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I. HIS Birth and Early LIFE

II. Vocation and Trials


III. He Studies at Cologne, and Paris: His Bachelorship and Priesthood

IV. He Graduates as Doctor

V. First Period of His Writings: His System and Method of Study


VI. Second Period of His Writings

VII. His Heroic Sanctity   

VIII. Third Period of His Writings : HIS Death


IX. His Miracles, and Canonization

X. Translations of His Relics

Epilogue. Commendations of His Doctrine .


THOMAS AQUINAS, HIS LIFE AND TIMES (1225-1274) by G.K. Chesterton


SUMMA THEOLOGICA Translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province





by the Rev. M. C. D’ARCY


In an Oxford manuscript of the Summa Theologica are to be found the words : “Here Thomas dies. O Death, how thou art accursed!” The writers of the time were, no doubt, exuberant in their expressions of admiration and dislike; Frederick II was stupor mundi et immutator mirabilis, and Richard of England, Coeur de Lion. St. Thomas had his share of these praises and titles, and to estimate their worth we have to allow for the habit of the age. But when all allowances have been made, the impression remains that the medievalists loved and appreciated men of size, and ranked St. Thomas as the peer in philosophy of Hildebrand and Barbarossa in ecclesiastical and secular power. They liked “mountainy” men. The thirteenth century, in particular, was an age in which men tried to move mountains. The Papacy and the Empire alike dreamed of universal jurisdiction; the universities, lately established, were packed with youth, anxious and determined to explore and master all the far continents of thought. In the perspective of history we can now see that the characteristic of the century was architectural or formative. In England and France common law and jurisprudence took shape, Magna Charta was signed, St. Louis dispensed justice under an oak tree at Vincennes, and universities like Paris received their" permanent charters and statutes. Not that this quest for “the tranquillity of order” brought with it peace, though we do find many efforts, especially in France after the dark ages, to bring about a truce of God and leagues of peace. As is usual in a period of vaulting ambition—and the Elizabethan can serve as another example—order is sought at the point of the sword. The Popes, not content with contesting the claims of the Empire and stirring up Guelf against Ghibelline, in their desire to make a union of Christendom after their own heart, preached to the Princes of Europe the need of a Crusade against the Turk. Even in the domains of philosophy and theology the system-making did not proceed without fierce disputes and wild speculation. The Albigensian heresy had made great headway in the south of France, the Abbot Joachim deluded many with his prophecies of a new dispensation of the Holy Spirit, and St. Thomas had to contend with a strong Averrhoistic faction at Paris. It remains true, nevertheless, that the spirit of the age was architectural; it was embodied in stone in the cathedrals, and in poetry in the hierarchical vision of Dante, and in thought it finds its most representative expression in the system of St. Thomas Aquinas. With justice his Summa Theologica has been compared with the thirteenth century cathedrals. It shows the same sense of order and shape, and it is directed to the praise of God and the manifestation of his ways.

St. Thomas was a Dominican friar keeping himself apart, whether in Italy or at Paris, from purely secular matters, and devoted to teaching and speculation. There is no need, therefore, to narrate at any length the historical events, national or political, occurring around him. His family was involved in the quarrels of Papacy and Empire and suffered for their loyalties, but St. Thomas from childhood was evidently thought by his parents more suited to be a clerk than a warrior. His education was interrupted by the descent of Frederick II upon Monte Cassino, but from thence onwards we can follow his life’s history almost without reference to national wars. In his political doctrine, it is true, the problems of the time necessarily affected his solutions, but even here he is more a theorist than a practical reformer. At the date at which he was born Innocent III had been dead eight or nine years, and his protégé, Frederick II, “the child of Apulia,” had begun to show his hand against the Church. Honorius III was set upon a new Crusade, and Frederick played upon this desire to win from the Pope permission to rule Sicily for his lifetime and make his son King of the Romans on condition he himself led an army to the Holy Land. He found excuses to evade this condition during the lifetime of Honorius, but on the accession of Gregory IX he was met by a fierce old man who would not be tricked. The story of how Frederick set sail and returned almost immediately on the pretext of illness, his excommunication and defiant expedition at the end of which he crowned himself in Jerusalem, is too well known to need repetition. The result was a long and embittered conflict, first with Gregory and then with Innocent IV, during which both Italy and Germany suffered. The peace of San Germano in 1230 brought a breathing-space, and during the five years it lasted Frederick founded the University of Naples and fostered a spirit of free inquiry by introducing to his court Jewish and Arabian scholars. The Lombard cities, however, were growing restless, and united in a league against him. Gregory excommunicated Frederick, and so the youth of St. Thomas was passed in evil days in a distracted Italy. Celestine IV lived too short a while to carry out a policy, and his successor, Innocent IV, like the great Innocent III, was determined to make the Church, and not the Empire, the centre of unity for Europe. The war turned in his favour; the brethren of St. Thomas and the Franciscans were actively preaching a Crusade for him, and the death of Frederick in 1250 left him in a strong position. The years from 1254, when Innocent died, to 1270 were taken up with fights between Guelf and Ghibelline. The Empire had no leader and Pope Urban IV found a useful ally in Charles of Anjou. Charles defeated Manfred, an illegitimate son of Frederick, and secured Sicily, and when the Sicilians called Conrad in to their aid, he crushed the latter at Tagliacozzo in 1268.

This blow proved final and 1270 saw the conclusion of a long phase in the history of the Empire. It had begun in 918 with the reign of Henry the Fowler, the first of the Saxon monarchs. Under the Saxon and Salian lines the Empire grew in power at first in conjunction with the Church. Strong rulers were needed both in Germany and France to preserve the unity of Christendom. But whereas in France, under the Capetians, the monarchy advanced in strength at the expense of the feudal lords and in alliance with the Church, the German Emperors were distracted by affairs in Italy and Sicily. Inevitably they came into conflict with the Papacy. The Church was in danger of being merged in the feudal system. Thanks greatly to the influence of Cluny, the Church realised the degrading consequences of such a position. Cluny was exempt from episcopal jurisdiction and had many privileges, which in the heyday of its power enabled it to make a stand against simony and the other corrupt practices of the time. In the renaissance, then, of the twelfth century, the Church was able to find leaders, and at Paris and Chartres and Rheims in the cathedral schools, in the monasteries of Cluny and Bee, at Cologne, St. Gall, and Fulda, promoted the culture and led the way to a union of Christendom. But this action on the part of the Church did not proceed smoothly. Papacy and Empire clashed in the matter of investitures, a clash that was to be the beginning of many evils, and is summed up in literature under the name of Canossa.

One result was that France became the centre of European culture instead of Germany or Italy. It was fortunate in having kings who could take advantage of the internal dissensions of Germany, the weakness of England under John Lackland, and the jealousy of the great feudal lords towards one another. The monasteries and cathedral schools were secure enough to develop intellectually without the constant interruption of Guelf and Ghibelline faction cries. Under Philip Augustus (1179-1223) the system of administration was centralised in Paris, and that city took shape, with walls and castle and Louvre tower. Louis VIII strengthened his position both at home and with the Church by crushing the Albigensians, and after his death in 1226 Blanche of Castile surmounted the very difficult period of the minority of St. Louis by relying on the support of the clergy, the people, and Honorius III. No account of St. Thomas Aquinas can be complete if it does not include the figure of his fellow-saint and friend and king, Louis IX. He is the model of kings, as St. Thomas of philosophers and Dante of poets in the medieval hierarchy. He is the just ruler of political theory, a child of the Church, though no servile follower, and in keeping with thirteenth century ideals, his heart is ever in the Holy Land. From 1248 to 1254 he is engaged on an ill-fated enterprise there, and he returns there to die in 1270. Despite these absences, he takes a leading part in the politics of Europe, and at home he consolidates his kingdom and shows special favour to and interest in the University of Paris and the new religious orders of mendicant friars. These two new orders, the Dominican and the Franciscan, were the answer of the Church to the widening European outlook and the growing popular movements. Of the Dominican order in particular, it may be said that its work stood as an alternative to the plan of the Crusades. The supremacy in intellect was substituted for the attempt at supremacy in arms. St. Louis did not relinquish his dream of victory by arms over the Saracen, but he welcomed the coming of the friars to Paris and the University. There were, he saw, Christian victories to be won at home. The battle of Las Novas de Toledo had ended the power of the Moors in Spain and Portugal, but their intellectual influence became only the more formidable. It developed the tendency to wild speculation in Paris and caused great alarm to the leaders of the Church. Here it was that the Dominican friars showed their mettle as crusaders. Their advent to Paris was, however, greeted with considerable hostility. The University and the seculars were jealous of this new body with its privileges and esprit de corps, and resisted its incorporation into its own life. St. Thomas, who came from Naples to Paris about the year 1245, had to pass through some unpleasant years amid bickerings and pamphlet warfare, before his own eminence and that of his colleagues won the recognition due to them. Fortunately, the intervention of the Papacy and the firm friendship of St. Louis were of great assistance to them during the first critical years.

We see, then, that the times in which St. Thomas lived needed a philosophic and Christian genius to shape architecturally the many tendencies now freely manifesting themselves. Europe bad passed out of the dark ages, and with that liberation had come a race of great personalities and a spirit of daring enterprise. Politically and intellectually, control and direction were needed. The Crusades provided one outlet for the supercharged energy, and at the same time widened horizons and brought vividly before Christians the unity of their culture and religious belief. It is possible and not too fantastical to see within the small compass of the University of Paris in St. Thomas' lifetime a transcript of the world outside. There the mind of Christian Europe expressed itself in a struggle of words and ideas, and shaped itself into a unity of which the system of St. Thomas is an enduring expression and monument.



St. Thomas is no philosophic Melchisedech without ancestry, nor again the sole claimant to greatness among scholastic philosophers. His friends and contemporaries, Albert the Great and St. Bonaventure and his rival, Duns Scotus, are not dwarfed in his presence. Nevertheless tradition has rightly assigned him a certain pre-eminence, both because of the massive unity of his system and because that system reaffirms so much of the past in a measured and stately way. From the first century onwards the Christian thinkers had set to work to defend and develop the Christian teaching by adapting the current philosophic language to their creed. Their work, however, was primarily religious and apologetical and not philosophic, because they had as principal aim to safeguard the fundamental teaching of Christianity, to state and explain what was orthodox. It mattered little what school of philosophy they adopted. The Alexandrian Fathers, for instance, differed from those of Antioch, and both were far more familiar with the technical terms of philosophy than the Western Bishops. The trouble caused by these differences in philosophical tradition is plain from the Arian, Nestorian, and other disputes. In the end the currcnt philosophies were made to serve their turn, but they also managed to cause a certain embarrassment when the medieval scholastics took up the threads of the past.

This embarrassment was due not only to the necessarily somewhat opportunist attitude of the Fathers of the early Church to philosophy, but to the nature of the prevalent philosophies. They descended from the golden age of Greece, but in the passage of time they had become confused and contaminated. The habit of the later age was eclectic, and Stoic and Epicurean ideas were to be found commingled with Platonic and Aristotelian.. Pride of place, once enjoyed by Athens, later passed to Alexandria, and in this cockpit of different civilisations a Platonic tradition survived, though it contained many another strain, Jewish, Oriental and Graeco-Roman. Its greatest product was Neo-­Platonism. There Plotinus first lived and taught. His philosophy rallied to its support the last defenders of paganism against the conquering religion of Christianity, and later through the influence of St. Augustine it became part of the inheritance of Christian Europe.

So great was the influence of this saint on the future of philosophy, and in particular on St. Thomas, that we must stop to consider it. Born at Tagaste, in Numidia, in the year 354, he was for a long time a Manichean, accepting a dual principle of good and evil. According to his own account, it was Plato who first opened his eyes to the falsity of his position. After his conversion to the Christian life he showed marked traces of Neo-Platonism in his views. This philosophy, with its emphasis on the world of Spirit and its ardour for union with the divine, accorded with St. Augustine’s own aspirations. His change of life and reaction against the errors of his youth and subjection to the flesh, led him to sympathise with a system of thought which made little of the world of sense. He was harsh with paganism because he saw in it the picture of his former self, and he drew a violent contrast between the City of God and the city of man. In so far then as this sharp distinction between spirit and matter entered into his general philosophic and theological views, it gave them a list which needed righting. Christianity had always upheld the priority of spirit over matter and preached other­worldliness, but despite its aloofness from the Empire in its first days, and the practices and mode of life of hermits, stylites, and monks of the desert, it steadily refused to regard matter or the world as evil. Herein it may be said to be more inclusive and comprehensive than Platonism, or, if this offend the lovers of that school, it called for a very mellow form of that philosophy.

I know that labels are invariably dangerous when affixed to movements of thought, and this danger is more pronounced in treating of those which, after many centuries, affected St. Thomas. In the mind of St. Thomas and of most men, Augustinianism stood for Platonic tendencies. What these tendencies were it is not easy to describe in detail. The school that went by the name of Augustine did not always abide by the words of its master; it had something of his spirit and fastened on some of his doctrines. The same vagueness gathers round the names of Platonism and Neo-Platonism. (The most striking evidence of the confusion which reigned even in the thirteenth century is given by the remark of St. Thomas in one of his earlier writings, that “Basil and Augustine and many other saints follow the opinions of Plato in matters which pertain to philosophy and not to faith. But Dionysius nearly always follows Aristotle” Later in life St. Thomas recognised his error). As already stated, the Greek traditions had become contaminated in the process of time, and the raids of the early Christian Fathers on contemporary thought helped to make precise the terms of Christian doctrine but added to the confusion of the sources from which they drew.

The original doctrine of Plato, for instance, cannot be accepted as identical with the Platonism of the early Empire, still less with that form of it which persisted in the later Augustinianism. It was enough that he should stand as a precursor of the Christian revelation in the realm of pagan philosophy, that his name should be associated with a sublime theory of “ideas” and of the Logos. In fact, there is no mention of the Logos in the authentic Platonic writings, and from Augustine onwards the “ideas” were more often than not interpreted as ideas existing in the mind of God.

It remains true, nevertheless, that Platonism must be reckoned the greatest influence in the making of Christian philosophy, and that it has never died. Even before the coming of Christ it had made itself felt in Jewish thought by way of Alexandria. Later, in the third century a.d., Clement and Origen turned it to use in their theological speculations, and in the fourth, the two Gregorys and Basil applied it to their controversies with the Arians. The coming of Plotinus to Rome and the spread of Neo­Platonism in the West were instrumental in the adoption of it by St. Augustine. He came across it, as has already been said, at a crisis in his life, and though apparently he knew Plato only through Neo-Platonic sources, he conceived an undying admiration for him. The fact that Plotinus and Porphyry had supplemented Platonism with a spirit of religious enthusiasm and mysticism only stimu­lated Augustine the more. His genius transformed the philosophy and left at least the outline of a unified Christian philosophy to future ages.

From St. Augustine, then, to St. Thomas, the mind of Christendom was predominantly Platonic. This does not mean that there were no Aristotelians before St. Thomas, nor that the influence of Aristotle counted for little. As we shall see, certain texts of Aristotle and the commentaries on them laid the foundations of medieval Scholasticism, and there were not a few partisans of his teaching. But he was more like a maître d’armes while the youth of Europe fought for Plato’s favour. We have only to turn to the works of the pseudo-Dionysius and consider their vogue, for convincing evidence of this. These works, written about the beginning of the sixth century, are permeated with Neo-Platonic ideas; they formed the mystical language of Christianity and dictated the lines of argument and thought to be used when writing of God. The Aristotelian St. Thomas shows no less deference to them than the Augustinians. Again it is noteworthy that the first outstanding genius after the Patristic age, Scotus Eriugena, is a wholehearted Neo-Platonist, with a vision of the universe moving out from God and deploying out in rank and file, and finally returning to its First Beginning. This vision, be it said, haunted the medieval philosopher ever after. And if it be held that, whatever the merits of Eriugena, Christian thought reverted in him to paganism fqr a moment, there is the “father of Scholasticism”, St. Anselm of Canterbury, to prove the dominant influence of Platonism. The number of manuscripts of his writings which survive show the esteem in which he was held. He was more interested in theology and faith than in pure philosophy, and so, compared with Eriugena or St. Thomas, he looks more like an essayist than the author of a system. But as the disciple of St. Augustine and as linked with him, he exhibits the heights which the tradition of Christian Platonism could reach. No philosopher of the Middle Ages surpassed him in delicacy or vigour of mind.

The reason for the popularity of Augustinianism is not far to seek. The Neo-Platonist philosophy was directed to ecstasy and union with the One, and it is easy to see how this was convertible into Christian terms! Verus philosophus est amator Dei, the true philosopher is the lover of God, echoed St. Augustine. “Show a sheep a green bough and thou drawest him. Let a child see some nuts and he is drawn by them. As they run they are drawn, drawn by taste, drawn without bodily hurt, drawn by a line bound to their heart. If then among earthly things, such as be sweet and pleasant draw those that love them as soon as they are seen so that it is the truth to say, ‘his special pleasure draweth each’, doth not that Christ, whom the Father hath revealed, draw? What stronger object of love can a soul have than the truth?” In this search under the compulsion of love all earthly copies of truth and goodness are greeted with a certain dissatisfaction. The soul wishes to fly to God and to be likened (assimilari) to him. No wonder such a human, and at the same time sublime and Christian conception of the end of philosophy captured the hearts of succeeding generations, and lived on in various forms in medieval Scholasticism.

As can be seen from the quotations given, philosophy according to St. Augustine is an affair of the whole man, of heart as well as head. This emphasis on the will had interesting consequences. St. Augustine himself maintained that a holy and pure life were necessary for an appreciation and understanding of truth. This is a salutary maxim but somewhat alarming for the philosopher, and when exaggerated it tends to a denial of the claims of the reason. Part of the suspicion with which Abelard was viewed came from his supposed rationalism, and St. Bernard and St. Peter Damien were voicing a widespread attitude of mind when they spoke disparagingly of the philosophical schools and of overmuch learning in religion. The question too of the relation between reason and faith—a question ever under discussion in the schools—seemed to some to be compromised. One result was to delay the emancipation of philosophy from dogma and the recognition of its autonomy. Another was to encourage a mysticism without any intellectual basis. When then, St. Thomas put aside experience and special illuminations, and appeared to minimise the importance of divine faith in cognition, he had to face disapproval from many quarters. He was accused of being unfaithful to the teaching of St. Augustine, of importing a peripatetic rationalism into Christianity and belittling the importance of faith. The thirteenth century had inherited from St. Augustine a rather obscure doctrine of the illumination of the mind by God. “God lighteth every man that cometh into the world”, gave the Biblical warrant. The human mind understood in rationibus esternis, in luce increata. We can judge of the scandal caused when St. Thomas not only rejected this doctrine, but put in its place that of the Aristotelian “active intellect,” a theory which, in the hands of the Arabians, was decidedly incompatible with Christian teaching.

It must not be thought that the evil effects which followed the teaching of St. Augustine had any necessary relation to it. The philosophy of St. Bonaventure, the contemporary of St. Thomas, suffices to disprove such a supposition, if the unfinished character of the works of Augustine leave a doubt. To Bonaventure’s mind “among philosophers the word of wisdom was given to Plato, to Aristotle the word of knowledge. The one looked principally to what is higher, the other to what is lower. But the word both of knowledge and wisdom was given by the Holy Ghost to Augustine. He is, then, a disciple of Augustine, and in his philosophy the old flowers into new beauty. With justice M. Gilson says that in reading his Opuscula one has the impression of being in the presence of Francis of Assisi, and he adds that “ it is to this constant emotion of a heart feeling itself near to its God that we owe the refusal to follow the philosophy of Aristotle to its ultimate consequences, and the persistent claim of an intimate contact between creature and creator. Thus were safeguarded, at the very moment when the Aristotelianism of St. Thomas was about to triumph, the rights of a philosophical tradition, the inexhaustible fertility of which the great synthesis of Duns Scotus, and, beyond Duns Scotus, of Malebranche, was later to prove.” Indeed, it is not difficult to regard this difference between the Thomist and Augustinian attitude as a phase in the age-long collision of intellectual and pragmatic or voluntarist philosophies of life. Neither St. Thomas nor St. Bonaventure was an extremist; both would have rejected more modern attempts to philosophise without love or desire, to make science cover all modes of cognition, or on the other hand to ban logic in the name of religious and aesthetic experience, and set the will to believe in the place of truth. But at the same time both would have recognised below the excesses an affinity with one or other of their own predilections.

Thus both in spirit and in detail the Augustinians and St. Thomas were antagonistic. In the thirteenth century the particular doctrines of the former can be divided into two groups. The first include the theory of illumination already mentioned, the identification of the faculties or activities of the soul with the soul itself, and the substantial independence of the soul from the body. This latter is drawn from Plato and fits in with the popular conception of a spirit inhabiting a body and thwarted by it. St. Thomas, true to his Aristotelian principles, rejected this dualism. In his view a human being is one only by the union of body and soul, and we misconceive human nature when we imagine the soul to be complete and human by itself. To the same mistake he attributed the habit among his opponents of minimising the part played by sense in knowledge, and their acceptance of innate ideas and a native power to perceive the immaterial independently of the senses. In the second group may be placed certain un-Aristotelian theories of matter. To the Aristotelian, matter co-exists with form to constitute a being, and of itself it is nothing more than potency. The Augustinian held that matter also possessed positive being, though of an inferior order. In this matter the rationes seminales (seminal principles) were hidden, to develop later into the different species of material things. On the other hand spirits, even angels, had matter in their being; they were possessed of both matter and form. One form was not, however, a necessity, as they admitted a plurality of substantial forms in what was composite. Strange as it may sound to modern ears, this question of the plurality of forms was one of the most hotly debated at Paris and Oxford in the thirteenth century. We must remember that it touched on several theological doctrines, such as that of transubstantiation, the state of Christ’s body in the tomb, and the veneration of the bodies of the saints. To err here was therefore dangerous, and this explains why such passion was aroused by the theory of St. Thomas that a fellow Dominican, Kilwardby, could condemn it as dangerous and Peckham call it a cancerous sore.

