Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prayer Before Study

St. Thomas frequently recited this before he dictated, wrote, or preached.

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
have established three hierarchies of angels,
have arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and have marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

May You,
guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.


~From The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Adler: Aristotle for Everybody

Recommended Reading:

Obviously many of Aquinas’ writings are unintelligible without Aristotle. Since the modern student has great difficulty reading and understanding Aristotle, I recommend that the beginner in philosophy start by reading Aristotle for Everybody: Difficult Thought Made Easy, by Mortimer J. Adler.

Adler, a leading 20th century philosopher and educator, says, “Almost all of the philosophical truths that I have come to know and understand I have learned from Aristotle.” Adler continues to state in his Introduction to Aristotle for Everybody:

“Why Aristotle?

“Why for everybody?

“And why is an exposition of Aristotle for everybody an introduction to common sense?

“I can answer these three questions better after I have answered one other. Why philosophy? Why should everyone learn how to thing philosophically—how to ask the kind of searching questions that children and philosophers ask and that philosophers sometimes answer?

“I have long been of the opinion that philosophy is everybody’s business—but not in order to get more information about the world, our society, and ourselves. For that purpose, it would be better to turn to the natural and social sciences and to history. It is in another way that philosophy is useful—to help us to understand things we already know, understand them better than we now understand them. That is why I think everyone should learn how to think philosophically.”

See this book at Amazon • Aristotle for Everybody

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Charity is friendship"

"IT IS written (Jn 15:15): "I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends." Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.

"... According to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 2,3) not every love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to him. If, how...ever, we do not wish good to what we love, but wish its good for ourselves, (thus we are said to love wine, or a horse, or the like), it is love not of friendship, but of a kind of concupiscence. For it would be absurd to speak of having friendship for wine or for a horse.

"Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication.

"Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written (1 Cor 1:9): "God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son." The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: S.T. II-II q. 23, a. 1.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


"BEFORE MACHIAVELLI, princes and conquerors did not hesitate to apply on many occasions bad faith, perfidy, falsehood, cruelty, assassination, every kind of crime of which the flesh and blood man is capable, to the attainment of power and success and to the satisfaction of their greed and ambition. But in so doing they felt guilty, they had a bad conscience to the extent that they had a conscience. Therefore, a specific kind of unconscious and unhappy hypocrisy -- that is, the shame of appearing to oneself such as one is -- a certain amount of self-restraint, and that deep and deeply human uneasiness which we experience in doing what we do not want to do and what is forbidden by a law that we know to be true, prevented the crimes in question from becoming a rule, and provided governed peoples with a limping accommodation between good and evil which, in broad outline, made their oppressed lives, after all, livable.

"After Machiavelli, not only the princes and conquerors of the cinquecento, but the great leaders and makers of modern states and modern history, in employing injustice for establishing order, and every kind of useful evil for satisfying their will to power, will have a clear conscience and feel that they accomplish their duty as political heads. Suppose they are not merely skeptical in moral matters, and have some religious and ethical convictions in connection with man's personal behavior, then they will be obliged, in connection with the field of politics, to put aside these convictions, or to place them in a parenthesis; they will stoically immolate their personal morality on the altar of the political good. What was a simple matter of fact, with all the weaknesses and inconsistencies pertaining, even in the evil, to accidental and contingent things, has become, after Machiavelli, a matter of right, with all the firmness and steadiness proper to necessary things. A plain disregard of good and evil has been considered the rule, not of human morality -- Machiavelli never pretended to be a moral philosopher -- but of human politics.

"For not only do we owe to Machiavelli our having become aware and conscious of the immorality displayed, in fact, by the mass of political men, but by the same stroke he taught us that this very immorality is the very law of politics. Here is that Machiavellian perversion of politics which was linked, in fact, with the Machiavellian prise de conscience of average political behavior in mankind. The historic responsibility of Machiavelli consists in having accepted, recognized, indorsed as normal the fact of political immorality, and in having stated that good politics, politics conformable to its true nature and to its genuine aims, is by essence non-moral politics.

"Machiavelli belongs to that series of minds, and some of them more profound than his, which all through modern times have endeavored to unmask the human being. To have been the first in this lineage is the greatness of this narrow thinker eager to serve the Medici as well as the popular party in Florence, and disappointed on both counts. Yet in unmasking the human being he maimed its very flesh, and wounded its eyes. To have thoroughly rejected ethics, metaphysics and theology from the realm of political knowledge and political prudence is his very own achievement, and it is also the most violent mutilation suffered by the human practical intellect and the organism of practical wisdom."

~Jacques Maritain: The Range of Reason, 11, 1; 'Machiavelli's Machiavellianism'.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Adoro Te Devote - Hidden God

Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee,
Truly present underneath these veils:
All my heart subdues itself before Thee,
Since it all before Thee faints and fails.

Not to sight, or taste, or touch be credit,
Hearing only do we trust secure;
I believe, for God the Son hath said it–
Word of Truth that ever shall endure.

On the Cross was veiled Thy Godhead's splendor,
Here Thy manhood lieth hidden too;
Unto both alike my faith I render,
And, as sued the contrite thief, I sue.

