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Three Readings for Palm Sunday

Jesus’ Death is part of the mystery of God’s unfolding plan. The Salvation the Lord offers us isn’t always realized in the situations of this life; sometimes our deliverance from the forces that oppose and oppress us occurs in the Resurrection. Nonetheless, this prayer helps us to find meaning in our suffering, to have confidence in our trials, and to re-affirm our faith when things don’t go our way by remembering that God is in ultimate control. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we end by asking that we not be led into temptation and that we be delivered from evil. The temptation we most want to avoid is that of believing that God has abandoned us, God hates us, or that God doesn’t care about us. When we pray to be delivered from evil, we are not praying to be preserved from it (that is unrealistic in a world infected by sin) but that we will not be overcome by it; that means we pray for perseverance, deliverance, vindication, and salvation from the evil situations we endure.

Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year

What a heady beginning to the Passover festivities this day seemed to be for the apostles. It started out with this unexpected triumphant moment, when all their secret ambitions of glory and fame seemed to be coming true. Jesus rode into Jerusalem amidst the acclamation and praise of the people, the crowds going wild. Though the apostles had listened to the teaching of the Master about humility and the last place, the roots of ambitious excitement die hard. In fact, just listening to Jesus’ teaching wasn’t enough. Their ambitions would only die with his own death, when they would be hiding together in a dark closet somewhere, hoping to escape with their lives… In the journey we fall and are forgiven, fall again and are forgiven again. In the journey we discover that the cross does not have the last word, and never will. We are not people of the cross, but people of the resurrection!

Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections

What God would not permit His Scriptures to pass over in silence, we too may not pass over in silence. And you shall listen to it. Our Lord’s passion, as we know, happened but once; Christ died once, the just for the unjust. And we know, we possess it as certain and hold with unshakable faith, that Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, and death shall no more have dominion over Him. These are the Apostle’s words. Yet, for fear we should forget what occurred but once, it is re-enacted every year for us to remember. Does Christ die as often as the celebration of Easter comes round? No; the yearly remembrance brings before our eyes, in a way, what once happened long ago and stirs in us the same emotions as if we beheld our Lord hanging upon the cross; not in mockery, of course, but as believers. For as He hung on the tree He was mocked; seated in heaven He is worshiped. Or rather, is He not still being mocked, though now our anger is not directed against the Jews, who at any rate derided Him as He was dying, not when He was reigning? And who is there that even today derides Christ? Would there were but one, would there were but two, would they could be numbered! All the chaff of His own threshing floor mocks Him, and the wheat groans to witness its Lord insulted. I would groan over it with you; indeed, it is the season for mourning. We are celebrating our Lord’s passion; it is the season for sighing and weeping, the season for making confession and supplication. Yet who among us is capable of shedding tears in proportion to such immense sorrow?

St. Augustine on the Psalms, Vol. 1

And then there were eight…

Only eight books remain in the Best of Benedict XVI tournament: Introduction to Christianity, Principles of Catholic Theology, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Mary: The Church at the Source, Dogma and Preaching, Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, Jesus of Nazareth, and God’s Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office.

Even if you haven’t voted on the earlier rounds, you can start voting now. Books that lose are on sale, with higher discount percentages the further they make it in the tournament.

Will the top seeds, Introduction to Christianity, The Spirit of the Liturgy, Jesus of Nazareth, and Dogma and Preaching advance? Is there a surprise contender? Vote now!

The Best of Benedict XVI

March is a month of tournaments, and every year we host our own Catholic tournament, March Matchups. This month the works of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI face off against each other to find the best.

We’ve pitted 32 resources against each other to compete for your votes. Pick your favorites, cast your votes, and save up to 50%—your vote determines the discount.

Winning resources advance to the next round; the more rounds they win, the deeper the discount.

Vote now on your favorites!

The Thomist Who Loved Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein

It will become evident that my debt is not only to Aquinas but also to a certain kind of modern interpreter. Once, largely through the work of Wittgenstein (1889–1951), the centuries-long domination of Western thinking by Cartesian and related empiricist doctrines had been broken, it became possible for philosophers to look back with a fresh understanding to pre-Cartesian thinking, in particular to Aquinas, and to discover how very congenial so much of his writing is to modern styles of questioning and answering. So I have been able to borrow shamelessly from Wittgenstein himself, but also from Elizabeth Anscombe (1919–2001), Peter Geach, Philippa Foot, Anthony Kenny, Alasdair MacIntyre and Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976) – though, perhaps, they (those of them still living at any rate) would not all acknowledge, or even recognize, their insights in the simplifications to which they have been reduced. This also means that what I have to say will sometimes seem strange to the older kind of ‘Thomist’ who was, I believe, often unwittingly influenced by empiricist or Cartesian presuppositions. So responses to my reflections and expositions are likely to take the form of arguments from many sides. But what other reason is there for writing any philosophical book?

Herbert McCabe, OP – The Good Life

The late Herbert McCabe, OP, longtime editor of New Blackfriars and author of many posthumously published books, was not typical of Dominican friars of his or later generations in that he paired his love of St. Thomas Aquinas with a keen interest in the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein had several prominent Catholic students. Foremost were Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach, who arranged a Catholic funeral and burial for their teacher despite his never joining the Church. As McCabe writes above in his introduction to The Good Life, he read Wittgenstein as a way to reach beyond or beside the limitations of modern thinking and thus as a pathway to earlier thinking. Earlier thinking meant, chiefly, St. Thomas Aquinas.

