Book Review: The Quiet Light by Louis De Wohl

“What is God?”

“What is God?” was one of the first questions raised by the young gifted Thomas Aquinas. An intelligent, contemplative young monk, Thomas spent a majority of his time in quiet study and writing about God, Theology and philosophy and such matters of his faith. Thomas’ journey takes the reader through the fascinating inward ruminations of Thomas to forbidden loves and the ruthlessness of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The Quiet Light weaves these three elements together in roughly equal proportions but the center of it all is a story of what formed the thinking of Thomas Aquinas. What we read is a taste of his philosophy and theology that impacted the world around him and will soon become what many Christian philosophers and theologians know as ‘Thomistic philosophy”.

When a teenaged Thomas decides to take a vow of poverty and join the Dominican Order, his family becomes hostile to the decision and deem it an ‘embarrassment’. His mother instead has ambitions for him to rise to high authority in the Church. Coming from a very distinguished family, his mother and brothers take great pains to keep him from joining and succeed in bringing him back. After he comes home, they find that opposing Thomas’ obedience to God is futile. There begins his journey as he eventually is smuggled away from his house, enters the University of Naples, begins to teach Theology, and is instructed under Saint Albertus the Great. He then rises to increasing prominence within the church. In between the major episodes of Thomas’s life we also follow developments in the lives of those close to him. We meet Piers, a knight and guard to his love, Theodora, who also happens to be Thomas’ sister. Piers becomes a close friend to Thomas as he supports and begins to truly admire him. He is one of many characters we see who is truly impacted by Thomas as he changes from a man of war, violence, and philosophical questions to a man who begins to adopt a deeper understanding of who God is. In this book we also become well acquainted with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick the II, himself a brilliant man whose life of apostasy and violence serves as a counterpoint to Thomas. Many trials and tribulations arise from his reign, but it is Thomas that brings the peace and thoughtful serenity to the story and reminds us how we all can have a positive impact no matter our circumstances. A man of childlike simplicity, Thomas brings to this book peace, kindness, and strong intellect that we can cherish and learn from.

Even if you are mediocre at best in philosophy or Theology, this book is well worth it. This book has the potential to sharpen any mind, strengthen the spirit, and touch the heart. If not that, the story will definitely stay with you. It gifts the reader with strong theology, philosophy, and not to put it too simply, a good role model of Christian living. Louis De Wohl did a phenomenal job painting for us a masterpiece in words of who Thomas was and how he interacted with the common problems he faced in the time period. He modeled for us grace, reason, and gentleness. One of many examples of this is (that I really enjoyed reading) is when his family stole him away from entering into a choice of poverty in the Dominican Order. As his mother and brothers locked him up in his room for an entire year, they assumed that he would change his mind being isolated away from the world and torn away from what he truly wanted to do. Little did they know, instead of shouting about the injustice and rebelling, he quietly and gently took his time waiting on God to act and believing in God to change his circumstance if He saw fit to. He saw through his family with love and kindness and had faith that perhaps God allowed his confinement to happen to change something in them, and change it did. While confined in his room with his siblings coming and going, Thomas had the opportunity of impacting his siblings simply by remaining obedient to God and by talking of theology to anyone who would listen. Out of that obedience came great changes not only to his sister, but also in his situation. At first as you are reading, the different story lines can be a bit confusing in that you assume Thomas is the main character and as the norm with any biography, you might assume the story line focuses inherently on Thomas. But in seeing the full picture of the time of Thomas, reading the words he spoke and interactions with other characters in life, this book brings it all full circle. This book fascinated me and struck me with how much theological insight and philosophy it gives you while also weaving a wonderful story line. By the end, I simply adored Thomas and his gifts that he used freely for the glory of God. I highly recommend this book. It is chock-full of philosophical and theological gems and we can all, and should, glean from it!

You can find the book here!

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