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Monday, December 27, 2010

0154: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XVII)

Entry 0154: In the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of 30 September 2010, Pope Benedict XVI refers to Saint Thomas Aquinas three times as follows:


In Part I of Verbum Domini, in the section on “The creation of man,” the Pope writes:

“Every human being who comes to consciousness and to responsibility has the experience of an inner call to do good” and thus to avoid evil. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, this principle is the basis of all the other precepts of the natural law. [28]

Footnote [28]: Cf. Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, art. 2.

Here is what Aquinas says in Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 94, art. 2.

Original Latin:

Primum principium in ratione practica est quod fundatur supra rationem boni, quae est, bonum est quod omnia appetunt. Hoc est ergo primum praeceptum legis, quod bonum est faciendum et prosequendum, et malum vitandum. Et super hoc fundantur omnia alia praecepta legis naturae.”

English Translation:

“The first principle of practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, namely, that 'good is that which all things seek after.' Hence this is the first precept of law, that 'good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.' All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this principle.”


In Part I of Verbum Domini, in the section on “The Church as the primary setting for biblical hermeneutics,” the Pope writes:

And Saint Thomas Aquinas, citing Saint Augustine, insists that “the letter, even that of the Gospel, would kill, were there not the inward grace of healing faith”.[85]

Footnote [85]: Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 106, art. 2.

Here is what Aquinas says in Summa Theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 106, art. 2.

Original Latin:

Ad Legem Evangelii duo pertinent. Unum quidem principaliter, scilicet ipsa gratia Spiritus Sancti interius data. Et quantum ad hoc, Nova Lex iustificat. Aliud pertinet ad Legem Evangelii secundario, scilicet documenta fidei, et praecepta ordinantia affectum humanum et humanos actus. Et quantum ad hoc, Lex Nova non iustificat. Unde Apostolus dicit, II ad Cor. III, ‘Littera occidit, Spiritus autem vivificat.’ Et Augustinus exponit quod per litteram intelligitur quaelibet Scriptura extra homines existens, etiam moralium praeceptorum qualia continentur in Evangelio. Unde etiam littera Evangelii occideret, nisi adesset interius gratia fidei sanans.”

English Translation:

“There is a twofold element in the Law of the Gospel. There is the chief element, namely, the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed inwardly. And as to this, the New Law justifies. The other element of the Evangelical Law is secondary: namely, the teachings of faith, and those commandments which direct human affections and human actions. And as to this, the New Law does not justify. Hence the Apostle says (2 Cor. 3:6) ‘The letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.’ And Augustine explains this by saying that the letter denotes any writing external to man, even that of the moral precepts such as are contained in the Gospel. Wherefore the letter, even of the Gospel would kill, unless there were the inward presence of the healing grace of faith.”


In Part I of Verbum Domini, in the section on “Literal sense and spiritual sense,” the Pope writes:

Saint Thomas of Aquinas, for example, states that “all the senses of sacred Scripture are based on the literal sense”.[121] It is necessary, however, to remember that in patristic and medieval times every form of exegesis, including the literal form, was carried out on the basis of faith, without there necessarily being any distinction between the literal sense and the spiritual sense.

Footnote [121]: Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, art. 10, ad 1.

Here is what Aquinas says in Summa Theologiae, I, q. 1, art. 10, ad 1.

Original Latin:

Auctor sacrae Scripturae est Deus, in cuius potestate est ut non solum voces ad significandum accommodet (quod etiam homo facere potest), sed etiam res ipsas. Et ideo, cum in omnibus scientiis voces significent, hoc habet proprium ista scientia, quod ipsae res significatae per voces, etiam significant aliquid. Illa ergo prima significatio, qua voces significant res, pertinet ad primum sensum, qui est sensus historicus vel litteralis. Illa vero significatio qua res significatae per voces, iterum res alias significant, dicitur sensus spiritualis; qui super litteralem fundatur, et eum supponit.

