The relevance of Thomas Aquinas today
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Many have the erroneous idea that we in the Church should do away with Saint Thomas Aquinas. They argue that although Thomas is the great patron of theology, education and scholar, his mode of thinking is extremely heavy. Thus, it is better to avoid his writings altogether. Is this claim true? Let’s see.
Unfortunately such a pessimistic outlook on Aquinas comes from minds dominated by prejudices and lack of knowledge on the outstanding works of the Angelic Doctor. It is clear that there were generations of teachers who, for some reason or another, were not enthusiastic and sorily lacked the necessary skills in making Catholic Theology available to the man in the street through the precious contribution of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Thus,the million-dollar question is the following: “Why studying Saint Thomas Aquinas in this day and age?
First, Thomas Aquinas simplifies things. His style is so direct that you can easily identify it with objections and responses. The objections try to address why is Saint Thomas asking this question? And why might that question be important? Whereas the role of the responses is that of asserting his position on the subject matter that he is treating within the vast array of topics in Church theology and doctrine.
Second, Thomas Aquinas is worth studying because he is a mystic. His deep and profound union with God, especially with the Eucharistic Jesus, his experiences of meeting angels and saints, and that famous vision he had towards the end of his life and pratically left him speechless, surely must have had an impact on his theology. To use Jean-Pierre Torrell O.P.’s words, Thomas “is a mystic in the manner of a theologian, … he is a mystic precisely because he is a theologian”.
Third, Aquinas wisely build this theological knowledge on nature so that you and I can comprehend it. In order to explicate his theological discourse the Angelic Doctor used nature and our daily experience under theguidance of divine revelation. Did not Christ do the same when he narrated parables which dealt with fishing, taxes, losing things etc to help us understand the spiritual reality? Thomas ardently believes that grace perfects and uplifts nature.
Fourth, Thomas is amazingly systematic. The way he does theology tells you exactly on what topic he is talking about as well as how to discuss it. His approach to Catholic Theology is linear.
Fifth, Aquinas is undeniably a giant in biblical scholarship. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI rightly said in his weekly catechesis on Thomas Aquinas, on Wednesday 2 June 2010, “he [Thomas] commented on Sacred Scripture because the professor of theology was above all an interpreter of Scripture”. His profound commentaries on the Gospels or the commentary on the Letter to the Hebrews are really powerful testimonies of his intellectual skills and the ardent love he harboured for the Bible.
Sixth, Aquinas is a preacher. He spent his life communicating the deep saving truths of our faith to the people. Thomas was strongly aware that he was never alone in his preaching. Under the Spirit leadership Jesus dwelt within him in his contemplation and hearing of the Word. Christ went forth with him to inspire his preaching and also to open the hearts of those who heard Thomas preaching.
Seventh, Aquinas loved Mary because he was in love with Christ, her Son. About Mary he wrote: “As mariners are guided into port by the shining of a star, so Christians are guided to heaven by Mary”. Eighth, Aquinas is an Eucharistic theologian. He wrote: “The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love; It signifies Love, it produces Love”. No wonder why Thomas was able to produce sequences and hymns fully imbued with perfect dogmatic language and lyrical tones which we all know and sing.
The more you and I read Aquinas the more he makes us love God, Christ, the Church, the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. His powerful loving commitment to Christ and his Church has the capacity of transforming us into Spirit-filled evangelists and apostles.
Is this not what the Church really needs today? If you would like Saint Thomas Aquinas to form you in your faith why not visiting New Saint Thomas Institute’s page on newsaintthomas.com?