself to those who assisted at his Mass.
After teaching for four years at Cologne, Thomas was ordered by the General Chapter to prepare to take his degree as Doctor. This was a terrible blow to his humility, as he sincerely judged himself unfit for the dignity. On his way to Paris, whither he had now to repair, he preached at the court of the Duchess of Brabant, at whose request he wrote a treatise on the government of the Jews which is full of wisdom and moderation. Later on, he was often consulted on most important matters of state, especially by Saint Louis of France, who was tenderly attached to him. He arrived in Paris in 1252, and from the first his success in teaching was so great that the vast halls of the Convent of Saint James were unable to contain his audience. The University congratulated the Order on the acquisition of so great a treasure, and proposed at once to grant him the license preliminary to the acts required for taking the degree of Doctor, although he was nearly ten years under the age required by the statutes.
But this step was delayed by a dispute which arose between the Friars and the secular Doctors. The quarrel originated in the refusal of the former to take au oath to close their schools whenever the rights of the University were attacked; and it was fanned into a flame by the publication of a book, entitled “The Perils of the Latter Times,” in which the new mendicant Orders were attacked in the most calumnious and scandalous terms. This work, which came from the pen of a Paris Doctor, William de Saint Amour, a man of violent and heretical opinions, was referred by Saint Louis to the judgment of the Pope. Saint Thomas and Saint Bonaventure were summoned to the Papal Court to act as the champions of the regulars, and the pen of Blessed Albert the Great was also called into requisition. Saint Thomas’s eloquent defense procured the condemnation of the book, and delivered the mendicant Orders from destruction; and by the joint exertions of the Pope and Saint Louis, the University was compelled to yield, and to readmit, the Friars to their theological chairs.
On the 23d of October, 1257, two Saints were allowed to take their Doctor’s degree. Saint Thomas’s humility had been so sorely distressed at the idea of this promotion, that he could not bring himself to prepare the preliminary public address until the very eve of the day on which it was to be delivered. Then, as it would seem, by divine inspiration, he chose for his text the words of the 103d Psalm, verse 13: “Thou waterest the hills from Thy upper rooms; the earth shall be filled with the fruit of Thy works,” words which he interpreted to refer to Jesus Christ, Who, as the head of men and angels, waters the heavenly spirits with glory, whilst He fills the Church militant on earth with the fruits of His works through the Sacraments, which apply the merits of His sacred Passion to our souls. But the event gave to this text the character of a prophecy regarding the Saint’s own future career.
In 1259, Saint Thomas was deputed, in concert with Blessed Albert and other learned men of the Order, to draw up ordinances to regulate the studies of the Brethren. A year or two later, he was summoned to Italy to teach in the schools attached to the Papal Court. As these schools followed the Pope from place to place, several of the great cities of Italy and many of the convents of his Order enjoyed for a time the privilege of the Saint’s teaching. It is pleasant to think that the streets of the world’s metropolis have probably been trodden by the feet of the holy Doctor, who is said to have been present at the General Chapter of the Order held in London in 1263.
After being for some time stationed in Rome, he was again appointed to teach in Paris in 1269. The Doctors of the University referred to his decision a controversy which had arisen concerning the sacramental species in the Holy Eucharist. After long and fervent prayer, the Saint put his own opinion on the subject into writing, laid the manuscript at the foot of the Crucifix on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament, and then prayed as follows: “Lord Jesus, Who art truly present and dost work wonders in this adorable Sacrament, I implore thee to grant that, if what I have written be the truth, Thou wilt enable me to teach it; but that, if it contains anything contrary to the faith, Thou wilt hinder me from proceeding further in declaring it.” Then the other Friars, who were watching, beheld our Lord Himself descend and stand upon the manuscript, and they heard from His Divine lips the words: “Thomas, thou hast written well concerning the Sacrament of My Body.” The Saint immediately fell into an ecstasy, in which he was raised a cubit from the ground.
In 1271 he returned to Italy, and began to teach in Rome. During the following Holy Week he preached in Saint Peter’s on the Passion of our Lord; and those who heard him on Good Friday were moved to tears and ceased not to weep until Easter Day, when his Paschal sermon filled them with holy jubilation. On that day, as he came down from the pulpit, a poor woman who had been hopelessly ill for a long time kissed the hem of his mantle and was immediately cured. Meanwhile the Universities of Paris and of Naples were vying with each other in their efforts to get possession of the great Doctor. Naples gained the day; and the Saint accordingly repaired, towards the end of the summer of 1272, to this the last scene of his labors as a professor.
During all these busy years of teaching, Saint Thomas’s pen had been at work indefatigably, enriching the schools and the Church with invaluable treatises, which fill twenty volumes. Within the narrow limits of these pages it is impossible to do more than name a very few of his most important writings. He commented on the works of Aristotle, and purged the text of the pagan philosopher from everything opposed to the truths of the faith, whilst at the same time he chose the terms of Aristotle’s philosophy as the most scientific classification of the ideas of the human mind, and thus established a complete system of Christian philosophy. His “Summa Against the Gentiles” was written by command of Saint Raymond of Pennafort, the third General of the Order, to combat the false philosophical doctrines introduced by the Saracens, into Spain, which were making their way into the Universities of Europe.
In this work Saint Thomas demonstrates the truth of revealed religion and triumphantly proves that Christianity can never be contrary to sound reason. The holy Doctor has written treatises on the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed, commentaries on various parts of Holy Scripture, and answers to sundry questions proposed to him for solution. Pope Urban IV. charged him with the task of collecting all the most beautiful passages of the Fathers of the Church on the Gospels. The result was his “Catena Aurea” or Golden “Chain,” which is entirely made up of quotations, written in great part from memory. The Saint, as he travelled from convent to convent, had read the works, now of one, now of another, of the Fathers, and his marvellous memory enabled him to retain and transcribe the passages bearing on his subject. The most famous of his works is his “Summa of Theology,” at which he labored, in the intervals of teaching and preaching, for the last nine years of his life, and which he did not live to complete.
Of this work, Pope John XXII is reported to have said that Saint Thomas had worked as many miracles as it contains articles; and its value is perhaps best attested by the hatred with which it has ever been regarded by heretics. In 1520, Luther caused it to be burnt in the public square at Wittenberg, and another of the so-called Reformers, Martin Bucer, exclaimed: “Suppress Thomas and I will destroy the Church.” “A vain wish,” remarks Pope Leo XIII, “but not a vain testimony.” At the Council of Trent, three works of reference only were laid on the table of the hall of Assembly: they were the Holy Scriptures, the Pontifical Acts, and the “Summa” of Saint Thomas; and from the “Summa” the Catechism of the Council of Trent was compiled by three Dominican Fathers.
But perhaps Saint Thomas’s chief title to the love and veneration of the faithful generally is the part which he took in the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi. When he presented to Pope Urban IV the first part of his “Catena Aurea,” about 1263, the delighted Pontiff wished in token of gratitude to raise him to the episcopate. But Saint Thomas threw himself on his knees and implored the Holy Father to grant, as the only reward he would ever accept for his labors, that the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, already established through the prayers of the Blessed Juliana and the influence of the Dominican Cardinal Hugh of Saint Cher, in Germany and the Low Countries, should be extended to the Universal Church. Urban gladly consented, and ordered Saint Thomas to write the Office of the Feast.
In this Office each of the responsories at matins is composed of two sentences, one drawn from the Old, and the other from the New Testament, which are thus made to render their united testimony to the great central mystery of Catholic belief. With its hymns, the Vernum Supermini and Pange Lingua we are all familiar, aud specially with their concluding stanzas, the O Salutaris and the Tantum Ergo , always sung at Benediction; and from childhood our hearts have thrilled within us as we walked in processions of the Blessed Sacrament to the strains of the Lauda Sion.
Before presenting his Office to the Pope, Saint Thomas placed it before the Tabernacle, and the miracle formerly worked at Paris was renewed, the words of approval proceeding from the lips of a crucifix still venerated at Orvieto. A similar testimony of Divine approval was granted to the Saint at Naples, and was witnessed by one of the Friars. On this occasion also our Lord spoke to him from a Crucifix which is preserved in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore, saying: “Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas. What reward wilt thou have? ” To which the Saint fervently replied “No other than Thyself, O Lord.”
To the pen of Saint Thomas we are also indebted for the Adoro Te, for beautiful devotions before and after Holy Communion, and many other prayers solid in doctrine and beautiful in expression. It is a tradition that he composed the well-known prayer, the “Soul of Christ, sanctify me,” which was a favorite one of Saint Ignatius, who introduced it into his book of spiritual exercises, though leaving out the lovely petition, “Light of the sacred countenance of Jesus, shine down upon me,” which is found in the old forms of the prayer. This petition occurs in the version of the Anima Christi found in an old prayer-book called the “York Hours,” where it is stated to have been indulgenced by Pope John XXII when said after the elevation at Mass. This prayer-book was published in 1517, four years before the conversion of Saint Ignatius.
Saint Thomas was tall and inclined to corpulence, with a fine massive head, a lofty forehead, refined and handsome features, and large, gentle eyes beaming with benevolence. His manners were singularly winning and graceful; and his prodigious powers of mind were accompanied by a childlike simplicity of character, which, no less than the purity of his doctrine, gained for him the title of the “Angel of the Schools.” Though raised so high above others by his gigantic intellectual powers, he was the sweetest and most charitable of masters and of fathers, always ready to stoop to the capacity of the youngest and dullest of his scholars.
No matter how important the affair might be on which he was engaged, his cell was always open to his brethren whenever they wished to speak to him, and he would cheerfully turn from the most absorbing occupation to give them his undivided attention. He listened to their difficulties, explained their doubts, and comforted them in their troubles. Nothing that concerned them was trifling in his eyes, and he never showed himself weary of their interruptions and importunities. In return, they bore him the tenderest affection; “Doctor noster,” they loved to call him; and the sincerity of their attachment was amply proved by the bitterness of their grief when he was taken from them.
Long after his death, those who had known him could never speak of him without tears, so dearly did they love him. True son of Saint Dominic, he cared only to speak of God or to God, and could not understand how Religious could take interest in any other topic. If the conversation turned to other subjects, he ceased to take part in it; and he owned to his companions that it surprised him that a Religious could think of anything but God.
And what was perfectly incomprehensible to him was, how any one who knew himself to be in the state of mortal sin could eat, sleep, or be merry. When seculars came to seek advice and consolation from him, he lent them a willing ear, and after solving their doubts and consoling their sorrows, he never failed to tell them some short pious story or to speak a few words of edification, and then dismissed them, their hearts glowing with spiritual joy and divine love.
We can picture Saint Thomas to ourselves enjoying his ordinary recreation of walking tip and down the cloister of his convent, occasionally dragged off by his brethren to take a breath of fresh air in the garden, but sure in such cases soon to be found in some remote corner, absorbed in thought. Of this abstraction of mind, some amusing anecdotes are preserved, as, for example, that which shows him to us dining with Saint Louis, and suddenly striking the table with his hand, exclaiming: “It is all up with the Manichees!” His companion gently endeavored to recall him to the remembrance of the royal presence, whilst the good-natured King instantly summoned a secretary to commit to writing the convincing argument which had just presented itself to the mind of his saintly guest.
Again at Naples, when the Cardinal Legate and the Archbishop of Capua came to visit him, he went to the cloister to receive them, but on the way became so absorbed in the solution of a theological difficulty, that, by the time he arrived, he had forgotten all about the business and the visitors that had called him, and stood like one in a dream. The Archbishop, who had formerly been his pupil, assured the Cardinal that these reveries were perfectly familiar to all who were acquainted with the Saint’s habits. This abstraction of mind at times rendered him insensible to pain, as, for example, when a wax candle once burnt his hand, while he remained in thought, unconscious of the pain.
The austere life of Saint Thomas and his incessant labors increased the natural delicacy of liis constitution, and lie bad frequent attacks of illness, which, however, do not appear ordinarily to have caused him to desist from the labor of composition. Surgery was rough and ready in the thirteenth century; and the extreme sensitiveness of Saint Thomas’s organization rendered its operations very terrible to him. On one occasion, when obliged to undergo a cautery, he begged the infirmarian to warn him of the coming of the surgeons, when he stretched himself on his bed and immediately went into ecstacy, remaining motionless whilst his flesh was burnt by the red-hot irons. His clothes were always the poorest in the convent, and his love of holy poverty was so great that his “Summa Against the Gentiles” was written on the back of old letters and other scraps of paper.
In vain did the. Sovereign Pontiffs press upon his acceptance the Archbishopric of Naples and other ecclesiastical dignities, together with ample revenues; nothing could shake his determination to live and die a simple Religious; and they were obliged to withdraw their offers, being unwilling to afflict one so dear to them. He who was the oracle of his age loved to preach to the poor and lowly; and we are told that they always listened to him gladly and with much fruit to their souls. He was full of compassion for their wants, and even gave away his own clothes to cover them.
Humility was ever his characteristic virtue. So thoroughly had he realized the greatness of God, and his own nothingness, that in a moment of intimacy he was able to say to a friend: “Thanks be to God! never has my knowledge, my title of Doctor, nor any of my scholastic acts aroused in me a single movement of vainglory. If any motion has arisen, reason has instantly repressed it.” From his humility sprang his extreme modesty in the expression of his opinion; never in the heat of disputation or at any other time was he known to lose his unruffled serenity of temper, or to say a word that could wound the feelings of another; and he bore the most cutting insults with imperturbable calmness. His life was full of examples of his spirit of humility and religious obedience.
On one occasion, when, as a young Religious, he was reading in the refectory at Paris, he was told by the official corrector to pronounce a word in a way evidently incorrect. Saint Thomas obeyed, and made the false quantity. When – asked how he could have consented to so obvious a blunder, he replied: “It matters little whether a syllable be long or short; but it matters much to practice humility and obedience.” In later years, when the Saint was teaching at Bologna, a lay brother obtained leave from the Prior to take as companion the first Religious brother whom he should find disengaged. Seeing Saint Thomas, who was a stranger to him, walking up and down the cloister, he addressed himself to him, saying that the Prior wished him to accompany him through the city, where he had business to transact. The Saint, though suffering from lameness, and perfectly aware that the lay brother was under some mistake, immediately obeyed the summons, and went limping through the city after his companion, who, from time to time, found fault with his slowness.
