Thomism does not have to be a museum object

Pope Francis gave the audience participants, on the occasion of the xi International Thomistic Congress, the speech prepared. Here is the text.

Cardinals,
Distinguished Academicians, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am pleased to welcome all of you who have come to Rome from different parts of the world to celebrate the 11th International Thomistic Congress. I thank Cardinal Luis Ladaria for the kind words he addressed to me. I greet Father Serge-Thomas Bonino, President of the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and all the academics present. I also express my gratitude to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi who, as President of the Coordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies, has accompanied the life of the Academy for many years.

Next year will be the seventh centenary of the canonization of St. Thomas Aquinas, which took place in Avignon in 1323. This event reminds us that this great theologian – the “common Doctor” of the Church – is first of all a saint, a faithful disciple of the incarnate Wisdom. For this reason, in the collect prayer of his memory we ask God, “who made him great for the pursuit of holiness of life and the passion for sacred doctrine”, to “give us to understand his teachings and to imitate his examples “. And here we also find your spiritual program: to imitate the Saint and let yourselves be enlightened and guided by the Doctor and Master.

The same prayer highlights Fra Tommaso’s passion for sacred doctrine. In fact, he was a man passionate about the Truth, a tireless researcher of the face of God. His biographer reports that as a child he would have asked: “What is God?” 1. This question accompanied Thomas and motivated him throughout his life. This search for the truth about God is moved and permeated by love. Thus he writes: “Driven by an ardent will to believe, man loves the truth he believes, considers it in his intelligence and embraces it with the reasons he can find for this purpose” 2. Humbly pursue, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,intellectus fidei it is not optional for the believer, but it is part of the very dynamism of his faith. The Word of God, already received in the heart, must reach the intelligence to “renew our way of thinking” (cf. Rm 12, 2), so that we evaluate all things in the light of eternal Wisdom. Therefore, the passionate search for God is at the same time prayer and contemplation, so that St. Thomas is the model of the theology that is born and grows in the atmosphere of adoration.

This search for the truth about God uses the two “wings” of faith and reason. As we know, the way in which St. Thomas was able to coordinate the two lights of faith and reason remains exemplary. St. Paul wrote to you: “The central point and almost the core of the solution that St. Thomas gave to the problem of the new confrontation between reason and faith with the genius of his prophetic intuition, was that of the reconciliation between the secularity of the world and the radicality of the Gospel, thus escaping the unnatural tendency to negate the world and its values, without however failing in the supreme and inflexible demands of the supernatural order “3. The Christian, therefore, is not afraid of starting a sincere rational dialogue with the culture of his time, convinced, according to the formula ofAmbrosiaster dear to Thomas, that “every truth, by whoever it is told, comes from the Holy Spirit” 4.

In the collect prayer already cited we ask for the grace not only to imitate the Saint but also to “understand his teachings”. Indeed, St. Thomas is the source of a tradition of thought which has been recognized as “the perennial novelty” 5. Thomism must not be a museum object, but an ever-living source, according to the theme of your Congress: “Vetera novis augere. The resources of the Thomist tradition in the current context ”. According to Jacques Maritain’s expression, a “living Thomism” must be promoted, capable of renewing itself in order to answer today’s questions. Thus, Thomism goes on following a double vital movement of “systole and diastole”. Sistole, because we must first concentrate on the study of the work of St. Thomas in its historical-cultural context, to identify its structuring principles and grasp its originality. Afterwards, however, comes the diastole: to turn to today’s world in dialogue, to critically assimilate what is true and just in the culture of the time.

Among the many illuminating doctrines of Aquinas, I would just like to draw attention, as I did in the Encyclical Laudato si ‘, on the fruitfulness of his teaching on creation. Not surprisingly, the English writer Chesterton called Aquinas “Thomas of the Creator”. Creation is for St. Thomas the very first manifestation of God’s stupendous generosity, indeed, of his gratuitous mercy6. It is the key to love, says Thomas, who has opened the hand of God and always keeps it open7. He then contemplates the beauty of God that shines in the ordered diversity of creatures. The universe of visible and invisible creatures is neither a monolithic block nor pure formless diversity, but forms an order, a whole, in which all creatures are linked because they all come from God and go to God, and because they act as one. on the others thus creating a dense network of relationships. “Saint Thomas Aquinas wisely emphasized that multiplicity and variety come from the intention of the first agent, who wanted what each thing lacks to represent divine goodness to be made up for by other things, so that his goodness does not it can be adequately represented by only one creature. For this, we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships. Therefore, the importance and significance of any creature is better understood if it is contemplated in the overall plan of God “8.

For all this, dear brothers and sisters, in the footsteps of my predecessors I recommend: Go to Thomas! Do not be afraid to increase and enrich the old and ever fruitful things with new things. I wish you good work and heartily bless you. And I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you!

1 Petrus Calo, Life s. Thomas Aquinatisin Fontes vitae s. Thomae Aquinatis, edited by D. Prümmer and M.-H. Laurent, Toulouse, sd, p. 19.

2 Summa theologiae, iia-iiae, q. 2, a. 10.

3 Lett. Ap. Lumen Ecclesiae (November 20, 1974), 8: aas 66 (1974), 680.

4 Ambrosiaster, In the Cor 12, 3: pl 17, 258. Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, the to- ii ae, q. 109, a. 1, ad 1.

5 St. John Paul II, Encyclical Lett. Fides et ratio (September 14, 1998), 43-44.

6 See St. Thomas Aquinas, In iv Sent., d. 46, q. 2, a. 2, qla. 2, to 1; Summa theologiae, the to, q. 21, a. 4, ad 4.

7 See St. Thomas Aquinas, In ii Sent.Prologus.

8 Lett. Enc. Laudato si ‘ (May 24, 2015), 86.

Thomism does not have to be a museum object – L’Osservatore Romano