St. Thomas Aquinas
FREE Catholic Classes
Philosopher, theologian, doctor of the Church ( Angelicus Doctor ), patron of Catholic universities, colleges, and schools. Born at Rocca Secca in the Kingdom of Naples, 1225 or 1227; died at Fossa Nuova, 7 March, 1274.
The great outlines and all the important events of his life are known, but biographers differ as to some details and dates. Death prevented Henry Denifle from executing his project of writing a critical life of the saint. Denifle's friend and pupil, Dominic Prümmer, O.P., professor of theology in the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, took up the work and published the "Fontes Vitae S. Thomae Aquinatis, notis historicis et criticis illustrati"; and the first fascicle (Toulouse, 1911) has appeared, giving the life of St. Thomas by Peter Calo (1300) now published for the first time. From Tolomeo of Lucca. . . we learn that at the time of the saint's death there was a doubt about his exact age (Prümmer, op. cit., 45). The end of 1225 is usually assigned as the time of his birth. Father Prümmer, on the authority of Calo, thinks 1227 is the more probable date (op. cit., 28). All agree that he died in 1274.
Landulph, his father, was Count of Aquino ; Theodora, his mother, Countess of Teano. His family was related to the Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II, and to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and France. Calo relates that a holy hermit foretold his career, saying to Theodora before his birth: "He will enter the Order of Friars Preachers , and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him" (Prümmer, op. cit., 18). At the age of five, according to the custom of the times, he was sent to receive his first training from the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino. Diligent in study, he was thus early noted as being meditative and devoted to prayer, and his preceptor was surprised at hearing the child ask frequently: "What is God ?"
About the year 1236 he was sent to the University of Naples. Calo says that the change was made at the instance of the Abbot of Monte Cassino, who wrote to Thomas's father that a boy of such talents should not be left in obscurity (Prümmcr, op. cit., 20). At Naples his preceptors were Pietro Martini and Petrus Hibernus. The chronicler says that he soon surpassed Martini at grammar, and he was then given over to Peter of Ireland, who trained him in logic and the natural sciences. The customs of the times divided the liberal arts into two courses: the Trivium, embracing grammar, logic, and rhetoric; the Quadrivium, comprising music, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy. . . . Thomas could repeat the lessons with more depth and lucidity than his masters displayed. The youth's heart had remained pure amidst the corruption with which he was surrounded, and he resolved to embrace the religious life.
Some time between 1240 and August, 1243, he received the habit of the Order of St. Dominic, being attracted and directed by John of St. Julian, a noted preacher of the convent of Naples. The city wondered that such a noble young man should don the garb of poor friar. His mother, with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow, hastened to Naples to see her son. The Dominicans, fearing she would take him away, sent him to Rome, his ultimate destination being Paris or Cologne. At the instance of Theodora, Thomas's brothers, who were soldiers under the Emperor Frederick, captured the novice near the town of Aquapendente and confined him in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. Here he was detained nearly two years, his parents, brothers, and sisters endeavouring by various means to destroy his vocation. The brothers even laid snares for his virtue, but the pure-minded novice drove the temptress from his room with a brand which he snatched from the fire. Towards the end of his life, St. Thomas confided to his faithful friend and companion, Reginald of Piperno , the secret of a remarkable favour received at this time. When the temptress had been driven from his chamber, he knelt and most earnestly implored God to grant him integrity of mind and body. He fell into a gentle sleep, and, as he slept, two angels appeared to assure him that his prayer had been heard. They then girded him about with a white girdle, saying: "We gird thee with the girdle of perpetual virginity." And from that day forward he never experienced the slightest motions of concupiscence.
The time spent in captivity was not lost. His mother relented somewhat, after the first burst of anger and grief; the Dominicans were allowed to provide him with new habits, and through the kind offices of his sister he procured some books — the Holy Scriptures , Aristotle's Metaphysics, and the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard. After eighteen months or two years spent in prison, either because his mother saw that the hermit's prophecy would eventually be fulfilled or because his brothers feared the threats of Innocent IV and Frederick II, he was set at liberty, being lowered in a basket into the arms of the Dominicans, who were delighted to find that during his captivity "he had made as much progress as if he had been in a studium generale " (Calo, op. cit., 24).
