In 1879, Pope Leo XIII sought to revitalize Catholic thinking with what he called the “ancient beauty” of the “renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas.”
“With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.” (Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, 25)
Yet in the last 70 years we have observed in secular culture (but even inside Catholicism) a turn to the ugly and grotesque. An extreme example of this would be a “Crucified Cow” on approved display in a parish chapel of Saint John the Baptist of Kuttekoven, Belgium. Lesser examples would sterile or ugly churches, or altar appointments meant to shock the mind, rather than elevate the mind contemplation of glories of our Savior Jesus Christ. As we will see, ugliness is related to ugly theology.
Beauty as Intro to Goodness and Truth:
Long before Christ, Socrates identified the True with the Good and the Beautiful. In his Symposium, Plato has Socrates explain how Beauty is the “Intro Course” to good philosophy. Socrates says that Beauty leads to “fair practices” (Good) and that in turn leads to “fair notions” (Truth).
“The true order of going is to use the beauties of the earth as steps along which to mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty: from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions until he arrives at the idea of absolute beauty.”
The tri-fold flow moves from 1 to 3 like this:
- καλόν kalon “beautiful,” leads to:
- ἀγαθόν agathon “good,” which leads to:
- ἀληθές alethes “true”
Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty”
Pope Leo XIII was prophetic in referring to the writing of Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty.” Most Catholics wrongly assume that the Thomas Aquinas is head-in-the-sky, ivory-tower, academic speculation that no layman could possibly understand. Regretfully, I once heard a sermon in which the priest told the congregation that Thomas Aquinas is “too hard” and that nobody should try to read him! I almost stood up and hollared “heresy!” Thomas Aquinas wrote that his Summa theologiae was written to “instruct beginners” and to give them “milk and not yet meat.”
Thomas Aquinas is Beautifully Accessible:
Against the false claim of that good-willed but misled pastor, Saint Thomas Aquinas can be easy, simple, and accessible to any Catholic who is able to read. I am so convinced of this that I earned my Ph.D on the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and I have made it is my life goal to make the world “a more Thomistic place.”
Over the last five years, I have helped over 100,000 people get started with studying Thomas Aquinas with a short (free) book: Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (digital download for free).The hardcopy version of Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages is the most popular intro book on Thomas Aquinas available at amazon.com. I’ve been told by seminarians and priests across the world, that this is the book that they begin with and recommend to others. Again, I make it available to everyone for free by clicking here.
I have also helped another 10,000 Catholics with online courses on getting started with Saint Thomas Aquinas through the New Saint Thomas Institute.
7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas:
Since today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I’m sharing one of our most popular 9 minute videos with you. It is titled “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas” and I will share 7 reasons why Thomas Aquinas can change your life, change our culture, and change our evangelism efforts as Catholic Christians. Please watch it and leave a comment.
This video will share the profound “ancient beauty” of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please share it with others on this feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It will also introduce you to a series of over 100 similar video lessons culminating in our online Certificate Programs (click here to see one example of our 7 Current NSTI Certificates).
If taking online video courses (all through the lens of Thomas Aquinas) is something that interests you, check out the New Saint Thomas Institute – the worlds largest online Institute for studying Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, Mariology, Catholic Apologetics, Church History, and (recently) New Testament Studies. Visit us at New Saint Thomas Institute and read our NSTI Student Reviews.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!
Dr Taylor Marshall