Tom's Reviews > Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton
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's review
Feb 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: spirituality
Read in January, 2002

This is a perfect book for someone like me: a lapsed but still interested Catholic who could never keep Aquinas and Augustine straight. Chesterton packs more theology and philsophy into this slim volume, and makes it much more accessible, than any massive tome on same subject. I don't think I've ever read any thing that combines brevity and challenging ideas like this book. It's confirms my belief that all such books should be written by intelligent laymen instead of academic specialists. And he's a marvelous stylist, to boot, with a devilish, droll wit in his voice. The best compliment is that this book has now motivated me to read the Dumb Ox himself, and I've already picked up two volumes of his works. (As a little sidenote: it makes a neat companion to Eco's The Name of the Rose. I ended up reading both together, Chesterton in the morning, Eco at night, and they dovetail in all sorts of intriguing ways, each shedding monastic light on the other. If you're looking for a fun reading project, give it a try.)
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Monica (new)

Monica What if you cam keep them straight, is it still good to read? Would it be best to read Augustine's Confessions first?

message 2: by Tom (last edited Mar 01, 2010 07:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom hmm, good question, Monica. Since I haven't read Aquinas in his own words, not sure I could say with any authority. Though I would imagine that Aquinas builds on / responds to / takes into account Augustine, even if indrectly (how could he not?), I'm not well versed enough to say that a chronological reading is necessary.

From a general, and literary, standpoint, I'd always endorse the primary text, in this case Confessions, over the secondary text. In this case, Confessions is just more interesting to read because it's a memoir written in form of an extended prayer. Once you get through the "o Lord I'm not worthy" mantras at start of each chapter (apparently a standard rhetorical move for the time and genre), Augustine proves to be a pretty good storyteller, waxing eloquently about his poor mother, Monica, and cutting himself no slack; hence great lines like "My sin grew sleek on my excesses." If there's a better pithy summation of a life, I'd like to see it!

message 3: by Monica (new)

Monica Tom thanks! Dumb Ox will be an interesting read esp. after Confessions which I expect to teach me more about my namesake's son.

I went to St. Thomas Aquinas grade school so have forgotten most details of his life/teachings.

We are all very worthy and we all deserve to be happy.

Have you heard of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo?

message 4: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Yeah, grade school is probably not the optimum time to be grappling with theology, except for purposes of rote indoctrination at reductio levels. No big surprise, I guess, but I'm far more interested in matters of the soul now than I was as an arrogant lad.

I do not know this intriguing name.
Please elucidate.

message 5: by Monica (new)

Monica It's a Buddhist chant which is the core principle of the Lotus Sutra

Nam= Devotion
Myoho = Mystic Law
Renge = Lotus
Kyo= Buddah's Teaching

I bow to the mystic law of the universe, all it's phenomenal manifestations, the simultaneity of cause and effect. (Out of mud a lotus flower blooms.)

message 6: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom You bow in concert with the emminent likes of Walt Whitman and Thoreau, whose work is steeped in Eastern mystics.

Ever read Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard? A must read for budding Buddha's of all levels and interests.

message 7: by Monica (new)

Monica So Macintosh isn't very original?'s on my to read list, now moved up a notch, but The Leopard is further up. Thanks for the tip. Buddhism is really lots of common sense I like the social aspects of it, my friends are connected with the SGI. After a couple years I got a gohonzon and this book in particular helped clarify the concepts in English.

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