Thomas Aquinas and Pius XII apparent contradiction


Hi CAF community and discerners,

I should start off saying that I’m 99% sure of my vocation, having worked this out with a spiritual director, and it’s not to religious life (although God bless all of you who are), and so this question is little more of a intellectual question than a practical one (although my future children, God willing I have them, might ask this).

Anyway, I was reading the Summa, and the Angelic Doctor answers the question whether it is good to enter religious life without much deliberation and counsel, and he responds in the affirmative. The quote was too long to post here, but the link is provided here (as well as below):

This is good, except that Pius XII seems to say the opposite in his encyclical Sacra Virginitas:

For many, undoubtedly, the burden of perpetual continence is a heavier one than they should be persuaded to shoulder. And so priests, who are under grave obligation of helping by their advice young people who declare they are drawn by some movement of soul to aspire to the priesthood or enter religious life, must urge them to ponder the matter carefully, lest they enter a way which they cannot hope to follow sturdily and happily to its end. They should prudently examine the fitness of candidates, even obtaining, as often as is proper, the opinion of experts;…

Here is the link to the Summa:
Here is the link to Sacra Virginitas: I quote from paragraph 50.

Any thoughts? I don’t mean to disparage them in any way, I’m just interested in trying to resolve the apparent contradiction between these two holy men.

Benedicat Deus,


St Thomas seems to be speaking of people who are already clear about their vocations: “But for him who seeks to enter religion there can be no doubt but that the purpose of entering religion to which his heart has given birth is from the spirit of God, for it is His spirit “that leads” man “into the land of uprightness” (Psalm 142:10).”

OTOH, St Thomas suggests that those who are permitting him to enter should become sure of his vocation: “Wherefore they [those in authority] must try the postulant whether he be moved by the divine spirit.”

Also, St Thomas lived in a different time and situation. People in his time were swimming in a Catholic sea and were often very familiar with the religious life. Now we are surrounded by secularism and often meet very few religous. I have not seen a monk or nun for a few years now, and only a handful of priests and 1 bishop.


Thomism is not divinely inspired, neither is the Summa. Anyone who would push you into thinking that you should enter religious life without proper consideration in this day in age, should be readily ignored. 99.5% of orders won’t even consider you if you have not discerned properly. There is one in particular that will, which I’d caution you to stay away from (they heavily promote their vocation ministries on the internet and you probably have stumbled upon them already. PM me for info if you’d like.)


I think it’s more of a case of “both and” rather than “either or”. Granted, as AdvanceAlways has already pointed out, Aquinas was writing in a very different time to that which we’re now living in. Still, there needs to be a balance between rushing headlong into religious life at the first inkling of a calling, on the one hand, and joining the order of perpetual discernment on the other.


Thanks for all your responses.

I’m a little hesitant to say that it’s just a matter of the times. I took it as, we don’t need to deliberate for a long time over it, but we ought not to make the decision flippantly. We need to see if we really want to do that. This is only my opinion though.

As I’ve said above, I’m pretty much set on my vocation.

More responses are still warmly welcomed,
Thanks to all of you who have responded,
Benedicat Deus,


This answer pretty much sums up my opinion. In Thomas’s times, you’d find religious people regularily on the streets, and you’d know their way of life pretty well. And the overall mentality that the people had on their time was one that didn’t leave you as thundershocked when joining a religious order as if you were today. And like Thomas said, time and deliberation is given by those in authority to determine the divine call of the person in question. You still have this today, and they will give you a lot of time for you to bail out before you take the vows. :wink:

If you (or your priest or whoever) don’t feel like you know too well the life you believe the Lord is calling you to, do as Ven. Pius says. If you know and you have the vocation locked on, do as Thomas says. They’re in no contradiction when you dig into it, only the contexts are different.

Good luck in your path to follow the Lord. :thumbsup:



Is there a reason why they can’t disagree? Maybe they would, if you were able to have them discuss the matter between themselves. On the other hand, I think we might need to consider that St. Thomas is basically saying that it is always a good thing to choose a life of perfection (religious life) while Pope Pius is saying it is good to *prudently *choose such a life.



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