Thomas immediately pronounced his vows, and his superiors sent him to Rome. Innocent IV examined closely into his motives in joining the Friars Preachers , dismissed him with a blessing, and forbade any further interference with his vocation. John the Teutonic, fourth master general of the order, took the young student to Paris and, according to the majority of the saint's biographers, to Cologne, where he arrived in 1244 or 1245, and was placed under Albertus Magnus , the most renowned professor of the order. In the schools Thomas's humility and taciturnity were misinterpreted as signs of dullness, but when Albert had heard his brilliant defence of a difficult thesis, he exclaimed: "We call this young man a dumb ox, hut his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world."
In 1245 Albert was sent to Paris, and Thomas accompanied him as a student. In 1248 both returned to Cologne. Albert had been appointed regent of the new studium generale , erected that year by the general chapter of the order, and Thomas was to teach under him as Bachelor. (On the system of graduation in the thirteenth century see ORDER OF PREACHERS -- II, A, 1, d). During his stay in Cologne, probably in 1250, he was raised to the priesthood by Conrad of Hochstaden, archbishop of that city. Throughout his busy life, he frequently preached the Word of God, in Germany, France, and Italy. His sermons were forceful, redolent of piety, full of solid instruction, abounding in apt citations from the Scriptures .
In the year 1251 or 1252 the master general of the order, by the advice of Albertus Magnus and Hugo a S. Charo (Hugh of St. Cher), sent Thomas to fill the office of Bachelor (sub-regent) in the Dominican studium at Paris. This appointment may be regarded as the beginning of his public career, for his teaching soon attracted the attention both of the professors and of the students. His duties consisted principally in explaining the "Sentences" of Peter Lombard , and his commentaries on that text-book of theology furnished the materials and, in great part, the plan for his chief work, the "Summa theologica" .
In due time he was ordered to prepare himself to obtain the degree of Doctor in Theology from the University of Paris, but the conferring of the degree was postponed, owing to a dispute between the university and the friars. The conflict, originally a dispute between the university and the civic authorities, arose from the slaying of one of the students and the wounding of three others by the city guard. The university, jealous of its autonomy, demanded satisfaction, which was refused. The doctors closed their schools, solemnly swore that they would not reopen them until their demands were granted, and decreed that in future no one should be admitted to the degree of Doctor unless he would take an oath to follow the same line of conduct under similar circumstances. The Dominicans and Franciscans, who had continued to teach in their schools, refused to take the prescribed oath, and from this there arose a bitter conflict which was at its height when St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure were ready to be presented for their degrees. William of St-Amour extended the dispute beyond the original question, violently attacked the friars, of whom he was evidently jealous, and denied their right to occupy chairs in the university. Against his book, "De periculis novissimorum temporum" (The Perils of the Last Times), St. Thomas wrote a treatise "Contra impugnantes religionem", an apology for the religious orders ( Touron, op. cit., II, cc. vii sqq.). The book of William of St-Amour was condemned by Alexander IV at Anagni, 5 October, 1256, and the pope gave orders that the mendicant friars should be admitted to the doctorate.
About this time St. Thomas also combated a dangerous book, "The Eternal Gospel" ( Touron, op. cit., II, cxii). The university authorities did not obey immediately; the influence of St. Louis IX and eleven papal Briefs were required before peace was firmly established, and St. Thomas was admitted to the degree of Doctor in Theology. The date of his promotion, as given by many biographers, was 23 October, 1257. His theme was "The Majesty of Christ". His text, "Thou waterest the hills from thy upper rooms: the earth shall be filled with the fruit of thy works" ( Psalm 103:13 ), said to have been suggested by a heavenly visitor, seems to have been prophetic of his career. A tradition says that St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas received the doctorate on the same day, and that there was a contest of humility between the two friends as to which should be promoted first.
From this time St. Thomas's life may be summed up in a few words: praying, preaching, teaching, writing, journeying. Men were more anxious to hear him than they had been to hear Albert, whom St. Thomas surpassed in accuracy, lucidity, brevity, and power of exposition, if not in universality of knowledge. Paris claimed him as her own; the popes wished to have him near them; the studia of the order were eager to enjoy the benefit of his teaching; hence we find him successively at Anagni, Rome, Bologna, Orvieto, Viterbo, Perugia, in Paris again, and finally in Naples, always teaching and writing, living on earth with one passion, an ardent zeal for the explanation and defence of Christian truth. So devoted was he to his sacred task that with tears he begged to be excused from accepting the Archbishopric of Naples, to which he was appointed by Clement IV in 1265. Had this appointment been accepted, most probably the "Summa theologica" would not have been written.