Though I look not on Thy wounds with Thomas,
Thee, my Lord, and Thee, my God, I call:
Make me more and more believe Thy promise,
Hope in Thee, and love Thee over all.

O Memorial of my Saviour dying,
Living Bread that givest life to man;
May my soul, its life from Thee supplying,
Taste Thy sweetness, as on earth it can.

Deign, O Jesus, pelican of heaven,
Me, a sinner, in Thy Blood to lave,
To a single drop of which is given
All the world from all its sin to save.

Contemplating Lord, Thy hidden presence,
Grant me what I thirst for and implore,
In the revelation of Thine essence
To behold Thy glory evermore.


Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Que sub his figuris vere latitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum subjicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur:
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.

In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro poenitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere.

O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere.

Pie pellicane, Jesu domine,
Me immundum munda tuo sanguine:
Cujus una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere.

Jesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio:
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae. Amen.

~St. Thomas Aquinas

"The birth-day of the Lord"

"WE OUGHT to celebrate the birth-day of the Lord, the day of mercy, with mercy and truth. Christ came to us in these two ways, and so we ought to go to Him. Ps. xxv. 10, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." To celebrate the day of grace with purity and humility, for these two graces make acceptable grace. Of the first, Prov. xxii. 11, "He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the King shall be his friend." Of the second, James iv. 6, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble."

~St. Thomas Aquinas:  Advent Homily 1.

Nativity, by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Tempera on panel, c. 1492; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Matter and Form

“EVERY individual thing in the world except minds is a union of form with at least “local matter” [matter for locomotion, matter for alteration, for change of size, for coming into being and passing away]. But a still more attenuated kind of matter may be distinguished by thought though it never exists without “sensible matter,” i.e. without, at least, local matter. This is “intelligible matter” —in other words, spatial extension. The recognition of this comes late in Aristotle’s thought and is confined, so far as explicit mention goes, to the “Metaphysics.” From any sensible thing you may think away its whole sensible matter. In the case of terrestrial things you can abstract from their possession of the fundamental qualities—heat or cold, dryness or fluidity—and of all the consequential qualities; in the case of celestial things you may abstract from their capacity for rotation; both alike will still have shape and size. You will have passed by abstraction from actual bodies to the objects of mathematics.

“You can think first of these bodies simply as three-dimensional objects and nothing more. You can then consider the plane sections of these solids apart from the third dimension from which they are in fact inseparable. Similarly you can consider apart the linear sections of these planes, though these have again have no separate existence. Though you have now abstracted from all that would in ordinary language be called matter, you have not yet come to pure form. For a particular straight line or plane or solid (which some Platonists naïvely indentified with the numbers, 2, 3, 4 respectively, and which modern mathematics with greater accuracy represents by equations) by being embodied in extension. Abstract from extension or “intelligible matter,” and nothing but pure form is left.”

~From Aristotle: A Complete Exposition of His Works & Thought, by W.D. Ross.


Sensible Form and Intelligible Form

“EVERYTHING in the cosmic universe is composed of matter and form.  Everything is concrete and individual. Hence the forms of cosmic entities must also be concrete and individual. Now, the process of knowledge is immediately concerned with the separation of form from matter, since a thing is known precisely because its form is received in the knower. But, whatever is received is in the recipient according to the mode of being that the recipient possesses. If, then, the senses are material powers, they receive the forms of objects in a material manner; and if the intellect is an immaterial power, it receives the forms of objects in an immaterial manner. This means that in the case of sense knowledge, the form is still encompassed with the concrete characters which make it particular; and that, in the case of intellectual knowledge, the form is disengaged from all such characters. To understand is to free form completely from matter.

“Moreover, if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

“The separation of form from matter requires two stages if the idea is to be elaborated: first, the sensitive stage, wherein the external and internal senses operate upon the material object, accepting its form without matter, but not without the appendages of matter; second the intellectual stage, wherein agent intellect operates upon the phantasmal datum, divesting the form of every character that marks and indentifies it as a particular something.

“Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandable. The product of abstraction is a species of an intelligible order. Now possible intellect is supplied with an adequate stimulus to which it responds by producing a concept.”

~From Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan, O.P.; Macmillan Co., 1941. (Additional paragraphing and emphasis added).

"We ought to obey God rather than man"

"LAWS framed by man are either just or unjust. If they be just, they have the power of binding in conscience, from the eternal law whence they are derived, according to Proverbs 8:15: "By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things." Now laws are said to be just, both from the end, when, to wit, they are ordained to the common good--and from their author, that is to say, when the law that is made does not exceed the power of the lawgiver--and from their form, when, to wit, burdens are laid on the subjects, according to an equality of proportion and with a view to the common good. For, since one man is a part of the community, each man in all that he is and has, belongs to the community; just as a part, in all that it is, belongs to the whole; wherefore nature inflicts a loss on the part, in order to save the whole: so that on this account, such laws as these, which impose proportionate burdens, are just and binding in conscience, and are legal laws.