When the lay brother discovered his mistake his apologies were profuse; but the Saint replied, “Don’t be troubled, my dear brother; I am the one to blame. I am only sorry that I could not be more useful.” To those who asked why he did not explain the mistake, he gave this golden answer: “Obedience is the perfection of the Religious life; by it man submits to man for the love of God, as as God rendered Himself obedient unto men for their salvation.”
Saint Thomas was very slow to believe evil of others; he always thought everyone was better than himself; but, when a fault was proved beyond the possibility of a doubt, he wept over it as though he had committed it himself; and his zeal demanded that it should be severely corrected, according to the saying of Saint Augustine, “with charity towards the offender, and hatred against the sin.”
One of the brethren once pressed him to say what he considered the greatest favor he had ever received from God, sanctifying grace, of course, excepted. After a moment’s reflection, he replied: “I think that of having understood whatever I have read.” He remembered everything he had once heard, so that his mind -was like a well-stocked library. He often wrote, dictating at the same time on other subjects to three or four secretaries, and never losing the thread of the arguments.
Of Saint Tomas’s manner of spending his day the following particulars have been preserved. After the short time absolutely necessary for sleep, he would rise in the night and come down to the church to pray, returning to his cell just before the bell rang for matins, that his vigil might pass unnoticed. He would then go down again to office with the community, often prolonging his prayer till daybreak. After preparing by penance, confession, and meditation, he celebrated the first Mass, and for his thanksgiving heard another Mass, which he often served.
He had composed prayers for all his daily actions, some of which are still preserved. At the elevation he was accustomed to repeat the words: “Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory,” with the remaining verses of the Te Deum. Although lawfully dispensed from attendance in choir by his duties of teaching and writing and by the numerous visits of those who sought his advice, he assisted with the rest of his brethren at all the hours of the Divine Office, at which he often shed tears of devotion.
When his morning spiritual exercises were ended, he gave his lectures on Theology or Holy Scripture, after which he returned to his cell and wrote or dictated till dinner-time. He ate but once in the day, and was perfectly indifferent to what was set before him. Indeed, in the refectory he was so absorbed in prayer and thought, as to become quite unconscious of external things, and his plate was often changed or his food taken away by the servers, without any notice on his part.
After dinner he conversed for a short time with the brethren, then refreshed his soul with a little spiritual reading, his favorite book being the Conferences of Cassian. After a short repose, he resumed his labors. Compline in choir with the chanting of the Salve Regina ended the day. The angelic Doctor was full of childlike devotion to Our Blessed Lady. His confessor, Brother Reginald, declared that Saint Thomas had never asked anything through Mary without obtaining it; and the Saint himself specially attributed to her intercession the grace of living and dying in the Dominican Order, according to his own earnest desire.
During the whole of one Lent, he preached on the words: “Ave Maria,” and the same cherished words are to be found in his own hand-writing over and over again on the margin of an autograph copy of the “Summa Against the Gentiles,” recently discovered in Italy. On his death-bed he confided to Brother Reginald that Our Lady had appeared to him several times, and assured him of the good state of his soul and the solidity of his doctrine. The holy Apostles SS. Peter and Paul also favored him with their visits, and explained to him difficult passages of Scripture. The Epistles of Saint Paul were his favorite subjects of meditation, and he was accustomed to recommend them to others for the same purpose. He had a special devotion to Saint Augustine, whose proper Office, still in use in the Dominican Order, he composed from the holy Doctor’s works.
Saint Thomas used to wear round his neck a relic of the virgin martyr, Saint Agnes, of which he once made use to cure Brother Reginald of a fever, which attacked him on a journey to Naples; and from that time we are told the holy Doctor resolved to celebrate the feast of Saint Agnes with special solemnity, and, with a touch of nature that showed human sympathy in the midst of his abstract studies, to have a better dinner provided in the refectory on that day.
“His marvellous science,” says Brother Reginald, “was due far less to the power of his genius than to the efficacy of his prayer. Before studying, entering on a discussion, reading, writing, or dictating, he always gave himself to prayer. He prayed with tears to obtain from God the understanding of His mysteries, and abundant light was granted to his mind.” If he met with a difficulty, he joined fasting and penance to his prayer, and all his doubts were dispelled. On one occasion, Saint Bonaventure, coming to visit him, saw an angel assisting him in his labors.
Among his remarkable sayings may be mentioned the answer he gave to his sister, when she asked him what she must do to become a Saint. “Velle,” he replied, i.e., “Will it.” Being asked what were the signs of the perfection of the soul, he replied: “If I saw a man fond of trifles in conversation, desirous of honor, and unwilling to be despised, I would not believe him perfect, even if I saw him work miracles.”
His Death and Honors Rendered Him by the Church
On the feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6th, 1273, Saint Thomas was saying Mass in the chapel of the Saint in the convent of Naples, when he received a revelation which so changed him that from that time he could neither write nor dictate. Shortly afterwards, in answer to Brother Reginald’s pressing entreaties, he said to him: “The end of my labors is come. All that I have written appears to me as so much straw, after the things that have been revealed to me. I hope in the mercy of God that the end of my life may soon follow the end of my labors.”
He was suffering from illness when he received a summons from the Pope to attend the General Council convoked at Lyons for the reunion of the Greek and Latin Churches. The Saint therefore started from Naples, accompanied by Brother Reginald and some other Friars, on the 28th of January, 1274. On the way he was taken much worse. “If our Lord is about to visit me,” he said to his companions, “it is better he should find me in a Religious house than among seculars.”
As he was not within reach of a Dominican convent, he yielded to the pressing invitation of some Cistercian friends, and allowed them to carry him to their Abbey of Fossa Nuova. He went straight to the church to adore the Blessed Sacrament; and then, as he passed through the cloister, he exclaimed: “Here is the place of my rest for ever.” He was lodged in the Abbot’s room and waited upon with the utmost charity. The monks went themselves to the forest to cut wood for his fire; and on seeing them bringing a load into his chamber, the Saint cried out: “Whence is this that the servants of God should thus serve a man like me, bringing such heavy burdens from a distance?” In compliance with the earnest entreaties of the Cistercians, he began to expound to them the Canticle of Canticles; but he did not live to complete his exposition.
As his end approached, he with many tears made a general confession of his whole life to Brother Reginald, and then asked to be laid on ashes on the ground when the Holy Viaticum was brought to him. On beholding the Blessed Sacrament, he raised himself into a kneeling posture, and said in a clear and distinct voice, whilst the tears chased each other down his face: “I receive Thee, the price of my soul’s ransom; I receive Thee, the Viaticum of my soul’s pilgrimage; for Whose love I have studied, watched and labored, preached and taught. I have written much and have often disputed on the mysteries of Thy law, O my God; Thou knowest I have desired to teach nothing save what I have learnt from Thee. If what I have written be true, accept it as a homage to Thy Infinite Majesty; if it be false, pardon my ignorance. I consecrate all I have ever done to Thee, and submit all to the infallible judgment of Thy Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I am about to depart this life.”
Just before receiving the Sacred Host, he uttered his favorite ejaculation: “Thou, O Christ, art the King of Glory, Thou art the Everlasting Son of the Father.” After receiving the Holy Viaticum, he made fervent acts of faith and love-in the words of his own beautiful Adoro Te. On the following day, while receiving Extreme Unction, he calmly answered all the prayers, whilst the voices of the assistants were choked by their sobs. He tried to comfort his own brethren who were inconsolable at their approaching loss, and most gratefully thanked the Cistercians for their charity. One of them asked him what was the best way of living without offending God. “Be certain,” replied the Saint, “that he who walks in the presence of God and is always ready to give Him an account of his actions will never be separated from Him by sin.” They were his last words. Shortly after he fell into his agony and peacefully expired, March 7th, 1274, not having yet completed his 50th year.
On that same day, Blessed Albert, then at Cologne, burst into tears ill the presence of the community, and exclaimed: “Brother Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, who was the light of the Church, is dead. God has revealed it to me.”
At Naples, too, God was pleased to make known the death of the Saint in a miraculous manner. One of the Friars, whilst praying in the church, fell into an ecstasy, in which he seemed to behold the Holy Doctor teaching in the schools, surrounded by a vast multitude of disciples. Saint Paul the Apostle then appeared, with a company of Saints, and Saint Thomas asked him if he had interpreted his Epistles rightly. “Yes,” replied the Apostle, “as far as any one still in the flesh can understand them; but come with me; I will lead you to a place where you will have a clearer understanding of all things.” The Apostle then seemed to lay his hand on Saint Thomas’s mantle and to lead him away; and the Friar who beheld the vision, startled the community by crying out three times in a loud voice: “Alas! Alas! our Doctor is being taken away from us!”
Saint Thomas’s funeral was celebrated at the Abbey with great solemnity. Brother Reginald made a short address, often interrupted by his own sobs and those of his hearers. He declared that, having been for many years Saint Thomas’s confessor, he could solemnly attest that the holy Doctor had never lost his baptismal innocence, and had died as pure and free from stain as a child of five years old. He then mentioned some particular favors which Saint Thomas had forbidden him to reveal during his life-time.
Several revelations of the Saint’s glory were made after his death, of which the following is perhaps one of the most interesting. A fervent disciple of his prayed earnestly that he might know the rank to which his beloved Master had been raised in glory. One day, as he was making his usual petition before the Altar of Our Lady, two venerable personages, encompassed with a marvelous light, suddenly stood before him. One of them was arrayed as a Bishop; the other wore the habit of a Friar Preacher, but it was resplendent with precious stones; on his head was a crown of gold and diamonds; from his neck hung two chains of gold and silver; and an immense carbuncle, in the form of a sun, shone upon his breast, shedding forth rays of light all around. “God has heard your prayer,” said the former; “I am Augustine, Doctor of the Church, sent to acquaint you with the glory of Thomas Aquinas, who reigns with me and who has illuminated the Church with his knowledge. This is signified by the precious stones with which he is covered. That which shines on his breast signifies the right intention with which he has defended the faith; the others denote the books and writings he has composed. Thomas is my equal in glory: but he has surpassed me by the aureola of virginity.”
Saint Thomas was canonized by Pope John XXII at Avignon, 1323. It was not until 1367 that the Dominicans succeeded in obtaining his body, which they conveyed to their convent at Toulouse, where it was received with every demonstration of honor. An annual festival is kept in the Order on January 28th, in memory of this translation, which was accompanied by many miracles. Valuable relics of the Saint have been given to various convents of the Order. At the time of the French Revolution, the Saint’s remains were removed to the crypt of the Church of Saint Sernin at Toulouse, where they still repose.
In 1567, Saint Pius V conferred on Saint Thomas the title of Doctor of the Church; and Pope Leo XIII, by a Brief of August 4th, 1880, instituted him Patron of all Catholic Universities, Academies, Colleges, and Schools.
(7 marzo: Nel monastero cistercense di Fossanova nel Lazio, transito di san Tommaso d’Aquino, la cui memoria si celebra il 28 gennaio).
Un ragazzo taciturno
La gloria maggiore doveva essere un giovane piuttosto robusto, proveniente dal centro Italia: si chiamava Tommaso, nato nel 1225, dai Conti d’Aquino nel castello di Roccasecca, non lontano da Montecassino. Proprio tra i “pueri oblati” era stato portato Tommaso, di 5 anni, perché studiasse e diventasse, crescendo, non solo monaco di san Benedetto, ma abate, onorando la sua famiglia nobile e ricca.
Ma il ragazzo, quando poté disporre di sé, uscì dal monastero, diciottenne, e tornò in famiglia, per iscriversi all’università di Napoli, a studiare Filosofia. Era già un innamorato di Gesù, così che presto, attraverso lo studio condotto con serietà nell’illibatezza della sua vita verginale, gli nacque la vocazione domenicana. Lui era nobile, mentre l’Ordine di san Domenico, come quello di san Francesco, era un Ordine “mendicante”, senza alcuna nobiltà.
Così i parenti pensarono di impedirgli di seguire la sua strada. A Montefiascone c’è una cappella dove Tommaso sfuggì dalle mani dei fratelli che volevano acciuffarlo nella sua fuga verso lo Studio di Parigi, dove lo attendevano Maestri e confratelli domenicani. Pensando a questo “scontro”, Tommaso scriverà una pagina sulla nobiltà di tutti gli uomini, perché creati da Dio e redenti da Gesù suo Figlio fatto uomo, senza attendere la dichiarazione dei diritti dell’uomo, fatta dai superficiali e spesso violenti “enciclopedisti” del Settecento.
Sfuggendo ai suoi inseguitori, Tommaso valicò le Alpi e giunse a Parigi. Trent’anni dopo i Maestri delle Arti di quella città potranno vantare che «omnium studiorum nobilissima parisiensis civitas» (Parigi, nobilissima città di tutti gli studi) era stata la maestra del Dottore Angelico, la quale «prius ipsum educavit, nutrivit et fovit» (= per prima lo educò, lo nutrì e lo promosse).
Ormai i Domenicani avevano espugnato lo “Studium” parigino: sulla cattedra di Teologia sedeva come maestro il domenicano Alberto Magno, che intuì subito la capacità intellettuale, anzi il genio, di Tommaso d’Aquino ancora studente. Fu proprio Alberto, che sentendolo chiamare dai compagni “il bue muto” per la taciturnità – colma di Dio, e di pensiero terso come il cielo azzurro – disse, presago: «Un giorno i muggiti della sua dottrina saranno uditi in tutto il mondo».
Poco più che ventenne, Tommaso fu ordinato sacerdote e sperimentò il Paradiso,
quando ebbe Gesù-Ostia tra le mani, lui che era e sarà sempre più un’anima
grandissima proprio perché eucaristica. Sarà lui a scrivere la Messa e
l’Ufficio divino del Corpus Domini, quando papa Urbano IV, nel 1264, con la
bolla Transiturus estese la festa a tutta la Chiesa.
“La Sapienza più preziosa”
La sua fu vita di preghiera, di meditazione e di studio tutta incentrata in Gesù, come l’Unico della sua giornata terrena. Vita di insegnamento, secondo l’essenza dello spirito dell’Ordine: “Contemplari, contemplata aliis tradere” (= contemplare Dio, trasmettere, comunicare agli altri Dio e le realtà di Dio contemplate). Questo però non vuol dire vita tranquilla.
La sua battaglia contro gli errori insidiosi, le tendenze pericolose, contro le dottrine accondiscendenti all’eresia – l’eresia è sempre la gnosi, antica o moderna che sia – sempre latente quando non è aperta, comunque sempre minacciosa, non ebbe mai tregua.
