St. Thomas Aquinas Believed in Ghosts

St. Thomas Aquinas at Prayer

We’re coming up fast on Halloween, so I want to jump ahead a bit to see what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about ghosts. The section is found in the Summa Theologica, Supplementum Tertiæ Partis: Question 69. Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death, Article 3. Whether [Read More...]

St. Martin and the Thief’s Ghost

Reliquary for the head of St. Martin

The main role of ghosts in the literature of the early church was to display the power of the saints. While Augustine was still alive, Sulpitius Severus wrote The Life of St. Martin, in which we find the following tale of Martin confronting and vanquishing the evil ghost of a thief who was being worshiped by [Read More...]

St. Augustine’s Rejection of Ghosts

Pope Benedict with the bones of St. Augustine

Our final look at Augustine’s theology of the dead comes from On the Care to be Taken For the Dead (De cura pro mortuis gerenda), written in 421 to Paulinus, Bishop of Nola. The text was a response to a question from Paulinus, and is quite touching in places. A woman had asked for her [Read More...]

St. Augustine’s Ghost Story

The Devil and St Augustine Carlisle Cathedral

St. Augustine was the first Church Father to consider at length stories of ghostly apparitions that appeared in various strands of hagiography, legend, scripture, and eyewitness testimony. It’s not truly a “theology of ghosts,” but it’s a more developed consideration of the subject that anyone else, even Tertullian, had attempted, or indeed would attempt for centuries. Augustine [Read More...]

St. Augustine’s Three Types of Vision [Ghosts and the Church]

eye2

Before we get down to St. Augustine’s thoughts on ghosts, I need to do some spadework by exploring his understanding of different ways of seeing. He explains this in On Genesis Literally Interpreted (De Genesi ad litteram), his sprawling twelve-part study that is one of his least-read major works. (Don’t confuse it with the minor, earlier [Read More...]

Augustine Contemplates the City of God

augustinecityofgod

From the collection of the Morgan Library & Museum comes this amazing illuminated page from De civitate Dei. If you click on it you can zoom and scan to a remarkable level of detail. The illuminations are by Girolamo da Cremona from 1475, and the Morgan describes it this way: “In the lower portion of this sumptuous [Read More...]

St. Augustine’s Medicine For Doubt

350px-Caravaggio_-_The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas

I broke this discussion into two posts because I didn’t want Augustine’s greater point to get lost in his fit of pique. Instead, I want to draw your focus back to the first paragraph of the passage I cite from City of God Book 2: If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did [Read More...]

St. Augustine is Annoyed: Or, Don’t Wrestle With a Pig

StAugustineCityOfGod

There are a number of things that draw people to St. Augustine: the power of his prose, the clarity of his faith, his humanizing struggles, and his centrality to Christian doctrine. No other saint (or, indeed, any single figure of the ancient world) left us so many words, and in these words we find an [Read More...]


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