Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
Next year will mark the seventh centenary of the canonization of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It was less than 50 years after his death, on July 18, 1323, that Aquinas was canonized, and a little over two centuries later, in 1567, he was declared a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of Catholic schools, colleges, and universities, and today a new generation of students is taking an interest in the ideas put forth by the man called the “Angelic Doctor” for his inspired teachings, which consistently raise the mind to God.
At the 11th International Thomistic Congress, recently held in Rome, Pope Francis said of Aquinas, “He was a man passionate about the Truth, a tireless seeker of the face of God.” The pope went on to quote Aquinas, who wrote, “Driven by an ardent will to believe, man loves the truth that he believes, considers it in his intelligence, and embraces it with the reasons he can find for this purpose.”
These words of Aquinas point to a profound reality at work in the hearts of all people. We were made to seek the truth about God and the right way to live, and we are constantly forming our purpose around our best estimation of the truth. This is why a new generation is finding their way to the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, as a way to remain grounded amid a sea of modern ideologies that can easily lead us astray.
The recent Thomistic Congress was hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas and by the Angelicum Thomistic Institute with the aim of exploring the enduring relevance of Thomistic Philosophy in today’s society. Father Thomas Joseph White, a Dominican theologian and rector of Rome’s Angelicum, granted an interview to Catholic News Agency during the weeklong congress in which he said, “We’re seeing a modest renaissance of Thomism in the Church, particularly in the English-speaking world.” Contrasting this renaissance to the scholarly attention Aquinas typically receives, he added, “It’s really more about people on the grassroots level, trying to think through the doctrine of the faith and bring theology to their local communities and to the broader Church through rigorous investigation and responsible reflection.”
In his remarks at the congress, Pope Francis said of Aquinas that his “search for the truth about God is moved and permeated by love.” This is perhaps the most important starting point for understanding Aquinas’s thinking and realizing that the intellectual journey he embarked upon is not consigned to scholars but accessible to all people and intrinsic to our very human nature.
It is heartening to learn that an interest in Aquinas is taking place on a grassroots level within communities seeking a grounding in the beliefs underpinning our faith. If this renaissance continues to flourish, it is sure to bear tremendous fruits by fulfilling the need so many people have to know God’s will.
The fruits of knowing God’s will manifest themselves in a myriad of ways that transform families and communities and lead to a more just and loving society. This is a great time to study thinkers like Aquinas, who so perfectly joins faith and reason through a search for the truth that is grounded in the love of God and neighbor. And it’s a great time to understand the reasoning underpinning our faith, so we can give witness to young people, those who are searching, and all those looking to be formed in the ways of Christ.
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