Quando saliva in cattedra, portava con sé una mela, la mostrava agli studenti e chiedeva: «Che cos’è questa?». Qualcuno sorrideva, ma si rispondeva: «Una mela!». «Va bene – ribatteva Maestro Tommaso –, ma chi non fosse d’accordo, esca dall’aula». Non era una battuta per ridere, ma l’affermazione che la sua filosofia parte da ciò che è, dall’ente che, prima di tutto, esiste e che può essere conosciuto dalla mente umana.
Così Tommaso definisce la Verità: «Adaequatio intellectus et rei», «corrispondenza dell’intelletto alla realtà». Insomma, una filosofia dell’essere, la filosofia pertanto perenne, la filosofia del buon senso.
Tutto qui? Ma è cosa grandissima: i sofisti prima di Tommaso e dopo Tommaso negano che si possa conoscere la realtà nella sua essenza, ma si conoscerebbe solo “il pensiero”, “il pensabile”, quindi ognuno ha “la sua” verità, pensa ciò che gli pare e gli piace. È una conoscenza umana separata dall’essere, che si allontana dal reale e pertanto da Dio: sofisma e gnosi.
Così attorno alla sua cattedra, come contro uno scoglio, si abbatterono non le ondate della persecuzione o della ribellione, ma gli errori, le eresie che sono le cose più ostinate, più insistenti e più logoranti, che in breve tempo o alla lunga rendono ciechi. Serio, sereno, silenzioso, sempre più lucido di mente, di analisi e di sintesi. Maestro Tommaso li confutava alla luce della ragione, illuminata dalla fede. Così molto presto, Alberto Magno, già suo maestro, lo chiamò «splendore e fiore del mondo».
Intelligentissimo, intuitivo come mosso da una luce superiore, il suo pensiero non era fatto di lampeggiamenti fuggevoli, e di geniali impennamenti, ma come uno specchio limpidissimo, ravvolgeva la luce della Verità (studiava e contemplava) e la trasmetteva agli altri (insegnava, predicava) in una sintesi perfetta di contemplazione e predicazione. Tutto con tranquillo fulgore. Tramite lui, la Verità si presentava con evidenza, che è appunto «fulgor veritatis consensum mentis rapiens» (= lo splendore, la chiarezza della verità che conquista, rapisce il consenso della mente).
Immerso nella riflessione, nello studio della Verità, mentre stava su una nave, non avvertì la burrasca, mentre una notte con la candela in mano, non sentì il bruciore della fiamma, sulla mano. Un vero puro di cuore, Dio lo aveva liberato dall’amor proprio e dall’impurità, consentendogli di vedere Dio, secondo l’evangelica beatitudine.
In fondo il suo studio, il suo magistero, nelle università di Parigi e d’Europa, era rivolto a Gesù Cristo: tutto doveva servire a conoscerlo di più, a fondare la sua conoscenza, a stabilire i preambula fidei (i preliminari della Fede), per amarlo di più, per farlo amare dai semplici e dai dotti, dalla gioventù studiosa d’Europa, dai candidati al titolo accademico, dagli apostoli del suo Ordine e degli altri Ordini religiosi.
Mai sazio di sapere, insaziabile di amare Dio e il Figlio suo Gesù Cristo e di farlo amare, dilatava fino all’ultima falda, fino all’incredibile, la sua indagine. “Ruminava” fino a ridurre tutto al “cibo essenziale della Verità”, che in fondo è Gesù solo.
«Maestro – gli domandarono un giorno i suoi allievi, tornando da una passeggiata –, guardate quanto è bella Parigi. Vi piacerebbe essere il suo signore?». Rispose Maestro Tommaso: «Preferisco le Omelie di san Giovanni Crisostomo sul Vangelo di Matteo. Non basta tutta Parigi a pagarle».
Alla destra della sala capitolare di Santa Maria Novella a Firenze, una celebre
pittura rappresenta il trionfo della Sapienza. Nel mezzo dell’affresco, san
Tommaso è seduto in trono con un gran libro aperto sul petto. La Sapienza di
cui l’affresco celebra il trionfo, si è raccolta in maggior abbondanza in lui,
il “Dottore Angelico”, che mostra non un suo libro ma quello della Sapienza
stessa alle pagine dove si legge: «Ho desiderato l’intelligenza e mi è stata
data; ho invocato e lo spirito della Sapienza è venuto in me. L’ho preferita ai
regni e ai troni e ho stimato la ricchezza un nulla a confronto della
La “Summa” come poema
Tommaso è il santo di questa intelligenza: la sua dottrina si regge sul primato dell’intelletto, che è la condizione stessa dell’amore. Solo un essere intelligente è capace di amore. «Quello che vi è di più perfetto nell’uomo è l’operazione dell’intelligenza – dice Tommaso nel primo trattato della sua Summa Theologiae (il suo capolavoro, ma tutto è capolavoro in Tommaso) – per cui la beatitudine di un essere dotato di intelligenza consiste nell’intelligenza stessa, nel conoscere».
Dante ha espresso questa affermazione di Tommaso nei suoi mirabili versi «Luce intellettual piena d’amore; / amore di vero ben pien di letizia; / letizia che trascende ogni dolore». La chiave di tutta la Summa – ossia la costruzione più mirabilmente pensata e connessa –, è proprio in questa intelligenza che è letizia, perché è la gioia di ogni essere dotato di intelligenza.
Così le controversie, le discussioni, le insidie quasi non hanno lasciato traccia nella Summa. Anzi, ogni controversia, ogni discussione, ogni insidia è diventata come il materiale da costruzione, nel sillogismo tomistico. Ne risulta che la Summa è come un poema, con un ritmo costante e tranquillo. Ogni verità è discussa, messa in dubbio, provata e infine definita attraverso quelle luminose strofe dei “videtur” (sembra), dei “sed contra” (in contrario), infine dei “respondeo” (rispondo) e delle “soluzioni”.
Proprio questo “poema”, dove l’intelligenza è illuminata dalla fede e dalla grazia, depose in favore della sua santità. Giunto alla morte non ancora cinquantenne, il 7 marzo 1274, egli aveva dichiarato che “a confronto di quanto aveva visto [= il mondo di Dio], le sue opere gli sembravano solo vile paglia”. Ma quali non potevano essere le sue virtù eroiche? Il Crocifisso stesso aveva elogiato la sua opera dicendogli: «Hai scritto bene di me». Nessuno negava la sua umiltà, la sua angelica purezza, la sua obbedienza, la sua povertà, il suo spirito di semplicità, di infanzia nello spirito. Era stato un eccellente cattolico, un ottimo religioso, ma questo non appariva sufficiente a decretargli gli onori degli altari. Si diceva che “il bue muto” era rimasto muto anche dopo la sua morte, astenendosi dal fare strepitosi miracoli.
Ma il papa Giovanni XXII, volendolo canonizzare, alle obiezioni canoniche rispose: «Tommaso ha illuminato la Chiesa più di tutti gli altri Dottori e un uomo fa più profitto sui suoi libri in un solo anno, che non sulle dottrine degli altri per tutto il tempo della sua vita».
Anche oggi la luce da cui può partire una nuova primavera della Chiesa, non viene dalla cosiddetta “aria fresca” del pensiero moderno, che subito si rivela gelida e distruttiva di ogni verità e di ogni frutto, ma solo dal Cristo accolto dalla filosofia e dalla teologia perenne di Maestro Tommaso. Così insegna il Magistero della Chiesa: citiamo tra tutti quelli che gli hanno reso omaggio, i Pontefici Leone XIII, san Pio X, Benedetto XV, Pio XI, Pio XII, che lo hanno definito “garante della Fede cattolica”.
E questo, è il riconoscimento più grande che si potesse dare al grande teologo e Dottore della Chiesa, che con la sua “Summa teologica”, diede sistematicamente un fondamento scientifico, filosofico e teologico alla dottrina cristiana.
Origini, oblato a Montecassino, studente a Napoli
Tommaso, nacque all’incirca nel 1225 nel castello di Roccasecca (Frosinone) nel Basso Lazio, che faceva parte del feudo dei conti d’Aquino; il padre Landolfo, era di origine longobarda e vedovo con tre figli, aveva sposato in seconde nozze Teodora, napoletana di origine normanna; dalla loro unione nacquero nove figli, quattro maschi e cinque femmine, dei quali Tommaso era l’ultimo dei maschi.
Secondo il costume dell’epoca, il bimbo a cinque anni, fu mandato come “oblato” nell’Abbazia di Montecassino; l’oblatura non contemplava che il ragazzo, giunto alla maggiore età, diventasse necessariamente un monaco, ma era semplicemente una preparazione, che rendeva i candidati idonei a tale scelta.
Verso i 14 anni, Tommaso che si trovava molto bene nell’abbazia, fu costretto a lasciarla, perché nel 1239 fu occupata militarmente dall’imperatore Federico II, allora in contrasto con il papa Gregorio IX, e che mandò via tutti i monaci, tranne otto di origine locale, riducendone così la funzionalità; l’abate accompagnò personalmente l’adolescente Tommaso dai genitori, raccomandando loro di farlo studiare presso l’Università di Napoli, allora sotto la giurisdizione dell’imperatore.
A Napoli frequentò il corso delle Arti liberali, ed ebbe l’opportunità di conoscere alcuni scritti di Aristotele, allora proibiti nelle Facoltà ecclesiastiche, intuendone il grande valore.
Domenicano; incomprensioni della famiglia
Inoltre conobbe nel vicino convento di San Domenico, i frati Predicatori e ne restò conquistato per il loro stile di vita e per la loro profonda predicazione; aveva quasi 20 anni, quando decise di entrare nel 1244 nell’Ordine Domenicano; i suoi superiori intuito il talento del giovane, decisero di mandarlo a Parigi per completare gli studi.
Intanto i suoi familiari, specie la madre Teodora rimasta vedova, che sperava in lui per condurre gli affari del casato, rimasero di stucco per questa scelta; pertanto la castellana di Roccasecca, chiese all’imperatore che si trovava in Toscana, di dare una scorta ai figli, che erano allora al suo servizio, affinché questi potessero bloccare Tommaso, già in viaggio verso Parigi.
I fratelli poterono così fermarlo e riportarlo verso casa, sostando prima nel castello paterno di Monte San Giovanni, dove Tommaso fu chiuso in una cella; il sequestro durò complessivamente un anno; i familiari nel contempo, cercarono in tutti i modi di farlo desistere da quella scelta, ritenuta non consona alla dignità della casata.
Arrivarono perfino ad introdurre una sera, una bellissima ragazza nella cella, per tentarlo nella castità; ma Tommaso di solito pacifico, perse la pazienza e con un tizzone ardente in mano, la fece fuggire via. La castità del giovane domenicano era proverbiale, tanto da meritare in seguito il titolo di “Dottore Angelico”.
Su questa situazione i racconti della ‘Vita’, divergono, si dice che papa Innocenzo IV, informato dai preoccupati Domenicani, chiese all’imperatore di liberarlo e così tornò a casa; altri dicono che Tommaso riuscì a fuggire; altri che Tommaso ricondotto a casa della madre, la quale non riusciva ad accettare che un suo figlio facesse parte di un Ordine ‘mendicante’, resistette a tutti i tentativi fatti per distoglierlo, tanto che dopo un po’ anche la sorella Marotta, passò dalla sua parte e in seguito diventò monaca e badessa nel monastero di Santa Maria a Capua; infine anche la madre si convinse, permettendo ai domenicani di far visita al figlio e dopo un anno di quella situazione. lo lasciò finalmente partire.
Studente a Colonia con s. Alberto Magno
Ritornato a Napoli, il Superiore Generale, Giovanni il Teutonico, ritenne opportuno anche questa volta, di trasferirlo all’estero per approfondire gli studi; dopo una sosta a Roma, Tommaso fu mandato a Colonia dove insegnava sant’Alberto Magno (1193-1280), domenicano, filosofo e teologo, vero iniziatore dell’aristotelismo medioevale nel mondo latino e uomo di cultura enciclopedica.
Tommaso divenne suo discepolo per quasi cinque anni, dal 1248 al 1252; si instaurò così una feconda convivenza tra due geni della cultura; risale a questo periodo l’offerta fattagli da papa Innocenzo IV di rivestire la carica di abate di Montecassino, succedendo al defunto abate Stefano II, ma Tommaso che nei suoi principi rifuggiva da ogni carica nella Chiesa, che potesse coinvolgerlo in affari temporali, rifiutò decisamente, anche perché amava oltremodo restare nell’Ordine Domenicano.
A Colonia per il suo atteggiamento silenzioso, fu soprannominato dai compagni di studi “il bue muto”, riferendosi anche alla sua corpulenza; s. Alberto Magno venuto in possesso di alcuni appunti di Tommaso, su una difficile questione teologica discussa in una lezione, dopo averli letti, decise di far sostenere allo studente italiano una disputa, che Tommaso seppe affrontare e svolgere con intelligenza.
Stupito, il Maestro davanti a tutti esclamò: “Noi lo chiamiamo bue muto, ma egli con la sua dottrina emetterà un muggito che risuonerà in tutto il mondo”.
Sacerdote; Insegnante all’Università di Parigi; Dottore in Teologia
Nel 1252, da poco ordinato sacerdote, Tommaso d’Aquino, fu indicato dal suo grande maestro ed estimatore s. Alberto, quale candidato alla Cattedra di “baccalarius biblicus” all’Università di Parigi, rispondendo così ad una richiesta del Generale dell’Ordine, Giovanni di Wildeshauen.
Tommaso aveva appena 27 anni e si ritrovò ad insegnare a Parigi sotto il Maestro Elia Brunet, preparandosi nel contempo al dottorato in Teologia.
Ogni Ordine religioso aveva diritto a due cattedre, una per gli studenti della provincia francese e l’altra per quelli di tutte le altre province europee; Tommaso fu destinato ad essere “maestro degli stranieri”.
Ma la situazione all’Università parigina non era tranquilla in quel tempo; i professori parigini del clero secolare, erano in lotta contro i colleghi degli Ordini mendicanti, scientificamente più preparati, ma considerati degli intrusi nel mondo universitario; e quando nel 1255-56, Tommaso divenne Dottore in Teologia a 31 anni, gli scontri fra Domenicani e clero secolare, impedirono che potesse salire in cattedra per insegnare; in questo periodo Tommaso difese i diritti degli Ordini religiosi all’insegnamento, con un celebre e polemico scritto: “Contra impugnantes”; ma furono necessari vari interventi del papa Alessandro IV, affinché la situazione si sbloccasse in suo favore.
