Tuesday 24 December 2019

12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas - Kevin Vost - Timeless Spiritual Wisdom for Our Turbulent Times

12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas: 
Timeless Spiritual Wisdom for Our Turbulent Times
Dr. Kevin Vost
Sophia Institute Press
eISBN 9781622828319

I freely admit to being a fan of Dr. Kevin Vost's writings. And have been since first encountering them in 2006. That was the year he published his first Catholic book, since that time he has published 20 works. They cover a wide range of topics. But the two he returns to often are memorization and the good doctor. This volume draws both of those areas of interest together. In the previous volume, How to Think Like Aquinas, Vost uses examples from Saint Thomas Aquinas to help us learn how to build a memory palace, and to use the powers of the intellect and the will and to train both. This one is about lessons we can learn from Aquinas. 

The introduction begins with this statement:

“I strive to write positive, uplifting books that inform and inspire readers with the kind of love of God and His Catholic Church that was restored to me after twenty-five years in the atheistic wilderness, courtesy of the stirrings of the Holy Spirit and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. I certainly hope to do the same in this one, but the last thing I want to do is offer haloed-smiley-face Band-Aids to place over the festering sores of our individual souls, of our culture, and, alas, of elements within our holy Church. All times have been turbulent in the two millennia of our Church’s history, as the Church consists of sinners seeking holiness, but today the waves of ambiguity and aimlessness, of confusion and chaos, of scandal and secularization, are cresting at all-time highs into a very imperfect storm that puts all our souls at serious risk of spiritual shipwreck. These issues cannot be ignored.”

But he goes on to state:

“The Church in America had suffered and shrunk in so many ways decades before the clerical sexual abuse crisis reared its ugly head again in 2018. Since my childhood in the 1960s, the number of priests has decreased by one-third, while the U.S. population increased by two-thirds. We have more than 40 percent fewer Catholic schools, while parish after parish proceeds to shut its doors.”

And in answer to these we turn to Saint Thomas, Vost says:

“The turbulent world of our times needs Thomas’s timeless spiritual wisdom as it never has before. Our Church needs it too, and so do we as individual members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We need to learn to focus on what matters most, to set our hearts, minds, and souls upon God, and to order our lives in accordance with His will as expressed in the two books He wrote for us: the book of nature, which we read with our senses and reason, and the book of revelation, which we grasp in Scripture through the gift of faith.”

And that is what he leads us through in this book. The chapters in this volume are:

Turbulent Times in Need of Timeless Wisdom
Accept Only the Best
Focus on Things That Matter the Most
No Harmony, No Peace!
Justice Begins at Home
Our Brothers (and Sisters) Ain’t Heavy
Be Your Own Best Friend
Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner
Be a Man (or a Woman)!
Go to Mass, Not to the Woods, Every Sunday
Listen to That Angel on Your Shoulder
Be a Saint
Get Jesus
Out of the Church and Into the World

Each of the 12 lessons is presented in a separate chapter. The chapter begins with a question. Followed by a Thomistic quote. Followed by the meat of the chapters. And the chapter ends with a ‘Life Lesson’ Taken directly from the Summa. For example, Chapter 3 begins with:

Question 3

How can we have peace on earth?

Thomas answers that . . . 
“Concord denotes union of appetites among various persons, while peace denotes, in addition to this union, the union of the appetites even in one man.”
— Summa Theologica II-II, 29, 1”

And the lesson at the end of that chapter is:

Life Lesson 3 Summa

We will never achieve true peace with others unless we strive for harmony in our own hearts and souls by rejecting wrath and the culture of victimhood and seek to temper our worldly desires and reach out to our neighbors in a spirit of love expressed in the simple, friendly warmth of affability extended to all. We can pray to God for this peace in our hearts, with special attention to the prayer that Christ gave us and to His Sacred Heart. We must remember as well that our truest fonts of harmony and peace during our time on earth are found in the Church’s sacraments, which bind us together in concord with our neighbors as we harmonize our wills with the will of God.”

The book is wonderfully written. Drawing from the wisdom of Saint Thomas Aquinas in such a way as to make it easily applicable and yet tacking some of the hardest topics we face this day. It is written to encourage, but also to arm, to challenge and to inspire and foster growth. It is another excellent volume from Dr. Vost. One I know I will read again. And one that I look forward to sharing with my children when they are a few years older. These 12 lessons and the extensive appendices are great resources for your life, and for living in these troubling times. I highly recommend the book!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)
12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas (2019)

Aquinas on the Four Last Things (2021)
Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

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