The fundamental crisis of contemporary culture and the wisdom of St. Thomas

“The division between the mind and reality,” says Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P., “and the project of self-creation, has sparked the disunity between us and all others.”

Detail from a stained glass window in Saint Patrick Church in Columbus, Ohio, depicting the crucified Christ speaking to St. Thomas Aquinas. (Wikipedia)

Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P. is a priest of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph. He has written for a number of Catholic and theological publications, and is currently working on a doctorate in sacred theology. He recently spoke with CWR about contemporary culture and its ills, about his own work, and about Thomism.

CWR: Could you please say a few words to introduce yourself to our readers?

Fr. Cajetan Cuddy, O.P. (portsmouthinstitute.org)

Father Cajetan Cuddy, O.P.: I am a Dominican priest of the Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province, USA). Currently, I am finishing a doctorate in sacred theology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. My research and writing focus on the integration of philosophy, theology, and spirituality in the thought of Thomas Aquinas and the Thomist Tradition. These interests, however, are not wholly academic. A fundamental crisis of an intellectual sort, I believe, is prevalent in our society. We’re starving for wisdom. I am convinced that Thomas and the Thomists are the best guides for those who yearn for peaceful order in thought and in life.

CWR: Could you say more about the “fundamental crisis” that you observe in contemporary society?

Fr. Cajetan: I think that the divisions prevalent in societal conflicts are symptoms of individual paradoxes in human persons which, themselves, manifest intellectual frustrations in human knowledge.

Commentators have pointed to a progressively acute disunity in modern society. There is great conflict about politics, economics, religion, race, and even gender. Social identities are often formed in terms of oppressor and victim: each party understanding itself as a victim of another group’s aggression.

Behind this societal discord is a prior division in individuals. Persons are not only divided from each other but also from their individual selves. Debates over gender and abortion, for example, reflect these inner self-tensions. The very prospects of changing our gender in an effort to realize personal authenticity or of terminating a pregnancy under the aspect of a pro-choice prerogative over our bodies reveal an underlying division in persons. Individuals are self-divided. We desperately seek to liberate ourselves from a hostility we find within ourselves. Personal identity is now thought of as a problem that can only be resolved by creating another different self. This is the paradox of the modern individual person.

To the famous adage, “as a person thinks in his heart so is he,” we might add, “as persons think in their hearts so are they – socially.” Intellectual frustration is the green-screen behind the divisions of society and the paradox of the individual. This is ironic because ours is a culture that esteems intelligence. The prominence of intellectuals like David Brooks, Jonathan Haidt, Alan Jacobs, Jordan B. Peterson, Steven Pinker, and Slavoj Žižek, for example, reflects the value that modern society ascribes to perceptive analysis. People want to understand the way things are and the way things ought to be. We are interested in questions that touch on topics of cornerstone importance: the dynamics of personal experience, human flourishing, cultural progress, and the meaning of life. It seems to me, however, that one would be hard-pressed to find any fundamental question not reducible, ultimately, to the Biblical questions posed by Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist), by the Serpent (in the Garden of Eden), or by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The interplay of these questions, when considered in light of intellectual history, helps us to see the contours of our contemporary crisis – and, perhaps, hints at the way out of it:

• Zechariah’s question: How shall I know? (Lk. 1:18)
• The Serpent’s question: Did God really say? (Gen. 3:1)
• Mary’s question: How can this be? (Lk. 1:34)

Zechariah’s question (How shall I know?) anticipates the preoccupations of modern thought (e.g., the “Age of Enlightenment”). Broadly speaking, modern philosophy is the attempt to find reality through or in the human mind. How can I be sure that I know what I know? Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant – to name only a few, emblematic figures – all grappled with the power and the limits of human knowledge. Sadly, none of these philosophical prodigies achieved their goal to liberate the human mind from the self-imposed confines of the human mind. The very instrument of their desired liberation became, itself, the shackle of human enslavement. Reality is not a product of human thought or imagination. To start with the human mind, even in an attempt to escape the human mind, runs the risk of becoming entrapped by the human mind. And a fabricated (even if elegant) world of ideas and concepts never, successfully, links up with real being and true reality. The Enlightenment experiment has proven to be a failure. Like Zechariah in the presence of the angel, modern philosophy has been “muted.”

And this brings us to the Serpent’s question (Did God really say?). Although “how shall I know? predicaments may have dominated past discourse, another question is more prominent today: Is there any reality at all? – Is anything (or anyone) really real? The modern failure to escape the mind by means of the mind has resulted in a pervasive skepticism about the existence of objective reality. We no longer believe that there is anything real outside of the mind itself. Contemporary minds have largely despaired of arriving at the promised land of the really real. Subsequently, another project has arisen: absolute self-assertion. If no independent reality outside of the individual mind exists, the individual mind must formulate its own individual reality. Today’s world heralds radical authenticity and champions self-expression. Ours is an experiment of self-creation. Reminiscent of the exchange between the Serpent and the woman in the Garden of Eden, our skepticism with regard to the existence of objective, ordered reality (“did God really say?”) has resulted in the tyranny of disordered desire (“the forbidden tree was desirable”): an illusory scheme to create our very being according to our own conceptions (“you will be like gods, who know good and evil”).

