Originally Posted by Harri Laaksonen
Br. JR, etal,
I did not have a lot of problem reading C in V
but then again...
The observation about Franciscan/Augustinian wording and thinking was very interesting to me. I have always thought of myself as a pretty Thomistic thinker but you have put a new slant on it. I guess I am much more Augustinian than I want to think I am.
I certainly have a streak of mysticism, being the same temperament as St. Teresť of Avila. However, was not Thomas also mystic in his own way, especially in later life.
Perhaps this could be the start of a new thread?
OH YES YES YES
St. Thiomas Aquinas was one of the greatest mystics that ever lived. He was also one of the most humble men in history. This is always something that saddens those of us who study Mystical Theology. Often, everyone looks to the writings of Thomas Aquinas to make their point and few people look to his biography. His life is far more telling about the faith than his writings are.
How he reaches the state of mysticism is very different from Augustinians and Franciscans. Augustinians and Franciscans, to a certain extent Carmelites too, begin with a movement of the heart and then proceed to use reason to explain what has happened. Dominicans and Jesuits begin with an idea. As they develop it, the heart is moved by truth. In the end, they all get to the same place, union with the Divine. We see this very clearly in Catherine of Siena. Her earlier writings are very theological. Her later writings are much more poetic and rich in symbols and contain less facts.
The same thing happened with Aquinas. In his early life he approaches faith through reason. But as he matures we see him less involved in reason or rational explanations of faith and more involved in a silent life of contemplation. He writes much less at the end of his life. Contrary to Augustine, Bonaventuer and Teresa of Avila who did most of their writing as mature mystics. They went from the experience to reason. Aquinas went from reason to experience. To put it another way, it was his mystical experiences that confirmed what his reason had deducted. That's why he makes the famous statement about his writings. Near the end of his life he asks one of the Dominican friars to burn them. "Staw, it's all straw" he said.
His ecstasies wee so sublime that he realized that words could not do them justice and that everything he had written was no where near as deep as what he was experiencing. But this also happend to Augustine, Bonaventure, Francis, and Teresa in reverse. They could not find the adequate words to describe the experience of God. They tell you this in their writings. Augustine tried so hard that he wrote hundreds of books and still could not get it right.
So, the answer is, yes Aquinas was a great mystic who in the end disagreed with himself on some of his own points of logic. His greatest disagreement with himself was on the Immaculate Conception. It is said in his biography that when he heard the Franciscans' defense of the Immaculate Conception, he was stunned by its simplicity. He had been trying to find an explanation for it in very complex rational arguments and was only able to come up with a statement that Mary was born without sin. Upon hearing the simplicity of the Franciscan school, "God could do it. It was proper that he do it. So he did it." Aquinas was stunned by this logic. Some historians say that he had visions of the Immaculate Conception, before she was ever known by that title. He was very much in love with the mother of God.
Aquinas was not only one of the greatest scholars of the Church, but one of the holiest men in Church history. It was his humility and his charity that strikes us with awe when we read his life story. It is a pity that such a holy man is often used to attack others. That would have been the last thing that Thomas would have done. He would have spoken the truth and then proved it by his humility and charity toward his listener.
Br. JR, OSF