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Whether Thomas Aquinas should have joined the Dominicans?

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

We proceed thus

Objection1 It would have seemed more fitting had he joined the Benedictines. For the heart of Benedictine life is the liturgy and Thomas showed his mastery of the liturgy in his beautiful texts for Masses and the office of Corpus Christi. He would also have demonstrated obedience to his parents, who wanted him to join the Benedictines.

Objection2 It would have been better for all had Thomas entered the seclusion of the Carthusian order. Had he done so, he would not have startled his fellow guests during a royal banquet by bringing down his fist and shouting: "And that will settle the Manicheans." Such unseemly behaviour suggests he ought to have had his meals brought to his cell, as is the custom among the Carthusians.

Objection3 It would have been more fitting had Thomas joined the Franciscans. For the Franciscans have a great love of the created order. And having probed the depths of theology Thomas concluded that all creation is ultimately grounded in love, since all creation reflects the nature of the one who created it.

Objection 4 It would have been better had Thomas been a married layman. For a cursory reading of his works show his respect for the human body that is sometimes lacking in his great predecessors such as Augustine.

On the contrary, it was indeed fitting for Thomas to have joined the Dominicans.

I answer that, as stated in the official documents pertaining to the Dominican Order, a love of the liturgy is to be encouraged. Thomas was best suited to contemplation, study and an active apostolate. As is found with the Dominicans.  A love of creation is in keeping with the Dominican tradition. As is respect for the human body.

Reply objection 1 Liturgical life belongs to all religious life in various different ways. And not only religious but laity as well. It is written in the Gospel that obedience to God comes before obedience to one's parents.

Reply objection 2 It is sometimes proper to have one's meals interrupted by the utterances of a great mind. Suffering indigestion in this life is a mere trifle in comparison with gaining eternal life. Spiritual nourishment is therefore prior to bodily nourishment.

Reply objection 3 A love of the created order is at the heart of Dominican spirituality. Without this, there will be no meaningful theology.

Reply objection 4 The human body is to be respected by religious and laity alike. And in different ways. And Augustine did not despise the body as is often said.

Copyright ; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2020

Version: 20th November 2020

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