"On the other hand laws may be unjust in two ways: first, by being contrary to human good, through being opposed to the things mentioned above--either in respect of the end, as when an authority imposes on his subjects burdensome laws, conducive, not to the common good, but rather to his own cupidity or vainglory--or in respect of the author, as when a man makes a law that goes beyond the power committed to him--or in respect of the form, as when burdens are imposed unequally on the community, although with a view to the common good. The like are acts of violence rather than laws; because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5), "a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all." Wherefore such laws do not bind in conscience, except perhaps in order to avoid scandal or disturbance, for which cause a man should even yield his right, according to Matthew 5:40-41: "If a man . . . take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him; and whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two."

"Secondly, laws may be unjust through being opposed to the Divine good: such are the laws of tyrants inducing to idolatry, or to anything else contrary to the Divine law: and laws of this kind must nowise be observed, because, as stated in Acts 5:29, "we ought to obey God rather than man.""

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica I-II, Q. 96, Art. 4.

Immateriality of form is the principle of knowledge

From Nature, Knowledge and God: An Introduction to Thomistic Philosophy, by Bother Benignus, F.S.C., Ph.D.

Form and Intelligibility. Intelligibility means capacity to be understood or to be an idea. It is St. Thomas’ teaching that forms are of themselves intelligible; that is to say, they are ideas, either potential ideas, when they are immersed in matter, or actual ideas, when they are free from matter. The form of anything is its idea, and this form, in the mind, makes a thing known to the mind.

“What is called “idea” in the Greek is called “forma” in Latin. Whence by ideas we understand the forms of certain things existing apart from things. Now the form of a thing existing apart from the thing can have a twofold being: it may either be the exemplar of that of which it is called the form, or it may be the principle by which the thing is known, for which reason the forms of things known are said to be in the one knowing.” (S. theol., I Q. 15, Art. 1, C. Cf. De Ver., III, 2, c.)

When a form is not actually intelligible, this is not due to anything in itself as form, but to its mode of existence in matter. Every form existing free from matter is actually intelligible, that is to say, is an actual idea.

Form and Intelligence. St. Thomas goes further than this. He not only equates form with intelligibility, but also with intelligence. How far the Angelic doctor goes in identifying form with intelligibility and intelligence is made clear by the following passages:

“Just as matter is the principle of particularity, so is intelligibility due to form. For this reason form is the principle of knowledge. Wherefore, it follows necessarily that every form existing in itself apart from matter is intellectual in nature; and if, indeed, it subsists in itself, it will also be an intelligence. If, on the other hand, it is not subsistent but rather a perfection of some subsistent being, it will not be an intelligence, but a principle of understanding. (In I Sent., d. 35. Q. 1, 1, c.)

“If there were a box subsisting in itself without matter, it would understand itself; because of this, the box without matter would not differ from the intelligible box.” (De Spirit. Creat., I ad 12.)

“Every form subsisting in itself without matter is an intellectual substance; for immunity from matter confers intelligibility.” (Con. Gen., II, 91.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kingship of Christ

Kingship of Christ According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas
By Rev. Denis Fahey

OUR supernatural life of Divine Grace comes to us from Our Lord Jesus Christ, Head of His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church, while we continue to receive our disordered natural life from the first Adam. "For, if by one man's offence, death reigned through one: much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one Jesus Christ" (Rom. v. 17). Our Lord is then our Head. Now St. Thomas distinguishes a twofold function of the grace of Headship, analogous to the double role exercised by the head with regard to the members of the body. "The head," he says, "has a twofold influence upon the members: an interior influence, because the head transmits to the other members the power of moving and feeling; and an exterior influence of government, because by the sense of sight and the other senses which reside in it, the head directs a man in his exterior actions." (III. P. Q. 8. a. 6)  St. Thomas then goes on to remark that Christ also, by His grace of Headship, has a twofold influence upon souls: an interior influence of supernatural life, because His Humanity, united to His Divinity has the power of justification; an exterior influence by His government of His subjects. The role of justification and sanctification is that of Christ as Priest, while the second prerogative of government and direction constitutes the spiritual Kingship of Christ. We have said the "spiritual" Kingship of Christ, for we must distinguish between the spiritual and the temporal Kingship of Christ or between His Primacy in the supernatural order and His Primacy in the natural order.
"That this Kingdom, indeed, is in a special manner spiritual and concerned with things spiritual is quite plain from the extracts from Scripture above quoted; and Christ's own line of action confirms this view. He, however, would be guilty of shameful error who would deny to Christ as man authority over civil affairs no matter what their nature, since, by virtue of the absolute dominion over all creatures He holds from His Father, all things are in His Power. Nevertheless, during His life on earth He refrained altogether  from exercising such dominion and, despising the possession and administration of earthly goods, He left them to their possessors then, and He does so today" (Encyclical Letter, Quas Primas, of His Holiness Pope Pius XI).

Christ's Kingship is, above all, Spiritual

To Jesus Christ then as King, Spiritual Ruler, it appertains to set before the faithful the common end they should attain and to point out to them the means of attaining it, thus guiding the exterior and visible movement of the whole mystical Body to Eternal Happiness.

