Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas Our Contemporary

Not everyone who is enlightened by an angel knows that he is enlightened by him.

Saint Thomas Aquinas



Today is the feast day of the Angelic Doctor.  There is a timeless quality about his writings that takes him from the period in which he lived, the Thirteenth Century, and makes him a contemporary of each succeeding generation.  For example, we have this observation of Saint Thomas on the founder of Islam:


The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly.

Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6.4 Continue reading

Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Epiphany

Article 1. Whether Christ’s birth should have been made known to all?

Objection 1. It would seem that Christ’s birth should have been made known to all. Because fulfilment should correspond to promise. Now, the promise of Christ’s coming is thus expressed (Psalm 49:3): “God shall come manifestly. But He came by His birth in the flesh.” Therefore it seems that His birth should have been made known to the whole world.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (1 Timothy 1:15): “Christ came into this world to save sinners.” But this is not effected save in as far as the grace of Christ is made known to them; according to Titus 2:11-12: “The grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men, instructing us, that denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world.” Therefore it seems that Christ’s birth should have been made known to all.

Objection 3. Further, God is most especially inclined to mercy; according to Psalm 144:9: “His tender mercies are over all His works.” But in His second coming, when He will “judge justices” (Psalm 70:3), He will come before the eyes of all; according to Matthew 24:27: “As lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” Much more, therefore, should His first coming, when He was born into the world according to the flesh, have been made known to all.

On the contrary, It is written (Isaiah 45:15): “Thou art a hidden God, the Holy [Vulgate: ‘the God] of Israel, the Saviour.” And, again (Isaiah 43:3): “His look was, as it were, hidden and despised.”

I answer that, It was unfitting that Christ’s birth should be made known to all men without distinction. First, because this would have been a hindrance to the redemption of man, which was accomplished by means of the Cross; for, as it is written (1 Corinthians 2:8): “If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Secondly, because this would have lessened the merit of faith, which He came to offer men as the way to righteousness. according to Romans 3:22: “The justice of God by faith of Jesus Christ.” For if, when Christ was born, His birth had been made known to all by evident signs, the very nature of faith would have been destroyed, since it is “the evidence of things that appear not,” as stated, Hebrews 11:1.

Thirdly, because thus the reality of His human nature would have come into doubt. Whence Augustine says (Ep. ad Volusianum cxxxvii): “If He had not passed through the different stages of age from babyhood to youth, had neither eaten nor slept, would He not have strengthened an erroneous opinion, and made it impossible for us to believe that He had become true man? And while He is doing all things wondrously, would He have taken away that which He accomplished in mercy?”

Reply to Objection 1. According to the gloss, the words quoted must be understood of Christ’s coming as judge.

Reply to Objection 2. All men were to be instructed unto salvation, concerning the grace of God our Saviour, not at the very time of His birth, but afterwards, in due time, after He had “wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm 73:12). Wherefore after His Passion and Resurrection, He said to His disciples (Matthew 28:19): “Going . . . teach ye all nations.”

Reply to Objection 3. For judgment to be passed, the authority of the judge needs to be known: and for this reason it behooves that the coming of Christ unto judgment should be manifest. But His first coming was unto the salvation of all, which is by faith that is of things not seen. And therefore it was fitting that His first coming should be hidden. Continue reading

Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War

Five hundred years ago Henry V and his army won an amazing victory over a French army that heavily outnumbered his.  Shakespeare in deathless language has ensured that this victory will be indeed remembered until the ending of the world.  It was a brilliant victory, but was it won in a just cause?


In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time.

