Sunday 28 January 2024

Feast of Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Letter to John on How To Study:

John, dearest to me in Christ, since you sought my guidance on how you should study in order to attain the treasure that is knowledge, I offer you this advice, that you should opt to wade in through the small streams instead of hastily plunging yourself into the sea, as challenging subjects ought to be approached by means of easier ones. Therefore, this is my admonition and your lesson: I bid you be slow to speak and hesitant to approach the common room. Cherish purity of conscience. Always make time for prayer. Frequently elect to spend time in your own cell if you wish to be led into the wine-cellar. Comport yourself amiably to everyone. Don’t look for hidden ulterior motives in the deeds of others. Don’t be overly familiar with anyone, because too much familiarity breeds contempt and affords lost opportunities for study. Do not busy yourself with the chatter and goings-on of worldly people. And, above all, flee from distracting conversation. Do not neglect to follow in the footsteps of saints and wholesome people. Don’t bother too much about who said what but commit whatever is good to memory. Take care to understand fully what you read and hear. Double-check what is doubtful. And busy yourself with whatever you will have placed in your mental bookcase as one anxious to to fill a vessel to the brim. Seek not the things that are too high for thee. By following those footpaths for as long as you live, you will nourish and grow the branches and fruits useful in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts. If you zealously follow these precepts, you will be able to attain whatever you aspire towards.
Quia quaesisti a me, in Christo mihi carissime Ioannes, qualiter te studere oporteat in thesauro scientiae acquirendo, tale a me tibi traditur consilium: ut per rivulos, non statim in mare, eligas introire, quia per faciliora ad difficiliora oportet devenire. Haec est ergo monitio mea et instructio tua. Tardiloquum te esse iubeo et tarde ad locutorium accedentem; conscientiae puritatem amplectere. Orationi vacare non desinas; cellam frequenter diligas si vis in cellam vinariam introduci. Omnibus te amabilem exhibe; nihil quaere penitus de factis aliorum; nemini te multum familiarem ostendas, quia nimia familiaritas parit contemptum et subtractionis a studio materiam subministrat; de verbis et factis saecularium nullatenus te intromittas; discursus super omnia fugias; sanctorum et bonorum imitari vestigia non omittas; non respicias a quo audias, sed quidquid boni dicatur, memoriae recommenda; ea quae legis et audis, fac ut intelligas; de dubiis te certifica; et quidquid poteris in armariolo mentis reponere satage, sicut cupiens vas implere; altiora te ne quaesieris. Illa sequens vestigia, frondes et fructus in vinea domini Sabaoth utiles, quandiu vitam habueris, proferes et produces. Haec si sectatus fueris, ad id attingere poteris, quod affectas.
Thomas Aquinas, ‘Epistola de Modo Studendi’, in Opuscula theologica, ed. by Raimondo A. Verardo (Rome: Marietti, 1954), I, p. 451. My translation. 

'altiora te ne quaesieris' (Ecclesiasticus 3:22)

Thomas Aquinas Trampling Heresy
Michel Serre (1658–1733), Thomas Aquinas Trampling Heresy (Basilica of Mary Magdalene, Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baum, Wikicommons)