Garrigou-Lagrange - Beatitude: A Commentary on St. Thomas' Theological Summa, Ia IIae, qq. 1-54

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By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, “Beatitude” is a commentary on the first fifty-four questions of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, part I-II. The central theme is the human journey back to God, our Creator. For Garrigou-Lagrange, moral theology is a discipline concerned not merely with the avoidance of sin but also with the cultivation of virtue and growth in likeness to God.

This book has two major parts: First, it considers humankind’s ultimate goal: to possess God and to share in His life; secondly, the means by which humans can reach this destination. These means are human acts, those over which a human being has deliberate control. Therefore, this volume covers St. Thomas’s treatises on the End of Man, Human Acts, the Passions, and Habit. Or, you may consider it a short commentary on how to live in God’s life in this life so as to inherit the vision of him forever in the next. For moral theology is not cold and empty speculation, but a systematic description of what it means to imitate God.

In the Introduction, the author emphasizes the sublimity and solidarity of the monumental plan of the Summa. In the First Part, humankind is represented by St. Thomas as the imperfect image of God, since the human being, in self-knowing and self-loving, mirrors the divine nature and the Trinity. In the Second Part, Aquinas shows that the human being is also God’s image in his or her free activities. Humankind can know and love God Himself—and this is the final goal of human life. This is what sets the human being apart from the rest of the world—he is the “image of God” in his mastery of self.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange recalls that Aquinas was first to present a scientific handbook of individual and social ethics, uniting tradition to the philosophy that prepares the theologian to proceed according to a rational systematic progression in teaching the doctrines of faith and morals. There was a time when many moral textbooks leaned heavily on casuistry and laid no systematic doctrinal foundation for their moral discussions and solutions. Such is not the case in this volume.

Human acts are the road to humankind’s supernatural goal. Any scientific discipline must proceed from principles, from causes. As a consequence, moral theology must not be divorced from the study of the passions, habits, grace, virtue, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Father Cummins has preserved in translation the lucidity and easy style of the famous Dominican author. As an introduction for the interested layperson, seminarian, or student of theology, “Beatitude” will help to raise Thomistic moral theology to a new life.

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