Hic autem sensus spiritualis trifariam dividitur. Lex Vetus figura est Novae Legis. In Nova etiam Lege, ea quae in Capite sunt gesta, sunt signa eorum quae nos agere debemus. Et ipsa Nova Lex est figura futurae gloriae.

Secundum ergo quod ea quae sunt Veteris Legis, significant ea quae sunt Novae Legis, est sensus allegoricus, secundum vero quod ea quae in Christo sunt facta, vel in his quae Christum significant, sunt signa eorum quae nos agere debemus, est sensus moralis, prout vero significant ea quae sunt in aeterna gloria, est sensus anagogicus.

Sensus isti non multiplicantur propter hoc quod una vox multa significet; sed quia ipsae res significatae per voces, aliarum rerum possunt esse signa. Et ita etiam nulla confusio sequitur in Sacra Scriptura, cum omnes sensus fundentur super unum, scilicet litteralem; ex quo solo potest trahi argumentum, non autem ex his quae secundum allegoriam dicuntur.”

English Translation:

“The author of Sacred Scripture is God, in whose power it is to signify His meaning, not by words only (as man also can do), but also by things themselves. So, whereas in every other science things are signified by words, this science [the science of Sacred Scripture] has the property, that the things signified by the words have themselves also a signification. Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it.

“Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. First, the Old Law is a figure of the New Law. Again, in the New Law, whatever our Head has done is a type of what we ought to do. And the New Law itself is a figure of future glory.

“Therefore, so far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are types of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense.

“These senses are not multiplied because one word signifies several things, but because the things signified by the words can be themselves types of other things. Thus in Sacred Scripture no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one---the literal---from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory.”

The original Italian of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the English translation of the document, and translations into other languages can be found in the Official Web Site of the Holy See. (Accessed December 12, 2010.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

0153: John F. Wippel on Actus Essendi (III)

Entry 0153: Remarks by Professor John F. Wippel on Actus Essendi

“Nothing enjoys actuality except insofar as it exists. Therefore esse itself is the actuality of all things, including forms themselves.

“Hence [esse] is related to other things not as that which receives is related to that which is received, but rather as that which is received to that which receives it.

“As he uses the term esse in this discussion, [Aquinas] has in mind the intrinsic act of being (actus essendi). It is this … which accounts for the fact that things exist.

“The term esse [signifies] not mere facticity but a principle within every finite substance which serves as its intrinsic act of being (actus essendi) and which accounts for the fact that it exists.” (1)

(1) John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 410 and 489.

Monday, December 13, 2010

0152: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XVI)

Entry 0152: Pope Benedict XVI invokes Saint Thomas Aquinas to assist him

In the General Audience of 25 August 2010, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI spoke about his devotion to saints:

Everyone must have some Saint with whom he or she is on familiar terms, to feel close to with prayer and intercession but also to emulate.

As you know, I too am especially attached to certain Saints: among them in addition to Saint Joseph and Saint Benedict, whose names I bear is Saint Augustine whom I have had the great gift to know, so to speak, close at hand through study and prayer and who has become a good "travelling companion" in my life and my ministry.

And in the book Light of the World (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), the Pope remarked:

Naturally I always pray first and foremost to our Lord, with whom I am united simply by old acquaintance, so to speak. But I also invoke the saints.

I am friends with Augustine, with Bonaventure, with Thomas Aquinas.

Then one says to such saints also: Help me!

And the Mother of God is, in any case, always a major point of reference.

In this sense I commend myself to the communion of saints.

With them, strengthened by them, I then talk with the dear Lord also, begging, for the most part, but also in thanksgiving--or quite simply being joyful.

Monday, December 6, 2010

0151: Pope Benedict XVI on Aquinas (XV)

Entry 0151: General Audience on Saint Juliana of Cornillon

On Wednesday, November 17, 2010, the Holy Father devoted the Catechesis of the General Audience to Saint Juliana of Cornillon (1191-1258), the saint who worked to promote a liturgical feast of Corpus Christi. She is better known as Saint Juliana of Liege. And the feast of Corpus Christi was instituted as a solemnity for the universal Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264.

