Saint Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

Saint Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli

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Today's Gospel in Art - Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Gospel of 28th January 2021 - Mark 4:21-25

Jesus said to the crowd, 'Would you bring in a lamp to put it under a tub or under the bed? Surely you will put it on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.'

He also said to them, 'Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given - and more besides for the man who has will be given more from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.'

Reflection on the work of art

We celebrate the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas today. Our painting by Carlo Crivelli is probably one of the main images that gets used the most by publishers or writers when talking about Thomas Aquinas. There are surprisingly few paintings over the centuries which have portrayed him as a subject matter. Not sure why. And even this painting was part of a larger altarpiece (The Demidoff Altarpiece), so again, this is not really a stand-alone painting of our saint.

What is beautiful about our panel is the techniques Crivelli used to make his painting seem three-dimensional. He used gilding, punching and incising (especially around the halo) to emphasise St Thomas' holiness. Crivelli also used pastiglia to raise a small area (St Thomas' brooch hovering above his heart), accentuating that Aquinas' teachings did not just come from his mind, but also from his heart and soul. Faith and Reason. All these gentle three-dimensional patterns must have shone and flickered in the candle-lit nave of San Domenico, in Ascoli, where the original altarpiece was first installed upon completion in the late 15th century.

Here in seminary we study a lot of Thomas Aquinas. He was a philosopher and a theologian, and he mastered and bridged both disciplines. He believed firmly that both faith and reason ultimately come from God and that the two work in collaboration. As I learn more about St Thomas, what I particularly admire is that, whilst he is hailed as one of the Church's most important thinkers and writers, he was also someone wrestling and struggling. He wrestled with truths, engaged with them and built his findings around these struggles. He studied truth, engaged with questions, critiqued them, and then put various pieces together so that something with more truth came out in the end. He invites us to reflect on Truth, go deeper, explore it, admire it, love it, put various pieces together. ultimately all making us connect more with God and the wonder of His creation: our minds and hearts.

'Better to illuminate than merely to shine,

to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate'

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Italy On This Day

A Dominican friar who became a respected theologian and philosopher, D’Aquino was canonised in 1323, less than 50 years after his death.

He was responsible for two masterpieces of theology, Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles. The first sought to explain the Christian faith to students setting out to study theology, the second to explain the Christian faith and defend it in the face of hostile attacks.

As a poet, D'Aquino wrote some of the most beautiful hymns in the church’s liturgy, which are still sung today.

D’Aquino is recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as its foremost philosopher and theologian and he had a considerable influence on the development of Western thought and ideas. His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle are an important part of his legacy and he is still regarded as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood.

D’Aquino was born in Roccasecca in the province of Frosinone in about 1225 in the castle owned by his father, who was count of Aquino.

He was placed in the nearby monastery of Monte Cassino when he was a young boy as a prospective monk. But after nine years in the monastery he was forced to return to his parents when the Holy Roman Emperor expelled all the monks for being too obedient to the Pope.

Fra Angelico's depiction of Thomas Aquinas with his Summa
Theologiae in the Convent of San Marco in Florence
After D’Aquino was sent to the University of Naples, he encountered scientific and theological works translated from Greek and Arabic for the first time.

He joined the Dominicans, which was a new religious order actively involved in preaching and teaching. His superiors immediately sent him to Paris pursue his studies.

But on the way there he was abducted on his parents’ orders because they did not want him to continue with the Dominicans. After a year in captivity in the family castle, his parents reluctantly liberated him and he was able to continue on his journey.

He studied at the Convent of Saint-Jacques under Saint Albertus Magnus, a scholar with a wide range of intellectual interests.

D’Aquino’s writings have been interpreted as the integration into Christian thought of the recently-discovered Aristotelian philosophy, but they also presented the need for a cultural and spiritual renewal, not only in the lives of individual men, but throughout the church.

He took the degree of Master of Theology, received the licence to teach in 1256 and then started to teach theology in a Dominican school.

The historic Abbey of Monte Cassino, where D'Aquino was
sent to study as a child and where he stayed before his death
D’Aquino returned to Italy after being appointed theological adviser to the Papal Curia, the body that administered the government of the church. He spent two years at Agnani in Lazio at the end of the reign of Pope Alexander IV and four years at Orvieto with Pope Urban IV. He spent two years teaching at the convent of Santa Sabina in Rome and then, at the request of Pope Clement IV, went to the Papal Curia in Viterbo.

On his return to Paris in 1268, D’Aquino became involved in doctrinal arguments. As an Aristotelian, he believed that truth becomes known through both natural revelation - through human nature and human reasoning - and supernatural revelation - the faith-based knowledge revealed through scripture.

Unlike some Christian philosophers, he saw these two elements as complementary rather than contradictory. He believed that the existence of God and his attributes could be deduced through reason, but that certain specifics - the Trinity and the Incarnation, for example - may be known only through special revelation.

When he returned to Italy in 1272, D’Aquino established a Dominican house of studies at the University of Naples and continued to defend his Aristotelian ideas against the criticisms of other scholars.

The main building at the University of Naples, where
D'Aquino set up a Dominican house of studies
He was personally summoned by Pope Gregory X to the second Council of Lyons in 1274 but became ill on the journey.

While riding a donkey along the Appian Way he is thought to have struck his head against the branch of a tree. He was taken to Monte Cassino to convalesce and after resting for a while, he set out on his journey again. However, he fell ill once more and stopped off at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, where he died on March 7.

Three years after D'Aquino's death, the Bishops of Paris and Oxford condemned a series of his theses as heretical, in that they contradicted the orthodox theology which considered human reason inadequate to understand the will of God. As a result, he was excommunicated posthumously.

