St Thomas Aquinas OP
Feast Day: 28 January
Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the greatest saints of the Dominican Order, whose works have left an indelible mark on Catholic Theology to this day. Saint Thomas was born toward the end of the year 1226 between Naples and Rome, close to the little town of Aquino, of which his father was Count. Going against the wishes of his parents, who had high hopes that he would join the Benedictine Order and live a very comfortable life, Thomas decided to join the Order of Preachers in 1224. The Dominican Order was at this time relatively young and the Order’s involvement with the great European universities allowed Thomas to avail himself of the intellectual renaissance taking place in Europe at the time. Having studied under another hugely influential Dominican saint, Albert the Great, Thomas was given the opportunity to think deeply about the world in which he lived and especially about the religious issues of the time. He arrived on the scene at a time when the great works of Aristotle were being re-discovered in Europe and there was much debate over the place of the Aristotelian corpus within the framework of Christian thought. In critically assessing the works of Aristotle available to him, Thomas showed how the insights which Aristotle exposed could be used within a Christian context.
Intellectually, St Thomas Aquinas was one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the Church and the world. His huge intellectual ability allowed him to delve into matters of faith and general philosophy which shone light on issues that needed to be addressed. Thomas began with a great work, the Summa Contra Gentiles, that sought to defend the Catholic faith against attacks from outside the Church. Following this work, Thomas began his monumental Summa Theologica, which dealt with a vast rangeof theological issues. He, however, never finished the Summa Theologica, as he had a mystical experience which, he says, showed him that all he had written was simply straw compared to the glory of God. Following this experience, Thomas did not write anything else and died a short time later at the early age of forty-nine.
For Dominicans and all the faithful, St. Thomas Aquinas represents a towering figure of intellectual greatness, who used his gifts at the service of Christ and His Church. What is so wonderful about St. Thomas, as well, is that he coupled his academic endeavours with a deep prayer life through which, we can be sure, he encountered God on a daily basis. We are told he was a quiet man who allowed his companionship with God to deepen his contemplative prayer. His love for the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, helped Thomas in composing the office of the new feast of Corpus Christi, upon the request of Pope Urban XI. He composed beautiful hymns for the celebration of this feast, some of which are still used today.
In essence, Saint Thomas Aquinas is a true example of what it means to put all our talents at the service of Christ and His Church, through a deep commitment to Christ in prayer and contemplation. In light of this, the Church declared Saint Thomas a doctor of the Church and the patron saint of Catholic schools, colleges, universities, teachers and students. In a world where academia seems to be moving further and further away from the authority of Christ, let us ask St. Thomas to help us to do our little part in bringing faith back into the intellectual world.