Blog Tour: Saints Who Battled Satan by Paul Thigpen

I’m honored to be a part of the blog tour for author Paul Thigpen’s latest, “Saints Who Battled Satan”, published by TAN Books. In this compendium, Thigpen looks at the lives of seventeen saints who took the devil by the horns, and won. In the process, he also provides examples and teaching moments, not only about coming to terms with the existence of evil, personified, but also about how men and women throughout the centuries have dealt with that reality in ways that kept them close to God.

As one might expect, if one is a regular reader of these pages, I wanted the chance to review the chapter on St. Dominic, being the Dominican fanboy that I am. Despite the enormous impact that he had, not only on the Church but on world history, St. Dominic is someone who is not as well-known as his friend and contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi. Most Catholics can recall stories about St. Francis preaching to the birds, receiving the stigmata, or setting up the first Christmas crèche, yet if they know anything about St. Dominic at all, it is that he gave us the rosary. Not a bad thing of course, as attributes ago, but as Thigpen points out in his chapter on the saint, St. Dominic became a personal target for the devil as soon as he set foot in Albigensian territory.

As a form of neo-Manicheanism, the Albigensian heresy in 13th century France was well-suited to Satan’s purposes. Believing, inter alia, that there was a good god or spirit who created the spiritual world, and a bad one who created the material world, and that the material world was therefore subject to the whims of the bad fellow, the Albigensians in their puritanism almost paradoxically invited satan in to take things over. Thigpen selects several accounts of how, in his work against this heresy, St. Dominic was not only able to perceive, but easily cast out the devil, even when those around him were enthralled to the enemy. The stories of how he did so strike the modern reader as being somewhat fantastical in nature, I admit. However, as neither you nor I were there at the time, I think we can try to remain humble, recognize that God can do what He wants, and leave the details to the ages.

Interestingly, in some of the instances recounted by Thigpen, St. Dominic does not immediately perceive the devil at work, realizing later what is going on. At other times, the saint actually engages the demon, one on one, and fearlessly. Thigpen is quick to point out, lest the reader begin holding ideas above his station, that St. Dominic was somehow uniquely protected from infernal attacks in a way that most of us are not. Thus, when he realizes the devil is prowling around his priory like a lion, St. Dominic is able to take the beast on a walk around the building, so he can get a satan’s-eye-view of what is going on there, and how the devil takes advantage of opportunities to distract the friars from prayer and good living. It is only the chapter room, where the friars go for confession, that the devil refuses to enter.

One comes away with the impression that St. Dominic was someone keenly aware of the fact that the devil is all around, but who more importantly recognized that in the end it is God alone who triumphs: he believed in the power of God’s Word, not in physical manifestations of the power of evil, an evil which will ultimately be subjugated. St. Dominic’s unflappability provides a great source of encouragement and strength, even when, as happened to St. Dominic himself in the stories recounted by Thigpen, we are set upon by those who would seek to do us harm. We should come through those trying times, as St. Dominic did in one instance, through trust and confidence in what is above, by singing joyfully to God.

As a final note, the reader is encouraged to make use of the appendices in Thigpen’s book. Most of the time, these sections are of little use to anyone other than the specialist reader. Here, however, the author collects a number of brief stories about various saints, and their own encounters with the devil. He also gives a number of quotes and passages written by the saints, on how best to deal with temptations and attacks that may come from below. Even after one has read the entire book, these sections in the back will be a wonderful source of inspiration not only for the average Catholic, but also for writers, homilists, and speakers to use as jumping-off points for further exploration and discussion.

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Scott Hahn’s “Angels and Saints”: Taking a Fresh Look at Aquinas

Detail of St. Thomas Aquinas from the St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece by Fra Angelico (1427-1428) San Marco, Florence

Detail of St. Thomas Aquinas from the St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece by Blessed Fra Angelico (1427-1428)
San Marco, Florence

In his new book Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones, well-known Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn examines both the theology of the angels, the communion of saints, and the lives of a number of these figures.  He does so, appropriately enough, by looking to the Scriptures as a touchstone: Dr. Hahn, as you may know, is the founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. As the next stop on the blog tour celebrating the release of his latest book, it falls to me today to share some thoughts about Dr. Hahn’s chapter on St. Thomas Aquinas – and be sure to check out the previous and forthcoming stops on the blog tour as well.