Yielding to the requests of his brethren, he on several occasions took part in the deliberations of the general chapters of the order. One of these chapters was held in London in 1263. In another held at Valenciennes (1259) he collaborated with Albertus Magnus and Peter of Tarentasia (afterwards Pope Innocent V ) in formulating a system of studies which is substantially preserved to this day in the studia generalia of the Dominican Order (cf. Douais, op. cit.).
It is not surprising to read in the biographies of St. Thomas that he was frequently abstracted and in ecstasy. Towards the end of his life the ecstasies became more frequent. On one occasion, at Naples in 1273, after he had completed his treatise on the Eucharist, three of the brethren saw him lifted in ecstasy, and they heard a voice proceeding from the crucifix on the altar, saying "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?" Thomas replied, "None other than Thyself, Lord" (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 38). Similar declarations are said to have been made at Orvieto and at Paris.
On 6 December, 1273, he laid aside his pen and would write no more. That day he experienced an unusually long ecstasy during Mass ; what was revealed to him we can only surmise from his reply to Father Reginald , who urged him to continue his writings: "I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value" ( modica , Prümmer, op. cit., p. 43). The "Summa theologica" had been completed only as far as the ninetieth question of the third part (De partibus poenitentiae).
Thomas began his immediate preparation for death. Gregory X, having convoked a general council, to open at Lyons on 1 May, 1274, invited St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure to take part in the deliberations, commanding the former to bring to the council his treatise "Contra errores Graecorum" (Against the Errors of the Greeks). He tried to obey, setting out on foot in January, 1274, but strength failed him; he fell to the ground near Terracina, whence he was conducted to the Castle of Maienza, the home of his niece the Countess Francesca Ceccano. The Cistercian monks of Fossa Nuova pressed him to accept their hospitality, and he was conveyed to their monastery, on entering which he whispered to his companion: "This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it" ( Psalm 131:14 ). When Father Reginald urged him to remain at the castle, the saint replied: "If the Lord wishes to take me away, it is better that I be found in a religious house than in the dwelling of a lay person." The Cistercians were so kind and attentive that Thomas's humility was alarmed. "Whence comes this honour ", he exclaimed, "that servants of God should carry wood for my fire!" At the urgent request of the monks he dictated a brief commentary on the Canticle of Canticles.
If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament. . . I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.
He died on 7 March, 1274. Numerous miracles attested his sanctity, and he was canonized by John XXII, 18 July, 1323. The monks of Fossa Nuova were anxious to keep his sacred remains, but by order of Urban V the body was given to his Dominican brethren, and was solemnly translated to the Dominican church at Toulouse, 28 January, 1369. A magnificent shrine erected in 1628 was destroyed during the French Revolution, and the body was removed to the Church of St. Sernin, where it now reposes in a sarcophagus of gold and silver, which was solemnly blessed by Cardinal Desprez on 24 July, 1878. The chief bone of his left arm is preserved in the cathedral of Naples. The right arm, bestowed on the University of Paris, and originally kept in the St. Thomas's Chapel of the Dominican church, is now preserved in the Dominican Church of S. Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, whither it was transferred during the French Revolution .
A description of the saint as he appeared in life is given by Calo (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 401), who says that his features corresponded with the greatness of his soul. He was of lofty stature and of heavy build, but straight and well proportioned. His complexion was "like the colour of new wheat": his head was large and well shaped, and he was slightly bald. All portraits represent him as noble, meditative, gentle yet strong. St. Pius V proclaimed St. Thomas a Doctor of the Universal Church in the year 1567. In the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris", of 4 August, 1879, on the restoration of Christian philosophy, Leo XIII declared him "the prince and master of all Scholastic doctors". The same illustrious pontiff, by a Brief dated 4 August, 1880, designated him patron of all Catholic universities, academies, colleges, and schools throughout the world.
IIa. WRITINGS (GENERAL REMARKS)
Although St. Thomas lived less than fifty years, he composed more than sixty works, some of them brief, some very lengthy. This does not necessarily mean that every word in the authentic works was written by his hand; he was assisted by secretaries, and biographers assure us that he could dictate to several scribes at the same time. Other works, some of which were composed by his disciples, have been falsely attributed to him.
In the "Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum" (Paris, 1719) Fr. Echard devotes eighty-six folio pages to St. Thomas's works, the different editions and translations (I, pp. 282-348). Touron (op. cit., pp. 69 sqq.) says that manuscript copies were found in nearly all the libraries of Europe, and that, after the invention of printing, copies were multiplied rapidly in Germany, Italy, and France, portions of the "Summa theologica" being one of the first important works printed. Peter Schöffer, a printer of Mainz, published the "Secunda Secundae" in 1467. This is the first known printed copy of any work of St. Thomas. The first complete edition of the "Summa" was printed at Basle, in 1485. Many other editions of this and of other works were published in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially at Venice and at Lyons. The principal editions of all the work (Opera Omnia) were published as follows: Rome, 1570; Venice, 1594, 1612, 1745; Antwerp, 1612; Paris, 1660, 1871-80 ( Vives ); Parma, 1852-73; Rome, 1882 (the Leonine). The Roman edition of 1570, called "the Piana", because edited by order of St. Pius V , was the standard for many years. Besides a carefully revised text it contained the commentaries of Cardinal Cajetan and the valuable "Tabula Aurea" of Peter of Bergamo. The Venetian edition of 1612 was highly prized because the text was accompanied by the Cajetan - Porrecta commentaries . . . . The Leonine edition, begun under the patronage of Leo XIII, now continued under the master general of the Dominicans, undoubtedly will be the most perfect of all. Critical dissertations on each work will be given, the text will be carefully revised, and all references will be verified. By direction of Leo XIII (Motu Proprio, 18 Jan., 1880) the "Summa contra gentiles" will be published with the commentaries of Sylvester Ferrariensis, whilst the commentaries of Cajetan go with the "Summa theologica" .
The latter has been published, being volumes IV-XII of the edition (last in 1906). St. Thomas's works may be classified as philosophical, theological, scriptural, and apologetic, or controversial. The division, however, cannot always be rigidly maintained. The "Summa theologica", e.g., contains much that is philosophical, whilst the "Summa contra gentiles" is principally, but not exclusively, philosophical and apologetic. His philosophical works are chiefly commentaries on Aristotle, and his first important theological writings were commentaries on Peter Lombard's four books of "Sentences"; but he does not slavishly follow either the Philosopher or the Master of the Sentences (on opinions of the Lombard rejected by theologians, see Migne, 1841, edition of the "Summa" I, p. 451).
IIb. WRITINGS (HIS PRINCIPAL WORKS)
Amongst the works wherein St. Thomas's own mind and method are shown, the following deserve special mention:
(1) "Quaestiones disputatae" (Disputed Questions) -- These were more complete treatises on subjects that had not been fully elucidated in the lecture halls, or concerning which the professor's opinion had been sought. They are very valuable, because in them the author, free from limitations as to time or space, freely expresses his mind and gives all arguments for or against the opinions adopted. These treatises, containing the questions "De potentia", "De malo", "De spirit. creaturis", "De anima", "De unione Verbi Incarnati", "De virt. in communi", "De caritate", "De corr. fraterna", "De spe", "De virt. cardinal.", "De veritate", were often reprinted, e.g. recently by the Association of St. Paul (2 vols., Paris and Fribourg, Switzerland, 1883).
(2) "Quodlibeta" (may be rendered "Various Subjects", or "Free Discussions") -- They present questions or arguments proposed and answers given in or outside the lecture halls, chiefly in the more formal Scholastic exercises, termed circuli, conclusiones , or determinationes , which were held once or twice a year.
(3) "De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas" -- This opusculum refuted a very dangerous and widespread error, viz., that there was but one soul for all men, a theory which did away with individual liberty and responsibility. ( See AVERROES )
(4) "Commentaria in Libros Sententiarum" (mentioned above) -- This with the following work are the immediate forerunners of the "Summa theologica".
