St. Thomas on the prayerless soul

The prayerless soul makes no progress whatever.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

After a little poking around, I found this:

Some of the Angelic Doctor’s neat sayings caught in familiar conversation have been preserved. “The poverty of a discontented religious is a useless expense.” “The prayerless soul makes no progress whatever.” “A religious without prayer resembles a soldier fighting without weapons.” “Idleness is the devil’s hook, on which any bait is tempting.” “I cannot understand how anyone conscious of mortal sin can laugh or be merry.” When asked how to detect a spiritual-minded man, he gave this reply: “He who is constantly chattering about frivolous things, who fears being despised, who is weary of life, whatever marvels he may work, I do not look on him as a perfect man, since all he does is without foundation, and he who cannot suffer is ready for a fall”. To his sister Theodora, inquiring how to become a saint, he replied with a single word, “Velle,” or “Resolve”.

The source is a 1911 biography of St. Thomas, but that’s good enough for me to regard this as probably an authentic tradition.

And this is the reason I almost always ask people in Confession if they’re praying daily….

St. Thomas Aquinas: Love them both

We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

This seems to be the quote du jour for the feast of St. Thomas this year (e.g., in eye-wrenching typography from Word on Fire). But is it authentic?

Yes and no and sort of. After poking around for a bit, I found a good treatment of the question.

TL;DR: It’s attributed to “a commentary on Aristotle” all over the Internet, but St. Thomas wrote a lot of those. I managed to track it down (via the above link) to Sententia super Metaphysicam 12.9.14 (2566). It turns out the the saint is quoting Aristotle, who said this:

And if anyone in treating this subject should be found to form a different opinion from the one stated here, we must respect both views but accept the more certain

Alternative translation: and if those who apply themselves to these matters come to some conclusion which clashes with what we have just stated, we must appreciate both views, but follow the more accurate.

It seems to me that the more accurate view is that Aristotle and St. Thomas are referring to opinions rather than directly to people.

So (a) it’s a statement which St. Thomas is endorsing rather than something that he came up with on his own; (b) it refers to opinions and not to people (IMHO).