St. Thomas Aquinas’ influence on the Catholic Church has been, and is now, deep and eternal, for he expressed truths sublime and beautiful within the prodigious output of his fairly short life, and his influence on the modern church is examined in this fine article from D.Q. McInerny.
St. Thomas’ work played a major role in my conversion, especially through the works of Jacques & Raissa Maritain, the book Liturgy & Contemplation (available in whole online, lucky us) http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/LITCOM.HTM being the most sublime example.
An excerpt from the article by McInerny.
In 1879, the second year of his pontificate, Pope Leo XIII issued Aeterni Patris, an encyclical that launched what was to become a singularly important event in the modern history of the Catholic Church: the Thomistic renewal, also known as the Neo-Scholastic revival. A renewal, or revival, was very much in order, because at the time Pope Leo wrote his encyclical Thomistic philosophy was, by and large, in a rather sickly condition, and had been for a good many years. Though there had been periods in the past when Thomism had the status of a philosophy whose influence was both potent and pervasive, this was not the case in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. But that state of affairs was to change dramatically with the publication of Aeterni Patris. The encyclical had the salutary effect of restoring some sorely needed vitality to Thomism, and within the span of two decades the philosophy became the animating core of a movement whose repercussions were felt throughout the Church. Few encyclicals have elicited the kind of immediate, positive response from the faithful that Aeterni Patris did….
The English title of Aeterni Patris is “The Restoration of Christian Philosophy.” A genuinely Christian philosophy would of course be just that philosophy which would support and inform a sound theology, and the thought of St. Thomas, Pope Leo makes clear, should serve as its centerpiece or core. But it is well to note that, for all the emphasis he gives to St. Thomas, the Pope is not advocating a narrow or exclusive Thomism. He makes no simple equation between Christian philosophy and Thomistic philosophy. If Thomism can be said to function as the core of a Christian philosophy, that core should be thought of as packaged within a larger and more comprehensive philosophical system — Scholasticism — by which it is nourished, and divorced from which its very intelligibility becomes problematic. By the time St. Thomas arrived on the scene in the thirteenth century, a rich philosophical tradition was already in place, and Leo XIII clearly wanted to see the effective reconstitution of everything that was best in Scholasticism, especially because of its foundational realist orientation. But the pontiff’s vision included yet more; it was, so to speak, philosophically all-embracing. He was calling for a Christian philosophy that would be reflective of, and integral to, what he refers to as the perennial philosophy. What might that be? The perennial philosophy can be generally described as the most comprehensive of sound philosophies, the sound philosophy that takes into account, preserves, and transmits every intellectually sound proposition that has ever been formulated by any particular thinker or any particular philosophical system. Put another way, the perennial philosophy is simply the sum total, the treasury, of those foundational and timeless truths at which man has arrived, in the East and the West, over the entire course of human history. In his regard for the perennial philosophy, Leo reflects an attitude toward truth typical of Thomas himself. Friar Thomas, guided by the conviction that all truth has its ultimate source in God, believed therefore that the truth should be gratefully garnered wherever it might be found.
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