Catholic Commute S02E21 What is Wisdom

And why does it matter?

Wisdom is something we all say we want, but most of us don’t really know what it means or why we want it.  It sounds good, but isn’t really compelling.  Maybe, it seems like it might somehow be helpful, but we have more important and timely concerns that steal our time away.

This episode is the start of a series, dedicated to exploring wisdom, and her affect on our lives.  The goal is to explore how wisdom affects every part of our lives: leading us to fulfillment and purpose, and also helping us past the obstacles to getting there.  I hope that this episode will inspire you to continue listening and develop a deeper appreciation of wisdom.

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S02E21 What is Wisdom?


Patron Saint: St. Thomas Aquinas


Thomas is believed to have been born in the castle of Roccasecca in the old county of the Kingdom of Sicily.  

It is believed that Thomas was introduced to his philosophical influences – Aristotle, Averroes, and Maimonides – at the university, where he also met John of St. Julian, a Dominican preacher, who influenced him to join the recently founded Dominican Order.

When Thomas’ family learned of his decision, his mother Theodora arranged for him to be moved to Paris. When Thomas was travelling to Rome, his brothers captured him and returned him to their parents at the castle of Monte San Giovanni Campano.

Thomas was held captive in the castle for one year as his family tried to keep him from joining the Dominican Order. In the year he was held, Thomas tutored his sisters and communicated with members of the Dominican Order.

In an effort to change Thomas’ mind, two of his brothers hired a prostitute to seduce him, but legends claim Thomas drove her off with a fire iron. That night, two angels appeared to him in a dream and strengthened his resolve to remain celibate.

When Theodora realized she could not sway her son, she tried to preserve the family name by arranging for his escape through a window. She believed a secret escape was better than appearing to accept his decision.

Following his escape in 1244, Thomas turned to Naples, then to Rome and met the Master General of the Dominical Order, Johannes von Wildeshausen.

In 1248, Thomas chose to follow Mangus to the new studium generale at Cologne rather than accepting Pope Innocent IV’s offer to appoint him abbot of Monte Cassino as a Dominican. Though Thomas hesitated, when they reached the university, Mangus appointed him magister studentium.

Thomas was quiet and seldom spoke at the university, leading other students to believe he was mentally delayed, but Mangus prophetically said, “You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.”


[Lots of teaching and books]

While teaching, Thomas wrote his most famous work, Summa theologiae, which he believed was particularly useful to beginning students “because a doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but to him pertains also to instruct beginners.”

At the conclusion of his regency, the Dominicans called Thomas to establish a university wherever he wanted with a staff of whomever he wished. He established the university in Naples and took the regent master post. In 1273 Thomas was seen by the sacristan Domenic of Caserta to be crying and levitating in prayer before an icon of the crucified Christ at the Dominican convent of Naples, in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas.

During this prayer, Christ is said to have told him, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?”

Thomas replied, “Nothing but you, Lord.”

Following this exchange, something happened but Thomas never wrote or spoke of it. He abandoned his routine and, when begged to return to work, replied, “I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.”

In May of 1274, Thomas was called to the Second Council of Lyon, where his works for Pope Urban IV would be presented. While journeying to the meeting, Thomas hit his head on the branch of a fallen tree and fell ill. He was escorted to Monte Cassino to recover, then he set out again.

Unfortunately, he became ill once again and stopped at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey, where the monks cared for him for several days.

He received his last rites and prayed, “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught…”

Thomas died on March 7, 1274 during a commentary on the Song of Songs.

A Student’s Prayer by St. Thomas

Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance.

Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion.

This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever.



What does Wisdom really mean for a modern day person?

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.


  1. What is important in life?
    1. Society tells us money and pleasure
      1. Suicide rates say otherwise
      2. End of life reflections also
    2. Who we hang out with
    3. Proverbs 1:10 My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
    4. Who we help
    5. Who we become
  2. What truly makes us happy?
    1. Time Article by Josh Sanburn (May be only time I reference Time): our self-reported happiness levels are largely based on comparisons with others — and proximity to more successful people makes us view our own situation negatively. The easiest way to solve this? Try to forget about what’s happening on the other side of the fence. It’s not always greener.
    2. Find happiness through helping others
    3. Joy of childhood
    4. Story of Rose giving her coin to Poppy at mass
    5. Somehow we forget this as we go forward in life
    6. Story of last year of our finances – we constantly worried, but God provided.  By worrying, we destroyed our happiness.
    7. Relationships.  We are made for relationships!
  3. How do relationships work?
    1. Giving of ourselves
    2. Revealing of ourselves
    3. Letting go of ourselves
    4. Story of C.S. Lewis Great-Divorce style Hell
    5. John the Baptist: “I must decrease, He must increase.”
    6. Last Sunday was feast of St. Therese of Liseux.  She went out of her way to serve and give, especially to those whom she liked the least.
    7. Tim Keller, Cosmic dance – We move in relation to how others move.
  4. What is our purpose in life?
    1. To join the dance.
    2. It isn’t just to hoard up STUFF.  STUFF cannot love you back. STUFF cannot console you when you are sad, or celebrate when you win.  STUFF cannot connect with you. STUFF can bring you pleasure, but ultimately it’s all meaningless
    3. Yet, we are afraid to go too deeply into the dance.  To go all the way in means to risk tripping and falling flat on our face.
    4. The role of “wisdom” here is two-fold
      1. Points us to the dance and says “It’s worth it!!”
      2. Gives us some times to avoid tripping.  E.g. tie your shoe laces
    5. Paul in start of Hebrews 12: Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses
    6. We start in very small dances.  Child with parent. Much like a daddy-daughter dance, half the time they are holding us
    7. We move to the more socially awkward dances.  Middle and High school dances. [my past] Wisdom is constantly urging – go out and try!
    8. At this point we have a choice.  Do we take the risk, and start training for the adult dance?  Or do we choose to retreat to the wall, maybe even slide on down to the refreshments area?
  5. How do we become fulfilled?
    1. Dan Long: “With these hands, did I build people up, or did I tear people down?”
    2. Consider the end.
    3. It is great wisdom to know, and even briefly focus upon the consequences, that we will have an end.
    4. The generation I come from simply DOES NOT KNOW how to be fulfilled.  We, by and large, have had more money than ever before. It’s not enough.  We’re searching
    5. Yet, here is the church, almost screaming “It’s here!!” and we don’t want to listen.  Or worse, maybe we half-listen. We say “yea yea I do that stuff…mostly.”
    6. I have this notion in my mind that older generations, like maybe 1600s to early 1900s at least knew a little bit about peace and fulfilment.  Slower pace.
    7. Wisdom was valued then.  A “learned man” could converse on any topic and be both practical and philosophical.
    8. I offer this as you to a goal.  Not for your ego, but because it is both the enabling key and the means to achieving fulfillment through relationships.  Come join with me on a journey of Wisdom.


  1. What is important in life?
  2. What truly makes us happy?
  3. How do relationships work?
  4. What is our purpose in life?
  5. How do we become fulfilled?


Proverbs 1:20-23

Wisdom cries out in the street;
   in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out;
   at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
   and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
   I will make my words known to you.

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