Over the centuries the precise content of the just war doctrine has varied.  The classic definition of it by Saint Thomas Aquinas is set forth in Part II, Question 40 of his Summa Theologica:

“I answer that, In order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged. For it is not the business of a private individual to declare war, because he can seek for redress of his rights from the tribunal of his superior. Moreover it is not the business of a private individual to summon together the people, which has to be done in wartime. And as the care of the common weal is committed to those who are in authority, it is their business to watch over the common weal of the city, kingdom or province subject to them. And just as it is lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending that common weal against internal disturbances, when they punish evil-doers, according to the words of the Apostle (Rm. 13:4): “He beareth not the sword in vain: for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil”; so too, it is their business to have recourse to the sword of war in defending the common weal against external enemies. Hence it is said to those who are in authority (Ps. 81:4): “Rescue the poor: and deliver the needy out of the hand of the sinner”; and for this reason Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 75): “The natural order conducive to peace among mortals demands that the power to declare and counsel war should be in the hands of those who hold the supreme authority.”

Thirdly, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. Hence Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. [*The words quoted are to be found not in St. Augustine’s works, but Can. Apud. Caus. xxiii, qu. 1]): “True religion looks upon as peaceful those wars that are waged not for motives of aggrandizement, or cruelty, but with the object of securing peace, of punishing evil-doers, and of uplifting the good.” For it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority, and for a just cause, and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxii, 74): “The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war.” Continue reading

Transiturus de Hoc Mundo

Issued on August 11, 1264 by Pope Urban IV the Papal Bull Transiturus de Hoc Mundo established the great feast of Corpus Christi.  Saint Thomas Aquinas at the request of the Pope helped draft the Bull.

Additionally he wrote for the feast, also at the request of the Pope, his great eucharistic hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium .

The last portion of the hymn, Tantum Ergo, has vast significance for my family.  My wife, who is a far better Catholic in my estimation than I am, is a convert.  A Methodist when we married, she converted to the Church a few years later.  She had questions regarding the real presence, and this line from Tantum Ergo resolved them:  Faith tells us that Christ is present,  When our human senses fail.  When our kids came along she would whisper at the Consecration to them:  First it’s bread, now it’s Jesus.  First it’s wine, now it’s Jesus. 


Here is the text of  Transiturus de Hoc Mundo:

Urban Bishop,

 servant of the servants of God, to the venerable brothers, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and other prelates of the Church, health and the apostolic blessing.
About to pass from this world to the Father, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, since the time of his Passion was at hand, instituted the great and wonderful Sacrament of his Body and Blood, bestowing his Body as food and his Blood as drink. For, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we announce the death of the Lord. Indeed, at the institution of this Sacrament, he himself said to the Apostles: Do this in memory of me: so that for us the special and outstanding memorial of his love would be this venerable Sacrament; a memorial in which we attain the corporeal Presence of the Saviour himself.
Other things which we remember we embrace spiritually and mentally: we do not thereby obtain their real presence. However, in this sacramental commemoration, Jesus Christ is present with us in his proper substance, although under another form. As he was about to ascend into heaven, he said to the Apostles and their helpers, I will be with you all days even unto the consummation of the world. He comforted them with a gracious promise that he would remain and would be with them even by his corporeal presence. Therefore he gave himself as nourishment, so that, since man fell by means of the food of the death-giving tree; man is raised up by means of the food of the life-giving tree. Eating wounded us, and eating healed us. Thus the Saviour says, My Flesh is real food. This bread is taken but truly not consumed, because it is not transformed into the eater. Rather, if it is worthily received, the recipient is conformed to it.
We should celebrate continuously the memory of this memorial, because the more frequently his gift and favour are looked upon, so much the more firmly are they kept in memory. Therefore, although this memorial Sacrament is frequented in the daily solemnities of the Mass, we nevertheless think suitable and worthy that, at least once a year – especially to confound the lack of faith and the infamy of heretics – a more solemn and honourable memory of this Sacrament be held. This is so because on Holy Thursday, the day on which the Lord himself instituted this Sacrament, the universal Church, occupied with the reconciliation of penitents, blessing the chrism, fulfilling the Commandments about the washing of the feet and many other such things, is not sufficiently free to celebrate so great a Sacrament.
Moreover we know that, while we were constituted in a lesser office, it was divinely revealed to certain Catholics that a feast of this kind should be celebrated generally throughout the Church. Therefore, to strengthen and exalt the Catholic Faith, we decree that, besides the daily memory that the Church makes of this Sacrament, there be celebrated a more solemn and special annual memorial. Then let the hearts and mouths of all break forth in hymns of saving joy; then let faith sing, hope dance, charity exult, devotion applaud, the choir be jubilant, and purity delight. Then let each one with willing spirit and prompt will come together, laudably fulfilling his duties, celebrating the Solemnity of so great a Feast.

