Wednesday, September 23, 2009

St. Thomas Aquinas

It is generally recognised that St. Thomas Aquinas was a great philosopher and theologian. The Cartesian philosopher, Jourdain, said of him that no other man had come so near to being infallible. The eclectic philosopher, Cousin, referred to the Summa Theologica as one of the greatest masterpieces of human genius. Dante celebrated in immortal verse this wonderful synthesis of thought. When he canonised St. Thomas, John XXII declared that "every article he wrote was a miracle."

One might say that St. Thomas was raised up by God, for he gathered together the whole of human knowledge up to his own time and interpreted it in the new light of Christianity. He ordered it into a complete, compact body of philosophical and theological doctrine to serve as an impregnable defence against the errors of his own and later times. In spite of his greatness, however, Thomas of Aquin was a very humble man. There is a good deal of truth in Pascal's remark that little knowledge makes the mind proud, but real wisdom makes it humble. We cannot all imitate the knowledge of St. Thomas, but we should imitate his humility.

2. Thomas of Aquin was a wealthy nobleman of great intelligence. A brilliant future seemed to lie before him. But he answered the inspiration which called him to a life of Christian perfection in the Order of St. Dominic. This divine vocation encountered serious obstacles. His mother and brothers opposed it. The latter went as far as capturing him beside a woman whoh tempted him to sin against holy purity. But it was all useless. He chased away the temptress with a blazing torch. Then he knelt before a cross outlined upon the wall and as he was praying fervently he experienced such wonderful peace that it seemed like a foretaste of Heaven. From that day he was never again tried by temptations of the flesh. He was like an angel in human form.

Do we wish to share even a little in these rewards? Let us listen to the good inspirations which God gives us. Like St. Thomas, let us be ready to make any sacrifice rather than offend God. Let us be prepared to work earnestly to acquire the virtues proper to our state in life.

3. St. Thomas was not only a tireless student, but a man of unceasing prayer. He was accustomed to say that anything he ever learned was the result of prayer rather than study. In any case, as far as he was concerned, study and any other activity was a prayer. No matter what he was doing, his mind was absorbed with God. He died when he was about fifty years of age, but he was able to leave behind a masterpiece of human and divine wisdom which has probably never been surpassed.

Everything which is good and beautiful comes from God. Even though our stature is far less than that of St. Thomas, we must constantly nourish our desires and intentions with prayer and focus them on good objects.

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