From a master of the twentieth century neo-Thomistic school, this volume presents Austin Woodbury’s profound explanation of what the sacraments, instituted by Jesus Christ, hold in common.
Woodbury begins by investigating the fittingness of the sacraments in light of humanity’s current sinful condition. He then outlines the existence of the sacraments before Christ’s coming, under the law of nature and the Mosaic Law, before speaking of the sacraments instituted by Christ in the New Law.
Woodbury then considers the sacraments’ metaphysical essence, showing them to be in the genus of sign, causative of what they signify, and sanctifying man. He demonstrates how the sacraments not only signify (and cause grace) but also Christ’s passion, and our heavenly glory. Woodbury explains the sacraments’ physical essence: composed of matter and form; and explains the manner by which Christ determined these components for each sacrament.
Woodbury then speaks of how the sacraments contain and cause grace. He outlines the requirements for a sacrament’s validity and fruitfulness, then offers a detailed study of three important theological opinions and provides his solution to the question of how sacraments actually cause grace. He also offers his solution to the question of whether validly though unfruitfully received sacraments actually cause grace once the recipient is revived back to a state of grace.
Next, Woodbury explains the sacraments’ primary and secondary effects: sacramental grace and the character received with Baptism, Confirmation, and Orders.
Lastly, Woodbury answers and discusses two important questions: (1) Who can institute and administer the sacraments? (2) Who can receive them?
Woodbury finishes his text with a short appendix on sacramentals, explaining their nature, division, and effects, and the manner by which they cause grace in their recipients.
Who was Father Austin Maloney Woodbury?
Father Austin Maloney Woodbury S.M. (1899-1979) was a Marist priest and an Australian Thomistic philosopher and theologian, who in the 1920s received doctorates in both Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas in the City (the Angelicum) in Rome under the renowned Dominican theologian Father Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. (1877-1964). Woodbury founded Sydney’s Aquinas Academy in 1945, a school of Philosophy and Theology aimed at educating lay people in the rich intellectual tradition of Christianity. He headed the Academy until 1975, teaching a strictly scholastic Philosophy and Theology based on the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). In his own lifetime Woodbury was distinguished by some of his scholarly contemporaries as having penned “one of the greatest courses in philosophy ever written in the English language.”