Catholic Fire tagged me:
Four Things That were new to me in the Past Four Years:
- iPod – Got my first iPod about two years ago and still like the fact that it just plain works and has a great interface. I have owned multiple mp3 players over the years starting from an mp3 playing CD player when they first became available eight years ago. I really wish these devices were invented a long time ago. When I would go out to see I would take my CD/Cassette collection with me which was quite a pain considering that I had about a thousand Cassettes.
- Being a published and paid author. This Rock magazine bought my conversion story and an Australian Diocesan magazine purchased three of my parodies.
- Being interviewed on the radio. I have given interviews to a couple of local Catholic radio stations and have appeared several times on the Catholic Guy show on Sirius. This week I was interviewed on a podcast and will give details when it comes out.
- P.G. Wodehouse, while I had of course been familiar with the Jeeves and Bertie Wooster characters I had never read any of Wodehouse’s books. I read a dozen of his books last year and just love his novels and not just the Jeeves’s ones.
Four Things That I Hope to Try in the Next Four Years:
- Read the Summa.
- Visit EWTN.
- Pray without distractions (wishful thinking I know)
- Doing less memes.
I bet the first two to get done are number 1 and number 2. Good luck on number 3 and 4.
Under the Mercy,
After four years of effort, I have made it through approximately 15% of Volume I. Let me know if you discover the SECRET TO READING ST. THOMAS. It has eluded me.
Doing fewer memes. 🙂
Good luck on #3. They say the older monks have a lot more distractions than the young. So… distractions are a good sign. I think.
Here is the Secret to Reading the Summa:
In medieval universities, one of the public intellectual games was the disputation. Two Masters would face off in a debate about a particular issue. It was somewhat raucous, almost like a sporting event or the Prime Ministers Questions that you see on CSpan sometimes. People took sides and I guess they probably took bets, too.
The trick to reading the Summa is to try and see it as that kind of heated public dialogue. Will the truth win out? Tune in to the Summa and watch St. Thomas Aquinas wield the sword of the Spirit. Today’s question concerns the divine names, a question that began with Moses and Pseudo-Dionysius and continues to this day: WHAT NAME IS MOST FITTING TO GOD? Let the debate begin.
-First, read Objection 1. That is St. Thomas’s worthy opponent throwing out a good reason why St. Thomas’s opinion is arguable.
-Second–and this is your most important move–SKIP DOWN TO THE REPLY TO OBJECTION 1. That’s Thomas’s rebuttal to Objection 1. See, they’re arguing face-to-face. It’s a public disputation. Thomas will take the Objection and either find fault with it, relativize its importance, or partially agree with it.
-Keep toggling back and forth between the Objections and Replies. This should give you some idea of what’s going on here: what the theological issues in the argument are. Thomas is doing a great thing here, in hearing the other side’s arguments and treating them (usually) with respect. Ultimately he slays his opponent, but it’s a noble slaying, not a mud-slinging.
-Finally, read the ON THE CONTRARY and I REPLY THAT. The ON THE CONTRARY is almost always an “argument from authority,” in that he quotes the Scripture or a Father, or in cases that have to do with the natural order, Aristotle or one of his commentators. The On The Contrary is not usually entirely final, even in the case of Scripture or the Fathers, because Scripture must usually be interpreted and the Fathers often disagree. (Sometimes the Objections quote Scripture or the Fathers.) The I Reply That is the heart of Thomas’s argument. He puts forward his own answer to the question. One of his characteristic moves in the I Reply That is to make a distinction, because the answer to the question could go in two ways, depending on a shade of meaning. So first he has to say that something can have two meanings, such as, creaturely knowledge is of two kinds: angelic and human. Then he’ll answer the question in the two ways.
It’s often helpful to reread all the Replies to Objections after the I Answer That, because they make more sense now and they also often score really juicy theological points.
Methodologically, that can be a way to make the Summa really come alive.
It also helps to note that the Summa has an overarching structure, which follows the structure of God’s overall plan for creation as St. Thomas understands it. After the first few questions, which are more of a defense of his method than anything else (and they are very interesting and important), Thomas sketches out the plan: exitus-reditus. Everything begins and ends in God. All creatures go out from God by the creative act ex nihilo, and return to God by grace. So, read in that light, there is a certain tension: will the hero (Christ) save the day? Yes.
If you visit EWTN, I am assuming you will also be visiting the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament (about an hour’s drive north). There are several wonderful bed and breakfasts just outside the shrine, all Catholic, most/all named after Saints. They are a good alternative to a nothing-special hotel. I hope you are able to visit!
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