We had initially hoped that diverse self-created realities could peacefully “co-exist.” But this promise of relativistic utopia has also not been fulfilled. A spirit of shame and fear dominates the modern psyche (“I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid”). In an age where radical priority is given to unbridled desire, self-generated identity, and the equality of all “gods,” people actively shame others and are, themselves, radically ashamed (e.g., Twitter exchanges). It isn’t easy to live in an artificial construction—even one of our own making. We’re terrified by the very freedoms that we endorse and by the very identities that we aspire to create. Moreover, the self-asserted multitudes of individual mind-gods are compelled to wage war against each other—each demanding that the other recognize and pay tribute to their created realities. We’re angered by the “violence” of those who do not conform to our realities. Fear and anger are both the result, it seem to me, of frustrated minds attempting the impossible: to establish and to promulgate self-created realities. Only the really real can satisfy the real inclinations of real human persons.

The division between the mind and reality, and the project of self-creation, has sparked the disunity between us and all others. This mind-reality divide, in my judgment, is the fundamental intellectual crisis that has incited the confusion and conflict in society. There is no true unity because we are all radically alone – defined in opposition to reality, to others, and even to ourselves. (“The man replied, ‘The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.’”)

Contrary to that of the Serpent, Mary’s question (How can this be?) acknowledges that there is something to know. She asks a question about being. Her inquiry proceeds from no illusory, self-generated conceptions about her identity (or anything else). She is interested in the dynamics of real reality. And unlike Zechariah, Mary asks a question that gives these dynamics priority over the thought categories of her mind. She was not an Enlightenment woman. Her question reveals a mind that does not withdraw into itself. She reaches outside of herself – with tranquil confidence that her mind would encounter the really real, and be transformed by it (“May it be done to me according to your word”). Mary suffered no division of self. She was not trapped in her own intelligence. Hers was not a project of self-creation. She was a woman of reality (natural and supernatural). And because of this, she was able to be the mother of the Eternal Son of God: Wisdom Incarnate. Mary is the exemplar of those who think and live in conformity with the really real. She is the “Seat of Wisdom” (Sedes Sapientiae).

CWR: You recently wrote a book with Romanus Cessario, O.P.: Thomas and the Thomists: The Achievement of Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters. What makes this book unique, and why did you decide to write it?

Fr. Cajetan: Over the past 25 years or so there has been a renewed appreciation for Thomas Aquinas’s thought. Additionally, there is growing interest in the Thomists who followed Thomas—thinkers like Cardinal Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, Jacques and Raïssa Maritain, Charles de Koninck, and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (St. John Paul II’s doctoral professor). Father Romanus Cessario and I wrote Thomas and the Thomists (Fortress Press, 2017) to provide an accessible and short introduction to the unique genius of Thomas and the tradition he engendered. What makes our book unique is that it highlights the intellectual and evangelical continuity between Thomas and the Thomists. Their unity resides in a shared consecration to the truth of reality. Like Thomas, the Thomists believed 1. that reality exists, 2. that it is objectively knowable, and 3. that the dynamics of love unfold in the context of this knowable reality. Thought, life, and salvation are inseparable in their writings. Our book attempts to realign the study of Thomas and the Thomists around this shared thought-and-life project.

Because of their emphasis on reality, knowledge, and love, Thomas and the Thomists emphasize the dual-importance of reason and faith. This is a key theme that runs throughout the book. The light of reason and the light of faith both illumine the nature of reality – and both of these lights lead, ultimately, to God (who is the principle of all reality). Reason and faith bring the human person into personal, virtuous contact with the way things actually are and with the One who – in wisdom and love – created all that actually is. Thus, while Thomism is certainly a way of thinking, it is also a way of life – a life lived according to reason and faith.

Finally, Thomas and the Thomists shows how the Thomas and his interpreters were thinkers of ecclesial service. In moments of cultural confusion or controversy, they devoted themselves to the exposition and defense of the sacred deposit of faith confided to the Church. I would summarize our book in this way: the legacy of Thomas and his interpreters is one of intellectual evangelization. Thomas and the Thomists proclaim with penetrating insight how God creates in wisdom and redeems in mercy.

CWR: How would you define “Thomism”?

Fr. Cajetan: I recently had the honor of answering a form of this question in a video interview (“Thomism and Intellectual Monasticism”) conducted by iAquinas. Several additional points, however, come to mind.

