Do you have a loved one who has questions or objections about the Catholic faith, but you don’t have the answers and find yourself standing there like a deer in the headlights? Or maybe you’re the one with doubts, and you just haven’t heard a compelling answer to your questions about faith, purpose, and existence itself.
Objections and doubts about the faith are not uncommon. In fact, back in the 13th century Thomas Aquinas compiled the main theological teachings of the Catholics Church into the Summa Theologiae, which provides the reasoning for Christian teaching and offers arguments to counter many objections to the faith.
However, at 3,125 articles the Summa can be quite intimidating. But it’s not as hard as you think. And, in fact, the Thomistic Institute has a new program to make it even easier. Aquinas 101 is a new, free course offered by the Thomistic Institute to help make sense of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teachings—and in the process, come to know more deeply the great Catholic and Christian intellectual tradition.
Recently, Dr. Chad Pecknold, associate professor of theology at Catholic University of America and a contributing editor to The Catholic Herald, stopped by A Closer Look™ to discuss Aquinas 101 and why St. Thomas Aquinas still has so much to teach us.
During their conversation, A Closer Look host Sheila Liaugminas acknowledged, “Aquinas is the greatest philosopher, the greatest theologian, and he’s accessible to everyone. And yet, don’t most Catholics and Christians think he’s just over their heads?”
Pecknold agreed with this, saying, “I think that’s right. You know, it’s a pity that people think that. I mean, they’ll actually turn to works that are much more difficult in a way, hitting up a spiritual classic thinking that a spiritual book will be easier than Thomas Aquinas. But actually, Thomas Aquinas is crystal clear. You’ll never be in doubt about what he’s talking about. You might need to read slowly, but it’s crystal clear.”
Some people may think that they should start out with something smaller and easier before they dive into the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. But Pecknold pointed out that the Summa was originally intended to be a training of beginners, so it is the perfect place to start.
“While mastering the Summa takes a kind of long study and skill, actually understanding the Summa, any beginner can do that with a little bit of guidance,” Pecknold said.
While the Aquinas 101 course will discuss teachings from 800 years ago, it is made with the modern person in mind. Consisting of 86 video lessons sent by e-mail twice a week, Aquinas 101 presents timeless truths that are still every bit as relevant in our world today.
“This thought has survived for 800 years, not because it has kept up with the times, but because it transcends,” Pecknold said. “So if we are going to be also people who transcend our own times, we have to be formed by that which transcends our time. And I think that kind of tapping into that sap of wisdom that’s right there on the tree of Aquinas is easier than you think and it will form you better than you know.”