SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
Priest and Doctor of the Church
St. Thomas was born of noble parents at Aquino in Italy, in 1226. At the age of nineteen he received the Dominican habit at Naples, where he was studying.
Seized by his brothers on his way to Paris, he suffered a two years’ captivity in their castle of Rocca-Secca; but neither the caresses of his mother and sisters, nor the threats and stratagems of his brothers, could shake him in his vocation. While St. Thomas was in confinement at Rocca-Secca, his brothers endeavored to entrap him into sin, but the attempt only ended in the triumph of his purity. Snatching from the hearth a burning brand, the Saint drove from his chamber the wretched creature whom they had there concealed. Then marking a cross upon the wall, he knelt down to pray, and forthwith, being rapt in ecstasy, an angel girded him with a cord, in token of the gift of perpetual chastity which God had given him. The pain caused by the girdle was so sharp that St. Thomas uttered a piercing cry, which brought his guards into the room. But he never told this grace to any one save only to Father Raynald, his confessor, a little while before his death. Hence originated the Confraternity of the “Angelic Warfare,” for the preservation of the virtue of chastity.
Having at length escaped, St. Thomas went to Cologne to study under Blessed Albert the Great, and after that to Paris, where for many years he taught philosophy and theology. The Church has ever venerated his numerous writings as a treasure-house of sacred doctrine; while in naming him the Angelic Doctor she has indicated that his science is more divine than human. The rarest gifts of intellect were combined in him with the tenderest piety. Prayer, he said, had taught him more than study.
His singular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament shines forth in the Office and hymns for Corpus Christi, which he composed. To the words miraculously uttered by a crucifix at Naples, “Well hast thou written concerning Me, Thomas. What shall I give thee as a reward?” he replied, “Naught save Thyself, O Lord.”
He died at Fossa-Nuova, 1274, on his way to the General Council of Lyons, to which Pope Gregory X. had summoned him.
Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. 
St Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
He was born of a noble family in southern Italy, and was educated by the Benedictines. In the normal course of events he would have joined that order and taken up a position suitable to his rank; but he decided to become a Dominican instead. His family were so scandalised by this disreputable plan that they kidnapped him and kept him prisoner for over a year; but he was more obstinate than they were, and he had his way at last.
He studied in Paris and in Cologne under the great philosopher St Albert the Great. It was a time of great philosophical ferment. The writings of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of the ancient world, had been newly rediscovered, and were becoming available to people in the West for the first time in a thousand years. Many feared that Aristotelianism was flatly contradictory to Christianity, and the teaching of Aristotle was banned in many universities at this time – the fact that Aristotle’s works were coming to the West from mostly Muslim sources did nothing to help matters.
Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the great, infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today. Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more.
Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us, like St Thomas, to love God with our minds as well as our hearts; and if we come across a fact or a teaching that seems to us to contradict our faith, let us not reject it but investigate it: for the truth that it contains can never contradict the truth that is God.
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