On Prayer and The Contemplative Life
by St. Thomas Aquinas
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1914 All rights reserved

Nihil Obstat. J.P. ARENDZEN, D.D., Censor Deputatus.

Imprimatur. EDM. CAN. SURMONT, Vicarius Generalis.

Westmonasterii, Die 20 Septembris, 1913.

"Te Trina Deitas unaque poscimus Sic nos Tu visita, sicut Te colimus: Per Tuas semitas duc nos quo tendimus, Ad lucem, quam inhabitas!"

S. Thomas's Hymn for Matins on the Feast of Corpus Christi.


The present generation in the fervour of its repentance is like to cast off too much. So many false principles and hasty deductions have been offered to its parents and grandparents in the name of science that it is becoming unduly suspicious of the scientific method.

A century ago men's minds were sick unto death from too much science and too little mysticism. To-day the danger is that even the drawing-rooms are scented with a mysticism that anathematizes science.

At no time since the days of S. Thomas was the saint's scientific method more lacking. Everywhere there is need for a mystic doctrine, which in itself is neither hypnotism nor hysteria, and in its expression is neither superlative nor apostrophic, lest the hungered minds of men die of surfeit following on starvation.

The message and method of S. Thomas are part of that strange rigidity of the thirteenth century which is one of the startling paradoxes of the ages of faith. It is surely a consolation that these ages of a faith which moved mountains, or at least essayed to remove the Turk, were minded to express their beliefs in the coat of mail of human reason! The giants of those days, who in the sphere of literature were rediscovering verse and inventing rhyme, and who in every sphere of knowledge were bringing forth the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, were not so blinded by the white light of vision as to disown the Greeks. They made the Ethics of Aristotle the four-square walls of the city of God; they expressed the mysteries of the Undivided Three in terms of the Syllogism. Thus they refused to cut themselves off from the aristocracy of human genius. They laid hands—but not violent hands—on the heritage of the ages. No philosophers have ever equalled their bold and lowly-minded profession of faith in the solidarity of human reason. For this cause S. Thomas, who is their spokesman, has now become an absolute necessity of thought. Unless the great Dumb Ox is given a hearing, our mysticism will fill, not the churches, but the asylums and the little self-authorized Bethels where every man is his own precursor and messiah.

That S. Thomas is to be accepted as a master of mysticism may be judged from the following facts in the life of a mystic of the mystics, S. John of the Cross:

"It has been recorded that during his studies he particularly relished psychology; this is amply borne out by his writings. S. John was not what one could term a scholar. He was, however, intimately acquainted with the Summa of S. Thomas Aquinas, as almost every page of his works proves.... He does not seem to have ever applied himself to the study of the Fathers.... As has already been stated, the whole work (The Ascent of Mount Carmel) is based upon the view S. Thomas Aquinas takes of the essence and operations of the senses and of the faculties of the soul, and upon his treatise on the virtues."[1]

S. Thomas hardly needs an imprimatur after six centuries of full trust. But in the hard matters of mysticism, which he has treated as a scholar should, it is reassuring to know that he has the approval, not only of the scholars, but of the mystics.
















The pages which follow call for little introduction. S. Thomas has left us no formal treatise on Mystical Theology, though his teachings on this subject have been collected from his various works and combined to form such a treatise. Especially noteworthy is the work of the Spanish Dominican Valgornera.[2] No such synthesis has been attempted here. We have simply taken from the Summa Theologica the treatises on Religion, on Devotion, Prayer, and the Contemplative Life, and presented them in an English dress. When occasion offered we have added to each portion appropriate passages from S. Augustine, S. Thomas's master, and more rarely from the Commentary on the Summa by the illustrious Cardinal Cajetan.

And we have been led to do this for several reasons. The Mystical life is the life of union with God, and it is based essentially on Prayer and Contemplation. But prayer and contemplation, though simple in themselves, are yet fraught with difficulties and dangers unless we be wisely guided. And as Father Faber shrewdly says: when we ask for instruction in these things, let us by all means make appeal to those whose names begin with S—let us, in other words, go to God's Saints. And the reason is simple: these Saints are no mere idle sign-posts who point the way but stand still themselves; they themselves have been where they would have us go; they speak from no mere theoretical knowledge; they themselves have tasted and seen that the Lord is sweet!

Further, it would have been easy to cull from S. Thomas's writings the salient points of his teaching on these points, and to have presented them in an attractive form. But had we done so the teachings of the Saint would have lost much of their force, and readers might well have doubted at times whether they really had before them the mind of S. Thomas or that of the translator. It is preferable to read the Bible than what men have said about the Bible. Unfortunately, it is the fashion nowadays to consider S. Thomas's writings "out of date"! If the perusal of these pages shall have induced some few at least to go to the original and study it for themselves they will have more than fulfilled the translator's desires.

Another reason which has weighed much with the translator and encouraged him to undertake this task has been the suddenly awakened interest in Mysticism and Mystical studies during the last decade. It has become the fashion to talk about Mysticism, even to pose as Mystics, and—need it be said?—those who talk the most on such subjects are those who know the least. For those who have entered into the secret of the King are ever the most reticent on such matters. At the same time we may welcome this recent development, if only as a set-off against the Spiritualism and occultism which have played such havoc with souls during a space of over fifty years. The human soul, "naturally Christian," as Tertullian would say, is also naturally Divine in the sense that, as S. Augustine so often insists, no rest is possible for it save in God. Now those who are familiar with the Summa Theologica are aware that Union with God is its keynote, or rather is the dominant note which rings out clear again and again with its ever-repeated Sursum Corda! It is this that gives such special value to the treatises here presented on Prayer and the Contemplative Life. They flow from the pen of one who was literally steeped in God and Divine things, and who is speaking to us of things which he had himself tasted and seen. It is this that gives such simplicity and charm to the whole of his teaching. He is not experimenting; he is not speaking of theories; he is portraying to us what was his everyday life.

Perhaps one of the commonest errors regarding the Spiritual life is the confusion between the ordinary and the extraordinary ways of God. For how many does not the Contemplative Life mean the life of ecstasy and vision with which we are familiar in the lives of the Saints? For S. Thomas, on the contrary, the Contemplative Life is but the natural life of a man who is serving God and who devotes a certain portion of his time to the study and contemplation of Divine things. Ecstasy and vision he treats of in another place. They occupy a sphere apart. They belong to God's extraordinary dealings with favoured souls, and while they presuppose prayer and contemplation on the part of those so visited they themselves form no integral part of the Contemplative Life; indeed, they are the exception. Hence in these pages we shall find nought touching Supernatural manifestations, such as visions, ecstasies, and revelations; but we shall find what is of far greater use to us—a Catechism on Devotion, Prayer, and Contemplation.

* * * * *

The main features of the Life of S. Thomas of Aquin are known to most of those who are likely to read this book. His life at first sight seems of such an even tenor that there is but little to record. Yet when we penetrate beneath the surface we realize that he lived in stirring days, and that his short span of fifty years was passed in the full light of the world of the thirteenth century. Thomas was born in the beginning of the year 1225 in the castle of Rocca-Secca, the ancestral home of the Counts of Aquino, in the kingdom of Sicily. His future glory was foretold to his mother, the Countess Theodora, by a hermit of that neighbourhood who also foretold that his parents would endeavour to make him a monk in the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, but that God had other designs for him, since he was to be a Friar Preacher, a member of the Order of the great S. Dominic who had just gone to his reward. The prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. At the early age of five years he was sent to the Abbey to be educated among the young nobles of the day, as was then the custom. Even thus early he showed a remarkable maturity of character, and his biographer, William of Tocco, dwells with delight on the calm reserve of his childish days and on that eager seeking after God which was to be his future glory.[3]

From Monte Cassino Thomas passed to Naples to complete his studies. Here he became conscious of his vocation, and offered himself to the Dominicans. The Prior of the convent at Naples at that time was Father John of S. Julian, who later became Patriarch of Jerusalem[4]; he gave the habit of the Order to Thomas, who was then but fourteen years of age. His parents were indignant at this step, and did all in their power to shake his determination. Fearing their recourse to the violent methods then so common, the Dominicans sent Thomas to the convent of Santa Sabina at Rome. But S. Thomas's brothers, at their mother's bidding, seized upon the young man and carried him off in his religious habit to his mother who kept him imprisoned for nearly two years.[5] During this time of anxiety nothing disturbed the Saint's equanimity, and he made good use of his time by studying the Bible, the Book of the Sentences—the Theological Manual of those days—and also Aristotle's philosophical treatises. It was at this time that the diabolical attempt upon his virtue was made—an attempt which the Saint resisted effectually; in reward for his constancy he was miraculously girded with a cincture by two Angels from Heaven.[6] Failing in their attempt to shake his determination, his brothers permitted him to escape, and he returned to the convent at Naples in 1245. Thence he was sent by his superiors to Rome, and shortly afterwards to Paris and Cologne to study under Blessed Albert the Great. At Cologne he led the life of a simple student, a life of recollection, prayer, and study. But his extraordinary talents could not long remain hid. The post of Bachelor in the famous House of Studies at Paris was vacant, and at the suggestion of Cardinal Hugo a S. Caro, himself a Dominican, S. Thomas was appointed by the Master-General of the Order to the vacant post. This was a blow to the Saint's humility, but he accepted it under obedience. The impression made by his teaching was extraordinary, and the words of William of Tocco on this point are worth transcribing: "Erat enim novos in sua lectione movens articulos, novum modum et clarum determinandi inveniens, et novas reducens in determinationibus rationes: ut nemo qui ipsum audisset nova docere, et novis rationibus dubia definire dubitaret, quod eum Deus novi luminis radiis illustrasset, qui statim tam certi c[oe]pisset esse judicii, ut non dubitaret novas opiniones docere et scribere, quas Deus dignatus esset noviter inspirare." This novelty in method was evidently remarkable, but, while provoking the attacks of some, it attracted an immense crowd to his lectures, and this not simply by reason of the novelty which characterized them, but by reason of the supereminent sanctity of the teacher. "Dilectus Deo!" cries out his biographer. "Qui scientiam tribuit; et acceptus hominibus, quibus quasi novis radiis veritatis illuxit."[7]

