Saint Thomas Aquinas’ feast day is on Monday January 28. Thomas is one of the 35 Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most famous Dominican Friars, and an influential theologian (whose works are still being studied and debated today).
Thomas was born around 1225 and died in 1274. He was born into a wealthy family, who planned for him to enter the religious life. While studying at Naples Thomas was introduced to the teachings of Aristotle, which would influence his later writings. He also met John of St. Julian a Dominican preacher in Naples who was trying to recruit students to the Order of Preachers. At 19 Thomas resolved to join the Order of Preachers, a choice his family did not agree with; because they had planned for Thomas to become a Benedictine monk and possibly the Abbot of Monte Cassino (thus becoming one of the most powerful Benedictine monks). His family was so opposed to his choice to become a Dominican they kidnapped him as he was on his way to Paris and held him prisoner in the family’s castle for two years.
Thomas is most famous for his major work, the Summa Theologica, a massive theological work using Aristotelian logic to explain theological truths. At first he was criticized and lived on the edge of Papal approval for his blending Greek philosophy and Christian revelation. However, in the end his work has stood the test of time and Thomas Aquinas’ work is required study for any thinking of taking holy orders in the Roman Catholic Church. From Thomas we can see that sometimes we have to embrace new teachings and work with them to further the influence of the Church.
The saint was not only an intellectual; there are several stories of Thomas’ mystical and miraculous experiences. Once while he was imprisoned at his family’s estate, his brothers hired a prostitute to seduce him. It is said Thomas drove her way with a fire iron. Later that night two angels appeared to him as he slept and encouraged him in his celibacy. Later in his life, while he was working on the third book in the Summa, he stayed late after Matins (one of the hours of prayer, find out more here: http://bit.ly/RT8lUo). Some who saw him say that he was levitating, while praying at the Icon of Christ crucified. Christ then said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas replied, “Nothing but you Lord.” After this something happened and Thomas never wrote it down or spoke about it. But when he refused to continue dictating/writing, he was questioned by his friend Reginald. Thomas replied, “Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.” Thomas had such a mystical experience, that all the theological work he had done up to that point in the Summa and his other works, seemed like straw compared to what he had experienced. This is where we should leave it, knowing that knowledge of the Lord, advanced theological or Biblical knowledge of the Lord, is like straw when compared with the intimate experience of the Lord in our life. We should all seek the Lord in all that we do and with all our heart and perhaps like Thomas we will be rewarded with something that will make all our seeking and previous findings of the Lord seem like nothing.