The strength of Augustinianism, however, did not rest so much on any particular doctrine as on the spiritual outlook it engendered. There had been Aristotelians before St. Thomas, and some of the Franciscan school, especially at Oxford, went as far as St. Thomas, if not farther, in their insistence on sense-experience as a requisite for knowledge. What St. Augustine did, as a writer has expressed it, was to interiorise philosophy. The secret of knowledge, the way of truth, lies within, and it is because this teaching lay so near to the heart of religion and found expression in so many of its greatest exponents, in St. Anselm and the school of St. Victor, that it needed much courage to challenge it with a cold and alien philosophy. Albert the Great, the teacher of St. Thomas, made the task easier because of his universal prestige and known orthodoxy. Nevertheless, what Paschasius Radbertus had written in the ninth century remained true in the thirteenth, “that to contradict St. Augustine is an act of impiety.” St. Thomas had therefore to proceed very warily, and it is interesting to notice how willing he is to concede to his great forerunner whatever might be said in favour of his opinions. Where he is forced by truth to differ he does so with marked respect. He excuses weaknesses by remarking that “Augustine, who was steeped in the doctrines of the Platonists, took over whatever he found in their writings in accordance with faith, and corrected whatever was unnosed to it.” He distinguished again in St. Augustine's writings between the theological and the natural. “Neither Galen nor Augustine had much knowledge of nature”. On matters, then, of natural philosophy, it was reasonable to expect that his views might be at times superseded. But in theology he was glad to be able to make of Augustine not an enemy but an ally. A Platonist would say that Aristotle, like Dante’s Vergil, will do very well as a guide for the nether world, but for the Paradise of theology the company of Plato and Augustine must be sought. More justly P. Mandonnet has said that “it is by this method and on this philosophical basis (namely, a combination of Plato and Aristotle) that Albert and St. Thomas reorganised the Augustinian dogma, thereby providing for it a firmer foundation and a more systematic arrangement.”



The victory of Aristotelianism in the thirteenth century marks the turning point in the history of Christian philosophy. The change had been prepared by writers like Alexander of Hales and the Franciscan school at Oxford, but it was accomplished by Albert and St. Thomas. It may seem strange that one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity had to wait so long for full recognition. There are, however, many reasons for this neglect. At the advent of Christianity the peripatetic school had declined and was occupied mainly in annotating the logical works of its founder. Much also of the genuine Aristotle was absorbed in the syncretistic thought of the period or converted into the prevalent system of Neo-Platonism. The Christian writers naturally found Platonism more suitable for their purpose, but fragments of Aristotelianism can be found in the Apologists, the school of Antioch preferred him, and it may be said in general that cultured minds must inevitably have received something of his stamp.

The fourth and fifth centuries were chiefly interested in rhetoric and grammar, and the only metaphysical system which attracted adherents was Neo-Platonism. Then with the invasion of the barbarians came night over Europe. When under Charlemagne learning revived, the libraries were very scantily provided. Two possessions, however, helped to preserve continuity and stimulate culture. The first was the long memory of the Church. The bishops and monks were saturated with the Patristic thought, and it was this which enabled them to make so much of the poor resources at hand. When we recall that in philosophy up to the thirteenth century they had only the Meno of Plato, a fragment in translation of the Timaeus, and a few commentaries, and of Aristotle only the logical treatises, we are bound to look beyond the slender material for an explanation of the quality of their thought. Now, as has been explained, the tendency of the Patristic age had been Platonic and Augustinian. Hence one main influence up to Albert was of this kind. But the second possession was of almost equal importance. Aristotle survived, not in his authentic writings, but in the commentaries of Porphyry (a Neo-Platonist, c. 232-300, who commented on the Organon of Aristotle as an introduction to Plato), Martianus Capella, Cassiodorus and Boethius. It was they who transmitted not only some of the ideas of Plato, but also part of the logical treatises of Aristotle to the Venerable Bede, Alcuin and Raban Maur and others of the first tutors of the West. Thus it was that the logic of Aristotle crept in and that dialectic assumed the chief place in the schools and in the estimation of the leaders of thought. To Bede dialectic is the magistra judicii; Alcuin congratulated Charlemagne on his desire to study it, and in the tenth century there is the strange and pleasant incident of Gerbert interrupting his work as Pope Sylvester II to solve a difficulty of Otto III in his reading of Porphyry. It is a passage, again in Porphyry, that started the celebrated dispute about universals, and so is in a way responsible for the rise of Scholasticism.

The passage is as follows : “Since, in order to understand the doctrine of the categories of Aristotle, it is necessary to know the meanings of genus, differentia, species, property and accident, and since this knowledge is useful for definition, and in general for division and demonstration, I wish to try, by way of summary ard introduction, to deal with what the ancients have said about them. But I would avoid questions which are too profound, and touch only lightly on those which are more simple. For example I will refrain from stating whether genera and species exist in reality or only in the mind, and if they exist in reality whether they are corporeal or incorporeal, separate from sensible objects or existent in them and making part of them”.

Of the logical treatises only the De Interpretatione was known at first; a little later came the Categories. Abelard declared positively that he knew only two works of Aristotle : “Aristotelis enim duos tantum, Pradicamentorum scilicet et Peri-Hermeneias libros usus adhuc latinorum cognovit.” Nevertheless, about this time other writers became acquainted with almost all the other parts of the Organon. The rapprochement between the Papacy and the court of the Greek Emperors in the first half of the twelfth century helped the spread of translations. Several Italian scholars busied themselves in translating Greek and especially Patristic texts, and amongst the translations were certain books of Aristotle, as the evidence of Robert de Monte shows : “James, a cleric of Venice, translated with a commentary certain books of Aristotle, namely, the Topics, the Prior and Posterior Analytics, and the Elenchi.” Also, from indications in the Metalogicus of John of Salisbury, it would appear that he had before him a “nova translatio” by a “Greek scholar,” who came from Severina in Calabria.

The growth, then, of translations, the love of dialectic, and the dispute over universals, gave Aristotle an influence which, if less resounding than that of Plato, nevertheless probably equalled it in effect. Gunzon of Novara, writing in the tenth century, asks: “Aristotle or Plato, which of the two should one trust the more? The authority of both is great, and one would have great difficulty in setting one above the other.” We learn from John of Salisbury that there were plenty of peripatetics in his day, that Aristotle was regarded as the logician par excellence, and that owing to the discovery of the remaining books of the Organon it was felt that to be a great logician was also to be a great philosopher. Plato might still be princeps totius philosophies, but Aristotle was the philosopher par excellence. And somewhat later Alexander Neckam could write that “it is waste of time to praise the genius of Aristotle, as useless as to attempt to help the sun’s rays with torches.”

But the authority of Aristotle as a logician cannot suffice to explain his success in the thirteenth century and the loyalty shown to him by Albert and St. Thomas. By that time everything was in trim for a battle of philosophies. Abelard and his successors had cleared the ground by their skill in dialectic, and Peter Lombard had provided in the Liber Sententiarum an excellent textbook from which to start, and coincident with this came the discovery of Aristotle as a metaphysician, as the author of the Physics and Metaphysics and the Ethics. The greeting he received from the Church is at first sight surprising. Students were forbidden to read and professors to teach his philosophy. The reason for this is that the Metaphysics was introduced to Christendom chiefly under the auspices of the Arabians. To realise the enormity of this we have to remember two things : first, that in those days Christendom was self-contained, and as hostile to pagan thought as a Roland or Oliver to a paynim host. Secondly, this new Aristotle was an Arab brew. For centuries the Jews and Arabians in Syria, Egypt, and later in Spain had meditated and commented on him. St. Thomas profited by their speculations, but their general trend was one with which no Christian philosopher could agree. Avicenna (980­1036) was the least antagonistic; Averrhoes (1126-1198), on the other hand, taught that matter was eternal, that the heavenly spheres were intelligent, that the human intellect was numerically one, and that consequently individual men were not immortal, and he suggested the doctrine of the two truths. The scepticism contained in this suggestion and the general tendency to a kind of fatalism were utterly alien to Christian teaching and bound to provoke the suspicion and condemnation of the Church. In fact had the knowledge of Aristotle been entirely dependent on these Arabian sources, there would have been no chance of his success. Fortunately this was not the case. Historians are now able to trace a continuous process of independent study of the Aristotelian text. The Italian scholars had been occupied with Greek translations for some time, and besides them we know of others, like James of Venice and Robert Grosseteste. Albert, too, and St. Thomas quickly made up their minds to have their own translations of the original text. St. Thomas did not know Greek sufficiently well to do this for himself, nor had he the time, so he employed Henry of Brabant and William of Moerbeke to perform the task. He was thus able to present an orthodox Aristotle and challenge the interpretation of his enemies.

Before describing the clash of Arab, Augustinian and St. Thomas, it is necessary to say a word on the dependence of St. Thomas on Aristotle. That he adopted the peripatetic system as the basis of his teaching is clear, and whenever he can accept Aristotle’s explanations of any point he does so. This does not, however, imply as much lack of originality as might be supposed. The method of treating authorities was different then from what it is now. As a Vergil could copy Homer and keep his genius and his reputation, so a medievalist could veil his thought under great Greek names. By the standard of his time, as his biographers bear witness, St. Thomas was considered unusually novel in his views. He struck his contemporaries as the inventor of “a new method, new arguments, new points of doctrine, new order of questions, new light.” And this is not surprising when we reflect that he broke with a tradition which, in the minds of some, was almost synonymous with Christianity, and made an alliance with what was supposedly Arabian. In itself it must be considered a tour de force to reset a system like that of Aristotle in terms of such a different view of life as that of Christianity. The latter had been worked upon by diverse thinkers for thirteen centuries, and anyone who wrote about it had to take note of this tradition and see to it that his views harmonised with what was orthodox, with the meaning of Holy Scripture and the disciplinary and spiritual life of the Church.

Moreover, we must not be misled by St. Thomas’ deference to his Master, “the Philosopher.” His mind was singularly unambitious and free from jealousy. Hardly ever do we find him depreciating a writer of the past or borrowing without acknowledgment. Hence, in estimating his debt to Aristotle or the pseudo-Dionysius or St. Augustine, we have to take into account an almost excessive modesty and courtesy. But neither in him nor in Albert did this courtesy approach hero-worship. Albert speaks with scorn of those who treat Plato and Aristotle as if they were gods, and St. Thomas says expressly that the reason for which he follows Aristotle is that “few or no inconveniences follow from his views.” The secret of his own attitude is to be found in his saying that the study of philosophy does not consist in the knowledge of what men think, but in the understanding of truth . He was quite aware that Aristotelianism had its limitations and dark side. Averrhoism was there to suggest it, and his opponents were not shy of dinning it into his ears. Even his own friend, St. Bonaventure, could denounce the new Aristotelians as “followers of darkness”. This party argued, not without some reason, that there was no room in the system taken up by St. Thomas for a personal God. Wrapped up in himself, God could take no interest in the world—a world therefore without providence and without beginning. St. Thomas was not indifferent to these serious charges, as his writings show; he admitted certain errors and owned that “the argument from authority, based on human reason is exceedingly weak”. If he adhered to the main principles of Aristotelianism then we are forced to conclude that he did so in the interests, as he thought, of truth.



Scholasticism is the name given to the form of philosophy which prevailed in the Middle Ages, and its character and methods were imposed on it by the circumstances and needs of the period, which stretches from Charlemagne to the thirteenth century. Before the coming of the barbarians the Graeco-Roman culture had prevailed, and the Christian Church had been occupied for the most part with its own affairs and the development of its theology. Even when the Empire passed into Christian hands, the gloom hanging over a moribund society, the fall of Rome and the inrush of the barbarians had diverted the thoughts of great leaders, like Augustine and Gregory, from any constructive alliance. But at the end of the dark period, when Europe lay wasted, the only cultural influence existing was the Church. In so far as anything of the past remained, it was due to the efforts of missionaries, of bishops, and of the monks of St. Benedict. So far from standing aloof from temporal concerns as of old, the Church had now the task of co-operating with kings and peoples in the building of a new order, social and intellectual. The work inevitably gave rise to new problems: in the social order, of the relation of Church to State, of Papacy to Empire; in education and philosophy, of the relation between faith aijd reason, and of the goodness of human life and the visible universe. As time went on natural reason began to assert its rights to philosophise, in connection with revealed religion indeed, but independently and according to its own proper rules. This was the genesis of Scholasticism. Then, as the world of human experience, of body and sense, of secular institutions and life, unfolded itself before these scholastics, they had to decide how this could be incorporated into the Christian scheme of philosophy. Owing perhaps to the fascination of novelty or maybe to a feeling that Platonists did not welcome “Mother Earth and Brother Fire, who is fair and joyous and mighty and strong,” the majority decided in favour of St. Thomas, and the Thomist Aristotelianism became the most representative philosophy of Scholasticism.

For the beginning of this philosophic movement wo have to go back to Charlemagne. Conscious of the evil plight of learning he encouraged study and invited the monasteries to open schools both for their own members and for externs. This good work was consolidated in the year 778 by the capitulary given to Bangulf, Bishop of Fulda, which recommended the foundation of monastic and cathedral schools. Moreover, the most famous scholars from abroad were invited to come and help, and by their means the cathedral schools were supplied with a number of competently trained professors or scholastics as they were called. These schools flourished and as they usually existed in a town, the guilds, which came into being in the towns about this time, provided a nucleus for a semi­university life. The first stage, therefore, was completed with the organisation of youths in a guild corporation near to some prominent abbey or cathedral which happened to be furnished with a strong staff of teachers. After a while the fame of these teachers grew; students gathered from the countryside, and later from far-off places, and gradually the medieval university came into being. Naturally at first the studies in most places pivoted round dialectic and theology, and to the end the name of University refers rather to the union of professors, masters and students, than to the number of faculties and breadth of the teaching. The main interest varied in different places : at Bologna it was law, canonical and civil; at Chartres the bent was humanistic; at Oxford more scientific. Paris remained the home of theology, and in time raced ahead of its rivals in fame and as the centre of attraction.

The beginnings of the future University of Paris were modest. The text of Porphyry, of which mention has already been made, had at length excited the attention it merited, and William of Champeaux lectured on it at the school of Notre Dame. By the novelty of his views on the meaning of the universal and the brilliance of his lectures, he drew crowds to listen to him. But he did even more for Paris by arousing the opposition of the youthful Abelard. Abelard has left us no clear system in his writings, and did his reputation rest on them alone he would rank as little more than an acute dialectician. But clearly his personality far surpasses the figure known to us on paper. His magnetic genius drew immense crowds to sit at his feet. Their numbers have almost certainly been exaggerated, but that they were vast can be gathered from the enthusiasm of Fulk de Deuil. “Rome sent to thee its children for instruction, far Brittany gave thee her own to educate; the Angevins made thee homage of theirs. The inhabitants of Poitou, Gascony, Spain, Normandy, Flanders, Germany and Suabia ceased not to proclaim and praise the excellency of thy mind.” Thus it came about that Paris became the intellectual centre of Europe. From Abelard's death to the lifetime of St. Thomas its fame went on increasing, and many celebrated writers and schools can be numbered in its history. Philip Augustus put it under his special protection, and from Rome came guarantees and privileges.

At Paris, in the thirteenth century, the vast numbers of students were divided into four nations : the French, the English, the Normans, and a group which comprised the rest of the northern peoples and went by the name of the nation of Picardy. If report and song are to be believed, they were a wild assembly, “fonder of knives than knightly sword,” ever creating disturbances in the streets, singing and drinking at night with torchlight processions, often desperately poor, and passionately interested in learning. Like the guilds they had definite masters whose lectures they were forced to attend for a certain period. The time though theoretically fixed, varied in practice. At the end of it the student was examined orally by three or four masters. If successful in this examination he had to submit a thesis and answer questions about it at an appointed time of the year. He then became a bachelor and pursued his studies on texts. Finally he was raised to the position of a master and began his teaching with a solemn inaugural lecture.

The type of education became uniform and the style of teaching traditional. In the Arts school logic was the principal study, and the Sex Principia of Gilbert de la Porrée, the Organon of Aristotle, and a few other books were taken as texts. In theology the teaching was based on the Bible and the famous Book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. St. Thomas, for instance, began with a Commentary on the Sentences. With our modern clear-cut divisions between the various sciences and science and philosophy, our established rules of procedure, our hard and fast methods of delineating a subject, it is difficult to realise how promiscuous and entangled was the learning of the early scholastics. A glance at the first Summae will reveal an innumerable number of questions, biblical, theological, philosophic and scientific, naive and profound, gathered together in what must strike the reader as a quite arbitrary arrangement. In process of time, indeed, subjects were shuffled into shape, and the sequence would have been easily grasped by a medieval student. Nevertheless, even for him the Book of the Sentences must have been a godsend. St. Thomas improved even upon Peter. The order he follows is definite and consistent and not too crowded with detail unimportant to a modern reader. But it would be too much to expect that he, who had to teach and suit his discourses to his audiences, should be free from the habit of mingling Scripture with philosophical analysis, St. Paul with Aristotle.

The methods employed in lecturing must be held responsible for the somewhat forbidding arrangement of his books into questions with articles. The articles themselves begin with a question, then a long or short string of objections (sometimes mistaken for the real answer by unwary readers), the deliberate statement of the true view, and finally a careful reply to each of the difficulties. This was the method in vogue and St. Thomas, in common with others, would have used the Videtur quod non, sed contra and responeo dicendum, when he began as a bachelor to teach in 1252, and after taking his licentiate with St. Bonaventure in 1256. The ever-increasing number of students who sat under him on straw mats while he expounded the Bible or Peter Lombard, were trained to this method and able easily to memorise by means of it. There was apparently no fixed time for stopping, and the professor could continue for several hours if his subject kept the attention of his audience. Besides the ordinary lectures there were formal and informal debates. The professor proposed a subject and named combatants for each side. This practice, which still continues in Catholic seminaries, produced the Quaestiones Disputatae. At the end the professor summed up and made a fair copy of his solution. These were then collected and published abroad. More solemn and public debates were held at certain seasons of the year, such as Advent or Lent. Crowds came from all the schools, and sometimes the Bishop of Paris or even the King, St. Louis, presided. The professor and his pupils took it upon themselves to maintain some thesis, de quolibet, against the world. Naturally the brunt of the attack fell upon the professor, and for days he might have to parry objections. When they were finished he summed up and his summaries were published under the title, Quaestiones quodlibetales.

It was in these circumstances and under these influences that Scholasticism acquired the status of a philosophy. At first religion and theology and philosophy had been taken together. Then Abelard and others claimed that a disinterested use of reason could not be prejudicial to religion, and so it came to be recognised that reason had its own proper object and end. A similar process was going on in other pursuits. In art the religious motif plays a great part throughout the Middle Ages, but the stress of that motif changes. Quietly the claims of art assert themselves, so that in the heyday of medieval life a picture or sculpture or building can be described both as religious and as a pure work of art. A picture by Giotto is an end in itself, even though the subject be to the glory of a St. Francis; the Divina Commedia is pure poetry though its setting be the Christian after-life and its language in places almost a transcript of Thomist theology. In the same way Scholasticism, which had developed in the schools of Christian thinkers more theological than philosophic, emerged after a time into a system which, whatever its relation with the Christian faith, had a basis of pure reason. This combined purpose, in which both motives keep their integrity, is most evident in St. Thomas. He cared with his whole soul for the faith and its message of union with God, and, nevertheless, he loved truth also and would not accept anything his reason could not approve. “Nothing”, he says, “may be asserted as true that is opposed to the truth of faith, to revealed dogma. But neither is it permissible to take whatever we hold as true and present it as an article of faith. For the truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels, if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as a dogma what scientific examination shows to be false” (De Pot., I). Here he is principally the apologist of Christianity. In another place, however, he says, apropos of Job’s dispute with God: “For man to dispute with God seems to be unbecoming because of God’s superiority to man. But we should observe that truth does not change with different persons. Hence, when a man states what is true, he cannot be worsted no matter with whom he dispute” (in Job, cap. 13). The corollary from this is that St. Thomas would prefer to be read as a Christian philosopher, but that he is prepared to stand the test on his philosophy alone. Philosophy, that is, in the thirteenth century was always regarded by its Christian exponents as the handmaid of religion, but the handmaid was, by general consent, a very independent person.

In thus championing the claims of the intellect St. Thomas performed a very necessary and opportune work. In the age in which he wrote only a system based on reason could temper the prevalent mood. There was a fear then as now that tradition could not keep pace with discovery, that new ideas would sweep everything away. The Crusades had brought back booty for the mind as well as for the body, and Arabian and Jewish ideas were gaining ground in the universities. In the ferment of the new and the old, the younger minds showed a precocity which was alarming. The Church had set its face against the Evangelium Aeternum of Joachim and its followers, and stamped out the Cathari and the Albigenses. But it was not so easy to check and control the movements of thought which accompanied the rapid and enthusiastic acquisition of knowledge, and to hold the balance between the philosophy of nature and religion. Some form of alliance was necessary now that civilisation was Christian. Chris­tians had to be citizens of two worlds; their occupations were acknowledged to be good and holy, and nature was revealing itself as a true work of God in the beauty which St. Francis hymned and the masons imitated in the capitals beneath the arches.

The philosophy which encouraged these tendencies, and nevertheless subdued them with the whip of reason, was the Aristotelian. The Church at first did not realise the service which that system could render, because of its Arabian associations, but when Albert and St. Thomas proved by deed that the suspicions were ill-founded, the Church became a convert. Thus it came about that just at the time when it was needed, a system of philosophy came into favour which joined together the physical and spiritual worlds harmoniously, depreciated all forms of illuminism, relied on sense experience, and proclaimed the exalting and disciplinary power of the human intellect. When we add that its chief exponent, St. Thomas, had the gift of working on a large canvas, and ranged through the whole Universe, invisible and visible, from the lowliest form of matter to the divine being, there can be no surprise that Aristotelianism became the successful rival of Platonism, and that the Thomist system impressed itself upon the age as the complete Christian interpretation of the world.






