Many people still associate study of the works of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) with the dark and dusty atmosphere of an old theological library. In attempt to introduce the study of the Angelic Doctor (so named, some say, because of his extensive writings on angels) a group of Dominican scholastics and lay theological scholars came together some years ago and organized a one week course on Aquinas in Ireland during the summer months. They set up the Aquinas Institute of Ireland, and their first summer school was held in 2014 at a Dominican facility overlooking the sea on the south coast. Some of the organizers teach at the International Theological Institute (ITI) near Vienna, and present and former students of that Institute also attend these summer schools.
The stated goal of this Aquinas Institute is “to introduce the thought of St. Thomas to a wider audience, and to lead students of both theology and philosophy towards a deeper and more comprehensive appreciation of his texts.” During the past four years, men, women, lay and ordained, and families too (activities and sports are organized for those who bring their children along), people of many ages and nationalities, have attended these schools. During the week all the participants read closely an extract of Aquinas writings in a prayerful environment, with discussion and reflection on the texts. Since the school also welcomes people who are not familiar with the writings of Aquinas, classes are organized in a manner which helps all grow in appreciation of the depth and wonder of his teaching, and its relevance for our faith today.
The first Aquinas Summer School was held in 2014, and this year, since suitable accommodation is not available in Ireland, the School will be take place at the Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham. It will run from Sunday July 23rd to Saturday the 29th, and the cost of tuition, accommodation and food is £240. More details and the application procedure can be found at the website:
The Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas
The Summa Theologica and the Summa Contra Gentiles are the best known of the writings of St Thomas Aquinas. These works are spread over many volumes, but toward the end of his life St Thomas produced a Compendium of Theology, a book of just over 400 pages, which contains a synopsis of the Summa Theologica.
St Thomas also wrote commentaries on the books of the New Testament, and one on the Book of Job. Many of these commentaries are now being published in English for the first time. The Aquinas Institute at Wyoming Catholic College in the USA is translating and publishing these Commentaries, along with his other works of theology and philosophy. Their website is: http://theaquinasinstitute.org/
Some years ago, Fr Paul Kimball SSPX published his own translation of the Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. A book of 1026 pages, this work provides many insights into the personal faith of Saint Thomas.
Then there is the four volume Catena Aurea, published by Baronius Press. This is a “golden chain” of commentaries by the Church Fathers on the four gospels, translated into English by Blessed John Henry Newman in 1841. St Thomas compiled the commentaries from the Fathers in a manner that allows them to be read as a single exposition of the meaning of each gospel.
Finally, for those who want a simple work of St Thomas on fundamental aspects of our faith, The Aquinas Catechism, contains his short and clear explanations of the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Ten Commandments.
Fr Daniel Horgan