Scared to study Aquinas? New tool makes the Angelic Doctor accessible
March 10, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Study, we are told, is an essential feature of a dynamic Catholic life. Along with prayer and sacrament, witness and service, the habit of inquiry is a must-have for those on the path to sanctity. To love God more ardently, we set out to know him more searchingly.
Convinced of this proposal, many Catholics try to grow steadily in their knowledge of the faith. Some begin with the one-year Bible project, which — though difficult — proves rewarding. Others make attempts to study the Church’s tradition with a survey of the Catechism, a FORMED.org course, or a Catholic reading group. But, as we peruse the aisles of the last remaining Catholic bookstore in town and chat through our study plans with friends, we can’t help but be intrigued by a name that keeps cropping up. It’s in everyone’s footnotes and on everyone’s Amazon Wish List: St. Thomas Aquinas.
Wherever we turn — Father’s preaching, the New Advent homepage, and popular podcasts — there’s mention of Aquinas. From popularizers and pundits alike we hear the words, “Well, St. Thomas says...” It seems he must be the close companion of the studious Catholic. With this in mind, we gin up the courage to take on the Summa Theologiae. But we soon discover that there is much yet to learn. If the sheer size of the book hadn’t dispirited us from the outset, it’s not too long before we are awash in a vocabulary and a grammar that are entirely foreign to our sensibilities. “Alas and alack,” we say in exasperation, “it seems I am not destined to be a dynamic Catholic.”
But recently, many Catholics have discovered that mastery of Aquinas is not so far off. In fact, it is very near at hand. Over 25,000 people (students and schoolteachers alike) in the past six months have begun to study Aquinas in earnest with Aquinas 101. Aquinas 101 is a series of YouTube videos produced by the Thomistic Institute, which introduces the casual viewer to the thought of the Angelic Doctor. Short lessons (5–10 minutes in length) cover the basics of his philosophy and the main themes of his masterwork, the Summa Theologiae, covering topics ranging from the Trinity to predestination, all with an eye toward God. Each lesson is delivered by a Dominican friar of the Province of St. Joseph serving at the Dominican House of Studies.
One viewer writes, “I love these videos. The friars are true companions and guides on the way to God. Thanks for sharing your learning and helping us understand our purpose in God's eyes. May all of you be richly blessed.” Another writes, “Thank you for explaining very complex things in a comprehensible way.” A third adds, “My socks were blown off. I have to watch this again!”
In an internet world brimming with chaotic content, Aquinas 101 aims to introduce the viewer carefully and clearly into the riches of the Faith with the help of one of its greatest teachers. As the culture cares less and less for the truth, one of the last embers of hope smolders in the Christian intellectual tradition and in the studious Christians who serve as its torchbearers. To be well equipped in a setting where objections to the Faith are crossed and confused, it is crucial to seek out the type of formation that can equip us for a rich contemplative life. As yet another viewer writes, “I did my catechism in the early 1970s when ... the old Baltimore Catechism had been put aside. It was all pretty sketchy. I am a scientist by training with no real basis in theology or philosophy and find it all hard to understand despite me trying to read more about my faith. These videos are immeasurably helpful, and I hope you can do more of them.” The plan is to do just that, as videos continue to appear every week.
So, for the dynamic Catholic seeking a way into a world that may seem intimidating from the threshold, take heart: the life of study awaits. Aquinas is now clickable.
Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P. serves as the assistant director for campus outreach of the Thomistic Institute. He is the co-author of Marian Consecration with Aquinas and a frequent contributor to the podcasts Godsplaining and Pints with Aquinas.