The noble Aquino family could boast of a descent through four centuries from the Lombard Princes, besides being allied with the Sovereign houses of Europe in the thirteenth century. The family name was a territorial one, which in Latin and French idioms of speech appears as Aquinas and d’Aquin. St. Thomas was born in the Castle of Rocca Secca, perched high in the mountains, some seven miles from Aquino which lies in the plain below, in the Campagna Felice of the Kingdom of Naples. He first saw the light in the opening days of the year 1225, less than four years from the death of St. Dominic. Landulf, his father, was nephew to the Emperor Frederick I; he belonged to the noble house of Sommacoli, and was Count of Aquino, Lord of Loreto, Acerra, and Belcastro. His mother, Theodora Carraciola, Countess of Teano in her own right, was sprung from the Norman Princes. St. Thomas, their third son, was cousin to the Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II, and closely allied to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and France; while on his grandmother’s side he could trace descent from England’s Saxon Kings. For godfather he had Pope Honorius III, the Pontiff who confirmed the Order of Preachers, of which the child was destined to be the brightest luminary. The Aquinos were a military race, so Landulf gave to his third son a name already famous in arms, Thomas, in memory of his own father, who had been Captain-General of the Imperial forces; little did he dream then that the boy would be a soldier of Christ, wielding the sword of Truth, and an undying leader of intellectual hosts.

The future holiness of the unborn babe was disclosed to his mother by a holy hermit of the neighbourhood, known simply as Buono, or God’s good man. Clad in a rough garment, and with hair unkempt, he presented himself at Rocca Secca, and pointing to a picture of the holy patriarch St. Dominic, who was not yet canonized, he thus addressed the Countess : “Lady, be glad, for thou art about to have a son whom thou shalt call Thomas. Thou and thy husband will think of making him a monk in the Abbey of Monte Cassino, where St. Benedict’s body reposes, in the hopes that your son will attain to its honours and wealth. But God has disposed otherwise, because he will become a friar of the Order of Preachers, and so great will be his learning and sanctity that his equal will not be found through the whole world.” Theodora listened with awe to the presage, then, falling upon her knees, exclaimed : “I am all unworthy of bearing such a son, but, God’s will be done according to His good pleasure”. In due time the child was baptized under the name of Thomas, which signifies Abyss, while the Bishop of Aquino stood as proxy for the Sovereign Pontiff. In God’s deep counsels a name imposed often stands prophetic of destiny : so was it in this instance, for in after days “the abyss put forth its voice” (Habacuc III. 10). From the hour of the prophetic telling, Thomas was the fruit of her soul by prayer as of a mother’s womb by nature. A special providence watched over him during infancy. One night in June, 1228, a lightning stroke smote the tower in which the child of grace lay sleeping beside his nurse : in agony of mind the alarmed mother ran to the spot, to find him unharmed, while her little daughter lay dead and charred, and the horses in the stables beneath were killed. This occurrence left in him a life-long nervousness and dread of storms, which he could never allay. In consequence of this, in later years in a subterranean cave at Anagni, he traced upon the walls in capital letters this distich in fashion of a cross :—

The Cross is my sure safety.

It is the Cross that I ever adore.

The Lord’s Cross is with me.

The Cross is my refuge.

Thomas was a gentle child, with deep lustrous eyes and thoughtful expression of countenance, in whom piety appeared as a Divine gift of nature, an inborn sense of soul. His earliest turnings of mind and heart were to God, so that even in the dawn of his day he was spoken of as a child of grace. Free from the wonted petulance of childhood, he showed little of its giddiness, still he was always cheerful and of modest demeanour. He loved to gaze with eyes of wonder on the illuminated pages of missals or scripts which he was incapable of understanding, while the stillness of the chapel with its solitary light exercised a fascination on his tender mind. Gentle and fleeting as a Spring shower are the tears of childhood. If at any time they fell from his sunny face, the sight of a book or manuscript would always comfort him : it was his toy, his plaything, and to turn the pages ever and again was his little world of joy; clearly the child was father of the man. There is something startling, even eerie, in a child’s piety, in its innocence, unconscious of guile, in its human faith of trust, its first turnings upwards: like the turning of the flower to the sun is a child’s soul stirred and drawn heavenwards. When the Psalmist broke out in rhapsody: “Thy magnificence, O Lord, is elevated above the heavens,” he instantly turns to the thought of the child: “ Out of the mouths of infants and of sucklings Thou hast perfected praise” (Ps. VIII. 2, 3). All this we have to realize in the childhood of St. Thomas, whose young virgin soul, like some clear pool, reflected the Creator’s image. As the first years drew on, he, like another Holy Child in Nazareth, grew in spiritual beauty before God and men. His angelic comeliness and sweetness of disposition increased, so that he charmed irresistibly all with whom he came in contact.

The first parting with home came in the autumn of 1231, when he was but six and a half years old. Six miles away to the south stands the venerable Abbey of Monte Cassino on a high plateau, and visible from Aquino and Rocca Secca. This ancient home of learning and piety was the school in which Count Landulf placed his boy, not in the cloister, but in the school for youths of gentle birth, since the old time custom of placing children in the cloister was extinct by papal mandate quite a century before. The monks of St. Benedict were deeply beholden to the Aquinos, who had defended their sanctuary against Roger, King of Sicily : at this very time the Lord Abbot, the fiftieth in line, was the young scholar’s uncle, Landulf Sennebald. There the boy spent five years under the tutelage of those God-fearing men, but attended by his family tutor or governor, while the rare gifts of mind and soul expanded. It was not an unbroken stay in the abbey, for when the holidays came round, he rode to Loreto or Belcastro to regain his family circle. During his stay in the school he learnt the common elements of a child’s education, how to speak and write correctly his native Italian tongue, also the rudiments of Latin and French : to this would naturally be added the religious catechism suited to his tender years, and the school discipline of obedience. The memory of his residence there was long treasured up, and rehearsed in after days by the monks, who loved to speak of the precocious mind which would muse on Divine problems, and put such questions as these: “What is God? How can we know God? What is Truth?” Anything savouring of levity or carelessness was never seen in him : however amiable he was towards his young companion or ready to pay them a service, he was slow to join in their boyish chatter, slower still at joining in their games. His refining influence made itself felt among them, but the companionship he prized most was a book, and his favourite retreat the church. The atmosphere of the quiet cloistered precincts was a congenial one: it nurtured his observant powers, and formed the silent thinker, the prayerful spirit, who spoke so deeply in maturer years.

Midway between his eleventh and twelfth years came the violent transition which so often mars characters of promise. The shy boy, with those round ox-like eyes set deep and clear, must pass from peace to tumult, from private to public school and to streets often mad with revelry. What the school begins, the University completes, with its fuller range of sciences, its vaster auditory, its skilled professors : so, acting on the advice of Abbot Senebald, the boy passes the threshold of a Catholic University. The choice lay between two such seats of learning, far-away Bologna of long-standing eminence, and its younger rival, Naples, which was close to hand. A law of the Emperor Frederick II, its founder, forbade his subjects to study elsewhere than in Naples, so Count Landulf’s choice was reduced to one of compliance. During this summer’s holiday time, which was spent at Loreto, Thomas busied himself in visiting the needy and relieving their wants, especially since famine was pressing severely on the country. Not content with carrying constantly the common necessaries of life, he often brought to them the delicacies meant for his own use. Such generosity being reported in an unfavourable light to his father, the Count resolved on curbing his actions, if not his compassion. One morning as the boy was speeding forth on his errand of mercy, with a supply of white bread under his cloak, Landulf stayed his steps, and demanded to be shown what he was carrying away. Crimsoned with confusion, Thomas was about to explain, when the father roughly plucked the cloak aside, and an armful of fragrant roses fell at his feet. The father saw the hand of God in the act, for he had been stealthily watching the tender culprit, then he strode hastily away in tears; long he pondered over the reports which had reached his willing ears, of the glowing halo seen at times round the mysterious boy's head.

It was in the autumn of 1236 that Thomas Aquinas entered Naples University. He had his own residence and retinue, but continued under the vigilant eye of the same governor as when at Monte Cassino, who now acted as his good angel in the city so aptly described as—“a very paradise of God, but inhabited by demons”. Knowledge of evil is not of itself evil, else the angels would not be clean : so the boy’s clear perception of worldliness and flaunted vice served only to foster his spirit of reserve, of communing with God, while, like Daniel in Babylon, he prayed to be kept clean. Making the Psalmist's speech his own, he made daily use of these brief prayers :—“Prove me, Lord, and try me. Lord, let Thy face shine upon Thy servant, teach me Thy ways of holiness. Guide my steps according to Thy behest, that no iniquity may take hold of me”. Lodged according to his rank, he often rode round the fair bay of Naples, past the glowing splendour or frequent fury of Vesuvius, images to him of heaven and of hell, to gaze on the sites of cities long buried, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, or else crossing the waters, to behold the wonders of the blue grottoes of Capri. Nowhere else is Nature garbed in richer array, but it cried to him only of God, while his soul found response in the exclamation of Augustine of Hippo : “If the works of His hands be so lovely, O how much more beautiful must He be Who made them!”. The words of the Creator’s approval kept recurring in memory : “And He saw that they were good”. What holds the natural man to earth, uplifts the spiritual man heavenwards; so in his ripening youth he was fired with the poetry of Nature, but as a Divine song.

During the seven years of his stay, as the boy grew into the man of uncommon stature in body and intellect, he studied to good purpose under men of eminence. He pursued the course of studies which was common to all Universities of the time. During four years he passed through the Trivium, under the distinguished Pietro Martini: this comprised grammar, logic and rhetoric, which he completed when fourteen and a half years old. The higher studies of the Quadrivium, a three years’ course, embracing music, mathematics, geometry, and astronomy, he pursued under a professor of note, Peter from Ireland. There can be no doubt of the fact that our saintly scholar graduated in both courses, which covered the whole range of the classics, logic, and physics. Both masters held him in high esteem, and constantly pointed him out as a pattern of industry. A singularly retentive memory and sense of logic enabled him to repeat the lesson more deeply and lucidly than the professors had given it, so that the scholars came to regard him as a miracle of holiness and learning, an angel in the schools, though not yet “The Angel of the Schools”. Such talent left him much leisure time, yet without idleness, for it was all given to assimilating knowledge by method and discipline.

Man’s soul is simple in its nature, but very complex in its workings, especially when acting through the senses. The Pars Superior is the soul untrammelled in its purely spiritual workings of understanding or volition, regarding things which are beyond Nature’s horizon. At its greatest altitude it rises up to the Divine. The Pars Inferior is the same spirit working through the senses. As Aristotle observes, and the Schoolmen agree, “there is nothing in the understanding except it first come under the senses”, from this common rule one must exclude first principles, which all mankind instantly accepts because of their self-evidence. Education is nothing else than the drawing out of these parts with their latent powers, even as Nature’s secret forces can be drawn forth by attraction : thus while the powers are sharpened, their store of accretion is termed knowledge. Now all this economy of the mind was grasped by the youthful Aquinas, and brought to bear on his threefold plan of self-education. Endowed with genius of intellect, as the eagle soaring above the commoner birds of the air, he first carefully scanned, then boldly swept across the intellectual horizon.

His first field of education was Divine. God was his centre of gravity, to which he ever inclined, his highest zone of speculative thought, his fountain-head of spirituality in mind and heart. Such education is productive of sanctity, because it is seeking and finding, feeding upon and assimilating Divine Truth, not as from afar, but by union of intimacy with Him Who is Truth. If the child queried—What is Truth? and What is God? the youth answered his own query: “God is Truth, and all truth is of God”. Such pursuit of highest truth produces wisdom, of which, as of compassion, he could say: “It grew with me from infancy” (Job xxxi. 18). “Wisdom led the just man along righteous ways, showed him God’s kingdom, and imparted to him the knowledge of holy things” (Wis. x. 10). Thomas was a theologian in potency as one wedded to Divine Wisdom.

His second domain of industry in learning was among men. In the writings left of the ancients, he found thought distributed among the poets, the orators, the philosophers: these he read studiously now, and stored them up in the cells of memory. Most of them he read but once in a lifetime, and that was at this very period : of course all Thomist students are quite aware of the great exception with regard to Aristotle’s works, for these were constantly at his elbow. All is true subjectively in the writings of those men of old-time fame, that is, if judged from their-standpoint, and according to the schools they represented : much therein is true also objectively, and elevating even from our Christian coign of vantage. But the question with the solid thinker is—where precisely to fix his standpoint. In first principles all men are agreed, with few dissentients, such as sceptics, and even these postulate someone first principle: the parting of the ways comes where Revelation steps in, uplifting and guiding Reason. From Aristotle to St. Thomas, philosophy made no sensible progress, but rather the reverse: but when the saint Christianized the Stagyrite, and brought his writings into line with Revelation, then the thoughts of men reverted to the past, and grew vigorous in consequence. Such was the scholastic revival of the thirteenth century, devised by this vigorous young thinker in Naples.

His third field of self-culture was Nature, whose open page all men read, and so few understand. He was a careful observer of Nature’s laws, of matter, and force, and forms, and causalities: but while turning to Nature he was no slavish empiricist, as will be seen later on. With him, mentality ever held the first place. Above all things he was consistent, because consistency comes of an evenly balanced mind: the Eclecticism of past and present teachers he would certainly have ascribed to the inconsistency of illogical minds, resulting in a perversion of order, and stultifying of principles. In Naples this youth had assimilated from his reading all that Cicero has comprised in his definition of Philosophy : “The knowledge of things Divine and human and of their disposing causes”.






Having seen the scholar in his morn of toil, let us now turn to the youth aspiring to the Religious state : bent on rising to spiritual perfection according to grace, he naturally sought out and embraced the state which is conducive to such perfection.

The germ of a vocation to the Religious life, and to the Dominican form of such life in particular, fell early upon his eager soul, where it germinated through nine years before blossoming into reality of fulfilment. When but nine and a half years old he witnessed a spectacle at Monte Cassino which entered deeply into his soul: it was the solemnity of St. Dominic’s canonization Mass, granted on 13 July, and kept on 5 August, 1234, the exaltation of that Dominic who so recently had been the “Doctor of Truth and Preacher of Grace,” the story of whose life was fresh on men’s lips. There is a spiritual affinity in saintship, so the spirit of the child went out to the man of God who was soon to call him son. In the Dominican church at Naples, Thomas was often seen absorbed in prayer, while spreading rays of light shone from his head. The friars were well aware of it, so that, after witnessing the marvel for the third time, Fr. John of St. Julien said to him: “Our Lord has given you to our Order”. Ripening intimacy begot resolve. When he was but fifteen and a half years of age, on the completion of his Trivium, he declared to the Prior of San Domenico that for some time he had ardently desired to give himself to the Order. On bended knees he made his humble suit and protestation: “But I am not worthy, and is not my age an obstacle?” Fr. Thomas d’Agni di Lentino, the Prior, and Fr. John of St. Julien, a famous preacher, bade him foster the grace of a vocation, but advised him to wait for three more years. This he accordingly did. When eighteen and a half years of age, he was clothed in the holy habit as a Friar Preacher, in August, 1243, probably on St. Dominic’s feast-day, which was then kept on the 5th. It was a momentous step, a memorable occasion, for the ceremony was carried out before a distinguished assembly. Not a word was spoken to parents or to others of his design : he had learnt his lesson from a saying of Tobias: “It is a good thing to hide the King’s secret ” (XII. 7). From that happy hour until death his conduct might be expressed in the language of St. Paul: “Forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before, I pursue towards the mark, for the prize of the heavenly vocation of God in Christ Jesus ” (Phil. III. 13, 14).

Soon the tidings reached Rocca Secca that Thomas had entered the cloister of the Preaching Friars, which evoked a storm of indignation. His mother was especially angered, not because he had chosen to quit the world, but at the unpardonable affront of the scion of a princely house donning the garb of a mendicant friar. Complaints were addressed to the Pope and to the Archbishop of Naples, while loud were the menaces uttered against the Father-General and the Prior, and these were caught up by the common herd in the street: as for the monks of the two Benedictine communities in Naples and their brethren of Monte Cassino, they made no protest, advanced no plea, since it was no concern of theirs, nor did they move or speak at his profession two years later. Theodora d’Aquino was a woman of resolute spirit, now thoroughly roused : hermits may prophesy, that is their business, but the settlement of a son is a domestic affair, largely a woman’s affair, if she can but have her way. But no sooner did she perceive that noise and fury would not prevail, than she set out for Naples with masked batteries of tears and entreaties, to induce him to return home. One thing she overlooked in her gage of battle, and that was that her son was also an Aquino, a man of like determined character, though of calmer mood. Directly Thomas heard of her setting out, he took the by-road to Rome, and entered the Convent of Santa Sabina, St. Dominic’s former home on the Aventine. Thither the eager mother pursued him. Strong in his sense of fidelity to a Divine call, Thomas refused even to see her when she clamoured in the porch. “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt. X. 37). What his sentiments were then he subsequently wrote in his “Summa Theologica” when treating of piety, or duty towards parents. The article is entitled—“Whether Duties towards Parents Are To Be Set Aside for the Sake of Religion”. The answer is a distinct negative, but admitting of one saving exception, which he exposes in the following terms:—

“If reverence for parents withdraws us from God’s worship, then we must not stand by duty to parents against God. Accordingly St. Jerome says in his Letter to Heliodorus, towards the opening : ‘Set father aside, treading upon him, set mother aside, treading upon her, with dry eyes fly to the standard of the Cross : to be cruel in such a matter is the height of piety. Consequently, in such an issue, the duties of filial piety must be set aside for the sake of the Divine worship of religion. But if by rendering due reverence to parents we are not withdrawn from God's worship, then it will be a part of piety, and so it will not be necessary to drop piety for the sake of religion.”

While the Countess made Rome ring with her complaints and threats, the heroic novice hurried off northwards to Paris. Straightway Theodora vowed to capture and hold the runaway: a mounted courier was speedily dispatched to her elder sons, Landulf and Raynald, who then commanded the Emperor’s forces in Tuscany, bidding them to seize him vi et armis. Thomas was resting by a spring with two friars, close to the little town of Acquapendente, between Sienna and Lake Bolsena, when a troop of horse surprised him. His brothers reviled him for his undutiful behaviour, then bade him put off his habit and return home. Raynald laid violent hands upon him and tried to tear it from his shoulders, but to no purpose, so the brothers led him back to Rocca Secca. Since his resolution was not to be shaken, at their father’s bidding the brothers led him off to the village of Monte San Giovanni, some two miles away, where they shut him as a close prisoner in the castle tower. There he was subjected to harsh treatment, stripped of his religious habit, reviled, and deprived of every comfort. Count Landulf visited his son from time to time to induce him, nay, force him, to forsake the Dominican life: he left a costly suit of garments, and a Benedictine habit, declaring he would be fully satisfied if Thomas would but don the one or the other. What he looked to was pride of place : his son should grace the Court, or rule as Lord Abbot of Monte Cassino.

Like Christ in the desert, the novice had to encounter three classes of temptation, and came forth victorious. The world tempted him, first by the softness of a mother’s tears and entreaties : when these failed of their purpose, it tried the coaxings of his worldly minded sisters, who rehearsed the father’s plea of fame at Court or in arms, or else in Church preferment. By simple and earnest discourse the novice won them over completely to God : Marietta, the elder sister, embraced the cloistered state, and died as Abbess of St. Mary’s at Capua; Theodora, afterwards Countess of Marisco, entered upon a life of singular holiness. From that hour both laboured to ameliorate his hardships.

A stronger temptation then assailed him through the baseness of his brothers. Lust of the flesh is death to spirituality : so they bribed a base woman to try her lures, and entangle him in the Circe web of sin. Seizing a burning faggot from the hearth, he drove her from the chamber, then, falling on his knees, he traced the sign of the Cross upon the wall with the flaming brand, and poured out his soul in thanks to God. Presently a gentle sleep stole upon him, like to Adam’s sleep of innocence in Paradise. Then by his side he beheld two angels who girt him about with a lily-white girdle, saying the while : “We come to thee from God, to bestow upon thee the grace of perpetual virginity”. They girded him so tightly that he awoke with a loud cry of pain. He wore the sacred girdle all through life, and only revealed the secret at its close to Fr. Reginald of Piperno, who was his bosom friend and confessor, assuring him that from that hour he was never again conscious of the slightest sensual motions. The prison cell in after years was turned into a chapel, which may yet be seen in a dilapidated condition. The angelic girdle was preserved with reverence in the convent of his Order at Vercelli, in Piedmont, down to the suppression of the religious houses during the wars of Napoleon I : it is now kept at Chieri, near Turin, the first house restored.

This precious relic was solemnly, transferred in 1894 to a new reliquary, which is a magnificent work of art, made of bronze over-gilt. Standing quite six feet six inches in height, of hexagonal shape and Gothic design, it has six medallions on the base, displaying scenes in his life, wrought in finest Roman enamel. Around the knop in the centre of the stem are the same number of statuettes of Dominican saints, wrought in silver, and under canopies. The reliquary superimposed is also a hexagon, with a double set of silver statuettes, six to each row, allegorical figures below, and angels with musical instruments above, after the designs of Fra Angelico. Enclosed within a crystal case, a much larger angel, with outspread arms, displays the sacred girdle, now grown brown with age, which is held in place by rings and threads of silver. A figure of the Angelic Doctor, all resplendent in gold, stands on high, beneath a pierced tower­shaped canopy, which is finally topped by a gold cross.

Meanwhile his superiors and brethren had not forgotten him as the months grew into a year, and beyond. Father John of St. Julien contrived to visit him several times, and supplied him with another religious habit of the Order, which so offended Count Landulf that he held him in durance for some days. Books too were gradually supplied to relieve the tedium of imprisonment: this was done through his sister’s good offices: the works supplied were carefully committed to memory; these were Aristotle’s “Metaphysics,” the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard, and portions of the Sacred Scriptures. The Friars Preachers lodged complaints with Pope Innocent IV and the Emperor Frederick against such unjust privation of liberty, each of whom sent stringent orders for his release. The pride of the soldier sons was roused at such commands, nor would they comply, but consented to connive at his escape. Like a second Paul, he was let down from a window in a basket into the arms of brethren who conducted him to Naples, “their hearts leaping with joy at having recovered their Joseph, who was endowed with the spirit of understanding like Jacob’s son” (Tocco). He had endured a close and painful imprisonment for about eighteen months, so now, after a short pro­bation in the cloister, he was admitted to solemn vows in January, 1245, making profession into the hands of the same Prior who had clothed him in the habit of St. Dominic.

