NEW Special Slow Reading Pathway – A Year of Thomas: Beginning the Summa Theologica
(Depicted in image: Thomas Aquinas, from an altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli (15th century))
This is a very special opportunity, indeed!
If you have even wanted to read this magnificent book, but were too scared or intimidated to do it on your own (we won’t tell anyone), but all the same don’t want a lecture course – this is the group for you.
Perhaps more than any other work, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica is built for unhurried reading and conversation. The Summa Theologica is one of those works – like so many of the great books – better read, in an unhurried way, with a group of thoughtful readers.
To get underway with Thomas, you don’t know to know “about” the subject. The Summa begins at the beginning, and even has an eye for the beginner.
The work itself is composed of a sublime architecture made up of a sequence of questions, answers, objections, and replies to objections. (To see what we mean, take a peek here.) And from the beginning, it aims to suffuse light into the foundations of human thinking on all of the most profound questions of our life, concerning tensions and contradictions between philosophical learning and sacred scriptures, as well as the nature of man, community, and law.
The work is truly an education in itself, worth every moment of time spent. The experience can benefit anyone with a will and desire for self-education, or those who want to deeply and genuinely understand Western Civilization. And indeed we would go so far as to say reading Thomas is indispensable for an understanding of the history of philosophy in the West.
Two among the several founders of the great books movement in the 20th Century, Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, were moved by the Summa Theologica, and saw it as a model for a Summa Dialectica. Reading the Summa Theologica can also be part of a return to the sources – a resourcement – of not only Christian thought, but of Western thought.
Our plan is the begin at the beginning, with Question 1, and proceed at a leisurely pace, the pace of the group, over the course of a whole calendar year. In this way, placing the work of reading, conversation, and understanding at the forefront, the understanding that participants will develop will be irreplaceable, as a beginning for a lifetime of appreciation and illumination that flows from this magnificent work.
If you have to miss a session or two, as happens – a benefit of slow reading is that it will be easy to catch up. Recordings of the session can be made available too. This group will be guided by two experienced and knowledgeable guides, Clare McGrath-Merkle and Reynaldo Miranda. The schedule – and the leadership – provides inspiration and accountability to help a reader follow through and keep to the work. Consequently, reading the Summa with us, you will get many times more out of the experience than if you were to read it alone – or try to cram the work into a short period of a 6-10 seminars.
Day and Time
9-10:30 pm EST
1 Calendar Year, January-December 2024
Average Weekly Reading
3-5 pages – or less! The pace will depend on the group.
Nature of Course
This course offers a slow-reading, craftsmanlike approach (through conversation, question-and-answer and interpretation) to Thomas Aquinas’s magisterial work, the Summa Theologica.
All translations welcome. Anton Pegis OP’s The Basic Writings of Saint Thomas, (1945) is a good standby. (See internet archive here.) There are many fine online editions as well, for example, the University of Notre Dame’s edition.
Mode of Instruction
Purposive conversational reading or dialogue, not lecture.
Regular Cost: $625 (Registration opens in October)
Current Slow Reading Subscribers: $475
Instructors: Clare McGrath-Merkle and Reynaldo Miranda
Clare McGrath-Merkle is a graduate of St. John’s College Graduate Institute, with an MTS in theology, and a graduate certificate in Carmelite studies from the Washington Theological Union. She later received PhD ABD status in spirituality studies from The Catholic University of America, and a DPhil degree in philosophy from the University in Augsburg, Germany, specializing in the speculative mysticism and applied metaphysics of the spiritual theology of priesthood. Dr. Merkle currently serves as an adjunct instructor at Benedictine College, where she is currently teaching a course on Teresa of Avila. She will be teaching a course on women saints in the Fall. She is also a moderator with the Great Books Academy online, where she has led discussions since 2020. Her articles have appeared in such publications as The Journal of Religion and Health, The New Oxford Review, and The Regensburg Forum. Her book entitled Bérulle’s Spiritual Theology of Priesthood was published with Aschendorff Verlag in 2018. She has been a professed secular discalced Carmelite since 2005.