Saint of the Day – 28 January – St Thomas Aquinas O.P. (1225-1274 aged 49) THE ANGELIC DOCTOR – DOCTOR of the CHURCH/Priest, Religious, Theologian, Philosopher, Write, Teacher, Jurist. Also known as: Angelic Doctor/Doctor Angelicus/Doctor Communis/Great Synthesizer/The Dumb Ox/The Universal Teacher. Patron of Academics, Theologians, against storms; against lightning; apologists; book sellers; Catholic academies, Catholic Schools – (proclaimed on 4 August 1880 by Pope Leo XIII), Catholic universities, Catholic Colleges, chastity, learning; pencil makers, philosophers; publishers; scholars; students; University of Vigo and of St. Tomas;, Batangas; theologians, Aquino, Italy; Belcastro, Italy, Diocese of Aquino, Falena, Italy.
St Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest and Doctor of the Church. He was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio.
He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. The works for which he is best known are the Summa Theologiae and the Summa contra Gentiles. His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy.
The Catholic Church honours Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).
Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honoured with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”
By universal consent, Thomas Aquinas is the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. He is one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honoured with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor. (Image below – Benozzo Gozzoli – Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas)
At five he was given to the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in his parents’ hopes that he would choose that way of life and eventually became abbot. In 1239, he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy. By 1243, Thomas abandoned his family’s plans for him and joined the Dominicans, much to his mother’s dismay. On her order, Thomas was captured by his brother and kept at home for over a year. Once free, he went to Paris and then to Cologne, where he finished his studies with Albert the Great. In class, his silence during discussions and his large size earned him the nickname “the dumb ox.” He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo, combated adversaries of the mendicants, as well as the Averroists and argued with some Franciscans about Aristotelianism.
His greatest contribution to the Catholic Church are his writings. The unity, harmony and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings. One might expect Thomas, as a man of the gospel, to be an ardent defender of revealed truth. But he was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished.
The Summa Theologiae, his last and, unfortunately, uncompleted work, deals with the whole of Catholic theology. But this brilliant man was very humble. He knew that all his gifts came from God. While celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273, he received a revelation from God. After that, he stopped writing. He said “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” Thomas died at age 49 on his way to the Council of Lyons, France. Pope Gregory X had asked him to come. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, He died March 7, 1274.