Saint Thomas Aquinas
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.
Saint Thomas Aquinas composed Sacris Solemnis at the command of Pope Urban IV for the new feast of Corpus Christi in 1264. The last two stanzas have become the hymn Panis Angelicus. I have always viewed this as the heart of the Summa set to music.
When he was canonized in 1323 some objections were raised because of a lack of miracles relating to the Angelic Doctor. Pope John xxii responded that every question Saint Thomas answered was a miracle.
The cross-blog discussion that was initiated on the topic of “social sin” has now evolved into a debate over the origins and causes of sin. In response to my post on social sin, Nate Wildermuth at Vox Nova posted his own ideas about the relationship between society and sin, forthrightly admitting that he was going to “venture into heretical pastures” in doing so.
My intention here is not to beat up on Nate. He has expressed to me that he feels I may not be understanding his argument, though I do believe I have made the attempt in earnest. Rather than dissect in detail his argument once again, I am going to put forth here what I already placed in a com-box, but would like to open up to wider discussion – that is, my own view of sin and human freedom. Then Nate or anyone else may issue whatever challenges they like to any of my premises or conclusions, and perhaps we will have some clarity on the issue.
Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable. – Proverbs 13:34
Is there such a thing as a “social sin”? It is out of a respect for my friend Brendan/Darwin that I want to examine and critique his rejection of the idea of social sin, with which I partially agree, but which I believe also leaves out some crucial facts. This is not a point against Brendan/Darwin, since I don’t believe he intended his post to be a treatise on the issue. It is rather a point in his favor, since his general considerations give us the opportunity to explore the question in greater detail.
It must be said at the outset that there are obviously different things that one might mean by “social sin.” Brendan/Darwin begins his argument with the observation that there are those who become “frustrated” with the emphasis many Christians place on individual failings to the neglect of “social or political sin.” There is a significant difference, however, between social and political behavior. My intention is not to split-hairs in order to undermine a valid point (which it is), but rather to highlight the extent to which society and the body politic have become indistinguishable from one another. In my recent essay on the social effects of abortion, I make a distinction between organic and artificial social bonds; the former are those that necessarily follow from man’s social nature, while the latter are those created through politics, i.e. laws. Because we are imperfect and often malicious beings, some artificial authority will always be required for men to attain “the highest good.” But human laws are not foundational – they are supplemental to natural and divine laws, or at least they were in most places in the Western world until the 19th century.
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.
Some time ago, someone asked me:
Suppose–just for the sake of argument–you were convinced that an honest reading of the Tradition of the Church required you to believe that the initial chapters of Genesis were historical. Would you be able to do it, or do you think that Darwinism is so irrefutable that you would have to abandon or radically redetermine your faith?
I think this is the question that worries a lot of Catholics without a strong scientific background as they watch the evolution/creationist/ID debate on Catholic blogs. Here are these otherwise solid Christians taking common cause with the likes of the Richard Dawkins against their brother Christians. What gives? Are these folks really Christian? Do they care more about science than about faith? Do they only accept Catholicism so long as it agrees with science?
Composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Office of Corpus Christi (see CORPUS CHRISTI, FEAST OF). Including the last stanza (which borrows the words “Genitori Genitoque”—Procedenti ab utroque, Compar” from the first two strophes of the second sequence of Adam of St. Victor for Pentecost) the hymn comprises six stanzas appearing in the manuscripts
Pange, lingua, gloriosi corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi Rex effudit gentium.
Written in accentual rhythm, it imitates the triumphant march of the hymn of Fortunatus, and like it is divided in the Roman Breviary into stanzas of six lines whose alternating triple rhyming is declared by Pimont to be a new feature in medieval hymnody. In the Roman Breviary the hymn is assigned to both Vespers, but of old the Church of Salisbury placed it in Matins, that of Toulouse in First Vespers only, that of Saint-Germain- des-Prés at Second Vespers only, and that of Strasburg at Compline. It is sung in the procession to the repository on Holy Thursday and also in the procession of Corpus Christi and in that of the Forty Hours’ Adoration.
 (1911). Pange Lingua Gloriosi. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 3, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11441c.htm
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Today is the feast day of one of the greatest saints of the Church, and one of the greatest intellects to ever walk this globe: Saint Thomas Aquinas. Here is an essay on Saint Thomas written by G.K. Chesterton before he wrote his biography of the Dumb Ox. Amazing what a great mind, and a greater faith, can accomplish in one brief life.