From Medieval Saints on Yahoo and the Experience Project
Thomas, son of the count of Aquino, (b. 1225-d. 1274) was first trained at the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino, and here, even in childhood, his great mind was wrestling with theological questions, "Master, tell me--what is God?" In order to better to train the boy's mind, his father sent him at an early age to the University of Naples. There he studied under Peter of Ireland and, undisturbed by the noise and wickedness of the great university city, proceeded rapidly on his quest for God.
Meeting the Dominicans, he was strongly attracted by their apostolic life and petitioned to be received as one of them. While recognizing the gifts of the young student, the friars refused him admittance to the Order until he was eighteen. Acting deliberately, without a backward glance at the power and wealth he was leaving, Thomas, at eighteen, joyfully put on the habit of the new Order.
Like many gifted young men, Thomas was bitterly opposed by his family when he attempted to become a religious. When both threats and persuasion failed, he was kidnapped by his brothers and locked in atower for more than a year. His sisters were sent to influence him, and he proceeded to convert them to his own way of thinking. A woman was sent to tempt him; but he drove her from the room with a burningbrand from the fire; afterwards, angels came to gird him with the cincture of perpetual chastity.
The chastity of St. Thomas by Father Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr licensed by cc.
When captivity failed to break his determination, his brothers relaxed their guard, and Thomas, with the help of his sisters, escaped from the tower and hurried back to his convent.
Thomas was given the finest education available in his day. He studied first at Cologne and later at Paris. St Thomas was a very large man. And a prodigy. He kept his intelligence hidden and suffered in silence while his classmates made fun of him. Stereotypes - they assumed he was stupid. Only after he was a student under St Albert Magnus was his great gift discovered.
This outstanding Dominican teacher and saint became his lifelong friend and loyal defender. They taught at Cologne and became a mutual influence for good in one of the most beautiful friendships in Dominican history.
For the rest of his life, Thomas was to teach and preach with scarcely a day of rest. What makes the amount of writing he did remarkable, was the great deal of traveling that he undertook. Death found him in a familiar place, on the road, where he was bound for the Council of Lyons in obedience to the pope's command. He died at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, in a borrowed bed, obscurity hardly fitting the intellectual light of the Order, but perfectly suited to the humble friar that Thomas had always been.
Overheard in a colloquy with the Master he served so well with heart and mind and pen, Thomas was heard to ask as his reward from the Lord, "Thyself, 0 Lord, none but thyself!"
St. Thomas Aquinas is a Doctor of the Church and is honored as the patron of Catholic Schools. He is celebrated in the Church Calendar on January 28th.
And from the Catholic Herold:
“He confessed his sins and he received his God; and we may be sure that the great philosopher had entirely forgotten philosophy. The confessor ran forth as if in fear, and whispered that his confession had been that of a child of five.”
St. Thomas Aquinas by Dr. Lawrence Lew OP via Flickr licensed by cc.
St. Thomas's greatest work is the Summa Theologica - available on Kindle for 99 cents!
Two of my favorite stories about the saint!
1. St. Thomas Aquinas was walking outside and two nuns rushed up to him with a great big bound tablet. They asked St. Thomas if he would be so kind, in his spare time, to write out all that was necessary for the nuns to do so that they could make it into heaven.
St. Thomas graciously agreed and took the volume from the sisters. They were very grateful and left with high hopes that perhaps he could finish this big task within a decade or so.
To their great surprise, St. Thomas showed up the next day, with the tablet, and told them that he had finished the work! The nuns were stunned, but they thanked the saint and took the volume, rushing back to the convent to see all of the words that he had written.
They opened the first page and this was all that was written:
How to Get to Heaven - Will It!!!
In other words (quite a few more "other words!") we all have the ability to make it to heaven, but we have to want to do so, and we have to will ourselves above and out of our own way to get there!
It took place in the monastery where certain persons enjoyed making fun of the saint's weight problem. "Quick, Brother Thomas", they called from upstairs, "There's a pig flying around outside. Come to the window and see. Hurry!"
As the saint puffed and panted to the window snickers were barely stifled.
"Come, now, Thomas, surely you didn't really think there was a pig flying outside?" they teased.
The saint replied, "I would sooner believe that pigs can fly than that my own brothers in religion could be uncharitable."
Other words of wisdom from the saint:
"Nor has the Church failed before the assaults of demons: for she is like a tower of refuge to all who fight against the Devil."
"The things that we love tell us what we are."
"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."
“Most men seem to live according to sense rather than reason.”
"There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."
“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine”