SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
1225 – 1274
Doctor of the Church
Considered more angelic than human, Saint Thomas Aquinas has the title of “Angelic Doctor”. His life is the story of someone who lived totally through his higher mind, rejecting all worldly temptations, ambitions, and pleasures in favor of intellectual pursuit. Honored in his own lifetime, he was continually invited by the Pope and the king of France to share his learning, but this never changed his disposition of the simple way he lived his life. He refused all offers of holy office in order to continue his vocation of studying, writing, and preaching. Because of this love of learning for its own sake, Saint Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of students. He is invoked whenever there is a difficult situation regarding education, be it tackling a difficult subject or passing and entrance examination. Although this novena is written for the patronage of Catholic schools, all students should feel free to call on him.
Saint Thomas Aquinas is regarded by most historians as the greatest thinker and theologian of the Middle Ages. Yet the more knowledge he mastered, the more he realized how much he did not know. Born at Roccasecca, near Naples, he was the youngest child of the count of Aquino. At the age of five he was sent away to the Benedictines of Monte Cassino. There, at that young age, he displayed great intellectual acuity and easily surpassed all the other students in his class. His father, being a nobleman, assumed that he would be trained for a high ecclesiastical office. At the age of seventeen, Saint Thomas scandalized his family when they discovered that he had secretly joined the new order of Dominican friars. This order frequently resorted to begging in the streets to survive. His brothers then kidnapped him and locked him in the family house for the next year. Trying to get him to break his vows, they presented him with every temptation, including a beautiful prostitute. Saint Thomas chased her away with a flaming torch and from that day was freed from any sexual desires. His family finally relented and released him. In 1248 he went to the city of Cologne, where he studied under Saint Albert the Great, at that time the most brilliant professor in Europe. His lumbering presence and slow movements belied his genius, causing his fellow students to refer to Saint Thomas as “the Dumb Ox”. He began publishing his works at the age of twenty-two and then went to Paris, where he earned his doctorate in theology. He was in great demand as a university professor and became famous for his lucid writings. The great challenge of his life was to explain Christianity in Aristotelian terms.
In 1266 Saint Thomas began his greatest work, Summa Theologica. Seven years and two million years later, he quite suddenly stopped work on it, leaving it unfinished. While attending mass he had had an ecstatic vision, and afterward, he declared that compared with what he had just seen, “all that writing seemed like so much straw.” He died three months later, at the age of forty-nine. So simple, pure and ingenuos had Saint Thomas Aquinas remained in his life that his deathbed confessor declared his final confession to be akin to that of a five-year-old child.
Feast Day: January 28
Patron of: Students, Universities, Catholic Schools
Novena to Saint Thomas Aquinas
Saint Thomas Aquinas, patron of students and schools, I thank God for the gifts of light and knowledge God bestowed on you, which you used to build up the church in love. I thank God, too, for the wealth and richness of theological teachings you left in your writings. Not only were you a great teacher, you lived a life of virtue and you made holiness the desire of your heart. If I cannot imitate you in the brilliance of your academic pursuits, I can follow you in the humility and charity that marked your life. As Saint Paul said, charity is the greatest gift and is open to all. Pray for me that I may grow in holiness and charity. Pray also for Catholic schools and for all students. In particular, please obtain the favor I ask during this novena. Amen.
(Mention your request.)
Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row.
Excerpted from the book, “Novena: The Power of Prayer” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua
Image: Detail from “The Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas” by Bennozzo Gozzoli