In 1253 or 1254 Thomas was, again much against his will, created Master in Sacred Theology, and the remaining twenty years of his life were wholly devoted to teaching, studying, and preaching, whether at Paris or at Naples. Dignities and honours were frequently offered him, but he succeeded in avoiding them all. He felt that his vocation was to study and teach. And since his teaching was to be of things Divine, he felt that he must needs be absorbed in such things, and that his life must be wholly spent with God. This feature of his life is insisted on by his biographers: "Men ever saw him of joyful mien, gentle and sweet, not occupying himself with worldly affairs, but ever given to study, to reading, to writing, and to prayer for the enlightening of the faithful."[8] Thus we are told that when Brother Reginald, who had been Blessed Thomas's companion, returned from Fossa Nuova to Naples after the Master's death to resume the lectures he had been giving there, he burst into tears as he stood before the Brethren, and said: "Brothers, I was forbidden by my Master to reveal during his life the marvels I had seen. One of those marvels was that his knowledge, which so wondrously surpassed that of other men, was not due to any human skill, but to the merits of his prayers. For whenever he would study, or dispute, or read, or write, or dictate, he would first betake himself to prayer in secret, and there with many tears would implore light wherewith to search rightly into the secret things of God. And by the merits of such prayer it came to pass that, whereas previous to his prayer he had been in doubt about the subject of his study, he always returned from it illumined. And when any doubtful point occurred to him before he had had recourse to prayer, he went to pray, and what had previously been obscure was then Divinely made clear to him."[9]

Truly characteristic of our Saint are those three petitions he was wont to make: that he might never learn to love things of earth; that he might never change his state of life; that God would reveal to him the state of his brother Reginald, who had been put to death, unjustly, as Thomas thought, by the Emperor Frederic. All three petitions were granted, two of them, as he himself told Brother Reginald on his deathbed, by the Blessed Virgin herself. "She appeared to him," says William of Tocco, "and assured him regarding his life and his knowledge, promised him, too, that God would grant him whatsoever he should ask through her intercession, and told him, moreover, that he would never change his state of life."[10]

The following story is well known, but is too illustrative of the Saint's character to be omitted: A dispute had arisen in the University of Paris regarding the Accidents of the Holy Eucharist, and the Doctors of the University decided to leave the decision with S. Thomas. The responsibility was great, but the Saint according to his custom betook himself to prayer and then wrote his answer to the difficulty. "But since he would not dare," says William of Tocco, "to expound his opinion in the Schools before the Masters of the University without first consulting Him of Whom he was treating and to Whom he had prayed that he might teach correctly, he came to the altar and there spread out the pages he had written before Him; then, lifting up his hands to the Crucifix, he prayed and said: 'O Lord Jesus Christ, Who art most truly contained in this wondrous Sacrament and Who as Supreme Artificer ever wondrously workest, I seek to understand Thee in this Sacrament and to teach truly concerning Thee. Wherefore I humbly pray Thee that if what I have written spring from Thee, and be true concerning Thee, then Thou wouldest enable me to declare it and clearly expound it. But if I have written ought which is not in harmony with Thy Faith and which accords not with the Mysteries of this Sacrament, then I pray Thee that nought may proceed from my mouth which deviates from the Catholic Faith.' Then those who watched saw on a sudden Christ standing before the Saint and on the paper he had written, and they heard Him say: 'Well hast thou written of Me in this Sacrament of My Body, and well and truly hast thou answered the question put to thee, as far, that is, as it can be understood by man in this life, or expressed in human words.'"[11]

And it was ever the same throughout his life: in God he sought God. Hence his incessant meditation on the Holy Scriptures; hence his diligent study of the writings of the Fathers of the Church. "Master," said a band of his students to him as they looked on Paris spread before them—"Master, see what a lovely city Paris is! Would you not like to be its owner?" And with a Saint's simplicity he replied: "Far rather would I have the Homilies of Chrysostom on S. Matthew! For if this city were mine then the task of governing it would take me away from the contemplation of things Divine and deprive my soul of its consolations!"[12]

And his companion Reginald has told us how he studied to know the things of God. For he tells us that when the Saint was occupied with his Commentary on Isaias and could not arrive at any satisfactory explanation of a certain passage he gave himself up to fasting and prayer. Then one night Reginald heard voices in the Saint's cell, and whilst he wondered what this might mean at that hour, S. Thomas came to him and said: "Reginald, get up, light a candle, and take the book in which you have been writing upon Isaias and make ready to write once more." Then Reginald wrote whilst the Saint dictated as though he were reading out of a book, with such facility did he speak. And then, at Reginald's insistent petition, he said to him: "My son, you have seen the affliction under which I have been of late owing to this passage of Isaias which I have just been expounding, and you know how I besought God with tears that I might understand it. God, then, this very night had pity upon me, and sent His Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul whom I had prayed to intercede for me, and they have most fully explained it all!"[13] How gladly would one know what passage of Isaias it was which was thus Divinely interpreted!

And so this truly marvellous life went on till the end drew near. Day by day he ascended the steps of the altar, his face bathed in tears; day by day he returned to his work more and more illumined regarding the Mysterium Fidei, and with his soul still more closely knit to its Maker. His ecstasies became more frequent, and in one of these he was told that the close of his life was at hand. For it was at San Severino, not far from Salerno, that he fell into so prolonged an ecstasy that his sister who was present appealed to Reginald to know what had happened to her brother. Even Reginald was astonished. "He is frequently rapt in spirit," he said, "but never before have I seen him thus abstracted!" "Then," says William of Tocco, "Master Reginald went to him, and, plucking him by the cloak, roused him from this deep sleep of contemplation. But he sighed and said: 'My son Reginald, I tell thee in secret, and I forbid thee to reveal it to anyone during my life, the close of my writing has come; for such things have been revealed to me that all I have written and taught seems to me of small account. Hence I hope in my God that as there is an end to my writing, so too will speedily come the end of my life.'"[14]

And S. Thomas was ready for the end, for not long previously, when he was in the convent at Naples and was praying in the Church, there appeared to him Brother Romanus, whom he had left teaching at Paris. Brother Thomas said to him: "Welcome! Whence dost thou come?" But Romanus said to him: "I have passed from this life, and I am allowed to come to thee by reason of thy merits." Then Brother Thomas, summoning up his courage, for he had been much disturbed by the sudden apparition, said to him: "If it be pleasing to God, I adjure you by God to answer my questions. First: How does it stand with me? and are my works pleasing to God?" And the other answered: "Thou art in a good state, and thy works are pleasing to God." Then the Master continued: "And what of thyself?" And Romanus answered: "I am in Eternal Life, but I was in Purgatory sixteen days because of some negligence of which I was guilty in the affair of a will which the Bishop of Paris entrusted to me for speedy execution; but I, through mine own fault, was tardy in executing it." Lastly S. Thomas asked: "What about that question we have so often discussed together: Do the habits we have acquired here abide with us when we are in our Fatherland?" But the other replied: "Brother Thomas, I see God, and you must ask me nought further on that question." But Thomas at once said: "Since you see God, tell me whether you see Him with or without any intermediate image?" But Romanus replied: "As we have heard, so we have seen in the City of our God,"[15] and forthwith disappeared. But the Master remained astonished at that marvellous and unwonted apparition, and filled with joy at his favourable replies. "O Blessed Teacher!" ejaculates William of Tocco, who has left us this account, "to whom Heaven's secrets were thus familiar, to whom Heaven's citizens came with such sweet familiarity to lead him to those heavenly shores!"[16]

Nor was this the only warning. For just as in earlier years at Paris he had received Divine commendation for his writings, so now again at Naples. For Brother Dominic of Caserta tells us that at Naples he watched S. Thomas praying at night. He saw him, he says, absorbed in prayer, and then lifted up into the air about the height of two cubits from the ground. And whilst for a long space he marvelled at this, he suddenly heard this voice from the Crucifix: "Thomas, well hast thou written of Me! What reward wilt thou have from Me for all thy labour?" But he replied: "Lord, none save Thyself!" At that time the Saint was engaged upon the Third Part of the Summa, and was treating of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. But after arriving at that point he wrote but little more by reason of the marvels that God had wondrously revealed to him.[17]

Since his soul, then, was thus united to God it is small wonder the Brethren saw him rapt in ecstasy and with his face bathed in tears as he stood in choir and sang the Antiphon wont to be sung according to the Dominican Office for Compline during Lent: "Ne projicias nos in tempore senectutis: cum defecerit virtus nostra, ne derelinquas nos Domine."[18]

In the year 1274 the Saint was summoned by Pope Gregory X. to the Council about to be held at Lyons. He set out, taking with him his Treatise against the Errors of the Greek Schismatics, for the great question which the Pope had at heart was the settlement of the Schism between the East and the West. But the Council was never to see Thomas, for he fell ill when traversing the Campagna, and though he was able to reach the Cistercian Abbey of Fossa Nuova he reached it only to die. "This is my rest for ever and ever," he said as he entered the gates. "Here will I dwell, for I have chosen it." And here, as he lay dying, he expounded to the monks who stood round that most sublime of all the Books of the Bible, the Canticle of Canticles: "Behold, my Beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.... I sleep, and my heart watcheth; the voice of my Beloved Who is knocking!... My Beloved to me and I to Him Who feedeth among the lilies: till the Day break and the shadows retire!"

As the time of his summons drew on he asked for the Holy Viaticum. And, in the words of William of Tocco, "when It was brought with devout reverence by the Abbot and the monks, he prostrated himself on the ground, weak indeed in body but mighty in spirit, and so came to meet his Lord with tears."

