Thomas Aquinas was born on 28 January, 1225 in Roccasecca, Kingdom of Sicily to Landulf and Theodora. Thomas is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church and is held to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, canon law).
At the age of five Thomas began his early education at Monte Cassino but after the military conflict between the Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX spilled into the abbey in early 1239, Landulf and Theodora had Thomas enrolled at the studium generale (university) recently established by Frederick in Naples. It was here that Thomas was probably introduced to Aristotle, Averroes and Maimonides. all of whom would influence his theological philosophy. It was also during his study at Naples that Thomas came under the influence of John of St. Julian, a Dominican preacher in Naples, who was part of the active effort by the Dominican order to recruit devout followers.
At the age of nineteen Thomas resolved to join the recently founded Dominican order. Thomas’s change of heart did not please his family. In an attempt to prevent Theodora’s interference in Thomas’s choice, the Dominicans arranged to move Thomas to Rome, and from Rome, to Paris. However, while on his journey to Rome, per Theodora’s instructions, his brothers seized him as he was drinking from a spring and took him back to his parents at the castle of Monte San Giovanni Campano. Once two of brothers had also hired a prostitute to seduce him but he drove her away wielding a fire iron. That night two angels appeared to him as he slept and strengthened his determination to remain celibate. By 1244, seeing that all of her attempts to dissuade Thomas had failed, Theodora sought to save the family’s dignity, arranging for Thomas to escape at night through his window.
In 1272 Thomas took leave from the University of Paris when the Dominicans from his home province called upon him to establish a studium generale wherever he liked and staff it as he pleased. He chose to establish the institution in Naples, and moved there to take his post as regent master. He took his time at Naples to work on the third part of the Summa(his work) while giving lectures on various religious topics. On 6 December 1273 at the Dominican convent of Naples in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas after Matins Thomas lingered and was seen by the sacristan Domenic of Caserta to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.” After this exchange something happened, but Thomas never spoke of it or wrote it down. Because of what he saw, he abandoned his routine and refused to dictate to his socius Reginald of Piperno. When Reginald begged him to get back to work, Thomas replied: “Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me”.What exactly triggered Thomas’s change in behavior is believed by Catholics to have been some kind of supernatural experience of God. After taking to his bed, he did recover some strength.
Looking to find a way to reunite the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Gregory X convened the Second Council of Lyon to be held on 1 May 1274 and summoned Thomas to attend. At the meeting, Thomas’s work for Pope Urban IV concerning the Greeks, Contra errores graecorum, was to be presented. On his way to the Council, riding on a donkey along the Appian Way, he struck his head on the branch of a fallen tree and became seriously ill again. He was then quickly escorted to Monte Cassino to convalesce. After resting for a while, he set out again, but stopped at the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey after again falling ill. The monks nursed him for several days, and as he received his last rites he prayed: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….”. He died on 7 March 1274 while giving commentary on the Song of Songs.
When he was canonized, his feast day was inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 7 March, the day of his death. Since this date commonly falls within Lent, the 1969 revision of the calendar moved his memorial to 28 January, the date of the translation of his relics to Toulouse.
Saint Thomas Aquinas is also known as the patron saint of students.
Sharon Vas, Student representative, ACC.