" "We beseech Mary the immaculate to prepare our hearts to receive Her Divine Son worthily…" - St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Remembering St. Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas was born to a noble family in Aquino (Italy) in 1225. They objected to his entering the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) but he did so in 1244. At the age of nineteen, he went on to study under Saint Albert the Great.  His life is succinctly but beautifully summarized in today’s “Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers”:

 “He devoted all his energy to the service      of  truth,  eagerly searching it out, lovingly contemplating it, and imparting it to others through his writing, his teaching and his preaching. His life was marked by devotion to the Passion of the Lord, to the mystery of the Eucharist, and to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.”

Known as the Angelic Doctor, he is often described as one of the greatest philosophers, theologians and Catholic teachers of all time. This is the man who produced the Summa Theologiae, the theological master piece that has survived centuries of scrutiny, continues to guide the Church, and is the foundation upon which Dominican friars and countless priests, religious and lay men and women have been and are currently being formed.

St. Thomas began working on the Summa in 1266. But in 1273, three months before his death, he abruptly and intentionally chose not to complete this work. It has been reported that he “underwent an experience so intense” while saying Mass on the feast day of St. Nicholas (December 6, 1273), that after that Mass, he stated he could no longer write “because all that I have written seems to me so much straw”. 

As brilliant, learned, and insightful as St. Thomas Aquinas was he was above all things:  humble. Less we forget that learning can often lure us to excessive pride, he left us these pearls of wisdom: “The highest form of teaching comes not from books written, but from lives lived.”

Thomas died on March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Catholic Church in 1567. Pope Leo XII declared him Patron of all Universities and Catholic Schools.

No discussion of St. Thomas Aquinas, even such a short inadequate summary as this, should end without some mention of the beautiful Eucharistic hymns that he left for his beloved Church. Only a man who intimately loved his Eucharistic Lord could have been used by that loving God to compose Adoro te Devote, Pange LinguaPanis Angelicus or Tantum Ergo. Why not spend a few quiet minutes today listening to and allowing the majestic nature of these songs stir your heart and soul?

[Today there are many ways to access the Summa Theologiae. New Advent has an online-searchable version. My Lay Dominican sister, Faith Flaherty, at The One True Faith blog, recently linked to other contemporary resources.

If you don’t feel up to tackling the Summa head on right now, then consider a great classic -  one of my favorite books - My Way of Life (Pocket Edition of St. Thomas, The Summa Simplified for Everyone) by Walter Farrell, O.P. S.T.M. and Martin J. Healy, S.T.D. Easy to understand and only $8.50 (plus postage) it is a spiritual steal. You can go directly to the Confraternity of the Precious Blood in Brooklyn, N.Y. and arrange to purchase your copy. You will not regret the purchase. I am not affiliated with the Confraternity of the Precious Blood and will receive no remuneration for making this recommendation. This is just a “must have resource” for any Catholic serious about studying his/her Faith.]
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Sources: Picture of St. Thomas -Jared Dees; Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers; Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae; Thomas Aquinas’ Big Pileof Straw by Fred Sanders, and You Tube

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