The Aristocrat who became the patron of Theologians
The history of the Catholic Church is incomplete without the mention of the Dominican Friar, St. Thomas Aquinas. He is considered the most influential philosopher and theologian of all times.
By Anitta Bejoy
The history of the Catholic Church is incomplete without the mention of the Dominican Friar, St. Thomas Aquinas. He is considered the most influential philosopher and theologian of all times. The prolific writer has put together around sixty works which details Biblical narrations and analyses Aristotelian views on natural philosophy.
With time, his works in particular, Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles, gained wide acclaim that it was incorporated into the theological teachings of the Church. This Universal Teacher is regarded as the patron saint of all scholars, theologians and philosophers.
Born in Roccasecca to Theodora and Landulf of Aquino, Thomas belonged to a family of aristocrats. The youngest of the nine children, Thomas, was prophesied to become an unrivalled scholar. In the words of the holy hermit who conveys to Theodora, Thomas “will enter the Order of Friars Preachers, and so great will be his learning and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal him.”
Thomas was schooled at a young age of five by the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino. It was during the course of his study in the University of Naples that Thomas learned about the Dominican order. His ardent desire to join the same was received with much resent from his family. His brothers held him captive in one of their castles so as to dissuade him from joining the Dominican order.
They even tried to test his sanctity but Thomas remained steadfast in his decisions. Realizing that nothing could sway her son’s mind, his mother secretly arranged for Thomas, an escape from captivity. He returned to Naples and pursued his studies further at a university in Cologne.
The soft-spoken and stout St. Thomas was mocked by his fellow students as “The Dumb Ox”. His mentor, Albert Magnus, foreseeing his worth, retorted, “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.”
The vision of his mentor proved true over the course of time. Pange Lingua Gloriosi Corporis Mysterium, the well-known hymn penned by St. Aquinas has been harmonised by noted composers like Mozart and Palestrina. The last two verses of the Pange Lingua, Tantum Ergo, are sung during the veneration following the Eucharistic Adoration.
The Master Theologian firmly believed that true happiness can never be attained by way of worldly pleasures, but by the ultimate knowledge of the God we seek. His works were truly a harmony of Christian faith and human reason.
Thomas Aquinas experienced deep spiritual encounters throughout his life. In a similar occurrence, he was seen crying in front of a crucifix in the chapel of St. Nicholas, Naples. A voice was heard from the crucifix which said, "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?" to which the saint answered, "None other than thyself, Lord."
Following this mystic vision, St. Aquinas wrote no more. He never returned to his routine, despite the constant urge from his confessor. While on a journey to attend the Second council of Lyon, in May 1274, Thomas fell ill.
He passed away receiving his last rites at theCistercian Fossanova Abbey, Italy. On 18 July 1323, almost five decades after his death, Thomas Aquinas was lifted to sainthood byPope John XXII. The name of Thomas Aquinas remains etched in gold in the history of Catholic Church.
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