Saint Thomas Aquinas
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
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
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
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.
Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the final of these blog posts and is written by commenter Greg Mockeridge.
John Adams foresaw the all pomp with which we celebrate the 4th of July, but the date he gave for that was not the 4th but the 2nd. The reason he gave the 2nd was that independence was voted on and decided by the Continental Congress on the 2nd. What took place on the 4th was that final draft of the Declaration of Independence, after about a hundred revisions to Thomas Jefferson’s original draft, was approved.
It is actually more fitting that we celebrate independence on 4th as opposed to the 2nd because it isn’t merely independence we celebrate, but the ideas, principles, and truths this country was founded on. Fidelity to these very ideas really enable Americans to be Patriots as opposed to merely Nationalists. Just as one cannot be a good Catholic without a concerted effort to know and understand what it is he gives his assent of faith to, one cannot be a true American Patriot unless he likewise makes an effort to understand our heritage as Americans. No other U.S. founding document expresses these truths better than the Declaration of Independence. If more Americans became better acquainted with the Declaration, there would not be so much confusion regarding the Constitution.
Our Catholic faith not only does not relieve us of this patriotic duty, it actually reinforces it. An 1884 statement of the American bishops said it this way:
Teach your children to take a special interest in the history of our country. We consider the and laws as a work of special Providence, its framers “building wiser than they knew,” the Almighty’s hand guiding them….As we establishment of our country’s independence, the shaping of its liberties desire therefore that the history of the United States should be carefully taught in all our Catholic schools, and have directed that it should be specially dwelt upon in the education of the young ecclesiastical students in our preparatory seminaries; so also we desire that it form a favorite part of the home library and home reading.
A document from the Second Vatican Council “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” better known by its Latin title Gaudium et Spes says: “Citizens should cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism… “(#75) Continue reading
(A guest post from Don the Kiwi on the backstory regarding the institution of the feast of Corpus Cristi.)
Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of Corpus Cristi, which literally means the body of Christ, in solemn commemoration of the Holy Eucharist. As with many of the great feasts of the Church there is a fascinating history associated with the establishment of this holy day, which involves a saint and a miracle.
God’s instrument on this occasion was a woman known to history as Saint Juliana of Liege, or Julian of Mount Comillon where she was educated as a girl by the Augustinian nuns at the convent there, after the death of her parents when she was only five. She was accepted into the order, made her religious profession, and became the mother superior of the convent.
Juliana had an ardent love of Our Lady, and also cultivated an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. As she grew in her vocation, she increasingly longed for a special feast in honor of the Sacrament. She had a vision of the Church as a full moon with one dark spot, symbolizing the lack of such a feast. Juliana expressed her to desire to the Bishop of Liege and the Archdeacon of Liege, who received her request favorably. In 1246 the Bishop at a synod of bishops from lands now in the country of Belgium, successfully proposed that a feast in honor of the Blessed Eucharist be instituted in the dioceses respresented at the Synod. The Archdeacon of Liege, Jacques Pantaleon, in time became the Bishop of Verdun, then Patriarch of Jerusalem, and, on August 29, 1261, was elected Pope under the name of Urban IV.
Shortly after this, in an example of that synchronicity that often reveals the Hand of God in history, one of the great Eucharistic miracles of the Church occurred. In 1263 Peter of Prague, a German priest, stopped at a town called Bolsena while on pilgrimage to Rome. He was a pious priest but had difficulty in believing that Christ was truly present in the consecrated host. While celebrating Mass in the Church of Saint Cristina, he finished saying the words of consecration, when blood started to seep from the consecrated host and trickled over his hands and onto the altar cloth and corporal Continue reading
When Corpus Christi rolls around I always think of Saint Thomas Aquinas and his great eucharistic hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium written by Saint Thomas at the command of Pope Urban IV to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi instituted by the Pope in 1264. It says something vastly significant about the Church that perhaps the greatest intellect of all time, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was not only a Doctor of the Church, but also capable of writing this magnificent hymn.
