Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas and Protestants

h/t: Catholic Memes

A Companion to the Summa

A superlative resource! Fr. Walter Farrell's A Companion to the Summa, now on-line, is a reliable commentary on the Summa Theologica. You may find the latter volumes easier to begin with due to the subject matter being treated.

Sunday, November 5, 2017


"... it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above, adds: "This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins." This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, Supplementum Tertiæ Partis (Appx. II), A. 1.

Also see (Appx. I) Q. 2.

Dante and the Three Kingdoms (detail), by Domenico di Michelino.
 Oil on canvas, 1465; Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Prayer of St. Thomas for Wisdom and Knowledge

Lord, give me wisdom, the companion of Your throne, that it may ever be with me and labor with me, so that I may know what is acceptable to You, Lord God. Who is there that can know your meaning unless You give wisdom and send Your Holy Spirit from on high?

Mary, Mother of fair love and fear and knowledge and holy hope, through your faithful intercession, many though otherwise of modest talent, have made marvelous progress in learning and holiness. I choose you as the guardian and patron of my studies. By your heart full of maternal love, and, above all, by that Eternal Wisdom which condescended to take our flesh from you and beyond all the saints made you shine with heavenly light, I humbly ask you to obtain for me, through your intercession, the grace of the Holy Spirit. May it enable me to grasp with my mind, retain in my memory, and express by my words and my life, all that shall give honor to you and your Son and be blessedly conducive to my eternal salvation. Amen.

Merciful God, grant me, I beg of You, ardently to desire, prudently to study, truly to understand, and perfectly to fulfill those things that are pleasing to You, for the praise and glory of Your name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(From Father Hardon’s Catholic Prayer Book: With Meditations)

St. Thomas Inspired by the Dove of the Holy Ghost, by Sasseta.
Tempera on wood, 1423; Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Schism and Heresy

"HENCE it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will."

~Summa Theologica II-II, q. 5., a. 3.

"HERESY AND SCHISM are distinguished in respect of those things to which each is opposed essentially and directly. For heresy is essentially opposed to faith, while schism is essentially opposed to the unity of ecclesiastical charity. Wherefore just as faith and charity are different virtues, although whoever lacks faith lacks charity, so too schism and heresy are different vices, although whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic, but not conversely. This is what Jerome says in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians [In Ep. ad Tit. iii, 10]: "I consider the difference between schism and heresy to be that heresy holds false doctrine while schism severs a man from the Church." Nevertheless, just as the loss of charity is the road to the loss of faith, according to 1 Timothy 1:6: "From which things," i.e. charity and the like, "some going astray, are turned aside into vain babbling," so too, schism is the road to heresy. Wherefore Jerome adds (In Ep. ad Tit. iii, 10) that "at the outset it is possible, in a certain respect, to find a difference between schism and heresy: yet there is no schism that does not devise some heresy for itself, that it may appear to have had a reason for separating from the Church."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 39, a. 1, ad 3.

"Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure"

"THE point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom.

Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa contra Gentiles, I, Ch. 6.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pieper: The Purpose of Politics

ALL practical activity, from the practice of the ethical virtues to gaining the means of livelihood, serves something other than itself. And this other thing is not practical activity. It is having what is sought after, while we rest content in the results of our active efforts. Precisely that is the meaning of the old adage that the vita activa is fulfilled in the vita contemplativa. To be sure, the active life contains a felicity of its own; it lies, says Thomas, principally in the practice of prudence, in the perfect art of the conduct of life. But ultimate repose cannot be found in this kind of felicity. Vita activa est dispositio ad contemplativam; the ultimate meaning of the active life is to make possible the happiness of contemplation.

In the commentary Thomas wrote on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics there is a sentence which expresses this idea in so challenging a fashion that I hesitate to cite it here. Thomas is speaking of politics, which is the summation of all man’s active cares about securing his existence. The sentence sounds almost utopian. But it is based upon a wholly illusion-free estimate of what is commonly called “political life”; it contain the insight that politics must inevitably become empty agitation if it does not aim at something which is not political. “The whole of political life seems to be ordered with a view to attaining the happiness of contemplation. For peace, which is established and preserved by virtue of political activity, places man in a position to devote himself to contemplation of the truth.” Such is the magnificent simplicity and keenness of this dictum that we scarcely dare lean on it. Yet it is nothing but an extension of the idea that contemplation is “the goal of man’s whole life.”

We do not mean by this to scorn or decry practical life. On the contrary, we may well say that here is the clue to salvation and redemption of ordinary life. And here it seems proper to put in a word about the nature of hierarchical thinking. The hierarchical point of view admits no doubt about differences in levels and their location; but it also never despises lower levels in the hierarchy. Thus the inherent dignity of practice (as opposed to theoria) is in no way denied. It is taken for granted that practice is not only meaningful but indispensable; that it rightly fills out man’s weekday life; that without it a truly human existence is inconceivable. Without it, indeed, the vita contemplativa is unthinkable.

But practice does become meaningless the moment it sees itself as an end in itself. For this means converting what is by nature a servant into a master—with the inevitable result that it no longer serves any useful purpose. The absurdity and the profound dangers of this procedure cannot, in the long run, remain hidden. André Gide writes in his Journals: “The truth is that as soon as we are no longer obliged to earn out living, we no longer know what to do with our life and recklessly squander it.” Here, with his usual acuteness, Gide has described the deadly emptiness and the endless ennui which bounds the realm of the exclusively practical like a belt of lunar landscape. This is the desert which results from destruction of the vita contemplativa. In the light of such a recognition we suddenly see new and forceful validity in the old principle: “It is requisite for the good of the human community that there should be persons who devote themselves to the life of contemplation.” For it is contemplation which preserves in the midst of human society the truth which is at one and the same time useless and the yardstick of every possible use; so it is also contemplation which keeps the true end insight, gives meaning to every practical act of life.

─Selected from Josef Pieper: An Anthology

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