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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Make 2009 the year you study St. Thomas Aquinas

I was a young adult during the turbulent sixties. I entered college in Washington, D.C. in 1964 and graduated in 1968. What a time: lunch counter sit-ins, , assassinations, the rebellion following Humanae Vitae, D.C. riots not far from campus, drugs, sex, rock and roll, bell bottom trousers, mini-skirts and tie-dyed T-shirts, the mantra: "If it feels good do it." Blowing your mind was a phrase that describes the decade well. Reason was thrown out the window, and feelings raged unchecked. What chaos! I don't remember the sixties with fondness, but relief that I survived despite the fact that almost every cultural anchor (including the hierarchy of the Church) failed us. Many self-destructed on the shoals and haven't recovered yet. How many today base their opinions on "personal truth" which is nothing more than feelings and rationalizations to do whatever they please? The culture endorses this irrational approach to life. Since the 60s, schools have focused more on promoting self-esteem than critical thinking skills.

But there's hope. St. Thomas Aquinas, that champion of wisdom, logic, and clear reasoning, is making a comeback. Thomas had a profound impact on the areas of ethics, philosophy and political theory. He is among the Doctors of the Church and one of the greatest thinkers of all times. If you want to know the truth about the big questions of life, you can hardly do better than to study St. Thomas and his method of examining life. Pope Leo XIII considered him an effective prescription against modernism and, during his pontificate, called for schools of higher education to teach Thomistic philosophy.

The Summa Theologica offers an excellent example in how to find the truth about any subject. St. Thomas states the question, then provides the objections; then he answers each objection and makes a declaration. His approach is open-minded and respectful of disagreement. It thoroughly and seriously evaluates all aspect of an issue. The desired end, for St. Thomas, as it should be for all of us, is to know the truth; and Thomas is methodical in his search. If he seems obscure at first, he becomes clearer and clearer the more you read him. As Peter Kreeft says, "St. Thomas aimed only for light, not heat." Aquinas' writings, he says, are filled with wisdom.

Make St. Thomas a guide in 2009. More and more our culture is returning to chaos, but St. Thomas can be a rock and an anchor against the current of confusion. He knew what philosophy truly was, "not the study of what men have opined, but of what is the truth." If you want to know the truth, study St. Thomas.

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