Faithful Friday: Thomas Aquinas

By Nicholas Moreau (Rated G)

St. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1225 in the modern day providence of Lazio, Italy to a wealthy and influential family. He studied at the prestigious Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassio as a child, but later resolved to join the recently-founded Dominican order (which drew the ire of his family because of the Dominican’s common lifestyle). Though St. Thomas earned the nickname “Dumb Ox” from his Dominican peers because of his lumbering size and quiet demeanor, his teacher St. Albert the Great prophetically declared “You call him the Dumb Ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.”

St. Thomas became a prolific theological writer, famously dictating his thoughts for different works to multiple secretaries simultaneously. St. Thomas drew heavily from Ancient Greek philosophy, most notably Aristotle, who Thomas held in such high regard that he simply referred to him as “The Philosopher” throughout his works. His seminal work is the Summa Theologica (or Summa Theologiae), a massive multi-volume explanation and defense of all of the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church. The Summa deals with everything including the existence and composition of God, the purpose of mankind, the virtues and vices, the different types of law, the incarnation and life of Christ, the seven Sacraments, and much more. The Summa Theologica has been held in such high regard that it was famously featured on the altar alongside the Holy Scriptures during the Council of Trent.

But beyond being an intellectual genius, St. Thomas was a model of Christian humility and devotion. There are two accounts of his supernatural encounters with God that exemplify this above all else. The first, as told by Thomas’ personal assistant Brother Reginald, occurred as Thomas was agonizing over whether his writings on the Eucharist were accurate in front of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar in his chapel. According to Brother Reginald (who testified under oath), a voice came distinctly from the crucifix above the altar, “Thomas, you have written well of me. What do you desire?” Thomas, in an act of pure humility, responded “Non nisi te, Domine” (“Nothing but You, Lord”).

The second event occurred as Thomas was celebrating Mass on the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6, 1273. During the Mass, he experienced a vision so earth-shattering that he gave up his writing entirely, leaving his Summa Theologica forever unfinished. When asked why he would no longer write, he responded “Compared to what I have seen, all I have written seems to me as straw.” Let us, too, desire nothing but the Lord, and be satisfied with nothing but Him.

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