We Are Promises of Goodness

We Are Promises of Goodness April 29, 2015

Jacob's ladderHave you ever gotten stuck while reading a book? I don’t mean “stuck” as in “unable to read another word”; I mean “stuck” as in “this paragraph has grabbed me and won’t let go.”

While preparing to lead the formation group for my Lay Dominican chapter this year, I came across this odd little book, published in the 1950’s, that identifies itself on the spine as My Way of Life by St. Thomas. The title page proclaims it as My Way of Life: Pocket Edition of St. Thomas, The Summa Simplified for Everybody, by Walter Farrell, O.P., S.T.M., and Martin J. Healy, S.T.D. It is indeed pocket-sized: a small, leather-bound book about the size of a pocket Bible. It does not appear to actually be the Summa Theologiae in any real sense, and though it is clearly based on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas the precise linkage with the Summa‘s content is not explained. The first chapter doesn’t appear to be so much a continuous thread as a collection of independent paragraphs loosely groups under a main topic.

It looks quite interesting, and I’ve been intending to use it as kind of a devotional book, one paragraph at a time but I keep getting stuck. It has a little built-in ribbon bookmark, and every time I open it my eyes fall on this paragraph:

The characteristic note of all goodness is its desirability; its demand is for love, which is no more than the recognition of the heart-filling character of goodness. With us, oddly enough, it is not the substantial goodness with which we begin life that makes this challenging demand for love, but the goodness that comes to us with the years in the practice of the virtues. We are rather a promise of goodness; we become, through the grace of God, an image of that divine goodness, and so beloved of men. In God, there is no slow step from promise to fulfillment; but instant eternal, unlimited attractiveness that permits of no moment of disillusionment or delay. This is the end of the heart’s quest and the beginning of its fullness.

How this appears to someone newly come to it, I don’t know; but what I see in it is a distillation of years of my own ponderings on St. Thomas all gathered together into just about the smallest possible space. It explains what goodness is, and what love is; it explains that we are meant to grow into our full maturity with God’s help by growing in the virtues, as an acorn grows into a majestic oak. It explains why, in knowing Himself perfectly, He loves what He knows, and why we should do the same.  And it explains the wonder and immensity of Creation…for when God, infinite goodness, looked upon it, He said that it was good.

And every time I open the book, I re-read this paragraph…and I find I don’t want to move on. I don’t want to risk forgetting what it says, that we are promises of goodness, to be paid off with God’s help.

Which is why, on an evening when I had planned to do something else entirely, I’m sitting here writing a blog post.


photo credit: Jacob’s Ladder via photopin (license)

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