To Jesus Christ as King, it belongs also to determine the proper sanction for the precepts He imposes, to reward and punish His subjects according to their deserts.

Finally, it is for Jesus Christ as King, in virtue of the work of Redemption which He must accomplish, to conquer His Kingdom and defend His faithful subjects against the enemies who strive to overthrow His reign here below. Christ's Spiritual Kingship is militant and the struggle against moral evil must go on as long as men remain here below exposed to suffering and death, to corruption and sin. Only in eternity shall the triumph be complete, by the victory of the good and the defeat of the wicked.

Of course it must not be forgotten that this struggle against evil on the part of Christ the King is in close relation with His Priesthood: for it is by sanctifying souls and uniting them to God that He withdraws them from sin and conquers them for His Kingdom. As has been pointed out above, we must here keep in mind the twofold aspect of Christ's Headship: the negative aspect of His combat against sin and His warring down of evil, which belongs to His Kingship, and the positive one of uniting souls to God, which is the function of His Priesthood.

Spiritual Kingship comprises the Right of Intervention in Temporal Affairs

Our Lord, as has been said, came down to restore to men the Divine Life of grace, their highest and most real life, and this mission of salvation confers on Him full power of governing in the spiritual order. But, though we have been raised to the life of grace, we must, nevertheless, continue to live our human life, and the organization demanded by this life remains always necessary. Our human or natural life must, however, be in subordination to our Divine Life, so that instead of hindering its development, it may, on the contrary, indirectly contribute thereto. Grace gives to our activity a new elevation by lifting it up to the God of Revelation, known and loved in Himself, but we have to work out our salvation in the conditions of existence imposed on us by our situation in the world and in contact with the lowly realities of daily life. The temporal order, with the rulers appointed to maintain it, subsists along with the supernatural order and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. In both spheres authority is exercised in its proper domain.

But, because the temporal is in subordination to the spiritual and because the final end of man, the end which dominates all others, is supernatural, we must concede to the ruler in the supernatural order a right of intervention in the strictly natural sphere, a right which must be measured by the necessity or utility of maintaining and developing the Divine Life of grace in souls. The Spiritual Kingship of Christ, then, comprises the power of intervention in human affairs and, in fact, we see Our Lord in the Gospel making use of it, when, for example, He drove the traffickers from the Temple, thus proclaiming the right of God to be honoured in becoming fashion, even though that meant imposing restrictions upon the commercial liberty of men.

It must, however, be borne in mind that this power of intervention in the temporal order does not confer a new royal dignity upon Christ, but is comprised in the attributes of His spiritual Royalty. For it is not here question of commanding and legislating in view of conducting human society to its common good in the natural order, which belongs to the civil power, but of opposing everything that could hinder the progress of the supernatural life and of the social order consonant with it, and of obtaining from the rulers in the civil order the co-operation necessary therefor. This power forms part of the attributes of the Spiritual Kingship, for it is at its service and is so to say its instrument.

Temporal Kingship of Christ

Here we are no longer concerned with a right of intervention in temporal affairs for the sake of the higher interests of His Mystical Body. Temporal kingship supposes that he who is invested with it pursues a temporal end and that he has directly in view the common good, in the natural order, of the society confided to him and the temporal welfare of his people. Of course there is no question of Our Lord having taken over or being about to take over the government of any particular country or people. The kings and rulers of the earth need not fear that they shall be deprived of their authority: Our Lord's Royalty is universal. But is not Christ the sovereign and judge of all kings and rulers? Has He not a right to rule them as a body, to dictate His laws to them, to reward or punish them for the good or bad use of their power? The Encyclical "Quas Primas,” in the passage above quoted, answers these questions decisively in the affirmative. To the rulers of the earth it belongs to legislate in civil affairs, to determine sanctions for their laws and to judge their subjects guilty of transgressions of these laws. Our Lord reserves to Himself the right of pronouncing final judgment on the Last Day on the civil administration of all earthly rulers as well as on their attitude to the supernatural order. For rulers will have to render an account both of the manner in which they sought the natural common good of their subjects and of the way in which they observed the objective order of the world that belongs to Christ, by their acknowledgment of the Indirect Power of the supernatural society founded by Him, the Catholic Church, in temporal affairs. This power is, as we shall see immediately, a part of the Church's participation in the spiritual Kingship of Christ.

The Church's Participation in the Spiritual Kingship of Christ

The title makes it clear that the Temporal Kingship of Christ has not to be considered here. The mission of the Catholic Church, supernatural and supra-national, is the spiritual one of the outpouring of the Divine Life. The Church has not received purely temporal Royalty from her Divine Founder, so it is here question of Spiritual Kingship only. But the Spiritual Kingship of Our Lord could not be exercised in an efficacious manner without a visible, permanent intermediary, capable of giving to souls at all times and in all places the directions needed for the safeguard and diffusion of the Divine Life. This mission has been confided only to the Catholic Church. Accordingly, in order to form an adequate idea of the Spiritual Kingship of Christ, we must consider its radiation down the centuries in the Church and through the Church in the world. The Pope and the Bishops are the representatives of Christ, the lieutenants of His Spiritual Royalty. They have the charge of holding up before the world the supernatural ideal of life to be lived by all men and laying down the laws and precepts to be observed, in order that that life may not be lost: to them it belongs to regulate the distribution of all the means confided to the Church by Our Lord for the development of the Divine Life, to establish fitting sanctions for all offences that jeopardize the interests of that life, and, finally, to carryon the struggle against the powers of evil by every form of missionary effort, following the example of Christ.