And when the priest asked him—as it is the custom to ask all Christians at death touching their faith in this mighty Sacrament—whether he believed that That Consecrated Host was the True Son of God, Who came forth from the Virgin's womb, Who hung upon the tree of the Cross, Who died for us and rose again on the third day:—with clear voice, with full attention, and with tears, he replied: "If fuller knowledge than that of faith could be had in this life touching this Sacrament, in that knowledge I reply that I believe it to be true, and that I know for certain that This is True God and Man, the Son of God the Father and of the Virgin Mother: so I believe in my heart and so I confess in word." After some other devout expressions he received the Sacred Host, and then said: "I receive Thee, the Price of my soul's redemption, for love of Whom I have studied, watched, and toiled; Thee have I preached and taught; nought contrary to Thee have I ever said, neither do I obstinately hold to any opinion of mine own. If, however, I have said ought wrongly concerning this Sacrament, I submit it all to the correction of the Holy Roman Church in Whose obedience I now pass from this life!" "O Blessed Teacher! who ran so swiftly in the race, who fought so manfully in the strife, who could so well say with the Apostle: 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; as for the rest there is laid up for me a crown of justice'; and such indeed had he truly won by his study of inspired doctrine."[19]

O Sancte Thoma! Scholarum Patrone, Fidem invictam, Charitatem fervidam, Vitam castissimam, Scientiam veram, A Deo nobis obtine. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

* * * * *

No one who is at all familiar with the writings of S. Thomas can be surprised to find many extracts from S. Augustine in the following pages. For Augustine and Thomas are one. Their respective styles are different, but their thoughts and teachings are the same on the great essential points of theological teaching. Cardinal Aguirre has well said: "Owing to the clearness and acuteness of his angelic mind S. Thomas sheds a flood of light on many most obscure matters, and brings out very clearly even the most profound teachings contained in the works of the Fathers, especially in those of S. Augustine. I speak simply from my own experience, but I am certain that many another has felt the same: in controverted matters, if we look merely at the text of S. Augustine, we are brought face to face with a flood of difficulties which seem well-nigh insoluble; but the difficulty disappears and the solution becomes clear the moment we set to work to find out what was S. Thomas's teaching on the question; for he is the surest and the easiest interpreter of S. Augustine."[20]

And indeed Augustine is a deep well! "Man shall come to a deep heart!" he was fond of saying, and those words of the Psalmist might stand for a motto at the head of his works. Traditionary art represents him with his heart in his hand, and the sentiment is true, for "great-hearted" is the epithet which best suits him, and those who use these pages for meditation or spiritual reading will find that whereas S. Thomas teaches how we ought to pray, S. Augustine makes us pray; not in vain had he studied and taught rhetoric for so many years!

This likeness between the two great Saints forms the theme of one of the Responsories for the Office for S. Thomas in the Dominican Breviary. It is based on a famous vision. "There appeared to me as I watched in prayer," said Brother Albert of Brescia in his deposition, "two revered personages clothed in wondrous splendour. One of them wore a mitre on his head, the other was clad in the habit of the Friars Preachers. And this latter bore on his head a golden crown; round his neck he wore two rings, one of silver, the other of gold; and on his breast he had an immense precious stone, which filled the church with light. His cloak, too, was sewn with precious stones, and his tunic and his hood were of snowy white. And the one who wore the mitre said to me: 'Brother Albert, why art thou thus filled with wonder? Thy prayers are heard; for—listen: I am Augustine, the Doctor of the Church, and I am sent to thee to tell thee of the doctrine and of the glory of Brother Thomas of Aquin who is here with me. For he is my son; he in all things has followed my doctrine and that of the Apostles, and by his teaching he has illumined the Church of God. This is signified by the precious stones which you see, and especially by the one he carries on his breast, for it signifies the upright intention which he ever had in view in his defence of the faith and which he showed in his words. These precious stones, then, and especially that great one, signify the many books and works that he wrote, and they show that he is equal to me in glory save only that in the aureola of Virginity he surpasseth me.'"[21]

Cardinal Cajetan, from whose famous Commentary on the Summa we have occasionally quoted, is unfortunately too little known. Born in 1469, and dying in 1534, he was the contemporary of Luther and the Reformers, and, as was to be expected, their most formidable opponent. A great student, a man of prayer as well as a man of action, his was the striking figure of the early portion of the sixteenth century. But his was a bold and independent mind, and he was not afraid to advance views which, though now commonly accepted, brought his works into a certain disfavour. This is especially to be regretted in the case of his Commentaries on the Bible. A thorough Greek scholar, possessing no mean acquaintance with Hebrew, he deserves, by reason of the clearness and precision of his thought, the title of "Prince of Commentators." Here, however, we are concerned with the devotional rather than with the critical aspect of his writings, and the reader will gain from some of Cajetan's terse and pithy comments a very great deal of instruction.

In conclusion, a few words may be desirable regarding the method of S. Thomas.

S. Thomas divides his Summa Theologica into three main parts. The First Part treats of God, the Exemplar.[22] The Second, of man made to the image of God;[23] the Third, of God Incarnate, of His Sacraments by which we attain to union with Him in this life, and of Eternal Life to which we attain ultimately by our resurrection. Here we are solely concerned with the Second part.[24] It is subdivided into two portions, known as the Prima Secundae and the Secunda Secundae respectively, or as the First and Second portions of the Second part. In the Prima Secundae the Saint treats of the principles of Morals—namely, of man's ultimate end and of the habits, acts, and principles by which he attains it. In the Secunda Secundae, after having laid in the Prima Secundae the foundations of Moral Theology, he proceeds to treat of the individual virtues, firstly of the Theological Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity; then of the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. Under each of these heads he treats of the Gifts corresponding to each Virtue, of the vices opposed to them, and of the Precepts regarding them.[25] Apropos of the Cardinal Virtue of Justice, he treats of the Moral Virtue of Religion, which is comprised under Justice, since Religion may be defined as the offering to God the worship which is His due, Question LXXXI. He then treats of Devotion, Question LXXXII., and then of Prayer, Question LXXXIII. These three Questions we here present in an English dress.

After these Treatises on individual virtues, he passes to the consideration of those virtues which concern, not men as a whole, but only certain classes of men.[26] And first of all he treats of those Gifts which are bestowed upon certain men not so much for their own benefit as for the good of others—viz., of Prophecy, of Ecstasy, of the Gift of Tongues, and of the Gift of Miracles. He then discusses the two kinds of operations or "lives"—the active, namely, and the contemplative—which find a place in the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church. These treatises in reality constitute a commentary on 1 Cor. xii. 4-11. Question CLXXIX., On the Division of Life into the Active and the Contemplative, is here given; as also Question CLXXX., On the Contemplative Life; Question CLXXXI., On the Active Life; Question CLXXXII., On the Comparison of the Active with the Contemplative Life.

S. Thomas then proceeds to treat of various states of life—viz., of the state of perfection, of the Episcopal and of the Religious state. Only one question raised in this connection concerns us here: Whether, namely, Contemplative Religious Orders are superior to Active Orders? (Question CLXXXVIII. 6).

Each Question is, as will be seen from the Table of Contents, divided into Articles.

The framework of what is termed an "article" of the Summa is familiar to those who use that work, but it may not be amiss to explain S. Thomas's method in brief fashion. Each "article" is couched in the form of a question, thus: Has contemplation its joys? And the Saint at once sets forth in succession three, sometimes more, arguments which seem to militate against the view he himself holds. These are commonly known as the objections. He then gives us a short paragraph opening with the words: Sed contra, or But on the contrary; and in this paragraph he gives some authority, generally that of Holy Scripture or one of the Fathers, for the view he is going to hold. This paragraph is generally known from its opening words as the Sed contra; there is no argument in it save from authority. He then proceeds to discuss the question from the standpoint of pure reason. This portion is known as the Corpus articuli, or Body of the Article, and in it the Saint presents his reasoning in clear, precise fashion. It will be apparent, of course, that many questions cannot be answered with a categoric yes or no, but the precise sense in which certain terms in the discussion are to be used has to be clearly ascertained; according to the diverse ways in which they may be understood the answer will be affirmative or negative. It is important for those not familiar with S. Thomas' works to grasp this point; they must not, for instance, presume that because the opening "objections" seem to uphold one point of view S. Thomas is therefore going to hold the precise opposite. A good example of this will be found in the Article: Ought we to pray to God alone?

In the Treatises here presented the argument, though clear and precise, is hardly what we should call subtle, and this for the simple reason that the subject-matter does not call for subtle treatment. But what cannot fail to strike the most cursory reader is the tone of submission to authority and to the teachings of the Fathers which characterizes every page: "Summe veneratus est sacros Doctores," says Cajetan, "ideo intellectum omnium quodammodo sortitus est."[27] And the natural corollary of this is the complete self-effacement of the Saint. The first person is conspicuous by its absence all through the Summa, though the reader of the following pages will find one exception to this rule.

And the more we study these Articles of S. Thomas the more we marvel; the thought is so concentrated and yet so limpid in its expression, that as we read it it seems as though no one could ever have thought otherwise. But read it, and then try to reformulate the line of argument which you have been following with such ease—and your mind halts, your tongue stammers! It is one thing to understand the thought when expressed, quite another to think such thoughts and express them. Hence the declaration made by Pope John XXII. when the question of the holy Doctor's canonization was brought forward: "Such teaching," he exclaimed, "could only have been due to miracle!" And on the following day in the Consistory: "He has brought greater light to the Church than all other Doctors; by one year's study of his writings a man may make greater profit than if he spend his whole life studying the writings of others!"[28]

The reader will sometimes feel inclined to smile at the quaint etymologies which occur now and again. But he must remember that these are given by the Saint for what they are worth. It was not a philological age, and S. Thomas made use of the Book of Etymologies drawn up in the seventh century by S. Isidore of Seville.

