Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. I have always loved this saint, even before I knew he was a Dominican.

One of the things I like about him is that when he was in seminary, everybody called him "The Dumb Ox" because he was fat and didn't talk a lot. Their teacher, St. Albert the Great (even better in Latin: Albertus Magnus!), said about him: "We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world."

His parents were wealthy, influential Italians who wanted him to become a Benedictine, thinking that they could probably arrange for him to become the abbot of Monte Cassino, the original monastery that St. Benedict founded. But when Thomas heard about St. Dominic's upstart Order of Preachers, he wanted to join them.

But Thomas really wanted to join the Dominicans. He tried to run away from home, but his mom and dad sent his brothers after him and locked him in one of their palaces. Mom and Dad sent one of their daughters to talk some sense into him, but he talked her into becoming a nun. They tried to send a woman of ill repute to tempt him, but he chased her out of the room with the poker from the fireplace! After 2 years, his parents gave in and let him join the Dominicans.

He was really smart. How smart was he? They say he could dictate 5 books on 5 different subjects at once! He wrote songs that we still sing in church (mostly at Adoration: Pane Lingua). His philosophy is still studied by Catholic and non-Catholic scholars alike!

This is his deathbed prayer (from the Catholic Encyclopedia):

The end was near; extreme unction was administered. When the Sacred Viaticum was brought into the room he pronounced the following act of faith:

If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament . . . I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.

A Prayer for Guidance by St. Thomas Aquinas:

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

--St Thomas Aquinas, 1225-74

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