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 Saint Thomas on the Real Presence: Continue reading
You call him Dumb Ox? This Dumb Ox will fill all the world with his bellowing.
Saint Albert the Great, responding to jibes from some of the other students he was instructing aimed at a young Thomas Aquinas.
Today, January 28th, is the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was granted three gifts from God: the life long innocence of a child; the soul of a mystic; and one of the mightiest intellects ever possessed by mortal man. The ladies of History for Music Lovers kick off our celebration of the Angelic Doctor with their own unique tribute.
Here is Pope Benedict on Saint Thomas: Continue reading
An Article by Melinda Selmys, author of the book Sexual Authenticity: An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism.
Twelve years ago, I converted to Catholicism and began a long dialogue with my own sexuality. At the time, I was involved in a lesbian relationship that had been going on for a little over six years. I had, in the course of researching the Catholic position with a view to refuting it, encountered the Church’s teachings on homosexual relationships before, so when I decided to embrace the Church as my mother, I knew that meant giving up my lesbian partner. I called her that night and explained my decision.
At the time, I thought that I was signing up for a life of celibacy. I was okay with that: before I became a Catholic I was a hard rationalist, and it wasn’t a long stretch to port my idealistic devotion to rational self-possession into an iron-clad commitment to Catholic sexual teaching. I would simply apply my will to the problem, subsume my passions to the rule of Reason, and everything would be fine. Right?
The following is the second part to this post. It is recommended that you read the first part before reading the second part. There has been some request for the original address given by Cardinal George. I have been unable to locate it on the web and have not gotten around to scanning it in. As soon as I get a chance, I will try to get to up and available, barring any unforeseen copyright issues. For now, my humble comments and summary will have to suffice.
While the time from Augustine to Aquinas embodied a realization of Cardinal George’s incarnation metaphysics, things began to take a turn for the worse with Duns Scotus, a contemporary of Thomas. Scotus radically separated God from the world, and in so doing separated grace from nature. Instead of a metaphysics of participation, Scotus promulgated that, “God is no longer that generous power in which all things exist but rather that supreme being next to whom or apart from whom all other beings exist” (George, 15). Scotus begins what Descartes (through philosophy) and Luther (through theology) would complete. “In both its Lutheran and Cartesian manifestations, modernity assumes a fundamental split between the divine and the non-divine and hence implicitly denies the participation/communio metaphysics that had shaped the Christian world thought the ancient and medieval periods” (George, 16).
Something for the weekend. Tantum Ergo. It says something vastly significant about the Church that perhaps the greatest intellect of all time, Saint Thomas Aquinas, was not only a Doctor of the Church, but also capable of writing this magnificent hymn. On December 6, 1273, a few months before his death, Saint Thomas had a mystical experience while saying mass. He stopped writing at this point, saying that all that he had written was mere straw in comparison to what had been revealed to him. In Easter we celebrate that the God who made the Universe, died for each and every one of us and rose from the dead to deliver us from sin and death. Our intellects, through revelation, teach us much about that God. However, the love He has for us teaches us so much more. Easter is an everlasting reminder of that love and for those who embrace God’s love and grace, each day truly is Easter.
Saint Albert the Great
My co-blogger Paul Zummo’s post here on When God Says No caused me to think again of a theme that has alway intrigued me: the problem of God allowing terrible things to happen to innocent people. Endless words have been written on this subject, but I have always found moving the thought process of Abraham Lincoln as he addressed this complex subject.
The American Civil War has become such a part of American folk-lore, and so romanticized by reenactments, films, movies, etc, that we sometimes risk losing sight of just how dreadful it was. The death toll in the war would be the equivalent of us losing some six million killed in a war today and some ten million wounded, many of those maimed for life. One quarter of the nation was devastated, a huge war debt had to be repaid and regional hatreds created that only time would heal. Americans tend to be optimists and to view themselves as blessed by God. How had this dreadful calamity come upon the nation was the cry from millions of Americans at the time. Continue reading
A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”
Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.