Having conquered world and flesh, the holy youth had yet to vanquish the devil. Even earnest Christians are at times unconsciously obsessed by the lying spirit: deceived themselves, they labour to mislead others. So was it now, when “the father of lies” spoke by many mouths to “the Father of the faithful Appeals”, and complaints were addressed to Pope Innocent, calling upon him to annul the profession just made. Some urged the impropriety of a prince turning mendicant, since he was a possible heir to the titles and estates: in fact he did survive his elder brothers. Others again alleged defect of liberty in the novice; while not a few of his kinsmen pleaded nullity from the ignorance of a youth who did not know the world he had forsaken, nor realize the sacrifice he had made. At the word of obedience, Thomas presented himself before the Holy Father in Rome, and vanquished Satan by outspoken truthfulness. The Pontiff examined carefully the novice’s motives in choosing the life and in making profession, listened tenderly to the story of his vocation, and ratified all that he had done.

Baring his very soul to Pope Innocent, he pleaded his cause with candour: while blaming no one, he declared his whole ambition was absorbed in a vocation to renounce all worldly advantages, so as to serve God and the cause of Truth by becoming a Friar Preacher. On this point he was unbending : so the Holy Father dis­missed him with a blessing, and forbade any further attempts to be made to hinder him from following his manifest vocation.

After the threefold storm came a lull, a great calm. Out of the fullness of the heart the tongue grows eloquent: so now from overflowing piety he composed and ever after used this prayer:—

“Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that the fiery and honey-sweet power of Thy love may detach my soul from everything under heaven, so that I may die from love of Thy love, Who, out of love for mine, did’st die upon the tree of the Cross. Amen.”

Thus, in the opening days of a gracious life, “he shone as the morning star in the midst of a cloud” (Ecclus. l. 6).






The Master-General at this time was the Venerable John of Wildeshausen, formerly a missionary, and Bishop of Bosnia. Knowing well the worth and rare abilities of his subject, he resolved on giving him the best opportunities for developing his singular powers. The first step was to remove him far from the importunities and distractions of home. The school presided over by Albertus Magnus in Cologne being in his judgment the best suited for the purpose, the holy man set out from Rome with Br. Thomas, in October, 1245. But since business of the order required the Father-General’s presence in Paris, they proceeded thither on foot, carrying nothing but a satchel and a breviary. In those days of faith it was a familiar scene to pass Churchmen of every degree upon the road; now bishops and abbots, mounted on well-caparisoned horses, and with a retinue of retainers; now the beneficed clergy riding in company, or with the stout burgesses, and a few men at arms for protection; or else it might be the more modest company of monks and friars and pilgrims, all afoot, and even the veiled minchins on palfreys. The travellers sped on commonly like two streams in their channels, going to or else returning from the threshold of the holy Apostles in Rome. But apart from this throng, it was of daily occurrence to see the hooded friars of various orders wending their way in couples or trios apart, and ever on foot, across the Alps to the greater schools on either side of the mountains, or journeying afar to attend General Chapters. There was a constant movement going on over those rough roads which were the arteries of European life, and across many a river and mountain.

Fr. John of Wildeshausen and Br. Thomas Aquinas, stooping age and vigorous youth, thought lightly of a journey afoot extending over 1500 miles. They set out each morning and walked a good space, now conversing familiarly, now recit­ing the breviary or in silent meditation, until by some running brook they opened their wallets for the midday repast. At sunset they sought for lodging in some religious establishment, or hospice, or else under the roof of God-fearing folk. Such had been St. Dominic’s manner of travelling, and that of all the mediaeval saints, and now from this first experience St. Thomas grew familiar with it. It was a weary task at the outset, until the traveller came to be inured; but the free play of the muscles supplies a vigour and freshness unknown to them who lag at home. But at the same time men’s sense of Christian hospitality was more universal than in our day, and no one wearing the livery of Christ was ever turned from a Christian  door: true enough, beds were often lacking, but then there was the fragrant hay in the cottar’s loft, and the lowing of the cattle at night was a reminder of Bethlehem. In this fashion the aged bishop and his son in Christ plodded on across the rainy plains of Lombardy in sad November, crossed the biting Alpine passes in December, and, following the Valley of the Rhone, pressed northwards towards Paris. Their brief halt in the French capital was spent in the great Priory of St. Jacques amidst their brethren. Once more they set out with wallet and staff, through Brabant, past Louvain and Aachen, until they reached the ancient city of Cologne on the Rhine, in January 1246. The Dominican Schools of Philosophy and Theology were founded therein by the German friars in the year 1222. This ancient foundation, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, consisting of an extensive priory and church, stood in the Stolkgasse, hard by the cathedral. It had risen into public as well as domestic eminence owing to the teaching of that prodigiously learned man, Albertus Magnus. He belonged to the noble family of Bollstadt, from Lavingen, in Bavarian Swabia; during ten years he had studied at Padua, and won his first spurs as a keen dialectician, before taking the Dominican habit. Blessed Jordon of Saxony, the Master-General at the time, completely captivated him by his masterful eloquence and holiness, received his vows by St. Dominic’s tomb in Bologna, and left him there to complete the higher studies. Returning home to Germany, he acquired such a reputation for learning, notably in physical science, that his contemporaries styled him “Albert the Great, the Universal Doctor”, and posterity has confirmed the verdict. The Belgian Chronicle has inscribed his name in its Annals with this just encomium: “Great in Magic, greater in Philosophy, greatest in Divinity”. His published works in twenty-seven folio volumes reveal his vast breadth of research, as well as the depth of his acumen. Such was the man marked out by God’s Providence to be the master of “The Angel of the Schools”. Albert was (in his fifty-second year, and Thomas just 20 years old, when first they met: little did either of them suppose that the younger would eclipse the elder, as the sunset in glory veils the star. All notions of Albert having ever been mentally slow, or styled “the dull Swabian novice,” must be relegated to the pages of idle romance, for they are utterly void of foundation.

St. Thomas entered the schools of Albert, as a gem to be cut by a cunning hand, but the fluent genius in the rostrum utterly failed to comprehend him : the truer genius seated below was pronounced to be a dullard. Among his fellow students Thomas passed for a slow wit, however much impressed they might be by his retirement and application. Even Albert shared in the verdict, until he received a rude awakening. Yet this was the youth of whom Rodolph in his “Life of Albertus Magnus” gives the just estimate in impassioned phrase : “Thomas hastened to Cologne with the ardour of a thirsty stag which runs to a fountain of pure water, there to receive from Albert’s hand the life-giving cup of wisdom, and to slake therein the thirst which consumed him”. Among those novice-students, Germans, Italians, French, were youths who afterwards shone in the Church and in Universities as saints, cardinals, prelates, and professors : such were Ambrose of Sienna, Ulrich of Engelbrecht, Thomas de Cantimpré, and many more. Modesty in expressing an opinion, the attitude of rapt attention as a listener, in the tall Neapolitan brother, above all, his profound humility in shunning display, all led up to the common verdict that Thomas was stupid, so a name was speedily found for him : it was “the dumb Sicilian ox”. With them learning meant wrangling : with St. Thomas it was all thought. When asked later on in life why he had been silent so long at Cologne, he replied : “It was because I had not yet learned to speak before such a mind as Albert ”.

A novice more charitable than his fellows offered one day to help him in preparing the morrow’s lesson. The saint gratefully accepted the assistance; but when the would-be instructor got hopelessly involved in the argument Thomas came to his assistance and unravelled the tangle quite easily. Some time after this Albert invited the scholars to give him their views upon an obscure passage in a book of itself obscure, the “Book of the Divine Names,” a fifth century work, but then uncritically ascribed to Denis the Areopagite. The outwitted brother, who had floundered so helplessly in assisting Br. Thomas, now asked him to write down his solution; this he did in candid simplicity. The paper was delivered into Albert’s hands, who at once recognized the impress of a master mind, so straightway he set him up at the lector’s desk to defend certain knotty questions which were subjects of discussion at the time. Thomas explained the matter with such surprising clearness and force that his auditory was amazed. Nor did he handle with less skill the intricate objections raised by the Bachelor, as he cut his way through with keen distinctions. The objector then interposed sharply : “You seem to forget that you are not a master, to decide, but a disciple to learn how to answer arguments raised”. Then came the simple rejoinder: “I don’t see any other way of answering the difficulty”. Albert now interposed : “Very well then, continue according to your method, but remember that I have my objections to make”; whereupon he plied him with retorts, axioms transgressed, and sub-divisions of sub-distinctions, but Thomas never faltered for an instant. To each thrust of argument advanced he had a ready parry of a distinction, or of argument retorted in its utmost conclusions, for he was a swordsman of the tongue, a very giant of dialectics. Albert could restrain himself no longer. “You call him ‘a dumb ox’ but I declare before you that he will yet bellow so loud in doctrine that his voice will resound through the whole world.” He procured a cell for him next to his own, allowed him to avail himself of the results of his own laborious researches, and made him the companion of his walks.

The lesson was not lost upon the students, who, while admiring his genius, still continued to twit him with his simplicity. One day a novice observing him as he stood by the open window, called out: “Look, look, there is an ox flying over the convent”. Thomas leant forth and gazed up, to be greeted with laughter of derision; but the tormentor quailed before the rejoinder : “I was not so simple as to believe that an ox could fly, but I never imagined that a religious man could stoop to falsehood”. Many years afterwards a similar jest drew forth the same rebuke, when asked—“Could you have believed that a fish could climb a tree?” St. Thomas was always extremely simple, but it was the simplicity of the Gospel. At this early period he launched forth on his first work, which was a commentary on the Ethics of Aristotle.

Six months were the limit of his first stay in Cologne. The General Chapter of the order met there at Pentecost decided to send Albert and Thomas to Paris, the master to occupy a chair in the University, which was then the foremost in the world, the disciple to continue his studies under the best possible advantages. The progress of this scholar cannot be set forth better than in his own axiom inculcated in the “Summa Theologica” : “Whatever is received by any subject is grasped according to the subject's capacity”. And his was a genius which already bid fair to overtop Albertus Magnus.

During the month of August three Friars Preachers might be seen journeying afoot from the Rhine to the Seine : they were the Father- General, the master, the disciple : the Venerable John, Blessed Albert, St. Thomas. Once arrived in Paris, master and disciple resumed their places in the Dominican schools, which were affiliated to the University. Albert’s reputation having preceded him, he drew a vast concourse of students to his lectures; in time the assembly grew to be so vast that no hall could accommodate the auditory, until by compulsion he had to lecture in the open square. Master Albert was outpaced in holiness and in learning by his meteor disciple; but the Church has beatified him, the world has acclaimed him as the “Universal Doctor” who knew all that was to be known. Daily on his knees he recited the entire Psalter. His eminent piety has been attested to by many, but let one witness suffice : it is the testimony of his disciple, Cardinal Thomas of Cantimpré : “After this ought it to astonish us that Albert should be endowed with superhuman knowledge, and that his word should enflame the heart more than that of other masters? We know now from what source those transports of love proceeded, which we see so frequently break out in his numerous writings.” All the world owes him homage, because he trained the soul as well as the mind of St. Thomas.

Whether the master commented, or examined in the cloister school or elsewhere, Thomas was always present, forming himself on the great model. At this time he was engrossed in studying Aristotle’s Metaphysics, the “Sacra Pagina” or Holy Scriptures, and Patrology, for these entered into the normal course of every scholastic; in his hours of privacy in the cell he set himself to read and retain in memory the voluminous writings of St. Augustine, the most learned of the doctors. To Thomas the mind of Augustine was the mind of the Catholic Church; upon him he based his opinions; his authority was final. Posterity is indebted to St. Thomas for a benefit so little known and recognized; after assimilating St. Augustine’s works, which usually extend to forty volumes in octavo, he recast them in the terse and accurate speech of the Schoolmen.

Patrology is sacred science in its least scientific presentment. The Holy Fathers had none of the conciseness in form, none of the preciseness in terminology, which characterizes the thirteenth century Schoolmen; they wrote with a fullness of diction and laxity of expression which is often tedious and sometimes misleading. The great Augustine is a river whose fullness of waters gladdens the city of God. The Fathers are the “Fontes” the Authorities, while the Schoolmen are but the Exponents; the former define doctrine, the latter define form, whereas “The Angel of the Schools” does both. But it must not be overlooked that St. Thomas had the Church’s experience of eight centuries from the age of St. Augustine, during which interval both thought and speech were recast. Here in Paris he was the reader, the thinker, the rememberer, but still the disciple. To write and talk was reserved for maturer days, when the coarse grain now passing through the mill of his mind would emerge as the refined flour, to make the bread of doctrine. What little he wrote was for his own purposes : his hour had not yet come.

Such studious occupations did not cause his spirit of piety to relax. How often does the study even of Divine things cause the wells to dry up! It is to the student’s hurt when the true inner spirit gives way before the outer discipline of learning. With the Dominicans, the novice remains such until priesthood under the vigilant eye and candid tongue of a novice master: forward youth, over pert of speech, has to be kept under, and wilful youth tamed; indolent nature must be jogged, and all show of cleverness put down by timely, yea, and untimely, snubbings. St. Thomas had experience of it in the novitiate at Paris. One day as he was reading aloud at table, the voice of reproval rang out sharp, correcting him for a false quantity in latinity: now although the error was not the novice’s but the corrector’s, the reader instantly adopted the amended prosody. When afterwards twitted with his want of spirit, he replied: “It really matters little how a word is pronounced, but it is of the utmost importance to practise humility and obedience on every occasion”.

While in Paris he met among our brethren, the Friars Minor, one to whom his soul leaped out in friendship: this was the future Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure, a student at the time. For a parallel friendship one must go back to the days of David. “And it came to pass ... the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Kings XVIII. 1). Although they had entered religion about the same time, Bonaventure was older than Thomas by about four years. Their intimacy in Paris extended over seven years, that is from 1246 to 1248, and again from 1252 to 1256. It is sometimes stated that St. Thomas sat with his friend as a student under Master Alexander de Hales: that brilliant man, however, was dead before Thomas’s arrival.

After two years spent in the schools of St. Jacques, Brother Thomas was raised to the Subdiaconate, and his younger brother, Rayner of Aquino, gave himself to the order in Naples. The General Chapter which met in Paris in this year confirmed the Ordinances made in the two previous chapters, and erected four new formal colleges for the higher studies in other University centres: Oxford for England, Bologna for Northern Italy, Cologne for Germany, and Montpellier for Provence. Master Albert was now designated Regent for Cologne, with Thomas for Bachelor; so once more they wended their way to the Rhine, while Brother Thomas carried in his sack Aristotle’s writings and the Sentences of Peter Lombard. On the road they halted at Louvain in Brabant, passing some days in the priory and church of Notre Dame aux Dominicains, on the Dyle : a relic of this visit is still reverently treasured in the new foundation there, the restored “Studium Generale”; it is the upper portion of the “pupitre,” or lectern, from which St. Thomas sang the epistle.

As Bachelor he had charge of all the students : it was his task to supervise their plan of study, correct their essays, object severely in the daily defensions, read iwith them in camera. As a professor he began some daily lectures on Philosophy and the Sacred Scriptures, which were not restricted to his fellow religious, but were addressed to a great concourse of clerics as well. It may not be out of place to give his letter of golden advice addressed to a student, premising that it is not admitted as genuine by some critics :—


“My very dear (brother).

“ Since you have asked me how you ought to study in order to amass the treasures of knowledge, listen to the advice which I am going to give you.

“As a mere stripling, advance up the streams, and do not all at once plunge into the deep : such is my caution, and your lesson. I bid you to be chary of speech, slower still in frequenting places of talk: embrace purity of conscience, pray unceasingly, love to keep to your cell if you wish to be admitted into the mystic wine-cellar. Show yourself genial to all: pay no heed to other folk’s affairs: be not over-familiar with any person, because over-much familiarity breeds contempt, and gives occasion to distraction from study.

“On no account mix yourself up with the sayings and the doings of persons in the outside world. Most of all, avoid all useless visits, but try rather to walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men. Never mind from whom the lesson drops, but commit to memory whatever useful advice may be uttered. Give an account to yourself of your every word and action : see that you understand what you hear, and never leave a doubt unsolved: lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, as he does who wants to fill a vase. Seek not the things which are beyond thee. Following these ways, you will your whole life long put forth and bear both branches and fruit in the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth. If you take these words to heart, you will attain your desire.”

This letter is unquestionably the reflex of his own rule of conduct. No one could be more affable, more courteous, yet at the same time it was a principle with him to shun all needless visits; the world might come to him, but he would not go out to it. As the time drew near for him to be raised to the sacred priesthood, he gave himself over to more protracted prayer and watchings. Several hours of the day, as well as part of the night, were spent in attitude of adoration before the altar, often sighing and weeping audibly as his soul melted with devotion; the heat of love within was manifest on the glowing countenance. At early morn the brethren frequently found him like the angel guarding the sepulchre. The Archbishop of Cologne raised him to the diaconate, and subsequently to the priesthood. The prelate who had the privilege of consecrating his holy hands was Conrad of Hochstaden, the princely and munificent Archbishop who rebuilt the choir of the old Romanesque Cathedral. The ordination took place in the year 1250. His attitude in celebrating the Divine mysteries upon the altar was one of majesty, and of rapt devotion. William de Tocco, his pupil and first biographer, describes what he was privileged to witness daily : “When he consecrated in mass, he was seized with such intensity of devotion as to be dissolved in tears, utterly absorbed in its mysteries, and nourished with its fruits ”.

This year of gladness for him was one of dire disaster for his family. His brothers left the service of the Emperor Frederick II in consequence of his hostility to the Pope, and took up arms in defence of the Holy See. The enraged monarch thereupon besieged Rocca Secca Castle, and all but demolished it, put Raynald of Aquino to death, while the elder brother, Landulf, who was now head of the family, fell fighting in the cause of the Church. The Countess Theodora, stricken with grief and years, was forced into voluntary exile with her dependents, and died soon after in sentiments of great piety. St. Thomas heard of the ruin of his home and family with his wonted calm, humbly accepting God’s inscrutable and adorable will.

All knowledge is aptly distinguished into two classes, which form the divisions of the holy doctor’s writings. The distinction is his own : “The knowledge of Divine things is termed Wisdom, whereas the knowledge of human things is called Science”. His life henceforth may be generally classified into two periods, each of twelve years; as an expository writer he now started his scientific period, which was in 1262 commuted for the sapiential.

During this time at Cologne he composed his first Opuscula, or lesser works. These were first of all Aristotelian : first in order was the treatise “On Being and Essence,” then another on “The Principles of Nature”; for his theological course he wrote a “Commentary on the Sacred Scriptures”, also a “Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard ”. At the instance of Adelaide Duchess of Brabant he drew up and sent her a treatise “On the Government of the Jews,” for it was a thorny question of the day, as to how the Jews ought to be treated by Christian rulers.

From the day of his ordination the scholar came forth as the preacher. In the churches of Cologne and Bonn St. Thomas poured out his thoughts in rich German speech to delighted auditories; he was no utterer of platitudes or profundities, but an orator who spoke to the heart and held men under the spell of his sonorous eloquence. The great German awakening to liberty, and letters, and national prosperity, dated from 1250; their feudalism ended then, and a religious-minded people thought and wrote for the first time no longer in Latinity but in their own vigorous tongue. St. Thomas caught the public ear by his well-reasoned doctrinal sermons, which were listened to by Jews and Christians alike. To quote from de Tocco once more : “He was heard by the people as if his discourse came from God”. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,” as we read in Proverbs XV. 4. We have grown so used to think of him as the theologian teaching and writing that we are apt to lose sight of the apostolic side of his life. Not less an apostle in zeal than St. Dominic, he never let an occasion of preaching go by; where hundreds heard him in the schools, thousands hung on his lips in the churches of Italy, France, and Germany, for this versatile man could say with St. Paul “give thanks to my God, for that I speak in all your tongues” (1 Cor. XIV. 18).





Great was the satisfaction of the scholars in Paris, greater the joy of the brethren, when Thomas was recalled thither as licentiate in 1252, with a view to taking the doctorate. The holy friendship with Bonaventure was resumed, and deepened. One day he found his friend engaged in writing the life of St. Francis of Assisi: loath to disturb him in his devout task, he stole quietly away from the cell, saying to his companion, “Let us leave a saint to write about a saint”.

It was now a period of conflict between the city and the University, owing to the slaying of a student, coupled with the wounding and arrest of three more, perpetrated by the city guard. Since satisfaction was not forthcoming, the doctors closed their schools: but the Dominican and Franciscan professors continued to lecture as usual, having no interest in the dispute. Such a proceeding gave offence, so the University authorities passed a new statute, that for the future no one should be ad­mitted to the degree of Doctor in Theology unless he swore to observe all the statutes, especially the one just formulated. This simply meant that on every occasion of a dispute between themselves and the city, all lectures must cease until the matter was settled. The Mendicant Orders stood out, and refused to be so restricted. Why should sober-minded men be reduced to silence by reason of the night escapades of these young bloods! The disagreement lasted for over three years, while the saintly friends kept their souls in peace, studying, praying, and lecturing, as if there were no such entities as doctors and proctors and city-bailiffs. But when Friar Thomas Aquinas was duly presented by the Prior and Regent to stand for his degree, he was curtly set aside and the petition refused. Feeling ran so high that he and Bonaventure were driven out of the schools with kicks I and hisses: such was the secularism of the age. Pope Alexander IV sent a Brief ordering the University to admit him to the doctorate : the Senate steadily refused to obey the mandate. Matters stood at a deadlock, the outlook was becoming serious, as the students forsook Paris for Oxford, not in units but in shoals, while Thomas lectured to the shrunken auditory of his brethren only.

During this time, which was as peaceful to him as it was distracting to others, he composed and issued treatises “On Man,” “On Eternity,” “On Thought,” “The Movement of the Heart,” “Thirty-six Articles in Reply to a Professor of Venice,” “Explanation of Two Decretals of Pope Innocent III,” written for the Archdeacon of Trent. The following, which have been attributed to him must however be considered as apocryphal : “Of Fate,” “The Powers or the Soul,” “The Difference between God’s Word and Man’s Word,” “The Essence and Dimensions of Matter”.