Here we must carefully distinguish between the Church's participation in Our Lord's Priesthood and her participation in His Kingship. "The interior influence of grace can come from Christ alone, Whose Humanity united to the Divinity has the power of justifying. But the influence which Our Lord exercises by His exterior government can be communicated to others. Those others are the heads of the Church ... they are heads because they take Christ's place" (Summ. Theol., III. P. Q. 8. a. 6).

In other words, when the Church governs in the name of Christ she is truly a proper and principal, though subordinate, cause of her government. Thus, as Spouse of Christ and True Regent of souls on earth, she has the right that we should recognize her authority and should bow down before her. When, on the other hand, through her priesthood and the Sacraments, she communicates grace to us, she is in this, only the instrument used by Christ to vivify our souls. It must, however, be remembered at once that, since the Sacred Humanity of Christ is immediately united to the Word, His Royalty and His Priesthood receive thereby a fullness, a universality and a perfection which can be participated in by the Church only in a limited fashion. St. Thomas points out that Christ rules the men of all places, times, and states, while the heads of the Church either govern only in certain places for a limited time as Bishops, or without limit as to place, but only for a limited time as is the case with the Pope, the rule of both Pope and Bishops being limited to those living on the earth (III. P. Q. 8. a. 6). Besides, Christ commands by His own authority, for all things are subject to Him. The Rulers of the Church have only the authority communicated to them by Christ.

The influence, then, which Christ exercises on the world, by His Priesthood and His Kingship, surpasses in extent and compass, even here below, the influence of the visible Church. All men, St. Thomas teaches (III. P. Q. 8. a. 3. c. et ad I), belong to Christ, even though they be heretics or pagans, and on them Christ can act in an invisible manner, by providing them with the help they need, in order to be converted, by even raising them to the Divine Life, if their invincible ignorance keeps them outside the one True Church. The Church always remains the centre from which the Divine Life, which is found in its fullness in Christ, radiates throughout the world. By right the Church is universal and her influence here below ever seeks to be co-extensive with that of her Divine Head and Founder. Men are subject to the Priesthood and Kingship of Christ while yet outside the Church, but in order to reap the full benefit, for the spiritual life, of this subjection to Our Lord, one must be fully incorporated into Christ, in accordance with the order He Himself has established. One must be a child of the Church, to which He has confided the infinite riches of the Redemption.

We have previously seen that the Spiritual Kingship of Christ comprises the right of intervention in temporal affairs, in so far as the interests of the Divine Life of souls demand it. Charged by Our Lord with the continuance of His mission here below, the Church, though without direct power in temporal affairs as such, has, nevertheless, by her participation in the Kingship of Christ, the right of intervening in temporal affairs in order to safeguard the interests of the Divine Life.

This is the Divine origin of what has been usually called, since the time of St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez, the Indirect Power of the Pope.

Here it may be well to open a parenthesis concerning the Temporal Sovereignty of the Pope in his own State, so as to preclude any confusion in minds between this Temporal Sovereignty and the Indirect Power of which we are speaking. The Temporal Sovereignty of the Pope in the Vatican State is completely different from his Indirect Power in temporal affairs. It is, however, a consequence of the Pope's participation in the Spiritual Kingship of Christ as His Vicar on earth. The Temporal Sovereignty of the Pope in the Papal States or in the Vatican City is the condition by which alone in normal fashion obstacles and hindrances are removed to the enjoyment of that full immunity bestowed on him by Our Divine Lord when He made St. Peter His Vicar on earth, with the charge of spiritually governing the whole Church. That particular Temporal Sovereignty is the normal condition which Divine Providence has provided for the exercise of the Spiritual Kingship of Our Lord's Vicar. Accordingly, the Pope, who is supreme judge, the world over, directly of spiritual matters, indirectly of temporal affairs, by reason of the spiritual interests involved, is also temporal and civil ruler of a small State. In the latter capacity he stands in a special relation to his civil subjects.


Quas Primas

The Ghent Altarpiece: God Almighty, by Jan van Eyck.
Oil on wood, 1426-27; Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"The grace of one soul"

"A thing is called great in two ways: first, in an absolute quantity, and thus the gift of glory is greater than the gift of grace that sanctifies the ungodly; and in this respect the glorification of the just is greater than the justification of the ungodly. Secondly, a thing may be said to be great in proportionate quantity, and thus the gift of grace that justifies the ungodly is greater than the gift of glory that beatifies the just, for the gift of grace exceeds the worthiness of the ungodly, who are worthy of punishment, more than the gift of glory exceeds the worthiness of the just, who by the fact of their justification are worthy of glory. Hence Augustine says: "Let him that can, judge whether it is greater to create the angels just, than to justify the ungodly. Certainly, if they both betoken equal power, one betokens greater mercy."

