I have a deep respect for Thomas Aquinas. I have read portions of his Summa Theologica and always come away the better for it. So I was intrigued when I saw a blog post entitled “Five Remedies for Sorrow From Saint Thomas Aquinas.” Thomas asks the question “Whether pain or sorrow is assuaged by tears?” That is to say does crying really help alleviate pain or sorrow? His answer is yes, it does. He writes,
“Tears and groans naturally assuage sorrow: and this for two reasons. First, because a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened. This is why when men, burdened with sorrow, make outward show of their sorrow, by tears or groans or even by words, their sorrow is assuaged.–Secondly, because an action, that befits a man according to his actual disposition, is always pleasant to him. Now tears and groans are actions befitting a man who is in sorrow or pain; and consequently they become pleasant to him. Since then, as stated above, every pleasure assuages sorrow or pain somewhat, it follows that sorrow is assuaged by weeping and groans.” (ST I IIae 38.2)
Now for a personal note. This past September 18th marked the 4th anniversary of my son’s death. He would have been 27 this year. On that day my family and I went to visit his grave. As we shared memories of Joshua I felt the urge to get on my knees. As I knelt down and embraced his headstone I sobbed like a baby. Even writing this brings fresh tears. It was a profoundly moving moment for me and the tears provided a sense of relief. I like the way Thomas says it here, it “assuages sorrow or pain somewhat.” The pain will never be completely gone. But in that moment there was a measure of relief.
We don’t think of Thomas Aquinas much as a pastor but in this moment he certainly is.
Joshua David McBride