7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas (His Theology as Ancient Beauty)

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:

  1. καλόν kalon “beautiful,” leads to:
  2. ἀγαθόν agathon “good,” which leads to:
  3. 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

Concerning the Death of Unbaptized Infants by St Gregory Nazianzus

Two of the most rewarding practices for a Christian are 1) reading the Bible from beginning to end, and 2) reading the sermons of the Church Fathers. One of the greatest theologians and orators of the Church Fathers is Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He is simply called Saint Gregory “the Theologian” in the East because of his precise and excellent presentation of theology.

Since the Apostles and Church Fathers universally recognized that baptism was the instrumental means by which Jesus Christ removes sin and infuses grace, they also received the pastoral question of what happens to unbaptized babies. Before we look St Gregory the Theologian, let that sink in. The presumption is that infants should be baptized.

Not only that, but we know from the Eastern Fathers and from Western Fathers like Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine that baptized infants were confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist. We Roman Catholics would do well to request that the Apostolic and Patristic practice of paedo-communion (infant communion) be rightfully restored to our children.

Here is Saint Gregory “the Theologian” Nazianzus on the death of unbaptized children:

Will you know everything in Heaven? Thomas Aquinas answers

Will you know everything in Heaven? This question is best answered by exploring the spiritual gift of “counsel.”

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is “counsel.”

What is counsel? Thomas Aquinas defines counsel in this way:

Again, it is proper to the rational creature to be moved through the research of reason to perform any particular action, and this research is called counsel. (STh II-II, q. 52, a. 1).

So counsel is research led by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thomas also explains how it relates to the virtue of prudence – making right decisions.

It might be asked whether this gift of counsel remains in Heaven. Do the saints in Heaven need counsel? Do the angels need counsel?

Thomas says that counsel remains in the blessed and in the angels. Why?

Because the human saints and the angels in Heaven do not know everything. Contrary to what you may have learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t reveal everything to us in Heaven. There will remain mysteries.

The Blessed Virgin Mary knows more than the angels and saints, but she is still limited in our celestial knowledge. Only the Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) know all things. Only the three person of the Holy Trinity are omniscient.

Because humans and angels in Heaven are not omniscient, we will continue to seek spiritual counsel. Angels are guided into helping those on earth. Even humans are guided by counsel from the Holy Spirit in aiding those on earth. Yes, Holy Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and your guardian angel continue to exercise that spiritual gift of “counsel.”

And we on earth especially need spiritual counsel. How do we gain it:

  1. by not clouding our minds with venial or mortal sin.
  2. by checking in with the Holy Spirit frequently throughout the day “Am I living your will for my life?”
  3. by reading the documents written by the Holy Spirit – Sacred Scripture. Here we find explicit teaching and advice for our lives.
  4. by explicitly asking the Holy Spirit to give us counsel on difficult problems in our lives.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: You might also enjoy my Podcast: Did the Holy Spirit really appear as a Real Dove?

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

9 Facts about Saint Joseph (Plus Old vs Young Joseph Debate)

Happy feast day of Saint Joseph. Here are 9 Facts about Saint Joseph for our edification:
St Joseph

