Why St. Thomas Aquinas Matters

Despite the incredible connections available to us through roads, language, and the internet, we live in times of great confusion. Modern men and women tend to divide their lives into disparate compartments. Thus it is not uncommon to hear people speak of their work life, family life, public life, private life, social life, and spiritual life. But how many lives do we actually live?

Instead of having a single goal, or telos, to which all our actions are ordered, we have become shattered and imbalanced. This division prevents us from growing as a whole person, from living a whole and unified life. We have lost sight of the virtue and gift of wisdom.

But when we pursue wisdom, it is then that we are able to answer correctly the question: “What should I live for?”1

Within the Order of Preachers we have one of the best guides in our pursuit of wisdom (sapientia) -- St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P.

St. Thomas notes that it is the task of the wise man to order things well. Order not only involves putting things in their proper place (like putting socks in a sock drawer), but also seeing and judging the intrinsic value of things in relation to another. Hence a soldier is “out of order” if he were to speak impertinently to a general. Order also involves directing things to act appropriately, which is why we say that something is “out of order” when it doesn’t work.

St. Thomas guides us in wisdom because he clearly shows us the order of reality, and the order by which we must live and act in accord with that reality. One of the great fruits of wisdom that we find in St. Thomas is that the order of reality and order of action coincide -- actio sequitur esse (action follows from being). Reality has something to say about our lives, and our lives must reflect the reality in which we live.

Imperial Rome was built on stone roads connecting once far-off metropolises and agricultural markets. In the present, the internet and satellites allow us to connect to people and ideas with near instantaneous speed. As we see throughout history, the more connected we are, the greater our abilities, the more opportunities we have to perfect ourselves and our communities.

And yet the 20th century is still marked by wars and turmoil.

The great existential despondency of the modern age flows from a rejected view of reality. St. Thomas, however, faithfully serving the Christian revelation of Scripture and holding true to right reason, guides us to seek our happiness by becoming what we truly are: men and women made in the image and likeness of God. This simple truth, this window into reality, was what drew me to the study of St. Thomas Aquinas.

From the tranquil profundity of the Summa Theologiae, to the exalted wonder of the Commentary on John, St. Thomas Aquinas has given me a connection to reality, a connection to Christ, which informs and nourishes every aspect of my life. This connection is what the world needs most. By following St. Thomas’ wisdom, rooted in Scripture and the Sacraments, I am following a wisdom that is ordered to God, that is ordered by God.

G.K. Chesterton wrote that “Homo Sapiens can only be considered in relation to sapientia and only a book like that of St. Thomas is really devoted to the intrinsic idea of sapientia.”2

My prayer is that the study of St. Thomas Aquinas may continue to flourish in these days, that men and women may regain their connection to God with minds alight with learning and hearts aflame with charity.

Fr. Thomas Aquinas Pickett, O.P.

1Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology by Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
2St. Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton

Recommended for Further Reading:-Thomas Aquinas: Scholar, Poet, Mystic, Saint by A.G. Sertillanges, O.P.-The Thought of Thomas Aquinas by Brian Davies-Guide to Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper-Perfecting Human Action: St. Thomas Aquinas on Human Participation in Eternal Law by Rzhia-The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being by John Wippel-By Knowledge and By Love: Charity and Knowledge in the Moral Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas by Fr. Michael Sherwin, O.P.