St Thomas Aquinas Rediscovered

·         The medieval era was disparagingly treated by the Renaissance humanists, who saw it as a barbaric 'middle' period between the classical age of Greek and Roman culture, and the 'rebirth' or renaissance of classical culture.

·         Fueled by the Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason), which began first in Europe and later in American Colonies the general sentiment promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and slowly was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method.

·         Perhaps the most extreme implication of such Enlightened Way of Thinking was French Revolution with all its implications echoing deep into the brink of XXI century.

·         Modern historians though consider the medieval era to be one of philosophical development, although one heavily influenced by Christian theology. One of the most notable thinkers of the era, Thomas Aquinas never considered himself a philosopher, and criticized philosophers for always "falling short of the true and proper wisdom to be found in Christian revelation"

·         We need to always keep in perspective the great achievement of MEDIEVAL THINKERS and intertwining influence of PHILOSOPHY and THEOLOGY helping each other not only to preserve the ANTIQUITY for us ( example of Benedictine Monasteries) but influencing so many schools of thought impacting so many areas of life.

·         The great statement FIDES QUERENS INTELLECTUM ( Faith seeking Understanding ), originally the subtitle of St. Anselm's Proslogion (book to support the faith of the believer), this phrase became the motto of scholasticism ( Scholastic Method of Studies ) .

·         For Anselm it signified the endeavor of one who has the faith to understand what he believes. One achieves this by putting his mind to the contemplation of God and by reflecting upon what he contemplates.

·         In his PROSLOGION Anselm sought to find a single argument that needed nothing but itself alone for proof, that would by itself be enough to show that God really exists; that he is the supreme good, who depends on nothing else, but on whom all things depend for their being and for their well-being.

·         Medieval scholars called it “Anselm's” argument (ratio Anselmi ) and Immanuel Kant later applied the term, the "onthological argument".

·         Anselm defined his belief in the existence of God using the phrase "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". He reasoned that, if "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" existed only in the intellect, it would not be "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. It follows, according to Anselm, that "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" must exist in reality. The bulk of the Proslogion is taken up with Anselm's attempt to establish the identity of "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" as God, and thus to establish that God exists in reality.

·         Anselm's ontological proof has been the subject of controversy since it was first published in the 1070s nonetheless it is an attempt to critically express UNEXPRESSABLE; He suggested that, if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality. If it only exists in the mind, a greater being is possible—one which exists in the mind and in reality.

·         Today, more than ever we need to Re – Discover some of the genius of Medieval Philosophy, with its exemplary Thomas of Aquino, the father of Thomism.

·         His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived in development or refutation of his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.

·         The works for which he is best known are the Summa Theologica and the Summa contra Gentiles.

·         More and more I am convinced that today ion the Western Hemisphere we experience a tragedy of the “ Ignorance of both – Religion and Science”. An artificial conflict between science and religion is in a way a sad characteristic of the modern tendencies in critical thinking fueled by irrational tendencies.

·         On 6 December 1273 at the Dominican convent of Naples in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas,  Thomas lingered and was seen by the sacristan Domenic of Caserta to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?" Thomas responded, "Nothing but you Lord."

·         After this exchange something happened, but Thomas never spoke of it or wrote it down. Because of what he saw, he abandoned his routine and refused to dictate to his socius Reginald of Piperno.

·          When Reginald begged him to get back to work, Thomas replied: “Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me” (mihi videtur ut palea).

·         What exactly triggered Thomas's change in behavior is believed by Catholics to have been some kind of supernatural experience of God.

 

All Quotations and references: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

 

Fr. Mirek Stachurski

 

 

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