There came a lull in the storm early in 1256, since the Pope wrote to the Chancellor on 4 May, congratulating him on permitting Friar Thomas Aquinas to teach once more in public; but the spirit of rancour was still abroad. As he was preaching in St. Jacques’ Church on Palm Sunday, one of the University proctors, Guillot by name, marched in and stopped his discourse, after which he read aloud a letter from William de St. Amour and the other doctors, full of acrimony against the Mendicant Friars and the preacher in particular. Thomas kept silent throughout, then calmly resumed his sermon. This William de St. Amour, a name of ill-omened fame, had just completed a work against the Mendicant Orders, entitled, “The Perils of the Last Times”. This was the gage of battle thrown down by the doctors of Paris University. The French episcopate spoke out against the infamous book, but coming as it did from such high authority, the students and people accepted its lying statements. At the instance of the King, St. Louis IX, the Pope summoned both parties to appear before him. The gage of battle thus recklessly thrown down was taken up by Thomas and Bonaventure, while a commission of doctors represented the University : it was question now, not of privilege, but of the very right of existence for religious men.

Thomas proceeded straight to Rome on the summons of the Master General, Humbert de Romans, who put the book into his hands to read and refute. Against it he wrote his famous treatise, entitled, “An Apology for the Religious Orders,” basing it upon the opening words of Psalm LXXXII : “O God, who shall be like unto Thee? Hold not Thy peace, neither be Thou still, O God. For lo, Thine enemies have made a noise : and they that hate Thee have lifted up their head.” He pronounced a discourse before the General Chapter, in which he broke out as follows : “Have no fear, my brethren, for I have examined it, and find it to be captious, perfidious, and erroneous”. The mendicant apologists were Albert and Thomas on behalf of the Friars Preachers, Bonaventure and another on behalf of the Friars Minor, besides other friars from both orders; all appeared before Pope Alexander IV in Anagni Cathedral, and read their confutations; as was to be expected, this silly and most murderous work in its intent was condemned on 5 October, 1256. The apologies read that day deserve the eternal gratitude of all the religious, orders: Paris reeled again under the blow smitten by the hands of the Universal, the Seraphic, the Angelic doctors, who vindicated the rights of holy poverty.

During this stay in Italy, St. Thomas confuted another work of impiety and false mysticism, entitled “The Eternal Gospel”. In November he returned with Master Albert by sea to Marseilles.

During the early part of the voyage the weather seemed promising: soon, however, a wild tempest arose, which created panic in every breast but their own. Like another Paul, the saint prayed, the lives of the travellers and mariners were granted to his prayers, and all reached the port in safety.

Eleven Papal Briefs were sent out before the Angel of the Schools was admitted to his degree in October, 1257, in his thirty-third year. When the time came his humility took alarm : vainly he pleaded his unworthiness of such a dignity, or that there were other brethren, his seniors, who were more deserving of the doctorate. It required the voice of a formal obedience to get him to acquiesce, and this made him sad of heart.

During the night preceding the academic Act he was on his knees reciting the sixty-eighth Psalm, seeking comfort from heaven. “Save me, O God,” cried he, “for the waters are come in, even to my soul!” then sleep overcame him, and he had this vision : before him stood a religious of mature years, wearing the habit of the order, who accosted him in gentle tones: “Why are you beseeching God thus earnestly, and in tears?” Then Thomas answered him with all his natural sincerity : “It is on account of the burden of the doctorate, for which my knowledge is insufficient, likewise because I do not know which text to select as the burden of my discourse Then the heavenly visitor continued: “Behold thou art heard. Take the burden of the doctorate upon thee, since God is with thee: choose for thy subject this text, and all will go well with thee : Thou waterest the hills from Thy chambers above: the earth shall be filled with the fruits of Thy works ” (Ps. CIII. 13). Then he awoke and returned thanks to God. Who else can the heavenly instructor have been but the Apostolic Patriarch St. Dominic himself?

Early in the morning of the eventful day Thomas awoke with swollen cheek, and scarce able to speak from pangs of toothache; so he hied him to the cell of his friend Father Reginald for counsel in his misery. Reginald stood dumb with amazement at the mishap. Did he suggest some old-time remedy? Very likely he did, but Thomas hit upon a speedier one. Falling on his knees he prayed mutely a while, when to the cell floor fell the cause of the trouble, the tooth with its biting fangs.

It was on 23 October, 1257, that St. Thomas pronounced his oration in the hall of the Archbishop’s palace, based on the text revealed to him : “Thou waterest the hills from Thy chambers above: the earth shall be filled with the fruits of Thy works”. His theme was “The Majesty of Christ,” and he spoke as one inspired, before a hushed assembly. It was as a scene rehearsed from the Book of Job (XXIX.): “The young men saw me, and hid themselves : the elders rose up and stood. The rulers ceased to speak, and laid their finger on their mouth.” He applied his text to our Lord, who is King over angels and men alike. Christ from His throne of majesty waters the mountains, which are the heavenly spirits, the sublime intelligences, with the torrents of His glory and light. He fills the Earth, that is to say, the Church upon earth, with the fruits of His works, through the Sacraments, which are the channels whereby He communicates to men the fruits of His Passion. After the oration he was solemnly received with cap and ring as a Doctor of Paris. There is an old tradition to the effect that St. Bonaventure was promoted on the same day. Some critics deny the fact,1 but what tradition is there which has not been gainsaid! On this occasion arose the only contention they ever had together. Each from humility wished the other to take precedence, until Thomas gave way as being the younger.




“Post honores, labores”.—“To honours succeed labours ”.


Like some well-laden tree, Thomas, moved by the Spirit of Truth from on high, dropped the ripe fruits of learning. St. Raymund of Pennafort, known in history as “The Master of the Decretals”, after resigning the rank of Master General of the Order of Preachers, retired to Spain, where he exercised his zeal in the conversion of the Jews and Moors. What he needed most was a philosophic exposition of Christian belief, to combat Arabian thought. Aware of the newly risen star, he besought Father Thomas in Paris to undertake the task. Writing is preaching, when the pen is dipped in grace, and is ever more enduring. So the holy Doctor responded to the appeal by commencing his first monumental work, the “Summa Contra Gentiles,” or, “The Sum of the Truth of Catholic Faith against the Gentiles”. Set forth in four books, it contains a complete demonstration of Christian Truth against false philosophies, demonstrating absolutely that the dogmas of Christianity can never be opposed to right reason. Its success was immense, and soon it was rendered out of Latin into Greek, Syriac, and Hebrew, in order to be more accessible to those against whose errors it was composed. In European schools from 1261 it became a text-book of the philosophy of religion. Next followed the mixed writings known as the “Quodlibets,” a collection in 160 Articles of questions proposed with their solutions: some of these questions were profound, others trivial, but all throw a side-light on the scholastic subtilties of his day. After this he put forth the opusculum of 104 articles upon “Truth, this he followed up by the “Compendium of Theology”. The masterly collection known as the “Questiones Disputatae” was not written in any precise year: it is a compilation made in 400 articles, comprising his answers to discussions arising out of his lectures, and extending over twenty years. In his elaborated Commentary on the Book of Job, he draws out admirably the argument of God’s Providence governing the world.

The real presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is a doctrine which cannot be denied without making shipwreck of the faith. By the term real is meant an objective, substantial, abiding presence : it proclaims the living Christ to be truly in the Sacrament, “Secundum rei Veritatem”. This doctrine is the very touchstone of Catholic belief, the centre of Catholic devotion. But in the age of St. Thomas, while all professed this faith, there were conflicting opinions as to the manner of such presence. The Doctors of Paris were specially full of this question, and now, after many fruitless disputes, resolved to refer the matter to the Angelic Doctor, since with him, to seize upon a difficulty was to unravel it. For a time he withdrew to the solitude of his cell to give himself up to prayer, then, under the dictation of the Holy Spirit, he wrote a treatise, “Of Substance and Accidents in the Eucharist,” which he afterwards so pithily expressed in the “ Lauda Sion ”.

Here beneath these signs are hidden

Priceless things to sense forbidden

Signs, not things, are all we see.

After finishing the work he retired to the church, where he placed it upon the altar, and thus addressed the crucifix : “Lord Jesus Christ, Who art really present and workest wonders in this Sacrament, I humbly beg of Thee, that if what I have written of Thee be true, Thou wilt say so : but if I have written aught which is not conformable to the faith, or contrary to this holy mystery, be pleased to hinder me from proceeding farther Fr. Reginald of Piperno and others who had followed him saw our Blessed Lord appear, standing on the manuscript, and heard Him speak these words of approbation : “Thou hast written ably of the Sacrament of My Body, and hast accurately determined the difficulty proposed to thee, in so far as it can be understood by man on earth, and be defined by human wisdom”. Then the spectators beheld the holy man uplifted miraculously from the ground, as if drawn heavenwards by the fervour of his devotion. From that day the University looked upon him not merely as a genius of thought, but as a man sent of God. According to the statutes the Master must retire on the expiry of one year, and Thomas complied; but so keen was the sense of loss, that after a few months he was invited to resume his course.

St. Louis IX, King of France, held his relative Thomas Aquinas in the highest esteem, and made him a member of his Privy Council for State Affairs. It was his wont to inform the holy Doctor the evening before of all important business to be discussed on the morrow, so that he might come prepared to tender advice. One is not surprised to find these years synchronize with the monarch’s greatest temporal glory, opening an epoch of lasting benefit to France. He excused himself as often as he could with propriety from sitting at the royal table, but whether at Council board or supper, he was as recollected as in his cell. While sitting at table one evening with the King and Queen and guests, he was observed to be quite lost in thought. Vainly the Prior plucked his sleeve to arouse him, when suddenly the goblets and platters jumped from a blow of his fist on the trencher, and the sonorous voice rang out: “The argument is clinched against the Manichees!” All the while his train of thought had been of the heresy of the new Manichees, the Vaudois, and Cathari. The Prior rebuked him for such unseemly conduct, but the gentle Louis only smiled, and bade one of his secretaries write down the argument hastily, lest it might lose its force and clearness. The King furthermore employed him and Fr. Vincent de Beauvais, author of “The Three­fold Mirror”, in arranging the royal library of rare manuscripts. Often might the spectacle be seen of the saintly King sitting as a rapt listener, while the great Doctor, now a man of commanding stature and build, poured out his eloquence within the walls of Notre Dame, or of St. Jacques. A fairer sight it was to behold Thomas humbly serving at Mass in the conventual church, or making the rough ways plain to novices in logic.

In the General Chapter assembled at Valenciennes during Pentecost of 1259, he sat on the Commission for Studies, together with Masters Albert, Vincent de Beauvais, Peter de TarentaiseBuonomo, and Florence, all of them Doctors of Paris. It was their task to draw up a Norma Studiorum, or fixed programme of higher studies, to be employed in all colleges of the order; the Ordinances then prescribed may be found in the Chapter Acts. From thence he returned to Paris for two more years, lecturing and writing as before. In the schools his deportment and spirit reminded the listeners of the mildness and modesty of Christ; never ruffled, never heated in argument, utterly devoid of pretence or display, he kept to his childlike way of holy simplicity. St John Chrysostom in his “Sixty-second Homily on St. Matthew’s Gospel,” makes this deep observation, and St. Thomas certainly lived up to it : “The full measure of philosophy is to be simple, with prudence: such is an angelic life”. Once when he was examining a candidate for the Licentiate, the cleric hazarded a thesis savouring of unorthodoxy; Thomas gently reproved the line of argument taken, and pointed out its fatal consequences, but with rare delicacy. When blamed for not at once confuting the error, he rejoined : “I did not wish to put him to shame before such a distinguished auditory, but tomorrow I will convince him of his mistake”. Next day came the final defension in the Archbishop’s palace, when the same opinion was advanced with emboldened insolence. Then the holy Doctor calmly objected by accepting the thesis, but with pitiless logic forced the candidate to draw out his argument to its ultimate conclusions which he had to admit were heretical and untenable. The defendant saw his error, withdrew the thesis, and apologized for the offensive manner assumed. The saint then administered a correction quite after his own fashion : “Ah, now you speak sound doctrine, as a true teacher should”.

How did St. Thomas study? What was his method in writing? We gather it from the lips of his inseparable secretary and confessor and confidant, Fr. Reginald of Piperno. Before studying or lecturing he prayed much, distrusting his great natural gifts: when writing or dictating he would frequently rise and stand a while before the crucifix : at times he would withdraw to the altar where the adorable Sacrament reposed, and, leaning upon the altar table, or with head pressed against the Tabernacle door, collect his thoughts as he sought for light. During the composition of his Apology for the Faith, the “Summa Contra Gentiles,” he was often seen in rapture. The Vatican Library contains among its other treasures a genuine autograph copy, on whose margins he occasionally wrote the words “Ave Maria”.

Genius is twofold: it may be the dower of rare mental parts, but more commonly it is the faculty of taking pains over work, the art of constructiveness : and St. Thomas shone in both. He took the greatest pains in forecasting his scheme, dividing and subdividing, after which he built up each portion in a separate article. There is an old adage in the schools :—


The Holy Doctor is both doctrine and discipline.

From him the scholar can learn science and method. “He did all things well,” as was said of our Lord. Employing both methods, analytic and synthetic, his aim was to construct each work on the basis of a vast synthesis. Of course this does not hold good of his Commentaries, where the purpose is all critical and expository. Nor does it apply to the “Catena Aurea,” which is simply the stringing together of quotations from the Fathers: but even here one marvels at the acumen shown in the fitness of the passages culled from each, like a handful from a meadow.

The beauty of his writings lies in four cardinal points : Sublimity of thought, Subtilty of argument, Simplicity of style, Unction of spirit. Above all things he is logical in sequel. No one can presume to abridge him without losing the charm of his rare diction : wilfully to excise an argument, especially one which he calls “a first and more obvious one, such as the proof of God’s existence drawn from motion, is the freedom of a pigmy towards a giant. The best model for the Christian apologist to follow is his “Sum of the Truth of Catholic Faith against the Gentiles”. His attitude towards the princes of the ancients, Plato and Aristotle, is always one of reverence : towards the leaders of the Arabian school he is more hostile, since their influence threatened to undermine Christian thought: hence all his destructive weapons were brought to bear upon Avicenna (1037), Avicebron (1070), and Averroes (1198). His philosophy is Aristotelian throughout, but refined and purified by the light of revelation : with all the elevation of Plato, he does not disdain at times to use the Socratic method. A master of analysis, he furnishes us with many an example of clear thought. Take for instance his treatise on the Incarnation of our Blessed Lord, which he disposes of in fifty-nine questions : it is all resumed under four headings : Ingressus, His birth; Progressus, His mission; Regressus, His passion and death; Exaltatio, His ascension and headship.

No one need ever hope to understand St. Thomas who is not well grounded in Scholastic Philosophy : mere knowledge of latinity will not suffice. The student must attend to the holy Doctor’s method of constructiveness, as exhibited in every article. He first, submits his proposition : as for instance—

“Whether Grace be a quality of the soul”. Then he opens out with arguments to the contrary, varying from two to twenty, but commonly three in number: these objections are drawn either from reason or authority, and such authority is either of Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, or the Philosophers. After apparently demolishing the proposition, he opens out his own line of argument by a “Sed Contra”, or, “But on the contrary”. In the body of the article he constructs the proof by solid arguments well-reasoned out: frequently he adopts the historic method, narrating the opinions of past schools of thought, and demolishing each as he proceeds: finally he lays down the conclusion as established by irrefragable argument. All this is constructive method : now he passes to the destructive. Each objection proposed at the outset is weighed, distinguished, dismissed. The Scholastic rule of debate.is this : “Never admit, seldom deny, always distinguish!. All are not Thomists who read St. Thomas : Thomism is consistency with the principles and conclusions of the Master.

Great was the consternation and grief of Paris when the newly elected Pontiff, Urban IV, summoned St. Thomas to Rome. For four years now, from 1261 to 1265, he was a stranger to the public schools : Universities vainly petitioned for his services, but the Pope would have him close by his side. Although never made Master of the Sacred Palace, he was set over the school of select scholars, and resided with them in the Lateran Palace. Urban IV was a promoter of learning, and insisted on the staff and students following him in all his journeys and residences through Italy: thus it came about that during five years Thomas held his “prelections,” as they were termed, in Rome, Viterbo, Fondi, Orvieto, Anagni, Perugia, and Bologna. He was now a member of the papal household, a Consultor of the Holy Father, a teacher of the coming princes and bishops of the Church: at the same time he gave himself to preaching in these towns, to the great profit of souls. The uppermost thought in Urban’s mind was the reunion of East with West, since the Eastern Church was unfortunately severed by heresy and schism. The Greek Church had stood aloof for ages from the centre of unity, the Chair of Peter, in a state of stagnation as to learning and sanctity. Christ’s prayer for unity wrung the Pontiffs soul; so he opened his mind to the Angelic Doctor. The zeal of the one and the learning of the other ought surely to accomplish our Lord’s desire : “Grant, Father, that they may be one, even as Thou and I are one” (St. John, XXVII. 22). According to St. Thomas, schism is a most grievous crime, as destroying the Church’s Unity, and setting up many folds and shepherds. Figuratively speaking, the Lord’s seamless garment is rent: with such a conviction in mind, this loyal son of the Church set himself to repair it with the silver threads of argument and the golden of charity. At the bidding of Urban IV he composed a work entitled “Against the Errors of the Greeks The Pope” ,sent the book to Michael Palaeologus, the eighth Emperor of Constantinople : soon it was turned into the Greek tongue, and copies multiplied, which found their way into many hands. He followed it up with another work undertaken at the request of the Precentor of Antioch; “Against the Errors of the Greeks, Armenians, and Saracens”. In this treatise he draws out in masterly fashion the Generation of the Eternal Word, the Procession of the Holy Ghost, the motive of the Incarnation, how the faithful receive the Body of Christ, Purgatory for expiation, the Beatific Vision in heaven, and lastly, how Predestination imposes no necessity on man’s free-will. Our saint did not live to see the realization of his hopes, but he sowed the good seed which resulted in the harvest garnered in at the General Council of Florence, when the decree of union was pronounced.

Quite a year went by from St. Thomas’s coming to Rome before the Pope removed his Court to Viterbo; during this interval he interpreted Aristotle to the students in the Lateran Palace. It was in Viterbo that he completed his second Commentary on the Sacred Scriptures: its method is quite different from the first: in the latter he bases his views upon Tradition, whereas in the former he relied upon the revealed letter itself. When these are employed side by side, they form a component harmony of the written word. The one aim of his life was to pursue and to impart knowledge. Daniel d’Augusta put the question to him one day, as to what he considered to be the greatest gift he had ever received, apart from sanctifying grace: with candour of soul he replied that it was the gift of understanding all that he had ever read. To intimate friends he disclosed the secret of his marvellous wisdom, telling them that he learned more by prayer than from study. This is the prayer which he invariably made before lecturing or writing, or studying:—

“Creator, beyond human utterance, Who out of Thy wisdom’s treasures didst establish three hierarchies of Angels, setting them in wonderful order to preside over the empyrean heaven, and Who hast most marvellously assorted the parts of the universe; Thou Who art called the fountain-head of life and of wisdom, and the one over-ruling principle; be pleased to shed the ray of Thy brightness over the gloom of my understanding, so as to dispel the double shadow of sin and ignorance in which I was born. Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of babes, instruct my tongue, and shed the grace of Thy blessing upon my lips. Bestow on me keenness of wit to understand, the power of a retentive memory, method and ease of learning, subtilty for explaining, and the gift of ready speech. Teach me as I begin, direct me as I advance, complete my finished task for me, Thou Who art truly God and man, Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.”

The fortieth General Chapter of the Order met in London in the year 1263, at Pentecost. We are told that 300 brethren took part in it, in the priory which stood in Holborn, which, on the testimony of Matthew Paris, was previously “the noble residence” of the Earl of Kent. King Henry III gave them a cordial welcome, assisted at the opening ceremony, and, as the Garde-robe Accounts testify, gave a new habit to every friar present; this was by no means a superfluous gift, considering that all had come on foot, and many from remote quarters of Europe. The Chapter was presided over by the Venerable Humbert de Romans, fifth Master-General, who, after nine years of government, now laid down his office owing to infirmities. The resignation came as a surprise, and was accepted with regret, but since the Chapter was not an elective one, no more could be done than choose a Vicar-General for the ensuing year. Master Albertus Magnus was the one selected, and took up office. It was an eminent Chapter, if only from men of eminence who took part in it. St. Thomas was there, also Blessed Albertus Magnus, Peter de Tarentaise, better known now as Blessed Innocent V, Peter de Luca, the Roman Definitor, all the Provincials of the order with their companions, the Masters from Paris, David de Ayr, the Vicar-General of Scotland, and the Vicar from Ireland, some forty definitors, and the professors from Oxford. The fact of St. Thomas’s presence is not attested by contemporary writers, but by later ones, who set forth many authentic details of his life corroborated from other sources. This need occasion no surprise, since the scope and purpose of the first biographers was to establish the sanctity and miracles of the Angelic Doctor, as set forth by the Commissions. He would have sailed from a French port in a schaloupe, and landed at Deal, from whence a short journey would bring him to his brethren in Canterbury. From Canterbury to Rochester would form the second stage: then on the close of the third day he would be crossing Old London Bridge.