Tantum Ergo

Something for the weekend.  My favorite rendition of Tantum Ergo movingly sung by The Daughters of Mary.  God not only gifted the Angelic Doctor with perhaps the sharpest mind of any of the sons of Adam, but also made him, an ability demonstrated at the command of the Pope, a talented hymnist.

Belated Feast Day of the Angelic Doctor

As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.”

GK Chesterton


I can’t believe I forgot to post on the feast day yesterday of the Angelic Doctor!  (Too much work in the law mines was the culprit!)  I try to always remember his perfect synthesis of faith and intellect every January 28.  Too many people think these attributes are opposites which helps to explain why the world is in such a mess today.  I think what is appealing most to me about Aquinas is his optimism.  He lived in the thirteenth century, nicknamed the Glorious Century, a true turning point in history when Christendom began to assert traits that would lead to revolutions in so many fields.  Aquinas never doubted that the new knowledge about the World was no jeopardy to the Faith, and it has not been, so long as faith and reason work in alliance.  We go badly astray when these two essential components of a complete human are viewed as adversaries.


At the end of his life, the Angelic Doctor had a mystical experience before the Eucharist and stopped writing.  When asked about it, he said that what he had seen made all of his writings seem like mere straw in comparison.  His writings will endure as long as Man endures, a tribute to what the human mind, enlightened by Faith, can accomplish.  However, it is his sublime and victorious faith in Christ which is his real monument.

Continue reading

My Top Ten Favorite Saints

I have always thought it says a lot about Catholics as to whether they have favorite saints, and who they are if they do have special saints.  Here are my top ten.

10.  Saint Andreas Wouters-Most saints have been extraordinary men and women.  That was decidedly not the case with Andreas Wouters!  A scandalous priest, he fathered several children.  Suspended from his priestly duties, he was living in disgrace when God granted him the opportunity to die a martyr’s death, an opportunity he seized with both hands like a drowning man cast a life line. His courage and steadfastness redeemed his life of sin.  May all of us have such a happy death as he did.  Go here to read about him.

 9.  Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ-Not canonized yet, I have no doubt that “God’s Jester” is a saint in Heaven.  During the Cristeros Rebellion in Mexico, he adopted many disguises to bring the sacraments to the Mexican people.  A lover of jokes, he is proof positive that saints need not be solemn.  When the Mexican government executed him, a death he met with incredible courage, the officials took copious pictures which appeared in newspapers.  The strategy backfired with Cristeros troops treating the pictures as precious relics and carrying them with them into battle.  Go here to read about him.

 8.  Saint Marianne Cope– Throughout my life I have been blessed with the friendship of strong women, starting with the love of my formidable sainted mother, and perhaps that is why I have always been drawn to strong female saints.  Few have been stronger than Mother Marianne and her nuns who pioneered the care for female lepers in Hawaii.  No difficulty or danger could deter her from bringing God’s love to her lepers.  Go here to read about her.

 7.  Venerable Matt Talbot-Some saints become famous during their lifetime and some, the vast majority no doubt, are known only to God.  Matt Talbot’s was a quiet path to sainthood that would be known only to God, but for the accident of his dying on a street in Dublin.  However, God does not see as man sees, and I have always thought that this reformed drunk ranks high among the champions of Christ.  Go here to read about him.

 6.  Saint Kateri Tekakwitha-Some saints God decides to distinguish with miracles after their death.  Such was the case of Lily of the Mohawks.  Go here to read about her. Continue reading

Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Fourth Sunday in Advent


The Angelic Doctor takes us to the doorstep of Christmas in this final sermon for Advent:


“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men.” — Philip, iv. 4, 5.




