A Companion to the Summa: Volume II
LIKE many modern books, this present volume traces its origin to a series of lectures. However, the lectures from which this work has sprung were of an oddly ambitious character. They were given in New York under the auspices of The Catholic Thought Association and were designed to cover the whole of the Summa Theologica, question by question, at the rate of one Part each year.
As the work progressed it seemed evident that there was a much wider field for such an ambition than was offered by the walls of a lecture hall. In fact there seemed to be a double need to be met by just such an attempt. There is first of all the ordinary Catholic’s evident need of a rational defence of his faith against the atmosphere in which he is forced to live. Secondly there is the need felt by those who, having heard enough of St. Thomas to whet their appetite, suddenly discover that they cannot go directly to St. Thomas without the guidance of a professor; and for most of them the leisure days of the classroom are over for ever.
This, then, is the double purpose of this book: to furnish a rational defence of his faith for the ordinary Catholic and to open St. Thomas to the layman who has no professional philosophical or theological knowledge. It is not, then, intended only for the very learned, nor for a text-book. If it must be described in a phrase, it might best be called an easy guide-book to St. Thomas’s greatest work.
Just as a guide-book to Paris can be best evaluated in the streets of Paris, so this guide-book to the Summa can be best appreciated in the pages of the Summa, by comparing the individual chapters of the book with the corresponding questions of the Prima Secundae (First Part of the Second Part) of St. Thomas’s Summa, questions that are given at the head of each chapter. Any particularly striking point will be found more fully and more beautifully developed in the Summa itself; further proofs, explanations, and illustrations can all be had directly from St. Thomas. This guide-book is merely a shadow of the beauty of the Summa itself.
But it is important to remember that it is the Summa reduced to popular language and not merely another book about St. Thomas or about the Summa. In fact it is often more than that for, particularly on difficult questions, the parallel passages in other works of St. Thomas have been freely used where the conciseness of the Summa might have caused some obscurity for one not wholly familiar with the thought of Thomas.
The impossibility of adequately realizing such an ambition as prompted this work is self-evident. But St. Thomas himself had such a love of “beginners” that at the height of his powers he wrote his greatest work for just that class. Surely he will be patient with any efforts made on behalf of his beloved beginners. Because he too was a member of an Order whose motto is ” Veritas” and whose radical explanation is a burning love of truth, he will be gentle with the shortcomings of a work the end of which is to bring men into direct contact with his own great love of truth and so start them off, as Albert started him off, on the romantic pursuit that will end only with the vision of the First Truth. I wish to express my profound gratitude to my brethren and the members of the Thomistic Institute for the patience and co-operation which has made this work possible.