There was an affinity between King Henry Plantagenet and Thomas of Aquino, although a remote one, since each sprang from the Princes of Normandy. Two main points occupy the attention of every Chapter: these are regular observance and study. During the great intellectual development of the thirteenth century, the question of the Schools was paramount; the nomination of Masters in Theology to the greater centres of teaching, the assigning of scholars who were to read in the various faculties, the enforcing or modifying of the Norma Studiorum, all these had to be discussed, and the results published. The aim of those first Dominicans, whose motto has ever been Veritas, or Truth, was not to keep abreast of the times, but to go beyond them, to lead, and progress beyond the Sentences of Peter Lombard in divinity, and glosses upon Aristotle. Most of all they sought to specialize. Thus at this very time three hundred of them were engaged under Cardinal Hugh de St. Cher in compiling the first Biblical Concordance, while St. Raymund of Pennafort was compiling his Five Books of Deeretals, and others were establishing centres for the study of Oriental languages. Their halls in St. Edward’s Schools at Oxford had been open now just forty years, and to these many of the disaffected scholars from Paris flocked. The condition of this General House of Studies, enjoying the privileges of a University, would certainly form a subject for protracted discussion. On the conclusion of the Chapter, St. Thomas returned to Viterbo by way of Paris and Milan. In this latter city he prayed for some days before the tomb of his holy brother in religion, St. Peter of Verona, the Martyr, in whose honour a magnificent shrine had just been erected over his remains in the church of the order, San Eustorgio. At the request of the pious donors, he then composed the still extant epitaph :—

                           Proeco, lucerna,pugil, Christi, populi, fideique, etc.

St. Thomas was Poet as well as Theologian : his “Summa Theologica ” is one vast epic, while his poems are all of them devout and couched in sweet flowing numbers: and right well he sang of the object dearest to his soul, Christ veiled in the Eucharist. The office composed for the festival of Corpus Christi is the rhapsody of a poet inspired by faith and devotion; that he wrote it is due to a command received by Pope Urban IV, whom he petitioned to establish a special feast to be known as Corpus Christi’s. The thought was by no means his own, for the honour falls to three holy virgins of Belgium, the Blessed Julienne, Prioress of Mont Cornillon, Eve, the recluse by Liége, and Isabel of Huy. Stirred by a vision of the saints petitioning our Lord to establish such a festival in His Church, they consulted a devout Canon of Liége, John de Lausanne, who warmly approved of their design, and wrote the original Office of the Blessed Sacrament. This good priest furthermore laid the scheme before Urban in the days when he was simply Archdeacon of St. Lambert in Liége, as well as before the Dominican Provincial, Hugh de St. Cher, besides consulting with Guy de Laon, Bishop of Cambrai, and three Dominican theologians, John, Giles, and Gerard. Now that the Archdeacon was seated on the throne of the Fisherman, he acceded to the prayers of these devout souls, and commissioned “his own Doctor,” as he termed him, to compose a new office for the festival of Corpus Christi. Approaching this work in the spirit of reverent criticism, one is forced to pronounce it a marvel of poetic vein, tenderest thought and sublime doctrine. Dipping his pen as it were into his very heart, he wrote as one inspired; where all is beautiful, one is particularly struck with its doctrinal accuracy. Thus, in the Antiphon for the Second Vespers, he sets forth admirably the fourfold purpose of the Eucharist.

O Sacred Banquet! wherein

(1)     The Christ is received,

(2)    The memory of His Passion recalled,

(3)    The Soul is filled with grace, and

(4)    A pledge of future glory given to us.

The language of theology is didactic, but in the sequence, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem, he sings even while he defines, like some bell-mouthed Seraph strayed from heaven. With the year 1264 closes his Noontide of life. The morning star’s lustre has given place to the light of the full noon.






While the Angelic Doctor was reading his Office for Corpus Christi before Urban IV, the Pontiff’ eyes were suffused with tears : never was guerdon better earned, so, retiring into his oratory, after a little while he came forth bearing the large silver dove containing the sacred species, and gave it as a memento. Then he charged St. Thomas to write a luminous commentary on the Four Gospels, compiled exclusively from the writings of the Fathers. Under the title of “Catena Aurea,” or “Golden Chain,” he composed the fullest commentary ever drawn from Patristic sources, culled impartially from Eastern and Western Father, and for the most part written from memory. St. Matthew’s Gospel, finished in 1264, was dedicated to the Pope, who died soon after; the other three Gospels followed, but St. John’s was dedicated to his fellow-religious, Cardinal d'Annibaldi. Directly Pope Clement IV assumed the tiara in February, 1265, he summoned Thomas to Rome. If love of truth made our saint always to seek the quiet of retirement, the call of obedience found him ready for further work. He now put forth another argumentative treatise, begun long before in Paris, in which Arabian pantheism yielded before the power of the syllogism; its title is : “On the Unity of the Intellect, against the Averroists”. Averroes, the cultured Arabian physician, while outwardly professing to be a Christian, was an atheist at heart. Christianity he called an impossible religion, Judaism one for children, Mohammedanism one fit for hogs. The basis of his errors was this, that all men have but the one intellect, and consequently but one soul: consequently, there is no personal morality. “Peter is saved : I am one intellect and soul with Peter; so I shall be saved.” Presumably the deduction from unity of intellect with Judas was forgotten. From the appearance of St. Thomas’s work, the philosophy of Averroes was consigned to the antiquities of the buried past.

Meanwhile the Father-General, Blessed John de Vercelli, and his brethren, were conscious of the loss to the Order in being so long deprived of the holy doctor’s services : so now, by agreement with Pope Clement, he returned to the cloister-school of Santa Sabina on the Aventine. The General Chapter held at Montpellier in 1265 assigned him to Rome, to resume teaching. “We assign Friar Thomas of Aquino to Rome, for the remission of his sins, there to take over the direction of studies. Should any students be found wanting in application, we empower him to send them back to their own convents.” He now drew up the scheme of his most memorable work, the triumph of his life, the great “Summa Theologica,” which he was not destined to complete even after nine years of labour. The very daring of the scheme, comprising the whole range of dogmatic and moral theology, fills the world with astonishment, while its intricacy of argument can be likened only to some gorgeous tapestry woven by the genius of thought. Let us hear his introductory prologue.

“Since the teacher of Catholic truth ought to instruct not merely the advanced, but it falls to him likewise to teach beginners, according to the saying of the Apostle in I Corinthians III. 1: As unto little ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, and not meat; the purpose of our intent in this work is to treat of the matters of the Christian religion in such a way as to adapt them to the instruction of beginners.

“Now we have observed that novices in such learning are very much hindered by the writings of some individuals; partly from the multiplying of useless questions, articles, and arguments; partly again because the themes to be learnt are not dealt with in their proper order, but just as the explanation of text-books called for, or as occasion for discussion arose; and, finally, in part because the constant repetition of the same matter begot weariness and confusion in the minds of the listeners.

“Endeavouring then to avoid these and similar drawbacks, and confiding in the Divine assistance, we shall endeavour to traverse briefly and clearly all the matters of sacred doctrine, according as the matter in hand shall permit.”

Drawing exhaustively upon theological founts, he brings in Philosophy simply as a handmaid, to confirm from Reason the teachings of Revelation. This Sum of Theology is the most perfect body of truth, the fullest exposition of theological lore ever given to the Church. When one calls to mind the frequent interruptions from daily lectures, frequent preaching and journeys afoot, the marvel is that it ever neared completion. The First Part treats of God and Creation. In rigid sequel the treatises deal with God’s Existence, Unity, Attributes, and Trinity. Creation comprises God’s creative action, the Hexameron or work of the six days, the Angels, and lastly Man. All this is set forth in 119 Questions, or divisions, subdivided into 584 articles, making one great folio. The Second Part is subdivided into two divisions known as the First of the Second and Second of the Second, yielding two more folios. The former deals with the End of man, which is the Vision of God; with Morality, Passions, Sin, Theological and Moral Virtues, Gifts of the Spirit, Law, and Grace. In comprises 114 Questions, containing 619 articles. Whereas this Part deals with the subject matter under common consideration, the Second of the Second goes over the same ground in detail, under particular consideration, ending with the states of bishops and religious. This occupies 189 Questions, with 916 articles. The Third Part treats of Redemption through Christ; the chief treatises are the Incarnation, the Life of Christ, thus forming a perfect Christology; the Sacraments as sources of grace applying the fruits of Redemption, then in detail—Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and Penance. When mid-way through the treatise on Penance, the pen was laid down to be resumed no more. With his own hand he wrote ninety Questions, containing 539 articles. The rest of the Part is all his, but compiled by another hand: it is drawn from his Commentary on the Fourth Book of the Sentences : this supplement contains ninety-nine more Questions distributed into 442 articles; making the Third Part complete under 189 Questions, with 981 articles. This vast arsenal of Catholic Doctrine has altogether 497 Questions, subdivided into 2481 articles. The First Part, written in Rome, occupied him during two years; the Second Part was written in Bologna and Paris, the fruit of five years’ toil; the Third Part was compiled in Naples. Small wonder then that the words of a Pope are inserted as an antiphon in his festival office:—

As a river of limpid knowledge

He irrigates the entire Holy Church.

Ten years had elapsed since the attack was made on the Mendicant Orders by William de Saint Amour, who was forced to retire apparently a broken man. Once more he returned to the fray with a more plausible work, which the Pope handed over to the Master General for St. Thomas to confute. In 1268 appeared the Apology for the Religious Orders, entitled “Against those who would withdraw others from entering the Religious Stat ”. He wrote this Apology for a purpose, and he attained it: the purpose was to combat prejudice against youth seeking the state of perfection. Presently he added another treatise, “On the perfection of the Spiritual Life,” to show wherein Christian perfection lies essentially, and by what means it may be attained.

All perfection consists essentially in Divine Love. “God is Charity hence, since human perfection comes of progressive likeness to God, it follows that it comes of the infusion and exercise of Charity. It is the one abiding gift which never falls away. The Moral Virtues give fitness for the life of blessedness in heaven: Faith and Hope pass into Vision and Embrace, but Charity alone endures. The charity of creatures comprises four degrees, as the ascending scale to the Holiest Himself. There is the love of the Angels, whose choirs attain their zenith in the blessed Seraphim. The sons of light are the sons of fire. “Thou makest thine Angels spirits, and thy ministers a flame of fire (Psalm CIII. 4). Next in order comes the love of the Blessed, ever actually engrossed in the thought of God, who can never turn their faces away: with them their love is their life, and the outcome of their degree of charity when on earth. But, as St. Thomas teaches, love such as this is beyond man’s earthly powers. “It is not given to man upon earth to think actually of God at all times, ever actually to love Him.” The remaining degrees concern us men in our state of pilgrimage below. The charity of earth is twofold: the higher is that of such as embrace and keep the Gospel counsels of perfection, by professing voluntary Poverty, perpetual Chastity, entire Obedience. All are in the state of perfection who thus follow the Master out of love. The lowest rank is of such as are only called to, and are content with, what is of precept, the simple keeping of the Commandments. Thus the Religious State is one of perfection, but actual perfection is the heroism of fulfilment, the bloodless martyrdom of charity.

In Rome during the whole Lent of 1267 our Saint preached in the Old Saint Peter’s Basilica: taking Christ’s Passion for his theme, he spoke so strongly against public vices that a change of morals was observable on all sides. During the Good Friday sermon he wept aloud, so as to move the whole audience to tears: on the Easter Day and during the Octave he made them all to thrill with joy and hope. As he was passing out through the porch, a woman long afflicted with a flow of blood came behind him, kissed his cloak, and was instantly cured. A remarkable Jewish conversion made in the previous winter stirred the hearts of the Romans. Cardinal d’Annibaldi having secured Thomas for a few days’ visit to his country residence at Molara, invited two Rabbis to meet him, to enjoy his rare gift of conversation. Polite speech soon grew to argument between the well-measured opponents, regarding the Messiah, for it was Christmas Eve. The Rabbis pleaded their cause with learning and earnestness, but all that they could advance was met by clear proofs to the contrary, put before them with all meekness and sincerity. They were so tenacious of their convictions, however, that all he said produced no immediate results : yet at the same time they were so captivated by his manner, that they promised to repeat the visit on the morrow. That night of the Christmas mystery Thomas spent before the new and abiding Bethlehem, “the home of bread,” on the altar: where argument failed, prayer prevailed, and on Christmas Day he received them into the Christian fold.

The holy Doctor acknowledged to friends, that, on every Christmas night, he obtained some special favour from God, some vision, or deeper insight into the glories of Christ. His exquisitely tender devotion towards our Lord stands revealed in this prayer:—

“Most tender Jesus, may Thy most sacred Body and Blood be my soul’s sweetness and delight, health and holiness in every temptation, joy and peace in every sorrow, light and strength in every word and work, and my last safeguard in death.”

St. Thomas was now held in universal esteem as an oracle sent of God: halls and churches were taxed to their utmost capacity to contain his eager auditory, and those listeners were no mere youths, but Doctors of the schools, Bishops and even Cardinals. He had such mastery over mind and senses that he dictated to four secretaries at the one time on widely different subjects, and was known to dictate still while fast asleep. Such is the testimony of two such secretaries, Reginald of Piperno and Hervey Brito. So capacious was his memory, that he never forgot what he had once read. One evening while dictating the treatise on the Holy Trinity, he held the candle so as to assist the scribe: soon he became so lost in sublime thought that he let the candle burn out in his fingers, without being con­scious of the pain.

At Pentecost of the year 1267 he took part in the General Chapter of Bologna, and witnessed the solemn translation of St. Dominic's relics: it was on this occasion that the Pope sent him a Brief requiring him to choose and send two friars to assist the Bishop of Narenta in Dalmatia. The University prayed the Chapter to leave him in Bologna, so he accepted a chair in the public schools. It was a joy for him to live in the home wherein St. Dominic died: many were the nights he spent in prayer before the Holy Father’s tomb. It is an interesting fact that he composed the questions on Beatitude and the Beatific Vision in this hallowed spot. Out of consideration for his merits, two new foundations were bestowed upon the order. Archbishop Patricio gave St. Paul’s church in Salerno, with and gardens, “to his friend and former Thomas of Aquino''. Abbot Bernard of Monte Cassino, in a Synod of the clergy within his jurisdiction, made over a similar establishment in the town of San Germano.

In 1268 the house of Aquino was restored in its honours and estates, whereat the man of God adored heaven’s judgments and designs, even while he poured out thanks. At the request of the Master General he composed a short work on “The Form of Absolution” : for the King of Sicily he wrote the first two books of the treatise “On the Government of Princes,” but the third and fourth are by some other pen.

Summoned to attend the General Chapter in Paris in the year 1269, at the voice of authority he remained there as Regent of Studies. The world of letters might come to him, if it so listed, but he would not go out to it, being preoccupied with the moral section of his “Summa”. He continued on terms of holy intimacy with St. Louis IX, until that Preux Chevalier sailed for the Holy Land in 1270. During his two years’ residence in Paris he published these works: “On the Soul”; on “Potentia”; “ On the Union of the Word”; “On Spiritual Creatures” ; “On the Virtues”; “On Evil”.

One day he accompanied the novices to the abbey church of St. Denys, which was the burial place of the Kings of France; there they sat a while to rest upon a hillock, and surveyed the city stretched before them. Hoping to hear some words of wisdom, one of the party observed: “Master, see what a splendid city Paris is; would you not care to be its lord?” Thomas gazed for a moment, then replied : “I would rather have St. Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew’s Gospel. What could I possibly do with such a city?” “Well Father,” rejoined the novice, “you might sell it to the King of France, and build convents for the Friars Preachers in many a place.” “In good sooth,” said the saint, “I should prefer the Homilies. If I had the government of this city, it would bring me many cares: I could no longer give myself to Divine contemplation, besides depriving myself of spiritual consolations. Experience truly shows this, that the more a man abandons himself to the care and love of temporal things, the more he exposes himself to lose heavenly blessings.” “O happy Doctor,” exclaims Tocco, “despiser of the world! O lover of heaven! who carried out in conduct what he taught in words, who thus despised earthly things, as if he had already caught a glimpse of the heaven he was looking forward to possess.”

A man’s character can be accurately measured by his friendships. While bearing himself affably towards all, the Angelic Doctor had but few intimacies, and these were with persons of singular holiness. Now since friendship is based on resemblance, and results in equality and expansiveness, one is not surprised to find that his great heart opened to the learned, many of whom are enrolled with him in the catalogue of the Blessed.

He kept perfect control over his emotional and sensitive faculties. When the rude surgery of the time required that he should be bled, and once when it was deemed necessary to cauterize his knee with a hot iron, he put himself into a state of contemplation, and felt nothing whatever of the operation. When preaching, he stood firm and erect, the clasped hands resting on the pulpit, the eyes closed, the head upturned and thrown somewhat backwards. At table he often sat lost in thought, with open eyes gazing upwards ; it was the same in the garden, the cloister, the cell. He frequently gave this injunction to Reginald, his chief secretary ; “Whatever you see happen in me, do not interrupt me”. It was in 1270 he completed his Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles, during the composition of which he was favoured with the visible appearance of the Apostle, who came to his assistance in expounding the more abstruse passages.

Recalled to Rome in 1271, he finished the second section of the Second Part of his “Summa” in the peaceful priory on the Aventine hill, and began the Third Part. His time was now devoted to this work, to daily lectures, and to writing a Commentary on Boetius.

St. Thomas possessed a master mind ranging over the whole domain of Philosophy: after seven centuries he is abreast of our times in science, while not a few of our latter-day “discoveries” may be read in his pages. The twentieth century has gone back to him for its epistemology, or science of doctrine, to his canon of:

                                  “Nihil in intellectu quin prius fuerit in sensu”.

With him, ethics is no dry digest of “agibiliat” is the most practical of the sciences, for it is the shaping of human conduct. The political and social economist must consult him for sound economics, as Pope Leo XIII did in his Encyclical “Rerum Novarum”; there in many an eloquent passage he will find as the basis of social economy man’s fundamental right of ownership, while the determination falls to the State. In Psychology this sage holds firm for the real distinction between soul and faculties, and between the faculties themselves; feeling is largely identified with will, but he is no patron of Rosminian consciousness as being the soul’s nature. It is to St. Thomas we go for the sound philosophical principles of rational physics. His exposition of cosmology, given in the treatise on Creation, which is contained in the First Part of the “Summa Theologica,” is out and out more scientific than all theories of atomism, chemical forces of dynamism, or pretended affinities of later days. He is a creationist, and holds to matter and form as the substantialities of things. Primary matter is thesubject of all the substantial transformations of the corporeal universe. Substantial form, is the likeness of a Divine idea, which, being expressed in matter, constitutes it in a determined substance: as a consequence, the degrees of beings depend on the perfection of forms.

Nature is the first principle of motion and of rest. All primitive substantial forms as well as primary matter must come of creation : his teaching shows the impossibility of our modern bio­genesis. The variation of gravity he explains not by addition or subtraction of extraneous particles, but by matter itself becoming rare or dense; hence heaviness is a result of density. He was well acquainted with ether, admitting as he does of an ethereal and most subtle bodily substance everywhere diffused in the interplanetary spaces, as the vehicle and subject of the reciprocal operations of the stars and planets. Such is the explanation of the diffusion of light and heat, in agreement with experience. Ages before Melloni he said: “All light is productive of heat, even the light of the Moon”. Those who talk of sex in plants as a modern discovery had better read his “Commentary on the Third Book of Sentences”. “In the same plant there is the twofold virtue, active and passive, though sometimes the active is found in one, and the passive in another, so that the one plant is said to be masculine, and the other feminine.” He was well acquainted with seminal causes, the laws of qualities, attraction, mechanical activity, and inertia of bodies : in the matter of chemistry there is no substantial discrepancy between his teaching and the true principles of modern science as to substantial transformation.





Our saint presented a very noble and striking figure. He was of lofty stature, of heavy build but well proportioned, while his countenance was of our northern complexion, “like the colour of new wheat”, as we read in the deposition for his canonization. The features were comely, the head massive and well shaped, the forehead lofty, and he was slightly bald. Judging from his portrait, the general aspect was calm, sweet, majestic; the deep meditative eyes speak of gentleness, the nose is long and straight, the mouth very firm. Taken altogether, the features reveal the inner charm of his soul.

The earliest known portrait is a superb painting on a panel by an unknown artist of the fifteenth century, now preserved in the Louvre at Paris. A replica of inferior quality is to be seen in the suppressed Carmelite convent at Viterbo. An inscription beneath reads thus : “The true portrait of the Angelic Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas, as described by a disciple”.

He was the saint of sublimest thought, which he nourished with spiritual reading. “In such reading I try to collect devout thoughts, which will lead me easily to contemplation.”

The basis of his character and conduct was holy humility. The advice he tendered to others, he took to heart himself. “Love of God leads to self-contempt, whereas self-love leads to the contempt of God. If you would raise on high the edifice of holiness, take humility for your foundation.” In a moment of confidence he made this candid avowal to Fr. Reginald of Piperno. “Thanks be to God, my knowledge, my title of Doctor, my scholastic work, have never occasioned a single movement of vain glory, to dethrone the virtue of humility in my heart.” Dignities he would never accept: he held no office in his Order. He declined the lordly abbacy of Monte Cassino, even though the Pope offered to let him keep his habit of a Friar Preacher. Clement IV tried to secure his acceptance of a Cardinal’s hat, and expedited the Brief creating him Archbishop of Naples, but all to no purpose; when death was in view, he uttered this exclamation: “Thanks be to God, I die as a simple religious ”.

He was very tenacious of poverty; all his journeys were made on foot, his habit was of the poorest, he kept rigidly to the common life. Fr. Nicholas de Marsiliaco has furnished us with this testimony: “I was in Paris with Fr. Thomas, and I declare before God that never have I seen in any man such degree of innocence, such love of poverty. In writing his ‘Sum against the Gentiles’ he had not sufficient copy-books, so he wrote it on scraps of paper, although he might have had books in abundance, had he been so minded, but he had no concern for temporal affairs.” If mitre and scarlet had no attractions, still less had the rich revenues of an abbey, St. Peter ad Aram, in Rome, when offered by Pope Clement. He would keep nothing for his personal use, no chalice, no manuscript, while he dainties in abhorrence, and practised austerities.

As to obedience, it was one of his sayings that an obedient man is the same as a saint. He was just as prompt and hearty in obeying his Prior as in obeying the Father-General, or our Lord the Pope. A lay-brother in Bologna, having occasion to go out of the convent to make some necessary purchases for the table, had leave to summon the first friar he met to bear him company, as the rule required. St. Thomas was pacing the cloister at the moment, to whom the brother spoke thus: “Good father, the Prior wants you to follow me through the town”. Thomas complied, but as they strode through streets and market he was unable to maintain the pace, being slightly lame, for which he was soundly rated more than once. The amazed townsfolk interposed with heated speech, reminding the testy one of his companion’s dignity, to say nothing of his infirmity. The simple brother fell at once to his knees to implore forgiveness, for he had no idea of the strange father’s name or rank : St. Thomas, however, reassured him by saying that each was simply carrying out an obedience. It was then he uttered the oft-quoted maxim: “Obedience is the perfection of religious life: thereby a man submits himself to his fellow-man for the love of God, just as God became obedient to men for their salvation”.