(5) "Summa de veritate catholicae fidei contra gentiles" (Treatise on the Truth of the Catholic Faith, against Unbelievers) -- This work, written at Rome, 1261-64, was composed at the request of St. Raymond of Pennafort, who desired to have a philosophical exposition and defence of the Christian Faith, to be used against the Jews and Moors in Spain. It is a perfect model of patient and sound apologetics, showing that no demonstrated truth ( science ) is opposed to revealed truth ( faith ). The best recent editions are those of Rome, 1878 (by Uccelli), of Paris and Fribourg, Switzerland, 1882, and of Rome, 1894. It has been translated into many languages. It is divided into four books: I. Of God as He is in Himself; II. Of God the Origin of Creatures; III. Of God the End of Creatures; IV. Of God in His Revelation. It is worthy of remark that the Fathers of the Vatican Council , treating the necessity of revelation (Constitution "Dei Filius", c. 2), employed almost the very words used by St. Thomas in treating that subject in this work (I, cc. iv, V), and in the "Summa theologica" ( I:1:1 ).
(6) Three works written by order of Urban IV --
- The "Opusculum contra errores Graecorum" refuted the errors of the Greeks on doctrines in dispute between them and the Roman Church, viz., the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, the primacy of the Roman pontiff, the Holy Eucharist, and purgatory. It was used against the Greeks with telling effect in the Council of Lyons (1274) and in the Council of Florence (1493). In the range of human reasonings on deep subjects there can be found nothing to surpass the sublimity and depth of the argument adduced by St. Thomas to prove that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son (cf. Summa I:36:2 ); but it must be borne in mind that our Faith is not based on that argument alone.
- "Officium de festo Corporis Christi". Mandonnet (Ecrits, p. 127) declares that it is now established beyond doubt that St. Thomas is the author of the beautiful Office of Corpus Christi, in which solid doctrine, tender piety, and enlightening Scriptural citations are combined, and expressed in language remarkably accurate, beautiful, chaste, and poetic. Here we find the well-known hymns, "Sacris Solemniis", "Pange Lingua" (concluding in the "Tantum Ergo" ), "Verbum Supernum" (concluding with the "O Salutaris Hostia" ) and, in the Mass, the beautiful sequence "Lauda Sion" . In the responses of the office, St. Thomas places side by side words of the New Testament affirming the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and texts from the Old Testament referring to the types and figures of the Eucharist. Santeuil, a poet of the seventeenth century, said he would give all the verses he had written for the one stanza of the "Verbum Supernum" : "Se nascens dedit socium, convescens in edulium: Se moriens in pretium, Se regnans dat in praemium" -- "In birth, man's fellow-man was He, His meat, while sitting at the Board: He died his Ransomer to be, He reigns to be his Great Reward" (tr. by Marquis of Bute ). Perhaps the gem of the whole office is the antiphon "O Sacrum Convivium" (cf. Conway, "St. Thomas Aquinas", London and New York, 1911, p. 61).
- The "Catena Aurea", though not as original as his other writings, furnishes a striking proof of St. Thomas's prodigious memory and manifests an intimate acquaintance with the Fathers of the Church . The work contains a series of passages selected from the writings of the various Fathers, arranged in such order that the texts cited form a running commentary on the Gospels. The commentary on St. Matthew was dedicated to Urban IV. An English translation of the "Catena Aurea" was edited by John Henry Newman (4 vols., Oxford, 1841-1845; see Vaughan, op. cit., vol. II,) pp. 529 sqq..
(7) The "Summa theologica"-- This work immortalized St. Thomas. The author himself modestly considered it simply a manual of Christian doctrine for the use of students. In reality it is a complete scientifically arranged exposition of theology and at the same time a summary of Christian philosophy ( see SUMMÆ ). In the brief prologue St. Thomas first calls attention to the difficulties experienced by students of sacred doctrine in his day, the causes assigned being: the multiplication of useless questions, articles, and arguments; the lack of scientific order; frequent repetitions, "which beget disgust and confusion in the minds of learners". Then he adds: "Wishing to avoid these and similar drawbacks, we shall endeavour, confiding in the Divine assistance, to treat of these things that pertain to sacred doctrine with brevity and clearness, in so far as the subject to he treated will permit."