The person of Thomas Aquinas: Thomism is more than the repetition of Thomas’s words and phrases or the imitation of his literary style. Thomas did not posit himself as the goal of Christian thought. Although he gave intellectual shape to the tradition that bears his name, the object of his teaching resides outside of Thomas’s person. In his writings, Thomas largely ignored himself because he found reality to be far more interesting. Were he to speak to us today, he would undoubtedly discourage students from embarking on something like a “Quest for the Historical Thomas” if this were to distract them from taking up Thomas’s own project: the quest for truth. A Thomistic gaze is not so much oriented to Thomas himself as it is to what Thomas knew (and whom he loved). Therefore, Thomism is a way of thinking that searches with Thomas for the truth about reality (and, ultimately, the truth about God).

Wisdom: Consequently, Thomas Aquinas hands on (“traditions”) to his students something much more precious than a collection of erudite books. Thomas’s true gift—and the essence of Thomism—is a way of wise thinking governed by first principles. And it is here that we distinguish wisdom from the memorization of facts. Wisdom and native intelligence are not the same thing. Smart people can formulate stimulating ideas in their minds. Wise people allow their minds to be formed by the most fundamental truths. Wisdom enables us to recognize—and to promote—order. The contemporary world is dominated by an overwhelming amount of information. Not all information is created equal, however. And, as a wise teacher, Thomas identifies the most important truths – the “first truths” (or “first principles”) that configure all knowledge in all contexts. Chief among the first truths is this: being and nothingness are really distinct. Thomas recognized that all other truths proceed from this foundational principle. His graced genius enabled him to see profound depths in – and to recognize the universal implications of – the nature of being. Therefore, Thomism approaches all of reality in light of the “first truths” that underlie everything that exists – everything from a blade of grass, to the squirrel, to the newborn baby, to marriage, to the Church, to God. “Thomism” receives its name from Thomas because he is the one who identified which principles are absolutely primordial. And “Thomists” see how these first truths permeate all aspects of thought and life.

Intellectual Monasticism”: Interestingly, amidst the noise and chaos of contemporary life, there has been a renewed interest in monasticism and contemplation. (See, for example, Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Optionand Cardinal Robert Sarah’s The Power of Silence.) Everyone pines for “peace of mind.” This is unsurprising. Tranquility and thought are essential parts of human experience. All of the most important elements of our lives involve rational reflection—the kind of career we pursue, whom we choose to marry, how we raise our children, what our political affiliations will be, etc. Thomas Aquinas offers an ordered way of thinking that shapes the intellect just as a monastic rule shapes the rhythms of human living. I like to describe Thomism as an intellectual monasticism. Monasticism orders all aspects of human life around God—time, work, recreation, and even the very architecture of the monastery are God-directed. Thomism orders all aspects of human thought around the highest truths. Each of Thomas’s “first truths” serve as the “building blocks” upon which the “intellectual monastery” is constructed in the soul of the Thomist.

To summarize: Thomism is a wise – ordered – way of thought that reflects Thomas’s consecration to the truth. The truth alone enables one to find abiding peace, authentic freedom, and real happiness. And only the truth has grace.

CWR: You serve as General Editor of the Thomist Tradition Series of books published by Cluny Media. Could you say a few words about this book series and its purpose?

Fr. Cajetan: Thomist Tradition Series assists readers of today who wish to benefit from wise writers of the past. As I say in my introduction to the series: “The Thomist Tradition book series from Cluny Media arises from a dual conviction: 1. the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas contains an incomparable fullness of wisdom, and 2. the writings of the Thomists who followed him play a necessary role in mediating his wisdom to subsequent generations.”

Proceeding from this conviction, the series does two things. First, it makes available (in new edition) classic texts of Thomistic philosophy and theology. Examples of these include the brilliant philosophical essay by Thomas C. O’Brien titled: Metaphysics and the Existence of God. We are particularly happy to have republished Joseph Clifford Fenton’s What Is Sacred Theology?, which addresses theology’s nature and practice.

Second, the series also includes titles that have never before been published in English-translation. This past year, we released Édouard Hugon’s profound yet accessible book on the Blessed Mother: Mary, Full of Grace (translated by John G. Brungardt). The newest volume in the series is a marvelous collection of Garrigou-Lagrange’s essays (translated by Matthew K. Minerd) that covers an array of philosophical and theological topics: Philosophizing in Faith (Dec. 2019).

I would like to clarify, however, that the Thomist Tradition Series is not simply an assortment of reprints and translations. Each volume comes with a new (and often lengthy) introduction that contextualizes the importance of the work and its author. Explanatory footnotes have also been added throughout the body of the text. These additions are designed to help readers understand the book’s argument and to place the work in contact with later authors and discussions. I should also note that the series does not bespeak a nostalgia for the “good old days.” It’s simply that past thinkers often thought more clearly and more profoundly than we do today. We in the present can glean much from the wisdom of past Thomists.