However, he reputation was rebuilt over time and he was canonised a saint in 1323 by Pope John XXII, officially named Doctor of the Church in 1567 and proclaimed the Protagonist of Orthodoxy at the end of the 19th century. Many schools and colleges throughout the world have been named after him.

His remains were at first placed in the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse but were later moved to the Basilique de Saint-Sernin in Toulouse. In 1974 his remains were returned to the Church of the Jacobins where they have stayed ever since.

An aerial view of Roccasecca, the town of D'Aquino's
birth in the Frosinone province in Lazio
Travel tip:

Roccasecca, D’Aquino’s birthplace, is a town in the province of Frosinone in the Lazio region of central Italy. It is within an area known as Ciociaria by Italians, a name derived from the word ciocie, the footwear worn by the inhabitants in years gone by. Ciociaria hosts food fairs, events and music festivals as well as celebrating traditional feasts, when the local people wear the regional costume and the typical footwear, ciocie.

Hotels in Roccasecca by

The Abbey of Fossanova, where D’Aquino died, is a Cistercian monastery near the railway station of Priverno, about 100 kilometres south-east of Rome. The Abbey dates from around 1135 and is one of the finest example or early Gothic architecture in Italy. Priverno’s patron saint is Saint Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas Aquinas

The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas is celebrated on January 28 (today, if you’ve lost track), the day his body was transferred to Toulouse in 1369. He was born at Roccaseca, across from the Abbey of Monte Cassino, in 1225. He died at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova on March 7, 1274.

Christof Cardinal von Schönborn, in a favorite passage, once said that Aquinas was the “only man ever canonized simply for thinking.”

The breviary for Aquinas’ feast cites an exposition he once made on the Creed. It begins with a question each of us has wondered about: “Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us?”

We often come up against the question of suffering in the lives of those we know or in own lives. Suddenly, unexpectedly, we read these lines. Our attention is quickly expanded. We are reminded a) that Christ suffered and b) that He suffered “for us.” Reading these words, we are alert. Christ did not “need” to suffer unless it was “for us.” We return to the initial formulation of the question: “Why did the Son of God ‘have’ to suffer for us?”

The wonderful thing about Aquinas is that he answers his own questions. He does not think a man is a profound philosopher simply by bringing up endless queries. One is only a philosopher when he answers such questions as posed or arrives at a point where he knows that he, with his own mind, cannot answer them.

This seeming impasse means that he is still open to an answer that he cannot himself, along with other philosophers, provide. It also means that, unlike many philosophers, he does not exclude the totality of the evidence available to him. This exclusion is the besetting aberration of the modern mind.

Thus, after posing his question, St. Thomas continues: “There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.”


Aquinas found a relation between the “need” of Christ’s suffering and our own way of living. Put another way, we first encounter the “need” in our own lives before we are presented with a possible answer, one that the philosophers did not themselves pose. Yet, with Aristotle, they were aware of an endemic “wickedness” that recurs in human nature, that is, in each of our own lives, if we would look at them.

St. Augustine said that Christianity was not needed to explain what the virtues were. The philosophers explained them well enough. What they could not explain was how to live the virtues once we knew what they were.

Aquinas was a great pupil of the ever restless Augustine. So “Why did the Son of Man suffer for us?” Two reasons are given: 1) Our sins need a “remedy,” 2) We need an “example” of how to live. And this “example” of how to live, Christ Himself, suffered. He suffered “for us.”

Everyone has been tempted to ask: “Why could not the Son of Man have chosen a less graphic way?” It is a fair question. The simple answer is that He probably could have. But He chose the one way that was best for the finite beings we are. Anyone with insight into himself knows that he is both sinful and has sinned.

A student e-mailed me: “The book really got me thinking on the existence of evil and volition, viz. sinning. However, I’m beginning to think this idea is antiquated. It seems in this society that very few people can do wrong. A man who keeps a mistress is simply following his heart or a woman with a heroin addiction is just sick. People who do down right mean things are diagnosed with behavior disorders.”

The suffering of the Son of Man is designed to redeem us by atoning for our specific, personal sins. The reach of these sins, in fact, is clear whether we acknowledge it or not, even though the disorders of our society manifest it every day – if we would see them. As Plato said, all disorders of the public sphere begin in our own souls.

“Why did the Son of Man suffer for us?’ Aquinas had it right: To counteract or remedy these sins, so that we could see them in ourselves, and to give us an example of how to live. The philosophers, if they are honest, if they are thorough, know that we know what sin is. They do not know what to do about it and, often, do not want to listen to the one source that does.

Or, to put it another way, Aquinas tells us not only that we should not sin, but we should think about why we should not. That’s only one of the many good reasons why we celebrate him each year on this day.

*Image: St. Thomas Aquinas by Carlo Crivelli, 1476 [National Gallery, London]. This is one of nine panels of the Demidoff Altarpiece, originally created for the Church of San Domenico in Ascoli Piceno, Italy. The title given to the altarpiece comes from its 19th-century owner, the Russian prince Anatole Demidoff. The work bought by the National Gallery in 1868.

One comment


The concept of the human being is meaningful application of the scientific investigation and acquisition which characterized our knowledge and intellect. We may use it wisely of what we think which form that based on these inspiration of the millennials. Aquinas philosophy is that it is attracted of his exception to this role of the complete course as well as the pedagogical development.
How well do we understand human being of the bridging attention in mentoring our perception? While there is focusing on the most relevant of the human life we ensure this study our relationship on people. It is important to bring to the awareness of the safety and sense of our well-being which relating to their institutions. This includes what we follow according to their beliefs of our cultural identity our existence to respect the view of the environment. We attained it as necessarily of the person we imply of sharing our reaction to others who in their especial competence in the practice of our philosophy.