With regard to the holy chastity, the Angelic Doctor is both patron and pattern of the angelic virtue : youth and maiden, priest and cloistered soul, acclaim him alike as their model and protector. “Incorruption bringeth nearer to God” (Wisdom, vi. 20). In his “Commentary on St. Paul’s 1 Corinthians, ” Chapter VII, lesson 6, he rehearses eight blessings of Virginity.

1. It preserves cleanness of the flesh. 2. It beautifies and adorns the soul. 3. It makes like unto the Angels of heaven. 4. It espouses to the S Christ.5. It gives union with and closeness to God. 6. It surpasses other states. 7. It breathes forth the odour of good repute. 8. It invites to the eternal nuptials. Of these the most valuable are the fourth, fifth, and last. It espouses unto the Christ by giving fitness for union with Christ’s Body in Holy Communion, and to the priest for making, handling, and dispensing the same. Hence the Poet Virgil places the life-long chaste priest in the Elysian fields.

                             Quique sacerdotes casti, dum vita manebat. (Aeneid).

It gives union with God, and closeness, by bestowing fitness for contemplation. “Where there is cleanness there is understanding;” “What removes a hindrance is an indirect mover,” as St. Thomas constantly urges. Chastity lends fitness for contemplation by removing carnal desires, which so affect the mind’s eye that even the truest see sin through a distorted lens. Lastly, it invites to the eternal nuptials. The closer anything approaches to its principle, the more perfect it becomes: but God, Who is our Principle, is a most Pure Spirit : therefore, Chastity leads up to perfection. But our last end is to be one of inseparable union with the all-clean God, as guests at the nuptials of the Lamb; therefore Chastity disposes for such union. The saint lived and died a perfect virgin in mind and body : his heroism in youth drew Angels down from heaven. “He who loves cleanness of heart, for the grace of his lips, shall have the King for a friend” (Proverbs XXII).

The depth of his Divine love, God alone can sound: it was revealed in a measure by his life, but he never spoke of it. “It is a good thing to conceal the King’s secret ” (Tobias XII. 7). All the world read his heart, his human kindness, his deep friendships. No hard saving ever crossed his lips : he could slay an argument, yet spare a foe. Without guile in his own soul, he could with difficulty be brought to believe in the guilt of others. When he sat in the tribunal of penance, in God’s Mercy-seat, it was with a melting heart of pity. Two things he loved especially: these were the Order of Preachers, and God’s poor. From love of the brethren he blessed the church bell at Salerno, foretelling that it would toll of itself to give warning of an approaching death. It kept its miraculous power until it fell and was broken in the seventeenth century. Like St. Dominic he was “ever joyous in the sight of men,” uniting the grace of noble manners to the reserve of the religious. He inculcated and observed the remembrance of God’s who walks faithfully in God’s presence, and who is ready to give Him an account of his actions, will never be parted from Him by yielding to sin.” Prayer was for him the very breath of his life. Frequently he urged St. Augustine’s maxim : knows how to live rightly, who has learnt how to pray properly”. In the funeral discourse at his obsequies, Fr. Reginald bore this testimony :

“During life my Master always prevented me from revealing the wonders which I witnessed. Of this number was his marvellous learning which uplifted him beyond all other men. which he owed less to power of genius than to the efficacy of his prayer. Truly, before studying, or lecturing, reading, writing, or dictating, he began by shutting himself up in secret prayer : he prayed with tears, so as to obtain from God the understanding of His mysteries, and then lights came in abundance to illumine his mind. When he encountered a difficulty, he had recourse to prayer, and all his doubts vanished.”

The Angelic teacher was likewise an Angelic singer: nothing but inability from sickness ever kept him from Choir duty. In the opening of his treatise, “On the Separated Substances,” that is, the Angels, he acknowledges his absence for a time from Divine praise in the Choir, due to frequent attacks of sickness. “Being deprived of assisting at the solemnities of the Angels, we must not allow a time consecrated to devotion to be unoccupied, but rather compensate by study for the loss of assisting at the Divine Office.”

His devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was tender and deep, as evinced by his writings, and by this prayer:—

“Dearest and most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, overflowing with affection, Daughter of the Sovereign King, and Queen of the Angels: Mother of Him Who created all things, this day and all the days of my life I commend to the bosom of thy regard my soul and my body, all my actions, thoughts, wishes, desires, words, and deeds, my whole life, and my end : so that through thy prayers they may all be ordered according to the will of thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Lady most holy, be my helper and my comforter against the attacks and snares of the ancient foe, and of all my enemies.”

A few days before his death he told Fr. Reginald that Christ’s dear Mother had appeared to him on several occasions, assuring him that his life and writings were pleasing to God, and that he would persevere in his state. St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Antoninus of Florence affirm that in his difficulties he used to turn to her as a child to a mother. Then he would stand visibly before him, and, turning with a smile to the Divine Babe in her arms, ask Him to bestow the enlightenment he sought.

A complete Mariology has been compiled from his works, drawing out Mary’s singular graces. He I upheld the privilege of her exemption from original sin. It is an old-established saying, that, “with St. Thomas a man can never be wrong, nor can he be right without him. That he upheld Mary’s sinless conception can be established from extrinsic and intrinsic evidences. It is the verdict of his weightiest exponents, such as Capponi de Porrecta, Joannes a Sancto Thoma, Natalis Alexander, John Bromeyard of Oxford, and many more. At the Council of Basle, John of Segobia upheld the Immaculate Conception from St. Thomas’s writings. Theologians of first rank have held the same view, such as Vega, EichofNierembergSylveira, Thyrsus Gonzalez, Stefano Chiesa, Piazza, Spada, Cornoldi, Cardinal Sfondrato, Cardinal Lambruschini, etc.

If we open his writings we have the intrinsic evidences of various passages. In his “Opusculum”, LXI, de Dilectione Dei et Proximi, we meet this passage : “For the more complete manifestation of His power, the Creator made a mirror which is brightest of the most bright, more polished and more pure than the Seraphim, and of such great purity that there cannot be imagined one more pure, except it were God: and this mirror is the person of the most glorious Virgin ”.

In his “Commentary on the First Book of the Sentences” he twice makes use of this sentence : “The Blessed Virgin Mary shone with a purity greater than which under God cannot be comprehended”. Here is his proof: “Increase of purity is to be measured according to withdrawal from its opposite, and since in the Blessed Virgin there was depuratio from all sin, she consequently attained the summit of purity; but yet under God, in Whom there is no capability of defect as is in every creature of itself”. And again he writes : “Purity is increased by withdrawal from its opposite, and consequently some created being can be found purer than which nothing can be found in creatures, if never sullied by defilement of sin, and such was the purity of the Blessed Virgin, who was exempt from original and actual sin ”. Some think that the expression “depuratio” argues cleansing from stain; but such was not the meaning which St. Thomas attached to the word. The Holy Fathers frequently use this word with regard to God Himself. St. Augustine, Peter Lombard, FulgentiusFerrandus, Hugh of St. Victor, also use it of God, while a whole host of writers employ it when speaking of Christ: St. Thomas uses it twice in his treatise on the Incarnation, and Dionysius makes use of it with regard to the heavenly Hierarchies. So then, depuratio ab omni peccato does not mean “cleansing from all sin,” but “exemption from all sin”. The Angelic Doctor knew the scientific value of the term used, and his critics do not.

The expression used above “immunis a peccato ” is the one employed by Pope Pius IX in proclaiming the dogma.

There is no need to expatiate on the fact that St. Thomas was a consummate theologian, and consequently not likely to teach in one part of his writings the contrary to what he lays down in another. In the First Part of the Summa Theologica he writes :

“The Blessed Virgin, in that she is the Mother of God, has a kind of infinite dignity from the Infinite Good, which is God, and on this account nothing better than her can be made, just as there is nothing better than God”.

Again in the Third Part, he says : “The closer a thing approaches to its principle in any order, the more it partakes of the effect of such principle. Hence Dionysius states in the fourth chapter of the ‘Heavenly Hierarchies,’ that the angels being nearer to God, share more fully of the Divine perfections than men do. But Christ is the principle of grace authoritatively according to His Divinity and instrumentally in His humanity, as St. John declares in the first chapter (of the Gospel). Grace and truth are made through our Lord Jesus Christ. But the Blessed Virgin was closest to Christin His humanity, since He drew His human nature from her, and therefore she ought beyond all others to receive the fullness of grace from Christ.”

From these two passages we gather St. Thomas’s teaching as to Mary’s prerogatives. 1. She possessed an almost infinite dignity from her closeness to God, in this surpassing the angels. 2. Sh sought, that is, she had the right, to receive the fullness of Divine grace beyond all other creatures. Since then it is the work of grace to purify the soul by imparting to it the Divine beauty, it follows necessarily that grace wrought absolute sinlessness in her soul, and created boundless holiness. In this dual capacity of closest union with God, and being the appointed instrument of Christ's humanity, she surpassed the angels, who never knew sin : she had a kind of infinitude in merit which none of them ever could have. How then can such teaching of St. Thomas be reconciled with the idea that Mary had ever been sullied for an instant with original sin? Let the theory be once admitted that Mary had been so defiled, then his two principles given above fall to the ground; admit his principles, and the Immaculate Conception is the logical result. The holy Doctor was well aware of the grace bestowed on those pre-eminent saints, Jeremiah and John the Baptist, yet he does not hesitate to place Mary incomparably beyond them, and attributes their sanctification to her as well as to her son. She must then, logically speaking, have received a greater grace than cleansing after conception.

In his exposition of the “Hail Mary” he distinctly declares the doctrine. “Thirdly, she exceeds even the angels in purity: because the Blessed Virgin was not only pure in herself, but even procured purity for others. She was most clean from fault, because she incurred neither original, nor mortal, nor venial sin.”

In his “Commentary on the Epistle to Galatians” the original text runs thus: “Of all women I have found none who was altogether exempt from sin, at least from original sin, or venial, except the most pure, and most worthy of all praise, the Virgin Mary ”.

Again in his “Commentary on the Epistle to Romans” : “All men have sinned in Adam, excepting only the most Blessed Virgin, who contracted no stain of Original Sin”.

Such are the readings of the first MS. Codices and early printed versions. In a marginal note written by St. Vincent Ferrer in his copy of the “Summa,” are these words : “The Blessed Virgin was exempt from original and actual sin”. It was these original texts of early manuscript Codices which early defenders of the Immaculate Conception quoted for their opinion, such as St. Leonard of Port Maurice, Bernardine de Bustis, B. Peter Canisius, Cardinal Sfondrato, Salmeron, and many more. Weighty theologians such as Velasquez, Peter of Alva, Eusebius NierembergFrassenLambruschiniGual, and Palmieri, following the critical method of Hermeneutics, have held and shown that many passages of St. Thomas have been changed or interpolated. Let it suffice to adduce three apologetic writers who denounce such practices, and vindicate the purity of his text. Bishop Vialmo, a Friar Preacher : “Pro defensione Sancti Thomae”; Egidius Romanus, a disciple of St. Thomas “Castigatorium: in corruptorem librorum S. Thomae Aquinatis”; Cardinal Sfondrato : “Innocentia Vindicata”; besides seven more apologists.

Some of the Angelic Doctor’s neat sayings caught in familiar conversation have been preserved. “The poverty of a discontented religious is a useless expense.” “The prayerless soul makes no progress whatever.” “A religious without prayer resembles a soldier fighting without weapons.” “Idleness is the devil’s hook, on which any bait is tempting.” “I cannot understand how anyone conscious of mortal sin can laugh or be merry.” When asked how to detect a spiritual-minded man, he gave this reply : “He who is constantly chattering about frivolous things, who fears being despised, who is weary of life, whatever marvels he may work, I do not look on him as a perfect man, since all he does is without foundation, and he who cannot suffer is ready for a fall”. To his sister Theodora, inquiring how to become a saint, he replied with a single word, “Velle,” or “ Resolve”.

It is not surprising that one so clean of heart and full of charity should be favoured with visions, or that the dead should make an appeal to his pity. Thus, in earlier years he foresaw the triumph of the Mendicant Friars, while they were being subjected to persecution. “A Doctor of Theology in Paris, a man of great reputation and learning, and one who rendered signal services to the Church, during the time that the Master-General was doing battle for the order in the Roman Court, at the trying period when bitter enmity prevailed against the brethren, saw in a dream a great concourse of friars looking up to heaven, who called out to him ; ‘Look! Look!’ He also gazed upwards, and saw these words emblazoned in letters of gold upon the sky: ‘The Lord has delivered us from our enemies, and from the hands of all them that hated us’. At that very time the Brief issued by Pope Innocent against the Mendicant Friars was recalled by Alexander his successor, through the favour of the Most High” (Gerard de Frachet, “Lives of the Brethren,” Book IV, Chap. 23.).

His deceased sister, Marietta, the Abbess of Capua, appeared to him in Paris in the year 1272, to commend her soul to his prayers: some time later she reappeared in Rome to tell him that she was admitted to glory. When he inquired about his dead brothers Raynald and Landulf, she assured him that the former was already in paradise, but that the latter was still in purgatory. Then, emboldened, he put the question as to whether he would himself die before long, and secure his eternal salvation. To this she replied : “You will be saved, if you but persevere, but you will attain your last end very differently from us; you will speedily join us, but your glory will quite surpass ours”. Shortly after this he was consoled by the vision of an angel displaying a book, on which the names of the saints were written in golden letters on an azure ground, and among them he saw Raynald’s name among the martyrs. The angel disappeared, and Raynald stood visibly before him. “How do I stand with God?” was our saint’s first question. “You are in a good state, my brother. Such a query is unbecoming, because you are in the sure way which leads to life. Hold fast to what you now have, and finish as you have begun : learn also for a certainty, that none of your Order, or very few, will be lost.”





The completion of the Moral Section of the “Summa” raised St. Thomas to the height of fame. The Universities of Paris, Bologna, and Naples, sent eager applications to have him, addressed to the General Chapter sitting in Florence during the Pentecost-tide of 1272. Rome lost him, as there was no reigning Pontiff to retain him, and Naples won him. The Capitular fathers assigned him to teach in Naples University, at the earnest suit of Charles, King of Sicily, the brother of St. Louis, who contributed two ounces of gold per month for his maintenance. Late in the month of August, Thomas quitted Rome in company with his brethren Reginald of Piperno and Bartholomew of Lucca.

All three fell sick of malaria at Cardinal d'Annibaldi’s residence in the Campagna. Thomas speedily recovered, but his companions lay in grave danger of their lives, so, drawing from his neck a relic of St. Agnes, he applied it with his blessing, whereat they rose instantly in perfect health.

The home-coming of the Angelic Doctor to Naples was a veritable triumph. Five miles beyond the city he was met by princes, senators, professors, and the ever-clamorous youth of a University; an immense concourse of citizens filled the festive streets, roaring out their ovation, while the reverend magistracy conducted him to his convent of San Domenico Maggiore. Such demonstrations deeply wounded his humility : fortunately for himself his habitual recollection of thought kept him unconscious of the respectful salutations which greeted his every appearance in the public streets. Shortly after his arrival the Cardinal Legate of Sicily and the Archbishop of Capua, a former disciple, went to consult with him on matters of grave moment: on being informed of their arrival, the holy Doctor descended from his cell to the open cloister, but so rapt in thought that he passed them unnoticed. Presently his face brightened, and they heard him exclaim: “I have hit upon the solution I was looking for The Cardinal looked shocked for a moment at the apparent discourtesy, until the Archbishop assured him that such moments of abstraction were priceless to the Church; then, pulling Thomas by the sleeve he roused him from his reverie. Then only did the man of God observe them, and in simple language explained the mystery of his joyful mien. It was merely because an excellent argument on a long- debated subject occurred just then to my mind, whose inner contemplation was expressed on my joyful countenance.”

His end was close at hand, like a goal in sight; the words from the world behind the veil were vividly impressed on his memory: “You will speedily join us”. In his cell he prayed and wrote, then passed forth to lecture in the University, in whose Aula Maxima he delivered the treatises of the Third Part of the “Summa Theologica,” beginning with the Incarnation. The pulpit and chair from which he lectured were preserved for centuries after, together with his statue in marble in the outer atrium, where a marble slab bore this inscription:—

“Before passing in, pay reverence to this statue, and to the chair from which Saint Thomas pronounced so many oracles to a countless throng of students, for the glory and happiness of his age”

Every morning he said mass at an early hour in St. Nicholas Chapel, after which he heard another; he made his thanksgiving still vested in alb and girdle, but when he served mass, he resumed the black cappa. At the moment of consecration he a used his favourite ejaculation: “Tu Rex gloriae, Christe: Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius”. His Vesper hour of life had come, and he welcomed it: during the year 1273 his raptures became more and more frequent; seldom he went out, except to deliver the daily lecture. Now that the Commentary on Boetius was finished, his philosophic labours were ended. His preoccupying theme now was the Sacred Godhead. As revealed in prophecy, it is the gist of his exposition of Isaiah: as revealed in the Incarnation and Redemption, it is the burden of the “Summa” in its concluding part. One night his friend and secretary, Reginald, who occupied the cell next to his, heard him talking in a loud tone as if engaged in animated conversation, which was the more remarkable since it was being carried on in time of profound silence. After a while Thomas came to his cell and bade him to get up. “Light the lamp, and bring the manuscript which I have begun upon Isaiah”; for a long space of time he dictated rapidly, then told him to retire again to rest. Reginald then threw himself upon his knees, and besought him to tell with whom he had been conversing. Finally, in God’s dear name and in the name of their friendship, he adjured him to speak. “Dear son,” replied the saint, “for many days past you have witnessed my affliction of spirit. I had misgivings over a passage in the text I have been commenting upon, so that I besought God with tears to give me understanding. Now this very night God has had compassion upon me, sending me His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, who have brought me complete light. And now, in God’s name, I command you to keep absolute silence as to this fact, during my lifetime.”

After the Commentary on Isaiah he wrote his Exposition of the first fifty-one Psalms. During the Lent of this year he preached every day in the Cathedral upon the words, “Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee”, giving a summary of Mary’s rare privileges. The Compline hour at home filled him with the deepest devotion : tears coursed freely during the singing of the Lenten anthem : “Cast us not off in the season of our old age, when our strength shall fail us: Lord God, do not forsake us ”. As he was praying in the choir, he saw before him the figure of Father Romanus, to whom he had relinquished his chair in Paris. “Welcome indeed, dear brother,” said he; “but when did you arrive here?” “I have passed from life,” said the dead friar, “but I am permitted to appear on your account.” St. Thomas was much overcome, but recovering self-possession, put these apt questions: “How do I stand with God, and are my works pleasing to Him?” “Thou art in a good state, and thy works are pleasing to God.” “What then of thyself?” asked the holy Doctor. “I am in bliss,” replied Romanus, “but have passed sixteen days in Purgatory.” “Tell me then,” cried Thomas, “how do the Blessed see God, and do our acquired habits abide with us in heaven?” “It is enough,” answered Romanus, “if I tell you that I see God: ask me no more : As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of Hosts”, saying which he vanished. The Angelic Doctor at once gave voice to his conclusion : “therefore it is by specular vision that the Blessed see God”.

The servant of God was permitted at times to penetrate men’s hidden thoughts: one such instance was when he rebuked a friar for leaving the choir to indulge in gluttony. As he was pacing the terrace conversing with a nobleman, the devil appeared under the guise of a negro: “How dare you come here to tempt me!” he shouted as he advanced with clenched fist; whereupon the fiend vanished.

The year 1273 was drawing to a close when the pen dropped from his hand, before reaching his fiftieth year. It was on St. Nicholas Day, the 6th day of December, and in that saint’s chapel, that he had a long ecstasy while saying Mass; what was then communicated to him he never revealed, but from that hour “he suspended his writing instruments,” as William de Tocco puts it. Frequently he had been observed to be raised several cubits in the air, while engaged in prayer. Directly the treatise on the Eucharist was finished, some two months before this, Fr. Dominic di Caserta and other friars saw him thus uplifted in St. Nicholas Chapel shortly before Matins; but what filled them with awe was the miraculous voice proceeding from the mouth of the crucifix over the altar. “Thomas, thou hast written well of Me; what reward wilt thou have?” To which the holy man at once replied : “None other but Thyself, Lord”. Midway in the treatise of the Sacrament of Penance, after finishing ninety Questions, of five hundred and forty-nine articles, he lapsed into silence. To every appeal made by superiors or brethren there came the same reply: “I can do no more Fr. Reginald”; his secretary and confidant, urged him to resume his task. “Father, why do you leave unfinished this great work, which you have undertaken for God’s glory and the world’s enlightenment?” But he could only draw the reply : “I can do no more. Such secrets have been communicated to me, that all I have written and taught seem to me to be only like a handful of straw.” Few could credit the report that the great oracle would speak no more; none imagined that the sun was setting, and in part already below the horizon. Nobly has Dante sung of him in his “ Paradiso,” Canto X:—

Such his wisdom upon earth,

Like to the Cherubim in lustre glowed.

One of the lambs of that blest flock was I

Which Dominic so leads in righteous ways,

They thrive, unless they fall by vanity.

The “Summa Theologica” was his legacy to the Church.

Fr. Reginald was obliged to feed him now, owing to his constant abstraction and frequent raptures. Before the Christmas festival St. Thomas spent a week with his sister, the Countess of San Severino, during which time they had but one long conversation, and that was about the joys of life ever­lasting. “What can have happened to my brother,” she inquired of Reginald of Piperno, “that he is so entranced, and will not speak to me?” On his return to Naples he fell ill of fever; the attendant informed the prior that during the night he perceived a brilliant star enter by the window, and rest for a long time on the sleeper’s head.