The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: S.T. I-II, q. 113, a. 9.

John Paul II: International Thomistic Conference 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am delighted to address this Message to you, distinguished theologians, philosophers and experts, participants in the International Thomistic Congress that is taking place in Rome in these days. I am grateful to the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas and to the International Society of Thomas Aquinas, Thomistic institutions well known in the scientific world, for organizing this meeting, as well as for the service they render to the Church by promoting deeper knowledge of the Angelic Doctor's teaching.

I warmly greet everyone present, with a special thought for Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, for Fr Abelardo Lobato, President of both the Academy and the International Society of Thomas Aquinas, and for the Secretary, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo. To one and all I offer a most cordial welcome.

2. The theme of the Congress - "Christian humanism in the third millennium" - continues along the lines of the research on man that you began at your two previous Congresses. According to the perspective of St Thomas, the great theologian also described as Doctor humanitatis, human nature is in itself open and good. Man is naturally capax Dei (fit to receive God) (Summa Theologiae, I, II, 113, 10; St Augustine, De Trinit. XIV, 8; PL 42, 1044), created to live in communion with his Creator; he is a free and intelligent individual, integrated in the community with his own duties and rights; he is the connecting link between the two great spheres of reality, the material and the spiritual, and fully belongs to both. The soul is the unifying part of the person's being and makes him a person. In man, St Thomas observes, grace does not destroy nature but fulfils its potential:  "gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit" (Summa Theologiae, I, I, 8 ad 2).

3. The Second Vatican Council made room for Christian humanism in its documents, starting with the fundamental principle that "man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 14). Yet another striking insight comes from Vatican II:  "It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (ibid., n. 22).

With profound anticipation, Aquinas had already placed himself in this perspective:  from the very beginning of the Summa Theologiae, which focuses on the relationship between man and God, he sums up the plan of his future exposition in a concentrated but clear formula: "primo tractabimus de Deo; secundo de motu rationalis creaturae in Deum; tertio de Cristo, qui secundum quod homo, via est nobis tendendi in Deum" (Summa Theologiae, I, 2, Prologue).

The Angelic Doctor probes reality from the point of view of God, the beginning and end of all things (cf. ibid., I, 1, 7). This perspective is an unusually interesting one because it permits us to penetrate the depths of the human being in order to grasp the essential dimensions. It is here that we find the distinctive feature of Thomistic humanism which, in the opinion of many scholars, assures the correct approach and consequently, the possibility for ever new developments. In fact, Aquinas' concept integrates and binds together the three dimensions of the problem:  the anthropological, ontological and theological.

4. Now you are asking - this is, distinguished participants, the theme of your Congress - what specific contribution can St Thomas make to the understanding and fulfilment of Christian humanism at the beginning of the new millennium. If it is true that the whole of the first part of his great work, the Summa Theologiae, focuses entirely on God, it is nonetheless also true that the second part, more innovative and longer, is directly concerned with man's long journey towards God. In it, the human person is considered the protagonist of a precise divine plan for whose implementation not only natural but also supernatural resources have been provided. Thanks to them, he is able to respond to the exalted vocation reserved for him in Jesus Christ, true man and true God. In the third part, St Thomas recalls that the incarnate Word, precisely because he is true man, reveals in himself the dignity of every human creature and constitutes for the whole cosmos the way back to its origin:  God.

Christ, therefore, is the true way of man. In the Prologue to Book III of the Sentences, St Thomas, summing up humanity's journey in three stages - origin, historical and eschatological - notes that each thing comes from the hands of God, from which rivers of goodness flow. All is concentrated in man, and in the first place in the God-man, who is Christ; all things must return to God through Christ and the Christians (cf. In III Sent., Prol.).

5. St Thomas' humanism thus rotates within this essential intuition: man comes from God and must return to him. Time is the context in which man can bring his noble mission to fulfilment, making the most of the opportunities offered to him by both nature and grace.

Certainly, God alone is the Creator. He has deigned, however, to entrust to his rational and free creatures the task of completing his work with their labour. When man cooperates actively with grace he becomes "a new man" who, to better respond to God's plan, draws benefits from his supernatural vocation (cf. Gn 1: 26). St Thomas maintains rightly, therefore, that the truth of human nature finds total fulfilment through sanctifying grace, since this is "perfectio naturae rationalis creatae" (Quodlib., 4, 6).

6. How enlightening this truth is for the man of the third millennium, constantly in search of his own self-fulfilment! In the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, I analyzed the factors that are obstacles in the process of humanism. Among the most common should be mentioned the loss of faith in reason and in its ability to arrive at the truth, the refusal of transcendence, nihilism, relativism, the forgetfulness of being, the denial of the soul, the prevalence of the irrational or feeling, the fear of the future and existential anxiety. To respond to this very serious challenge that affects the future prospects of humanism itself, I showed how the thought of St Thomas, with his strong faith in reason and clear explanation of the functions of nature and grace, can offer the rudiments of an effective response.