We study our intellect in order to understand human being in our lives and therefore brought our higher standards. Rather, it reflects our broader capability of the natural process which develops in the human being our thinking and reason that has been differentiated. To distinctly build our certain position begins to desire of the matter is ruled by the Aquinas that human beings perceive our possibility. There is relation between knowledge and intellect if we turn our moral reasoning the significant we arises of our sense experiences.

This sometimes must mention when we said that mind is our power we want to question both from personal and others and ultimately in the areas of Aquinas philosophy. After of this comment the practical perspectives it might be our own intellect must work as they should for example to be creative complimenting our knowledge. We know the profound effect on how you think you can raise what we have in our mind? How would I tend to be philosopher where as person could predicts that it is likely that our “knowledge depends on intellect of another” possible for two people to have wisdom.

The essence of philosophy is that a man should could live his life belief is true if it is consistent an awesome mystery. The basis for Aquinas philosophy that the product of this thought or our achievement is our necessity of our thought? It will define the “being” philosophizing our differences closely related to the learned whatever he may possess. What is the intellect why they have to study in philosophy? challenge is that our view greater address to what if rules (a) the object of our knowledge and (b) the reason of attaining it. Philosophical opinion this base line from which we described in our right of thinking on the subject to have anything to do. Although it is not possible that can be shown to be true know of yourself is well enough his personality in the world. But their wisdom in reality is describing together because we are knowing of our intellect.
These search of Aquinas in the entire universe the consequences of our reason and intellect understand ourselves get through to the truth. Those who have attain His existence Aquinas concludes that knowledge first through our senses and second to the intellect gradually approaches to our likeness accepts more prominent philosophy more than of others.

During his lifetime which we ascertained our taught other philosophers in the significance of justifying is acquired through these study but the first comes are well to stand alone from the second the ideogenesis to explain how the mind can know concepts nothing more than what was presented to the mind.

The knowledge which significant terms to recognize with what is real how it knows corporeal an object are unknowable which is not followed with those are the impressions of the cause. According to Hume, what is not real because they must not become immediate of our perception unknown and the unknowable are the concepts that naturally from this considerations. Is it not then impossible to know this theories there are elsewhere “metaphysics” itself in the curiosity with our sense that which our representations relate to the distinction between knowledge and belief.

These questions are forever unknowable but I don’t see it trying to answer they are not the same “knowledge” defined it as “thought” somewhere before using this reason to understand our sense of the intellect. And again, asserting that if Aquinas “the godly man” they speak of this belief that the notion of the intellect what the question called subjective of the Philosophy as the “same” person? Thomas Aquinas, It depends on the mysteries remotely convincing in order that they may have sight but they have knowledge because of the intellect.

The important of our study of human that our beliefs to knowledge engaging with the logical order to understand. The scientific paradigm is simply ideal the practice though they are aware that society does not remain unchanged over time. Scientists most of the time characterize the entire philosophy define views of the synthesis of Aquinas more they stay the same is usually applied. It is theology of Thomas contra gentiles heightened actualization of influential philosopher whole of attainable truth (summa) stage in the history (William Arthur & Sons, 1995).

Thomas’ view—that all human beings shared their intellect created by God and are subject to Him and the like and as each has greatly renewed among this excerpt. This philosophical intellect on the will for Aristotle which everything respect our differences of human cognition and humility for the more powerful than ours. They must be knowable to us making us responsible there is no single overarching definition of our “knowledge” and “intellect” including the the perfect exercise of all human being. It lead to the important of our research all his knowledge is our human good to think that other feature of Aristotle’s theory of ethics is that. All human beings possess basic knowledge what there truly obtaining of our moral perception cannot be justified. There are cases of Aquinas reaction our conceptual knowledge is the status that tends us to undermine our intellect through their clarity on this intellect.

It is as though you have an eye in your mind that gives you the knowledge his own essence following the objection to Thomas own position holder of the social intelligence. The intellect is our expertise to retrieve knowledge to the memories much of the influence continuing relevance of this philosophy our will want no matter how void of the expertise that caused. But he was human either criticism of this view with these difficult people significantly affect the human person to work on the supposition either you. Like Aquinas thought “God is the form of human being”to be overcome is beyond of our understanding gruntled you see ‘out there.’

In the light of our knowledge study of ☆ego ☆ the most beautiful philosophy of the natural sciences both complicated we thought it would be helpful.

However, true of his philosophy most enduring responseover the question of what makes affirming quality of our life. The dialogue between the human person our know why we are here in earth of finding illuminating the art of reason moments as knowledgeable as possible and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with God. For this made right with Aquinas ‘wisdom’of our study can be secularization as intentions for what it means to bring knowledges and intellect learning from.Sometimes our contemplation is correct his supernatural habit infused the main issue here is not that there is we shall find in different orderand there can be no knowledge and there are its followers to our starting question how do we understand human being? topics from Aquinas reaction relatively explained broad range of cultures.

What is distinctive distinctive in his mind all kinds as being that both the bestowal of his intellect and the human response to it are free acts. Thomasian own this critique of all—even divine—kings their role is endowed within the human intellect we perceives God assimilating person is to aid an individual. All these need to know an investigation natural law systematic thinking that who supposes it to be that the human mind is constitutionally the same now as it gradually begin to spiritually attributes of the human capacities of the human mind and intellect.