  1. The name “Joseph” in Hebrew means “he increases.” We get it from the Greek form of Ιωσηφ (Ioseph), which comes from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף (Yoseph). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux taught Joseph was rightly named, because God “increased” the gifts and graces that were in the world through Saint Joseph (Hom. 2 super Missus est).
  2. Saint Joseph is not mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, but he features in Matthew and Luke. He is only briefly mentioned by Saint John when he writes: “Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (John 6:41-51).
  3. Saint Joseph is described in Greek as a τέκτων or “tekton,” which is translated as “carpenter,” but it is better translated as “artisan.” A tekton is anyone involved in physical construction and repair. Joseph may have worked with stone, wood, metal, cement, clay, and other substances. The words “technology” and “architecture” are related to the Indo-European root for tekton.
  4. Joseph, while of the House of David in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, which is only a 40 mile (65km) walk to Jerusalem. Nazareth was a suburb of the town of Sepphoris described as:”Rich, cosmopolitan, deeply influenced by Greek culture, and surrounded by a panoply of races and religions, the Jews of Sepphoris were the product of the Herodian social revolution – the nouveaux riches who rose to prominence after Herod’s massacre of the old priestly aristocracy.” (Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 44)This places Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the proximity of a wealthy, Gentile culture. Most craftsmen in this region would likely have learned Greek and perhaps Latin to serve the economy of Sepphoris. This is why some speculated that Christ our Lord knew Hebrew (as a student of Scripture), Aramaic (as a native of Nazareth), Greek (Gentile language of politics and commerce), and Latin (language of Roman occupants).
  5. History testifies to two traditions of Saint Joseph – the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin) traditions. I personally follow the Young Joseph tradition as I think it’s more historical and more biblical. I’ve detailed the debate here: ARTICLE the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin).
  6. Saint Joseph was truly married to the Blessed Virgin. This was debated and settled in the early Church. Some people wrongly state that Mary was an “unwed mother” and this is blasphemy. See my article: “Thomas Aquinas 12 Reasons Why Joseph was Married to Mary.”
  7. It is speculated that Saint Joseph never sinned (confirmed in grace) and that he was sanctified before birth – but not at conception like the Blessed Virgin. Francisco Suarez, Jean Gerson, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri each teach that Saint Joseph was sanctified and regenerated in his mother’s womb prior to birth. Sacred Scripture teaches us that the Prophet Jeremiah and Saint John the Baptist received this honor of sanctification in the womb. The eminent theologians above, notably Saint Alphonsus – a doctor of the Holy Church, extend this privilege to Saint Joseph. They even teach that Saint Joseph was confirmed in the grace, which means that he was so filled with grace that he never committed a mortal sin or a deliberate venial sin.
  8. Some also speculate that since there are no relics of Saint Joseph, he was assumed bodily into Heaven. Francis Suarez maintained St. Joseph was taken up into heaven bodily. St. Bernardino of Siena, Gerson, and St. Vincent Ferrer held the same. St. Francis de Sales points out the fact that nobody claims the tomb of St. Joseph and that there are no relics of this saint. Then he continues in Les Vrais Entretiens Spirituels:Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.”Some have speculated that Saint Joseph was among the “saints” who were resurrected shortly after the death of Christ on Good Friday: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Mt 27:51-53).
  9. It’s common practice to bury a statue of Saint Joseph to sell one’s home. This comes from a condemned divination practiced called “Deprecation of the Saints,” whereby a person places a sack on a saint’s statue head or hides a statue in the closet or otherwise treats a saint statue disrespectfully until a request is granted. This is why folklore states that you’re supposed to dig up the Saint Joseph statue after the sale of the home to “reward” him for granting a request. It’s probably not a wholesome practice. Perhaps its better to place Saint Joseph’s statue in a place of honor in the home for intercession through Saint Joseph to our Lord Jesus Christ for the sale of one’s home. (Though feel free to debate this the comments box.)

Have a happy and holy Feast of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph pray for us.

Question: Do you think of Saint Joseph as an older widower or as a young guardian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dr. Taylor Marshall

Timeline: How Thomas Aquinas died of a Brain Injury on March 7

On March 7 1274, the greatest Catholic mind died from brain trauma. Here’s a timeline of what happened brought you to by the New Saint Thomas Institute:

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

  • Sometime in 1273: The sacristan Domenic of Caserta observes Thomas Aquinas 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.”
  • Dec 6 1273: While celebrating the Mass of Saint Nicholas, Thomas went into ecstasy. Thomas’ friend and secretary Reginald later asks him: “Master, will you not return to your work?” Thomas Aquinas replied: “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.” Thomas no longer works on the Summa theologiae.
  • Pope Gregory X asks Saint Thomas Aquinas to reconcile the Greek Orthodox bishops at the Second Council of Lyon in France to be held on 1 May 1274.
  • Early 1274, Thomas strikes his head on a tree branch along the Appian way near Monte Cassino. It’s not clear whether this happened while he was riding a horse or whether the branch or log was already on the ground.
  • Thomas recovers and continues his journey to the port. His health fails again and he is taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. While he was conscious, he gave a commentary on the Song of Songs, as had Saint Bernard.
  • March 7, 1274: His brain continued to swell. He received Last Rites and his last words were: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….” and then he was received into Heaven by Jesus Christ.

