St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the most revered saints, both in the Church and out of it. His influence on philosophy and theology is undeniable, but during his lifetime many called him a “dumb ox” (that makes me feel a little better about some of my nicknames).
Born to be a Monk
St. Thomas was born in Italy in 1225 and at age 5, he went to Monte Cassino to live with the Benedictines, in hopes that he might enter the monastery and become an Abbot (seriously starting him off early!). He later went to Naples to finish his academics at university, and was introduced to all the philosophical greats (Aristotle, Averroes, etc.). He also met a Dominican preacher and decided to join the Dominican order (which was not in the family plans).
While traveling, his brothers captured him and brought him home where he was held captive for a year. Some accounts say that while he was in captivity, his brothers brought a prostitute to his room to try and seduce Thomas, but he chased her out with a red hot iron (literally chasing temptation away!). It is also said that after this encounter, angels visited Thomas to encourage him in his celibacy.
Teacher, Theologian, and Writer
When he was finally free, he went to Paris to finally finishing studying and studied under St. Albert the Great (another awesome Dominican). He became a professor and renowned scholar, despite being called a “dumb ox” by many because he was quiet and slow to speak. St. Thomas wrote several books while teaching (and acting as Papal theologian), but his greatest work is the Summa Theologiae. He is known for saying that all of his life’s work and writings amounted to “straw”, but he is now called a Doctor of the Church (if his work is straw, then mine is less than dust!).
St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day is January 28 and he is called the Angelic Doctor. Read more about him here and here. If you’re interested in learning more about St. Thomas’ teachings and philosophy, you should listen to an awesome podcast about St. Thomas called Pints with Aquinas.
Why an Ox?
St. Thomas Aquinas is frequently called the dumb ox, for both his large girth and slow speech. One of his teachers, St Albert, said of him “We call this man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world.” This statement proved to be prophetic and St. Thomas’ intellect and gifts to the Church are unequaled, even today.
Who would be friends with St. Thomas Aquinas?
- Those who feel called to religious life but have no support from family
- Those struggling with purity
St. Thomas once had an encounter with the Lord and the Lord said, “You’ve written well of me, Thomas. What do you want as your reward?’ St. Thomas answered,
‘Non nisi te, Domine. Non nisi te.’ Nothing but you, Lord. Nothing but you.
Celebrate Catholic Schools week with this awesome Angelic Doctor of the Church’s medal in our shop here.