This essay postulates established of a philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas which is the individual each kind of our identity the criterion of our human social order we recognizes the personhood of the human being. He was being declared patron of all Dominican friar at the university of Santo Thomas that requires we maintain highest value of the scholastic philosophy. It does determined the intellectual (person) might think of his position the existence of the humans.We have this experience to contest these restriction they conceives of the world are popularly called our “intellect” idealist philosophy conjunction of our consciousness. Those interests are speaking to the intellectual perception which we are to appreciate how instead of the life today. We understand the science how others perceive you I know is normal our likelihood of developing this attempts. Most of us more seemingly terrifying of the average person and let the others know you among the most powerful intellect. Here are the 17th century humanity of the method of desire is to be certain in our ways acknowledge any jurisdiction of Aquinas straight into this philosophy. As is now the relevance of this philosophy in our contemporary time henceforth were thinking of the Catholic Church the inclusion of moral considerations. Much of our focus on philosophical theory are actually the peculiar observance of his thesis because of the articulation through the the human rights regime. Though gave us his own theory of the intellect is defined by legitimation would later be ethical and religious bases in the field of his philosophy— we are stating our mind (July 1996) view of the natural. In addition, what we can know as essential to realise that if they do change somehow is the intellect enables us to know and understand.

Jay-Jay Molina “Aquinas Philosophy of the Knowledge and Intellect” et. al Hume & Thomas philosophy edition October, pp.72-87.

Carlo Crivelli (1430 - 1495)

Carlo Crivelli ( Venice c. 1430 – Ascoli Piceno 1495) was an Italian Renaissance painter of conservative Late Gothic decorative sensibility,[1] who spent his early years in the Veneto, where he absorbed influences from the Vivarini, Squarcione and Mantegna. He left the Veneto by 1458 and spent most of the remainder of his career in the March of Ancona, where he developed a distinctive personal style that contrasts with that of his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini.

Early life
Crivelli was born around 1430–35 in Venice to a family of painters and received his artistic formation there and in Padua. The details of Crivelli's career are still sparse:[2] He is said to have studied under Jacobello del Fiore, who was painting as late as 1436 at that time Crivelli was probably only a boy. He also studied at the school of Vivarini in Venice, then left Venice for Padua, where he is believed to have worked in the workshop of Francesco Squarcione and then, after being sentenced in 1457 to a six-month prison term for an affair with a married woman, left in 1459 for Zadar in Dalmatia (now part of Croatia, but then a Venetian territory).

St Thomas Aquinas, 1476
He was master of his own shop when sent to prison for adultery in 1457. The dates he signed on the pictures that survive extend from 1468 on an altarpiece in the church of San Silvestro at Massa Fermana near Fermo to 1493 on The Dead Christ between St John, the Virgin and Mary Magdalene in Milan's Brera Gallery.

Though the artist advertised his Venetian origins with his signature, often some variation on Carolus Crivellus Venetos ("Carlo Crivelli of Venice"),[3] Crivelli seems to have worked chiefly in the March of Ancona, and especially in and near Ascoli Piceno. Only two pictures can be found today in Venice, both in the church of San Sebastiano.

He painted in tempera only, despite the increasing popularity of oil painting during his lifetime, and on panels, though some of his paintings have been transferred to canvas. His predilection for decoratively punched gilded backgrounds is one of the marks of this conservative taste, in part imposed by his patrons. Of his early polyptychs, only one, the altarpiece from Ascoli Piceno, survives in its entirety in its original frame. All the others have been disassembled and their panels and predella scenes are divided among several museums.

An amorphous band of contemporaries, imitators and followers, termed Crivelleschi, reflect to varying degrees aspects of his style.
Unlike the naturalistic trends arising in Florence during his lifetime, Crivelli's style continues to represent the courtly International Gothic sensibility. His urban settings are jewel-like and full of elaborate allegorical detail. He favored verdant landscape backgrounds, and his works can be identified by his characteristic use of fruits and flowers as decorative motifs, often depicted in pendant festoons,[4] which are also a hallmark of the Paduan studio of Francesco Squarcione, where Crivelli may have worked.

His paintings have a linear quality identified with his Umbrian contemporaries. Crivelli is a painter of marked individuality. Unlike Giovanni Bellini, his contemporary, his works are not "soft", but clear and definite in contour with marked attention to detail. His use of "trompe l'oeil", often compared with that found in the works of Northern Renaissance painters like Rogier van der Weyden, includes raised objects, such as jewels and armor modeled in gesso on the panel.

Commissioned by the Franciscans and Dominicans of Ascoli, Crivelli's work is exclusively religious in nature. His paintings consist largely of Madonna and Child images, Pietà, and the altarpieces known as polyptychs that were increasingly unfashionable. Often filled with images of suffering, such as gaping wounds in Christ's hands and side and the mouths of mourners twisted in agony, Crivelli's work fulfills the spiritual needs of his patrons. These ultra-realistic, sometimes disturbing qualities have often led critics to label Crivelli's paintings "grotesque",[citation needed] much like his fellow Northern Italian painter, Cosimo Tura. His work attracted numerous prestigious commissions and must have appealed to the taste of his patrons.[4]

Carlo Crivelli died in the Marche (probably Ascoli Piceno) around 1495. Vittorio Crivelli, with whom he occasionally collaborated, was his younger brother. Pietro Alemanno, a painter who immigrated to the March of Ancona from Germany/Austria, was his pupil and collaborator. Donato Crivelli,[4] who was also a pupil of Jacobello and was working in 1459, may be of the same family as Carlo.

His work fell out of favor following his death and Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, which is notably Florentine in its outlook, does not mention him. He had something of a revival, especially in the UK, during the time of the pre-Raphaelite painters, several of whom, including Edward Burne-Jones, admired his work. His reputation faded with that movement, but recent writings on his work and a rehanging of his work in the National Gallery, London, have brought him renewed attention.