Nell’ottobre 1256 poté tenere la sua prima lezione, grazie al cancelliere di Notre-Dame, Americo da Veire, ma passò ancora altro tempo, affinché il professore italiano fosse formalmente accettato nel Corpo Accademico dell’Università.
Già con il commento alle “Sentenze” di Pietro Lombardo, si era guadagnato il favore e l’ammirazione degli studenti; l’insegnamento di Tommaso era nuovo; professore in Sacra Scrittura, organizzava in modo insolito l’argomento con nuovi metodi di prova, nuovi esempi per arrivare alla conclusione; egli era uno spirito aperto e libero, fedele alla dottrina della Chiesa e innovatore allo stesso tempo.
“Già sin d’allora, egli divideva il suo insegnamento secondo un suo schema fondamentale, che contemplava tutta la creazione, che, uscita dalle mani di Dio, vi faceva ora ritorno per rituffarsi nel suo amore” (Enrico Pepe, Martiri e Santi, Città Nuova, 2002).
A Parigi, Tommaso d’Aquino, dietro invito di s. Raimondo di Peñafort, già Generale dell’Ordine Domenicano, iniziò a scrivere un trattato teologico, intitolato “Summa contra Gentiles”, per dare un valido ausilio ai missionari, che si preparavano per predicare in quei luoghi, dove vi era una forte presenza di ebrei e musulmani.
Il ritorno in Italia; collaboratore di pontefici
All’Università di Parigi, Tommaso rimase per tre anni; nel 1259 fu richiamato in Italia dove continuò a predicare ed insegnare, prima a Napoli nel convento culla della sua vocazione, poi ad Anagni dov’era la curia pontificia (1259-1261), poi ad Orvieto (1261-1265), dove il papa Urbano IV fissò la sua residenza dal 1262 al 1264.
Il pontefice si avvalse dell’opera dell’ormai famoso teologo, residente nella stessa città umbra; Tommaso collaborò così alla compilazione della “Catena aurea” (commento continuo ai quattro Vangeli) e sempre su richiesta del papa, impegnato in trattative con la Chiesa Orientale, Tommaso approfondì la sua conoscenza della teologia greca, procurandosi le traduzioni in latino dei padri greci e quindi scrisse un trattato “Contra errores Graecorum”, che per molti secoli esercitò un influsso positivo nei rapporti ecumenici.
Sempre nel periodo trascorso ad Orvieto, Tommaso ebbe dal papa l’incarico di scrivere la liturgia e gli inni della festa del Corpus Domini, istituita l’8 settembre 1264, a seguito del miracolo eucaristico, avvenuto nella vicina Bolsena nel 1263, quando il sacerdote boemo Pietro da Praga, che nutriva dubbi sulla transustanziazione, vide stillare copioso sangue, dall’ostia consacrata che aveva fra le mani, bagnando il corporale, i lini e il pavimento.
Fra gli inni composti da Tommaso d’Aquino, dove il grande teologo profuse tutto il suo spirito poetico e mistico, da vero cantore dell’Eucaristia, c’è il famoso “Pange, lingua, gloriosi Corporis mysterium”, di cui due strofe inizianti con “Tantum ergo”, si cantano da allora ogni volta che si impartisce la benedizione col SS. Sacramento.
Nel 1265 fu trasferito a Roma, a dirigere lo “Studium generale” dell’Ordine Domenicano, che aveva sede nel convento di Santa Sabina; nei circa due anni trascorsi a Roma, Tommaso ebbe il compito di organizzare i corsi di teologia per gli studenti della Provincia Romana dei Domenicani.
La “Summa theologiae”; affiancato da p. Reginaldo
A Roma, si rese conto che non tutti gli allievi erano preparati per un corso teologico troppo impegnativo, quindi cominciò a scrivere per loro una “Summa theologiae”, per “presentare le cose che riguardano la religione cristiana, in un modo che sia adatto all’istruzione dei principianti”.
La grande opera teologica, che gli darà fama in tutti i secoli successivi, fu divisa in uno schema a lui caro, in tre parti: la prima tratta di Dio uno e trino e della “processione di tutte le creature da Lui”; la seconda parla del “movimento delle creature razionali verso Dio”; la terza presenta Gesù “che come uomo è la via attraverso cui torniamo a Dio”. L’opera iniziata a Roma nel 1267 e continuata per ben sette anni, fu interrotta improvvisamente il 6 dicembre 1273 a Napoli, tre mesi prima di morire.
Intanto Tommaso d’Aquino, per i suoi continui trasferimenti, non poteva più vivere una vita di comunità, secondo il carisma di s. Domenico di Guzman e ciò gli procurava difficoltà; i suoi superiori pensarono allora di affiancargli un frate di grande valore, sacerdote e lettore in teologia, fra Reginaldo da Piperno; questi ebbe l’incarico di assisterlo in ogni necessità, seguendolo ovunque, confessandolo, servendogli la Messa, ascoltandolo e consigliandolo; in altre parole i due domenicani vennero a costituire una piccola comunità, dove potevano quotidianamente confrontarsi.
Nel 1267, Tommaso dovette mettersi di nuovo in viaggio per raggiungere a Viterbo papa Clemente IV, suo grande amico, che lo volle collaboratore nella nuova residenza papale; il pontefice lo voleva poi come arcivescovo di Napoli, ma egli decisamente rifiutò.
Per tre anni di nuovo a Parigi e poi ritorno a Napoli
Nel decennio trascorso in Italia, in varie località, Tommaso compose molte opere, fra le quali, oltre quelle già menzionate prima, anche “De unitate intellectus”; “De Redimine principum” (trattato politico, rimasto incompiuto); le “Quaestiones disputatae, ‘De potentia’ e ‘De anima’” e buona parte del suo capolavoro, la già citata “Summa teologica”, il testo che avrebbe ispirato la teologia cattolica fino ai nostri tempi.
All’inizio del 1269 fu richiamato di nuovo a Parigi, dove all’Università era ripreso il contrasto fra i maestri secolari e i maestri degli Ordini mendicanti; occorreva la presenza di un teologo di valore per sedare gli animi.
A Parigi, Tommaso, oltre che continuare a scrivere le sue opere, ben cinque, e la continuazione della Summa, dovette confutare con altri celebri scritti, gli avversari degli Ordini mendicanti da un lato e dall’altro difendere il proprio aristotelismo nei confronti dei Francescani, fedeli al neoplatonismo agostiniano, e soprattutto confutò alcuni errori dottrinari, dall’averroismo, alle tesi eterodosse di Sigieri di Brabante sull’origine del mondo, sull’anima umana e sul libero arbitrio.
Nel 1272 ritornò in Italia, a Napoli, facendo sosta a Montecassino, Roccasecca, Molara; Ceccano; nella capitale organizzò, su richiesta di Carlo I d’Angiò, un nuovo “Studium generale” dell’Ordine Domenicano, insegnando per due anni al convento di San Domenico, il cui Studio teologico era incorporato all’Università.
Qui intraprese la stesura della terza parte della Summa, rimasta interrotta e completata dopo la sua morte dal fedele collaboratore fra Reginaldo, che utilizzò la dottrina di altri suoi trattati, trasferendone i dovuti paragrafi.
L’interruzione radicale del suo scrivere
Tommaso aveva goduto sempre di ottima salute e di un’eccezionale capacità di lavoro; la sua giornata iniziava al mattino presto, si confessava a Reginaldo, celebrava la Messa e poi la serviva al suo collaboratore; il resto della mattinata trascorreva fra le lezioni agli studenti e segretari e il prosieguo dei suoi studi; altrettanto faceva nelle ore pomeridiane dopo il pranzo e la preghiera, di notte continuava a studiare, poi prima dell’alba si recava in chiesa per pregare, avendo l’accortezza di mettersi a letto un po’ prima della sveglia per non farsi notare dai confratelli.
Ma il 6 dicembre 1273 gli accadde un fatto strano, mentre celebrava la Messa, qualcosa lo colpì nel profondo del suo essere, perché da quel giorno la sua vita cambiò ritmo e non volle più scrivere né dettare altro.
Ci furono vari tentativi da parte di padre Reginaldo, di fargli dire o confidare il motivo di tale svolta; solo più tardi Tommaso gli disse: “Reginaldo, non posso, perché tutto quello che ho scritto è come paglia per me, in confronto a ciò che ora mi è stato rivelato”, aggiungendo: “L’unica cosa che ora desidero, è che Dio dopo aver posto fine alla mia opera di scrittore, possa presto porre termine anche alla mia vita”.
Anche il suo fisico risentì di quanto gli era accaduto quel 6 dicembre, non solo smise di scrivere, ma riusciva solo a pregare e a svolgere le attività fisiche più elementari.
I doni mistici
La rivelazione interiore che l’aveva trasformato, era stata preceduta, secondo quanto narrano i suoi primi biografi, da un mistico colloquio con Gesù; infatti mentre una notte era in preghiera davanti al Crocifisso (oggi venerato nell’omonima Cappella, della grandiosa Basilica di S. Domenico in Napoli), egli si sentì dire “Tommaso, tu hai scritto bene di me. Che ricompensa vuoi?” e lui rispose: “Nient’altro che te, Signore”.
Ed ecco che quella mattina di dicembre, Gesù Crocifisso lo assimilò a sé, il “bue muto di Sicilia” che fino allora aveva sbalordito il mondo con il muggito della sua intelligenza, si ritrovò come l’ultimo degli uomini, un servo inutile che aveva trascorso la vita ammucchiando paglia, di fronte alla sapienza e grandezza di Dio, di cui aveva avuto sentore.
Il suo misticismo, è forse poco conosciuto, abbagliati come si è dalla grandezza delle sue opere teologiche; celebrava la Messa ogni giorno, ma era così intensa la sua partecipazione, che un giorno a Salerno fu visto levitare da terra.
Le sue tante visioni hanno ispirato ai pittori un attributo, è spesso raffigurato nei suoi ritratti, con una luce raggiata sul petto o sulla spalla.
Sempre più ammalato; in viaggio per Lione
Con l’intento di staccarsi dall’ambiente del suo convento napoletano, che gli ricordava continuamente studi e libri, in compagnia di Reginaldo, si recò a far visita ad una sorella, contessa Teodora di San Severino; ma il soggiorno fu sconcertante, Tommaso assorto in una sua interiore estasi, non riuscì quasi a proferire parola, tanto che la sorella dispiaciuta, pensò che avesse perduto la testa e nei tre giorni trascorsi al castello, fu circondato da cure affettuose.
Ritornò poi a Napoli, restandovi per qualche settimana ammalato; durante la malattia, due religiosi videro una grande stella entrare dalla finestra e posarsi per un attimo sul capo dell’ammalato e poi scomparire di nuovo, così come era venuta.
Intanto nel 1274, dalla Francia papa Gregorio X, ignaro delle sue condizioni di salute, lo invitò a partecipare al Concilio di Lione, indetto per promuovere l’unione fra Roma e l’Oriente; Tommaso volle ancora una volta obbedire, pur essendo cosciente delle difficoltà per lui di intraprendere un viaggio così lungo.
Partì in gennaio, accompagnato da un gruppetto di frati domenicani e da Reginaldo, che sperava sempre in una ripresa del suo maestro; a complicare le cose, lungo il viaggio ci fu un incidente, scendendo da Teano, Tommaso si ferì il capo urtando contro un albero rovesciato.
Giunti presso il castello di Maenza, dove viveva la nipote Francesca, la comitiva si fermò per qualche giorno, per permettere a Tommaso di riprendere le forze, qui si ammalò nuovamente, perdendo anche l’appetito; si sa che quando i frati per invogliarlo a mangiare gli chiesero cosa desiderasse, egli rispose: “le alici”, come quelle che aveva mangiato anni prima in Francia.
La sua fine nell’abbazia di Fossanova
Tutte le cure furono inutili, sentendo approssimarsi la fine, Tommaso chiese di essere portato nella vicina abbazia di Fossanova, dove i monaci cistercensi l’accolsero con delicata ospitalità; giunto all’abbazia nel mese di febbraio, restò ammalato per circa un mese.
Prossimo alla fine, tre giorni prima volle ricevere gli ultimi sacramenti, fece la confessione generale a Reginaldo, e quando l’abate Teobaldo gli portò la Comunione, attorniato dai monaci e amici dei dintorni, Tommaso disse alcuni concetti sulla presenza reale di Gesù nell’Eucaristia, concludendo: “Ho molto scritto ed insegnato su questo Corpo Sacratissimo e sugli altri sacramenti, secondo la mia fede in Cristo e nella Santa Romana Chiesa, al cui giudizio sottopongo tutta la mia dottrina”.
Il mattino del 7 marzo 1274, il grande teologo morì, a soli 49 anni; aveva scritto più di 40 volumi.
Il suo insegnamento teologico
La sua vita fu interamente dedicata allo studio e all’insegnamento; la sua produzione fu immensa; due vastissime “Summe”, commenti a quasi tutte le opere aristoteliche, opere di esegesi biblica, commentari a Pietro Lombardo, a Boezio e a Dionigi l’Areopagita , 510 “Questiones disputatae”, 12 “Quodlibera”, oltre 40 opuscoli.
Tommaso scriveva per i suoi studenti, perciò il suo linguaggio era chiaro e convincente, il discorso si svolgeva secondo le esigenze didattiche, senza lasciare zone d’ombra, concetti non ben definiti o non precisati.
Egli si rifaceva anche nello stile al modello aristotelico, e rimproverava ai platonici il loro linguaggio troppo simbolico e metafisico.
Ciò nonostante alcune tesi di Tommaso d’Aquino, così radicalmente innovatrici, fecero scalpore e suscitarono le più vivaci reazioni da parte dei teologi contemporanei; s. Alberto Magno intervenne più volte in favore del suo antico discepolo, nonostante ciò nel 1277 si arrivò alla condanna da parte del vescovo E. Tempier a Parigi, e a Oxford sotto la pressione dell’arcivescovo di Canterbury, R. Kilwardby; le condanne furono ribadite nel 1284 e nel 1286 dal successivo arcivescovo J. Peckham.
L’Ordine Domenicano, si impegnò nella difesa del suo più grande maestro e nel 1278 dichiarò il “Tomismo” dottrina ufficiale dell’Ordine. Ma la condanna fu abrogata solo nel 1325, due anni dopo che papa Giovanni XXII ad Avignone, l’aveva proclamato santo il 18 luglio 1323.
