ODE TO ST.THOMAS AQUINAS

Here Thomas Merton a Cistercian monk, reflects on Aquinas: "The stars put out their pale opinions, one by one, While the black-friar breaks the Truth, his Host, Among his friends the simple Substances: for thus he fathered minds to reason's peace." Aquinas had a marvellous gift of being able to bring a veritable cathedral of thought and consequent reflection, to an astonishingly wide spectrum of subject matter. Used today as a reference point in such things as psychology; dilemmas of peace and justice; theology; philosophy; social and business ethics to name but a few. As always we are much concerned with how to be happy, a subject that certainly interested Aquinas. "In all things there is an appetite for completion, the final end to which each moves marks its own perfect and fulfilling good". So it is the good that is God, beyond which no higher or more satisfying element can be found. Yet it is obviously not so simple as that. We all lack sufficient clarity of where we are going in life, and of course some extreme examples, such as terrorism make the point. To deal with a terrorist a dialogue is needed. " The object of the will, that is the human appetite, is the good without reserve, just as the object of mind is the True without reserve." So it is the starting line for moving forward towards a clearer, deeper appreciation of how to change our or their, life stance. Yes, a slow process, but essential for behavioural change. "Our good is to live according to reason, and our evil is to live outside it." Aquinas opens up a plethora of opportunities for dialogue with even the most evil and recalcitrant person or group.  "See the high birds, they do play in wheeling silences, defining in the perfect sky, the bounds of (here below) our solitude." (Merton.)

Thank you. Tom Baxter

THE SILENT CAULDRON of AUGUST 6TH.& 8TH.

This last weekend was a moment for deep reflection on the 70th.anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic disaster.It was the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who wrote : "When the hot globe shrivels and cracks and uninhibited atoms resolve, Earth and water, fruit and flowers, body and animal soul, All the blue stars come tumbling down. Beauty and ugliness, love and hate, Wisdom and politics are all alike undone. Toward that fiery day we run like crabs with our bad tempered armour on... O great dishonourable beast, War. Cockroach and millionaire, Snake- eyed cousin of pestilence. Why do we dance for you, Why do we dance to exhaustion? " Here Merton summarises so well not only the whirlpool of the physical chaos of August 1945 in Japan as the two atomic bombs were lobbed down onto unsuspecting civilians - with casualties at the time of approximately 200,000, rising to an estimated 700,000 over the ensuing years as radiation effects kicked in. Merton also raises the question of our unfailing addiction to war as a solution for our problems. It is of course in part because of an unquestioning view of life's values; a bowing of our heads towards power within ourselves as well as in others." Sinners must be loved with charity as human beings capable of eternal happiness, but because their sin is opposed to God, we must hate them being sinners." (St.Thomas Aquinas"). As Aquinas emphasises we can love the sinner,( the politicians who ordered the bombs to be dropped), but we can and must demand justice over the act itself. He explains that we can prefer to sin and so offend God, rather than be deprived of our pleasure. In the case of the atomic bombing, the pleasure came from an act of choice from a preceding sin. In other words, the habit of war, the habit of the mind set of those who did these dastardly deeds on August 6th. and 9th.1945. As Oppenheimer the atomic scientist said post 1945, "now we scientists know what sin really is."

Thank you. Tom Baxter.