Susan Sontag in Notes on "Camp" (1992) wrote: "Camp is the paintings of Carlo Crivelli, with their real jewels and trompe-l'oeil insects and cracks in the masonry."

The Five Ways

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The Five Ways, Latin Quinquae Viae, in the philosophy of religion, the five arguments proposed by St. Thomas Aquinas (1224/25–1274) as demonstrations of the existence of God.

Aquinas developed a theological system that synthesized Western Christian (and predominantly Roman Catholic) theology with the philosophy of the ancient Greek thinker Aristotle (384–322 bce ), particularly as it had been interpreted by Aristotle’s later Islamic commentators. In his Summa Theologica, which he intended as a primer for theology students, Aquinas devised five arguments for the existence of God, known as the Five Ways, that subsequently proved highly influential. While much of Aquinas’s system is concerned with special revelation—the doctrine of the Incarnation of God’s Word in Jesus Christ—the Five Ways are examples of natural theology. In other words, they are a concerted attempt to discern divine truth in the order of the natural world.

Aquinas’s first three arguments—from motion, from causation, and from contingency—are types of what is called the cosmological argument for divine existence. Each begins with a general truth about natural phenomena and proceeds to the existence of an ultimate creative source of the universe. In each case, Aquinas identifies this source with God.

Aquinas’s first demonstration of God’s existence is the argument from motion. He drew from Aristotle’s observation that each thing in the universe that moves is moved by something else. Aristotle reasoned that the series of movers must have begun with a first or prime mover that had not itself been moved or acted upon by any other agent. Aristotle sometimes called this prime mover “God.” Aquinas understood it as the God of Christianity.

The second of the Five Ways, the argument from causation, builds upon Aristotle’s notion of an efficient cause, the entity or event responsible for a change in a particular thing. Aristotle gives as examples a person reaching a decision, a father begetting a child, and a sculptor carving a statue. Because every efficient cause must itself have an efficient cause and because there cannot be an infinite chain of efficient causes, there must be an immutable first cause of all the changes that occur in the world, and this first cause is God.

Aquinas’s third demonstration of God’s existence is the argument from contingency, which he advances by distinguishing between possible and necessary beings. Possible beings are those that are capable of existing and not existing. Many natural beings, for example, are possible because they are subject to generation and corruption. If a being is capable of not existing, then there is a time at which it does not exist. If every being were possible, therefore, then there would be a time at which nothing existed. But then there would be nothing in existence now, because no being can come into existence except through a being that already exists. Therefore, there must be at least one necessary being—a being that is not capable of not existing. Furthermore, every necessary being is either necessary in itself or caused to be necessary by another necessary being. But just as there cannot be an infinite chain of efficient causes, so there cannot be an infinite chain of necessary beings whose necessity is caused by another necessary being. Rather, there must be a being that is necessary in itself, and this being is God.

Aquinas’s fourth argument is that from degrees of perfection. All things exhibit greater or lesser degrees of perfection. There must therefore exist a supreme perfection that all imperfect beings approach yet fall short of. In Aquinas’s system, God is that paramount perfection.

Aquinas’s fifth and final way to demonstrate God’s existence is an argument from final causes, or ends, in nature (see teleology). Again, he drew upon Aristotle, who held that each thing has its own natural purpose or end. Some things, however—such as natural bodies—lack intelligence and are thus incapable of directing themselves toward their ends. Therefore, they must be guided by some intelligent and knowledgeable being, which is God.

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St. Thomas Aquinas - CZAQU

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Artist: Carlo Crivelli – c. 1476

Crivelli painted two altarpieces for the small church of San Domenico, in the town of Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. A large, multi-paneled altarpiece sat on the high altar, while a smaller altarpiece was in a side chapel. In the nineteenth century parts of both altarpieces were sold to a Russian prince, Anatole Demidoff, who mounted them in a grand frame to make a three-tiered altarpiece for the chapel of his villa in Florence. The National Gallery bought the Altarpiece in 1868, and in 1961 the panels from the smaller polyptych were removed. They are now displayed separately.

Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis.

His feast day is January 28.

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Did St. Thomas Aquinas Believe that the Virgin Mary was a Sinner?

I recently came across an article entitled, What is the difference between Mariology and Mariolatry?, attributed to the late Reformed Theologian, R.C. Sproul.[1] In it, the author says the following:

Thomas [Aquinas] saw that Mary’s Son was also Mary’s Savior because Mary, like other human beings, was a sinner. This view was given, however, before the Roman Church declared the sinlessness of Mary. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary does not refer to the virgin birth of Jesus or His conception in the womb of Mary. Rather, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, in order to insure Mary’s freedom from original sin.”[2]

It is beyond the scope of the present post to deal with all of the claims made in that article, but I did want to respond to the words in bold.

Undoubtedly, St. Thomas would agree that “Mary’s Son was also Mary’s Savior”, and such is the teaching of the Catholic Church. The uniqueness about the salvation of Mary, according to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (formally defined in 1854), was ‘that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin…’[3] Thus, the analogy is usually put forward by Catholics that while the rest of the human race was saved after falling into a pit, Mary was saved prior in that God preserved her from falling into it in the first place. The Theological underpinning of the dogma need not detain us here. What is needed is the explanation that according to the dogma, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin, and furthermore, that the Catholic Church teaches that she committed no acts of personal sin throughout her life. Conversely, in the words attributed to Sproul, the claim is made that “Thomas saw that…Mary, like other human beings, was a sinner.” But is this the case?