Besides the writings of S. Augustine, two Patristic works are cited with considerable frequency by S. Thomas in these pages: the Opus Imperfectum of S. Chrysostom on S. Matthew's Gospel, and the works of Denis the Areopagite. The former is almost certainly not the work of S. Chrysostom, but rather of an Arian writer towards the close of the sixth century.[29] The writer known as Denis the Areopagite, owing to his being traditionally identified with S. Paul's convert at Athens, probably wrote about the close of the fifth century. Few works of Mystical Theology exercised a greater influence on the writers of the Middle Ages.[30] A word must also be said about the Gloss to which S. Thomas so often refers, and which he quotes as an authority. The term "Gloss" was applied to the brief running commentaries on the Bible which were in vogue in the Middle Ages. These brief paraphrases were also known as Postillae, and they were frequently written in between the lines of the text of the Bible, whence the name Interlinear Gloss; or in the margins, whence the name Marginal Gloss. The Glossa Ordinaria, as it is called, is the best known of these commentaries. It is usually attributed to Walafrid Strabo, a monk of the Abbey of S. Gall, who died in 849; but it is probable that Strabo took down his Commentary from the lips of Rabanus Maurus, a monk of the Abbey of Fulda, and afterwards its abbot. Rabanus was a most prolific writer, and has left Commentaries on nearly all the Books of the Bible. Even when Abbot he reserved to himself the Chair of Scripture;[31] he had had the great advantage of living for a time in Palestine. Another Biblical scholar to whom the Glossa Ordinaria of S. Thomas's time apparently owed much, was Hugo a S. Caro, the Dominican Provincial in France, and afterwards Cardinal-Priest of S. Sabina. It was under his direction that the first Concordance of the Bible was formed, in which task he is said to have had the assistance of five hundred Friars.[32] He owes his title of Glossator to his well-known Postillae, or Brief Commentaries on the whole Bible. The Glossa Interlinearis is due to Anselm, a Canon of Laudun, who died in 1117. Another famous Glossator was Nicolas de Lyra, a Franciscan who died in 1340—some sixty-six years, that is, subsequent to S. Thomas. Lastly, we should mention Peter the Lombard, commonly known as The Master of the Sentences, from his four books of Sentences, in which he presented the theological teaching of the Fathers in Scholastic fashion. This treatise became the Scholastic manual of the age. To him is due a Gloss on the Psalter and on Job, as well as a series of brief notes on the Epistles of S. Paul taken from the writings of the chief Fathers, S. Ambrose, S. Jerome, S. Augustine, etc. And the authority accorded to these Glosses in general is due to the fact that they constituted a running Commentary taken from the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.


Magne Pater Augustine Preces nostras suscipe, Et per eas Conditori Nos placare satage, Atque rege gregem tuum Summum decus praesulum.

Amatorem paupertatis Te collaudant pauperes: Assertorem veritatis Amant veri judices: Frangis nobis favos mellis, De Scripturis disserens.

Quae obscura prius erant Nobis plana faciens, Tu de verbis Salvatoris Dulcem panem conficis, Et propinas potum vitae De Psalmorum nectare.

Tu de vita clericorum Sanctam scribis Regulam, Quam qui amant et sequuntur Viam tenent regiam, Atque tuo sancto ductu Redeunt ad Patriam.

Regi regum salus, vita, Decus et imperium: Trinitati laus et honor Sit per omne saeculum: Qui concives nos adscribat Supernorum civium. Amen.


[1] The Ascent of Mount Carmel by S. John of the Cross. Prefatory Essay on the Development of Mysticism in the Carmelite Order, by Benedict Zimmerman, O.C.D., pp. 13-17. (London: Thomas Baker, 1906.)

[2] Valgornera, O.P., Mystica Theologia D. Thomae, ed. Berthier. 2 Vols. Turin, 1890-91.

[3] "In aetate tam tenera et scibilium nescia, qui necdum se scire poterat, miro modo Deum adhuc nesciens, divino ductus instinctu scire quaerebat. De quo futurum erat, ut, dum sic anxius maturius Deum prae aliis quaereret, clarius prae ceteris, quae scire futurus erat, scriberet, quae de Deo, ipso donante, studiosius et citius inveniret" (William of Tocco, Vita B. Thomae in the Bollandists, March 7, No. 5). This William of Tocco had seen and heard S. Thomas, and in 1319 took a prominent part in the Saint's canonization (see Bollandists, p. 653).

[4] Bernard Guidonis, Boll., No. 7, p. 659, note.

[5] Boll., Nos. 12 and 76.

[6] Ibid., No. 11.

[7] Boll., p. 661.

[8] Ibid., p. 662.

[9] Boll., p. 668.

[10] Boll., pp. 668 and 710.

[11] Boll., No. 53.

[12] Ibid., p. 671.

[13] Boll., p. 668.

[14] Boll., p. 672.

[15] Ps. xlvii.

[16] Boll., p. 672.

[17] Boll., p. 669.

[18] Ibid., p. 667; cp. Ps. lxx, 20.

[19] Boll., p. 675.

[20] Touron, Vie de S. Thomas d'Aquin, Paris, 1740, p. 353.

[21] Boll., p. 706; cp. p. 665.

[22] Prol. to Ia., IIdae.

[23] Prol. to III. Pars.

[24] Prol. to IIa., IIdae.

[25] Prol. to IIa. IIdae.

[26] Prol. to Qu. CLXXI. of the IIda., IIdae.

[27] Comment. on IIa., IIae., cxlviii. 4.

[28] Boll., p. 680.

[29] See Bardenhewer, Patrologie, i. 319.

[30] Smith and Wace, Dict. of Christian Biography, i. 847.

[31] Fabricius, Bibliotheca Latina, s.v. Walafridus and Rabanus.

[32] Ibid., s.v. Hugo a S. Caro.



I. Does the Virtue of Religion Direct a Man To God Alone? S. Augustine, sermon, cccxxxiv. 3 " on Psalm lxxvi. 32 sermon, cccxi. 14-15 II. Is Religion a Virtue? III. Is Religion One Virtue? IV. Is Religion a Special Virtue Distinct From Others? V. Is Religion One of the Theological Virtues? VI. Is Religion To Be Preferred To the Other Moral Virtues? VII. Has Religion, Or Latria, Any External Acts? S. Augustine, of Care for the Dead, V. VIII. Is Religion the Same As Sanctity? Cardinal Cajetan, on the Distinction Between Sanctity and Religion


Does the Virtue of Religion direct a Man to God Alone?

Cicero says[33]: "Religion offers internal and external reverence to that Superior Nature which we term the Divine."

S. Isidore says[34]: "A religious man is, as Cicero remarks, so called from religion, for he is occupied with and, as it were, reads through again and again (relegit) the things that concern Divine worship." Thus religion seems to be so called from reading again (religendo) things concerning Divine worship; for such things are to be repeatedly revolved in the mind, according to those words of Proverbs iii. 6: In all thy ways think on Him. At the same time religion might be said to be so called because "we ought to choose again (re-eligere) those things which through our negligence we have lost," as S. Augustine has noted.[35] Or perhaps it is better derived from "binding again" (religando); thus S. Augustine says[36]: "Let religion bind us once more to the One Almighty God."

But whether religion be so called from frequent reading, or from fresh election of Him Whom we have negligently lost, or from rebinding, it properly implies a certain relation to God. For it is He to Whom we ought to be especially bound as our indefectible principle; to Him must we assiduously direct our choice as our ultimate end; He it is Whom we negligently lose by sin and Whom we must regain by believing in Him and by professing our faith in Him.

But some deny that religion directs a man to God alone, thus:

1. S. James says[37]: Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation; and to keep oneself unspotted from this world. But to visit the fatherless and widows indicates relation to our neighbour, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world refers to ourselves. Hence religion is not confined to our relationship with God.

But religion has two sorts of acts. Some belong to it properly and immediately, those acts, namely, which it elicits and by which man is directed to God alone, as, for instance, to offer Him sacrifice, to adore Him, etc.

But there are other acts which religion produces through the medium of the virtues which it controls, directing them, that is, towards reverence to God; for that virtue which is concerned with the end directs those virtues which have to do with the means to the end. And in this sense to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation is said to be an act of religion because commanded by it, though actually elicited by the virtue of mercy. Similarly to keep oneself unspotted from this world is an act commanded by religion, though elicited by temperance or some other virtue.

2. S. Augustine says[38]: "Since according to the genius of the Latin speech—and that not merely of the unlearned, but even of the most learned—religion is said to be shown towards our human relatives and connexions and intimates, this word 'religion' cannot be used without some ambiguity when applied to the worship of God; hence we cannot say with absolute confidence that religion is nought else but the worship of God." Religion, then, is not limited to our relation to God, but embraces, our neighbour as well.

But it is only by an extension of the name "religion" that it is made to embrace our relations towards our human kin, it is not according to the proper signification of the word. Hence S. Augustine prefaced the words quoted from him above with the remark: "Religion, strictly speaking, seems to mean, not any kind of worship, but only that of God."

3. Further, latria seems to come under religion. But S. Augustine says[39]: "Latria is interpreted as service." But we ought to serve not God only, but our neighbour as well: By charity of the spirit serve one another.[40] Religion, then, implies relation to our neighbour.

But since a slave implies a master, it follows that where there exists a peculiar and special title of dominion there also will be found a peculiar and special ratio of servitude. It is clear, however, that dominion belongs to God in a peculiar and special fashion, since He it is Who has made all things and Who holds the chief rule over all things. Consequently a special kind of service is due to Him. And this service is by the Greeks designated latria, which is, in consequence, properly comprised under "religion."

4. Again, reverence comes under religion. But man has to reverence, not only God, but his neighbour as well; as Cato says: "Reverence parents." Hence religion establishes a relation between ourselves and our neighbour as well as between ourselves and God.

But we are said to reverence those men whom we honour or remember, or to whose presence we resort. So, too, even things which are subject to us are said to be "cultivated" by us (coli); thus husbandmen (agricolae) are so called because they "cultivate" the fields; the inhabitants of a place, too (incolae), are so called because they "cultivate" the spots where they dwell. But since special honour is due to God as the First Principle of all, a special kind of "cultus"[41] or "reverence" is His due, and this the Greeks call eusebia or theosebia, as S. Augustine says.[42]

5. Lastly, all who are in a state of salvation are subject to God. But not all who are in a state of salvation are called "religious," but those only who bind themselves by certain vows and observances and who undertake to obey certain men. Hence religion does not seem to mean the relationship of subjection of man to God.

But although, generally speaking, all those who worship God can be termed "religious," yet those are specially so called who dedicate their whole lives to the Divine worship and cut themselves off from worldly occupations.

Thus those are not termed "contemplatives" who merely contemplate, but they who devote their lives to contemplation. And such men do not subject themselves to men for man's sake, but for God's, as the Apostle says: You received me as an Angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.[43]

* * * * *

S. Augustine: We are to abide in Christ! How then shall That not be now our possession Where we are then to abide and Whence we are to draw Life? Let Holy Scripture speak for us lest we should seem in mere conjecture to be saying things contrary to the teaching of the Word of God. Hear the words of one who knew: If God be for us who is against us?[44] The Lord, he says, is the portion of my inheritance.[45] He saith not: Lord, what wilt Thou give me for mine inheritance? All that Thou canst give me is worthless! Be Thou mine inheritance! Thee do I love! Thee do I wholly love! With all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind do I love Thee! What, then, shall be my lot? What wilt Thou give me save Thyself? This is to love God freely. This is to hope for God from God. This is to hasten to be filled with God, to be sated with Him. For He is sufficient for thee; apart from Him nought can suffice thee! (Sermon, cccxxxiv. 3).

