The Church is faced with a dilemma. We are losing people to modernism in droves and the church has a decision to make: change who you are to conform to society or hold fast to the teachings of the Faith. Unfortunately may mainline denominations are doing the latter, they are changing to conform to the pressures that society is putting on them to change. They have stopped talking about the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the redemptive power of Christ. They deny the miracles we are told of in sacred scripture and have compromised the very foundations of Christianity. Bishops and Archbishops are on television preaching universalism and offering alternatives to salvation, through everything from Wicca to Islam to nothing at all. So the church has a choice. Change who you are or hold fast to the Faith. As a Dominican the answer is crystal clear to me. We hold on to the Faith and teach the Faith like our lives depended on it, because not only do our lives depend on it, but our souls do as well, and what better an appropriate time to talk about faith, and reason, than on the feast day of our Holy Brother and Teacher Saint Thomas Aquinas.
At the young age of five, Thomas was sent to live at the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, as was the custom of the time. His parents’ hope was that he would chose the Benedictine life and eventually become abbot. In 1239 he was sent to Naples where he was to complete his studies and it was then that he was introduced to Aristotle’s philosophy. By 1243, however Thomas abandoned his family’s plans for him and it is then that he joined the Dominicans.
Once with the Dominicans Thomas traveled to Paris where he would finish his studies under Albert the Great, and he would live at the court of Pope Urban IV. He would direct the Dominican school in Rome, but his greatest contribution to the Church was the fact that he showed us that we could reconcile faith and reason. Because even then people were struggling with how this was possible and Saint Thomas was able to give us timeless teachings that we as Christians can use today.
Thomas believed that the existence of God could be proven in five ways. First by observing movement in the world as proof of God, the “Immovable Mover.” Second by observing cause and effect and identifying God as the cause of everything. Third by concluding that the impermanent nature of beings proves the existence of a necessary being, God, who originates only from within himself. Fourth by noticing varying levels of human perfection and determining that a supreme, perfect being must therefore exist, and fifth by knowing that natural beings could not have intelligence without it being granted to them it by God..
Thomas used faith and reason to establish his arguments, something that we must do as well. As Christians we are called to evangelize, a task that is met with much criticism and one that many people shy away from simply because they are not prepared to counter some of the very same arguments that Saint Thomas has already provided us with a foundation to argue.
As a Dominican I am committed to sharing the Word of God, I am committed to sharing it boldly and I am committed to sharing it from a place of faith and reason, being able to meet people where they are on their journey. But the greatest gift that we have because of Aquinas is that when we wrestle with doubt and when we wrestle with uncertainty, we have the example that he has set for us. We know that we can approach faith with reason to find our answers, we know that they complement each other not cancel each other out. Because of that we can grow stronger in our faith and be bold to proclaim the saving message of Christ.
We do not need to change who we are as a Church, we do not need to deny basic tenets of the Faith to be popular with the skeptics, instead we need to meet our skeptics with knowledge not only of faith but faith combined with reason so that their eyes may be opened to the truth of God. Let us pray:
O God, who made Saint Thomas Aquinas outstanding in his zeal for holiness
and his study of sacred doctrine, grant us, we pray, that we may understand what he taught
and imitate what he accomplished. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
*Another great hymn from the great St. Thomas Aquinas. This version of the hymn does not include the 3rd or 4th verses. The art is “The temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas” by Diego Velazquez; “Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas over the heretics” by Filippino Lippi; “The Apotheosis of Thomas Aquinas” by Francisco de Zurbaran. License Standard YouTube License Music “Adoro Te Devote” by Richard Proulx