Saturday, November 07, 2015

Blogging through the Summa: brief overview

Today I'm starting a new endeavor, to blog through the Summa. I know it's a daunting task, and I don't know how far I'll get. But at least I can start and see how it goes.
This post is a brief overview of the structure of the Summa (that is, the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas). Thomas wrote it as a textbook for beginners in theology -- yes, beginners!--to present the teachings of the Catholic faith in an organized way.

It has three parts, the second of which is subdivided into two parts:

Part I treats of the nature of theology, God, the Trinity, creation, the angels, human beings, and the world order

Part II
        First Part (I-II): treats of general principles of the moral life, starting with happiness. He looks at human acts, principles of morality, the emotions, virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, sin, law, the Old Law and the Gospel of Grace.

       Second Part (II-II): treats of the virtues in great detail. Thomas focuses on virtue, not on sin. He mentions sin when it comes up in relation to the various virtues. He has a very positive approach.

Part III
        This part is on Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, his passion, death, and resurrection, and four of the sacraments: baptism, confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, and Penance.  Thomas died before the could complete the Summa. After his death, other Dominicans put together the Supplement, completing the material Thomas had intended to write about. They used other writings he had done earlier in his career, mostly from his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. Thomas had commented on these when he was a "bachelor of the Sentences"  at the University of Paris from 1252-1256, before he became a Master of theology.

Each part of the Summa is divided into questions, which have several articles. My plan is to do one blog post for each of the articles.

How to read the Summa: Each article begins with a question, followed by several objections. Then there is a sed contra, which is usually the response Thomas will give (but sometimes the sed contra contains another objection.) Then Thomas gives his response and full explanation, followed by his replies to each objection.
I've found the easiest way is to read the question, then the sed contra so you know what Thomas is saying, then his fuller response. Then I go back to the objections and try to figure out how to answer them before reading Thomas' own response.

I'll link to the online version here.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us! Pray for the wisdom we need to understand more deeply the things of God.


Ruth Ann Pilney said...

I'm thrilled that you are going to undertake to do this. I will be an avid fan of your posts.
Back in the late '70's, when I was an under graduate student at DePaul University, I often "killed time" before my classes by plowing through parts of the Summa. I had been told by the Dominican Sisters who taught me in elementary and secondary school that St. Thomas Aquinas was the most brilliant scholar ever. So, I was trying to see if I could understand anything he wrote. I remember reading what he wrote about grace and about virtue, and I was surprised how well I thought I understood him. But back then there was no access to computers or Internet. So, when I graduated that was the end of my Thomistic endeavors.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve said...

Thanks, Ruth, it's so good to hear from you! I hope I'll be able to keep up with it, but anything is better than nothing.
I had Dominican sisters too.
Many blessings to you!