From this timeline, you can perceive the deep mysticism of Thomas Aquinas. Many wrongly assume that Thomas was an aloof college professor or academician. Far from it. He was a mystic full in love with Christ and driven to preach in teach in the parish churches and in the universities.

I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Here is a free book titled Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages. It is currently the most popular introduction to Thomas Aquinas available on amazon.com. You can have it free by clicking here.Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
  2. Here is a free video called “NSTI: VIDEO: 7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. This video will help you see the various levels of the spirituality and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas in only a few short minutes. Watch it here.
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If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can explore the dozens of video lessons on Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Philosophy and Thomistic Studies online curriculum by clicking here.

If you’d like to try taking online classes on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Mariology, Apologetics, Church History, and/or Medieval Theology, please explore the New Saint Thomas Institute: newsaintthomas.com.

Intro to Thomas Module

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr. Taylor Marshall

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is there literal physical fire in Purgatory? Video and Thomas Aquinas

The Eastern Orthodox often reject the Latin doctrine of Purgatory based on the Latin tradition of “physical fire” purifying souls in purgatory.

The Latin phrase used by Thomas Aquinas and others is “corporal fire.” For example:

I answer that, In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. (STh Supp. App I. q. 2, a. 5)

The Latin is ignis corporalis. The “corporeal fire” of Purgatory is one of the doctrines that the Greek Orthodox objected to during the Second Council of Lyons (1274). Saint Thomas Aquinas was discharged to defend the doctrine at this council, but he died on the way. Saint Bonaventure was sent in his stead (and Bonaventure died at the end of Council).

I very rarely disagree with Saint Thomas Aquinas, but I do disagree here – but I will offer a Benedict XVI suggestion that might provide a unique solution.

How can “corporeal fire” purify an immaterial non-corporeal soul in Purgatory? This is a metaphysical problem. You cold corporeal fire under an immaterial soul all day long and it would not touch the soul. And yet Thomas is insistent on the fire of Purgatory (and Gehenna) as corporeal.

Pope Benedict, in his Encyclical Spe Salvi, writes:

Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgment. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves (Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi 47).

This goes along with the teaching of Moses that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24). If Christ Himself is the purifying fire, then here’s the twist: Christ is corporeal! He is resurrected. So a Christian might in fact say that the fire of purgatory is “corporeal” if in fact we are referencing the resurrected corpus Christi.

burning bush icon

Is the particular judgment when we stand face to face with the resurrected Christ the burning fire of love that hurts, burns, cleanses, and restores the soul alive with sanctifying grace but lacking full sanctification at death. I think so.

I think all of this can be held along with holding (as do I) that Purgatory is “located” not in Heaven with the Beatific Vision but in the Infernus or Sheol.

Here’s my video on Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Four Regions of Hell:

Question: Comments are open. Please share your thoughts. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas in 2017

Happy feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

If you wish that you had that intellectual edge in discussing and debating Catholicism, Thomas Aquinas is your best resource. And yet, most Catholics feel intimidated by Thomas Aquinas because they have been wrongly introduced to him and his writings. It doesn’t need to be that way. Thomas Aquinas expressly stated that he wrote for “beginners in theology.”

I’ve assembled over 100 video lessons to help you answer skeptics, Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims, atheists, and fallen away Catholic through the lens of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Since it is his feast day, I want to share one with you:

Here is a free sample video on “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. Like all of our New Saint Thomas Institute HD video lessons, it is short, to the point, and provides you practical and tangible theological education:

If you’d like to join the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can take more classes like this, receive access to hundreds of free Catholic books by the saints and Fathers and follow our clear and organized curricula in:

  1. Certificate in Catholic Philosophy and Thomistic Studies
  2. Certificate in Catholic Theology
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  4. Certificate in Church History: Church Fathers
  5. Certificate in Church History Medieval Theology
  6. Certificate in Church History: Modern (coming 2017)
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Our priority is that you begin obtaining a philosophical and theological education through the perspective on Saint Thomas Aquinas.Tuition is just over $1 a day and there are no contracts, so you can cancel at any time. We are 3000+ students (retired, students, mothers, professionals, religious, priests, deacons) strong delivering high quality theology and education through a cloud based delivery system to over 55 nations:

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