The Life of St. Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas Thomas

Imprisonment. By his own parents.

Yes, the parents of St. Thomas Aquinas opposed his entry into the Dominican order. When ordinary persuasion didn't change his plans, they finally imprisoned him for two years. But really all that did was delay his entry.

St. Thomas Aquinas was born into a noble family, his parents being related to the Count of Aquino and Countess of Teano. While today that may mean little to you and I, then, it meant he was directly related to Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II, and (yes, we're not done yet!) the Kings of Aragon, Castile and France.

And this brilliant mind showed great potential for study (despite his nickname of "dumb ox"), excelling in the three most important subjects of his day: grammar, rhetoric and logic. Between his natural talents and his relatives he was assured of success in any secular measure.

And for a while it appeared that he decided University life would be his true calling. But the pull of the religious life was too much.

He never displayed charismatic personality like St. Francis of Assisi, nor was his life story as compelling as St. John of the Cross (whose mother had placed him in an orphanage because of her dire poverty), Saint Thomas Aquinas, nonetheless, created an indelible mark on Catholicism. Besides his being perhaps of the world's greatest theologians, Thomas, toward the end of his life, had a mystical experience that transformed him the last several months of his life. He said that what he experienced made everything else in the world pale in comparison. Because of this vision, he suddenly and unexpectedly halted all work on his manuscript. He died, in fact, before he could finish it.

With a feast day of January 28, today Saint Thomas Aquinas is the patron saint of all students. More than any other individual represents the zenith of scholasticism. A Theological school of thought, this thinking flourished for nearly 400 years - from 1100 to 1500. Scholasticism aimed to reconcile faith with reason and the works of Aristotle with the Holy Scriptures.

This brilliant mind created what has become known as simply "The Five Ways," a proof that is used to this day by many theologians that God exists. The five ways include: motion, causation, contingency, goodness and design.


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