THE Apostle exhorted us in the end of the preceding Epistle that we should reserve all things to Christ, the true Judge; but, lest we should be overcome by the long delay, he said that He was about to come in a very little while.” The Lord,” he said, “is at hand.” But the Apostle in the words of the text teaches three things (1) he exhorts to inward holiness; (2) to honest conversation; (3) he subjoins the reason. I. Inward holiness consists in two things firstly, that evil affections should be renovated; and, secondly, that good affections should be obtained. S. Bernard said that holy affection makes the saint, whilst evil affection is to rejoice in the world. II. But there is an evil joy of the world, as in evil things, in vanities, in base pleasures. The joy in evil things is to rejoice in wickedness; the joy of vanities is to rejoice in riches, which are vain; and the joy in base pleasures is to rejoice in wantonness. Of the first, Prov. ii. 14, “Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked.” Of the second, Ps. xlix. 6, “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.” Of the third, Job xxi. 12, “And rejoice at the sound of the organ.” S. James v. 5, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton.” S. Augustine says of these three kinds of joy “What is the joy of the world? Wantonness is the impurity of the wickeness of the world; to toy with the games, to be luxurious, to be allured, to be swallowed up, and to offend by baseness. To rejoice in the Lord is that joy which tends to salvation; for the loving-kindness of the Lord leads to justification, for He is most bountiful by way of remuneration. For a very small servitude He gives eternal life and the heavenly kingdom, and such a Lord is without doubt to be rejoiced in; Who saves His servants by redeeming them; Who dismisses all their debts by justifying them; and Who will crown them with an eternal kingdom by preserving them.” Continue reading

Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Third Sunday in Advent

In the footsteps of the Dumb Ox, we come to the Third Sunday in Advent:


Now, when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ,” &c. — S. Matt. xi. 2-4.



IN the preceding Gospel the Advent of Justice was treated of: in this Gospel the Advent of Grace is considered. Mention is here made of S. John Baptist, whose name is interpreted the grace of God; or, as he in whom the grace of God was. Four things are here spoken about S. John — (1) his imprisonment; (2) the question about the Advent of Christ by the disciples whom He sent; (3) the answer of the Lord; (4) the manifold commendation of John. He was praised chiefly on four accounts — (1) for the strength of his constancy; (2) for the rigour of his clothing; (3) for the dignity of his office; (4) for the holiness of his life. Firstly, when John had heard; secondly, “Who art thou;” thirdly, “Go and shew John again,” &c.; fourthly, “He began to say unto the multitudes concerning John.” And, again (1) of the commendation, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (2) “A man clothed in soft raiment.” (3) “Yea I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” (4) “This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face,” &c. But afterwards it ought to be known concerning the bonds that three kinds of people are said to be in bonds. The godly are placed in the bonds of precepts; the impious, in the bonds of sinners; the condemned, in the bonds of the tormentors. Of the first, Ezekiel iv. 8, “Behold, I will lay bands upon thee.” Hos. xi. 4, “I drew them with the cords of a man; with bands of love.” Of the second, Prov. v. 22, “He shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Isa. x. 4 (Vulgate), “That you be not bound down under the bond.” Of the third, Wisdom xvii. 2, “Fettered with the bonds of darkness.” S. Matt. xxii. 13, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away and cast him into outer darkness.” The first bonds are to be sought for; the second bonds to be dissolved; and the third to be avoided. For three reasons the bonds of the teachers are to be embraced (1) because by them safety is obtained against all evil; (2) because he who is bound by them is protected by the wisdom of God; (3) because from them he goes forth to government. Of the first reason, Eccles. vi. 30, “Then shall her fetters be a strong defence.” Of the second reason, Wisdom x. 14, “And left him not in bonds.” Of the third reason, Eccles. iv. 14, “Because out of prison and chains sometimes a man cometh forth to a kingdom.” There are not only the bonds of preceptors to be embraced, but the bonds of sinners to be dissolved. For the sinner is bound with the chains of pride, of avarice, of luxury, and of an evil tongue. Of the first chain, Job xxxix. 5, “Who hath sent out the wild ass free? Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?” By the wild ass pride is understood. Job xi. 12, “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt;” whence the bands of the wild ass are the bands of pride. Of the second chain, Isa. v. 18, “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity.” Riches are vanity. Of the third chain, Prov. viii. 22, “Immediately he followeth her as an ox led to be a victim, and not knowing that he is drawn like a fool to bonds,” (Vul.), for the hands of a woman are the bonds that draw. Ecc. vii. 27, “And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands.” These are the bonds that are to be dissolved. Continue reading

Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Second Sunday in Advent



Our progress through Advent continues with the Angelic Doctor as our guide:

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”

Rom. xv. 4.

THE Apostle has taught us on the preceding Sunday to arise from the dead; on this day he teaches us towards what we ought to arise, for the Scripture, which our heavenly Master has given for us, is to be studied and read. And the Lord as a good Master was the more solicitous to provide us with the best writings, that He might make us perfectly instructed. “Whatever things,” He said, “were written, were written for our learning.” But these writings are comprised in two books that is to say, in the Book of Creation, and in the Book of Scripture.

The first book has so many creations: it has just so many most perfect writings, which teach the truth without a lie; hence, when Aristotle was asked whence he had learnt so many and so great things, answered, “From the things themselves, which know not how to deceive.” But they teach two things to be learned; and of the things which may be known four things are to be taught.

First, that there is a God; secondly, that this God is one; thirdly, that this God is triune; and, fourthly, that He is the highest good. For the world teaches by itself that it is His work. Wis. xiii. 5, “For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, to be known thereby.” Because they are one, and are preserved, in the same manner, they teach the unity of God; for, if there were many Gods, the world would have already been destroyed, since division is the cause of destruction.” S. Matt. xii. 25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” For all things exist by number, weight, and measure; or, according to S. Augustine, “On the Trinity by mode, by species, and by order; so that they teach a three-fold Godhead.” Wis. xi. 21, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, number, and weight.” Because all things are good, they teach that He is the highest goodness through Whom so many good things proceed. According to S. Augustine it is a great token of goodness that every creature conceives itself to be good; therefore, because God is good, so are we. About the actions to be done, in like manner, we are taught a four-fold lesson. God is to be obeyed, loved, feared, and praised. Of the first, we ought to obey God, for all things serve Him. Ps. cxlviii. 6, “He hath made a decree which shall not pass.” Continue reading

Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-First Sunday in Advent

I can think of no finer guide for us as we proceed through Advent this year than the Angelic Doctor.  Here is a sermon he wrote for the First Sunday in Advent:

“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek,” &c. — S. Matt. xxi. 5.

THIS is a prophecy of the Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, about which there are three signs.


First, the dignity of Him Who is coming; secondly, the utility of His Advent; thirdly, the manner in which He came.


Of the first sign we read in the Gospel, “Thy King cometh;” a merciful King; a just King; a wise King; a terrible King; an omnipotent King; an eternal King. A merciful King in sparing; a just in judging; a good in rewarding; a wise in governing; an omnipotent King in defending the good; a terrible King in punishing the evil; an eternal King in ruling eternally, and in bestowing immortality. Of the first, Isa. xvi. 5, “And in mercy shall the throne be established.”


Of the second, Isa. xxxiv., “And behold, a King shall reign in justice;” Isa. xvi. 5, “And He shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David.”


Of the third, Ps. Ixxiii. 1, “Truly God, is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”


Of the fourth, Jer. xxiii. 5, “I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and judgment in the earth.”


Of the fifth, Esth. xiii. 9, “Lord, Lord, the King Almighty, for the whole world is in Thy power.”


Of the sixth, Wis. xi. 10, “As a severe King, Thou didst condemn and punish.”


Of the seventh, Jer. x. 10, ” But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God and an everlasting King ;” S. Luke i. 33, ” And of His Kingdom there shall be no end.”