Il suo culto
Nel 1567 s. Tommaso d’Aquino fu proclamato Dottore della Chiesa e il 4 agosto 1880, patrono delle scuole e università cattoliche.
La sua festa liturgica, da secoli fissata al 7 marzo, giorno del suo decesso, dopo il Concilio Vaticano II, che ha raccomandato di spostare le feste liturgiche dei santi dal periodo quaresimale e pasquale, è stata spostata al 28 gennaio, data della traslazione del 1369.
Le sue reliquie sono venerate in vari luoghi, a seguito dei trasferimenti parziali dei suoi resti, inizialmente sepolti nella chiesa dell’abbazia di Fossanova, presso l’altare maggiore e poi per alterne vicende e richieste autorevoli, smembrati nel tempo; sono venerate a Fossanova, nel Duomo della vicina Priverno, nella chiesa di Saint-Sermain a Tolosa in Francia, portate lì nel 1369 dai Domenicani, su autorizzazione di papa Urbano V, e poi altre a San Severino, su richiesta dalla sorella Teodora e da lì trasferite poi a Salerno; altre reliquie si trovano nell’antico convento dei Domenicani di Napoli e nel Duomo della città.
A chiusura di questa necessariamente incompleta scheda, si riporta il bellissimo inno eucaristico, dove san Tommaso profuse tutto il suo amore e la fede nel mistero dell’Eucaristia.
“Pange lingua” di S. Tommaso d’Aquino (Testo latino)
Pange língua gloriósi
Quem in mundi prétium
fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intácta Vírgine,
et in mundo conversátus,
sparso verbi sémine,
sui moras incolátus
miro cláusit órdine.
In suprémae nocte cenae
recúmbens cum frátribus,
observáta lege plene
cibis in legálibus,
cibum turbae duodénae
se dat suis mánibus.
Verbum caro panem verum
verbo carnem éfficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum.
Et si sensus déficit,
ad firmándum cor sincérum
sola fides súfficit.
Tantum ergo Sacraméntum
et antícuum documéntum
novo cedat rítui:
praestet fides suppleméntum
laus et jubilátio,
salus, hónor, virtus quoque
sit et benedíctio:
procedénti ad utróque
cómpar sit laudátio.
“Pange lingua” (Traduzione italiana)
Canta, o mia lingua,
il mistero del corpo glorioso
e del sangue prezioso
che il Re delle nazioni,
frutto benedetto di un grembo generoso,
sparse per il riscatto del mondo.
Si è dato a noi, nascendo per noi
da una Vergine purissima,
visse nel mondo spargendo
il seme della sua parola
e chiuse in modo mirabile
il tempo della sua dimora quaggiù.
Nella notte dell'ultima Cena,
sedendo a mensa con i suoi fratelli,
dopo aver osservato pienamente
le prescrizioni della legge,
si diede in cibo agli apostoli
con le proprie mani.
Il Verbo fatto carne cambia con la sua parola
il pane vero nella sua carne
e il vino nel suo sangue,
e se i sensi vengono meno,
la fede basta per rassicurare
un cuore sincero.
Adoriamo, dunque, prostrati
un sì gran sacramento;
ceda alla nuova,
e la fede supplisca
al difetto dei nostri sensi.
Gloria e lode,
potenza e benedizione
al Padre e al Figlio:
pari lode sia allo Spirito Santo,
che procede da entrambi.
Autore: Antonio Borrelli
Reliquary displaying the right thumb by Thomas Aquinas, crafted in France in the 17th/18th century, on display in the church museum in Sant'Eustorgio (Milan, Italy). Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto, March 1 2007.
San Tommaso d'Aquino
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
dopo alcune catechesi sul sacerdozio e i miei ultimi viaggi, ritorniamo oggi al nostro tema principale, alla meditazione cioè di alcuni grandi pensatori del Medio Evo. Avevamo visto ultimamente la grande figura di san Bonaventura, francescano, e oggi vorrei parlare di colui che la Chiesa chiama il Doctor communis: cioè san Tommaso d’Aquino. Il mio venerato Predecessore, il Papa Giovanni Paolo II, nella sua Enciclica Fides et ratio ha ricordato che san Tommaso “è sempre stato proposto dalla Chiesa come maestro di pensiero e modello del retto modo di fare teologia” (n. 43). Non sorprende che, dopo sant’Agostino, tra gli scrittori ecclesiastici menzionati nel Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica, san Tommaso venga citato più di ogni altro, per ben sessantuno volte! Egli è stato chiamato anche il Doctor Angelicus, forse per le sue virtù, in particolare la sublimità del pensiero e la purezza della vita.
Tommaso nacque tra il 1224 e il 1225 nel castello che la sua famiglia, nobile e facoltosa, possedeva a Roccasecca, nei pressi di Aquino, vicino alla celebre abbazia di Montecassino, dove fu inviato dai genitori per ricevere i primi elementi della sua istruzione. Qualche anno dopo si trasferì nella capitale del Regno di Sicilia, Napoli, dove Federico II aveva fondato una prestigiosa Università. In essa veniva insegnato, senza le limitazioni vigenti altrove, il pensiero del filosofo greco Aristotele, al quale il giovane Tommaso venne introdotto, e di cui intuì subito il grande valore. Ma soprattutto, in quegli anni trascorsi a Napoli, nacque la sua vocazione domenicana. Tommaso fu infatti attratto dall’ideale dell’Ordine fondato non molti anni prima da san Domenico. Tuttavia, quando rivestì l’abito domenicano, la sua famiglia si oppose a questa scelta, ed egli fu costretto a lasciare il convento e a trascorrere qualche tempo in famiglia.
Nel 1245, ormai maggiorenne, poté riprendere il suo cammino di risposta alla chiamata di Dio. Fu inviato a Parigi per studiare teologia sotto la guida di un altro santo, Alberto Magno, sul quale ho parlato recentemente. Alberto e Tommaso strinsero una vera e profonda amicizia e impararono a stimarsi e a volersi bene, al punto che Alberto volle che il suo discepolo lo seguisse anche a Colonia, dove egli era stato inviato dai Superiori dell’Ordine a fondare uno studio teologico. Tommaso prese allora contatto con tutte le opere di Aristotele e dei suoi commentatori arabi, che Alberto illustrava e spiegava.
In quel periodo, la cultura del mondo latino era stata profondamente stimolata dall’incontro con le opere di Aristotele, che erano rimaste ignote per molto tempo. Si trattava di scritti sulla natura della conoscenza, sulle scienze naturali, sulla metafisica, sull’anima e sull’etica, ricchi di informazioni e di intuizioni che apparivano valide e convincenti. Era tutta una visione completa del mondo sviluppata senza e prima di Cristo, con la pura ragione, e sembrava imporsi alla ragione come “la” visione stessa; era, quindi, un incredibile fascino per i giovani vedere e conoscere questa filosofia. Molti accolsero con entusiasmo, anzi con entusiasmo acritico, questo enorme bagaglio del sapere antico, che sembrava poter rinnovare vantaggiosamente la cultura, aprire totalmente nuovi orizzonti. Altri, però, temevano che il pensiero pagano di Aristotele fosse in opposizione alla fede cristiana, e si rifiutavano di studiarlo. Si incontrarono due culture: la cultura pre-cristiana di Aristotele, con la sua radicale razionalità, e la classica cultura cristiana. Certi ambienti erano condotti al rifiuto di Aristotele anche dalla presentazione che di tale filosofo era stata fatta dai commentatori arabi Avicenna e Averroè. Infatti, furono essi ad aver trasmesso al mondo latino la filosofia aristotelica. Per esempio, questi commentatori avevano insegnato che gli uomini non dispongono di un’intelligenza personale, ma che vi è un unico intelletto universale, una sostanza spirituale comune a tutti, che opera in tutti come “unica”: quindi una depersonalizzazione dell'uomo. Un altro punto discutibile veicolato dai commentatori arabi era quello secondo il quale il mondo è eterno come Dio. Si scatenarono comprensibilmente dispute a non finire nel mondo universitario e in quello ecclesiastico. La filosofia aristotelica si andava diffondendo addirittura tra la gente semplice.
Tommaso d’Aquino, alla scuola di Alberto Magno, svolse un’operazione di fondamentale importanza per la storia della filosofia e della teologia, direi per la storia della cultura: studiò a fondo Aristotele e i suoi interpreti, procurandosi nuove traduzioni latine dei testi originali in greco. Così non si appoggiava più solo ai commentatori arabi, ma poteva leggere personalmente i testi originali, e commentò gran parte delle opere aristoteliche, distinguendovi ciò che era valido da ciò che era dubbio o da rifiutare del tutto, mostrando la consonanza con i dati della Rivelazione cristiana e utilizzando largamente e acutamente il pensiero aristotelico nell’esposizione degli scritti teologici che compose. In definitiva, Tommaso d’Aquino mostrò che tra fede cristiana e ragione sussiste una naturale armonia. E questa è stata la grande opera di Tommaso, che in quel momento di scontro tra due culture - quel momento nel quale sembrava che la fede dovesse arrendersi davanti alla ragione - ha mostrato che esse vanno insieme, che quanto appariva ragione non compatibile con la fede non era ragione, e quanto appariva fede non era fede, in quanto opposta alla vera razionalità; così egli ha creato una nuova sintesi, che ha formato la cultura dei secoli seguenti.
Per le sue eccellenti doti intellettuali, Tommaso fu richiamato a Parigi come professore di teologia sulla cattedra domenicana. Qui iniziò anche la sua produzione letteraria, che proseguì fino alla morte, e che ha del prodigioso: commenti alla Sacra Scrittura, perché il professore di teologia era soprattutto interprete della Scrittura, commenti agli scritti di Aristotele, opere sistematiche poderose, tra cui eccelle la Summa Theologiae, trattati e discorsi su vari argomenti. Per la composizione dei suoi scritti, era coadiuvato da alcuni segretari, tra i quali il confratello Reginaldo di Piperno, che lo seguì fedelmente e al quale fu legato da fraterna e sincera amicizia, caratterizzata da una grande confidenza e fiducia. È questa una caratteristica dei santi: coltivano l’amicizia, perché essa è una delle manifestazioni più nobili del cuore umano e ha in sé qualche cosa di divino, come Tommaso stesso ha spiegato in alcune quaestiones della Summa Theologiae, in cui scrive: “La carità è l’amicizia dell’uomo con Dio principalmente, e con gli esseri che a Lui appartengono” (II, q. 23, a.1).
Non rimase a lungo e stabilmente a Parigi. Nel 1259 partecipò al Capitolo Generale dei Domenicani a Valenciennes dove fu membro di una commissione che stabilì il programma di studi nell’Ordine. Dal 1261 al 1265, poi, Tommaso era ad Orvieto. Il Pontefice Urbano IV, che nutriva per lui una grande stima, gli commissionò la composizione dei testi liturgici per la festa del Corpus Domini, che celebriamo domani, istituita in seguito al miracolo eucaristico di Bolsena. Tommaso ebbe un’anima squisitamente eucaristica. I bellissimi inni che la liturgia della Chiesa canta per celebrare il mistero della presenza reale del Corpo e del Sangue del Signore nell’Eucaristia sono attribuiti alla sua fede e alla sua sapienza teologica. Dal 1265 fino al 1268 Tommaso risiedette a Roma, dove, probabilmente, dirigeva uno Studium, cioè una Casa di studi dell’Ordine, e dove iniziò a scrivere la sua Summa Theologiae (cfr Jean-Pierre Torrell, Tommaso d’Aquino. L’uomo e il teologo, Casale Monf., 1994, pp. 118-184).
Nel 1269 fu richiamato a Parigi per un secondo ciclo di insegnamento. Gli studenti - si può capire - erano entusiasti delle sue lezioni. Un suo ex-allievo dichiarò che una grandissima moltitudine di studenti seguiva i corsi di Tommaso, tanto che le aule riuscivano a stento a contenerli e aggiungeva, con un’annotazione personale, che “ascoltarlo era per lui una felicità profonda”. L’interpretazione di Aristotele data da Tommaso non era accettata da tutti, ma persino i suoi avversari in campo accademico, come Goffredo di Fontaines, ad esempio, ammettevano che la dottrina di frate Tommaso era superiore ad altre per utilità e valore e serviva da correttivo a quelle di tutti gli altri dottori. Forse anche per sottrarlo alle vivaci discussioni in atto, i Superiori lo inviarono ancora una volta a Napoli, per essere a disposizione del re Carlo I, che intendeva riorganizzare gli studi universitari.
Oltre che allo studio e all’insegnamento, Tommaso si dedicò pure alla predicazione al popolo. E anche il popolo volentieri andava ad ascoltarlo. Direi che è veramente una grande grazia quando i teologi sanno parlare con semplicità e fervore ai fedeli. Il ministero della predicazione, d’altra parte, aiuta gli stessi studiosi di teologia a un sano realismo pastorale, e arricchisce di vivaci stimoli la loro ricerca.
Gli ultimi mesi della vita terrena di Tommaso restano circondati da un’atmosfera particolare, misteriosa direi. Nel dicembre del 1273 chiamò il suo amico e segretario Reginaldo per comunicargli la decisione di interrompere ogni lavoro, perché, durante la celebrazione della Messa, aveva compreso, in seguito a una rivelazione soprannaturale, che quanto aveva scritto fino ad allora era solo “un mucchio di paglia”. È un episodio misterioso, che ci aiuta a comprendere non solo l’umiltà personale di Tommaso, ma anche il fatto che tutto ciò che riusciamo a pensare e a dire sulla fede, per quanto elevato e puro, è infinitamente superato dalla grandezza e dalla bellezza di Dio, che ci sarà rivelata in pienezza nel Paradiso. Qualche mese dopo, sempre più assorto in una pensosa meditazione, Tommaso morì mentre era in viaggio verso Lione, dove si stava recando per prendere parte al Concilio Ecumenico indetto dal Papa Gregorio X. Si spense nell’Abbazia cistercense di Fossanova, dopo aver ricevuto il Viatico con sentimenti di grande pietà.