CWR: What advice would you offer to aspiring Thomists and those who want to embark on the search for wisdom?

Fr. Cajetan: Ask for wisdom. Wisdom, ultimately, is a gift. It does not originate from ourselves. We must search for it—in others—with receptive humility. Although enticing, the prospect of “self-generation” is an illusion. We cannot create ourselves. This means, first, that we must pray and ask God for the gift of wisdom. Because God is the first cause and the final end of all reality, the order of wisdom has its paradigmatic origin in God himself. Second, we do well to search out wise teachers who exemplify wise thinking and model wise living. Admittedly, it is not always easy to find a living mentor. But God always provides for our wisdom-needs—when we ask.

Study wisely. Thankfully, some of the wisest people in history have written books that expose readers to wisdom in practice, regardless of whether or not we are able to encounter wisdom’s recipients in person. Wise study habits give priority to an intensive reading of select books and articles rather than to a cursory reading of many books and articles. “Skimming” is not a practice characteristic of wise persons. If a text is unworthy of concentration and focus, it will probably not do much to advance our reception of wisdom. Although technology has made it easy to publish many words and ideas, the Internet does not cultivate penetrating thought or truth-directed discourse. A profound appreciation of the most important things is superior to a vague familiarity with all things. A. G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life and Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book are valuable starting places for those who wish to study wisely.

Live wisely. Wisdom and virtue are inextricably linked. Contrary to the tendencies of idealism and materialism, the human person is a real union of soul and body. Consequently, the chaos of disordered desire always frustrates even the intellectual pursuit of wise order. Because of the essential unity of the human person, those who deprive their lives of the truth will find it difficult to inform their minds with the truth. How we live influences how we think, and vice versa. (The biographical profiles sketched in Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals vividly illustrate this point). Anyone can find personal peace and happiness in the absence of physical health, material possessions, or fame. But no one can elude personal frustration and nonfulfillment if wisdom and friendship are absent. My favorite line from Thomas Aquinas is: “Christ is our wisest and greatest friend” (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 108, a. 4, On the Contrary). No sin disqualifies us from meeting Incarnate Wisdom. We who are prone to foolishness and to betrayal have a place in the communion of divine friendship. How do we live in friendship with Christ? Through his seven sacraments. Because the sacraments unite us to Jesus, the sacraments are instruments of wisdom. Therefore, a wise life is a sacramental life.


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About Joseph G. Trabbic 11 Articles
Joseph G. Trabbic is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ave Maria University. He has published in various academic journals, including Religious Studies, International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, and New Blackfriars. He is also a contributor to Thomistica.net.

20 Comments

  1. Letter CWR Thomism 01-27-20

    Fr. Cuddy’s responses are lucid and a delight to read, more than once. Four points: First, in the early part of the interview we read that, “[T]here is no true unity because we are all radically alone – defined in opposition to reality, to others, and even to ourselves.” A reminder, here, of a similar bedrock insight from Luigi Giussani (Communion and Liberation):

    “. . . yes, religion is in fact that which man does in his SOLITUDE; but it is also that in which the human person discovers his ESSENTIAL COMPANIONSHIP. Such companionship is, then, MORE ORIGINAL to us than our solitude…Therefore, BEFORE SOLITUDE there is companionship, a companionship that embraces my solitude. Because of this, solitude is no longer true solitude, but a cry calling back that hidden companionship” (The Religious Sense, Ignatius Press, 1990, p. 75, caps added).

    (The Russian novelist Dostoevski, in his Crime and Punishment, also speaks of a “subterranean solitude” that is deeper than sin, and then of a still deeper fellowship.)

    Second, the near dismissal of Thomism by many smorgasbord theologians, it seems to me, is due to their superficial failure to grasp what is meant by the difference between (created) existence and (absolute) non-existence. FR. CUDDY: “Chief among the first truths is this: being and nothingness are really distinct.” Instead and after Kant, they presume that even on this in-your-face “principle,” Thomas is simply one possibly academic opinion among others.

    Third, it is the pre-modern Christological ecumenical councils (and the Nicene Creed) that offer the perennial antidote for post-modern centrifugal confusion. The councils (and the mentioned “deposit of faith”) articulate the UNITY of the triune God, the unity in the incarnate person of Christ (his two natures), and again this same unity as borne by Mary (Theotokos). Then, redeemed/elevated in Christ, we have the graced unity of each human person and society, especially within the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ.

    And fourth, alongside the disintegration of the West, and for all of its distortions and dead ends, Islam in its best light does seem to intuit a stillborn NOTION of UNITY, e.g., the perception/ rejection of Christianity as polytheism, and the fusion of mosque and state. In the long haul, any transformative bridge building between the deepest Western roots and the followers and culture of Islam will have to propose Thomism’s transcendent Unity even more than any pluralist Fraternity.