The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.
Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.
For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.
Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.
This article originally appeared on The New Theological Movement written by Reginaldus on July 29, 2010 Anno Domini. Re-posted with permission.
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 12:13-21
The rich man of this Sunday’s Gospel is blessed with a bountiful harvest. Rather than thanking God for this gift, he hoards the grain in his barns – his heart is possessed by his possessions. At the moment of death, the Lord calls him a fool, for he was not rich in what matters to God.
The Fathers of the Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas following them, see in this parable a strong teaching of social justice. Their teachings have in turn been integrated into the Social Doctrine of the Church. Here we will consider St. Thomas’ exposition of the doctrine as well as several important quotations from the Church Fathers.?
The common destination of all goods and right to private property
We must first affirm that man has a right to own private property. All men have a natural right to make use of material goods. According to positive human law, men also have a right to private property – this is necessary for the good order of society and the proper care of the goods themselves, it also serves as a means of restraining greed and inciting toward generosity (a man can give alms only if he has some property of his own).
However, it is equally clear in the Church’s Tradition, as expressed by the Fathers of the Church and magisterial teachings, that the right to private property is subordinate to the universal destination of all goods. That is, the right to private property cannot be extended to the point of depriving others of the basic material necessities of life. Every man has the right to the material necessities of life – when he is deprived of these, while another has excess wealth, a grave injustice has occurred.
January 28th, is the feast day St. Thomas Aquinas, my chosen saint as a convert. (It was a toss-up between Thomas the philosopher-theologian and Thomas Merton, the not-quite-saintly Trappist — both exercising an influence on my journey to Rome).
Here is a favorite prayer of mine, by St. Thomas Aquinas — for a holy life. It was said that he prayed this every day before the image of Christ:
Grant me, O merciful God, that what is pleasing to Thee I may ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish for the praise and glory of Thy name.
Ordain, O my God, my whole life, and what Thou requirest that I should do, grant me to know it and to fulfill as is meet and profitable to my soul.
Give me Thy grace, O Lord my God, that I may not fail in prosperity or in adversity, avoiding pride in the former and discouragement in the latter.
May I rejoice in nothing but what leads to Thee, grieve for nothing but what turns away from Thee. May I wish to please or displease n one but Thee.
May I despise, O Lord, all transitory things, and prize only that which is eternal. May I shun ant joy that is without Thee, nor wish for anything outside of Thee.
May I delight in any work taken up for Thee, and tire of any rest which is without Thee. Grant me, O my God, to direct my heart toward Thee, and in my failings constantly grieve, with the purpose of a amendment.
Make me, O Lord, my God, obedient without contradiction, poor without depression, chaste without corruption patient without murmuring, humble without pretence, cheerful without dissipation, mature without dullness, prompt without levity, fearing Thee without despair, truthful without duplicity, doing good without presumption, correcting my neighbor without haughtiness, and edifying him by word and example without hypocrisy.
Give me, O Lord God, a watchful heart, which no curious thought will turn away from Thee; a noble heart, which no unworthy affection will drag down; a righteous heart, which no irregular intention will twist aside; a firm heart, which no tribulation will break; a free heart, which no violent affection will claim for itself.
Grant me finally, O Lord my God, science in knowing Thee, diligence in seeking Thee, wisdom in finding Thee, a conduct pleasing to Thee, a perseverance trustfully awaiting Thee, and a confidence finally embracing Thee. May I endure Thy punishments by penitence; profit by Thy benefits by grace in this world, and enjoy Thy blessedness by glory in the next; Who livest and reignest, true God, forever and ever. Amen
Hattip to my friend Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia who reminded me that today is the feastday of Saint Thomas Aquinas, aka the Angelic Doctor, aka the Dumb Ox, perhaps the greatest intellect to ever live.