Thursday, January 28, 2016
I am teaching a seminar this semester at Notre Dame on Catholic social thought and law, and this week we are discussing the remarkable legacy of Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) through an examination of his famous social encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) and other writings. For today's Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, here is a bit from Aeterni Patris (1879), the encyclical that rehabilitated the place of philosophy in modern Catholic intellectual life (and may all of us aspire to follow Thomas's example by "wanting neither...soundness of principles or strength of argument").
Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because "he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all."(34) The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.