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Why I Love Thomas Aquinas | Catholic Life

Why I Love Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas is one of my favorite Saints. This was not always the case. At first I struggled with the fact that Thomas devalued women, was a bit boring, and was over-cited by the sort of Catholics who disliked Pope John Paul II for being too progressive.

It did not help matters that my first real introduction consisted of Kreeft’s A Shorter Summa. I found the book significantly less than engaging and did not take further interest in the Summa Theologica until I found myself exploring it online after searching various topics. Suddenly Thomas was nothing if not interesting. A few years later I read more of Thomas in another class and was finally able to appreciate a bit of his genius for bringing together the Christian faith and classical reason. Turns out that Saint Augustine had not really covered everything.

Suddenly Saint Thomas was my hero. While he had his share of odd views, Thomas was a master at working out competing claims to truth. It also helped me to remember that, by the time of his death, Thomas was quite aware of the inadequacy of his work compared to the overwhelming beauty of mystical Truth. It seems likely that Thomas would be happy to look over my shoulder as I struggled with a part of the Summa and remind me that this was meant to be an introductory work for beginners with the best knowledge of his time. He did not offer it as the final word on anything.

And so Thomas became one of my models for working to learn from both Christian Tradition and the emerging philosophy of my time. I do not need to worry much about Aristotle, that has been worked out for me and bishops have long ago given up on condemning Thomas. But I do have to deal with feminist philosophy and the contemporary secular wisdom which forces me to wrap my mind around new truths in an attempt to understand how best to re-understand Truth.

And then, of course, there are Thomas’ prayers. I kept a copy of Thomas’ prayer before study over my desk:

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
Amen

And it was only natural for me to love “O Salutaris Hostia”

O saving Victim, open wide
The gate of heaven to us below,
Our foes press on from every side;
Your aid supply, your strength bestow.

To your great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three;
O grant us endless length of days
In our true native land with thee. Amen.

In fact, it is one of the few things that I will say seems far better to me in Latin. Too bad Thomas is not around to translate for himself!

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2 Responses to “Why I Love Thomas Aquinas”

  1. Elizabeth 29. Jan, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    Oh, that’s a great prayer. I might have to use it to get through the last push of this semester!

  2. Marc Cardaronella 30. Sep, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Thomas is so awesome because he is a theologian and a mystic! That’s an unbeatable combination. I love that it’s said of Thomas — his insight into the mysteries of the faith came from the depth of his devotion to the Eucharist.

    I love that prayer as well. I have it over my desk and always say it before working or studying.

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