Of the seven, collectively, 2 Macc. i. 24, “O Lord, Lord, God, Creator of all things, Who art fearful, and strong, and righteous, and merciful, and the only gracious King.” Wisdom in the Creator, mercy in the pitiful, goodness in the good, justice in the just, severity in the terrible, power in the powerful, eternity in the eternal. Continue reading

Saint Thomas Aquinas on Purgatory

Article 1. Whether there is a Purgatory after this life?

Objection 1. It would seem that there is not a Purgatory after this life. For it is said (Apocalypse 14:13): “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” Therefore after this life no cleansing labor awaits those who die in the Lord, nor those who do not die in the Lord, since they cannot be cleansed. Therefore there is no Purgatory after this life.

Objection 2. Further, as charity is to an eternal reward, so is mortal sin to eternal punishment. Now those who die in mortal sin are forthwith consigned to eternal punishment. Therefore those who die in charity go at once to their reward; and consequently no Purgatory awaits them after this life.

Objection 3. Further, God Who is supremely merciful is more inclined to reward good than to punish evil. Now just as those who are in the state of charity, do certain evil things which are not deserving of eternal punishment, so those who are in mortal sin, at times perform actions, generically good, which are not deserving of an eternal reward. Therefore since these good actions are not rewarded after this life in those who will be damned, neither should those evil actions be punished after this life. Hence the same conclusion follows.

On the contrary, It is said (2 Maccabees 12:46): “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” Now there is no need to pray for the dead who are in heaven, for they are in no need; nor again for those who are in hell, because they cannot be loosed from sins. Therefore after this life, there are some not yet loosed from sins, who can be loosed therefrom; and the like have charity, without which sins cannot be loosed, for “charity covereth all sins” [Proverbs 10:12]. Hence they will not be consigned to everlasting death, since “he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall not die for ever” [John 11:26]: nor will they obtain glory without being cleansed, because nothing unclean shall obtain it, as stated in the last chapter of the Apocalypse (verse 14). Therefore some kind of cleansing remains after this life.

Further, Gregory of Nyssa [De iis qui in fide dormiunt] says: “If one who loves and believes in Christ,” has failed to wash away his sins in this life, “he is set free after death by the fire of Purgatory.” Therefore there remains some kind of cleansing after this life.

I answer that, From the conclusions we have drawn above (III, 86, 4-5; Supplement, 12, 1) it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above, adds: “This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.” This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy.

Reply to Objection 1. The authority quoted is speaking of the labor of working for merit, and not of the labor of suffering to be cleansed.

Reply to Objection 2. Evil has not a perfect cause, but results from each single defect: whereas good arises from one perfect cause, as Dionysius asserts [Div. Nom. iv, 4]. Hence each defect is an obstacle to the perfection of good; while not every good hinders some consummation of evil, since there is never evil without some good. Consequently venial sin prevents one who has charity from obtaining the perfect good, namely eternal life, until he be cleansed; whereas mortal sin cannot be hindered by some conjoined good from bringing a man forthwith to the extreme of evils.

Reply to Objection 3. He that falls into mortal sin, deadens all the good he has done before, and what he does, while in mortal sin, is dead: since by offending God he deserves to lose all the good he has from God. Wherefore no reward after this life awaits him who dies in mortal sin, whereas sometimes punishment awaits him who dies in charity, which does not always wash away the sin which it finds, but only that which is contrary to it.


Saint Thomas Aquinas: On the Cross



Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

   It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

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. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. 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. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great.
In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

   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 who 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.

Feast Day of the Angelic Doctor

As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.”

GK Chesterton

A whole lifetime is far too short to survey the intellectual and spiritual riches left to us by Saint Thomas Aquinas.  He is best studied bite sized chunk by bite sized chunk.  Here is such a chunk that I think is useful as a guide to Catholic bloggers:

Article 4. Whether a man is bound to correct his prelate?