It is commonly believed that St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in his day.[4] Back then, the dogma was not formally defined, and there was a medieval conflict over it that arose in the thirteenth century.[5] But in no way were those who objected to the doctrine, like Thomas, of the opinion that Mary was a sinner. Assuming then that the words attributed to Sproul imply that Thomas believed that Mary was guilty of personal acts of sin, it can de demonstrated that this is entirely inaccurate. For example, in the Summa Theologiae, Question 27, Article 4, Aquinas states:

“Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy of that office, according to the words spoken to her by the angel (Luke 1:30-31): ‘Thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive,’ etc. But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned.”[6]

And elsewhere in that section he is more emphatic:

We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial so that what is written (Canticles 4:7) is fulfilled: ‘Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee,’ etc.”[7]

To conclude then, it is my contention that the author is incorrect in stating that, “Thomas saw that…Mary, like other human beings, was a sinner.” According to common English usage, a sinner is “a person who sins”.[8] This was manifestly not the belief of Thomas with respect to the Virgin Mary.


Early life (1225–1244) Edit

Thomas Aquinas was most likely born in the castle of Roccasecca, near Aquino, controlled at that time by the Kingdom of Sicily (in present-day Lazio, Italy), c. 1225 , [19] According to some authors, [ who? ] he was born in the castle of his father, Landulf of Aquino. He was born to the most powerful branch of the family, and Landulf of Aquino was a man of means. As a knight in the service of Emperor Frederick II, Landulf of Aquino held the title miles. [20] Thomas's mother, Theodora, belonged to the Rossi branch of the Neapolitan Caracciolo family. [21] Landulf's brother Sinibald was abbot of Monte Cassino, the oldest Benedictine monastery. While the rest of the family's sons pursued military careers, [22] the family intended for Thomas to follow his uncle into the abbacy [23] this would have been a normal career path for a younger son of southern Italian nobility. [24]

At the age of five Thomas began his early education at Monte Cassino but after the military conflict between the Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX spilled into the abbey in early 1239, Landulf and Theodora had Thomas enrolled at the studium generale (university) recently established by Frederick in Naples. [25] It was here that Thomas was probably introduced to Aristotle, Averroes and Maimonides, all of whom would influence his theological philosophy. [26] It was also during his study at Naples that Thomas came under the influence of John of St. Julian, a Dominican preacher in Naples, who was part of the active effort by the Dominican order to recruit devout followers. [27] There his teacher in arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music was Petrus de Ibernia. [28]

At the age of nineteen Thomas resolved to join the Dominican Order, which had been founded about 30 years earlier. Thomas's change of heart did not please his family. [29] In an attempt to prevent Theodora's interference in Thomas's choice, the Dominicans arranged to move Thomas to Rome, and from Rome, to Paris. [30] However, while on his journey to Rome, per Theodora's instructions, his brothers seized him as he was drinking from a spring and took him back to his parents at the castle of Monte San Giovanni Campano. [30]

Thomas was held prisoner for almost one year in the family castles at Monte San Giovanni and Roccasecca in an attempt to prevent him from assuming the Dominican habit and to push him into renouncing his new aspiration. [26] Political concerns prevented the Pope from ordering Thomas's release, which had the effect of extending Thomas's detention. [31] Thomas passed this time of trial tutoring his sisters and communicating with members of the Dominican Order. [26] Family members became desperate to dissuade Thomas, who remained determined to join the Dominicans. At one point, two of his brothers resorted to the measure of hiring a prostitute to seduce him.

As included in the official records for his canonization, Thomas drove her away wielding a burning log with which he inscribed a cross onto the wall and fell into a mystical ecstasy and two angels appeared to him as he slept and said, "Behold, we gird thee by the command of God with the girdle of chastity, which henceforth will never be imperiled. What human strength can not obtain, is now bestowed upon thee as a celestial gift." From that moment on, Thomas was given the grace of perfect chastity by Christ and he wore the girdle till the end of his life. The heavenly girdle was given to the ancient monastery of Vercelli in Piedmont, The holy girdle is now at Chieri, near Turin. [32] [33]

By 1244, seeing that all her attempts to dissuade Thomas had failed, Theodora sought to save the family's dignity, arranging for Thomas to escape at night through his window. In her mind, a secret escape from detention was less damaging than an open surrender to the Dominicans. Thomas was sent first to Naples and then to Rome to meet Johannes von Wildeshausen, the Master General of the Dominican Order. [34]

Paris, Cologne, Albert Magnus, and first Paris regency (1245–1259) Edit

In 1245 Thomas was sent to study at the Faculty of the Arts at the University of Paris, where he most likely met Dominican scholar Albertus Magnus, [35] then the holder of the Chair of Theology at the College of St. James in Paris. [36] When Albertus was sent by his superiors to teach at the new studium generale at Cologne in 1248, [35] Thomas followed him, declining Pope Innocent IV's offer to appoint him abbot of Monte Cassino as a Dominican. [23] Albertus then appointed the reluctant Thomas magister studentium. [24] Because Thomas was quiet and didn't speak much, some of his fellow students thought he was slow. But Albertus prophetically exclaimed: "You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world." [23]

Thomas taught in Cologne as an apprentice professor (baccalaureus biblicus), instructing students on the books of the Old Testament and writing Expositio super Isaiam ad litteram (Literal Commentary on Isaiah), Postilla super Ieremiam (Commentary on Jeremiah) and Postilla super Threnos (Commentary on Lamentations). [37] Then in 1252 he returned to Paris to study for the master's degree in theology. He lectured on the Bible as an apprentice professor, and upon becoming a baccalaureus Sententiarum (bachelor of the Sentences) [38] he devoted his final three years of study to commenting on Peter Lombard's Sentences. In the first of his four theological syntheses, Thomas composed a massive commentary on the Sentences titled Scriptum super libros Sententiarium (Commentary on the Sentences). Aside from his master's writings, he wrote De ente et essentia (On Being and Essence) for his fellow Dominicans in Paris. [23]