S. Augustine: I cried to the Lord with my voice.[46] Many cry to the Lord that they may win riches, that they may avoid losses; they cry that their family may be established, they ask for temporal happiness, for worldly dignities; and, lastly, they cry for bodily health, which is the patrimony of the poor. For these and suchlike things many cry to the Lord; hardly one cries for the Lord Himself! How easy it is for a man to desire all manner of things from the Lord and yet not desire the Lord Himself! As though the gift could be sweeter than the Giver! (on Ps. lxxvi.).

S. Augustine: Picture God as saying to you—He Who re-created you and adopted you: "My son, why is it that day by day you rise and pray, and genuflect, and even strike the ground with your forehead, nay, sometimes even shed tears, while you say to Me: 'My Father, my God! give me wealth!' If I were to give it to you, you would think yourself of some importance, you would fancy you had gained something very great. Yet because you asked for it you have it. But take care to make good use of it. Before you had it you were humble; now that you have begun to be rich you despise the poor! What kind of a good is that which only makes you worse? For worse you are, since you were bad already. And that it would make you worse you knew not, hence you asked it of Me. I gave it to you and I proved you; you have found—and you are found out! You were hidden when you had nothing. Correct thyself! Vomit up this cupidity! Take a draught of charity!... Ask of Me better things than these, greater things than these. Ask of Me spiritual things. Ask of Me Myself!" (Sermon, cccxi. 14-15).


Is Religion a Virtue?

A virtue is that which both renders its possessor, as also his work, good. Hence we must say that every good act comes under virtue. And it is clear that to render to another what is his due has the character of a good act; for by the fact that a man renders to another his due there is established a certain fitting proportion and order between them. But order comes under the ratio of good, just as do measure and species, as S. Augustine establishes.[47] Since, then, it belongs to religion to render to some one, namely, God, the honour which is His due, it is clear that religion is a virtue.

Some, however, deny this, thus:

1. It belongs to religion to show reverence to God. But reverence is an act of fear, and fear is a gift.[48] Religion, then, is a gift, not a virtue.

To reverence God is indeed an act of the gift of fear. But to religion it belongs to do certain things by reason of our reverence for God. Hence it does not follow that religion is the same thing as the gift of fear, but it is related to it as to a higher principle. For the gifts are superior to the moral virtues.

2. All virtue consists in the free-will, and hence virtue is called an elective or voluntary habit. But latria belongs to religion, and latria implies a certain servitude. Hence religion is not a virtue.

But even a servant can freely give to his master the service that is his due and thus "make a virtue of necessity"[49] by voluntarily paying his debt. And similarly the payment of due service to God can be an act of virtue according as a man does it voluntarily.

3. Lastly, as is said in Aristotle's Ethics,[50] the aptitude for the virtues is implanted in us by nature; hence those things which come under the virtues arise from the dictates of natural reason; but it belongs to religion to offer external reverence to the Divine Nature. Ceremonial, however, or external reverence, is not due to the dictates of natural reason. Hence religion is not a virtue.

But it is due to the dictates of natural reason that a man does certain things in order to show reverence to God. That he should do precisely this or that, however, does not come from the dictates of natural reason, but from Divine or human positive law.


Is Religion One Virtue?

S. Paul says to the Ephesians[51]: One God, one faith. But true religion maintains faith in one God. Consequently religion is one virtue.

Habits are distinguished according to the divers objects with which they are concerned. But it belongs to religion to show reverence for the One God for one particular reason, inasmuch, namely, as He is the First Principle, the Creator and Governor of all things; hence we read in Malachi[52]: If I am a Father, where is my honour? for it is the father that produces and governs. Hence it is clear that religion is but one virtue.

But some maintain that religion is not one virtue, thus:

1. By religion we are ordained[53] to God. But in God there are Three Persons, and, moreover, divers attributes which are at least distinguishable from one another by reason. But the diverse character of the objects on which they fall suffices to differentiate the virtues. Hence religion is not one virtue.

But the Three Divine Persons are but One Principle as concerns the creation and the government of things. And consequently They are to be served by one religion. And the divers attributes all concur in the First Principle, for God produces all and governs all by His Wisdom, His Will, and the power of His Goodness. Hence religion is but one virtue.

2. One virtue can have but one act; for habits are differentiated according to their acts. But religion has many acts, e.g., to worship, to serve, to make vows, to pray, to make sacrifices, and many other similar things. Consequently religion is not one virtue.

But by one and the same act does man serve God and worship Him; for worship is referred to God's excellence, to which is due reverence: service regards man's subjection, for by reason of his condition he is bound to show reverence to God. And under these two heads are comprised all the acts which are attributed to religion; for by them all man makes protestation of the Divine excellence and of his subjection of himself to God, either by offering Him something, or, again, by taking upon himself something Divine.

3. Further, adoration belongs to religion. But adoration is paid to images for one reason and to God for another. But since diversity of "reason" serves to differentiate the virtues, it seems that religion is not one virtue.

But religious worship is not paid to images considered in themselves as entities, but precisely as images bringing God Incarnate to our mind. Further, regarding an image precisely as an image of some one, we do not stop at it; it carries us on to that which it represents. Hence the fact that religious veneration is paid to images of Christ in no sense means that there are various kinds of latria, nor different virtues of religion.


Is Religion a Special Virtue Distinct From Others?

Religion is regarded as a part of Justice, and is distinct from the other parts of Justice.

Since virtue is ordained to what is good, where there exists some special ratio of good there must be some special corresponding virtue. But the particular good towards which religion is ordained is the showing due honour to God. Honour, however, is due by reason of some excellency. And to God belongs pre-eminent excellence, since He in every possible way infinitely transcends all things. Hence special honour is due to Him; just as we note that in human concerns varying honours are due to the varying excellencies of persons; one is the honour of a father, another that of a king, and so on. Hence it is manifest that religion is a special virtue.

Some, however, maintain that religion is not a special virtue distinct from others, thus:

1. S. Augustine says[54]: "True sacrifice is every work undertaken in order that we may be joined to God in holy fellowship." But sacrifice comes under religion. Every work of virtue therefore comes under religion. And consequently it is not a special virtue.

But every work of virtue is said to be a sacrifice in so far as it is directed to showing God reverence. It does not thence follow that religion is a general virtue, but that it commands all the other virtues.

2. The Apostle says to the Corinthians[55]: Do all to the glory of God. But it belongs to religion to do some things for the glory of God. Hence religion is not a special virtue.

But all kinds of acts, in so far as they are done for the glory of God, come under religion; not, however, as though it elicited them, but inasmuch as it controls them. Those acts, however, come under religion as eliciting them which, by their own specific character, pertain to the service of God.

3. Lastly, the charity whereby we love God is not distinct from the charity by which we love our neighbour. But in the Ethics[56] it is said: "To be honoured is akin to being loved." Hence religion by which God is honoured is not a specifically distinct virtue from those observances, whether dulia or piety, whereby we honour our neighbour. Hence it is not a special virtue.

But the object of love is a good thing; whereas the object of honour or reverence is what is excellent. But it is God's Goodness that is communicated to His creatures, not the excellence of His Goodness. Hence while the charity wherewith we love God is not a distinct virtue from the charity wherewith we love our neighbour, yet the religion whereby we honour God is distinct from the virtues whereby we honour our neighbour.


Is Religion One of the Theological Virtues?

Religion is considered a part of Justice, and this is a moral virtue.

Religion is the virtue whereby we offer to God His due honour. Two things have therefore to be considered in religion. First we have to consider what religion offers God, namely, worship: this may be regarded as the material and the object with which religion is concerned. Secondly, we have to consider Him to Whom it is offered, namely, God Himself. Now, when worship is offered to God it is not as though our worshipful acts touched God, though this is the case when we believe God, for by believing in God we touch Him (and we have therefore said elsewhere[57] that God is the object of our faith not simply inasmuch as we believe in God, but inasmuch as we believe God). Due worship, however, is offered to God in that certain acts whereby we worship Him are performed as homage to Him, the offering sacrifice, for instance, and so forth. From all which it is evident that God does not stand to the virtue of religion as its object or as the material with which it is concerned, but as its goal. And consequently religion is not a theological virtue, for the object of these latter is the ultimate end; but religion is a moral virtue, and the moral virtues are concerned with the means to the end.

But some regard religion as a theological virtue, thus:

1. S. Augustine says[58]: "God is worshipped by faith, hope, and charity," and these are theological virtues. But to offer worship to God comes under religion. Therefore religion is a theological virtue.

But it is always the case that a faculty or a virtue whose object is a certain end, controls—by commanding—those faculties or virtues which have to do with those things which are means to that end. But the theological virtues—i.e., faith, hope, and charity—are directly concerned with God as their proper object. And hence they are the cause—by commanding it—of the act of the virtue of religion which does certain things having relation to God. It is in this sense that S. Augustine says that "God is worshipped by faith, hope, and charity."

2. Those are called theological virtues which have God for their object. But religion has God for its object, for it directs us to God alone. Therefore it is a theological virtue.

But religion directs man to God, not indeed as towards its object, but as towards its goal.

3. Lastly, every virtue is either theological or intellectual or moral. But religion is not an intellectual virtue, for its perfection does not consist in the consideration of the truth. Neither is it a moral virtue, for the property of the moral virtues is to steer a middle course betwixt what is superfluous and what is below the requisite; whereas no one can worship God to excess, according to the words of Ecclesiasticus[59]: For He is above all praise. Religion, then, can only be a theological virtue.

But religion is neither an intellectual nor a theological virtue, but a moral virtue, for it is part of justice. And the via media in religion lies, not between the passions, but in a certain harmony which it establishes in the acts which are directed towards God. I say "a certain," not an absolute harmony, for we can never show to God all the worship that is His due; I mean, then, the harmony arising from the consideration of our human powers and of the Divine acceptance of what we offer. Moreover, there can be excess in those things which have to do with the Divine worship; not indeed as regards quantity, but in certain other circumstances, as, for example, when Divine worship is offered to whom it should not, or at times when it should not, or in other unfitting circumstances.