Objection 1. It would seem that no man is bound to correct his prelate. For it is written (Exodus 19:12): “The beast that shall touch the mount shall be stoned,” [Vulgate: ‘Everyone that shall touch the mount, dying he shall die.’] and (2 Samuel 6:7) it is related that the Lord struck Oza for touching the ark. Now the mount and the ark signify our prelates. Therefore prelates should not be corrected by their subjects.

Objection 2. Further, a gloss on Galatians 2:11, “I withstood him to the face,” adds: “as an equal.” Therefore, since a subject is not equal to his prelate, he ought not to correct him.

Objection 3. Further, Gregory says (Moral. xxiii, 8) that “one ought not to presume to reprove the conduct of holy men, unless one thinks better of oneself.” But one ought not to think better of oneself than of one’s prelate. Therefore one ought not to correct one’s prelate.

On the contrary, Augustine says in his Rule: “Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger.” But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected.

I answer that, A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.

Now an act which proceeds from a habit or power extends to whatever is contained under the object of that power or habit: thus vision extends to all things comprised in the object of sight. Since, however, a virtuous act needs to be moderated by due circumstances, it follows that when a subject corrects his prelate, he ought to do so in a becoming manner, not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 5:1): “An ancient man rebuke not, but entreat him as a father.” Wherefore Dionysius finds fault with the monk Demophilus (Ep. viii), for rebuking a priest with insolence, by striking and turning him out of the church.

Reply to Objection 1. It would seem that a subject touches his prelate inordinately when he upbraids him with insolence, as also when he speaks ill of him: and this is signified by God’s condemnation of those who touched the mount and the ark.

Reply to Objection 2. To withstand anyone in public exceeds the mode of fraternal correction, and so Paul would not have withstood Peter then, unless he were in some way his equal as regards the defense of the faith. But one who is not an equal can reprove privately and respectfully. Hence the Apostle in writing to the Colossians (4:17) tells them to admonish their prelate: “Say to Archippus: Fulfil thy ministry [Vulgate: ‘Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.’ Cf. 2 Timothy 4:5.” It must be observed, however, that if the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”

Reply to Objection 3. To presume oneself to be simply better than one’s prelate, would seem to savor of presumptuous pride; but there is no presumption in thinking oneself better in some respect, because, in this life, no man is without some fault. We must also remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does not follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers his help to one who, “being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger,” as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above. Continue reading

Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Hail Mary

And again the name, ‘Mary’ befits her, which is (also) interpreted as ‘Star of the Sea,’ for as by this star seafarers are directed to port, so are Christians guided to glory by Mary.

Saint Thomas Aquinas


There are three things contained in this (angelic) salutation. The first part comes from the Angel, Gabriel, namely, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women.” The second part comes from Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, namely, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” The Church adds the third part, to wit, “Mary,” for the Angel did not say, “Hail, Mary,” but rather, “Hail, full of grace.” Still, this name ‘Mary,’ according to its meaning, befits the Angel’s words, as we shall see.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”

With respect to the first part, consider that in ancient times it was exceedingly great for an Angel to appear to men, or, that men might offer them reverence was held to be a great honor. Hence, to the honor of Abraham it is written that he received angelic guests and showed them reverence. That an Angel reverence a man, however, was never heard of until the Angel reverently greeted the Blessed Virgin, saying, “Hail.”

That in ancient times the Angel did not reverence man, but rather man reverenced the Angel comes from the fact that the Angel is greater, and greater with respect to three things. First, with respect to dignity, since the Angel is a spiritual nature: “You make your Angels to be spirits, etc.” (Ps. 103,4). Man, indeed, is corruptible by nature, for which reason Abraham said: “I am speaking to the Lord, I, who am but dust and ashes” (Gen 18,27). Second, with respect to their familiarity with GOD, for the Angel belongs to the household of GOD (‘familiaris’) inasmuch as he assists Him. “A thousand times a thousand minister to Him, and ten thousand myriads assist Him.” (Dan 7,10). Man, though, is like a stranger, set off from GOD by sin: “I withdrew in flight” (Ps 54,8). Therefore, it was fitting that man should reverence the Angel as one on close and familiar terms with the king (‘propinquum and familiarem regis’!). Third, the Angel took preeminence on account of the plenitude of the splendor of divine grace. The Angels, namely, participate in the light of divine grace itself in the very highest degree. “Is there any number to His armies upon whom His light does not arise?” (Job 25,3). And this is why they always appear with light. But men, even though they participate somewhat in the light of grace, do so only slightly and in obscurity.

