Friday, January 27, 2012
Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas- A much needed Feast Day
Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas, a saint who still plays a prominent role in the Church today. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 to a prominent family on the Italian Peninsula, and embraced his vocation to be a Dominican Mendicant, to the disappointment of his family, who wanted him to be a Benedictine.
Why is Thomas important in modern day society? Thomas was one who blended together the God given gifts of Faith and Reason. 800+ years later, Pope John Paul II will remind the world that "Faith and Reason are like two wings of a dove which rise to the contemplation of truth" (Fides et Ratio 1).
In a world where often times either Faith or Reason are jettisoned for what enlightened people, or fideists would call "absolutism" (albeit in a false sense of the word), Thomas Aquinas was one who adequately blended the two. What is this "absolutism" to which I refer? When a fideist (and by this, I mean a person who jettisons reason and relies exclusively on their idea of revelation as the only source of knowledge of God) makes a claim, it can lay too much a burden on one particular source of revelation. For example, if this exclusive source was the Bible, the question must be asked: who wrote the Bible, from where did it come, and what is the proper interpretation? These questions aren't, for the most part, answered in Scripture, so if Scripture alone was a source of Revelation, the argument can quickly fall apart. If Scripture was the only source of truth that one follows, what about its existence itself which is not talked about in scripture? Someone else can say that their religious book was divinely revealed, and then it is a battle of two different sources that both claim to be the absolute truth. This can quickly reduce Scripture into a subjective, relativist understanding, especially if another book makes opposite claims than the Bible. It follows then that there has to be a use of logic and reason when it comes to Faith, for without it, Faith has no grounding.
Sometimes the claim one makes can be seemingly contradicted within the same source (especially in the Bible where things can seemingly contradict if read in a strictly literal interpretation instead of reading Scripture according to the intention of the writer [human and divine]). Reason in many ways can help sort out seeming contradictions and other troubles of Scripture (the hard teachings). Reason is a gift from God that, in spite of what same may believe, is not totally corrupt or depraved; rather, it is a still essential truth for seeking Truth in all things.
In Thomas' magnam opus the "Summa Theologica," Thomas sufficiently used reason to inform the Faith about which he is teaching. In many of the arguments found today in the moral realm of life, reason is needed in a real and urgent way. Without reason, our Faith is not really grounded in anything; luckily, our Faith is reasonable!
We have so much to owe to Thomas and others in our history who saw the importance of reason and philosophy and employed it to teach things new as Fideists do, but rather as Christians who are grounded in "Truth." In light of Thomas, let us use reason in our arguments and discussion with those who insist on taking the lives of the less fortunate, for this truth ultimately points all things to Christ, who is the "Truth" (John 14:6) Himself.
May you remain close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. God bless.