Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar, encountered the thought of Aristotle as a student in Naples. His great Summa Theologiae brought together Aristotle’s thought and the classical Christian formulations of the Fathers of the Church. Aquinas’ writings display the profound harmony between faith and reason, and have formed students of theology for centuries. Of him Pope John Paul II wrote, “He could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.” In 1567, he was declared the “Angelic Doctor.” For more about this saint, Angelic Doctor of the Church, please click on the image. Peace be with you!
In today's Office of Readings we encounter a reading from a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest. He was born of a noble family in southern Italy, and was educated by the Benedictines. In the normal course of events he would have joined that order and taken up a position suitable to his rank; but he decided to become a Dominican instead. His family were so scandalised by this disreputable plan that they kidnapped him and kept him prisoner for over a year; but he was more obstinate than they were, and he had his way at last. He studied in Paris and in Cologne under the great philosopher St Albert the Great. It was a time of great philosophical ferment. The writings of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of the ancient world, had been newly rediscovered, and were becoming available to people in the West for the first time in a thousand years. Many feared that Aristotelianism was flatly contradictory to Christianity, and the teaching of Aristotle was banned in many universities at this time – the fact that Aristotle’s works were coming to the West from mostly Muslim sources did nothing to help matters. Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the great, infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today. Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more. For a reflection, "The Cross exemplifies every virtue," please click on the image. Peace be with you!