Consequently, it was unfitting that men be shown reverence until someone should be found in this (human) nature who exceeds the angels in these three points. And this was the Blessed Virgin. In order to indicate that she exceeded them in these three points the Angel wished to offer her reverence, saying “Hail.” Continue reading

Pentecost: Why Was the Holy Spirit Sent?



Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his sermon on Pentecost, explains why the Holy Spirit was sent to us:

I say, first, the Holy Spirit is sent without His needing to be sent. When someone is sent to a place so that an event may happen which could not happen unless he were sent, this would be a sending out of necessity. But this has no place in the sending of the Holy Spirit, whom the Book of Wisdom describes as “having every power, beholding all things” (Wis. 7:23).  What, then, is the reason for the sending of the Holy Spirit? Our neediness; and the necessity of this neediness of ours comes partly from human nature’s dignity, and partly from its deficiency. For the rational creature excels other creatures because it can actually reach the enjoyment of God, which no other earthly creature can do. “The Lord is my portion, said my soul” (Lam. 3:24). Some seek their portion in this world, such as those who seek worldly honor or dignity. But the Psalmist says: “It is good for me to cling to God” (Ps. 72:28).   You should consider that all things that are moved to some end must have something moving them toward that end. Those that are moved to a natural end have a mover in nature; but those that are moved to a supernatural end, namely to the enjoyment of God, must have a supernatural mover. Now, nothing can lead us to our end unless two things are presupposed, for someone is led to an end by two things—knowledge and love. The kind of knowledge in question is supernatural: “No eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it arisen in the heart of man, what God hath prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). “Never have they heard, nor perceived with ears, nor has eye seen, O God, without Thee, what Thou hast prepared for those who await Thee” (Is. 64:4).  Now, whatever a man knows, he knows either by discovering it himself or by learning from another. Vision serves discovery and hearing serves learning, and for this reason it is said that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,” showing that it [the final end] altogether transcends human knowledge. It exceeds human desire, too, and that is why Scripture says: “nor hath it arisen in the heart of man.” How, then, is man led to know it? It was necessary for heavenly secrets to be made known to men; it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to be invisibly sent, in order to move man’s affections so that he may tend toward that end. And thus it says: “Eye hath not seen.” How, then, do we know? “God hath revealed it to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit examineth all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). “Who would be able to know Thy thought [sensum], unless Thou gavest wisdom and sent the Holy Spirit from the Most High?” (Wis. 9:17).  Therefore the Holy Spirit is sent not owing to any need of His, but for the sake of our benefit. Continue reading

Feast Day of the Angelic Doctor


As a highly Pagan poet said to me: “The Reformation happened because people hadn’t the brains to understand Aquinas.” The Church is more immortally important than the State; but the State has its rights, for all that. This Christian duality had always been implicit, as in Christ’s distinction between God and Caesar, or the dogmatic distinction between the natures of Christ.
But St. Thomas has the glory of having seized this double thread as the clue to a thousand things; and thereby created the only creed in which the saints can be sane. It presents itself chiefly, perhaps, to the modern world as the only creed in which the poets can be sane. For there is nobody now to settle the Manichees; and all culture is infected with a faint unclean sense that Nature and all things behind us and below us are bad; that there is only praise to the highbrow in the height. St. Thomas exalted God without lowering Man; he exalted Man without lowering Nature. Therefore, he made a cosmos of common sense; terra viventium; a land of the living.
His philosophy, like his theology, is that of common sense.
He does not torture the brain with desperate attempts to explain existence by explaining it away. The first steps of his mind are the first steps of any honest mind; just as the first virtues of his creed could be those of any honest peasant.

G.K. Chesterton Continue reading

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