Thursday, March 7, 2019

Saint Thomas of Aquin, Doctor of the Church


The Saint we are to honor today is one of the sublimest and most lucid interpreters of Divine Truth. He rose up in the Church many centuries after the Apostolic Age, nay, long after the four great Latin Doctors, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. The Church, the ever young and joyful Mother, is justly proud of her Thomas, and has honored him with the splendid title of The Angelical Doctor on account of the extraordinary gift of understanding wherewith God had blessed him; just as his cotemporary and friend, St. Bonaventure, has been called the Seraphic Doctor on account of the wonderful unction which abounds in the writings of this worthy disciple of St. Francis. Thomas of Aquin is an honor to mankind, for perhaps there never existed a man whose intellect surpassed his. He is one of the brightest ornaments of the Church, for not one of her Doctors has equalled him in the clearness and precision wherewith he has explained her doctrines. He received the thanks of Christ himself, for having well written of him and his mysteries. How welcome ought not this Feast of such a Saint to be to us during this Season of the Year, when our main study is our return and conversion to God? What greater blessing could we have than the coming to know this God? Has not our ignorance of God, and his claims, and his perfections, been the greatest misery of our past lives? Here we have a Saint whose prayers are most efficacious in procuring for us that knowledge which is unspotted, and converteth souls, and giveth wisdom to little ones, and gladdeneth the heart, and enlighteneth the eyes. Happy we if this spiritual wisdom be granted us! We shall then see the vanity of everything that is not eternal, the righteous of the divine commandments, the malice of sin, and the infinite goodness wherewith God treats us when we repent.

Let us learn from the Church the claims of the Angelical Doctor to our admiration and confidence.

Thomas, Landulpho comite Aquinate, et Theodora Neapolitana, nobilibus parentibus natus, quintum annum agens, Monachis sancti Benedicti Casinatibus custodiendus traditur. Inde Neapolim studiorum causa missus, jam adolescens Fratrum Prædicatorum Ordinem suscepit. Sed matre ac fratribus id indigne ferentibus, Lutetiam Parisiorum mittitur. Quem fratres in itinere per vim raptum in arcem castri Sancti Joannis perducunt, ubi varie exagitatus, ut sanctum propositum mutaret, mulierem etiam, quæ ad labefactandam ejus constantiam introducta fuerat, titione fugavit. Mox beatus juvenis flexis genibus ante signum crucis orans, ibique somno correptus, per quietem sentire visus est, sibi ab Angelis constringi lumbus; quo ex tempore omni postea libidinis sensu caruit. Sororibus, quæ ut eum a pio consilio removerent, in castrum venerant, persuasit, ut contemptis curis sæcularibus, ad exercitationem cœlestis vitæ se conferrent.

Thomas was born of noble parents, his father being Landulph, Count of Aquino, and his mother a rich Neapolitan lady, by name Theodora. When he was five years old, he was sent to Monte Cassino, that me might receive from the Benedictine Monks his first training. Thence he was sent to Naples, where he went through a course of studies, and, young as he was, joined the Order of Friars Preachers. This step caused great displeasure to his mother and brothers, and it was therefore deemed advisable to send him to Paris. He was waylaid by his brothers, who seized him, and imprisoned him in the castle of Saint John. After having made several unsuccessful attempts to induce him to abandon the holy life he had chosen, they assailed his purity, by sending to him a wicked woman: but he drove her from his chamber with a fire-brand. The young saint then threw himself on his knees before a crucifix. Having prayed some time, he fell asleep, and it seemed to him that two Angels approached to him, and tightly girded his loins. From that time forward, he never suffered the slightest feeling against purity. His sisters, also, had come to the castle, and tried to make him change his mind; but he, on the contrary, persuaded them to despise the world, and devote themselves to the exercise of a holy life.

Emissus e castro per fenestram, Neapolim reducitur. Unde Romam, postea Parisium a fratre Joanne Teutonico, Ordinis Præcvatorum generali Magistro, ductus, Alberto Magno doctore philosophiæ ac theologiæ operam dedit: viginti quinque annos natus, Magister est appellatus, publiceque philosophos ac theologos summa cum laude est interpetatus. Nunquem se lectioni aut scriptioni dedit, nisi post orationem. In difficultatibus locorum sacræ Scriptur&aelig, ad orationem jejunium adhibebat. Quin etiam sodali suo fratri Reginaldo dicere solebat, quidquid sciret, non tam studio aut labore suo peperisse, quam divinitus traditum accepisse. Neapoli, cum ad imaginem crucifixi vehementius oraret, hanc vocem audivit: Bene scripsisti de me, Thoma; quam ergo mercedem accipies? Cui ille: Non aliam, Domine nisi teipsum.

