Occasionally, there comes along a book so unexpectedly rich and deep that it simply cannot be read except in small sections and with much reflection on its contents. My Way of Life: Pocket Edition of St. Thomas--The Summa Simplified for Everyone is just such a book. I ran across this little-known work hidden away in a used bookstore in Virginia last summer, and I have found it a magnificent simplification of St. Thomas' Summa. Moreover, I have found it a powerful aid to the spiritual and moral life when combined with frequent reflection and meditation on the simple truths contained therein.
The beauty of this little book, in addition to the profound thoughts of St. Thomas it captures, is the outstanding writing of its two authors. Part I is the work of the distinguished Thomist scholar, Walter Farrell, O.P., who died after its completion. Parts II and III were written by Martin J. Healy, former Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in New York. Both authors relate in clear and easily understandable terms the weighty thoughts of St. Thomas, which is no small task.
I cannot recommend highly enough this virtual handbook for living. Farrell's first two chapters (Part I) on "The One God" and "Knowledge and Love of God" are a stunning introduction to the places this book will take you. And, the section (Chapter V of Pt. IIa) on "Happiness and the Passions" made me dizzy with its depth, complexity and profundity. Healy writes: "The passions are all ordered, whether directly or indirectly, to the good of man. If they lead a man to evil, whether physical or moral, it will be due to some defect in man's perception of what is good or evil for him or to some defect in his will which leads him to choose what is physically or morally evil." The chapter (V of Pt. IIb) , "Justice: Happiness in Society", ought to be required reading in American law schools (but don't hold your breath).
Clearly, My Way of Life is Catholic in its theology, particularly Part III, but much within its pages would be profitable to all people of good will. "Unless the mind of a man is nourished on truth, his heart is shrunken and starved . . . Our hearts can be aflame only with the fuel offered by our minds." (pp. 24-25). This book will nourish the mind and set the heart aflame.