In the preface to his Septem sacramenta (1878–1884), Franz Liszt acknowledged its stimulus — drawings completed in 1862 by the German painter J. F. Overbeck (1789–1869). This essay explores what Liszt likely meant by his and Overbeck’s “diametrically opposed” approaches and speculates on why the composer nonetheless acknowledged the artist’s work. Each man adopted an individualized treatment of the sacraments, neither in line with the Church’s neo-Thomistic philosophy. Whereas the Church insisted on the sanctifying effects of the sacraments’ graces, Overbeck emphasized the sacraments as a means for moral edification, and Liszt expressed their emotional effects on the receiver. Furthermore, Overbeck embedded within his work an overt polemical message in response to the contested position of the pope in the latter half of the nineteenth century. For many in Catholic circles, he went too far. Both works experienced a problematic reception. Yet, despite their works’ reception, both Overbeck and Liszt believed they had contributed to the sacred art of their time. The very individuality of Overbeck’s treatment seems to have stimulated Liszt. True to his generous nature, Liszt, whose individual voice often went unappreciated, publicly recognized an equally individual voice in the service of the Church.
Modern humanism, in the form of Marxism and existentialism, is humanism without God where the present-day man has lost his transcendental sources. These novel, "post-modern" philosophies have created a new mythology, i.e. the myth of existence (Sein) and ontology. In the 20th century, ontology is no more the science of the existent but that of the existence. According to Heidegger, all previous philosophy forgot about existence, beclouded being. In my essay I aim to show that the accusation of forgetting about being is valid exactly for the new, fashionable philosophies. They constantly refer to "existence", whereas in fact they narrow it down to material and perceptible existent (the matter) or the subjective existent (the human being), i.e., they are concerned with the existent and not existence itself. And this is the root of the tragedy of modern man. With regard to Christian tradition, and thus Thomism-neo-Thomism, ontology had indeed been the science of the existent (ens). However, an in-depth analysis shows that existence (esse) and not the existent stands at the core of St. Thomas's teachings. Hence the accusation of Heidegger is not valid for Aquinas. As a matter of fact, St. Thomas elaborated an extraordinary ontology even in a "post-Heideggerian" sense. St. Thomas himself is going to be our guide in this treatise. We might as well say that Aquinas himself answers the problems of existence of present-day man. One can build an undistorted humanism upon this ontology, which avoids the one-sidedness and immanentism of both materialism and subjectivism. The Christian humanism of the man open to existence, to God, is the unspoilt heritage of Saint Thomas.