Doctor of the Church
Feast Day: January 28
Patron of: Students
Quote: “There must be must be a first mover existing above all – and this we call God.”
Keywords: students, education, universities, schools, Catholic schools, thunderstorms, lightning, sudden death, booksellers, theologians, pencil makers, chastity, learning
Historians regard St. Thomas Aquinas as one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages. Yet on his deathbed, this intensely popular teacher and lecturer, who had lived in the cosmopolitan environments of Paris, Cologne and Naples, was said to give the innocent final confession of a child. Known in his lifetime as “The Angelic Doctor”, Thomas lived through his higher mind, taking intense pleasure in intellectual pursuits. Because he was an excellent teacher, able to clarify the most complicated points of learning, Thomas Aquinas is invoked by students whenever they are presented with a challenging test, a demanding course of studies or difficulty in passing an entrance exam.
Thomas was born in his noble family’s castle just outside of Naples, the youngest of four brothers and two sisters. As a child, one of his sisters was killed by lightning while sleeping in the same room as Thomas. He was forever fearful of thunderstorms, he is invoked by those with the same fears for protection against lightning strikes and sudden death. At the age of five Thomas was sent to study to the legendary Monastery of Monte Cassino. Considered the seat of Western Civilization through the dark ages, all manners of the arts and sciences were taught there. By the time Thomas left at the age of thirteen to attend the University of Naples, he was already tutoring his elders in their studies. While a student in Naples he horrified his noble family by joining the new order of mendicant Friars known as the Dominicans. Instead of begging in the streets with the Dominicans, his parents wanted to see Thomas using his great intellectual gifts to earn a higher ecclesiastical office. His brothers kidnapped him and locked him up in another family home, tempting him with every worldly thing they could think of. When they presented him with a prostitute, Thomas chased her out with a burning brand from the fireplace.
After two years of confinement, his family relented and freed him The Dominicans sent Thomas to Cologne, Germany to study with Albert the Great, the most famous teacher of his times. Because of his quiet, kindly manner and his large size, his fellow students labeled him “the dumb ox”. Thomas quietly surpassed every student he ever had and Albert insisted he go to the University of Paris where he was made a teacher and received a doctor’s chair. His writings attracted both the Pope and the King of France who consulted him on matters of state. In 1272, the Dominicans sent him to Naples to run their school there. It was during the following year that experienced an ecstasy that caused him to suddenly stopped writing his greatest work , Summa Theologica, a tome that consisted of over two million words and he had spent the last seven years on. Compared to his vision, he declared, “all that I have written seems like so much straw.”
Symbol: sun on his chest, while he was ill, another priest saw a great star come through the window and rest briefly on Thomas’ head before leaving. Lily for purity, wings for the angelic doctor title, dove of the holy spirit for his inspired writings and philosophical ideas.
Novena to St. 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 teaching 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 hand charity. Pray also for Catholic schools and for all students. In particular, please obtain the favor I ask during this novena. (Mention your request). Amen.