Today, we celebrate the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the pre-eminent philosophers and theologians of our Church. At the age of five years old, Thomas was promised to the famous Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino. His parents were hoping that one day he would become the abbot of that community, which had become a very prestigious and politically powerful position. He later went to Naples to study, and a few years later abandoned his family’s plans for him and instead joined the Dominicans. By order of his mother, Thomas was captured by his brother and brought back home, where he was kept essentially under house arrest for a year.
Once free, he resumed his stay with the Dominicans and went to Paris and Cologne to study. He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, and directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo. He is very much known for his prolific writings, which have contributed immeasurably to philosophy, theology, and the Church. Thomas spoke much of the wisdom revealed in Scripture and tradition, but also strongly taught the wisdom that could be found in the natural order of things, as well as what could be discerned from reason.
His last work was the Summa Theologiae, which he never actually completed. He abruptly stopped writing after celebrating Mass on December 6, 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” He died March 7, 1274.
Thomas has taught us through his life and writing that the only thing that can cause the house of the Church to crumble is ignorance. We strengthen ourselves and our community by studying the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, applying reason and revelation to the challenges of our world and our time. “Hence we must say,” Thomas tells us, “that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109, 1).
In our Gospel today, Jesus speaks of those who are taught by God and do God’s will as his brothers and sisters. Saint Thomas was one who taught the wisdom of following that will so that we might be the brothers and sisters of Christ.