The Aquinas Catechism

Feast of St John Climacus
The Aquinas Catechism: A Simple Explanation of the Catholic Faith by the Church's Greatest Theologian by St Thomas Aquinas; foreword by Ralph McInerny

Aquinas_Catechism_book_cover_square.jpgTHE TITLE OF St. Thomas Aquinas’s magnum opusThe Summa Theologia—can be misleading. A layman might think it is merely a “summary” of theology. The steep learning curve involved in understanding this great work makes one think: “If this is a summary of what Thomas thinks, how could I possibly read his ‘normal’ theology?” The reader quickly decides that Thomas is not for him and thus entombs Aquinas’ work in the Ivory Tower where he imagines this great saint belongs. This, of course, is not what the Summa is about. It is rather a summation of theological arguments, complex and deep. The Summa is therefore not the place for a beginner to start their journey with the Angelic Doctor. Instead, people interested in the West’s most celebrated medieval theologian should turn to his surprisingly accessible Catechetical Instructions, collected by Sophia Institute Press as The Aquinas Catechism. Tradition says these works (along with a few other Opuscula, or “little works”) were given by Thomas to the people of Naples during the last Lent of his life. While we know Aquinas as a towering giant in theological abstraction, he was popular in his own day for the profound wisdom he was able to distill into clear, direct and moving explications. Here are five “little works” that transmit the truths of the Faith through ruminating on the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Ten Commandments, and an explanation of the Sacraments. Although these instructions were given to “beginners,” St. Thomas does not dumb down his material for the benefit of his audience. He deals with both sides of a given argument so the student might hold the Faith with a firmer grip. This book is important for everyone: laity, clergy and academics. Although there are still challenges, they are humble compared to those presented by the Summa. This book is truly a wonderful way to begin an apprenticeship to one of the true magisters of the West.

300 pp. paper $19.95

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