I mean, really.
You may notice that on the sidebar I list books that I am reading or have recently read. I have had the Chesterton biographies of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi up for the longest time. The reason is that I started the Aquinas part of this combined bio some time ago, and then one book after another got in the way of finishing what I thought would be (even considering the author) some pretty dry material. Boy, was I wrong.
Chesterton is of course writing about one of the most important Catholic saints, a saint whose philosophy has had the most profound and lasting effect on the Church and whose intellect and holiness were inestimable. But just as good as the subject is the way that Chesterton writes about it.
It is as though every 3/4 of a page or so, I have to put the book down and just think about a passage I read.
Now I know that no reader of this blog would ever complain that one of my posts is too long, but I think that if I wanted to cover all the highlights of this 180 page book, it would take a 130 page post. So I will spare you. But I can’t recommend the book highly enough.
Here is one paragraph only, near the end of the book. After covering the life of St. Thomas, his history, sanctity, philosophy, and importance, Chesterton begins to hint at the re-emergence of the ancient enemy of Thomism, which is not Augustinian but rather the perversion of it that was in essence Manichean, and which exploded in the heretical revolt of the arch-heretic Augustinian monk in the 16th century:
“Thomas Aquinas had struck his blow; but he had not entirely settled the Manichees. The Manichees are not so easily settled; in the sense of settled forever. He had insured that the main outline of the Christianity that has come down to us should be supernatural but not anti-natural; and should never be darkened with a false spirituality to the oblivion of the Creator and the Christ who was made Man. But as his tradition trailed away into less liberal or less creative habits of thought, and as his medieval society fell away and decayed through other causes, the thing against which he had made war crept back into Christendom. A certain spirit or element in the Christian religion, necessary and sometimes noble but always needing to be balanced by more gentle and generous elements in the Faith, began once more to strengthen, as the framework of Scholasticism stiffened or split. The Fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom, and therefore belongs to the beginnings, and is felt in the first cold hours before the dawn of civilisation; the power that comes out of the wilderness and rides on the whirlwind and breaks the gods of stone; the power before which the eastern nations are prostrate like a pavement; the power before which the primitive prophets run naked and shouting, at once proclaiming and escaping from their god; the fear that is rightly rooted in the beginnings of every religion, true or false: the fear of the Lord, that is the beginning of wisdom; but not the end.”