In obedience to Pope Gregory’s summons to attend at the General Council of Lyons, which was to open on 1 May, St. Thomas quitted Naples on 28 January, 1274, taking with him by papal command his treatise “Against the Errors of the Greeks”. He set out on foot, having for companions the trusty Reginald and another friar; so preoccupied was he in thought, that, as they descended from Terracina along the Borgo Nuovo road, he struck his head violently against a fallen tree and lay stunned for some time. From that moment Reginald never left his side, but sought to occupy his mind by agreeable conversation. “Master, you are going to the Council on behalf of our order and of the kingdom of Naples.” “God grant that I may see this great good accomplished,” was the reply. “And furthermore,” pursued Reginald, “they will make you a Cardinal, like Friar Bonaventure, so that both of you will be of great service to the Orders of which you are members.” To this came the prophetic reply, confirmed by the event:

“There is no state in which I can be of more use to my Order than that in which I am at present: rest assured that I shall never change my state of life”. They halted for a few hours at Aquino; there he received a letter from the Abbot of Monte Cassino, soliciting his interpretation of a point of Rule, to which he returned a gracious reply. Owing to his failing strength, a mule was procured, upon which he rode to visit his niece, the Countess Francesca Ceccano at Maienza Castle. There he fell ill, and could take no food; it was now the season of Lent, and, since he would not break the law of abstinence, the doctor begged of him to say if there was any kind of food he could relish. “I have several times eaten in France a kind of fish called herring,” said he; “but it is rare and very dear in these parts.” His physician, John de Guido, sought vainly for the fish, until chancing to meet a fisherman coming from Terracina, he found some herrings at the bottom of a creel of sardines. Then Reginald coaxed him to eat some of the herrings. “From whence do they come?” asked the holy Master. “It is God who has sent them”, was the reply; but all the same he would not partake of them, for fear of indulging in a delicacy. He tarried five days in Maienza Castle, and was able to say mass twice : the Abbot and some of the Cistercians from Fossa Nuova Abbey came to pay their respects. Thomas was now extremely ill, but persisted in ful­filling his obedience by proceeding onwards to the Council. Once more he mounted upon the mule, and the little party of ten moved slowly on to the Abbey, just seven miles away. Reverently they lifted him and carried him at his request into the church, for his last visit to the Blessed Sacrament: after a short prayer he was again taken up and carried through the cloisters to the Abbot’s own apartments. Reginald had besought him not to quit Maienza Castle, where he could have every remedy and attention, but the saint would not listen to the proposal. “ If the Lord wishes to take me, it is better that I should be found in a religious house than in the establishment of the laity.” He entered Fossa Nuova Abbey on 10 February; as he was borne through the cloisters he uttered the saying of the Psalmist: “This is my rest for ever: here I shall dwell, for I have chosen it ” (Psalm cxxxi. 14). The good Cistercians lavished every attention upon him, cutting and carrying faggots for the fire. “Whence comes this honour” he cried, in distress of humility, “that holy men should carry wood for my fire! Whence comes it that God’s servants should wait upon me, and carry a burden so far, which must be painful to them!” Very speedily the tidings reached Naples that his dissolution was at hand; soon the Abbey was thronged with nobility and clergy and brethren, importuning to see him but once again. Among the Friars Preachers came his younger brother Rayner, who afterwards became Archbishop of Messina in Sicily.

During an interval of the intermittent fever the Cistercians besought him to dictate an exposition of the Canticle of Canticles. “Give me St. Bernard’s spirit, and I will do so,” said he. Touched by their kindness, he complied: supported on his bed, he dictated the Commentary as Reginald read each succeeding verse, while eager hands com­mitted it to writing. This, let it be observed, was his second exposition of Solomon’s Song; it is entitled “Sonet vox tua,” whereas the first is entitled “Salomon inspiratus”. This second work must be accepted rather as the fruit of his piety than of his learning. His biographer, William de Tocco, makes this observation on the fact: “It was fitting that the great Doctor, now about to be released from the body, should finish his teaching by the Canticle of Love between Jesus Christ and the faithful soul ”. The last words dictated were a passage from St. Paul, so fully realized in himself: “Our conversation is in heaven : for in every place we are unto God the good odour of Christ ”. On coming to the eleventh verse of the seventh chapter —“Come, my beloved, let us go forth to the fields,” he swooned away, for his end was near. As the lamp of vitality was burning low, he received the last anointing after confessing to Fr. Reginald. The Abbot then brought him the Sacred Viaticum, while the brethren knelt around. Upborne in Reginald’s arms the lying saint made this protestation of faith : “If in this world there be any knowledge of this mystery keener than that of faith, I wish now to use it to affirm that I believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in this Sacrament, truly God and truly man, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary. This I believe and hold for true and certain. This faith is in my heart, and I profess it with my lips, just as the priest has pronounced it.”

To Fr. Reginald it seemed impossible that St. Thomas should die thus early, when only entering upon his fiftieth year, so he used every art to rouse him, especially by dwelling on the great work which was before him in the coming Council, and of the sure honours which awaited him. Then with dying breath the holy Doctor made his last reply : “My son, keep yourself from harbouring any such thoughts, or from troubling yourself in this matter. What used to be at one time the object of my desires, is now a matter of thanksgiving. What I have ever been asking of God He now grants to me this day, in withdrawing me from this life in the same state in which it pleased His mercy to place me. Without a doubt I might have made further progress in learning, and have made my learn­ing to be more profitable to others, by sharing with them what has been manifested to me. But the infinite goodness of my God has let me know, that if, without any merit of my own, I have received more graces and lights than other Doctors who have lived a long while, it is because the Lord wished to shorten the days of my exile, and to take me the sooner to be a sharer in His glory, out of a pure act of mercy. If you love me sincerely, be content and comforted, since my own consolation is perfect.”

After receiving the holy Viaticum he closed his eyes, and was silent for a short time, then repeated aloud his devout Rhythm—

Adoro Te devote latens deitas

Quae sub his figuris vere latitas.

He uttered this Divine song to the finish, and yielded up his soul in the early morning of 7 March, 1274.





The holy body was reverently carried beyond the cloister for the consolation of the Countess Francesca and female friends, after which it was laid out in the choir, with the face exposed. A great concourse of the faithful flocked to the church; such as were not permitted to enter the chancel touched the coffin with olive branches, which they kept as relics. The Requiem Mass was sung by the Bishop of Terracina, who was a Franciscan, in the presence of the Abbot and Cistercians, the Friars Preachers and Friars Minor. Fr. Regi­nald of Piperno pronounced the funeral discourse, broken with sobs, as he removed the veil which had concealed a life of consummate holiness. At its conclusion he made formal protest that he only left the body until further arrangements should be made by the Master General of the Order. Then, amid a universal wail, the earthly shrine of Thomas Aquinas was removed, and buried in a vault under the high altar. When tidings of his death reached Lyons, the Pope and Cardinals were filled with profound grief; the Holy Father ordered his treatise “Against the Errors of the Greeks” to be sent on to the Council. The saying of Eliphaz, recorded in Job v. 26, was realized in St. Thomas. “Thou shalt enter into the grave in abundance, as a sheaf of wheat which is brought in its season ”.

The Cistercians of Fossa Nuova saw a great light over the Abbey for three days, which passed away at his death. The same marvel was beheld over the Dominican priory at Cologne. At the moment of his death one of the Cistercians engaged in prayer in the Abbey church saw St. Thomas’s soul mount to heaven like a radiant star.

At the same moment Master Albert in Cologne turned to Fr. Albert of Brescia, exclaiming with tears : “My son in Christ, Thomas of Aquino, the light of the Church, is dead, as God has r­vealed to me. He was the world’s flower and glory, and has rendered superfluous the writings of Doctors who shall come after him.”

At Anagni, Fr. Raymund Maturi, while asleep a few nights after this, had a vision in which he saw St. Thomas, duly vested, proceed to the altar and say mass. What struck him as singular was the fact that his right eye appeared to be larger than the other. The saint explained the wonder, with these words: “My son, the knowledge which I enjoy in heaven is greater than what I had on earth, just as my right eye is greater than my left one Fr. Paul of Aquila beheld this vision while praying in the church of San Domenico at Naples. He saw Thomas seated in his professorial chair, teaching a crowd of disciples. Presently St. Paul appeared with a number of the saints, who conversed familiarly with him. He distinctly heard Thomas ask St. Paul if he had rightly interpreted his Epistles, whereat the Apostle replied: “Yes, so far as anyone in the mortal body can understand them; but come away with me, and I will conduct you to a place where you will have clearer understanding of all things”. Then grasping the holy Doctor by his cloak, St. Paul led him away. Then Fr. Paul shouted aloud: “Alas! Alas! Alas! our Doctor is taken from us! ”

Fr. Albert of Brescia, a professor at Cologne, poured out many and frequent prayers, especially to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Augustine, that he might ascertain the Angelic Doctor’s degree of glory. As he was kneeling before the altar, he beheld two figures before him, one wearing a Mitre, and the other clad in the Dominican habit: they were St. Augustine of Hippo and Fr. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas’s habit was resplendent with precious stones, while on his head he bore a crown of gold and diamonds. From his neck there hung two chains, one of gold and one of silver; on his breast was a large carbuncle stone flashing rays of light like a sun. Then the figure with the mitre addressed him. “Why are you astonished, Fr. Albert? God has heard your prayer. I declare to you that I am Augustine, a Doctor of the Church, sent to acquaint you of the glory of Thomas Aquinas, who is reigning with me. He is my son, because he followed the teaching of the Apostle, and my own, and he has illumined the Church with his learning. This is signified by the precious stones with which he is adorned. The shining jewel on his breast denotes the uprightness of intention with which he defended and proclaimed the Faith : the other jewels represent the books and writings of all kinds which he composed. Thomas is my equal in glory, but surpasses me by the aureole of Virginity.”

Eleutherius, a Franciscan theologian of repute, was also favoured with a vision. He beheld the Mother of God seated in glory, while beneath stood St. Francis with St. Thomas, whose cappa was studded with stars. Pointing to St. Thomas, the Seraphic Father spoke thus to Eleutherius : “Confide in this man, for his teaching shall never pass away ”.

God revealed the saint’s glory by very many miracles, ninety-six of which were duly attested, and submitted as evidence for his canonization. While his body lay exposed in the Abbey Choir, the Subprior, John de Ferentino, who was completely blind, placed his eyes against those of the saint, and instantly saw. The holy Doctor’s cell in Naples became a resort of pilgrims, one of whom, the renowned Egidius Romanus, uttered the phrase : “I am come to adore in the place where his feet have stood”. Master Albert of Cologne could never hear his name mentioned without breaking into tears. Learning that his doctrine was impugned in Paris, although over 80 years of age, he proceeded thither on foot with Hugh de Lucca in 1276, and defended St. Thomas’s teaching warmly before the University. “What a glory it is,” he exclaimed, “for the living to be praised by the dead!” After representing the saint as being endowed with life while all others were covered with the shades of death, he poured forth a splendid eulogy of his doctrines as resplendent with orthodoxy and piety, and declared himself ready to meet any opponent. He did the same at Cologne, declaring that by his writings Thomas had laboured for all to the end of time.

Owing to the pressure of Church affairs of graver importance, little beyond collecting of evidence was done towards the canonization under the brief pontificates of the Dominican Popes, Blessed Innocent V, and Blessed Benedict XI. Innocent spoke of him in terms of no common praise : “The teaching of this Doctor beyond all others has fitness of terms, manner of expression, and soundness of opinions; so that he who holds it will never swerve from the path of. truth : while, on the contrary, he who attacks it must always be suspected”. Benedict invariably styled him : “ My Master; my Doctor”

The solemn process of canonization was begun in 1318, promoted by Robert, King of Sicily, and supported by petitions from the Universities, the hierarchy, clergy, and the Order of Preachers. The official testimonies to be presented to the Pope at Avignon were entrusted to Friars William de Tocco and Robert de Benevento; as they were proceeding to France by sea, a great storm arose, and the ship was being carried towards the rocks, when they prayed aloud to St. Thomas to preserve them; the wind then veered round, and they reached land safely. On delivering up the documents, Pope John XXII accepted them eagerly, and thus addressed the prelates and friars: “We do not doubt that Br. Thomas is already glorious in heaven, his life having been saintly, and his doctrine miraculous”. Three days later, in Consistory, he again reverted to it. “Venerable Brethren: We deem it a great glory for ourselves and for the whole Church, to inscribe this servant of God in the catalogue of the saints.” The decree was then read introducing the cause of canonization, and three prelates appointed as Commissioners to examine the evidence of miracles; these were Humbert, Archbishop of Naples; Angelo, Bishop of Viterbo, and Pandulf, an Apostolic Notary. Heaven now aided the cause by striking miracles. The Archbishop of Naples was suffering from an incurable ulcer: he now commended himself to the saint’s intercession before retiring to rest, and in the morning it was gone, leaving only a red mark. The Bishop of Viterbo fell ill of a violent fever, and lay at the point of death: he also prayed with confidence to the Angelic Doctor, slept peacefully, and awoke in perfect health. The same thing happened to Matthew, the chaplain of the Archbishop of Naples. Two further Commissions sat, at Naples and at Fossa Nuova, to substantiate the evidence of miracles. While these reports were being examined at Avignon, another singular miracle was wrought by the saint’s intercession. Mary d’Arnaud, the Pope’s niece, lay at the point of death from dropsy, so the Holy Father sent her the last blessing by the Bishop of Lodevi. It so chanced that the Bishop was a Dominican, who recommended her to have recourse to St. Thomas. She did so fervently, and during the night saw some one draw nigh to her bed, whom she took to be the Bishop. “ Do you wish to be cured?” asked the visitor. “I am not the Bishop, but Brother Thomas Aquinas, to whom you have had recourse: fulfil the vow you have made, and you will recover.” In the morning she found herself in perfect health.

Three Dominican Cardinals completed the final stages of the process with zeal and fervour : these were Nicholas Aubertin, Nicholas de Freauville, and William de Godieu.

The day appointed for St. Thomas’s canonization was 18 July, 1323. The preliminary ceremony began in the Dominican Church in Avignon on the day before, in the presence of Pope John XXII, the Cardinals, very many Archbishops and Bishops, King Robert of Sicily, his mother Queen Mary, many princes, nobles, and ambassadors. The Pope pronounced a grand eulogium of the saint’s works ’and merits, grounded on this text: “This is a day of good tidings: if we hold our peace, and do not tell it to the morning, we shall be charged with crime: come, let us go and tell it in the Kings court” (4 Kings VII. 9).

King Robert of Sicily, a relative of the saint, then gave an address, showing how St. Thomas had merited the honour bestowed, because he had been, and would ever continue to be, “a burning and a shining light" (St. John v. 35).

The Archbishop of Capua followed with a panegyric, who was succeeded by Fr. Raymund Bequin, the Master of the Sacred Palace; further orations were delivered by the Archbishop of Arles, the Bishops of London, Winchester, and others.

On the morning of 18 July the Pope had the Bull of canonization read, assigning 7 March for the feast, after which he sang the votive mass of St. Thomas in the Cathedral of Notre Dame des Do ms, and pronounced another eulogium. “His doctrine was not other than miraculous,” cried the Pontiff. “He has enlightened the Church more than all other Doctors, and more profit can be gained in a single year by the study of his works, than by devoting a lifetime to that of other theologians. He has wrought as many miracles as he has written Articles.”





From the day of his departure, petitions were addressed to the Holy See for the privilege of possessing his incorrupt body: the King of Sicily and the Counts of Aquino and San Severino did so by title of kinship, the Universities of Paris and Naples by reason of his services rendered in life, and his own Order by right of sonship. The Cistercians of Fossa Nuova, however, kept their treasure for close upon a century; since their church had become a sanctuary renowned for miracles, they refused to part with what Providence had sent them.

In October, 1274, Abbot James and two monks secretly removed the body to St. Stephen’s Chapel in the cloister, for which the saint rebuked them in a dream: incautiously they opened the coffin, whereupon a marvellous perfume exhaled which penetrated the cells and church, and the deceit practised was exposed. All saw him as if but reposing in sleep: as they carried him back to the church a marvellous light shone around. Abbot Peter translated the body to a befitting tomb in the choir in 1279, situated on the Gospel side of the high altar. The right hand, still perfectly intact and giving forth a delightful odour, was cut off in 1284 and bestowed on his sister the Countess of San Severino, who placed it in a silver reliquary: her son, Thomas, afterwards gave it to the Dominicans of Salerno. 

Early in the year 1304, in consequence of a report that Pope Benedict XI meant to restore the remains to the Friars Preachers, the Cistercians amputated the head and placed it in a tabernacle behind the choir; the body, still exhaling the same fragrance, they deposited in a massive chest for secret concealment. It was privately conveyed to the Chapel of the Count of Fondi, another kinsman of the holy Doctor. The Lord of Piperno, who was at feud with him, resolved on carrying off the treasure, so as to extort a heavy ransom. Philip, King of Sicily, now sent an embassy of bishops and nobles, together with a great donation of gold, in order to secure the holy remains, alleging his claim of descent from the Aquinos: but the Count of Fondi would not deliver them up. Years went past, until St. Thomas admonished the Count that his relics were not in their proper place. His mother, who had been healed at his intercession, was praying with the Bishop of Fondi before the great chest, when both beheld him emerge as a living man, and after walking for a short time in silence, laid himself down again to rest. In con­sequence of this, the Count resigned the body to the Dominicans of Fondi, who placed it in their church. Here, for the second time, St. Thomas came forth visibly before Father Raymund. The Cistercians addressed a complaint to Pope Urban V, who ordered an investigation to be made as to the respective claims of the two Orders; the rights of the Friars Preachers were warmly urged by the Queen of Sicily, the Count of. Aquino, and the Dominican Cardinals. The Father General, Elias of Toulouse, then went direct to the Pope. “You come at the right time”, said Urban; “it is you who stole the body of St. Thomas.” “Holy Father,” answered Elias, “he is our brother and our flesh”. “And where then have you ordered it to be deposited?” pursued the Pontiff. “Nowhere, Most Holy Father : that shall be as you decide.” Nothing was then decided; within a few days the Court moved to Montefiascone, at Whitsuntide, whither Father Elias followed on Corpus Christi Day. “Holy Father,” said he, “today’s solemnity reminds me that St. Thomas composed the Office of the Blessed Sacrament by order of Pope Urban. Since you bear the same name, I beseech you to grant to the Saint the honour he deserves, and that his body shall rest among his brethren, who will reverence him more than any others.” Raising his voice, the Pope gave solemn sentence. “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, I give and grant to you, the Master General, and to the Order of Friars Preachers, the body of St. Thomas Aquinas, a religious of this Order, to be placed at Toulouse, or Paris, as shall be decided by the General Chapter or the Master General. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” All present then answered “ Amen”. Next day the Pope fixed upon Toulouse, as being the cradle of the order. Learning that the head was still at Fossa Nuova, he continued: “And I also give you St. Thomas’s head, that it may be translated with the body”.

On 4 August, 1368, the head and body were laid in the papal chapel at Montefiascone, and solemnly delivered over to the Master General’s keeping. The relics reposed for a month with the Dominican Sisters at Prouillé, and many were the miracles wrought on the way. On 28 January, 1369, they were solemnly conveyed to the Dominican Church in Toulouse by Louis Duke of Anjou, many prelates, and a concourse of 150,000 persons. The festival of his Translation became a day of precept for the diocese. His right arm was bestowed on Paris University, and was placed by King Charles in the Dominican Church, in St. Thomas’s Chapel ; at the Great Revolution it was conveyed to Rome, and now rests in the Minerva Church. The chief bone of his left arm was given to his brethren in Naples, who transferred it to the Cathedral in 1603.

In 1628 a magnificent shrine, with altars at the four sides, was erected in Toulouse. At the Great Revolution it was thrown down, and the remains, draped with the Republican flag, conveyed for safety by the Constitutional clergy to an obscure corner in St. Semin’s crypt. They were exposed for veneration in 1805 ; the sacred head was enclosed in a new reliquary in the year 1852. On 24 July, 1878, the Archbishop of Toulouse, Monseigneur Desprez, after judicial verification of the relics, enclosed them in a superb sarcophagus of gold and silver.





In the Council of Trent, Master John Gallio de Burgos eulogized his writings : “The name of the Angelic Doctor, already so renowned throughout the Christian world, will be held in still higher veneration by posterity from the honour and cultus which you have been pleased to bestow upon him here. St. Thomas had not the honour of assisting at a General Council during his lifetime, but he still lives on after death. He is present with you in the spiritual treasures of his writings, bequeathed to you as a rich heritage. In this sense we can rest assured that no Council has ever been held in the Church since his blessed death, at which the holy Doctor has not been present, and has not been consulted.”

Pope St. Pius V proclaimed him Doctor of the Church in the year 1567. The Vatican Council of 1870 likewise placed his “Summa” on the altar.

On 4 August, 1879, Pope Leo XIII published the Encyclical “Alterni Patris,” dwelling on the importance of basing Christian dogma on sound Philosophy. “Amongst the Scholastic Doctors, the Prince and Master of all, Thomas Aquinas, shines with incomparable splendour. Enriched with all Divine and human sciences, justly compared to the sun, he reanimates the earth by the bright rays of his virtues, while filling it with the splendour of his doctrine. Distinguishing accurately between reason and faith, he unites them in the bonds of perfect concord, while preserving the rights and maintaining the dignity of each. So then, reason, upborne on the wings of Thomas, can soar no higher, while faith can obtain from reason no more numerous and efficacious helps than those furnished by Thomas.

“We cannot wonder then at the immense enthu­siasm of former ages for the writings of the Angelic Doctor. Nearly all the founders and legislators of Religious Orders have ordered their subjects to study the doctrine of St. Thomas,, and to keep to it religiously: they have provided beforehand that no one amongst them should depart with impunity, even in the least point, from the teaching of so great a man.”

Another Brief followed on 4 August, 1880. “In virtue of our supreme authority, for the glory of Almighty God, and the honour of the Angelic Doctor, for the advancement of learning and the common welfare of human society, we declare the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron of all Universities, Academies, Colleges, and Catholic Schools: and we desire that he should be venerated and honoured as such by all.”

Thomalaus et gloria

Praedicatorum Ordinis,

Nos transfer ad caelestia

Professor sacri Numinis.