It was contrived that he should escape through a window of the castle, and return to Naples. He was thence taken by John the Teutonic, the general of the Dominican Order, first to Rome, and then to Paris, in which latter city he was taught philosophy and theology by Albert the Great. At the age of twenty-five, he received the title of Doctor, and explained in the public schools, and in a manner that made him the object of universal admiration, the writings of philosophers and theologians. He always applied himself to prayer, before reading or writing anything. When he met with any difficult passage in the Sacred Scriptures, he both fasted and prayed. He used often to say to his companion, Brother Reginald, that if he knew anything, it was more a gift from God, than the fruit of his own study and labor. One day, when at Naples, as he was praying, with more than his usual fervor, before a crucifix, he heard these words: “Well has thou written of me, Thomas! What reward wouldst thou have me give thee?” He answered: “None other, Lord, but thyself.”

Nullum fuit scriptorum genus in quibus non esset diligentissime versatus. Collationes Patrum assidue pervolutabat, nec tamen a prædicatione divini verbi desistebat. Quod cum faceret per Octavam Paschæ in Basilica Sancti Petri, mulierem quæ ejus fimbriam tetigerat, a fluxu sanguinis liberavit. Scripta ejus et multitudine, et varietate, et facilitate explicandi res difficiles, adeo excellunt, ut ob eam causam etiam nomen Doctoris Angelici jure sit adeptus. Ab Urbano Quarto Romam vocatus, adduci non potuit ut honores acciperet. Archiepiscopatum Neapolitanum, etiam deferente Clemente Quarto Pontifice, recusavit. Missus a Gregorio Decimo ad Concilium Lugdunense, in monasterio Fossæ Novæ in morbum incidit, ubi, ægrotus, Cantica canticorum explanavit. Ibidem obiit quinquagenarius, anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo septuagesimo quarto, Nonis Martii. Miraculis et vivus et mortuus floruit. A Joanne Vigesimo secundo in Sanctorum numerum relatus est, anno millesimo trecentesimo vigesimo tertio: cujus corpus postea, Urbano Quinto summo Pontifice, Tolosam translatum est.

There was not a book which he had not most carefully read. His favorite spiritual book was the Conferences of the Fathers. He was most zealous in preaching the Word of God. On one occasion, during Easter Week, as he was preaching in the Church of St. Peter, a woman touched the hem of his habit, and was cured of an issue of blood. His writings are so extraordinary, not only for their number and their variety, but also for their clearness in the explaining difficult points of doctrine, that he has received the title of Angelical Doctor. He was invited to Rome by Pope Urban the Fourth, but nothing could induce him to accept the honors which were offered him. He refused the Archbishopric of Naples, which Pope Clement the Fourth begged him to accept. He was sent by Gregory the Tenth to the Council of Lyons; but having got as far as Fossa Nova, he fell sick, and was received as a guest in the Monastery of that place, and wrote a commentary on the Canticle of Canticles. There he died, in the fiftieth year of his age, in the year of our Lord 1274, on the Nones of March (March 7th). His sanctity was made manifest by miracles, both before and after his death. He was canonized by John the Twenty-second, in the year 1323. His body was translated to Toulouse, during the Pontificate of Urban the Fifth.

The Dominican Order, of which St. Thomas is one of the grandest ornaments, has inserted the three following Hymns in its Liturgy of his Feast.


Exsultet mentis jubilo
Laudans turba fidelium,
Errorum pulso nubilo
Per novi solis radium.

Let the assembly of the Faithful exult in spiritual joy, and give praise to God, who has made a new sun to shine in our world, and disperse the clouds of error.

Thomas in mundi vespere,
Fudit thesauros gratiæ:
Donis plenus ex æthere
Morum, et sapientiæ.

It was in the evening of the world that Thomas shed his treasures of heavenly light. Heaven had enriched him with gifts of virtue and wisdom:

De cujus fonte luminis,
Verbi coruscant faculæ,
Scripturæ sacræ Numinis,
Et veritatis Regulæ.

From this fountain of light we have derived a brighter knowledge of the Word, the understanding of the Divine Scriptures, and the rules of truth.

Fulgens doctrinæ radiis,
Clarus vitæ munditia,
Splendens miris prodigiis.
Dat toto mundo gaudia.

The effulgent rays of his wisdom, the light of his spotless life, and the splendor of his miracles, have filled the universe with joy.

Laus Patri sit, ac Genito,
Simulque Sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito
Nos cœli jungat agmini. Amen.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, and may our God, by the intercession and merits of his Saint, admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven. Amen.


