28 January 2010

Saint Thomas Aquinas

28 JANUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, friar, priest and doctor of the Church.

Born in A.D. 1225, Saint Thomas was born into a military and noble family. From an early age Thomas was given a good education and in about A.D. 1239 Thomas was enrolled at the university in Naples. At the age of 19, Thomas resolved to enter the Dominican Order. His family was strongly opposed to this, and his two brothers even went so far as to hire a prostitute to dissuade him. But, Thomas drove her away with a burning stick. Later that night, Thomas was visited by two angels that strengthened his determination to remain celibate.

In A.D. 1245 Saint Thomas went to Paris to study at the university there and came under the tutelage of Saint Albert the Great. When Saint Albert was sent by his superiors to found a new university in Cologne, Saint Thomas went and was an apprentice professor there and, after a while, Saint Thomas returned to Paris to complete his studies for his masters degree in theology.

In the Spring of A.D. 1256, Saint Thomas was appointed regent master in theology at Paris and was assigned the work of defending the mendicant orders against the attacks of William of Saint-Amour. During his tenure as regent Saint Thomas wrote many works and began to work on one of his more famous works, the Summa contra Gentiles.

In A.D. 1259 Saint Thomas returned to Naples where he remained until going to Orvieto in September 1261. In Orvieto, Saint Thomas was named the conventual lector, in charge of the education of friars that were unabvle to attend university. As conventual lector Saint Thomas continued to produce many works, including authoring a liturgy for the newly created feast of Corpus Christi. In A.D. 1268 the Dominicans again named Saint Thomas as regent master at Paris, a post that he held until A.D. 1272. During this second regency, Saint Thomas had a difficult time, including disputes with Saint Bonaventure and John Peckham. As regent, now a second time, Saint Thomas was assigned with the task of combatting radical Aristotelianism.

In A.D. 1272 Saint Thomas left Paris because he was given the opportunity to establish a university anywhere he choose. With the first two parts of the Summa Theologica completed, Saint Thomas returned to Naples to begin a university. On 6 December 1273 Saint Thomas laid aside his pen and would write no more. That day Saint Thomas experienced a long ecstasy that began while he was saying mass. His comment, to those who tried to persuade him to continue working, was this: "I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me, that all I have written now appears to be of little value."

Following this, Saint Thomas took to his bed and never fully recovered his health. Called to attend the Second Council of Lyon by Pope Gregory X, Saint Thomas was injured in route and went to Monte Cassino to recuperate. After a while, Saint Thomas continued the journey, but fell ill again at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey. The monks there cared for Saint Thomas, who died on 7 March 1274 while dictating a commentary on the Song of Songs.

Fifty years after the death of Saint Thomas, Pope John XXII, sitting in Avignon, France, canonized Thomas on 18 July 1323. Pope Pius V declared Saint Thomas to be a Doctor of the Universal Church in A.D. 1567. At the Council of Trent, Saint Thomas was given the honor of having his Summa Theologica placed beside the Bible and the Decretals on the altar. And, during Vatican Council I, Saint Thomas was declared the "teacher of the church." The celebration of the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas is held on January 28 to mark the date of the transfer to Saint Thomas' mortal remains to the Dominican church in Toulouse.

The great body of Saint Thomas' work is supremely important in the fields of theology and philosophy and influenced much of Church teaching since that time. As an example, Saint Thomas teaches that the goal of human life is union and fellowship with God. This teaching should be recognizable by anyone that has studied the Baltimore Catechism. Although Saint Thomas lived less than 50 years, he authored more than 60 works with his own hand or through dictation to his secretaries.

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