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Emulating the Angelic Doctor!

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By Hugh McNichol
Catholic Online

The Universal Church today recalls the life, works and intellectual abilities of Saint Thomas Aquinas. For any student of Catholic sacramental theology there are essentially two main points that always stand out, namely matter and form. When Catholic school students studied the components of what constituted a sacramental moment, we were always taught with much fanfare about the integral role matter and form has in the valid and licit celebrations of all of the sacraments.

We have this simple and clearly informative manner of explanation from the mind of Saint Thomas Aquinas, with his dissecting distinctions into two categories of the components of all things. We don't always give the appropriate credit to the Angelic Doctor as the inspirational teacher that inspired countless men and women throughout the centuries that have dedicated their temporal and spiritual lives trying to answer questions that involve essential...quidness...or whatness of human life and existence.

Many years ago, when I was in Catholic grade school, I was taught how to recognize and apply principles of Thomas Aquinas logic, epistemology and sacramental theology and didn't always appreciate it, or even understand it at the time. However, in life, the answers to really all questions in my life have come from the interrogative questions posed by the rational mind of Thomas Aquinas.

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As Catholics, the scholastic approach to seeking better understanding of all knowledge is deeply tied to things like internal forum, and external forum, matter and form, eternal or temporal, profaned or sacred. Whatever explanation we logically seek from our inquisitive attempt to understand the nature of God, or salvation history or just the simple explanation of our understanding of time, the philosophical influences of Thomas still overwhelm our senses and intellect even in the present day.

Thomas Aquinas' writings offer modern Catholics the opportunity to transcend purely cultural, social or religious biases and formulate a Catholic faith that integrates deeply felt sentiments of faith and reason in our everyday lives. Aquinas as well shows us very clearly that there is an on going and dialectical development of understanding between the philosophies of East and West, and their ideologies should both be peacefully explored as tangents of both faith and reason.

I find it very striking that the works of Thomas Aquinas not only try to bridge the gap between faith and reason, but also attempt to cross the chasm that is often presented by opposing points of view from multiple philosophies and cultures. Most clearly an axiom that resonates in my life very loudly is Thomas' lifelong proclamation that ..."virtus in medio stat,(virtue lies in the middle).

As modern Catholics, as global citizens and as inquisitive human beings we are offered everyday the opportunity to reach the middle ground in many aspects of our human existence. Some of the points that need constant negotiation are the constant struggles between good and evil, war and peace, temporal and spiritual, justice and injustice and so on.

Even though we don't always realize the consequences the dialectic tension of matter and form exists in so many other aspects of our daily Catholic lives. As cognitive believers in a transcendent reality of faith, we need to take up the scholarly pursuits of Thomas Aquinas and apply them to our daily relationships with each other, our faith and indeed the entire global community. Faith and reason can both indeed live in unique harmony among our Catholic values with all other sectarian pursuits of religious faith and long as we seek, like Thomas...virtue in the middle of all things!

Happy Feast Day to the Angelic intellectual synthesis of faith and reason in pursuit of truth and understanding.


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