Thomas Aquinas came from a wealthy Italian ruling family in the 13th century. At age five, he was sent to a Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino in hopes that someday he would be abbot. But King Frederick III sent his troops to occupy the monastery as a fortress. Thomas then transferred to the University of Naples, where he came into contact with the Dominicans. Their life of prayer and study fascinated him, and he was determined to join them. His family was shocked that Thomas would join a group of poor friars. His mother sent his brothers after him. They kidnapped and imprisoned him for more than a year at a family castle. Nothing would shake his resolution to enter the Dominicans. Finally, Thomas’s family gave up on discouraging him from becoming a priest, and in 1244, he joined the order.
Thomas studied under Albert the Great. In class, his silence during discussions and his large size earned him the nickname “the dumb ox.” Thomas became well known for his writings in philosophy and theology. His most famous work, the Summa Theologiae, contains five volumes of thought on all the Christian mysteries. It is said that no one has equaled the depth of understanding and clear reasoning that Thomas showed. His love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament led him to write prayers and hymns that are still used to honor the Eucharist.
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 that all he had written was so much straw after what he had seen in the revelation. Thomas died at age 49 on his way to the Council of Lyons, France. Pope Gregory X had asked him to come. Saint Thomas Aquinas is a Doctor of the Church and patron of Catholic schools.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: St. Thomas von Aquin by Carlo Crivelli, 1476. Public Domain via Wikimedia.