In praise of irrationality

I have always had mixed feelings about dear Aquinas. After all, his name is Thomas, and he contributed a lot to the Church, and as Amy Welborn tells us in her Loyola Kids Book of Saints (one of my personal favorites) “Thomas was a big, quiet boy”.

But dang, did he love science and reason, two languages I have never spoken with much conviction. If my childhood acumen with logic puzzles is any indication, it’s not that I don’t have a capacity for reason, but that it doesn’t do much for me.

This is nowhere more evident than when I talk about God. I have done my due diligence in studying Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God, but they are overall a bit of a snooze for me. I’m sure there are people out there for whom those (and other rational arguments) are a lynchpin of faith, but I ain’t one of them.

For me, spirituality has at its core the experience of the power of love. It is by definition irrational, although I don’t like to define using a term that implies it is lacking something. Rather, I believe this is a positive quality, better defined by terms like “affective”, “intuitive”, or simply “spiritual”.

This is how we know a lot of things, but we know them in a way that goes beyond logical knowledge and becomes a core conviction. Maybe it’s different for other people, but I am way more convinced by the things I intuit than the things that are proven to me.

There is a story about Thomas Aquinas that near the end of his life he had a vision of God that caused him to stop work on his writings and proclaim all that he had written was “straw”. Some say he had a stroke, but regardless there is some truth to the myth. No matter how many things we know in our brains, they will always pale in comparison to the things we know in our hearts.

Nothing personal, Tom.

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