There was a tangible air of excitement at St Benedict’s School in Ealing, west London, on January 24 as the RE department played host to the fifth annual Aquinas dinner in honour of the patron saint of theologians, St Thomas Aquinas.
Sixth-form students of theology, philosophy and ethics, school staff and members of the monastic community enjoyed an uplifting evening which culminated in the after-dinner speech by guest of honour Dr Nicholas Austin SJ, a lecturer in Christian ethics at Heythrop College, University of London. Dr Austin published his doctorate in theology on St Thomas Aquinas.
The celebration began at 6pm with Mass in the school’s Sacred Heart chapel, concelebrated by Fr Alexander Bevan OSB and Dr Austin. A sumptuous dinner was then served in the Orchard Hall. After toasts had been proposed to the Holy Father and the Queen, Dr Austin made his speech about the pursuit of happiness. He proposed that society’s obsession with pleasure seeking and easy profits – the hedonistic approach – is misplaced.
Instead, he argued that contentment comes from living a meaningful life. This was very much St Thomas Aquinas’s view, building on the basic question posed centuries earlier by Aristotle in his work Nicomachean Ethics: what makes a good life?
Dominic Tighe, upper sixth philosophy student, said: “The dinner was a huge success. Dr Austin spoke very engagingly and gave us much to think about, in particular, that happiness, like profits, must be sought indirectly.”