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St. Thomas Aquinas: Model of Faith and Reason at Work

January 27, 2008
St. Thomas AquinasSt. Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians in the history of the Catholic Church. He is a supreme example of one whose life and teaching were one. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V. His feast day is January 28.
According to St Thomas' thought, human reason "breathes": it moves within a vast open horizon in which it can express the best of itself. When, instead, we reduce ourselves to thinking only of material objects or those that can be proven, we close ourselves to the great questions about life, ourselves and God and are impoverished.
The relationship between faith and reason is a serious challenge to the current dominant culture in the Western world, and for this reason Pope John Paul II dedicated an Encyclical to it, entitled Fides et Ratio -- Faith and Reason (1998). Faith presupposes reason and perfects it, and reason, enlightened by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of God and spiritual realities. Human reason loses nothing by opening itself to the content of faith, which, indeed, requires its free and conscious adherence.
St. Thomas knew how to present a wonderful Christian synthesis of reason and faith that today, for the Western civilization, is a great patrimony to draw from for an effective dialogue with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and South of the world.
On the feast of St. Nicholas in 1272, Thomas was saying Mass and a tremendous change came over him and after that he did not write. His secretary, Brother Reginald complained and Thomas said: "Such things have been revealed to me in prayer that what I have written seems to me to be rubbish. And now in silence I will await the end of my life." He was 49 years old. On the way to the Ecumenical Council of Vienne in France, Thomas struck the branch of a tree on March 1 and died on the road -- four months to the day after receiving the revelation about his work. During those four months he wrote nothing. It was silence and darkness.
Although Thomas is sometimes seen as an analytical and methodical writer, he was, especially in his later years, given to periods of mystical ecstasy. Only a mystic and lover would be capable of writing such moving texts as the Adoro te devote, the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Mass, and the Tantum Ergo. These hymns and prayers eloquently express the transcendent unity accomplished through this mystery in which, as G.K. Chesterton once said, “every man, prince or pauper, may recognize his high calling.”
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O., Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
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