‘Historic occasion’ in Galway’s Collegiate Church with launch of new choral initiative
Displaying a facsimile of Henry VIII’s Songbook following the launch of Schola Cantorum in
St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Galway, are (from left) Dr Edward Herring, Julie Feeney, Mark
Duley, Archdeacon Gary Hastings and Cllr Hildegard Naughton.
“A very historic occasion” was how the rector of Galway, the Ven. Gary Hastings, described the recent launch of a new choral initiative in the city’s ancient Collegiate Church of St Nicholas.
Welcoming a large number of guests to the launch, Archdeacon Hastings pointed out that the new St Nicholas’ Schola Cantorum was a revival of the church’s medieval college of singing priests and boy choristers, but in a modern format for a new millennium and “not just for the Church of Ireland, but for the whole community of this city”.
FIGURES IN CHURCH HISTOR Y – 25 ST THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-1274)
Thomas Aquinas, sometimes called the ‘angelic’ Doctor (Teacher) of the Church, was a philosopher and theologian whose authority and influence set him apart not only from his contemporaries but also from most other figures in Church history in the over seven centuries since his death.
Coming from a prominent Italian family (his father was Count Landulf of Aquino, his mother was Theodora, Countess of Theate, and there were also royal connections), he received the finest education that the 13th century could provide. Diligent in study, he was noted early as being meditative and devoted to prayer and his preceptors at Monte Cassino were surprised to hear the child ask frequently: “What is God?”
He studied at Naples, Rome, Paris and Cologne (where he came under the influence of Albertus Magnus, one of the great masters of his time). He felt drawn to the religious life and braved the opposition of his parents, brothers and sisters to become a friar in the Order of St Dominic, noted for its preaching and teaching.
Lecturing on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and his commentaries on that textbook of theology, Thomas laid the foundations of the great work by which he is principally known, the Summa Theologica. He regarded theology as the ‘Queen of the Sciences’. His spirituality, centred on the Eucharist, resulted in his being frequently abstracted and he experienced moments of ecstasy. Some of the hymns he composed are still used, for example, Nos. 437 and 449 in Church Hymnal.
Thomas wrote or dictated around 60 books and covered many issues, including that of the relation between faith and reason, where he said that reason was used in theology not to prove the truths of faith – which were accepted on the authority of God – but to defend, explain and develop the doctrines revealed.
However, as an advocate of what has been called ‘Natural Theology’, he felt that there were certain truths of religion which could be shown to be reasonable, even if they needed to be supplemented by revelation.
For example, he considered in detail five arguments for the existence of God. He taught that the nature of God was characterized by simplicity, perfection, infinity, immutability and unity and that God was the ultimate cause of all things. God, while perfectly united, also was perfectly described by three interrelated persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
St Thomas Aquinas was particularly associated with the formulation of the doctrine of transubstantiation, involving a ‘change’ in the Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, leaving only the appearance of the elements. This was debated at the time of the Reformation and was rejected by the Reformers.
This editorial is one in a series of occasional reflections on figures in Church history, following a chronological sequence as they appear.
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