As mentioned yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the bicentennial of Pope Leo XIII's birth last weekend, going to Leo's birthplace in Carpineto Romano.
One of Leo's most seminal accomplishments was to renew Catholic scholarship which, understandably, had not flourished during the reign of his predeccesor Pius IX, author of the Index of Forbidden Books. Leo's method was very conservative, in its way. In an 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris, Leo called for renewed focus on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was, you will pardon the expression, a distinctly Catholic way of inaugurating renewal. Leo encouraged Catholic scholars to return to the great medieval theologian who was much more adventurous a thinker than some of his followers. After all, Thomas had tried to introduce Aristotle to Christian philosophy, a revolutionary different way of approaching philosophy from what went before. Thomists may have grown timid in the nineteenth century, but Thomas had not been timid.