Benedict XVI pointed out also that it was Pope Urban IV who entrusted Saint Thomas Aquinas with composing the texts of the liturgical office of Corpus Christi:

Urban IV asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St. Thomas Aquinas -- who at that time was accompanying the Pope and was in Orvieto -- to compose texts of the liturgical office for this great feast. These are masterpieces in which theology and poetry fuse, still in use today in the Church. They are texts that make the cords of the heart vibrate to express praise and gratitude to the Most Holy Sacrament, while the intelligence, penetrating the mystery with wonder, recognizes in the Eucharist the living and true presence of Jesus, of his sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation.

Here is the text of the Audience. (The original Italian, the English translation reported here, and translations into other languages can be found in the Official Web Site of the Holy See,, accessed November 26, 2010.)



Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Saint Juliana of Cornillon

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning too I would like to introduce a female figure to you. She is little known but the Church is deeply indebted to her, not only because of the holiness of her life but also because, with her great fervour, she contributed to the institution of one of the most important solemn Liturgies of the year: Corpus Christi.

She is St Juliana de Cornillon, also known as St Juliana of Liège. We know several facts about her life, mainly from a Biography that was probably written by a contemporary cleric; it is a collection of various testimonies of people who were directly acquainted with the Saint.

Juliana was born near Liège, Belgium between 1191 and 1192. It is important to emphasize this place because at that time the Diocese of Liège was, so to speak, a true “Eucharistic Upper Room”. Before Juliana, eminent theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and, again in Liège, there were groups of women generously dedicated to Eucharistic worship and to fervent communion. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together, devoting themselves to prayer and to charitable works.

Orphaned at the age of five, Juliana, together with her sister Agnes, was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns at the convent and leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon.

She was taught mainly by a sister called “Sapienza” [wisdom], who was in charge of her spiritual development to the time Juliana received the religious habit and thus became an Augustinian nun.

She became so learned that she could read the words of the Church Fathers, of St Augustine and St Bernard in particular, in Latin. In addition to a keen intelligence, Juliana showed a special propensity for contemplation from the outset. She had a profound sense of Christ’s presence, which she experienced by living the Sacrament of the Eucharist especially intensely and by pausing frequently to meditate upon Jesus’ words: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

When Juliana was 16 she had her first vision which recurred subsequently several times during her Eucharistic adoration. Her vision presented the moon in its full splendour, crossed diametrically by a dark stripe. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth, the opaque line, on the other hand, represented the absence of a liturgical feast for whose institution Juliana was asked to plead effectively: namely, a feast in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to increase in faith, to advance in the practice of the virtues and to make reparation for offences to the Most Holy Sacrament.

Juliana, who in the meantime had become Prioress of the convent, kept this revelation that had filled her heart with joy a secret for about 20 years. She then confided it to two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist, Blessed Eva, who lived as a hermit, and Isabella, who had joined her at the Monastery of Mont-Cornillon. The three women established a sort of “spiritual alliance” for the purpose of glorifying the Most Holy Sacrament.

They also chose to involve a highly regarded Priest, John of Lausanne, who was a canon of the Church of St Martin in Liège. They asked him to consult theologians and clerics on what was important to them. Their affirmative response was encouraging.

What happened to Juliana of Cornillon occurs frequently in the lives of Saints. To have confirmation that an inspiration comes from God it is always necessary to be immersed in prayer to wait patiently, to seek friendship and exchanges with other good souls and to submit all things to the judgement of the Pastors of the Church.

It was in fact Bishop Robert Torote, Liège who, after initial hesitation, accepted the proposal of Juliana and her companions and first introduced the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later other Bishops following his example instituted this Feast in the territories entrusted to their pastoral care.

