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).

St. Thomas Aquinas, keys and treasures

God has entrusted the keys and treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven to Mary.

Attr. to St. Thomas Aquinas

I found a site (connected with a disapproved apparition, so I won’t give a link) which claims it comes from St. Thomas’s “Exposition on the Salve Regina.” The problem with that is that he didn’t write one. He did write on the Angelic Salutation, but the alleged quotation is not in there either.

The friend who asked me about this suggested that I try St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s The Glories of Mary, and behold, it’s there … attributed to Louis de Blois, better known as Blosius. The editor of the edition I found even gives a citation, which alas is not entirely legible, though you’re welcome to try for yourself here. But since there is a citation to a definite work, I’m going to attribute this one to Blosius (and wonder how it got attributed to St. Thomas).

Edit: Thanks to Andrew in the comments below, I have a Google Books link to the saying from Brosius in Latin, As he notes in his comment, the quotation here doesn’t mention the keys:

Tibi regni cæleſis theſauri commiſſi ſunt. (To you [i.e., Mary] the treasures of heaven have been entrusted.)

(I am very disappointed that I couldn’t enter a double long-s.)

St. Thomas and bearing wrongs patiently

To bear with patience wrongs done to oneself is a mark of perfection But to bear with patience wrongs done to someone else is a mark of imperfection and even of actual sin.

Attr. to St. Thomas Aquinas.

I found a book on Google Books that helpfully gives a Latin rendition: “Et aequo animo ferre iniuriam sibi signum est perfectio, sed est alius iniurias patienter sufferre imperfectionis et actualis peccati.

  1. A general web search turned up lots of hits and no citations.
  2. It’s not on St. Thomas’s Wikiquote page.
  3. You can see one of the Google Books hits above. No citation there, nor in any of the other hits.
  4. Looking directly at St. Thomas, the closest I can find is II-II.108.1.a2. From the version at New Advent: “The good bear with the wicked by enduring patiently, and in due manner, the wrongs they themselves receive from them: but they do not bear with them as to endure the wrongs they inflict on God and their neighbor. For Chrysostom [Cf. Opus Imperfectum, Hom. v in Matth., falsely ascribed to St. Chrysostom] says: ‘It is praiseworthy to be patient under our own wrongs, but to overlook God’s wrongs is most wicked.’ ” I searched both New Advent and the Dominican House of Studies for the original English quotation (and for segments of it) without success.
  5. Since I had a putative Latin rendering of the same thing (“putative” in its attribution to St. Thomas; the Latin does translate into the English as given), I tried searching for it, both at the Dominican House of Studies and at Corpus Thomisticum, again without success. Searching for Latin can be tricky because aequo could be written as æquo and I’m not sure how well Google handles ligatures; and because iniuriam can also be written as injuriam or even injurjam. To be safe, I left the iffy words out of the search. No luck on either site. To be sure, I tried ferre sibi signum est perfectio aquinas at DHS (I had to add aquinas to cut down on the number of hits, but the quotation was not there by anyone on the first page of results) and ferre sibi signum est perfectio at Corpus Thomisticum. I found nothing.
  6. I went ahead with a general web search for the Latin and for reasonably sized pieces of it. No success.

I believe that St. Thomas would agree with the sentiment expressed, given the citation above from the Summa. But I cannot find anywhere that he actually said it.

St. Thomas and the Things We Love

The things we love tell us what we are. — Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

This one is easy. It comes from Peter Kreeft’s Socrates Meets Kant, p. 183, which cites the Summa Theologica I-II, 34, a4. The portion of that passage which Dr. Kreeft seems to have in mind is this:

And therefore man is reckoned to be good or bad chiefly according to the pleasure of the human will; since that man is good and virtuous, who takes pleasure in the works of virtue; and that man evil, who takes pleasure in evil works.

As you can see, Dr. Kreeft paraphrased St. Thomas, which is perfectly acceptable. It’s just that people picked up his paraphrase as if it were a quotation, which it is not.


Update 2/15/16: A commenter below notes that the exact quotation can be found on p. 22 of Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude. I don’t own a copy and the previews on Google Books don’t show this page, but I am confident that the comment is correct. Dr. Kreeft must have confused his Thomases.

St. Thomas and the means of conversion

To convert somebody, go and take them by the hand and guide them.

–Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas

  1. Generic Google search. I don’t know why I try this. Actually I do–it finds the source of authentic quotations quickly most of the time. It turned up only the usual suspect quote aggregation sites this time.
  2. It’s not on wikiquote, neither on St. Thomas’s authentic quotes page nor on the talk page where disputed quotations go.
  3. It’s not in the English version of the Summa on New Advent. But I did find something that might lie behind the alleged quotation. In I.113.4, St. Thomas is speaking of guardian angels and says this:

    Further, angels are appointed to the guardianship of men, that they may take them by the hand and guide them to eternal life, encourage them to good works, and protect them against the assaults of the demons.

    The resemblances are obvious. I was curious how St. Thomas said “take by the hand and guide” in Latin. It’s one word: “manuducantur,” literally from “guide by the hand.” As given, it’s third person plural passive subjunctive. With this find, I was able to search the entire works of St. Thomas in Latin for the word, in plural, singular, indicative, and subjunctive. He uses it in several other places, but none of them are the original quotation we’re seeking.

Verdict: Probably taken from ST I.113.4, but the fauxtation has wandered rather far afield from its original context.

St. Thomas Aquinas and remedies for sorrow

Here’s one for the feast day of the Dumb Ox:

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.

Attr. St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas discusses remedies for sorrow in the Summa Theologica, First Part of the Second Part, Question 38. You can read it for yourself at the above link. Here’s the tl;dr version:

  1. Any pleasure is a remedy for sorrow (not necessarily the best remedy, but it does work).
  2. Weeping is a remedy because it provides an outlet for the sorrow.
  3. The sympathy of friends is a remedy (and good friends are a treasure).
  4. Contemplation of the truth is a remedy. St. Thomas regards this as a subset of “any pleasure” because contemplation of the truth is always pleasurable.
  5. Finally, sleep and baths are a remedy; in essence, sorrow drains the body of energy, and these things help restore that energy.

Noticeably absent from the list is any specific mention of wine.

Also note that St. Thomas didn’t say it in epigrammatic form. He is concise but often not terribly quotable.