Christian humanism, as St Thomas demonstrated, has an ability to preserve the meaning of man and his dignity. This is the exalting task entrusted to his disciples today!

The Christian knows that the future of the human being and of the world is in the hands of divine Providence, and this provides a constant reason for hope and inner peace. However, the Christian also knows that God, moved by his love for man, asks him to collaborate in improving the world and in governing history's events. In this difficult beginning of the third millennium, many clearly perceive, even to the point of suffering, the need for teachers and witnesses who are able to demonstrate valid ways that lead to a world more worthy of man. It is the historical task of believers to propose Christ as "the way" by which to advance toward that new humanity which is in God's plan. It is clear, therefore, that one priority of the new evangelization consists precisely in helping the man of our time to encounter God personally and to live with him and for him.

7. Although St Thomas was firmly rooted in his own day and in medieval culture, he developed a teaching that goes beyond the conditioning of the time in which he lived and can still offer today fundamental guidelines for contemporary reflection. His doctrine and example are a provident reminder of those unchanging, perennial truths that are indispensable if we are to foster an existence that is truly worthy of man.

In the hope that your exchange of ideas in the course of the Congress sessions will be fruitful, I urge each of you who are taking part in it to persevere in your reflection on the riches of Thomistic teaching, drawing from the example of the Gospel "scribe", "what is new and what is old" (Mt 13: 52).

I entrust the results of your research and in particular, of your International Congress, to the Virgin Mary, Sedes Sapientiae who gave Christ, the "New Man" to the world, and I wholeheartedly send my Blessing to you all.

From Castel Gandolfo, 20 September 2003


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jacques Maritain on Moral Philosophy

“THE philosopher cannot—especially in our time—shut himself up in an ivory tower; he cannot help being concerned about human affairs, in the name of philosophy itself and by reason of the very values which philosophy has to defend and maintain. He has to “bear witness” to these values, every time they are attacked, as in the time of Hitler when insane racist theories worked to provoke the mass murder of Jews, or as today before the threat by communist despotism. The philosopher must bear witness by expressing his thoughts and telling the truth as he sees it. This may have repercussions in the domain of politics; it is not, in itself, a political action—it is simply applied philosophy.

“It is true that the line of demarcation is difficult to draw. This means no one, not even philosophers, can avoid taking risks, when justice or love are at stake, and when one is face to face with the strict command of the Gospel: haec oportuit facere, et illa non omittere, “these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Mt 23:23).”

~Jacques Maritain: On the Use of Philosophy: Three Essays


The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David. Oil on canvas, 1787; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

A Note on Albertus Magnus

“Albert the Great had studied the ordinary courses in theology with the Dominicans, before going to Paris, but he had not taken a degree in the liberal arts. Yet Albert reached maturity at a time when many exciting works of foreign scientists and philosophers were being translated for the libraries of Latin scholars. He knew the traditional Christian authors, such as Augustine, Boethius, and Anselm.He read the new translations of the Arabic commentators on Aristotle: Al Kindi, Al Farabi, Avicenna, and eventually Averroës. Jewish authors, Isaac of Israel, Maimonides, and Avicebron, were grist to his encyclopedic mill. By the mid-1240’s, Albert had Robert Grosseteste’s translations of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and of the writings of the mysterious Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite. Various anonymous writings, such as the Book of Causes and the Theology of the Pseudo-Aristotle, fascinated him.

“Albert valued all this knowledge and felt that he had to share it with all Christian scholars. His personal interests were very broad – much more extensive than those of his pupil, Aquinas. Albert’s writings show that not only was he a theologian and a philosopher but also a devotee of all the known areas of experimental and observational science. He assembled vast amounts of material in zoology, botany, geology, chemistry, and optics. Of course, much of his scientific writings consisted of paraphrases of information gleaned from dozens of earlier writers. As Roger [Bacon] says, he collected “many useful things from the infinite sea of authors.” Yet Albert tried to develop a general theory of natural science and endeavored to use his broad experience to test scientific reports.

“...He was the first Dominican scholar to attempt to utilize all the philosophy of Aristotle in the service of Christian theology. Granted that most of his knowledge of Aristotelianism came initially through secondary sources, it is still obvious that Albert was far ahead of his Dominican contemporaries. One evidence of this is found in his lectures on the Nicomachean Ethics, given at Cologne between 1248 and 1252. Thomas Aquinas, in fact, served as the recorder (reportator) of this course on Aristotelian ethics…. At least, we know that Albert did introduce Aquinas to one major work of Aristotle.”

~Vernon J. Bourke: Aquinas’ Search for Wisdom.

"The contemplation of wisdom"

Quoting Ecclesiasticus 32:15-16, “Be first to run home to thy house, and there withdraw thyself, and there take thy play, and do what thou hast a mind,” St. Thomas says this:

“THE desire for wisdom has this privileged character: in the course of its fulfillment it becomes more sufficient unto itself. In fact, a man needs the help of many others, in his external activities, but in the contemplation of wisdom, the more a person remains in solitude with himself the efficacious is his work. Thus the Author of Wisdom, in the text just quoted, recalls man to himself, saying: “Be first to run to thy house,” that is, solicitously turn back to your own mind from external matters, before becoming occupied with something else whose concern is but an occasion for distraction. Thus, Wisdom, 8:16, says: “When I go into my house, I shall repose myself with her,” that is, with wisdom.