In the introductory question, "On Sacred Doctrine" , he proves that, besides the knowledge which reason affords, Revelation also is necessary for salvation first, because without it men could not know the supenatural end to which they must tend by their voluntary acts ; secondly, because, without Revelation, even the truths concerning God which could be proved by reason would be known "only by a few, after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors ". When revealed truths have been accepted, the mind of man proceeds to explain them and to draw conclusions from them. Hence results theology, which is a science, because it proceeds from principles that are certain ( Answer 2 ). The object, or subject, of this science is God ; other things are treated in it only in so far as they relate to God ( Answer 7 ). Reason is used in theology not to prove the truths of faith, which are accepted on the authority of God, but to defend, explain, and develop the doctrines revealed ( Answer 8 ). He thus announces the division of the "Summa" : "Since the chief aim of this sacred science is to give the knowledge of God, not only as He is in Himself, but also as He is the Beginning of all things, and the End of all, especially of rational creatures, we shall treat first of God ; secondly, of the rational creature's advance towards God ( de motu creaturae rationalis in Deum ); thirdly, of Christ, Who, as Man, is the way by which we tend to God." God in Himself, and as He is the Creator; God as the End of all things, especially of man ; God as the Redeemer -- these are the leading ideas, the great headings, under which all that pertains to theology is contained.
The First Part is divided into three tracts:
- On those things which pertain to the Essence of God ;
- On the distinction of Persons in God (the mystery of the Trinity );
- On the production of creatures by God and on the creatures produced.
The Second Part, On God as He is in the End of man, is sometimes called the Moral Theology of St. Thomas, i.e., his treatise on the end of man and on human acts. It is subdivided into two parts, known as the First Section of the Second (I-II, or 1a 2ae) and the Second of the Second (II-II, or 2a 2ae).
The First of the Second. The first five questions are devoted to proving that man's last end, his beatitude, consists in the possession of God. Man attains to that end or deviates from it by human acts, i.e. by free, deliberate acts. Of human acts he treats, first, in general (in all but the first five questions of the I-II ), secondly, in particular (in the whole of the II-II ). The treatise on human acts in general is divided into two parts: the first, on human acts in themselves; the other, on the principles or causes, extrinsic or intrinsic, of those acts. In these tracts and in the Second of the Second, St. Thomas, following Aristotle, gives a perfect description and a wonderfully keen analysis of the movements of man's mind and heart.
The Second of the Second considers human acts, i.e., the virtues and vices, in particular. In it St. Thomas treats, first, of those things that pertain to all men, no matter what may be their station in life, and, secondly, of those things that pertain to some men only. Things that pertain to all men are reduced to seven headings: Faith, Hope, and Charity ; Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Under each title, in order to avoid repetitions, St. Thomas treats not only of the virtue itself, but also of the vices opposed to it, of the commandment to practise it, and of the gift of the Holy Ghost which corresponds to it. Things pertaining to some men only are reduced to three headings: the graces freely given ( gratia gratis datae ) to certain individuals for the good of the Church, such as the gifts of tongues, of prophecy, of miracles ; the active and the contemplative life ; the particular states of life, and duties of those who are in different states, especially bishops and religious.
The Third Part treats of Christ and of the benefits which He has conferred upon man, hence three tracts: On the Incarnation, and on what the Saviour did and suffered; On the Sacraments, which were instituted by Christ, and have their efficacy from His merits and sufferings ; On Eternal Life, i.e., on the end of the world, the resurrection of bodies, judgment, the punishment of the wicked, the happiness of the just who, through Christ, attain to eternal life in heaven.
Eight years were given to the composition of this work, which was begun at Rome, where the First Part and the First of the Second were written (1265-69). The Second of the Second, begun in Rome, was completed in Paris (1271). In 1272 St. Thomas went to Naples, where the Third Part was written, down to the ninetieth question of the tract On Penance ( see Leonine edition, I, p. xlii). The work has been completed by the addition of a supplement, drawn from other writings of St. Thomas, attributed by some to Peter of Auvergne , by others to Henry of Gorkum. These attributions are rejected by the editors of the Leonine edition (XI, pp. viii, xiv, xviii). Mandonnet (op. cit., 153) inclines to the very probable opinion that it was compiled by Father Reginald de Piperno , the saint's faithful companion and secretary.