Is Religion to be preferred to the Other Moral Virtues?

In Exodus[60] the commandments which concern religion are put first, as though they were of primary importance. But the order of the commandments is proportioned to the order of the virtues; for the commandments of the Law fall upon the acts of the virtues. Hence religion is chief among the moral virtues.

The means to an end derive their goodness from their relation to that end; hence the more nigh they are to the end the better they are. But the moral virtues are concerned with those things which are ordained to God as their goal. And religion approaches more nearly to God than do the other moral virtues, inasmuch as it is occupied with those things which are directly and immediately ordained to the Divine honour. Hence religion is the chief of the moral virtues.

Some, however, deny that religion is pre-eminent among the moral virtues, thus:

1. The perfection of a moral virtue lies in this, that it keeps the due medium.[61] But religion fails to attain the medium of justice, for it does not render to God anything absolutely equal to Him. Hence religion is not better than the other moral virtues.

But the praiseworthiness of a virtue lies in the will, not in the power. Hence to fall short of equality—which is the midpath of justice—for lack of power, does not make virtue less praiseworthy, provided the deficiency is not due to the will.

2. Again, in our service of men a thing seems to be praiseworthy in proportion to the need of him whom we assist; hence it is said in Isaias:[62] Deal thy bread to the hungry. But God needs nothing that we can offer Him, according to the Psalmist: I have said: Thou art my God, for Thou hast no need of my goods.[63] Hence religion seems to be less praiseworthy than the other virtues, for by them man is succoured.

But in the service we render to another for his profit, that is the more praiseworthy which is rendered to the most needy, because it is of greater profit to him. But no service is rendered to God for His profit—for His glory, indeed, but for our profit.

3. Lastly, the greater the necessity for doing a thing the less worthy it is of praise, according to the words: For if I preach the Gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me.[64] But the greater the debt the greater the necessity. Since, then, the service which man offers to God is the greatest of debts, it would appear that religion is the least praiseworthy of all human virtues.

Where necessity comes in the glory of supererogation is non-existent; but the merit of the virtue is not thereby excluded, provided the will be present. Consequently the argument does not follow.


Has Religion, That is Latria,[65] any External Acts?

In Ps. lxxxiii. 3 it is said: My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. Now interior acts belong to the heart, and in the same way exterior acts are referred to the members of the body. It appears, then, that God is to be worshipped by exterior as well as by interior acts.

We do not show reverence and honour to God for His own sake—for He in Himself is filled with glory to which nought can be added by any created thing—but for our own sakes. For by the fact that we reverence and honour God our minds are subjected to Him, and in that their perfection lies; for all things are perfected according as they are subjected to that which is superior to them—the body, for instance, when vivified by the soul, the air when illumined by the sun. Now the human mind needs—if it would be united to God—the guidance of the things of sense; for, as the Apostle says to the Romans[66]: The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. Hence in the Divine worship it is necessary to make use of certain corporal acts, so that by their means, as by certain signs, man's mind may be stirred up to those spiritual acts whereby it is knit to God. Consequently religion has certain interior acts which are its chief ones and which essentially belong to it; but it has also external acts which are secondary and which are subordinated to the interior acts.

* * * * *

Some deny, however, that exterior acts belong to religion or latria, thus:

1. In S. John iv. 24 we read: For God is a Spirit, and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth. External acts belong, however, rather to the body than to the spirit. Consequently religion, which comprises adoration, has no exterior acts, but only interior.

But here the Lord speaks only of that which is chiefest and which is essentially intended in Divine worship.

2. The end of religion is to show reverence and honour to God. But it is not reverent to offer to a superexcellent person what properly belongs to inferiors. Since, then, what a man offers by bodily acts seems more in accordance with men's needs and with that respect which we owe to inferior created beings, it does not appear that it can fittingly be made use of in order to show reverence to God.

But such external acts are not offered to God as though He needed them, as He says in the Psalm: Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks? Or shall I drink the blood of goats?[67] But such acts are offered to God as signs of those interior and spiritual works which God accepts for their own sakes. Hence S. Augustine says: "The visible sacrifice is the sacrament—that is, the visible sign—of the invisible sacrifice."[68]

3. Lastly, S. Augustine praises Seneca[69] for his condemnation of those men who offered to their idols what they were wont to offer to men: on the ground, namely, that what belongs to mortal men is not fittingly offered to the immortals. Still less, then, can such things be fittingly offered to the True God Who is above all gods.[70] Therefore to worship God by means of bodily acts seems to be reprehensible. And consequently religion does not include bodily acts.

But idolaters are so called because they offer to their idols things belonging to men, and this not as outward signs which may excite in them spiritual affections, but as being acceptable by those idols for their own sake. And especially because they offered them empty and vile things.

* * * * *

S. Augustine: When men pray, they, as becomes suppliants, make use of their bodily members, for they bend the knee, they stretch forth their hands, they even prostrate on the ground and perform other visible acts. Yet all the while their invisible will and their heart's intention are known to God. He needs not these signs for the human soul to be laid bare before Him. But man by so doing stirs himself up to pray and groan with greater humility and fervour. I know not how it is that whereas such bodily movements can only be produced by reason of some preceding act on the part of the soul, yet when they are thus visibly performed the interior invisible movement which gave them birth is thereby itself increased, and the heart's affections—which must have preceded, else such acts would not have been performed—are thereby themselves increased.

Yet none the less, if a man be in some sort hindered so that he is not at liberty to make use of such external acts, the interior man does not therefore cease to pray; in the secret chamber of his heart, where lies compunction, he lies prostrate before the eyes of God (Of Care for the Dead, v.).


Is Religion the Same as Sanctity?

In S. Luke's Gospel[71] we read: Let us serve Him in holiness and justice. But to serve God comes under religion. Hence religion is the same as sanctity.

The word "sanctity" seems to imply two things. First, it seems to imply cleanness; and this is in accordance with the Greek word for it, for in Greek it is hagios,[72] as though meaning "without earth." Secondly, it implies stability, and thus among the ancients those things were termed sancta which were so hedged about with laws that they were safe from violation; similarly a thing is said to be sancitum because established by law. And even according to the Latins the word sanctus may mean "cleanness," as derived from sanguine tinctus, for of old those who were to be purified were sprinkled with the blood of a victim, as says S. Isidore in his Etymologies.[73]

And both meanings allow us to attribute sanctity to things which are used in the Divine worship; so that not men only, but also temples and vessels and other similar things are said to be sanctified by reason of their use in Divine worship. Cleanness indeed is necessary if a man's mind is to be applied to God. For the mind of man is stained by being immersed in inferior things, as indeed all things are cheapened by admixture with things inferior to them—silver, for instance, when mixed with lead. And for our minds to be knit to the Supreme Being they must needs be withdrawn from inferior things. Without cleanness, then, the mind cannot be applied to God. Hence in the Epistle to the Hebrews[74] it is said: Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.

Stability is also required if the mind is to be applied to God. For the mind is applied to Him as to the Ultimate End and First Principle, and consequently must be immovable. Hence the Apostle says: For I am sure that neither death nor life shall separate me from the love of God.[75]

Sanctity, then, is said to be that whereby man's mind and its acts are applied to God. Hence sanctity does not differ from religion essentially, but in idea only. For by religion we mean that a man offers God due service in those things which specially pertain to the Divine worship—sacrifices, for example, and oblations, etc.; but by sanctity we mean that a man not only offers these things, but also refers to God the works of the other virtues, and also that a man disposes himself by good works for the Divine worship.

* * * * *

Some, however, deny the identity of religion and sanctity, thus:

1. Religion is a certain special virtue. But sanctity is called a general virtue, for according to Andronicus,[76] sanctity is that which "makes men faithful observers of what is justly due to God." Hence sanctity is not the same as religion.

But sanctity is in its essence a special virtue, and as such is, in a sort, the same as religion. It has, however, a certain general aspect in that, by its commands, it directs all the acts of the virtues to the Divine Good. In the same way legal justice is termed a general virtue in that it directs the acts of all the virtues to the common good.

2. Sanctity seems to imply cleanness, for S. Denis says[77]: "Sanctity is freedom from all impurity; it is perfect and stainless cleanness." Cleanness, however, seems to come under temperance, for this it is which precludes bodily defilement. Since, then, religion comes under justice, sanctity cannot be identified with religion.

Temperance indeed worketh cleanness, but this has not the ratio of sanctity except it be referred to God. Hence S. Augustine says of virginity itself that "not because it is virginity is it held in honour, but because it is consecrated to God."[78]

3. Lastly, things that are contradistinguished are not identical. But in all enumerations of the parts of justice sanctity is set against religion.

But sanctity is set against religion because of the difference aforesaid; they differ indeed in idea, not in substance.

* * * * *

Cajetan: Religion is directly concerned with those things which specially pertain to the Divine worship—ceremonies, for example, sacrifices, oblations, etc. Whereas sanctity directly regards the mind, and through the mind the other virtuous works, including those of religion ... for it makes use of them so as thereby to apply the mind—and by consequence all acts that proceed from the human mind—to God. Thus we see that many religious people are not saints, whereas all saints are religious. For people who devote themselves to ceremonies, sacrifices, etc., can be termed religious; but they can only be called saints in so far as by means of these things they give themselves interiorly to God (on 2. 2. 81. 8).


[33] De invent. Rhetor., ii. 53.

[34] Etymolog., x. sub litt. R.

[35] Of the City of God, x. 3.

[36] Of the True Religion, lv.

[37] St. Jas. i. 27.

[38] Of the City of God, x. 1.

[39] Of the City of God, x. 1.

[40] Gal. v. 13.

[41] The objection and its solution turn upon the Latin words cultus and colere, which cannot be consistently rendered in English; "reverence" is perhaps the most appropriate translation here.

[42] Of the City of God, x. 1.

[43] Gal. iv. 14.

[44] Rom. viii. 31.

[45] Ps. xv. 5.

[46] Ps. lxxvi. 1.

[47] Of the Nature of Good, iii.

[48] Fear is one of the "Gifts" of the Holy Ghost.

[49] S. Jerome, Ep. LIV., alias X., ad Furiam.

[50] II., vi. 15.