    • The fundamental crisis is not intellectual but spiritual. The experience of, and union with, God, is the entire, and ignored, purpose of the religion.

      Even Thomas put away his Summa and left it unfinished as “so much straw” compared to what he experienced in prayer.

      Teach people to seriously practice interior mortification and love of God above all created things, and the other problems sort themselves out, and sinning against the commandments becomes impossible.

      All which is admirable as to Christianity arose out of this union of self with God, and not out of exalted intellectual exercise which is always subject to argument and counter-argument.

      Teach them to PRAY and to truly and without a doubt experience God, and you will have your true disciples, immune to,

      “For there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.”

      • Point well taken. Yes, but also, said Pilate: “What is truth?” A question possibly worthy of prayerful thought? (Balthasar, Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, urge “doing theology on one’s knees.”

        Maybe no binary choice or dichotomy between “exalted intellectual exercise” and the spiritual?

        • There are intellectual exercises for building the intellect which can help us in arguing the Faith, surely, and there are spiritual exercises and formal devotions, etc. which are thought of today as ends in themselves, same as Sacraments.

          The intellectual can aid the latter two, but the latter two are no more ends than is the intellect an end, as they, too, are operations of the intellect, lumped under “meditation” (thinking/ruminating). All are ordered to fostering loving devotion to our God, only returning the boundless love the Father offers his wayward children. Not even the Sacraments are fully effective without this love. They, too, are also ordered to bringing us to this union in love, and is their purpose. Food for our real work, which is love.

          It is in this love we are united to God. Truth is found only in prayer, and prayer is only true when it is wordless, a child lost in longing aching love of the Father, formally named “contemplation” (simply seeing/experiencing). There is where Truth is found, as said by the Christ himself, for unless we become as little children…

          To not do this is the failure of Adam and Eve, the failure of ancient Israel, the failure of those whom Jesus preached against,…thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, ALL thy mind, ALL thy strength….this is not hyperbole to be ignored, but a literal template for salvation.

          It is why Jesus came, to demonstrate this love, so that we believe and return this love….his first requirement for a disciple is that we love him, where THEN we will keep his commandments….John declared God IS Love….Paul said without Love we are only noise….the examples are too numerous to list. This how we are able to pray always, by loving God totally always, our life a sacrifice of love/praise, putting NOTHING ahead of him.

          One might fairly ask how is salvation accomplished in this love….true lovers (as Christ for his bride the Church, as love between Father and Son eternally begetting the Spirit which is that Love become a Person, and as meant for man and woman to mirror in their love also begetting through their giving) give up everything for the beloved, making a gift of everything to the beloved, where nothing is held back, desiring only the welfare of the beloved over any selfish concern. They share everything completely. Our Divine Lover gives us a share of all which he is, which is also eternal/eternity, if only we return his love as completely….he holds nothing back, and neither can we…we love him into eternity, we love our way into eternity….to fail in this love and to remain detached and no love in us except for self and vain persuits is how we damn ourselves…purgation is where we shed the last obstacles standing between us and complete love of God, united totally with him….the Communion of Saints joins us to all the others in this total sharing, total love, total understanding, total forgiving (which is why no marriage in Heaven as we all are more intimate than ever could be man and wife in this world, marriage not abolished but only obsolete, us as in tune with God’s will as the angels who exist only as messengers of his will, but we there by free choice rather than maker design).

          Apologies for mangling Thomistic classic uses of will/intellect/etc, but hope the drift not obscured by lack of academic precision….one thing for sure, once you have experienced God in the depths of the heart, you will know how much mere words or intellect fail…Paul knew this well…so did St. Benedict…so did all the saints…

          Intellect is a tool….do not mistake the map for the actual land, do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself….used properly for its purpose, which is to come to union with God, and it is a right use of creation bringing praise to God….anything not ordered to this union is a misuse of creation which has caused incalculable grief through the ages.

          • It was late (for me) as I pecked out that reply, and some crucial things were omitted….such as, yes, we love our way into eternity, but it is entirely impossible to do so by own power, but only by begging God for the grace to love him as he should be loved…this is what distinguishes authentic Catholic spirituality from heresies such as Quietism, or Centering Prayer, or Zen Buddhism, where those are entirely dependent upon the practioner simply doing everything as directed, and reduces experiencing God to only a repeatable lab experiment or even conjuring, totally under own power. Without God we can do nothing.

