St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Today, January 28, is the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and Doctor of the Church.

From The Liturgy of the Hours:

“Thomas was born about the year 1225 into the family of the Count of Aquino. He first studied at the monastery of Monte Cassino and later at the University of Naples. Afterwards he joined the Friars Preachers [the Dominicans] and completed his studies at Parish and Cologne, his instructor being Saint Albert the Great. Becoming himself a teacher, he wrote many learned volumes and was especially renowned for his philosophical and theological studies. Saint Thomas died near Terracina on March 7, 1274, but his memory is honored on January 28, the day his body was transferred to Toulouse in 1369.”

St. Thomas’ most famous writings are, of course, his Summa Theologica (1265-1274), written as a primer for students of theology, and his Summa Contra Gentiles (1259-1265), written to counter the heresies of the day. These represent two of the greatest theological treatises the Church has produced. Thomas also wrote spiritual books, including reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, prayers, poems and hymns. Thomas was not always appreciated during his lifetime or shortly after his death. Indeed, some of Thomas’ ideas were included in a condemnation of certain theological and philosophical ideas by the Bishop of Paris in 1277, though these were later edited out of the list of ideas condemned. In 1879, Pope Leo XIII promulgated Aeterni Patris (“Eternal Father”) which provided guidance for a revival of Thomas’ teaching, known as Thomism, as the official theological and philosophical system of the Catholic Church.

Thomas Aquinas was canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V in 1567.

The following is an excerpt from a conference by St. Thomas Aquinas from the Office of Readings for the day:

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act. It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink. Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they place it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas

O merciful God, grant that I may ever perfectly do your will in all things. Let it be my ambition to work only for your honor and glory. Let me rejoice in nothing but what leads to you, nor grieve for anything that leads away from you. May all passing things be nothing in my eyes, and may all that is yours be dear to me, and you, my God, dear above them all. May all joy be meaningless without you and may I desire nothing apart from you. May all labor and toil delight me when it is for you.

Make me, O Lord, obedient without complaint, poor without regret, patient without murmur, humble without pretense, joyous without frivolity, and truthful without disguise.

Give me, O God, an ever watchful heart which nothing can ever lure away from you; a noble heart, which no unworthy affection can draw downwards to the earth; an upright heart, which no evil can warp; an unconquerable heart, which no tribulation can crush; a free heart, which no perverted affection can claim for its own.

Bestow on me, O God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, and wisdom to find you; a life which may please you, and a hope which may embrace you at last. Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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