However, to increase their faith the Lord often asks Saints to sustain trials. This also happened to Juliana who had to bear the harsh opposition of certain members of the clergy and even of the superior on whom her monastery depended.

Of her own free will, therefore, Juliana left the Convent of Mont-Cornillon with several companions. For 10 years — from 1248 to 1258 — she stayed as a guest at various monasteries of Cistercian sisters.

She edified all with her humility, she had no words of criticism or reproach for her adversaries and continued zealously to spread Eucharistic worship.

She died at Fosses-La-Ville, Belgium, in 1258. In the cell where she lay the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and, according to her biographer’s account, Juliana died contemplating with a last effusion to love Jesus in the Eucharist whom she had always loved, honoured and adored. Jacques Pantaléon of Troyes was also won over to the good cause of the Feast of Corpus Christi during his ministry as Archdeacon in Lièges. It was he who, having become Pope with the name of Urban IV in 1264, instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast of precept for the universal Church.

In the Bull of its institution, entitled Transiturus de hoc mundo, (11 Aug. 1264), Pope Urban even referred discreetly to Juliana's mystical experiences, corroborating their authenticity. He wrote: “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we deem it fitting that at least once a year it be celebrated with greater honour and a solemn commemoration.

“Indeed we grasp the other things we commemorate with our spirit and our mind, but this does not mean that we obtain their real presence. On the contrary, in this sacramental commemoration of Christ, even though in a different form, Jesus Christ is present with us in his own substance. While he was about to ascend into Heaven he said ‘And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28:20)”.

The Pontiff made a point of setting an example by celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi in Orvieto, the town where he was then residing. Indeed, he ordered that the famous Corporal with the traces of the Eucharistic miracle which had occurred in Bolsena the previous year, 1263, be kept in Orvieto Cathedral — where it still is today.

While a priest was consecrating the bread and the wine he was overcome by strong doubts about the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. A few drops of blood began miraculously to ooze from the consecrated Host, thereby confirming what our faith professes.

Urban iv asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St Thomas Aquinas — who at that time was accompanying the Pope and was in Orvieto — to compose the texts of the Liturgical Office for this great feast. They are masterpieces, still in use in the Church today, in which theology and poetry are fuse. These texts pluck at the heartstrings in an expression of praise and gratitude to the Most Holy Sacrament, while the mind, penetrating the mystery with wonder, recognizes in the Eucharist the Living and Real Presence of Jesus, of his Sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation.

Although after the death of Urban IV the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi was limited to certain regions of France, Germany, Hungary and Northern Italy, it was another Pontiff, John XXII, who in 1317 re-established it for the universal Church. Since then the Feast experienced a wonderful development and is still deeply appreciated by the Christian people.

I would like to affirm with joy that today there is a “Eucharistic springtime” in the Church: How many people pause in silence before the Tabernacle to engage in a loving conversation with Jesus! It is comforting to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of praying in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I am thinking, for example, of our Eucharistic adoration in Hyde Park, London. I pray that this Eucharistic “springtime” may spread increasingly in every parish and in particular in Belgium, St Juliana’s homeland.

Venerable John Paul II said in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned” (n. 10).

In remembering St Juliana of Cornillon let us also renew our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we are taught by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic Species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (n. 282).

Dear friends, fidelity to the encounter with the Christ in the Eucharist in Holy Mass on Sunday is essential for the journey of faith, but let us also seek to pay frequent visits to the Lord present in the Tabernacle! In gazing in adoration at the consecrated Host, we discover the gift of God's love, we discover Jesus' Passion and Cross and likewise his Resurrection. It is precisely through our gazing in adoration that the Lord draws us towards him into his mystery in order to transform us as he transforms the bread and the wine.

The Saints never failed to find strength, consolation and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. Let us repeat before the Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament the words of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote”: [Devoutly I adore Thee]: Make me believe ever more in you, “Draw me deeply into faith, / Into Your hope, into Your love”.

Thank you.