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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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The "Opuscula" or "Little Treatises" are very numerous. In the course of

time works were listed among the "Opuscula" which were not written by St.

Thomas. In the "official" catalogue of Reginald of Piperno the "Opuscula"

number seventy. They may be roughly classified as philosophical and

theological, on moral and canonical questions, on Liturgy and the religious

life, and catechetical instructions. There are some "Opuscula" not listed

in the "official" catalogue which are now considered authentic. The five

"Opuscula" which are translated in the present volume are undoubtedly

authentic." The Explanations of the "Creed," the "Our Father," and the "Ten

Commandments" are numbers 66, 65, 68 respectively in the catalogue which

was prepared for the process of canonization of St. Thomas. The Explanation

of the "Hail Mary" is listed in the catalogue of Bernard Guidonis and in

later lists. This is noteworthy, since Bernard had before him the official

list. Both Mandonnet and Grabmann consider the work authentic. 10 St. Thomas

gave these Explanations to the students and people of Naples during his

last Lenten season on earth. The talks on the Ten Commandments were written

down by Peter d'Andrea, and the Explanation of the other prayers were

faithfully reported by his secretary and companion, Reginald of Piperno.


The "Explanation of the Seven Sacraments" is the second part of the

treatise, "De fidei articulis et septem sacramentis," which St. Thomas

wrote at the request of the Archbishop of Palermo in 1261-62. It is

noteworthy that the famed "Decretum pro Armenis" (Instruction for the

Armenians), issued by the authority of the Council of Florence, is taken

almost verbatim from the second part of this "Opusculum" (i.e., the

"Explanation of the Seven Sacraments"). It is not a definition of the

Council, but a practical instruction, as Denzinger points out. 11


The latest editions of the "Opuscula" are the Vives edition (Paris) of

1871-80 and the Parma edition of 1852-73. This latter edition is reedited

by Mandonnet with a new order and an introduction (Lethielleux, Paris,

1927). The "catechetical" "Opuscula" are here given in one volume in

English for the first time. An English translation of two of these under

the title, "On the Commandments" and "On the Lord's Prayer," was made by

the Reverend H. A. Rawes in England in 1891. It is now out of print and

practically inaccessible. Recently an English translation was made by Rev.

Lawrence Shapcote, O. P., in two small volumes with the titles, "The Three

Greatest Prayers" and "The Commandments of God" (Burns and Oates, 1937).

The "Explanation of the Seven Sacraments," however, is here given for the

first time in English.



10. Mandonnet, "Des Ecrits," etc., 66; Grabmann, "op. cit.," 232-337.


11. "Enchiridion Symbolorum," n. 695.


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