La vita e l’insegnamento di san Tommaso d’Aquino si potrebbero riassumere in un episodio tramandato dagli antichi biografi. Mentre il Santo, come suo solito, era in preghiera davanti al Crocifisso, al mattino presto nella Cappella di San Nicola, a Napoli, Domenico da Caserta, il sacrestano della chiesa, sentì svolgersi un dialogo. Tommaso chiedeva, preoccupato, se quanto aveva scritto sui misteri della fede cristiana era giusto. E il Crocifisso rispose: “Tu hai parlato bene di me, Tommaso. Quale sarà la tua ricompensa?”. E la risposta che Tommaso diede è quella che anche noi, amici e discepoli di Gesù, vorremmo sempre dirgli: “Nient’altro che Te, Signore!” (Ibid., p. 320).
Je confie à votre prière, chers pèlerins francophones, mon Voyage Apostolique à Chypre et tous les Chrétiens du Moyen Orient. Priez aussi pour les prêtres et les séminaristes. Puisse le Seigneur Jésus vous accompagner dans votre vie! Que Dieu vous bénisse!
I send my greetings to those gathered during these days in Scotland for the centennial of the first Edinburgh Missionary Conference, which is now acknowledged to have given birth to the modern ecumenical movement. May we all renew our commitment to work humbly and patiently, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to live again together our common apostolic heritage.
Von Herzen heiße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher willkommen. Vom heiligen Thomas von Aquin lernen wir, was an Christus glauben heißt. Glauben bedeutet, sich vom Licht der Wahrheit Gottes umfangen zu lassen, die unserem Leben die volle Bedeutung, den Wert und den Sinn verleiht. Bringen wir auch unseren Mitmenschen
Saludo a los grupos de lengua española, en particular a las Hijas de la Inmaculada Concepción de Buenos Aires y a los peregrinos venidos para la Beatificación de María Pierina de Micheli, así como a los demás fieles provenientes de España, México y otros países latinoamericanos. A todos os invito a participar con profunda piedad y veneración en la próxima Solemnidad del Corpus Christi, para experimentar así constantemente en nosotros los frutos de la Redención. Muchas gracias.
Uma saudação afetuosa a todos os peregrinos vindos do Brasil e demais países lusófonos, nomeadamente os fiéis da diocese de Serrinha, acompanhados do seu bispo Dom Ottorino Assolari! Possa cada um de vós encontrar a Jesus Cristo vivo e operante na Igreja através da sua presença real na Eucaristia. E assim, fortalecidos com a sua Graça, possais servi-Lo nos irmãos. De coração, a todos abençôo. Ide com Deus!
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Z serdecznym pozdrowieniem zwracam się do Polaków. Moi drodzy, rozpoczęliśmy czerwiec – miesiąc poświęcony szczególnej czci Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa. W tym kontekście niebawem zakończymy Rok Kapłański. Proszę was, abyście zawsze otaczali waszych duszpasterzy modlitwą. Niech napełnia ich ta miłość, której znakiem jest otwarte Serce Jezusa. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!
Con un cordiale saluto mi rivolgo ai polacchi. Carissimi, abbiamo cominciato il mese di giugno, dedicato alla speciale devozione del Sacratissimo Cuore del Signore Gesù. In questo contesto concluderemo l’Anno Sacerdotale. Vi chiedo di pregare sempre per i vostri pastori. Li colmi quest’amore di cui è segno il Cuore aperto di Gesù. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua croata:
Radosno pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito vjernike iz župe Blaženoga Augustina Kažotića iz Zagreba te iz Hrvatske Katoličke Zajednice Svetog Josipa iz Ulma. Dragi prijatelji, u Presvetom srcu Isusovu, kojem je posvećen mjesec lipanj, pronađite utjehu i sigurno utočište za vas i vaše obitelji. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Con gioia salutotuttiipellegriniCroati, particolarmente i fedeli provenienti dalla parrocchia del Beato Agostino Kazotic di Zagabria e della Comunità Cattolica Croata di San Giuseppe di Ulm (Germania). Cari amici, nel Sacro Cuore di Gesù, al quale è dedicato questo mese di giugno, trovate la consolazione ed il sicuro rifugio per voi e per le vostre famiglie. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
S láskou vítam slovenských pútnikov, osobitne žiakov
a pedagógov Základnej školy svätého Pavla z Novej Dediny ako aj
farnosť svätej Rodiny z Bratislavy - Petržalky.
Bratia a sestry, Kristus je cesta k Otcovi a v Eucharistii sa ponúka každému z nás ako prameň božského života. Čerpajme vytrvalo z toho prameňa. S týmto želaním vás rád žehnám.
Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!
Un affettuoso benvenuto ai pellegrini slovacchi,
particolarmente agli allievi e insegnanti della Scuola elementare San Paolo di
Nová Dedina come pure alla Parrocchia della Sacra Famiglia da Bratislava –
Fratelli e sorelle, Cristo è la via che conduce al Padre e nell’Eucaristia si offre ad ognuno di noi come sorgente di vita divina. Attingiamone con perseveranza. Con questi voti volentieri vi benedico.
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Saluto in lingua ceca:
Srdečně vítám poutníky z farnosti Ostrava-
V tomto měsíci červnu prosme Ježíše, který je tichý a pokorný srdcem, aby přetvořil naše srdce podle srdce svého.
Všem vám žehnám. Chvála Kristu!
Un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini della Parrocchia
In questo mese di giugno chiediamo a Gesù, che è mite e umile di cuore, di trasformare i nostri cuori secondo il Suo Cuore.
Vi benedico tutti. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
* * * * *
Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della parrocchia San Giovanni Battista in Chioggia, i rappresentanti della Federazione Banche di Credito Cooperativo dell’Abruzzo e del Molise, della Comunità cattolica di cittadini dello Sri Lanka e dell’Associazione “Il Vino di Cana”, di Bologna. Cari amici, vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza e vi incoraggio a seguire con fedeltà Gesù e il suo Vangelo, per essere cristiani autentici in famiglia e in ogni altro ambiente.
Mi rivolgo, infine, ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli, augurando a ciascuno di servire sempre Dio nella gioia e di amare il prossimo con spirito evangelico.
* * *
Vorrei ora ricordare che domani, solennità del Corpus Domini, alle ore 19, sul sagrato della Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano presiederò la Messa, cui seguirà la tradizionale processione fino a Santa Maria Maggiore. Invito tutti a partecipare a questa celebrazione, per esprimere insieme la fede in Cristo, presente nell’Eucaristia.
Vi invito, infine, cari amici ad accompagnare con la vostra preghiera il Viaggio pastorale a Cipro che intraprenderò dopodomani, affinché sia ricco di frutti spirituali per le care comunità cristiane del Medio Oriente.
Con profonda trepidazione seguo le tragiche vicende avvenute in prossimità della Striscia di Gaza. Sento il bisogno di esprimere il mio sentito cordoglio per le vittime di questi dolorosissimi eventi, che preoccupano quanti hanno a cuore la pace nella regione. Ancora una volta ripeto con animo accorato che la violenza non risolve le controversie, ma ne accresce le drammatiche conseguenze e genera altra violenza. Faccio appello a quanti hanno responsabilità politiche a livello locale e internazionale affinché ricerchino incessantemente soluzioni giuste attraverso il dialogo, in modo da garantire alle popolazioni dell'area migliori condizioni di vita, in concordia e serenità. Vi invito ad unirvi a me nella preghiera per le vittime, per i loro familiari e per quanti soffrono. Il Signore sostenga gli sforzi di coloro che non si stancano di operare per la riconciliazione e la pace.
Video Messaggio del Santo Padre
alla Catholic Media Convention, New Orleans
I send cordial greetings to the delegates gathered in New Orleans for this year’s Catholic Media Convention.
The theme of your meeting, “Spreading the Good News – Byte by Byte”, highlights the extraordinary potential of the new media to bring the message of Christ and the teaching of his Church to the attention of a wider public. If your mission is to be truly effective - if the words you proclaim are to touch hearts, engage people’s freedom and change their lives – you must draw them into an encounter with persons and communities who witness to the grace of Christ by their faith and their lives. In this sense, it is my hope that your days together will renew and refresh your shared enthusiasm for the Gospel. Notwithstanding the many challenges you face, never forget the promise of Christ, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).
Dear friends, with these few words of encouragement, to all of you gathered for the Convention I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
San Tommaso d'Aquino (2)
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
oggi vorrei continuare la presentazione di san Tommaso d’Aquino, un teologo di tale valore che lo studio del suo pensiero è stato esplicitamente raccomandato dal Concilio Vaticano II in due documenti, il decreto Optatam totius, sulla formazione al sacerdozio, e la dichiarazione Gravissimum educationis, che tratta dell’educazione cristiana. Del resto, già nel 1880 il Papa Leone XIII, suo grande estimatore e promotore di studi tomistici, volle dichiarare san Tommaso Patrono delle Scuole e delle Università Cattoliche.
Il motivo principale di questo apprezzamento risiede non solo nel contenuto del suo insegnamento, ma anche nel metodo da lui adottato, soprattutto la sua nuova sintesi e distinzione tra filosofia e teologia. I Padri della Chiesa si trovavano confrontati con diverse filosofie di tipo platonico, nelle quali si presentava una visione completa del mondo e della vita, includendo la questione di Dio e della religione. Nel confronto con queste filosofie, loro stessi avevano elaborato una visione completa della realtà, partendo dalla fede e usando elementi del platonismo, per rispondere alle questioni essenziali degli uomini. Questa visione, basata sulla rivelazione biblica ed elaborata con un platonismo corretto alla luce della fede, essi la chiamavano la "filosofia nostra". La parola "filosofia" non era quindi espressione di un sistema puramente razionale e, come tale, distinto dalla fede, ma indicava una visione complessiva della realtà, costruita nella luce della fede, ma fatta propria e pensata dalla ragione; una visione che, certo, andava oltre le capacità proprie della ragione, ma che, come tale, era anche soddisfacente per essa. Per san Tommaso l'incontro con la filosofia pre-cristiana di Aristotele (morto circa nel 322 a.C.) apriva una prospettiva nuova. La filosofia aristotelica era, ovviamente, una filosofia elaborata senza conoscenza dell’Antico e del Nuovo Testamento, una spiegazione del mondo senza rivelazione, per la sola ragione. E questa razionalità conseguente era convincente. Così la vecchia forma della "filosofia nostra" dei Padri non funzionava più. La relazione tra filosofia e teologia, tra fede e ragione, era da ripensare. Esisteva una "filosofia" completa e convincente in se stessa, una razionalità precedente la fede, e poi la “teologia”, un pensare con la fede e nella fede. La questione pressante era questa: il mondo della razionalità, la filosofia pensata senza Cristo, e il mondo della fede sono compatibili? Oppure si escludono? Non mancavano elementi che affermavano l'incompatibilità tra i due mondi, ma san Tommaso era fermamente convinto della loro compatibilità - anzi che la filosofia elaborata senza conoscenza di Cristo quasi aspettava la luce di Gesù per essere completa. Questa è stata la grande “sorpresa” di san Tommaso, che ha determinato il suo cammino di pensatore. Mostrare questa indipendenza di filosofia e teologia e, nello stesso tempo, la loro reciproca relazionalità è stata la missione storica del grande maestro. E così si capisce che, nel XIX secolo, quando si dichiarava fortemente l'incompatibilità tra ragione moderna e fede, Papa Leone XIII indicò san Tommaso come guida nel dialogo tra l'una e l'altra. Nel suo lavoro teologico, san Tommaso suppone e concretizza questa relazionalità. La fede consolida, integra e illumina il patrimonio di verità che la ragione umana acquisisce. La fiducia che san Tommaso accorda a questi due strumenti della conoscenza – la fede e la ragione – può essere ricondotta alla convinzione che entrambe provengono dall’unica sorgente di ogni verità, il Logos divino, che opera sia nell’ambito della creazione, sia in quello della redenzione.
Insieme con l'accordo tra ragione e fede, si deve riconoscere, d'altra parte, che esse si avvalgono di procedimenti conoscitivi differenti. La ragione accoglie una verità in forza della sua evidenza intrinseca, mediata o immediata; la fede, invece, accetta una verità in base all’autorità della Parola di Dio che si rivela. Scrive san Tommaso al principio della sua Summa Theologiae: “Duplice è l’ordine delle scienze; alcune procedono da principi conosciuti mediante il lume naturale della ragione, come la matematica, la geometria e simili; altre procedono da principi conosciuti mediante una scienza superiore: come la prospettiva procede da principi conosciuti mediante la geometria e la musica da principi conosciuti mediante la matematica. E in questo modo la sacra dottrina (cioè la teologia) è scienza perché procede dai principi conosciuti attraverso il lume di una scienza superiore, cioè la scienza di Dio e dei santi” (I, q. 1, a. 2).
Questa distinzione assicura l’autonomia tanto delle scienze umane, quanto delle scienze teologiche. Essa però non equivale a separazione, ma implica piuttosto una reciproca e vantaggiosa collaborazione. La fede, infatti, protegge la ragione da ogni tentazione di sfiducia nelle proprie capacità, la stimola ad aprirsi a orizzonti sempre più vasti, tiene viva in essa la ricerca dei fondamenti e, quando la ragione stessa si applica alla sfera soprannaturale del rapporto tra Dio e uomo, arricchisce il suo lavoro. Secondo san Tommaso, per esempio, la ragione umana può senz’altro giungere all’affermazione dell’esistenza di un unico Dio, ma solo la fede, che accoglie la Rivelazione divina, è in grado di attingere al mistero dell’Amore di Dio Uno e Trino.
D’altra parte, non è soltanto la fede che aiuta la ragione. Anche la ragione, con i suoi mezzi, può fare qualcosa di importante per la fede, rendendole un triplice servizio che san Tommaso riassume nel proemio del suo commento al De Trinitate di Boezio: “Dimostrare i fondamenti della fede; spiegare mediante similitudini le verità della fede; respingere le obiezioni che si sollevano contro la fede” (q. 2, a. 2). Tutta la storia della teologia è, in fondo, l’esercizio di questo impegno dell’intelligenza, che mostra l’intelligibilità della fede, la sua articolazione e armonia interna, la sua ragionevolezza e la sua capacità di promuovere il bene dell’uomo. La correttezza dei ragionamenti teologici e il loro reale significato conoscitivo si basano sul valore del linguaggio teologico, che è, secondo san Tommaso, principalmente un linguaggio analogico. La distanza tra Dio, il Creatore, e l'essere delle sue creature è infinita; la dissimilitudine è sempre più grande che la similitudine (cfr DS 806). Ciononostante, in tutta la differenza tra Creatore e creatura, esiste un'analogia tra l'essere creato e l'essere del Creatore, che ci permette di parlare con parole umane su Dio.