[51] iv. 5-6.

[52] i. 6.

[53] The Latin word ordinare means "to set in due order"; there is no precise English equivalent which can be consistently employed.

[54] Of the City of God, x. 6.

[55] II. x. 31.

[56] VIII. viii. 1.

[57] 2. 2. Qu. II., Art. 2.

[58] Enchiridion, iii.

[59] xliii. 33.

[60] xx. 1-17.

[61] Ethics, II. vi.

[62] lviii. 7.

[63] Ps. xv. 2.

[64] 1 Cor. ix. 16.

[65] See p. 30.

[66] i. 20.

[67] Ps. xlix. 13.

[68] Of the City of God, x. 5.

[69] Ibid., vi. 10.

[70] Ps. xciv. 3.

[71] i. 74-75.

[72] Thus Origen, Hom. XI, i. in Leviticum, where, however, he is not really giving an etymology.

[73] X., sub litt. S.

[74] xii. 14.

[75] Rom. viii. 38-39.

[76] De Affectibus.

[77] Of the Divine Names, xii.

[78] Of Virginity, viii.



I. Is Devotion a Special Kind of Act? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Meaning of the Term "Devotion" S. Augustine, Confessions, XIII. viii. 2 II. Is Devotion an Act of the Virtue of Religion? III. Is Contemplation, that is Meditation, the Cause of Devotion? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Causes of Devotion " " On the Devotion of Women IV. Is Joy an Effect of Devotion? Cardinal Cajetan, On Melancholy S. Augustine, Confessions, II. x.


Is Devotion a Special Kind of Act?

It is by our acts that we merit. But devotion has a peculiarly meritorious character. Consequently devotion is a special kind of act.

Devotion is so termed from "devoting" oneself. Hence the "devout" are so named because they "devote" themselves to God and thus proclaim their complete subjection to Him. Thus, too, among the heathen of old those were termed "devout" who for the army's sake "devoted" themselves to their idols unto death, as Livy[79] tells us was the case with the two Decii. Hence devotion seems to mean nothing else than "the will to give oneself promptly to those things which pertain to God's service"; thus it is said in Exodus[80]: The multitude of the children of Israel ... offered first-fruits to the Lord with a most ready and devout mind. It is clear, however, that a wish to do readily what belongs to God's service is a special act. Hence devotion is a special act of the will.

But some argue that devotion is not a special kind of act, thus:

1. That which serves to qualify other acts cannot be itself a special act. But devotion appears to qualify certain other acts; thus it is said that all the multitude offered victims, and praises, and holocausts with a devout mind.[81]

But that which moves another gives a certain measure to the latter's movement. The will, however, moves the other faculties of the soul to their respective acts; and, moreover, the will, as aiming at an end in view, moves itself to the means towards that end. Consequently, since devotion is the act of a man who offers himself to serve Him Who is the Ultimate End, it follows that devotion gives a certain measure to human acts—whether they be the acts of the will itself with regard to the means to an end, or the acts of the other faculties as moved by the will.

2. Again, no act which finds a place in different kinds of acts can be itself a special kind of act. But devotion is to be found in acts of different kinds, both in corporal acts, for example, and in spiritual; thus a man is said to meditate devoutly, for instance, or to genuflect devoutly.

But devotion does not find a place in different kinds of acts as though it were a species coming under different genera, but in the same sense as the motive power of a moving principle is virtually discoverable in the movements of the things it sets in motion.

3. Lastly, all special kinds of acts belong either to the appetitive or to the cognoscitive faculties. But devotion comes under neither of these—as will be evident to anyone who will reflect upon the various acts of these faculties respectively.

But devotion is an act of the appetitive powers of the soul, and is, as we have said above, a movement of the will.

Cajetan: With regard to the proper meaning of the term devotion, note that since devotion is clearly derived from devoting, and since to devote—derived in its turn from to vow—means to promise something spontaneously to God: it follows that the principle in all such promises is the will; and further, not the will simply as such, but the will so affected as to be prompt. Hence in Latin those are said to be devoted to some superior whose will is so affected towards him as to make them prompt in his regard. And this seems to refer especially to God and to those who in a sense stand in His place, as, for instance, our rulers, our fatherland, and our principles of action. Hence in the Church's usage the term devotion is especially applied to those who are so affected towards God as to be prompt in His regard and in all that concerns Him. And so devotion is here taken to signify the act of a will so disposed, the act by which a man shows himself prompt in the Divine service.... Thus, then, devotion, the principal act of the virtue of religion, implies first of all the prompt desire of the Divine honour in our exercise of Divine worship; and hence comes the prompt choice of appropriate means to this end, and also the prompt carrying out of what we see to be suitable to that end. And the proof of possession of such devotion is that truly devout souls, the moment they perceive that some particular thing (or other) ought to be done for the service of God, are so promptly moved towards it that they rejoice in having to do or in actually doing it (on 2. 2. 82. 1).

S. Augustine: Give me, O Lord, Thyself; grant Thyself to me! For Thee do I love, and if my love be but weak, then would I love Thee more. For I cannot measure it so as to know how much my love falls short of that love which shall make my life run to Thy embraces nor ever turn away from Thee till I be hid in the hiding-place of Thy countenance. This only do I know: that it fares ill with me when away from Thee; and this not merely externally, but within me; for all abundance which is not my God is but penury for me! (Confessions, XIII. viii. 2).


Is Devotion an Act of the Virtue of Religion?

Devotion is derived from "devoting oneself" or making vows. But a vow is an act of the virtue of religion. Consequently devotion also is an act of the virtue of religion.

It belongs to the same virtue to wish to do a thing and to have a prompt will to do it, for the object of each of these acts is the same. For this reason the Philosopher says[82]: "Justice is that by which men will and perform just deeds." And it is clear that to perform those things which pertain to the Divine worship or service comes under the virtue of religion. Consequently it belongs to the same virtue of religion to have a prompt will to carry out these things—in other words, to be devout. Whence it follows that devotion is an act of the virtue of religion.

But some argue that devotion is not an act of the virtue of religion, thus:

1. Devotion means that a man gives himself to God. But this belongs to the virtue of charity, for, as S. Denis says[83]: "Divine love causes ecstasy since it permits not that those who love should belong any more to themselves, but to those things which they love." Whence devotion would seem to be rather an act of charity than of the virtue of religion.

It is indeed through charity that a man gives himself to God, clinging to Him by a certain union of soul; but that a man should give himself to God and occupy himself with the Divine service, is due directly to the virtue of religion, though indirectly it is due to the virtue of charity, which is the principle of the virtue of religion.

2. Again, charity precedes the virtue of religion. But devotion seems to precede charity; for charity is signified in Scripture by fire, and devotion by the fat of the sacrifices—the material on which the fire feeds. Consequently devotion is not an act of the virtue of religion.

But while the fat of the body is generated by the natural digestive heat, that natural heat finds its nourishment in that same fat. Similarly charity both causes devotion—since it is by love that a man becomes prompt to serve his friend—and at the same time charity is fed by devotion; just as all friendship is preserved and increased by the practice of friendly acts and by meditating upon them.

3. Lastly, by the virtue of religion a man turns to God alone. But devotion extends to men as well; people, for instance, are said to be devoted to certain Saints, and servants are said to be devoted to their masters, as S. Leo says of the Jews,[84] that being devoted to the Roman laws, they said: We have no king but Caesar.[85] Consequently devotion is not an act of the virtue of religion.

But the devotion which we have to the Saints of God, whether living or dead, does not stop at them, but passes on to God, since we venerate God in God's ministers. And the devotion which subjects have to their temporal masters is of a different kind altogether, just as the service of temporal masters differs from the service of the Divine Master.


Is Contemplation, that is Meditation, the Cause of Devotion?

In Ps. xxxviii. 4 it is said: And in my meditation a fire shall flame out. But spiritual fire causes devotion. Therefore meditation causes devotion.

The extrinsic and principal cause of devotion is God Himself; thus S. Ambrose says[86]: "God calls those whom He deigns to call; and whom He wills to make religious He makes religious; and had He willed it He would have made the Samaritans devout instead of indevout."

But the intrinsic cause of devotion on our part is meditation or contemplation. For, as we have said, devotion is a certain act of the will by which a man gives himself promptly to the Divine service. All acts of the will, however, proceed from consideration, since the will's object is good understood. Hence S. Augustine says[87]: "The will starts from the understanding." Meditation must, then, be the cause of devotion inasmuch as it is from meditation that a man conceives the idea of giving himself up to God.

And two considerations lead a man to do this: one is the consideration of the Divine Goodness and of His benefits, whence the words of the Psalmist: But for me it is good to cling close to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God.[88] And this consideration begets love, which is the proximate cause of devotion. And the second is man's consideration of his own defects which compel him to lean upon God, according to the words: I have lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me; my help is from the Lord Who made Heaven and earth.[89] This latter consideration excludes all presumption which, by making him lean upon himself, might prevent a man from submitting himself to God.

Some, however, argue that contemplation or meditation is not the cause of devotion, thus:

1. No cause hinders its own effect. But subtle intellectual meditations often hinder devotion.

But it is the consideration of those things which naturally tend to excite love of God which begets devotion; consideration of things which do not come under this head, but rather distract the mind from it, are a hindrance to devotion.

2. Again, if contemplation were the real cause of devotion, it should follow that the higher the matter of our contemplation the greater the devotion it begot. But the opposite is the case. For it frequently happens that greater devotion is aroused by the contemplation of the Passion of Christ and of the other mysteries of His Sacred Humanity than by meditation upon the Divine excellences.

It is true that things which concern the Godhead are of themselves more calculated to excite in us love, and consequently devotion, since God is to be loved above all things; yet it is due to the weakness of the human mind that just as it needs to be led by the hand to the knowledge of Divine things, so also must it be lead to Divine love by means of the things of sense already known to it; and the chief of these things is the Humanity of Christ, as is said in the Preface of the Mass: So that knowing God visibly in the flesh, we may thereby be carried away to the love of things invisible. Consequently the things that have to do with Christ's Humanity lead us, as it were, by the hand and are thus especially suited to stir up devotion in us; though, none the less, devotion is principally concerned with the Divinity.

