The new Hungarian ambassador to the Court of St. Peter, Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, who wrote a dissertation on Thomism, comments in an interview about why Thomistic philosophy disappeared for a while in the twentieth century:
"I found that the Thomistic philosophy that I wrote about was always closely linked to Thomistic theology. And Thomistic theology, of course, began to disappear in the 1950s, because all the theologians discovered the Church fathers and patristic theology and, while Thomistic theology made sense to prepare you for Thomistic or scholastic theology, it didn’t seem to make sense to prepare you for patristic theology. So, in a way, all this apparatus for formation suddenly seemed to have become obsolete; and that’s how, in my opinion, it disappeared. Even the most stout defenders of Thomism didn’t really see what they were fighting for anymore. Thomism disappeared for 20 years."
He adds, "now it's back with a vengeance. Everywhere in the world, there are centers .... Good philosophy never dies. It will transform and come back differently."
I am sure Mr. Habsburg-Lothringen is right that many theologians of the time thought Thomism didn’t prepare them to understand the Fathers, but what an irony that is: St. Thomas did his work in large part to understand the Fathers better. At every opportunity, he quotes them; his work is drenched in them; his pages drip with their words. But what they had said unsystematically, he tried to say systematically, working through the difficulties and obscurities with the help of new philosophical tools.
It seems to me that anyone who thought St. Thomas did not prepare him to understand the Patristic writers must have understood neither St. Thomas nor the Patristic writers very well.