The entire "Summa" contains 38 Treatises, 612 Questions, subdivided into 3120 articles, in which about 10,000 objections are proposed and answered. So admirably is the promised order preserved that, by reference to the beginning of the Tracts and Questions, one can see at a glance what place it occupies in the general plan, which embraces all that can be known through theology of God, of man, and of their mutual relations . . . "The whole Summa is arranged on a uniform plan. Every subject is introduced as a question, and divided into articles. . . . Each article has also a uniform disposition of parts. The topic is introduced as an inquiry for discussion, under the term Utrum , whether -- e.g. Utrum Deus sit? The objections against the proposed thesis are then stated. These are generally three or four in number, but sometimes extend to seven or more. The conclusion adopted is then introduced by the words, Respondeo dicendum . At the end of the thesis expounded the objections are answered, under the forms, ad primum, ad secundum , etc." . . . . The "Summa" is Christian doctrine in scientific form; it is human reason rendering its highest service in defence and explanation of the truths of the Christian religion. It is the answer of the matured and saintly doctor to the question of his youth: What is God ? Revelation, made known in the Scriptures and by tradition ; reason and its best results; soundness and fulness of doctrine, order, conciseness and clearness of expression, effacement of self, the love of truth alone, hence a remarkable fairness towards adversaries and calmness in combating their errors ; soberness and soundness of judgment, together with a charmingly tender and enlightened piety -- these are all found in this "Summa" more than in his other writings, more than in the writings of his contemporaries, for "among the Scholastic doctors, the chief and master of all, towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes (In 2am 2ae, Q. 148, a. 4) 'because he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all'" ( Encyclical, "Aeterni Patris", of Leo XIII ).
(b) Editions and Translations
It is impossible to mention the various editions of the "Summa", which has been in constant use for more than seven hundred years. Very few books have been so often republished. The first complete edition, printed at Basle in 1485, was soon followed by others, e.g., at Venice in 1505, 1509, 1588, 1594; at Lyons in 1520, 1541, 1547, 1548, 1581, 1588, 1624,1655; at Antwerp in 1575. These are enumerated by Touron (op. cit., p. 692), who says that about the same time other editions were published at Rome, Antwerp, Rouen, Paris, Douai, Cologne, Amsterdam, Bologna, etc. The editors of the Leonine edition deem worthy of mention those published at Paris in 1617, 1638, and 1648, at Lyons in 1663, 1677, and 1686, and a Roman edition of 1773 (IV, pp. xi, xii). Of all old editions they consider the most accurate two published at Padua, one in 1698, the other in 1712, and the Venice edition of 1755. Of recent editions the best are the following: the Leonine; the Migne editions (Paris, 1841, 1877); the first volume of the 1841 edition containing the "Libri quatuor sententiarum" of Peter Lombard ; the very practical Faucher edition (5 vols. small quarto, Paris, 1887), dedicated to Cardinal Pecci, enriched with valuable notes; a Roman edition of 1894. The "Summa" has been translated into many modern languages as well.
IIc. WRITINGS (METHOD AND STYLE)
It is not possible to characterize the method of St. Thomas by one word, unless it can be called eclectic. It is Aristotelean, Platonic, and Socratic ; it is inductive and deductive ; it is analytic and synthetic. He chose the best that could he found in those who preceded him, carefully sifting the chaff from the wheat, approving what was true, rejecting the false. His powers of synthesis were extraordinary. No writer surpassed him in the faculty of expressing in a few well-chosen words the truth gathered from a multitude of varying and conflicting opinions; and in almost every instance the student sees the truth and is perfectly satisfied with St. Thomas's summary and statement. Not that he would have students swear by the words of a master. In philosophy, he says, arguments from authority are of secondary importance; philosophy does not consist in knowing what men have said, but in knowing the truth (In I lib. de Coelo, lect. xxii; II Sent., D. xiv, a. 2, ad 1um). He assigns its proper place to reason used in theology ( see below: Influence of St. Thomas), but he keeps it within its own sphere. Against the Traditionalists the Holy See has declared that the method used by St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure does not lead to Rationalism ( Denzinger -Bannwart, n. 1652). Not so bold or original in investigating nature as were Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon, he was, nevertheless, abreast of his time in science, and many of his opinions are of scientific value in the twentieth century. Take, for instance, the following: "In the same plant there is the two-fold virtue, active and passive, though sometimes the active is found in one and the passive in another, so that one plant is said to be masculine and the other feminine" (3 Sent., D. III, Q. ii, a 1).
The style of St. Thomas is a medium between the rough expressiveness of some Scholastics and the fastidious elegance of John of Salisbury ; it is remarkable for accuracy, brevity, and completeness. Pope Innocent VI (quoted in t
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.