            If we lack this love, or even desire for this love, we should earnestly beg God that it be granted. This was stated clearly by Pope Pius XII in his encyclical “Doctor Mellifluus” commemorating the 800th anniversary of St Bernard’s death, where he urged, “…exhort and urge others to a greater love of God, be aglow with that love with which we must always be most passionately united with God. In our own day, more than at any other time – as We have said, – men are in need of this divine love. Family life needs it, mankind needs it. Where it burns and leads souls to God, Who is the supreme goal of all mortals, all other virtues wax strong. When, on the other hand, it is absent or has died out, then quiet, peace, joy, and all other truly good things gradually disappear or are completely destroyed, since they flow from Him who is love itself,” and, “… although not all can reach the summit of that exalted contemplation of which Bernard speaks so eloquently, and although not all can bind themselves so closely to God as to feel linked in a mysterious manner with the Supreme Good through the bonds of heavenly marriage; nevertheless, all can and must, from time to time, lift their hearts from earthly things to those of heaven, and most earnestly love the Supreme Dispenser of all gifts,” and even, “…Hence, that divine love with which the Doctor of Clairvaux was so ardently aflame must be re-enkindled in the hearts of all men, if we desire the restoration of Christian morality, if the Catholic religion is to carry out its mission successfully, and if, through the calming of dissension and the restoration of order, injustice and equity, serene peace is to shine forth on mankind so weary and bewildered.”

            The encyclical is not an instruction sheet for interior prayer, but shows only the marvelous effects only one man can have when united in love with God..

            Imagine if all Catholics were aflame with this love, and the world a world of true saints….with God, ALL things are possible and Man would be near to accomplishing his true destiny.

          • In response and support for your thoughts, still a fine point here on the remark that “there are spiritual exercises and formal devotions, etc. which are thought of today as ends in themselves, same as Sacraments.”

            “Same as the Sacraments?” Human language of subject and predicate fails us. Just as “being” is actually (literally “actually”) a verb rather than a noun, might the “unique” sacrament of the Real Presence actually be an “end” already, as well as, and even infinitely more than any “means”?

            Might it be an oversight to, yes, move in love while still objectifying “the body and blood, together with the [very] SOUL AND DIVINITY” (CCC 1374) of the incarnate Christ? The “Divinity” !!!??? The “whole Christ is truly [!], really [!], and substantially [!] contained.” But in our (unwitting and pre-intelligent) imaginations is too easily regarded still as a devotional “means” rather than as the fullness of Christ’s active and gifted and once-and-for-all Self-donation, truly and fully renewed and extended sacramentally, but in an unbloody manner.

            An “end” here and now; a “real” foretaste of heaven; our “true destiny” (your final words) already but not yet, and not yet but already. A symbol and, also, the Mystery of that which it symbolizes.

            Just a prayerful and astonished thought…

        • Die for love, yes….it is one of those things often quoted, but very little instruction on exactly how to “die to self” or “pray without ceasing” or “must take up their cross and follow”…..this lack of the instruction and lack of those who have even heard of such things, from top to bottom in the Church, is why we are in such straights today.

          Folk are dying to be led to God, but rare is the priest or bishop who can do so, and when nobody can show seekers how to find and experience God, and when all that is seen is unfulfilling rote, they quit going to such a sham.

          And when leaders are bereft of such, small wonder they fail and fall same as their charges.

          Whwn it is the same inside and outside the Church, rightly people say, “why bother?”, and they vote with feet and wallets.

          • Hi! Bob “pray without ceasing”

            Could be described as trusting in God from moment to moment, we do this when we see ‘all’ through the eyes of faith, when Sr Faustina (Now St) was asked by our Lord to

            “Paint a picture according to the vision you see and with the inscription. “Jesus, I trust in thee”. I desire that this picture be venerated first in your chapel and then throughout the world”

            She acted immediately in ‘singular pure intent’, manifesting ‘The depth of her love for God’ to the request given to her, by Our Lord Himself. “Obedience to God is essentially love of God” Sadly the learned have compromised her action, as we do not have her Painting /drawing/effort (Giving God His due) in its brokenness, venerated throughout the world

            All simple hearts know that when looked upon honestly this flawed/broken image is a self-reflection, immediate and self-evident of Sr Fustina heart before God, as it corresponds with the internal reality of all of us. The pray that should be incorporate into the said image is

            “Jesus I trust in thee”

            Trust in God is not just about words, rather it is a movement of the heart, that induces a shared honest relationship with Him, and underpinning this relationship, is our humility before Him. (St Bernard, Humility; a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases him-self)

            When we place our trust in Him, no matter how broken (Sinful) or feeble our attempt/effort might be, we will receive grace in the ‘present moment’. If we continue to do this in humility our faith/trust will be strengthened, as we slowly ‘die to self’ while taking up our daily cross (Brokenness), The Holy Spirit will show/lead all honest seekers “how to find and experience God”, as eventually, He will dwell within us.

            kevin your brother
            In Christ

  2. ‘ Greeks seek wisdom ..’ , as warned by St.Paul , who asks us to focus on Christ crucified, to deliver us from the ‘shadow of death ‘ , the enemy spirits, possibly even hovering over us , with claims over our lives ..
    https://www.openbible.info/topics/shadow – on the different occasions of mention of ‘shadow ‘ in the bible ; Bl.Mother , overshadowed by The Spirit , filled with Godly wisdom ..Solomon, more likely , unto like that of the Greek fathers ..they might even have been descendants of the wise Solomon ..with connections to Absalom as well, with a history of head injury as well .
    St.Thomas the Apostle , once he touched the wound of The Lord , had no more shadow of doubt , could joyfully proclaim – ‘ My Lord and my God .’
    May the prayers of these holy saints help us to discern and break free from the enemy ‘shadows ‘ that cloud our visions and darken our hearts in pride and divisions , to instead be filled with The Spirit .

  3. I love this article. I have very deep respect and appreciation for all authentic, faithful, Christ-like Religious Orders and the Dominicans win the top pennant for me. This is not for “sentimental” or even personal reasons (I started by seeking the Franciscan Order, I love Saint Francis of Assisi, Nature, animals, etc.). Dominicans go to the core of the Faith and the core of all things like no other Order I’ve ever seen, finding God there in an INCARNATED, physical, “down and dirty” way with Reality, just like Jesus Christ Our Lord, and this article shows it once again. Our Church suffers from both lack of spirituality and its extreme, over-mysticism. Satan is the father of all extremes. Truth disappears in an environment of extremes. Evil knows that all too well.

    Adam and Eve had some INCARNATED (in-the-body) wisdom when just created (but not the full revelation of Christ) and all it took for Satan to make them fall was to make that wisdom DIS-INCARNATED, disconnecting and ripping it off from their bodies, turning their wisdom into what we call today intellectual intelligence, and which is so open, vulnerable and subject to emotional, sentimentalist, sinful manipulation. Today, we can see that SO clearly in that many of the most highly intellectual people, in and out of the Church, are the most devious, open to compromise and actively deconstructing the True Faith (Pope Francis recently called himself “furbo” while describing his personality to an Italian journalist- meaning: sly, cunning). You can see the DIS-INCARNATE core of it with today’s vicious hatred for the human body even since before birth with abortion, homosexuality, invented genders, transhumanism, sex robots, etc.

    The Dominicans are bringing St. Thomas INCARNATED WISDOM that is capable, through God’s Grace, to restore us not only to that original INCARNATED WISDOM that Adam and Eve were given in Genesis, but to a much higher degree of it and that was given by Jesus through His crucified BODY. What would growing in this INCARNATED Thomistic Wisdom do? Is it deeply practical? Oh, yeah!!

    We would be ever more immune to the sentimentalism, emotionalism, fanaticism, propaganda, self-absorption and, as mentioned in the article, self-created, delusional-human-god-minds, which large sections of other Orders like the Jesuits have fallen for and that infects our societies and our Church like an Ebola of The Soul. The INCARNATED WISDOM in this article has the potential to restore our Church and the World. It is infinitely more than a “spiritual” or “philosophical” exercise, or cotton stuffing for the brain to impress others. It brings Jesus INCARNATED again to our bodies and lives!! The Holy Spirit was up to something monumental with John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Thomism is the other wing we need to be free from unbalanced, unstable, disincarnate intelectualism and make us fly to God, here and now!

  4. An excellent introduction to acquiring wisdom that misses the essential premise of St Thomas Aquinas on How can I be sure that I know what I know? Fr Curry is correct that skepticism distances the mind from reality. An addition to this presentation can be a technical response as to how we distinguish reality as understood in the mind from reality as understood as identical with the external world – the kernel of skeptic as well as scientific inquiry. All knowledge must possess a First Principle which for Aquinas is sensible perception. Skepticism of reality was defined by Kant as distinction between noumenon representative of the reality of the external world and phenomenon the mind’s a priori construct of knowledge of the external reality. St Thomas would argue in accord with his epistemological premises that these arguments are after the fact conjecture. All of Fr Cuddy’s reflections make good sense demonstrating the validity of knowledge. How do I know what I perceive is then not simply a more positive outlook as different from the philosophic skeptic or scientist? Although subject to reflection, we know through images [the phantasm transmitted between object and the senses is not strictly an image as in imaginative contrivance or in memory rather an objective reality] in sense perception, it is a quasi reflection immediate and self evident (ST 1a 86 1 Ad 1). This is the universal evidence that substantiates all enquiry whether philosophic or scientific must correspond with external reality.

  5. I don’t know; I wonder if T.A. were around today in this materialist, information overload society if he would still belive that ‘Being is Enough’.

    • Gka in respect to the significance of understanding being: “No one can reasonably deny what exists in the same manner that no one can reasonably deny truth. What exists in the mind must correspond to what exists in reality. That capacity to clearly distinguish between oneself and external things is due to our reflexive knowledge of self in the very act of knowing external things. And consequently to understand moral good. Being determines what is true in the abstract and what is true independently of ideas. It is not possible then to know something with clarity without knowledge of what is good in respect to it. What we discern as good is perceived in things that are good. ‘All being is good. Good then is convertible to being'” (ST 1a2ae 18, 3 in Assent to Truth Fr Peter Morello).