It is hard to imagine how one could write a single chapter encompassing everything there is to know about St. Thomas Aquinas.  For starters, he is among the most prolific writers in Church history and, as Dr. Hahn notes, Aquinas kept several secretaries at a time writing to his dictation on a near-constant basis.  Fortunately for the reader, Dr. Hahn does not attempt to give us the equivalent of a ten-page summary of the Summa Theologica, in examining the life of this great Doctor of the Church.

Instead, Dr. Hahn takes and runs with the very interesting argument, so often overlooked by those who focus on Aquinas as a philosopher, that Aquinas would probably have considered himself to be a Biblical theologian.  As an example, Dr. Hahn points to Aquinas’ “Treatise on Law”, believed by many to be heavily dependent on Aristotelian thinking.  While it may seem that the Angelic Doctor, as Aquinas is affectionately known, frequently quotes Aristotle in this work, in fact Aquinas quotes from Scripture almost seven times more often in the text. Dr. Hahn then goes on to examine a shift in the law, as described by Aquinas, from the Old Testament law to that of the New Testament, as the fall of man through our first parents leads to prescription, followed by salvation, as God and man rebuild their relationship.

What particularly struck me, in reading Dr. Hahn’s reflections about St. Thomas Aquinas, was the succinct explanation of Aquinas’ understanding of how the created and material point to the infinite and spiritual, one that resonated with me a great deal as someone interested in the study and appreciation of Western culture.  “Thus, nature and history are more than just created things,” writes Hahn, “they have more than just a literal, historical meaning.  God fashions the things of the world and shapes the events of history as visible signs of other, uncreated realities, which are eternal and invisible.”  Dr. Hahn goes on to quote Aquinas himself, who wrote, “As words formed by man are signs of his intellectual knowledge, so are creatures formed by God signs of His wisdom.”

Throughout his latest work, Dr. Hahn points to the Biblical basis for the relationships which Christians enjoy with the angels and saints.  He goes beyond simply giving biographical summaries on these individuals, into providing examples of how each of them led lives closely tied to the Scriptures.  Whether you are learning about them for the first time, or they are old and dear friends, you will come away from this book better-informed about what Christians believe about the angels and saints, as well as having a deeper insight into their lives.

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GIVEAWAY!

For a chance to win a free copy of Scott Hahn’s new book, Angels and Saints, register with your name and email address by following this link.  Only one entry per reader, please.  Entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Thursday, June 5th.  The winner will be announced on Friday, June 6th.

Giveaway for Scott Hahn’s Latest Book!

Beginning today, to celebrate the release of his latest book, you can take a 12-day virtual road trip around the blogosphere with Dr. Scott Hahn – and Blog of the Courtier is one of the stops on the tour!

The well-known Catholic author, theologian, and broadcaster’s latest book, Angels and Saints, looks at the Biblical basis for Church teaching about these figures.  Dr. Hahn considers what we know from Scripture and from history about some of the angels and saints, and examines the lives of those who have been particularly meaningful to him, and in the life of the Church.  Some of those whom Dr. Hahn writes about include St. Michael the Archangel, Moses, and St. Therese of Lisieux, among many others. 

The blog tour for Angels and Saints will be stopping off here on June 3rd. Appropriately enough, since I’m a huge Dominican fanboy, I’ll be contributing my thoughts on Dr. Hahn’s chapter about the great Dominican theologian and Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas.  And to entice you into dropping by on June 3rd, Image Books will very graciously be giving away a copy of Dr. Hahn’s new book to one of my lucky readers! Be sure to check back on the day for details about how you can win.

You can check out the list of all 12 blogs hosting the tour in this press release.  There are some great writers participating whose work you may already be familiar with, like Billy Kangas over at The Orant on Patheos, and Lisa Hendey at CatholicMom.  Others on the trip may be new to you *and* to me, so I’m really looking forward to discovering some new fellow scriveners to add to my e-reader.

Hope you’ll be dropping by this and all the sites on the blog tour, and a very warm thanks to Image Books for letting me be a part of it!

Scott Hahn Angels and Saints