THOMAS AQUINAS, PRIEST AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225–74), a Dominican friar known as the “Angelic Doctor,” is one of the greatest and most influential theologians in the entire history of the Church.
Born in a castle near the small town of Aquino, Thomas was educated at the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino and at the University of Naples. He entered the Order of Preachers in 1244 over the strong opposition of his family. His brothers kidnapped him, held him in a castle for a year, and then tried to seduce him away from his vocation with a courtesan. Upon regaining his freedom, he went to Paris for further studies, and then to Cologne, where he studied under Albertus Magnus [November 15] from 1248 until 1252, during which period he was ordained a priest.
From 1259 to 1268, Thomas was in Naples and then at Orvieto, Viterbo, and Rome, teaching his fellow Dominicans. It was in Rome that he began writing his most famous work, the Summa Theologiae (Lat., “Synthesis of Theology”), which he continued to write for the next five years in Paris and Naples. On December 6, 1273, he suddenly stopped all of his writing. Whether this was due to a recognition of the limitations of his work or a medical condition from which he died a few months later, on March 7, 1274, cannot be known.
Thomas’s entire ministry as a teacher and preacher was a matter of giving to others what he had himself contemplated, which was for him the highest of all activities when done out of charity. It was this same openness and generosity of mind and heart that inspired him to use extensively the works of any authors—whether Chris tian, Jewish, or pagan—who might lead him to the truth.
Thomas was canonized in 1323 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1567. Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879), commended Thomas’s thought to all students of theology, thereby generating a revival of interest in the Angelic Doctor’s works. The following year Thomas was named patron saint of Catholic universities. His feast, formerly on March 7, is on the General Roman Calendar.