St. Thomas Aquinas by GK Chesterton

One of the most challenging books I have ever read, mostly because a lot of the philosophies and heresies GK Chesterton speaks of, I’ve never heard of before. But, I was able to still take a lot of great info from this book. Here is some of it.

The Saint

“The Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the word to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what people want, but rather what the people need… Therefore it is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” 

The Church

“If the world grows too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.”

There has never been a time when the Church was not torn between invasion and treason.

The evil is always both within and without the Church; but in a wilder form outside and milder form inside. 

St. Thomas Aquinas’ profound humility 

“When asked for what he thanks God most, he answered simply, “I have understood every page I ever read.” 

Before his death, Thomas gave a general confession and his confessor ran away after in fear, saying he gave the confession of a five year old. 

On Man

Man is not a balloon going up into the sky, nor a mole burrowing merely in the earth; but rather a thing like a tree, whose roots are fed from the earth, while its highest branches seem to rise almost to the stars.” 

On facts

The external fact fertilizes the internal intelligence, as the bee fertilizes the flower. Anyhow, upon that marriage, or whatever it may be called, the whole system of St. Thomas is founded; God made Man so that he was capable of coming in contact with reality; and those whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder. 

On St. Thomas’ Agnostic Start

Thomas had started almost as an agnostic; and seemed to resolve to leave nothing in heaven or hell about which anybody could be agnostic. 

On Martin Luther

He had a single and special talent for emphasis; for emphasis with the quality of an earthquake. 

He destroyed Reason; and substituted Suggestion. 

Aristotle

St. Thomas did not reconcile Christ to Aristotle; he reconciled Aristotle to Christ. St. Thomas was making Christendom more Christian is making it more Aristotelian. The “Baptism of Aristotle” brought Greek philosophy finally into the system of Christendom. 

His Aristotelianism simply meant that the study of the humblest fact will lead to the study of the highest truth. 

His main business was to defend the Faith against the abuse of Aristotle; and he boldly did it by supporting the use of Aristotle. 

On heresies

it is the fact that falsehood is never so false as when it is very nearly true. It is when the stab comes near the nerve of truth, that the Christian conscience cries out in pain. 

It is a mathematical fact that if a line be not perfectly directed towards a point, it will actually go further away from it as it comes nearer to it. 

On “to be or not to be – that is the question

The massive medieval doctor does most certainly reply in a voice of thunder, “To be – that is the answer.”

On Aquinas’ Orthodoxy

His huge and solid orthodoxy could have supported so many things which then seemed to be unorthodox. As charity covers a multitude of sins; orthodoxy covers a multitude of heresies. 

On arguments

If there is one phrase that stands before history as typical of Thomas Aquinas, it is that phrase about his own argument: “It is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves.”

We must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours. 

Reason and Human Intellect

St. Thomas was one of the great liberators of the human intellect. Thomas was a very great man who reconciled religion with reason, who expanded it towards experimental science, who insisted that the senses were the windows of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon facts, and that it was the business of Faith to digest the strong meat of the toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies. 

On Revelation

“The conclusion he draws from it is that men must receive the highest moral truths in a miraculous manner; or most men would not receive them at all.” 

His argument that most men must have a revealed religion, because they have not time to argue. No time, that is, to argue fairly. 

On his sanctity

His real life of sanctity was intensely secretive. Such secrecy has indeed generally gone with sanctity; for the saint has an unfathomable horror of playing the Pharisee. 

The holy man always conceals his holiness. 

On being asked what he wants

After Jesus told St. Thomas that he has written well concerning the Eucharist, and asked Thomas wants he wants as a reward, he replied, “I will have Thyself.” 

On the difference between St. Francis & St. Dominic

“Dominic did happen to be confronted with a huge campaign for the conversion of heretics, while Francis had only the more subtle task of the conversion of human beings.”  

On his childhood

He was a large and heavy and quiet boy, and phenomenally silent, scarcely opening his mouth except to say suddenly to his schoolmaster in an explosive manner, “What is God?”

On St. Louis IX of France

For while it is possible for a king to wish very much to be a saint, it not possible for a saint to wish very much to be a king. 

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