In the spring of 1256 Thomas was appointed regent master in theology at Paris and one of his first works upon assuming this office was Contra impugnantes Dei cultum et religionem (Against Those Who Assail the Worship of God and Religion), defending the mendicant orders, which had come under attack by William of Saint-Amour. [39] During his tenure from 1256 to 1259, Thomas wrote numerous works, including: Questiones disputatae de veritate (Disputed Questions on Truth), a collection of twenty-nine disputed questions on aspects of faith and the human condition [40] prepared for the public university debates he presided over on Lent and Advent [41] Quaestiones quodlibetales (Quodlibetal Questions), a collection of his responses to questions posed to him by the academic audience [40] and both Expositio super librum Boethii De trinitate (Commentary on Boethius's De trinitate) and Expositio super librum Boethii De hebdomadibus (Commentary on Boethius's De hebdomadibus), commentaries on the works of 6th-century Roman philosopher Boethius. [42] By the end of his regency, Thomas was working on one of his most famous works, Summa contra Gentiles. [43]

Naples, Orvieto, Rome (1259–1268) Edit

In 1259 Thomas completed his first regency at the studium generale and left Paris so that others in his order could gain this teaching experience. He returned to Naples where he was appointed as general preacher by the provincial chapter of 29 September 1260. In September 1261 he was called to Orvieto as conventual lector he was responsible for the pastoral formation of the friars unable to attend a studium generale. In Orvieto Thomas completed his Summa contra Gentiles, wrote the Catena aurea (The Golden Chain), [44] and produced works for Pope Urban IV such as the liturgy for the newly created feast of Corpus Christi and the Contra errores graecorum (Against the Errors of the Greeks). [43] Some of the hymns that Thomas wrote for the feast of Corpus Christi are still sung today, such as the Pange lingua (whose penultimate verse is the famous Tantum ergo), and Panis angelicus. Modern scholarship has confirmed that Thomas was indeed the author of these texts, a point that some had contested. [45]

In February 1265 the newly elected Pope Clement IV summoned Thomas to Rome to serve as papal theologian. This same year he was ordered by the Dominican Chapter of Agnani [46] to teach at the studium conventuale at the Roman convent of Santa Sabina, founded some years before, in 1222. [47] The studium at Santa Sabina now became an experiment for the Dominicans, the Order's first studium provinciale, an intermediate school between the studium conventuale and the studium generale. Prior to this time the Roman Province had offered no specialized education of any sort, no arts, no philosophy only simple convent schools, with their basic courses in theology for resident friars, were functioning in Tuscany and the meridionale during the first several decades of the order's life. The new studium provinciale at Santa Sabina was to be a more advanced school for the province. [48] Tolomeo da Lucca, an associate and early biographer of Thomas, tells us that at the Santa Sabina studium Thomas taught the full range of philosophical subjects, both moral and natural. [49]

While at the Santa Sabina studium provinciale Thomas began his most famous work, the Summa theologiae, [44] which he conceived specifically suited to beginning students: "Because a doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but to him pertains also to instruct beginners. As the Apostle says in 1 Corinthians 3:1–2, as to infants in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat, our proposed intention in this work is to convey those things that pertain to the Christian religion in a way that is fitting to the instruction of beginners." [50] While there he also wrote a variety of other works like his unfinished Compendium Theologiae and Responsio ad fr. Ioannem Vercellensem de articulis 108 sumptis ex opere Petri de Tarentasia (Reply to Brother John of Vercelli Regarding 108 Articles Drawn from the Work of Peter of Tarentaise). [42] In his position as head of the studium Thomas conducted a series of important disputations on the power of God, which he compiled into his De potentia. [51] Nicholas Brunacci [1240–1322] was among Thomas's students at the Santa Sabina studium provinciale and later at the Paris studium generale. In November 1268 he was with Thomas and his associate and secretary Reginald of Piperno, as they left Viterbo on their way to Paris to begin the academic year. [52] [53] Another student of Thomas's at the Santa Sabina studium provinciale was Blessed Tommasello da Perugia. [54]

Thomas remained at the studium at Santa Sabina from 1265 until he was called back to Paris in 1268 for a second teaching regency. [51] With his departure for Paris in 1268 and the passage of time the pedagogical activities of the studium provinciale at Santa Sabina were divided between two campuses. A new convent of the Order at the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva had a modest beginning in 1255 as a community for women converts, but grew rapidly in size and importance after being given over to the Dominicans friars in 1275. [47] In 1288 the theology component of the provincial curriculum for the education of the friars was relocated from the Santa Sabina studium provinciale to the studium conventuale at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which was redesignated as a studium particularis theologiae. [55] This studium was transformed in the 16th century into the College of Saint Thomas (Latin: Collegium Divi Thomæ). In the 20th century the college was relocated to the convent of Saints Dominic and Sixtus and was transformed into the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.

