Ralph McInerny

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I went to Mass once with Ralph McInerny. Well, that’s an exaggeration. My family and I were sitting in Sacred Heart Basilica at Notre Dame, just as Mass was starting. An older man slipped into the empty spot next to one of my kids. After about twenty minutes, I leaned over to Marie and said, “I’m pretty sure that’s Ralph McInerny.” After Mass, I caught up with him and introduced myself. He was gracious, but unimpressed. I then asked him if I could borrow $100. He was even more unimpressed and tad bit less gracious.

That last sentence was a joke, but the rest of the paragraph is a true recount of another of my brushes with contemporary Catholic greatness. (I trust the reader senses my self-deprecating sarcasm.)

My favorite McInerny book is his St. Thomas Aquinas. I think it’s a masterpiece (whereas his First Glance at Thomas Aquinas is pretty bad, though I can’t remember why I disliked it so much). Unfortunately, St. Thomas Aquinas was hard to find in the past. It first came out in 1977 and had apparently fallen out of print periodically. It’s currently printed by University of Notre Dame Press, and has been for quite a few years now. I’m optimistic it’ll remain in print for a long time.

It’s a nifty little book, about 170 pages, divided into about 35 chapters and sub-sections, so it’s easy to bite off small chunks (such MTV-attention-span approaches weren’t common back in the 1970s). The reader will be rewarded with biography, history, (lots of) philosophy, and theology. My copy is heavily underlined. Expect many quotes from it here at TDE, like this one:

“The will is a power whose object is the end and good. A thing is called good to the degree that it is an object of desire, of appetency. And of course something is desired insofar as it is regarded as perfective of the desirer.”

Ideally, I’ll offer some commentary on such arguably dry philosophical statements like this, but even if I don’t, each such quote will be worth thinking about. STA, after all, is the philosopher of common sense, pointing out things that everyone knows but, at the same time, lead upwards.