ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, PRIEST, DOCTOR
In St. Thomas Aquinas "the Middle Ages reached its full
flowering and Christianity received its most towering influential
intellect." O. Delaney, Dictionary of Saints, p, 553). Thomas
has also been called "the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic
tradition of reason and of Divine Revelation."
Born in 1225, Thomas was sent at age 5 to the Benedictine
Abbey at Monte Casino. His mother hoped that he would one
day be the abbot. Thomas later chose to join the Dominicans,
and did so in 1244 over the objections of his family. He
completed his studies under St. Albert the Great and was
ordained a priest at Cologne, Germany in 1248. For the next
several years he taught in Paris, Rome, Naples and other cities,
but his greatest contribution to the Church are his philosophical
and theological writings.
In the pursuit of knowledge he taught that faith and reason,
help us to arrive at certain conclusions. In the Summa Theologica
he wrote: "We must say that for the knowledge of any truth
whatsoever man needs divine help. But he does not need a new
light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all
things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge."
As brilliant as his theological writings are, it is in his many
commentaries and spiritual writings that we find a wealth of
practical advice and guidance. From his Commentary on the
Creed we read an excerpt in today's Office of Readings:
"Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was
a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way:
in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an
example of how to act.
"It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur
on account of our sins, we have found relief through the
passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the
passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives."
St Thomas saw Christ on the Cross as an example of love
and of patience in suffering. He was an example of humility in
submitting to the judgement of Pilate, and in obeying the will
of his Father.
The asceticism of St Thomas Aquinas can be appreciated as
he continues in this commentary:
"If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow
him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom
are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon
the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck,
crowned with thoms, and given only vinegar and gall to
"Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches,
because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to
honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings.
Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they
placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my
thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
He was very learned, yet he was also a man of great humility
and holiness. Thomas Aquinas continues to teach us by his word
and example. He is the patron of universities, colleges and
schools, and his theology dominated Catholic teaching for seven
centuries. Thomas died in 1274, was canonized in 1323, and
proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567.
Through his intercession we pray today that we "grow in
wisdom by his teaching, and in holiness by imitating his faith."