Died: March 7th, 1274
FEast: Jan. 28th
academics, schools, book sellers, philosophers, publishers, theologians
Born to a family of Italian nobility, Thomas' parents desired for him, as the youngest son, to follow the path of his uncle, an Abbot. Even though his brothers were destined for military careers, at the age of only five, Thomas was given to the Benedictine monastery Monte Cassino, where he began his education. Changes in the monastery and a request that Thomas find a place of even more rigorous learning caused him to be sent to Naples 9 years later to continue his education. There he learned about classical philosophers such as Aristotle, Averroes, and Maimonides, and he also decided to join the Dominican Order. His family was not happy with this change from their initial plan, and so the Dominicans decided to send him to Paris to avoid his parents' interference. On the way there, however, his brothers abducted him and he was held in a castle for over a year to try and dissuade him from his decision.
Despite his family's efforts to do this, he continued to communicate with the Dominicans and study. When his mother realized this imprisonment was of no use, she arranged for him to "escape" one night to preserve the family's honor.
Sent to study at the University of Paris, Thomas found a teacher in Albertus Magnus, and he followed him to a school in Cologne when sent there, even though the Pope had offered him the position of Abbot of Monte Cassino. Albertus sensed Thomas' intelligence and ideas, even though Thomas' fellow classmates thought he was slow because he didn't speak much and called him a "dumb ox". Albertus Magnus was said to have spoken of Thomas as a thinker who would one day influence the whole world.
Thomas continued to study and began to teach and write. He obtained his Master's Degree and was appointed Regent Master of Theology at the University of Paris, then returned to Naples as a preacher. He was called to Rome to serve as Papal Theologian, then appointed to teach again, While in this position, he wrote Summa Theologiae as instruction for beginners.
Appointed to more regency positions, Thomas continued to write and teach, defending the ideas of Aristotle and Averroes from Christians who believed that their ideas might contaminate the Christian faith. He was also not afraid of the ideas of naturalism and rationalism, as many Christians were, even though as technology and urbanization began to grow at this time, these ideas helped people make sense of the world and their new communities. Thomas fought for the idea of humans being allowed to have their own reason under faith, and this was unpopular. Still, his work had caused such a religious re-awakening for so many that he continued to take journeys to preach.
However, in 1273, he was found weeping and levitating by a Crucifix, after a moment in prayer in which it is said that God had said to him, "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?" Thomas responded, "Nothing but you, Lord." After another experience on December 6th, he would no longer write anything, saying that so much had been revealed to him that all he had already written seemed like nothing in comparison. He never explained what had happened, and would not continue to work even when begged by others.
Pope Urban IV called him to aid at the Second Council of Lyon, but on his way, he was injured and fell sick several times. He died at an Abbey at which he had stopped to recover on March 7th, 1274.
Though his work was condemned again in 1277, his works' spread and influence was so great that he was canonized by 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Church by 1567. In 1879, Pope Leo XIII declared that Thomas' work was a definitive position of the doctrine of Catholic faith and urged that it be taught in all seminaries and universities.
though you were underestimated, ridiculed, and written off, your words and ideas became such a light that still lives on today. May we never underestimate others or our own selves, instead giving respect to all and to each idea and contribution.
This image of St. Thomas Aquinas features the symbol of a sun on his chest. This can be found on almost all traditional images of him. The sun is a symbol for the illumination of his teachings, and the light that his ideas brought to so many. The color palette is light and warm and continues this idea. He also carries a book and writing utensils, symbolic of his work. The flower in his pocket is a Valerian, which has traditionally represented some of Aquinas’ most important values - prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. Lastly, he has a contemplative expression with his eyes closed since his most important work came from within. Though he was still involved with things going on around him, his ideas affected others the most.