March 7, 2008

March 7 | St Thomas Aquinas

1225? - March 7, 1274: Age 49?

One day while banqueting with the King of France, Thomas Aquinas came out of a long reverie by banging on the table and shouting, "That settles the Manichees!" He was the Mozart of theological argument, and he knew it, not as a point of vanity or pride but simply as a fact: God had put him on earth to write, and that was his life's work.

When, as the teenaged son of a wealthy Italian nobles, he began to show an affinity for monastic life, his family were horrified. They kidnapped him to try to force him to exercise more judgment in his career choices. They even put a beautiful young woman in his room to tempt him, but God sent down a couple of angels who "girded his loins with chastity". One wonders what that was like.

In December 1273, after three decades of writing the most potent theological expositions the Catholic Church has known before or since, he simply stopped. "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 wrote no more, and seemed to be in a bit of a daze after that. He said, "The only thing I want now is that as God has put an end to my writing, He may quickly end my life also."

This prayer was granted. On his way to Lyons to meet with the Pope, he was hit on the head by a tree branch and fell off his donkey. Dazed, he was taken to the castle of his niece, who lived nearby. After spending some days there, he felt near death, and asked to be taken to an abbey. "If the Lord is coming for me, I had better be found in a religious house than in a castle." He was carried on a donkey to an abbey six miles away, where he died a week later.

Source: Forbes, Malcolm, They Went That-a-Way, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1988.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aquinas wasn't perfect in more ways than one. If having a vision creates foolish and careless prayers, and we never know when our prayers may be answered, even a Domincan's, we should all be careful. I like Duns Scotus better. The Church hasn't put him forward as much as Aquinas because his writing style is knotty Gaelic-Latin and doesn't do as well for making faith a USGA Rules of Golf, which is sometimes what the Church wants, and Aquinas gave them. It's a Latin regulatory sense oversahdowing a pastoral one, between the two.
Scotus is more winter rules and mulligans. When and how did he die?
Scotia me genuit. Anglia me suscepit. Gallia me docuit. Colonia me tenet.