Today, we celebrate the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, often called the “Angelic Doctor” because of his theology of angels. As I suspect you know, he is probably the foremost theologian of the Catholic Church of all time, living in the 13th Century and dying at a young age of 49 after being injured by a tree limb on his way to a church council, being summoned by the Pope.
His Summa Theologia is his crowning theological work, which he himself later called “straw” fit only to be burned in light of the surpassing truth of Jesus Christ. He had a vision, which others at the time witnessed and attested to under oath during his canonization process. After this vision, he quit writing theology and dedicated himself to catechesis of children and others.
The man was a veritable genius and a saint.
Here is an excerpt from his Discourses, my translation from Italian.
“Was it necessary that the Son of God suffer for us? Very much, and we are able to speak of two necessary reasons: as a remedy for sin, and as an example to follow.
“Above all, it was a remedy because in the passion of Christ we find a remedy against all evil which we will encounter because of our sins.
“But no less is the utility of his example. The passion of Christ in fact is sufficient for orienting all of our lives.
“Whoever wishes to live in perfection need to do nothing else but despise what Christ despised on the Cross and desire that which Christ desired. No example of virture, in fact, is absent from the Cross.
“I you search for an example of charity, remember: ‘No one has greater love that this: to give one’s life for his friends.’ (Jn. 15, 13).
“This Jesus did on the Cross. Therefore, if he gave his life for us, ought we not be mindful of bearing whatever evil for him?
“If you search for an example of patience, you will find an excellent example in two circumstances: both when you bear patiently great adversities, and when you undergo adversities that could have been avoided, but were not.
“Now Christ has given an example of both. In fact, ‘When he suffered, he did not protest’ (1Pt 2: 23) and like a lamb he was lead to his death and opened not his mouth (cf. Acts 8:32). Great therefore is the patience of Christ on the Cross: ‘We run with perseverance the course, our gaze fixed on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith. He, in exchange for the glory that was put before him, placed himself on the Cross, despite the ignominy.
“If you search for an example of humility, look at the crucifix: God in deed wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and die.
“If you search for an example of obedience follow him who made himself obedient to the Father even unto death: ‘Because of the disobedience of one, that is of Adam, all have been deemed sinners, so also through the obedience of one all will become just.
“If you search for an example of not valuing the things of earth, follow him who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, ‘in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden’ (Col 2: 3). He was naked on the Cross, scorned, spit upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and made to drink vinegar and bile.” — St. Thomas Aquinas, Discourses, Conference 6 on the “Credo in Deum”
Thomas’ life is rather interesting. His parents did not want him to become a Dominican. They wanted him to be a Benedictine (political reasons?). So they put him a tower, a prison for quite sometime. Someone even tried to dissuade him by sending a prostitute into his prison cell, whom he repelled forcefully. His family eventually gave up and he was freed and did indeed become a Dominican.
His purity and chastity is said to have been a reason for his intellectualy brilliance. Sin does cloud the intellect, and Thomas’ purity of heart freed his mind to work brilliantly. At one point he as to be appointed an archbishop, but he tearfully begged that the assignment not be given him. He as considered a “dumb ox” because of his size and his demeanor which seemed lost in thought.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!