3. Lastly, if contemplation were the real cause of devotion, it ought to follow that those who are the more fitted for contemplation are also the more fitted for devotion; whereas the contrary is the case, for greater devotion is often found among simple folk and in the female sex, where contemplation is wanting.

But knowledge, as indeed anything which renders a person great, occasions a man to trust in Himself, and hence he does not wholly give himself to God. It is for this reason that knowledge and suchlike things are sometimes a hindrance to a man's devotion, whereas among women and simple folk devotion abounds by the suppression of all elation. But if a man will only perfectly subject to God his knowledge and any other perfection he may have, then his devotion will increase.

* * * * *

Cajetan: Note these two intrinsic causes of devotion: one, namely, which arises from meditation upon God and His benefits, the other from meditation on our own defects. Under the first head I must consider God's goodness, mercy, and kindness towards mankind and towards myself; the benefits, for instance, of creation according to His own Likeness, of Redemption, of Baptism, of His inspirations, of His invitations— whether directly or through the medium of others; His patient waiting till I do penance; His Holy Eucharist; His preserving me from so many perils both of body and soul; His care of me by means of His Angels; and His other individual benefits. Under the second head come all my faults and the punishments due to me, whether in the past or now in the present; my proneness to sin; my misuse of my own powers by habituating my thoughts and desires—as well as the inclinations of my other various faculties—to evil; my sojourning in a region far away from His Friendship and from His Divine conversation[90]; my perverted affections which make me think far more of temporal than of spiritual advantages or disadvantages; my utter lack of virtue; the wounds of my ignorance, of my malice, of my weakness, of my concupiscence; the shackles on my hands and feet, on my good works, that is; the shackles, too, on my affections, so that I dwell amidst darkness and rottenness and bitterness, and shrink not from it! My deafness, too, to the inner voice of my Shepherd; and, what is far worse, that I have chosen God for my enemy and my adversary as often as I have chosen mortal sin, and that I have thus offered Him the grievous insult of refusing to have Him for my God, and choosing instead my belly, or money, or false delights—and called them my God!

Meditations such as these should be in daily use among spiritual and religious people, and for their sake they should put aside the "much-speaking" of vocal prayer, however much it may appeal to them. And it is of such meditations that devotion and, by consequence, other virtues, are begotten. And they who do not give themselves to this form of prayer at least once in the day cannot be called religious men or women, nor even spiritual people. There can be no effect without a cause, no end without means to it, no gaining the harbour on the island save by a voyage in a ship; and so there can be no real religion without repeated acts regarding its causes, the means to it, and the vehicle that is to bring us thither (on 2. 2. 82. 3).

Cajetan: Just as he who removes an obstacle is the occasion of the resulting effect—a man, for instance, who pulls down a pillar is the occasion of the resulting fall of what it supported, and a man who removes a water-dam is the occasion of the consequent flood—so in the same way have women and simple folk a cause of devotion within themselves, for they have not that obstacle which consists in self-confidence. And because God bestows His grace on those who put no obstacle to it, the Church therefore calls the female sex "devout." Hence we are not to find fault with the learned for their knowledge, nor are we to praise women for womanly weakness; but that abuse of knowledge which consists in self-exaltation is blameworthy, just as the right use of women's weakness in not being uplifted is praiseworthy (on 2. 2. 82. 3).


Is Joy an Effect of Devotion?

In the Church's Collect for the Thursday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent we say: May holy devotion fill with joy those whom the fast they have undertaken chastises.

Of itself indeed, and primarily, devotion brings about a spiritual joy of the mind; but as an accidental result it causes sorrow. For, as we have said above, devotion arises from two considerations. Primarily it arises from the consideration of the Divine Goodness, and from this thought there necessarily follows gladness, in accordance with the words: I remembered God and was delighted.[91] Yet, as it were accidentally, this consideration begets a certain sadness in those who do not as yet fully enjoy God: My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God,[92] and he immediately adds: My tears have been my bread.

Secondarily, however, devotion arises from the consideration of our own defects, for we thus reflect upon that from which a man, by devout acts of the will, turns away, so as no longer to dwell in himself, but to subject himself to God.

And this consideration is the converse of the former: for of itself it tends to cause sadness since it makes us dwell upon our defects; accidentally, however, it causes joy, for it makes us think of the hope we have of God's assistance.

Hence joy of heart primarily and of itself follows from devotion; but secondarily and accidentally there results a sadness which is unto God.

Some, however, argue that joy is not an effect of devotion, thus:

1. Christ's Passion, as said before, is especially calculated to cause devotion. But from dwelling on it there follows a certain affliction of soul: Remember my poverty ... the wormwood and the gall[93]—that is, the Sacred Passion; and then follows: I will be mindful, and remember, and my soul shall languish within me.

In meditation on the Passion of Christ there is food for sadness—viz., the thought of the sins of men, and to take these away Christ had need to suffer. But there is also food for joy—viz., the thought of God's merciful kindness towards us in providing us such a deliverance.

2. Again, devotion principally consists in the interior sacrifice of the heart: A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit;[94] consequently affliction, rather than pleasure or joy, is the outcome of devotion.

But the soul which is on the one hand saddened because of its shortcomings in this present life, is on the other hand delighted at the thought of the goodness of God and of the hope of Divine assistance.

3. Lastly, S. Gregory of Nyssa says[95]: "Just as laughter proceeds from joy, so are sorrow and groaning signs of sadness." But out of devotion some burst into tears.

Yet tears spring not from sadness alone, but also from a certain tenderness of feeling: and especially is this the case when we reflect on something that, while pleasant, has in it a certain admixture of sadness; thus men are wont to weep from loving affection when they recover their children or others dear to them whom they had thought lost. And it is in this sense that tears spring from devotion.

* * * * *

Cajetan: Notice the proof here afforded that those are not devout persons who are habitually sad and gloomy, and who cannot mingle with others without getting into difficulties or dissolving into tears. For devout folk are cheerful, and are full of joy in their souls; and this not solely by reason of the principal cause, as is stated in the text, but also by reason of a secondary cause—the thought, namely, of their own failings. For the sadness of devout folk is according to God, and joy accompanies it; whence S. Augustine's remark: "Let a man grieve, but let him rejoice at his grief."[96] Therefore it is that we read of the Saints that they were joyful and bright; and rightly so, for they had begun upon earth their "heavenly conversation"[97] (on 2. 2. 82. 4).

S. Augustine: For Thee do I yearn, Justice and Innocence, Beautiful and Fair in Thy beauteous light that satisfies and yet never sates! For with Thee is repose exceedingly and life without disquiet! He that enters into Thee enters into the joy of his Lord; he shall know no fear, and in the Best shall be best. But I have deserted Thee and have wandered away, O Lord, my God! Too far have I wandered from Thee, the Steadfast One, in my youth, and I have become to myself a very land of want! (Confessions, II. x.).


[79] VIII. 9 and X. 29.

[80] xxxv. 20-21.

[81] 2 Paral. xxix. 31.

[82] Ethics, V. i. 3.

[83] Of the Divine Names, chap. iv., part i., lect. 10.

[84] Sermon VIII.: On the Passion of Our Lord.

[85] S. John xix. 15.

[86] Commentary on S. Luke ix. 55.

[87] De Trinitate, ix. 12; xv. 23.

[88] Ps. lxxii. 28.

[89] Ps. cxx. 1, 2.

[90] S. Luke xv. 13, 16.

[91] Ps. lxxvi. 4.

[92] Ps. xli. 3.

[93] Lam. iii. 19.

[94] Ps. i. 19.

[95] De Homine, xii.

[96] De Vera et Falsa Poenitentia, xiii.

[97] Phil. iii. 20.



I. Is Prayer an Act of the Appetitive Powers? Cardinal Cajetan, On Prayer based on Friendship II. Is it Fitting to Pray? Cardinal Cajetan, On Prayer as a True Cause S. Augustine, On the Sermon on the Mount, II. iii. 14 " On the Gift of Perseverance, vii. 15 III. Is Prayer an Act of the Virtue of Religion? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Humility of Prayer S. Augustine, On Psalm cii. 10 " Of the Gift of Perseverance, xvi. 39 IV. Ought We to Pray to God Alone? S. Augustine, Sermon, cxxvii. 2 V. Should We in our Prayers ask for anything Definite from God? S. Augustine, De Catechizandis Rudibus, xxv. 47 " Confessions, X. xxix. " Confessions, XI. ii. 2 VI. Ought We in our Prayers to ask for Temporal Things from God? S. Augustine, On Psalm xxxvii. 10 " Confessions, I. xx. 2 " Confessions, IX. iv. 12 S. Thomas is miraculously relieved from Toothache S. Augustine, Sermon, lxxx. 7 " Sermon, cccliv. 8 VII. Ought We to Pray for Others? VIII. Ought We to Pray for our Enemies? S. Augustine, Sermon, xv., on Psalm xxv. 8 IX. On the Seven Petitions of the Lord's Prayer Cardinal Cajetan, On the Grouping of these Petitions S. Augustine, Confessions, VII. x. 2 " Sermon, lvii., on S. Matt. vi. 7 " Sermon, lvi. 9, on S. Matt. vi. " Sermon, lvi. 8, on S. Matt. vi. " Of the City of God, xix. 27 S. Thomas's Rhythm, Adoro Te Devote X. Is Prayer Peculiar to Rational Creatures? XI. Do the Saints in Heaven Pray for Us? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Saints in Limbo XII. Should Prayer be Vocal? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Conditions of Vocal Prayer S. Augustine, Confessions, IX. iv. 8 " Confessions, X. xxxiii. 50 " On Psalm cxviii., Sermon xxix. 1 XIII. Must Prayer necessarily be Attentive? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Varieties of Attention at Prayer S. Augustine, On Psalm lxxxv. 7 " On Psalm cxlv. 1 S. Thomas, On Distractions, Com. on 1 Cor. xiv. 14 XIV. Should our Prayers be Long? XV. Is Prayer Meritorious? S. Augustine, On Psalm xxvi. " Ep. cxxx. ad Probam. XVI. Do Sinners gain Anything from God by their Prayers? XVII. Can We rightly term "Supplications," "Prayers," "Intercessions," and "Thanksgivings," parts of Prayer? Cardinal Cajetan, On the Prayer of the Consecration S. Augustine, Of Divers Questions, iv.

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