St Thomas Aquinas for Everyone by Dave Palmer
Book Review by Nancy Ward
“St. Thomas is the greatest doctor of the Church,” author Dave Palmer said, “and I assert that children can be taught his basic philosophy, as I do with my 11- and 7-year olds.”
Let’s Go Find God is the enticing teaser of Volume I. The full title of the series tells it all: St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone, 30 Quick and Fun Lessons, Activities and Outdoor Adventures Based on the Summa Theologica.
The arrangement, approach and intended audience make St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone a dynamic tool to teach children the spirituality of awareness. Dave organized each of the 30 interactive lessons into six sections, including a “Fun Activity” and an “Outdoor Adventure”. My favorite section is “Awe and Wonder”, which is a reflection on the “St. Thomas Says” section, and how it applies to my life.
Let’s Go Find God is the first of eight volumes that will eventually cover the entire Summa—the life’s work for the author whose day job has him directing a Catholic radio station.
He heard so much talk about St. Thomas in theology and liturgy discussions, Dave just knew he had to read the Summa Theologica. Eight years ago he started reading it, finished in 9 months, and immediately started over.
What struck him about the Summa was that it’s not complicated, as most people experience. “There was a simplicity that struck me very pointedly and unexpectedly,” he said.
“It changed the way I see the world!” Dave said. “Everything was different from before I read the Summa to after I read it. It gave me a blueprint for directing my life to God, to the way I live my life.”
To summarize the Summa, Dave evoked John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” Dave explained, “It’s about knowing God! Ever since I read the Summa, I’ve had a burning desire to get to know God. Of course, God exceeds our ability to understand him. Is it impossible to know him? Well, no, because he’s left clues of himself everywhere we look.”
The Summa teaches that God is perfection. He is everywhere. In every moment, he is around us, in everything. Dave thought, “Okay, I can go find God. Every single day of my life can be an exciting adventure. I can explore and find God in everything.”
In the Summa, St. Thomas distinguishes different hierarchies of heaven. What determines our place in heaven? The one with the greatest charity, the one who has the greatest desire for God lives in the highest place. The Summa helps us come to know God as much as possible now so we can prepare to live with him forever in heaven. That’s why Dave contends that St. Thomas remains relevant, and why the Church continues to encourage us in the restoration of Christian philosophy.
“St. Thomas had the gold standard in philosophy. A host of atheist philosophers since then have been chipping away at the basic pure, optimistic philosophy of St. Thomas. These philosophies are seeping into universities, books, movies—throughout our culture,” Dave said. “We don’t have to wait until our children are 18, and we send them off to college to their first philosophy class. We can teach our children while their minds are absorbing everything.”
Dave knows the average person needs to know St. Thomas, this “Doctor of the Doctors of the Church” and patron saint of Catholic education. Yet no one is reading him. Dave designed the book to train teachers, parents, grandparents how to teach Thomistic philosophy.
Cause and effect in creation
Dave thinks 5-year-olds can be taught the basics of Thomistic philosophy, such as recognizing beauty and connecting it with God. For example, parents, grandparents, and educators can instill simple principles about cause and effect. Discovering a leaf means a tree is nearby. Seeing the sun come up means we have warmth and light. Using the “Outdoor Activity Guide”, children see cause and effect in nature, reminders of God, our Creator.
Soon they engage in a deeper conversation with God. They are finding God through their senses, transcending the world. Awareness brings awe and wonder – and gratitude!
What are we waiting for? Let’s go find God!
[box type=”bio”] Dave Palmer lives in Texas with his wife, Paula, and their three children. He earned a Masters degree in Theology from the University of Dallas and has spent the past ten years studying and teaching the theology and philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas to young people through online courses and religious education classes at his parish. He serves as the Executive Director of the Guadalupe Radio Network’s Catholic radio station in North Texas. He has a passion for helping people of all ages to better know, love and desire God more passionately through a deeper understanding of St. Thomas Aquinas’ masterpiece, the Summa Theologica.[/box]
Art: Cover of St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone and the photograph of Dave Palmer, both used with permission.