"Just as the contemplation of wisdom requires that a person preoccupy himself with his own mind, in order that he may fill his whole house with the contemplation of wisdom, so too, must he be wholly internalized in his thinking, lest his attention be distracted to various other matters. So it is added: “and there withdraw thyself,” that is, gather in your whole mental attention there. And so, when that interior house has been completely cleared out, and a man is completely present in it in his thinking, what must be done is explained, in the next clause, “and there take thy play.” In this text, we should observe that the contemplation of wisdom is fittingly compared to a game by reason of two features that are found in the game. First, a game is enjoyable for itself and the contemplation of wisdom provides the greatest enjoyment. Thus Ecclesiasticus 24:27, says from the mouth of wisdom: “For my spirit is sweet above honey.” Second, the activities of a game are not directed toward some other objective but are cherished for their own sake. This same feature is present in the delights of wisdom.”

~St. Thomas Aquinas: In Libro Boetii De Hebdomadibus Expositio, Prologo.

Pius XII: Philosophic truth and Christianity

"TRUTH and its philosophic expression cannot change from day to day, least of all where there is question of self-evident principles of the human mind or of those propositions which are supported by the wisdom of the ages and by divine revelation. Whatever new truth the sincere human mind is able to find, certainly cannot be opposed to truth already acquired, since God, the highest Truth, has created and guides the human intellect, not that it may daily oppose new truths to rightly established ones, but rather that, having eliminated errors which may have crept in, it may build truth upon truth in the same order and structure that exist in reality, the source of truth. Let no Christian therefore, whether philosopher or theologian, embrace eagerly and lightly whatever novelty happens to be thought up from day to day, but rather let him weigh it with painstaking care and a balanced judgment, lest he lose or corrupt the truth he already has, with grave danger and damage to his faith."

~Pius XII: Humani Generis, 30.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"The reason of Incarnation"

"THERE ARE different opinions about this question. For some say that even if man had not sinned, the Son of Man would have become incarnate. Others assert the contrary, and seemingly our assent ought rather to be given to this opinion.

"For such things as spring from God's will, and beyond the creature's due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in the Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is made known to us. Hence, since everywhere in the Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: S.T. III, Q. 1, Art. 3.

The Incarnation with Six Saints, by Fra Bartolomeo.
Panel, A.D. 1515; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

"God alone constitutes man's happiness"

"IT is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man's appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: "Who satisfieth thy desire with good things." Therefore God alone constitutes man's happiness."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: S.T. I-II, Q. 2, Art. 8.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Forgiveness of Sins

“BY these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins,(1) and so in the Creed there follows immediately “the remission of sins.” The power was given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers of the Church receive this power from the apostles; and the apostles received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving sins in the Church although it operates from the highest to the lowest, i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.” (2)

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed


(1) Baptism and Penance are called Sacraments of the dead, because they take away sin and give the first grace of justification. The other five Sacraments are called Sacraments of the living, because one who receives them worthily is already living the life of grace. But the Sacraments of the living produce the first grace when the subject, guilty of a grievous fault, approaches the Sacraments in good faith, that is to say, with invincible ignorance of his fault, and with attrition. (Pourrat, Theology of the Sacraments; 1914 ed.)

(2) “For Our Lord did not give the power of so sacred a ministry to all, but to the bishops and priests only. The same must be said regarding the manner in which the power is to be exercised; for sin can be forgiven only through the Sacraments, when duly administered. The Church has received no power otherwise to remit sins. Hence it follows that in the forgiveness of sins both priests and Sacraments are, as it were, the instruments which Christ, Our Lord, the Author and giver of salvation, makes use of to accomplish in us pardon of sin and the grace of justification.” (Roman Catechism)

Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (left panel detail), by Rogier van der Weyden. Oil on oak panel, 1445-50;Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seven Gifts of Eternal Glory

“BY THE RECEPTION of these [seven] Sacraments, man is led to future eternal glory which consists in seven gifts, three of the soul and four of the body. The first gift given to the soul is the vision of God in His essence, according to the words “We shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2). The second gift is comprehension, or that understanding of God as the reward of our merits: “So run that you may obtain” (1 Cor 9:24). The third is perfect enjoyment, wherein we shall have full happiness in God: “Then shalt thou abound in delights of the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face to God” (Job 22:26).

“The first gift which shall be enjoyed by the body is that of impassibility, for “this corruptible must put on incorruption” (1 Cor 15:53). The second gift is brilliancy: “Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). The third is agility, through which they can instantly be present wheresoever they wish: “They shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds” (Ws 3:7). The fourth is the gift of subtility, whereby they can penetrate wherever they desire: “It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:14). To all of which may He lead us, who liveth and reigneth forever and ever! Amen.”

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Explanation of the Sacraments.

Seven Sacraments Altarpiece, by Rogier van der Weyden. Oil on oak panel, 1445-50; Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp.

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