With her new book, Thomas Aquinas, now available in the Saints By Our Sides series, Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP, again shows her expertise in—and love of—this great saint. We caught up with her to find out more about it.
1) Everyone at the publishing house and in the convent knows to go to you for all things Thomas Aquinas. Why are you so interested in him?
I've always loved Saint Thomas ever since I found out about him as a kid. I was a bookworm and he seemed like the kind of saint I could relate to—he loved books and libraries! Also he seemed like a gentle person who was very humble. He was a genius but he was very simple and didn't look down on other people.
2) Do you really read him every day?
No, though I aim for that! I've had a long-standing goal of reading at least one article a day from the Summa Theologiae, but I don't always do it. Sometimes I've gone for a long time without doing it, but then I always go back to it. I figure that whatever I read is good. He always gives me a lot to think about. The Summa is best taken in small doses.
3) You wrote a book for young people about Thomas Aquinas. What does this saint's life and life work have to say to children?
In that book I tried to make him someone that kids could relate to. He had a lifelong fear of storms, probably because when he was a toddler he was taking a nap in the same room as his infant sister, and lightning struck and killed her. So the book has some scenes where Thomas feels afraid during a storm and turns to God in prayer.
Another thing is that when he was a young student, the others used to call him "the dumb ox." They meant "dumb" in the sense of mute, not stupid, because at that point he didn't talk much in class. We don't know if the others were just kidding or had a bad motive, but I used that example in relation to the current problem of bullying, to help kids with that.
4) If someone is interested in Thomas Aquinas and doesn't know where to start reading him, what do you recommend?
In the new book I have some suggestions for that. An appendix explains how to read an article of the Summa, and I give some information on which parts of the Summa are easiest to start with. The third part has a section that could be called the life of Christ, because it deals with events from the Gospels that we are familiar with, Jesus' birth and childhood, his public ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. Even if not all the terminology is familiar, most people could read this with profit.
Another section would be the second half of part two of the Summa, which is on the virtues. Thomas has a very beautiful, positive approach to living a virtuous life, stressing it as a means to finding happiness. He has some very practical things in it, too. For example, he always breaks down his subject into parts and explains everything. In writing about the virtue of prudence, he discusses how a good memory is helpful to make good decisions, since we can draw on past mistakes or successes. Then he gives some tips on how to form a good memory. I suspect he must have used those himself, so it gives a rare personal glimpse into Thomas. He never wrote about himself directly.
5) Which other saint would you most like to see Thomas engage in debate? Why?
I think St Augustine would be an interesting debate partner. Actually, Thomas is more Augustinian than people used to think. He relies on Augustine a lot and treats him as a great authority.
Thomas in his philosophy drew more from Aristotle than he did from Plato. And Augustine was formed in the Platonic tradition, with Plato having a great deal of influence on him, so it would be great to hear them debate the merits of those two philosophers!
6) What didn't we ask, that we should have?
Maybe something about how Thomistic thought ebbs and flows, but Thomas' genius always inspires. I mean, for example, that Thomism was a big thing in the Church at the end of the 19th century when Pope Leo XIII said his teachings should be at the basis of seminary training. After Vatican II things went in another direction, and it's certainly good to draw on wide currents of thought. But Thomism became rather unpopular. Today it's becoming more popular. There's a lot of good work coming from some French Dominicans, for example, Father Gilles Emery, who has written some excellent books on the Trinity in Thomistic thought. Also, they don't just use the Summa, but a wider range of Thomas' writings. For example, his Scriptural commentaries were neglected for a long time, but there's more interest in them now. A small publisher in Wyoming is bringing them out in English little by little.
An author named Stephen Duffy said of Thomas and his thought, "Endless resurrections are the privilege of genius."
Sister Lorraine's love for all things Thomas has led her to write a number of books about him, including Thomas Aquinas, the newest title in the Saints by Our Sides series that's available today at Pauline Books and Media.
Since 1976, Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP, has been a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation of women religious. She has an M.A. in theology from the University of Dayton, with a specialization in Marian studies. Since 1994 she has served on the editorial staff of Pauline Books & Media publishing house in Boston, Massachusetts, and has written several books, including Angels: Help from on High, and Mary: Help in Hard Times.