San Tommaso ha fondato la dottrina dell’analogia, oltre che su argomentazioni squisitamente filosofiche, anche sul fatto che con la Rivelazione Dio stesso ci ha parlato e ci ha, dunque, autorizzato a parlare di Lui. Ritengo importante richiamare questa dottrina. Essa, infatti, ci aiuta a superare alcune obiezioni dell’ateismo contemporaneo, il quale nega che il linguaggio religioso sia fornito di un significato oggettivo, e sostiene invece che abbia solo un valore soggettivo o semplicemente emotivo. Questa obiezione risulta dal fatto che il pensiero positivistico è convinto che l'uomo non conosce l'essere, ma solo le funzioni sperimentabili della realtà. Con san Tommaso e con la grande tradizione filosofica noi siamo convinti, che, in realtà, l'uomo non conosce solo le funzioni, oggetto delle scienze naturali, ma conosce qualcosa dell'essere stesso - per esempio conosce la persona, il Tu dell'altro, e non solo l'aspetto fisico e biologico del suo essere.
Alla luce di questo insegnamento di san Tommaso, la teologia afferma che, per quanto limitato, il linguaggio religioso è dotato di senso - perché tocchiamo l’essere -, come una freccia che si dirige verso la realtà che significa. Questo accordo fondamentale tra ragione umana e fede cristiana è ravvisato in un altro principio basilare del pensiero dell’Aquinate: la Grazia divina non annulla, ma suppone e perfeziona la natura umana. Quest’ultima, infatti, anche dopo il peccato, non è completamente corrotta, ma ferita e indebolita. La Grazia, elargita da Dio e comunicata attraverso il Mistero del Verbo incarnato, è un dono assolutamente gratuito con cui la natura viene guarita, potenziata e aiutata a perseguire il desiderio innato nel cuore di ogni uomo e di ogni donna: la felicità. Tutte le facoltà dell’essere umano vengono purificate, trasformate ed elevate dalla Grazia divina.
Un’importante applicazione di questa relazione tra la natura e la Grazia si ravvisa nella teologia morale di san Tommaso d’Aquino, che risulta di grande attualità. Al centro del suo insegnamento in questo campo, egli pone la legge nuova, che è la legge dello Spirito Santo. Con uno sguardo profondamente evangelico, insiste sul fatto che questa legge è la Grazia dello Spirito Santo data a tutti coloro che credono in Cristo. A tale Grazia si unisce l’insegnamento scritto e orale delle verità dottrinali e morali, trasmesso dalla Chiesa. San Tommaso, sottolineando il ruolo fondamentale, nella vita morale, dell’azione dello Spirito Santo, della Grazia, da cui scaturiscono le virtù teologali e morali, fa comprendere che ogni cristiano può raggiungere le alte prospettive del “Sermone della Montagna” se vive un rapporto autentico di fede in Cristo, se si apre all’azione del suo Santo Spirito. Però – aggiunge l’Aquinate – “anche se la grazia è più efficace della natura, tuttavia la natura è più essenziale per l’uomo” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 94, a. 6, ad 2), per cui, nella prospettiva morale cristiana, c’è un posto per la ragione, la quale è capace di discernere la legge morale naturale. La ragione può riconoscerla considerando ciò che è bene fare e ciò che è bene evitare per il conseguimento di quella felicità che sta a cuore a ciascuno, e che impone anche una responsabilità verso gli altri, e, dunque, la ricerca del bene comune. In altre parole, le virtù dell’uomo, teologali e morali, sono radicate nella natura umana. La Grazia divina accompagna, sostiene e spinge l’impegno etico ma, di per sé, secondo san Tommaso, tutti gli uomini, credenti e non credenti, sono chiamati a riconoscere le esigenze della natura umana espresse nella legge naturale e ad ispirarsi ad essa nella formulazione delle leggi positive, quelle cioè emanate dalle autorità civili e politiche per regolare la convivenza umana.
Quando la legge naturale e la responsabilità che essa implica sono negate, si apre drammaticamente la via al relativismo etico sul piano individuale e al totalitarismo dello Stato sul piano politico. La difesa dei diritti universali dell’uomo e l’affermazione del valore assoluto della dignità della persona postulano un fondamento. Non è proprio la legge naturale questo fondamento, con i valori non negoziabili che essa indica? Il Venerabile Giovanni Paolo II scriveva nella sua Enciclica Evangelium vitae parole che rimangono di grande attualità: “Urge dunque, per l'avvenire della società e lo sviluppo di una sana democrazia, riscoprire l'esistenza di valori umani e morali essenziali e nativi, che scaturiscono dalla verità stessa dell'essere umano, ed esprimono e tutelano la dignità della persona: valori, pertanto, che nessun individuo, nessuna maggioranza e nessuno Stato potranno mai creare, modificare o distruggere, ma dovranno solo riconoscere, rispettare e promuovere” (n. 71).
In conclusione, Tommaso ci propone un concetto della ragione umana largo e fiducioso: largo perché non è limitato agli spazi della cosiddetta ragione empirico-scientifica, ma aperto a tutto l’essere e quindi anche alle questioni fondamentali e irrinunciabili del vivere umano; e fiducioso perché la ragione umana, soprattutto se accoglie le ispirazioni della fede cristiana, è promotrice di una civiltà che riconosce la dignità della persona, l'intangibilità dei suoi diritti e la cogenza dei suoi doveri. Non sorprende che la dottrina circa la dignità della persona, fondamentale per il riconoscimento dell’inviolabilità dei diritti dell’uomo, sia maturata in ambienti di pensiero che hanno raccolto l’eredità di san Tommaso d’Aquino, il quale aveva un concetto altissimo della creatura umana. La definì, con il suo linguaggio rigorosamente filosofico, come “ciò che di più perfetto si trova in tutta la natura, cioè un soggetto sussistente in una natura razionale” (Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 29, a. 3).
La profondità del pensiero di san Tommaso d’Aquino sgorga – non dimentichiamolo mai – dalla sua fede viva e dalla sua pietà fervorosa, che esprimeva in preghiere ispirate, come questa in cui chiede a Dio: “Concedimi, ti prego, una volontà che ti cerchi, una sapienza che ti trovi, una vita che ti piaccia, una perseveranza che ti attenda con fiducia e una fiducia che alla fine giunga a possederti”.
Je suis heureux de vous accueillir, chers pèlerins de langue française, venus particulièrement de France et de Belgique. Que votre pèlerinage à Rome soit pour vous l’occasion de découvrir toujours plus profondément le visage du Seigneur. Que Dieu vous bénisse!
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience, especially the many parish and student groups. I offer a warm welcome to all who have come from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!
Ganz herzlich begrüße ich die deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Bei aller Bewunderung für die denkerische Leistung von Thomas von Aquin dürfen wir nicht vergessen, daß er zuerst ein gläubiger und betender Ordensmann war. So bringt es eines seiner Gebete zum Ausdruck: „Schenk mir, o Gott, Verstand, der dich erkennt, Eifer, der dich sucht, Weisheit, die dich findet, einen Wandel, der dir gefällt, Beharrlichkeit, die gläubig dich erwartet, Vertrauen, das am Ende dich umfängt.“ Dazu erbitte ich euch und euren Familien Gottes reichen Segen.
Saludo con afecto a los grupos de lengua española, en particular a los peregrinos de la Arquidiócesis de Bogotá, así como a los venidos de España, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Os invito a pedir a Dios por los que cultivan las ciencias sagradas para que, tras las huellas de Santo Tomás de Aquino, las estudien con constancia y las enseñen con fidelidad, imitando también el ejemplo de su vida santa. Muchas gracias.
Saúdo cordialmente todos os peregrinos lusófonos, em particular os brasileiros da paróquia São Vicente Mártir de Porto Alegre e os irmãos da Misericórdia de Maringá, como também os professores e alunos portugueses do Centro Cultural Sénior de Braga, para todos implorando uma vontade que procure a Deus, uma sabedoria que O encontre, uma vida que Lhe agrade, uma perseverança que por Ele espere e a confiança de chegar a possuí-Lo. São os meus votos e também a minha Bênção!
Saluto in lingua croata:
Od srca pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito vjernike iz župe Svetoga Mihovila iz Drinovaca u Bosni i Hercegovini. Nahranjeni otajstvima vjere na grobovima apostola, tražite ono što dolazi od Duha Božjega kako biste svoje vrijeme, bilo u radu ili odmoru, proživjeli Bogu na slavu. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Di cuore saluto tutti i pellegrini Croati, particolarmente i fedeli provenienti dalla parrocchia di San Michele di Drinovci in Bosnia ed Erzegovina. Nutriti dai misteri della fede vicino alle tombe degli apostoli, cercate quello che viene dallo Spirito di Dio perché il vostro tempo, nella fatica e nel riposo, sia tutto orientato alla gloria di Dio. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Drodzy pielgrzymi polscy. Jutro przypada wspomnienie świętego Alberta Chmielowskiego. Pamiętając o jego poświęceniu na rzecz biednych, bezdomnych, nieuleczalnie chorych, jak on, otwórzmy serca na potrzeby naszych braci najbardziej potrzebujących pomocy. Uczmy się od niego, że „trzeba być dobrym jak chleb”. Naśladujmy go w dążeniu do świętości. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.
Cari pellegrini polacchi. Domani si venera la memoria di San Alberto Chmielowski. Ricordando la sua dedizione ai poveri, ai senza tetto, ai malati incurabili, apriamo come lui i nostri cuori alle necessità dei nostri fratelli più bisognosi. Impariamo da lui “ad essere buoni come il pane”. Imitiamolo nel tendere alla santità. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i sacerdoti novelli della diocesi di Brescia assicurando la mia preghiera affinché il loro ministero sia fecondo di preziosi frutti. Saluto il gruppo dei Frati Minori Conventuali provenienti dall’Africa per partecipare al Corso di Formazione Permanente: auspico che l’esempio del Poverello di Assisi conduca ciascuno di loro a conformarsi sempre di più a Cristo Signore. Saluto anche gli Ufficiali ed i militari della Scuola delle Trasmissioni e Informatica dell’Esercito Italiano ed i militari del IX Stormo “Francesco Baracca” di Grazzanise: auguro a tutti loro un proficuo impegno alla luce dei valori umani e cristiani. Rivolgo il mio pensiero ai partecipanti al Torneo Internazionale di Calcio “Memorial Vincenzo Romano” ed auguro di diffondere ovunque il perenne messaggio della solidarietà e della fraterna convivenza.
Saluto, infine, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Cari giovani attingete sempre da Cristo presente nell’Eucaristia l’alimento spirituale per avanzare nel cammino della santità; per voi, cari ammalati, Cristo sia il sostegno ed il conforto nella prova e nella sofferenza; e per voi, cari sposi novelli, il sacramento che vi ha radicati in Cristo sia la fonte che alimenta il vostro amore quotidiano.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Thomasaltar in der Kirche St. Nikolai, Wismar
San Tommaso d'Aquino (3)
Cari fratelli e sorelle,
vorrei oggi completare, con una terza parte, le mie catechesi su san Tommaso d’Aquino. Anche a più di settecento anni dopo la sua morte, possiamo imparare molto da lui. Lo ricordava anche il mio Predecessore, il Papa Paolo VI, che, in un discorso tenuto a Fossanova il 14 settembre 1974, in occasione del settimo centenario della morte di san Tommaso, si domandava: “Maestro Tommaso, quale lezione ci puoi dare?”. E rispondeva così: “la fiducia nella verità del pensiero religioso cattolico, quale da lui fu difeso, esposto, aperto alla capacità conoscitiva della mente umana” (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII , pp. 833-834). E, nello stesso giorno, ad Aquino, riferendosi sempre a san Tommaso, affermava: “tutti, quanti siamo figli fedeli della Chiesa possiamo e dobbiamo, almeno in qualche misura, essere suoi discepoli!” (Ibid., p. 836).
Mettiamoci dunque anche noi alla scuola di san Tommaso e del suo capolavoro, la Summa Theologiae. Essa è rimasta incompiuta, e tuttavia è un’opera monumentale: contiene 512 questioni e 2669 articoli. Si tratta di un ragionamento serrato, in cui l’applicazione dell’intelligenza umana ai misteri della fede procede con chiarezza e profondità, intrecciando domande e risposte, nelle quali san Tommaso approfondisce l’insegnamento che viene dalla Sacra Scrittura e dai Padri della Chiesa, soprattutto da sant’Agostino. In questa riflessione, nell’incontro con vere domande del suo tempo, che sono anche spesso domande nostre, san Tommaso, utilizzando anche il metodo e il pensiero dei filosofi antichi, in particolare di Aristotele, arriva così a formulazioni precise, lucide e pertinenti delle verità di fede, dove la verità è dono della fede, risplende e diventa accessibile per noi, per la nostra riflessione. Tale sforzo, però, della mente umana – ricorda l’Aquinate con la sua stessa vita – è sempre illuminato dalla preghiera, dalla luce che viene dall’Alto. Solo chi vive con Dio e con i misteri può anche capire che cosa essi dicono.
Nella Summa di Teologia, san Tommaso parte dal fatto che ci sono tre diversi modi dell’essere e dell'essenza di Dio: Dio esiste in se stesso, è il principio e la fine di tutte le cose, per cui tutte le creature procedono e dipendono da Lui; poi Dio è presente attraverso la sua Grazia nella vita e nell’attività del cristiano, dei santi; infine, Dio è presente in modo del tutto speciale nella Persona di Cristo unito qui realmente con l'uomo Gesù, e operante nei Sacramenti, che scaturiscono dalla sua opera redentrice. Perciò, la struttura di questa monumentale opera (cfr. Jean-Pierre Torrell, La «Summa» di San Tommaso, Milano 2003, pp. 29-75), una ricerca con “sguardo teologico” della pienezza di Dio (cfr. Summa Theologiae, Ia, q. 1, a. 7), è articolata in tre parti, ed è illustrata dallo stesso Doctor Communis – san Tommaso - con queste parole: “Lo scopo principale della sacra dottrina è quello di far conoscere Dio, e non soltanto in se stesso, ma anche in quanto è principio e fine delle cose, e specialmente della creatura ragionevole. Nell’intento di esporre questa dottrina, noi tratteremo per primo di Dio; per secondo del movimento della creatura verso Dio; e per terzo del Cristo, il quale, in quanto uomo, è per noi via per ascendere a Dio” (Ibid., I, q. 2). È un circolo: Dio in se stesso, che esce da se stesso e ci prende per mano, così che con Cristo ritorniamo a Dio, siamo uniti a Dio, e Dio sarà tutto in tutti.
