THE DOCTOR IS IN
I wrote this piece in celebration of the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
This great thirteenth century Dominican friar was a man who reflected deeply about life His reflections highlight that greatest of the cardinal virtues, that of wisdom. Wisdom, or prudence as Saint Thomas might have put it, means the ability to know how to do the right thing at the right time in the right way. The acquisition of wisdom involves lessons from experience, studied reflection on books and lectures, and t maintaining a vital spiritual life guided by liturgy and prayer. We should seek widely for our fonts of wisdom. After all, Saint Thomas read very widely including the works of pagan, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers. He was also leery of those who located truth too quickly based on a narrow approach. He warned, “beware of the man of one book.”
The fruits of his approach in his fertile mind were many. Here are two examples of his wisdom on the earthly level. St. Thomas noted that sorrow can be alleviated by “good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” Or “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends, even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
We are witnesses, like Aquinas, of an age of anger and violence. St. Thomas, like our current pontiff, reminds us of a fundamental truth when we are frustrated at times by our fellow human beings, even by some of our fellow Catholics. “How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars – when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know.”
Saint Thomas also brings us to concise and profound statements about our faith. “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.”
Of course, knowing what to do, how to be a wise and merciful person is not easy. We need guides and Saint Thomas is one of these guides. For more on his wisdom and life go to http://www.aquinas.emory.edu/resources_thomas.html. Saint Thomas is a doctor of the church, a special guide for Catholics on the teachings of the Church. But he is a doctor in another sense. If Pope Francis is right that the Church should be a hospital to nurse and guide those that are physically or spiritually fallen, we are very fortunate to have a doctor like Saint Thomas.
For our part in the spirit of Saint Thomas, the Aquinas Center tries to provide nourishment for your journey to spiritual health and God’s wisdom. If you come to our events in the next couple of months, you might be surprised, indeed you might have some unexpected conversations for the common good. You might even discover some resources for living the fully human life.
Let us return now to an early prescription of our spiritual doctor for our frenetic world. After a hard day, have a nice relaxing bath, pour your self a glass of wine, and get some well-deserved rest.