07 March 2012

The Humility of a Supremely Intelligent Mind: The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

Happy Feast Day to all readers, and especially those who are attached to the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, of which St. Thomas is a co-patron.


Canon Michael Wiener, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, was kind enough to send me his beautiful sermon from today's Mass:
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St. Thomas Aquinas

We celebrate the feast of our holy patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, and we do it with great joy and gratefulness. This gratefulness we feel toward the saint himself and also towards Holy Mother Church, the Popes and our own superiors in the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest who gave us St. Thomas as one of our co-patrons. We are grateful, because we were and we are allowed to receive the teaching of St. Thomas which comes to us as the clear and fresh air of the truth in a world full of confusion and perplexity. 

The appreciation we have for St. Thomas is nourished by three sources: the authority of teachers, the clarity and order of the work of St. Thomas as well as his holiness.

Anybody who studies depends on the authority of others. The wheel is not reinvented by each generation that comes along. The teachers’ authority is the guarantee for fruitful thinking in all domains of science. 

The Church presents to us St. Thomas as an authority and gives her highest recommendations: Pope John XXII - who canonized Thomas in 1323 - said that St. Thomas “enlightened the Church more than all the other doctors”. Pope St. Pius V - who declared him doctor of the Church - said that St. Thomas’ conclusive clarifications “stood forth prominently in the decrees of the Council of Trent” and Pope Pius X. wrote that St. Thomas’ “divine genius fashioned weapons marvelously suited to protect the truth and destroy the many errors of the times”. Many other popes could be added: every pope reigning the Church between the 14th century and today recommended St. Thomas as the supreme teacher. And the II. Vatican Council as the first ecumenical council in the history of the Church “expressly mentions one individual author by his name”: St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Especially in our days, the clarity, the structure and order of the thoughts presented by St. Thomas find again new interest and have relevance. The Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, established in 1879 by Leo XIII, was reformed by Pope John Paul II in 1999, shortly after his encyclical “Fides et Ratio” had been published. The Academy was entrusted with a “specific mission, which is … to defend, and to disseminate the doctrine of the Angelic Doctor.” 

This doctrine has a special importance and meaning for our time - more so than ever. In our days in which the truth of the Catholic faith can be only defended by retreating all absolute statements to the inaccessible island of the “liberty of conscience” it seems even more important “to develop further this part of Thomistic doctrine which deals with humanity, given that his assertions on the dignity of the human person and the use of his reason, in perfect harmony with the faith, make St. Thomas a teacher for our time.” (John Paul II, 1999, Inter Munera Academiarum, n. 4)

The merits of St. Thomas in revealing the truth of the Catholic teaching comes to light especially in view of the apparent division between reason and faith. “The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge, faith and reason, may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption”, said Pope Benedict XVI during one of the General Audiences in June 2010. 

“This fundamental agreement between human reason and Christian faith is recognized in another basic principle of Aquinas' thought. Divine Grace does not annihilate but presupposes and perfects human nature. The latter, in fact, even after sin, is not completely corrupt but wounded and weakened. Grace, lavished upon us by God and communicated through the Mystery of the Incarnate Word …”, continued Pope Benedict.

All authority, however, and all teaching and brilliance wouldn’t be attractive over the centuries until today without the holiness of St. Thomas. Holiness is not a quantifiable unit in the world, regardless of which era. But it is the holiness of St. Thomas which makes the truth of his writings and teachings spotless, attractive and a source of edification and consolation for all times. If St. Thomas wouldn’t have been a saint and a man who lived heroically a virtuous life with the help of God’s grace – his writings wouldn’t be as complete, universally true or as attractive for the men of times as we know them. 

We celebrate our saint patron with great joy and awe, but also with great certainty that the greatness of God’s creation, reestablished in the order of grace, will again shine in fullness when all men recognize what St. Thomas taught in the humility of his supremely intelligent mind. This humility which he shared with all saints and which is the mark of God’s new creation will destroy the pride of the modern world with might.

Let us pray with St. Thomas: “Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you".

Amen.

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I wanted to highlight two paragraphs from this sermon, and to me they go together in addressing our current situation in this sin-sodden "free" society.  First, the paragraph with a quote from Blessed John Paul II:

In our days in which the truth of the Catholic faith can be only defended by retreating all absolute statements to the inaccessible island of the “liberty of conscience” it seems even more important “to develop further this part of Thomistic doctrine which deals with humanity, given that his assertions on the dignity of the human person and the use of his reason, in perfect harmony with the faith, make St. Thomas a teacher for our time.” (John Paul II, 1999, Inter Munera Academiarum, n. 4)


And Canon Wiener's own words:


We celebrate our saint patron with great joy and awe, but also with great certainty that the greatness of God’s creation, reestablished in the order of grace, will again shine in fullness when all men recognize what St. Thomas taught in the humility of his supremely intelligent mind. This humility which he shared with all saints and which is the mark of God’s new creation will destroy the pride of the modern world with might.


With prayers that it may be so, I wish you a most blessed Feast Day.

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