Thomas insignis genere,
Claram Ducens originem,
Subit ætatis teneræ
Prædicatorum Ordinem.

Noble by birth and parentage, Thomas, while in the bloom of youth, embraced the Order of Preachers.

Typum gessit Luciferi,
Splendens in cœtu nubium,
Plusquam doctores cæteri
Purgans dogma Gentilium.

Like to the star of the morn, brightly does he shine amidst the luminaries of earth, and, more than any Doctor of the Church, refutes the doctrines of the Gentiles.

Profunda scrutans fluminum,
In lucem pandit abdita,
Dum supra sensus hominum
Obscura facit cognita.

He explores the depth of mysteries, and brings to light the hidden gems of truth, for he teaches us what the mind of man had else never understood.

Fit paradisi fluvius,
Quadripartite pervius:
Fit Gedeonis gladius,
Tuba, lagena, radius.

God gives him to the Church as a Fountain of wisdom, like to that four-branched river of Paradise. He made him to be her Gedeon’s sword, her Trumpet, her Vase, her Torch.

Laus Patri sit, ac Genito
Simulque Sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito,
Nos cœli jungat agmini. Amen.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. And may our God, by the intercession and merits of his Saint, admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven. Amen.


Lauda, Mater Ecclesia,
Tomæ felicem exitum,
Qui pervenit ad gaudia,
Per Verbi vitæ meritum.

Dear Church, our Mother! the happy death of thy Thomas deserves a hymn of praise. By the merits of Him that is the Word of Life, he is now in endless joy.

Fossa Nova tunc suscipit
Thecam thesauri gratiæ,
Gum Christo Thomam efficit,
Hæredem regni gloriæ.

It was at Fossa Nova that the rich treasury and grace was welcomed as a guest. It was there that he received from Christ the inheritance of eternal glory.

Manens doctrinæ veritas,
Et funeris integritas,
Mira fragrans suavitas,
Ægris collata sanitas.

He has left us the fruits of truth; he has left us his glorious relics, which breathe forth a heavenly fragrance, and work cures for the suffering sick.

Monstrat hunc dignum laudibus
Terræ, ponto, et superis;
Nos juvet suis precibus,
Deo commendet meritis.

Right well, then, is honor his due; earth, and sea, and heaven, all may give him praise. May his prayers and merits intercede for us with God.

Laus Patri sit, ac Genito,
Simulque Sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito
Nos cœli jungat agmini. Amen.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. And may our God, by the intercession and merits of his Saint, admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven. Amen.

How shall we worthily praise thee, most holy Doctor! How shall we thank thee for what thou hast taught us? The rays of the Divine Sun of Justice beamed strongly upon thee, and thou hast reflected them upon us. When we picture thee contemplating Truth, we think of those words of our Lord: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Thy victory of the concupiscence of the flesh merited for thee the highest spiritual delights; and our Redeemer chose thee, because of the purity of thy angelic soul, to compose for his Church the Office whereby she should celebrate the Divine Sacrament of his Love. Learning did not impair thy humility. Prayer was ever thy guide in thy search after Truth; and there was but one reward, for which, after all thy labors, thou wast ambitious—the possession of God.

Thy life, alas! was short. The very masterpiece of thy angelical writings was left unfinished. But thou hast not lost thy power of working for the Church. Aid her in her combats against error. She holds thy teachings in the highest estimation, because she feels that none of her Saints has ever known so well as thou the secrets and Mysteries of her Divine Spouse. Now, perhaps more than in any other age, Truths are decayed—they are diminished among the children of men; strengthen us in our Faith, get us Light. Check the conceit of those shallow self-constituted philosophers, who dare to sit in judgment over the actions and decisions of the Church, and force their contemptible theories upon a generation that is too ill-instructed to detect their fallacies. The atmosphere around us is gloomy with ignorance; loose principles, and truths spoiled by cowardly compromise, are the fashion of our times; pray for us, bring us back to that bold and simple acceptance of truth, which gives life to the intellect and joy to the heart.

Pray, too, for the grand Order, which loves thee so devoutly, and honors thee as one of the most illustrious of its many glorious children. Draw down upon the family of thy Patriarch Saint Dominic the choicest blessings, for it is one of the most powerful auxiliaries of God’s Church.

We are in the holy season of Lent, preparing for the great work of earnest conversion of our lives. Thy prayers must gain for us the knowledge both of the God we have offended by our sins, and of the wretched state of a soul that is at enmity with its Maker. Knowing this, we shall hate our sins; we shall desire to purify our souls in the Blood of the spotless Lamb; we shall generously atone for our faults by works of penance.


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