Without a doubt, the best book I have ever read on Saint Thomas Aquinas comes from the mind of G.K. Chesterton. Not a theologian himself, but considered one of the great authors of the 20th century, who is often quoted for his common sense and literary genius.
G. K. Chesterton’s book, that I quote from today is titled, Saint Thomas Aquinas – “The Dumb Ox”. This book has stuck with me since I first read it in 1993, after being advised to read it by a good friend. The book was the beginning of my academic awakening after being a sleep in a self-induced coma of ignorance and mediocracy during my adolescence.
There are countless gems in this book about St. Thomas from Chesterton. Today, I hope to give you a small insight to those gems, in the hope that you will purchase and read the entire work for yourself. The genius of Chesterton is unmatched and is often quoted by many people in my circle of friends. I can’t encourage the reading of G.K. Chesterton enough.
I hope that you find these quotes as enlightening as I do –
1. “St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the great liberators of the human intellect…who reconciled religion with reason, who expanded it towards experimental science, who insisted that the senses were the windows of the soul and that the reason had a divine right to feed upon facts, and that it was the business of the Faith to digest the strong meat of the toughest and most practical of pagan philosophies.”
2. “It would be every bit as false to say that Aquinas drew his primary inspiration from Aristotle. The whole lesson of his life, especially his early life, the whole story of his childhood and choice of career, shows that he passionately loved the Catholic worship long before he found he had to fight for it.”
3. “In a word, St. Thomas was making Christendom more Christian in making it more Aristotelian. This is not a paradox but a plain truism, which can only be missed by those who may know what is meant by an Aristotelian, but have simply forgotten what is meant by a Christian.”
4. “He was a large and heavy and quiet boy, and phenomenally silent, scarcely opened his mouth except to say suddenly to his schoolmaster in an explosive manner, ‘What is God?’”
5. “He would not be an Abbot; he would not be a Monk; he would not be a Prior or ruler in his own fraternity; he would not be a prominent or important Friar; he would be a Friar. It is as if Napoleon has insisted on remaining a private soldier all his life.”
6. “He was called the Dumb Ox. He was the object, not merely of mockery, but of pity…[St. Albert the Great knew] that the dunce is not always a dunce..his famous cry and prophecy [about Thomas] – “You can call him a Dumb Ox; I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud that his bellowings will fill the world.”
7. “It is when we see this gigantic figure against this vast and cosmic background, that we realise, first, that he was the only optimist theologian, and second, that Catholicism is the only optimist theology.”
8. “It was Aquinas who baptized Aristotle, when Aristotle could not have baptized Aquinas; it was a purely Christian miracle which raised the great Pagan from the dead…he was truly the godfather of Aristotle, he was his sponsor; he swore that the Old Greek would do no harm; and the whole world trusted his word.”
9. “It is universally attested that Aquinas was what is commonly called an absent-minded man. That type has often been rendered in painting…the man is thinking about something; and something that has reached a crisis; not about nothing or about everything; or, what is almost worse, about everything.”
10. “His curiously simple character, his lucid but laborious intellect, could not be better summed up than by saying that he did not know how to sneer. He was in a double sense an intellectual aristocrat: but he never was an intellectual snob.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas…Pray for Us
Categories: Saints & Angels