Dominican Saints 101: St. Thomas Aquinas

January 27, 2012

Much can be said about St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274, feast – Jan. 28). The way the Order’s liturgy describes him is one of the most helpful.  In the old Dominican Breviary, there is an antiphon that sums up the whole Dominican liturgy’s presentation of Thomas:

The Blessed Thomas, Doctor of the Church, light of the world, glory of Italy, virgin shining with the bloom of chastity, rejoices in a twofold crown of glory.

Over and over the liturgy speaks of his two crowns – virgin and doctor. St. Thomas’s story of virginity took a dramatic turn soon after he entered the Dominicans.  His family was unhappy with his choice of the Dominicans, so they captured him and had him locked up in the family jail.  In trying to get him to leave the Order, his brothers brought a loose woman to entice him to break his vow of chastity.  He chased her out of the room with a log from the fire, marked the door with the Sign of the Cross, and then thanked God for preserving his chastity.  It is said that after this, two angels came and girded him with a cord that helped to preserve his chastity throughout the rest of his life. St. Thomas’s learning and wisdom is famous.  He gave the Church the Summa Theologica, the Summa Contra Gentiles, a number of Scriptural commentaries, commentaries on the works of Aristotle, and a host of other texts.  Some of his writings, especially his teachings on the Eucharist, have made it into the magisterial teachings of the Church, and they continued to be promoted by the Papacy, especially since the time of Pope Leo XIII. Virginity and wisdom – such are two pillars by which we can come to understand the life of St. Thomas.  As he pointed out, purity can aid the intellectual life (see Summa Theologica I-II, 33, 3, ad 2).  It would seem that thanks to Thomas’s perseverance in chastity and the Lord’s protection through the angelic cord, Thomas’s writings were able to be all the more profound. May we too be given the grace to live lives of purity and chastity so that like St. Thomas, we might come to know the Lord more intimately and desire nothing but Him. O God, you make your Church glorious through the wonderful teaching of the blessed Thomas, your confessor and doctor, and render it fruitful by his holy deeds; grant us, we beseech you, both to understand what he taught and to imitate what he did.  Through Christ our Lord.

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