Interview with Romanus Cessario (Cessario, 2004)

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There are three things that Aquinas can teach theologians at the beginning of the third millennium, and throughout the course of what Pope John Paul II has called the new evangelization. First, that theology remains at the service of the Church and therefore is subject to the pleasure of the Roman Pontiff. In other words, the last thing that Aquinas would have considered himself is a freewheeling university professor. Granted that he did his theology in university settings (among others), Aquinas remains an ecclesial theologian. He wants his philosophical and theological work to serve the good of Christ’s Gospel and the good of Christ’s members, both clergy and lay. This happens only within the Church of Christ. Second, that the Christian thinker must interest himself in both nature and grace, faith and reason, Church and State. The Reform of the 16th century and other developments in the modern period have made it difficult to sustain the kind of harmonious, though subordinated, view that Aquinas presented of heaven and earth. Contemporary Thomists should make an effort to retrieve this important feature of Aquinas’s thought. I would like to mention the witness of Professor Steven A. Long, whose work on the obediential potency and related issues, illustrates the differentiation of finalities that Aquinas recognizes in the human person. Third and finally, that the Christian thinker himself must live a holy life. To live a holy life does not mean to live a sinless life. Saint Thomas, we are told, went to confession very frequently, as was the custom of his day, especially before celebrating the Holy Mass. To live a holy life in the Thomist sense is to observe the rhythms of sin and forgiveness, of sacramental mediation and the personal renewal that it ensures, and to keep one’s eye on the mystery of God’s love which always exceeds our expectations and our imaginations. Aquinas lived his own life according to the adage that God loves us not because we are good but because He alone is good. The creature can only participate in this goodness, which for angelic and human persons includes the possibility of elevation to divine friendship through grace.

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