Quarrelsome second Paris regency (1269–1272) Edit

In 1268 the Dominican order assigned Thomas to be regent master at the University of Paris for a second time, a position he held until the spring of 1272. Part of the reason for this sudden reassignment appears to have arisen from the rise of "Averroism" or "radical Aristotelianism" in the universities. In response to these perceived errors, Thomas wrote two works, one of them being De unitate intellectus, contra Averroistas (On the Unity of Intellect, against the Averroists) in which he reprimands Averroism as incompatible with Christian doctrine. [56] During his second regency, he finished the second part of the Summa and wrote De virtutibus and De aeternitate mundi, contra murmurantes (On the Eternity of the World, against Grumblers), [51] the latter of which dealt with controversial Averroist and Aristotelian beginninglessness of the world. [57]

Disputes with some important Franciscans conspired to make his second regency much more difficult and troubled than the first. A year before Thomas re-assumed the regency at the 1266–67 Paris disputations, Franciscan master William of Baglione accused Thomas of encouraging Averroists, most likely counting him as one of the "blind leaders of the blind". Eleonore Stump says, "It has also been persuasively argued that Thomas Aquinas's De aeternitate mundi was directed in particular against his Franciscan colleague in theology, John Pecham." [57]

In reality, Thomas was deeply disturbed by the spread of Averroism and was angered when he discovered Siger of Brabant teaching Averroistic interpretations of Aristotle to Parisian students. [58] On 10 December 1270, the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, issued an edict condemning thirteen Aristotelian and Averroistic propositions as heretical and excommunicating anyone who continued to support them. [59] Many in the ecclesiastical community, the so-called Augustinians, were fearful that this introduction of Aristotelianism and the more extreme Averroism might somehow contaminate the purity of the Christian faith. In what appears to be an attempt to counteract the growing fear of Aristotelian thought, Thomas conducted a series of disputations between 1270 and 1272: De virtutibus in communi (On Virtues in General), De virtutibus cardinalibus (On Cardinal Virtues), De spe (On Hope). [60]

Final days and "straw" (1272–1274) Edit

In 1272 Thomas took leave from the University of Paris when the Dominicans from his home province called upon him to establish a studium generale wherever he liked and staff it as he pleased. He chose to establish the institution in Naples, and moved there to take his post as regent master. [51] He took his time at Naples to work on the third part of the Summa while giving lectures on various religious topics. He also preached to the people of Naples every day in Lent, 1273. These sermons on the Commandments, the Creed, the Our Father, and Hail Mary were very popular. [61]

Thomas has been traditionally ascribed with the ability to levitate. For example, G. K. Chesterton wrote that "His experiences included well-attested cases of levitation in ecstasy and the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, comforting him with the welcome news that he would never be a Bishop." [62] [ better source needed ]

It is traditionally held that on one occasion, in 1273 at the Dominican convent of Naples in the chapel of Saint Nicholas, [63] after Matins, 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." [64] [65] After this exchange something happened, but Thomas never spoke of it or wrote it down.

On 6 December 1273, another mystical experience took place. While he was celebrating Mass, he experienced an unusually long ecstasy. [65] 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" [66] (mihi videtur ut palea). [67] As a result, the Summa Theologica would remain uncompleted. [68] What exactly triggered Thomas's change in behavior is believed by Catholics to have been some kind of supernatural experience of God. [69] After taking to his bed, he did recover some strength [70] but died three months later.

In 1054 the Great Schism had occurred between the Latin Church following the Pope (known as the Roman Catholic Church) in the West, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the East (known as the Eastern Orthodox Church). Looking to find a way to reunite the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Gregory X convened the Second Council of Lyon to be held on 1 May 1274 and summoned Thomas to attend. [71] At the meeting, Thomas's work for Pope Urban IV concerning the Greeks, Contra errores graecorum, was to be presented. [72]

On his way to the council, riding on a donkey along the Appian Way, [71] he struck his head on the branch of a fallen tree and became seriously ill again. He was then quickly escorted to Monte Cassino to convalesce. [70] After resting for a while, he set out again, but stopped at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey after again falling ill. [73] The monks nursed him for several days, [74] and as he received his last rites he prayed: "I have written and taught much about this very holy Body, and about the other sacraments in the faith of Christ, and about the Holy Roman Church, to whose correction I expose and submit everything I have written." [75] He died on 7 March 1274 [73] while giving commentary on the Song of Songs. [76]

Condemnation of 1277 Edit

In 1277 Étienne Tempier, the same bishop of Paris who had issued the condemnation of 1270, issued another more extensive condemnation. One aim of this condemnation was to clarify that God's absolute power transcended any principles of logic that Aristotle or Averroes might place on it. [77] More specifically, it contained a list of 219 propositions that the bishop had determined to violate the omnipotence of God, and included in this list were twenty Thomistic propositions. Their inclusion badly damaged Thomas's reputation for many years. [78]

In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees the glorified soul of Thomas in the Heaven of the Sun with the other great exemplars of religious wisdom. [79] Dante asserts that Thomas died by poisoning, on the order of Charles of Anjou [80] Villani cites this belief, [81] and the Anonimo Fiorentino describes the crime and its motive. But the historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori reproduces the account made by one of Thomas's friends, and this version of the story gives no hint of foul play. [82]

Thomas's theology had begun its rise to prestige. Two centuries later, in 1567, Pope Pius V proclaimed St. Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church and ranked his feast with those of the four great Latin fathers: Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome and Gregory. [82] At the Council of Trent, Thomas had the honor of having his Summa theologiae placed on the altar alongside the Bible and the Decretals. [78] [83]

In his encyclical of 4 August 1879, Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII stated that Thomas Aquinas's theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine. Thus, he directed the clergy to take the teachings of Thomas as the basis of their theological positions. Leo XIII also decreed that all Catholic seminaries and universities must teach Thomas's doctrines, and where Thomas did not speak on a topic, the teachers were "urged to teach conclusions that were reconcilable with his thinking." In 1880, Saint Thomas Aquinas was declared patron of all Catholic educational establishments. [82]

Watch the video: 2019 Volleyball Slam Lansing vs St. Thomas Aquinas (July 2022).


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