St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

Few theologions share the influence of Thomas Aquinas, who for the Catholics is the quintessential authority on Church doctrine, although in general his writings have left a deep impression on the whole of Western Christianity. He was born around 1225 in Aquino in Italy (hence his surname) to a noble family, and as was typical for younger sons, Aquinas was intended for the monastery. As a child and through all his studies he proved to have a sharp mind and strong grasp on philosophy. Not only was he a brilliant student, but Aquinas was tenacious in his faith and desire to become a monk. Unfortunately, he differed with his family on what order he should join: his famly expected that he would join the Benedictine order, while he was convinced that he should join the Dominicans. This outraged his family to the point that they captured him and held him hostage for two years to keep him from doing so. Nothing could change Aquinas' conviction, however, and his mother let him go and made it look like he had escaped. This was in 1244, and upon his 'escape' he went to Rome and became a Dominican monk.

The next year Aquinas went to Paris to study at the university. There he met the scholar Albertus Magnus, who greatly influenced him. He spent the next decade or so alternating between teaching and studying (in Cologne and Paris), during which time he also wrote commentaries on Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, and Commentary on the Sentences (a work by Peter Lombard). In 1256, after taking the office of master in theology at the University of Paris, he began writing his larger works, the first being Against Those Who Assail the Worship of God and Religion, followed by Disputed Questions on Truth and the famous Summa contra Gentiles.

Aquinas was now compiling quite a body of work, and showing great scholarship and insight into Church doctrine. He became an invaluable resource for the Church writing clarifying works disputing the theology of the Greek Orthodox Church and Averroism. He is also responsible for composing the liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi. All throughout his various works and responsibilities, Aquinas worked steadily on his opus, the Summa Theologica, which has become a pillar of Catholic theology. Curiously, this work, now of such great import, was never finished. Aquinas returned to Naples in 1272 to start a school, and there he lectured and worked on the Summa. On St. Nicholas Day (December 6) in 1273, the voice of Christ spoke to Aquinas as he was celebrating the Mass. When asked by Christ what reward he wanted for his works, Aquinas responded that he wanted only Christ. When he returned from the Mass to his work, he resolved to give up his writing of the Summa; the experience he had had of Christ was so intense that all his work lost its value. Thus the Summa remains unfinished.

In 1274 Aquinas was required to attend the Second Council of Lyon, which was Pope Gregory X's attempt at working toward reconciliation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. While traveling to the council, Aquinas injured his head and fell very ill. He had a short period of recovery, but relapsed while staying at an abbey in the care of the monks. Thomas Aquinas passed away on March 7, 1274. His memory suffered a poor reputation for a long time after his death, due to a French bishop's condemnation of some of Aquinas' propositions. However, about fifty years later his work was regaining respect, and he was declared a saint by Pope John XXII. Since then his doctrines have been given the most prestige and honor as definitive of Catholic theology.

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2 Items found
Summa of the Summa
by St. Thomas Aquinas, edited by Peter Kreeft
from Ignatius Press
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Summa Theologica Selections
by Thomas Aquinas, edited by Anton C. Pegis
1st edition from Veritas Press
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)