McCabe shares with other philosophers in Wittgenstein’s lineage a clarity and playfulness of prose. He was relieved of his editing duties at New Blackfriars in 1967 for penning an editorial that criticized a former contributor for publicly leaving the Church. When he became editor again in 1970 he began his editorial, “As I was saying before I was so oddly interrupted…” Paul O’Grady notes that McCabe and Wittgenstein shared an absence of careerism and care for academic (and in Fr. Herbert’s case, ecclesiastical) decorum and self-advancement. Both chose a life of voluntary poverty. Neither published much in his lifetime, but each left an estimable (and now well mined) nachlass.

Not only inspired by both, McCabe charted the overlapping concerns of St. Thomas Aquinas and Wittgenstein: “When Wittgenstein in the Tractatus says “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is”: (6.44) it seems to me that he is engaged with the same question as St Thomas when he speaks of esse.”

Herbert McCabe, OP
Herbert McCabe, OP

McCabe’s books and articles are free of philosophical or theological jargon—indeed, they are accessible always to any educated reader and often funny—so whatever one makes of his conclusions, his way of writing offers lessons in how to write and think about theology. (He shares these qualities with another Thomist whom we featured on this blog, Josef Pieper.)

Titles from Herbert McCabe, OP available in Verbum:

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Sunday of the Word of God

Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis, which institutes the annual Sunday of the Word of God, with a verse from the Gospel of Luke: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” The Holy Father continues, “Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the word of God can enable the Church to experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world.”

Sunday of the Word of God occurred last Sunday, and we’re celebrating by offering special prices on Catholic Bibles and commentaries throughout the week so that all the faithful can “grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures.” Some Bibles are available for as little as $0.99.

What is Great in the Great

What is great in the great appears to consist precisely in those qualities which rule them out as representatives of a “movement.” And this is also true of Thomas. His greatness, and incidentally his timeliness, consists precisely in the fact that a real “ism” cannot properly be attached to him; that, therefore, “Thomism” cannot really exist. Not, at any rate, if we understand the term to mean a specific doctrinal tendency conditioned by polemical theses and demarcations, a system of tenets handed down from teacher to pupil, as is the case with any “school.” This cannot exist because the magnificent statement residing in the work of St. Thomas is far too rich; its special virtue lies in its not seeking to be anything “special.” Thomas refused to be selective; he undertook the enormous task of “choosing everything.” “He seeks to be faithful to the deeper intention of Saint Augustine, as well as to that of Aristotle; the deeper aim of human reason as well as of divine faith.” Similarly, the French Dominican Geiger, who in his much-discussed book on the concept of “participation” in Thomas Aquinas attempted to show the Platonic elements in the thinking of the alleged Aristotelian Thomas, has made the same observation: Thomas ought to have made choices but did not do so—or il n’a pas choisi. Thomas was neither Platonist nor Aristotelian; he was both.

Josef Pieper – Guide to Thomas Aquinas

The Meaning of “Doctrina” in St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae

The second objection to the first article of the first question of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae begins thus: “Doctrina non potest esse nisi de ente: nihil enim scitur nisi verum, quod cum ente convertitur.” In his translation of the Summa the late Fr. Laurence Shapcote, OP translates doctrina as “knowledge.” The newer edition of the Summa from the Aquinas Institute revises this translation from “knowledge” to “teaching.”

So what is doctrina and what does it mean?

St. Jerome uses doctrina to translate a host of words in the Vulgate: e.g., מְלָאכָה (Exodus 35:31), אוּרִים (Leviticus 8:8), דַּעַת (Proverbs 24:4; 1 Kings 7:14; Ecclesiastes 2:21), שִׂכְלוֹ (Proverbs 12:8), מוּסַר (Proverbs 13:1; Isaiah 26:16; Jeremiah 10:8), שֵֽׂכֶל (Proverbs 13:15), דְּעֶה (Proverbs 24:14), παιδεία (Sirach 4:29, 21:22), δῐδᾰχή (Matthew 7:28 et passim; Mark 4:2 et passim; Luke 4:32; John 7:17 et passim), δῐδασκᾰλία (Romans 12:7; Titus 2:7), or διδακτός (1 Corinthians 2:13). In all it appears 113 times in the Vulgate and frequently in works like the Venerable Bede’s Historiam ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum and Cicero’s dialogue De Oratore. The sense of the word tends to be, as Lewis & Short put it, “the knowledge imparted by teaching” or “the habit produced by instruction.”

A Lexicon of Saint Thomas Aquinas defines it this way: doctrīna, ae, f., (1) instruction in the active sense of the word, teaching, informing, synonym of doctio and doctrinatio, the opposite of disciplina, (2) instruction in the passive sense of the word, synonym of disciplina, (3) doctrine, dogma, (4) profession of teaching, branch of learning, science, synonym of disciplina.

Which is to say, the Aquinas Institute’s revision is right and good.

Verbum’s Christmas Sale Continues!


The Christmas season just started, and our Advent & Christmas sale continues through January 10th. Save on a host of Catholic resources!

Highlights include:

Venite, venite in Bethlehem

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus

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