St. Thomas Aquinas

The Dumb Ox
Book cover: 'St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox'
G.K. Chesterton
Image Books
Number of pages: 
192 pages
Grade / Age level: 

This little book is interesting. It is NOT the definitive work on St. Thomas. It is NOT a primer on his philosophy. It is an interesting mix of: a story of his life (or rather stories from his life), a little taste of his genius, another taste of what his ideas mean to the world (including how relevant they are today) and ideas about why he was the way he was.

It does not seem adequate to compare it to a TV show but it reminds me of one of those really good PBS documentaries that gets you totally involved in something you didn't ever think was that big a deal.

Chesterton uses these different angles on Thomas and Thomism to leave you in admiration. Here was a man who by his diligence, incredible intelligence and humble love of the Truth contributed clarity to Catholic teaching - and to the WORLD (physical and spiritual). Wielding Aristotle's long forgotten philosophy Thomas makes sense of the World and the Church in a way that is profoundly true and incredibly accessible. Chesterton gives us enough of a taste to seriously whet the appetite and provides enough momentum to carry us past this book right into Thomas himself. Which is perfect. Thomas Aquinas, despite his genius (probably BECAUSE of his genius) can be understood by anyone who can read even this simple book of Chesterton's.

As Thomas was not only brilliant but humble it is fitting that Chesterton imitates the saint in this work by being both insightful and modest. Since, thankfully, Chesterton's prose is both more lucid and more delighful than my own I will defer to Chesterton's own introduction: "This book makes no pretence to be anything but a popular sketch of a great historical character who ought to be more popular. Its aim will be achieved if it leads those who have hardly even heard of St. Thomas Aquinas to read about him in better books." I would go further and suggest the reading of St. Thomas's OWN books - you will be amazed how enlightening, straighforward and refreshing it can be.

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