La prima parte della Summa Theologiae indaga dunque su Dio in se stesso, sul mistero della Trinità e sull’attività creatrice di Dio. In questa parte troviamo anche una profonda riflessione sulla realtà autentica dell’essere umano in quanto uscito dalle mani creatrici di Dio, frutto del suo amore. Da una parte siamo un essere creato, dipendente, non veniamo da noi stessi; ma, dall’altra, abbiamo una vera autonomia, così che siamo non solo qualcosa di apparente — come dicono alcuni filosofi platonici — ma una realtà voluta da Dio come tale, e con valore in se stessa.
Nella seconda parte san Tommaso considera l’uomo, spinto dalla Grazia, nella sua aspirazione a conoscere e ad amare Dio per essere felice nel tempo e nell’eternità. Per prima cosa, l’Autore presenta i principi teologici dell’agire morale, studiando come, nella libera scelta dell’uomo di compiere atti buoni, si integrano la ragione, la volontà e le passioni, a cui si aggiunge la forza che dona la Grazia di Dio attraverso le virtù e i doni dello Spirito Santo, come pure l’aiuto che viene offerto anche dalla legge morale. Quindi l'essere umano è un essere dinamico che cerca se stesso, cerca di divenire se stesso e cerca, in questo senso, di compiere atti che lo costruiscono, lo fanno veramente uomo; e qui entra la legge morale, entra la Grazia e la propria ragione, la volontà e le passioni. Su questo fondamento san Tommaso delinea la fisionomia dell’uomo che vive secondo lo Spirito e che diventa, così, un’icona di Dio. Qui l’Aquinate si sofferma a studiare le tre virtù teologali - fede, speranza e carità -, seguite dall’esame acuto di più di cinquanta virtù morali, organizzate attorno alle quattro virtù cardinali - la prudenza, la giustizia, la temperanza e la fortezza. Termina poi con la riflessione sulle diverse vocazioni nella Chiesa.
Nella terza parte della Summa, san Tommaso studia il Mistero di Cristo - la via e la verità - per mezzo del quale noi possiamo ricongiungerci a Dio Padre. In questa sezione scrive pagine pressoché insuperate sul Mistero dell’Incarnazione e della Passione di Gesù, aggiungendo poi un’ampia trattazione sui sette Sacramenti, perché in essi il Verbo divino incarnato estende i benefici dell’Incarnazione per la nostra salvezza, per il nostro cammino di fede verso Dio e la vita eterna, rimane materialmente quasi presente con le realtà della creazione, ci tocca così nell'intimo.
Parlando dei Sacramenti, san Tommaso si sofferma in modo particolare sul Mistero dell’Eucaristia, per il quale ebbe una grandissima devozione, al punto che, secondo gli antichi biografi, era solito accostare il suo capo al Tabernacolo, come per sentire palpitare il Cuore divino e umano di Gesù. In una sua opera di commento alla Scrittura, san Tommaso ci aiuta a capire l’eccellenza del Sacramento dell’Eucaristia, quando scrive: “Essendo l’Eucaristia il sacramento della Passione di nostro Signore, contiene in sé Gesù Cristo che patì per noi. Pertanto tutto ciò che è effetto della Passione di nostro Signore, è anche effetto di questo sacramento, non essendo esso altro che l’applicazione in noi della Passione del Signore” (In Ioannem, c.6, lect. 6, n. 963). Comprendiamo bene perché san Tommaso e altri santi abbiano celebrato la Santa Messa versando lacrime di compassione per il Signore, che si offre in sacrificio per noi, lacrime di gioia e di gratitudine.
Cari fratelli e sorelle, alla scuola dei santi, innamoriamoci di questo Sacramento! Partecipiamo alla Santa Messa con raccoglimento, per ottenerne i frutti spirituali, nutriamoci del Corpo e del Sangue del Signore, per essere incessantemente alimentati dalla Grazia divina! Intratteniamoci volentieri e frequentemente, a tu per tu, in compagnia del Santissimo Sacramento!
Quanto san Tommaso ha illustrato con rigore scientifico nelle sue opere teologiche maggiori, come appunto la Summa Theologiae, anche la Summa contra Gentiles è stato esposto anche nella sua predicazione, rivolta agli studenti e ai fedeli. Nel 1273, un anno prima della sua morte, durante l’intera Quaresima, egli tenne delle prediche nella chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore a Napoli. Il contenuto di quei sermoni è stato raccolto e conservato: sono gli Opuscoli in cui egli spiega il Simbolo degli Apostoli, interpreta la preghiera del Padre Nostro, illustra il Decalogo e commenta l’Ave Maria. Il contenuto della predicazione del Doctor Angelicus corrisponde quasi del tutto alla struttura del Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica. Infatti, nella catechesi e nella predicazione, in un tempo come il nostro di rinnovato impegno per l’evangelizzazione, non dovrebbero mai mancare questi argomenti fondamentali: ciò che noi crediamo, ed ecco il Simbolo della fede; ciò che noi preghiamo, ed ecco il Padre Nostro e l’Ave Maria; e ciò che noi viviamo come ci insegna la Rivelazione biblica, ed ecco la legge dell’amore di Dio e del prossimo e i Dieci Comandamenti, come esplicazione di questo mandato dell'amore.
Vorrei proporre qualche esempio del contenuto, semplice, essenziale e convincente, dell’insegnamento di san Tommaso. Nel suo Opuscolo sul Simbolo degli Apostoli egli spiega il valore della fede. Per mezzo di essa, dice, l’anima si unisce a Dio, e si produce come un germoglio di vita eterna; la vita riceve un orientamento sicuro, e noi superiamo agevolmente le tentazioni. A chi obietta che la fede è una stoltezza, perché fa credere in qualcosa che non cade sotto l’esperienza dei sensi, san Tommaso offre una risposta molto articolata, e ricorda che questo è un dubbio inconsistente, perché l’intelligenza umana è limitata e non può conoscere tutto. Solo nel caso in cui noi potessimo conoscere perfettamente tutte le cose visibili e invisibili, allora sarebbe un’autentica stoltezza accettare delle verità per pura fede. Del resto, è impossibile vivere, osserva san Tommaso, senza fidarsi dell’esperienza altrui, là dove la personale conoscenza non arriva. È ragionevole dunque prestare fede a Dio che si rivela e alla testimonianza degli Apostoli: essi erano pochi, semplici e poveri, affranti a motivo della Crocifissione del loro Maestro; eppure molte persone sapienti, nobili e ricche si sono convertite in poco tempo all’ascolto della loro predicazione. Si tratta, in effetti, di un fenomeno storicamente prodigioso, a cui difficilmente si può dare altra ragionevole risposta, se non quella dell’incontro degli Apostoli con il Signore Risorto.
Commentando l’articolo del Simbolo sull’Incarnazione del Verbo divino, san Tommaso fa alcune considerazioni. Afferma che la fede cristiana, considerando il mistero dell’Incarnazione, viene ad essere rafforzata; la speranza si eleva più fiduciosa, al pensiero che il Figlio di Dio è venuto tra noi, come uno di noi, per comunicare agli uomini la propria divinità; la carità è ravvivata, perché non vi è segno più evidente dell’amore di Dio per noi, quanto vedere il Creatore dell’universo farsi egli stesso creatura, uno di noi. Infine, considerando il mistero dell’Incarnazione di Dio, sentiamo infiammarsi il nostro desiderio di raggiungere Cristo nella gloria. Adoperando un semplice ed efficace paragone, san Tommaso osserva: “Se il fratello di un re stesse lontano, certo bramerebbe di potergli vivere accanto. Ebbene, Cristo ci è fratello: dobbiamo quindi desiderare la sua compagnia, diventare un solo cuore con lui” (Opuscoli teologico-spirituali, Roma 1976, p. 64).
Presentando la preghiera del Padre Nostro, san Tommaso mostra che essa è in sé perfetta, avendo tutte e cinque le caratteristiche che un’orazione ben fatta dovrebbe possedere: fiducioso e tranquillo abbandono; convenienza del suo contenuto, perché – osserva san Tommaso – “è assai difficile saper esattamente cosa sia opportuno chiedere e cosa no, dal momento che siamo in difficoltà di fronte alla selezione dei desideri” (Ibid., p. 120); e poi ordine appropriato delle richieste, fervore di carità e sincerità dell’umiltà.
San Tommaso è stato, come tutti i santi, un grande devoto della Madonna. L’ha definita con un appellativo stupendo: Triclinium totius Trinitatis, triclinio, cioè luogo dove la Trinità trova il suo riposo, perché, a motivo dell’Incarnazione, in nessuna creatura, come in Lei, le tre divine Persone inabitano e provano delizia e gioia a vivere nella sua anima piena di Grazia. Per la sua intercessione possiamo ottenere ogni aiuto.
Con una preghiera, che tradizionalmente viene attribuita a san Tommaso e che, in ogni caso, riflette gli elementi della sua profonda devozione mariana, anche noi diciamo: “O beatissima e dolcissima Vergine Maria, Madre di Dio..., io affido al tuo cuore misericordioso tutta la mia vita... Ottienimi, o mia dolcissima Signora, carità vera, con la quale possa amare con tutto il cuore il tuo santissimo Figlio e te, dopo di lui, sopra tutte le cose, e il prossimo in Dio e per Dio”.
Je salue les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les jeunes collégiens et les Vietnamiens présents. Puissions-nous suivre avec générosité le chemin que saint Thomas d’Aquin nous indique ! Que la Vierge Marie vous accompagne ! Bon pèlerinage à tous !
I offer a warm welcome to the numerous student groups present, and in a special way to those taking part in the programmes sponsored by the Foyer Unitas Lay Centre, the Anglican Centre of Rome and the Midwest Theological Forum. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Bahamas and the United States of America, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Von Herzen heiße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache willkommen. Euch alle ermutige ich, wie Thomas von Aquin – jeder nach seiner Art – aus der Kraft des Heiligen Geistes zu leben, sich vom Wort Gottes und den Sakramenten zu nähren und so auf dem Weg des rechten Lebens, auf dem Weg zur Gemeinschaft mit Gott und mit den Nächsten voranzuschreiten. Der Segen Gottes begleite euch alle!
Amados peregrinos língua portuguesa, que viestes junto do túmulo de São Pedro renovar a vossa profissão de fé eclesial, reconhecendo e adorando o Deus Uno e Trino, que vos escolheu para seu Povo Santo. Para todos vós, particularmente para o grupo brasileiro de Piracicaba, a minha saudação agradecida, com votos de abundantes dons de graça e paz divina, que imploro para vós e vossos queridos com a minha Bênção Apostólica.
Saluto in lingua ceca:
Saluto in lingua croata:
Radosno pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a na poseban način vjernike iz Zagreba i iz župe Dobrog Pastira iz Brestja. Dragi prijatelji, Gospodin vam bio oslonac na životnom putu na kojem neka vas, vaše obitelji, župne zajednice i sve koji su vam pri srcu, prati Njegov blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!
Con gioia saluto tutti i pellegrini Croati, in modo particolare quelli provenienti da Zagabria e dalla parrocchia del Buon Pastore a Brestje. Cari amici, il Signore vi sia di sostegno nel cammino della vita e la Sua benedizione accompagni voi, le vostre famiglie, le vostre comunità parrocchiali e quanti vi stanno a cuore. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
Saluto in lingua polacca:
Serdecznie witam polskich pielgrzymów. W sposób szczególny zwracam się do diakonów z krakowskiego Seminarium Duchownego. Za waszym pośrednictwem przesyłam moje pozdrowienie i błogosławieństwo wszystkim klerykom w Polsce. Bądźcie wdzięczni Bogu za dar powołania, pielęgnujcie je i przykładnym życiem dodawajcie odwagi innym, których Pan wzywa, aby nie wahali się odpowiadać: „Oto ja, poślij mnie” (Iz 6, 8). Niech Bóg błogosławi wszystkim tu obecnym!
Do il cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini polacchi. In modo particolare mi rivolgo ai diaconi dal Seminario Maggiore di Cracovia. Per il vostro tramite trasmetto il mio saluto e la benedizione a tutti i seminaristi in Polonia. Siate grati a Dio per il dono della vocazione, abbiate cura di essa e con la vita esemplare suscitate il coraggio di coloro, che il Signore chiama, affinché non esitino di rispondere: “Eccomi, manda me!” (Is 8, 8). Dio benedica tutti qui presenti.
Saluto in lingua slovacca:
Saluto in lingua ungherese:
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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della parrocchia di San Gavino Martire, in Camposanto; i militari del 37° Stormo dell’Aeronautica, di Trapani; gli esponenti dell’Associazione “Orizzonte Malati”. Tutti ringrazio per questa visita e, mentre vi esorto a rinnovare propositi di generosa testimonianza cristiana, invoco su ciascuno la continua assistenza del Signore.
Saluto, ora, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli. Oggi ricorre la memoria liturgica di san Giuseppe Cafasso e il 150° anniversario della sua morte. L’esempio di questa attraente figura di sacerdote esemplare, cui vorrei dedicare la prossima catechesi del Mercoledì, aiuti voi, cari giovani, a sperimentare personalmente la forza liberatrice dell'amore di Cristo, che rinnova profondamente la vita dell'uomo; sostenga voi, cari malati, ad offrire le vostre sofferenze per la conversione di chi è prigioniero del male; incoraggi voi, cari sposi novelli, ad essere segno della fedeltà di Dio anche con il perdono reciproco, motivato dall'amore.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Chapelle de la Sorbonne, Paris, détail de la façade. A gauche, Saint Thomas d'Aquin, à droite, Pierre Lombard. Au centre, deux muses soutiennent l'horloge, surmontée des armoiries du Cardinal de Richelieu.
Chapel of the Sorbonne, detail of the facade. Paris, France. Left, statue of Thomas Aquinas. Right, statue of Peter Lombard. In the middle, two muses support the clock, with the coat of arms of Cardinal Richelieu
Les œuvres complètes en français de saint Thomas d'Aquin. Textes gratuits aux formats
HTML et DOC : http://docteurangelique.free.fr/
Fr. Barron comments on St. Thomas Aquinas - http://www.wordonfire.org/
Voir aussi : http://www.thomas-d-aquin.com/