  6. At the risk of showing my ignorance, is not a significant beauty in Fr. Cuddy’s explanation simply that seeing the problem, a bridge becomes possible to erect between separated brothers – a bridge back to reality?

    I take his explanation this way: The divide between the political left and right, the spiritually progressive and conservative seems to grow by the day. Interestingly, the root cause can be seen quite easily. It is found in Genesis 3:1 “Did God say?” A negative answer, as the serpent promises, makes us self-made gods. A positive answer keeps us in reality. As we know, these two worlds do not coexist. Out of “shame and fear, those promoting a self-chosen reality, demand tribute to their creation”. Then, when we each demand tribute, war ensues. Into the fray, however, steps Our Lady. At the Annunciation, in response to another question, “How can this be?” (Lk 1: 34), Mary believes God and says “May it be done unto me according to your word.” This is the beginning of reality. Embracing this, that is, believing God, is the beginning of the bridge to reach our separated brothers.

  7. While contesting as to what the worst crisis and as to how it dealt, I meant in no way to diminish Thomism, and think it essential for the Church and world, in many critical ways….simply not all of them.

    My own feeling is that in the forseeable future, in between the simple collapse of the Church in sheer numbers, the pressure of Islam, and under assault even by own Western culture, that being accused of being a closet Christian and herded onto a cattle truck by a guard and culture who simply does not care or want to hear my arguments is drawing closer and closer, and a time soon enough that remaining Christians will be hoping mighty hard for that asteroid or however God chooses to wrap things up and call it done.

    Past that cheery future, if some other future pans out, as an outsider looking in as for any manner of academic philosopher, there is a need for being able to intelligently state a case to an equally intelligent person open to persuation, to include not only religion, but in proposing truly just and logical law, societal goals and aspirations, management of resources, and most especially in service to Holy Church itself in abilities to precisely uphold and proclaim confidently its own truths, doctrines, and laws free of logical internal error or contradiction and preserving constant teaching….not too shabby.

  8. I wish to add a comment here on Saint Thomas Aquinas and the deleterious influence of modernistic interpretation of the Angelic Doctor and moral theology in general. It was written by me in response to a related article by Timothy Flanders for 1P5. My comment is scientific in nature and is vital to appreciating his thesis and nature of the problem. A significant historical account is the editing of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Latin texts and subsequent assessment of his moral theology. Example is the cardinal virtue Prudence, the deliberation of an act that is the centerpiece of Aquinas’ moral theology. The widely known Latin translation the Marietti edition was compiled and edited by Fr Raimondo M Spiazzi OP. Spiazzi contested that Aquinas’ interpretation of Aristotle’s doctrine of prudence was incorrect. In fact in a positive sense Spiazzi was correct in the assertion. Aquinas actually resolved the circular argument of Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics that desire of a good is completed by the rational appetite as the motivating and final principle of a moral act, whereas Aquinas corrected that schematization because it suggested that the end of nature, what is desired is the end of a moral act. Aquinas instead identifies the Judgment of reason since choice must, and can only follow the judgment of reason regarding right or wrong. Aquinas thus affirms that reason not the will determines the end of a moral act. The best Latin translation of Aquinas was actually begun prior to the 1949 Marietti edition by Leo XIII. That edition called Iussu Leonis XIII is the critical Latin. The Leonine critical edition of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ works were only recently made public [1969]. Fr Spiazzi later came in conflict with Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini who accused the former of incorrect assessment of Ad Caeli Reginam and Fulgens corona the Marian theology of Pius XII. So much depends on the moral integrity and orthodox faith of our scholars.

    • In addition criticisms of Thomas Aquinas’ commentaries on Aristotle are not unusual. Aquinas after all brought to philosophy what Aristotle lacked, the revelation of Christ and the centering of moral law on that revelation. Aquinas states with brevity and clarity what most of us do not. The following demonstrates that clarity to what I refer to above. “The truth of practical reason is determined by its conformity to a correct appetitive faculty, whereas the truth that is the conclusion of practical reasoning in respect to the means to the end is the rule of rectitude for the appetite” (Sententia Libri Ethicorum 1139a27. Translation is mine since the critical edition was not translated into English at the time I wrote). The initial phrase represents Aristotle’s thought, the latter Aquinas. It becomes evident that the “means to the end”, the act itself is determined by reason.

    • Correction the Leonine edition of the Summa Theologiae was available in English [the finest that of Blackfriars OP London: Eyre & Spottiswoode 1963] before Aquinas’ commentary on the Libri Ethicorum of Aristotle in the original Latin 1969.

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