Biography of St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas

Nationality: Italy
Born in..: Aquinas , 1225
He died in..: Priverno , 7-03-1274

St. Thomas Aquinas (born around 1225 in Aquino, near Naples, in southern Italy, died on March 7, 1274 in the Abbey of Fossanova, near Priverno in Lazio) was an Italian theologian and philosopher, member of the Dominican order.

Considered one of the main teachers of Catholic scholasticism and theology, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1567 and Doctor of Common in 1880. He is also called the Angelic Doctor by the Catholic Church.

Thomas Aquinas

Photo by James Coleman of Unsplash

He is also considered by the Catholic Church as the patron of Catholic universities, schools and academies.

His optimistic vision reconciles faith and reason by putting the resources of reason at the service of the intelligence of faith.

To the point of constituting theology as a true science -the science of divine things built by means of reasoning and demonstration according to Aristotelian principles.

We could say that if St. Augustine had the will to “Christianize” Plato by introducing him into his religious theories, St. Thomas Aquinas in turn “Christianized” Aristotle eight centuries later, with the same will to harmonize knowledge, ancient wisdom and Christian faith.

Your childhood

Thomas Aquinas (Tommaso d’Aquino) was born in 1224 or 1225, in the castle of Rocca-Secca, near the small town of Aquino, in the kingdom of Naples.

As a point of reference, it is worth remembering that 1225 is the year in which Saint Francis of Assisi died and Saint Louis ascended to the French throne.

Thomas Aquinas was born into a relatively modest noble family, yet he sought to broaden the base of his power and influence in both the secular and ecclesiastical worlds.

His late biographer, Guillaume de Tocco, tells an anecdote from Thomas Aquinas’ childhood, where a sign of what was to become was read.

He was still in his crib, when one day his nurse wanted to take a piece of paper from his hand.

But the boy began to protest, screaming. His mother came and forcibly removed the paper from her son’s hands, despite his screams and tears, and saw with admiration that it contained only these two words: Hail Mary?

The studies

Thomas grew up as an Oblate in the monastery of Mont-Cassin, not far from the family castle, in the famous Benedictine school.

His family no doubt wanted to see him there one day as prior or abbot to establish his influence in the region.

Forced to leave the monastery of Mont-Cassin after the expulsion of the monks in 1239, Thomas continued his studies at the University of Naples, where he made his first contact with the new texts and methods that were beginning to penetrate the school environment.

In 1244, at the age of eighteen or nineteen, despite the disagreement of his parents, he entered in Naples in the Order of the Friars Preachers founded by Dominic of Guzman (Saint Dominic) in 1216, to fight against the Albigensian heresy through voluntary poverty and preaching.


While the Dominicans were trying to send him to Paris, no doubt to protect him from the untimely interventions of his family, the latter captured him on his way there.

He is kidnapped from a tower in the family castle. Guillaume de Tocco tells with some verve certain episodes of Thomas Aquinas’ resistance.

All means are good to try to make it bend! But, unperturbed, Thomas devotes his forced leisure to reading the Scriptures .

Having failed the force, they resort to the seductions of a courtesan. But Thomas grabs a burning fire in the chimney and puts it to flight.

Then he kneels and falls asleep. While he was sleeping, he saw the angels coming down from heaven to congratulate him and to gird his loins, saying: “Receive from God the gift of perpetual chastity. “His confessor declared after his death that Thomas had died as pure as a five-year-old boy.

Thanks to his tenacity and the complicity of the Dominican friars, he was finally able to follow his vocation.

Sent to Paris in 1245, he met Albert the Great (v. 1193-1280), who became fond of him and took him to Cologne in 1248, where he continued his studies until 1252.

Guillermo de Tocco called attention to an episode from this period that he considered significant.

Taciturn in the midst of rather turbulent students, “conversing only with God”, he was called, with a touch of mockery, the “silly ox”. But it is said that his teacher said of him one day in public: “You see that ox you call silly. Well, soon he will make the whole universe resound with his cries. “The future should confirm this prediction.

The Master

Between 1252 and 1259, Thomas Aquinas was again at the University of Paris. There he took his first steps in his career as a university professor, first as a “graduate in biblical studies”.

In 1256, at an exceptionally early age and thanks to a special exemption, he began to exercise the function of master of theology, which would keep him in Paris until 1259.

He will continue to serve in this capacity for the rest of his life in a variety of settings. His reputation is now established.

From 1259 to 1268 he returned to Italy, where he worked mainly in the Pontifical Curia and the Dominican Convent of Santa Sabina.

He then returned to Paris from 1269 to 1272, where he was involved in two particularly virulent conflicts with supporters of radical Augustinism and supporters of secular clergy, who rose up against the privileges of the mendicant orders.

Between 1272, Thomas Aquinas had to return to Naples to establish a house of study for the Dominicans.

According to some witnesses, from early December 1273, Thomas Aquinas would have been immersed in what seemed to be a total abstraction in relation to his entourage. Even his closest sister could no longer communicate with him.

When asked, his secretary and friend, Brother Reginald, would have told him that Thomas had been in this “state of abstraction” since the feast of St. Nicholas (December 6, 1273).

Urged by Reginald to explain himself, Thomas, breathing a deep sigh like a man who has been taken out of a deep sleep, would have replied: “Reginald, my son, I am going to tell you a secret; but I beg you, in the name of Almighty God, by your attachment to our order and the affection you have for me, not to reveal it to anyone while I live.

The end of my work has come; all that I have written and taught seems to me like the straw of what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.

From now on I hope by the goodness of my God that the end of my life will follow closely the end of my work.

“In January 1274, however, Thomas received a personal invitation from Pope Gregory X to participate in the General Council to be held in Lyon (1274).

But on the way, he had to stop, ill, at the abbey of Fossa Nova, where he died on March 7, 1274.

Only after many upheavals, both inside and outside the Order of Friars Preachers, their teaching and work were rehabilitated and became an obligatory reference point in the teaching of theology.

As for his sanctity, he will be the object of a laborious process of canonization initiated in 1317, which will culminate in his effective canonization on July 18, 1323 (Claire Le Brun-Gouanvic, Ystoria sancti Thomae de Aquino by William of Tocco (1323). Critical Edition, Introduction and Notes, Studies and Texts, 127 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1996).

A French translation will be published by Éditions du Cerf, Paris).

At less than fifty years of age, Thomas Aquinas left behind an immense work.

It was undoubtedly him who, thanks to a colossal work, to a boldness whose reach is hardly measured and to an exceptional lucidity, achieved an acceptable synthesis between the classical positions of Christian thought and the new orientations proposed by the Aristotelian thought, just as the masters of the thirteenth century knew it when Thomas Aquinas entered the scene.

Thomas Aquinas accepted a challenge that few could face.

His title of “Angelic Doctor” comes from his numerous treatises on angels.

The Saint

One day he heard Jesus Christ address him, from the depths of the Tabernacle, these famous words: “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward do you wish to receive?” And the saint, full of love, cried out: “No one but You, Lord!

His death

On December 6, 1273, feast of St. Nicholas, celebrating mass in the chapel dedicated to this saint in the convent of Naples, he had a revelation that changed him so much that from then on he could not write or dictate. “Or rather, says a former author, the Doctor broke his pen; “he was in the third part of his Somme, in the Treaty of Penance.

When Brother Reginald, his secretary, saw that his teacher was ceasing to write, he said to him: “Father, how can you leave unfinished such a great work which you have undertaken for the glory of God and the enlightenment of the world? – I cannot continue,” answered the Saint.

Reginald, who feared that the great Doctor’s intelligence had been dulled by overwork, always insisted that he should write or dictate, and Thomas replied: “Truly, my son, I cannot anymore; everything I have written seems to me like a piece of straw”.

Your sister

Advised by his superiors, who thought that an absence from Naples would reassure him, Thomas went to the Countess of San Severino, his sister, for whom he felt great affection: he arrived there only with extreme difficulty, and when the Countess went to meet him, he hardly spoke to her.

He was frightened and said to the Blessed’s companion, “What has happened to my brother, who is a stranger to everything and has told me almost nothing? – Since the feast of St. Nicholas,” answered Reginald, “he has often been in abstractions of this kind, and has not written any more. But I had not yet seen him so completely absorbed.

“And after one or two hours, approaching the Master, he pulled sharply on his topknot, to bring him back to himself.

Thomas sighed, like a man snatched from the sweetness of a deep sleep, and said: “Reginald, my son, I am going to tell you a secret; but I beg you, in the name of Almighty God, by your attachment to our Order and your affection for me, not to reveal it to anyone while I live”.

The end of my work has come; everything I have written and taught seems to me like a piece of straw to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.

From now on I hope by the goodness of my God that the end of my life will follow closely behind the end of my work.

And in fact, St. Thomas died some time later, on March 2, 1274. No doubt he had that day the fiery and experimental revelation, the appearance of the Messiah in his glory who came to preach the Gospel to him at the hour of his death.

Isn’t this sermon the trace of one of his last attempts at preaching?

The story of William of Tocco says that, just before his death, St. Thomas went to Lyon for a Council.

Under pressure from the monks of a monastery where they had stopped for the stage, I wanted to start a commentary on the Song of Songs. There is no trace of it, except perhaps an extract that says it all…

“My soul was liquefied when my beloved spoke.

These words are inscribed in the Song (5:6) in the place where the bridegroom recognizes God’s double benefit.

His canonization

Shortly after his death in 1277, by a cunning cabal of secular professors, certain articles of Thomas’ doctrinal synthesis were condemned by the Sorbonne.

As a result, Thomas Aquinas was acclaimed as a “common physician” as early as 1317. He was canonized on July 18, 1323 in Naples. By order of Pope Urban V, his body was transferred to Toulouse in 1368.

From the 15th century onwards, he was called more and more “angelic doctor” because of his numerous treatises on angels. St. Pius V, on April 11, 1567, proclaimed him Doctor of the Church.

Pope Leo XIII, in the 19th century, declared him patron of Catholic schools and universities. It was this extraordinary genius that made Saint Thomas a thinker, who even now has great authority in the Church.

Pope John Paul II recalled that he is a modern author. He cannot be absent from the renewal of Catholic theology.


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