ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH
The Liturgical Year – Dom Guéranger
The saint we are to honour today is one of the sublimest and most lucid interpreters of divine truth. He rose up in the Church many centuries after the apostolic age, nay, long after the four great Latin doctors, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. The Church, the ever young and joyful mother, is justly proud of her Thomas, and has honoured him with the splendid title of the angelical doctor, on account of the extraordinary gift of understanding wherewith God had blessed him; just as his contemporary and friend, St. Bonaventure, has been called the seraphic doctor, on account of the wonderful unction which abounds in the writings of this worthy disciple of St. Francis. Thomas of Aquinas is an honour to mankind, for perhaps there never existed a man whose intellect surpassed his.
He is one of the brightest ornaments of the Church, for not one of her doctors has equaled him in the clearness and precision wherewith he has explained her doctrines. He received the thanks of Christ Himself, for having well written of Him and His mysteries. How welcome ought this feast of such a saint to be to us during this season of the year, when our main study is our return and conversion to God! What greater blessing could we have than to come to the knowledge of God? Has not our ignorance of God, of His claims, and of His perfections, been the greatest misery of our past lives? Here we have a saint whose prayers are most efﬁcacious in procuring for us that knowledge, which is unspotted, and converteth souls, and giveth wisdom to little ones, and gladdeneth the heart, and enlighteneth the eyes. Happy we if this spiritual wisdom be granted us! We shall then see the vanity of everything that is not eternal, the righteousness of the divine commandments, the malice of sin, and the inﬁnite goodness where with God treats us when we repent.
Let us learn from the Church the claims of the angelical doctor to our admiration and conﬁdence.
The distinguished ornament of the Christian world and light of the Church, the most blessed man Thomas, was born of noble parents, his father being Landulph, Count of Aquino, and his mother a rich Neapolitan lady, by name Theodora. While yet an infant he gave proof of his future devotion towards the Mother of God; for having found a leaﬂet on which was written the angelical salutation, he clenched it so fast that the nurse tried in vain to take it from his hand. His mother, however, having forced it from him, the child succeeded by tears and signs, in recovering the paper, which he immediately swallowed. When he was ﬁve years old he was sent to Monte Cassino, that he might receive from the Benedictine monks his ﬁrst training.
Thence he was sent to Naples, where he went through a course of studies, and, young as he was, joined the Order of Friars Preachers. This step caused great displeasure to his mother and brothers, and it was therefore deemed advisable to send him to Paris. He was waylaid by his brothers, who seized him, and imprisoned him in the castle of Saint John. After having made several unsuccessful attempts to induce him to abandon the holy life he had chosen, they assailed his purity, by sending to him a wicked woman: but he drove her from his chamber with a ﬁrebrand. The young saint then threw himself on his knees before a cruciﬁx. Having prayed some time, he fell asleep, and it seemed to him that two angels approached him, and tightly girded his loins. From that time forward, he never suffered the slightest feeling against purity. His sisters also had come to the castle, and tried to make him change his mind; but he, on the contrary, persuaded them to despise the world, and devote themselves to the exercise of a holy life.
It was contrived that he should escape through a window of the castle, and return to Naples. He was thence taken by John the Teutonic, the General of the Dominican Order, ﬁrst to Rome and then to Paris, in which latter city he was taught philosophy and theology by Albert the Great. At the age of twenty-ﬁve, he received the title of doctor, and explained in the public schools, and in a manner that made him the object of universal admiration, the writings of philosophers and theologians. He always applied himself to prayer, before reading or writing anything. When he met with any difﬁcult passage in the sacred Scriptures, he both fasted and prayed. He used often to say to his companion, Brother Reginald, that if he knew anything, it was more a gift from God, than the fruit of his own study and labour. One’ day, when at Naples, as he was praying with more than his usual fervor, before a cruciﬁx, he heard these words: ‘Well hast thou written of me, Thomas! What reward wouldst thou have me give thee? He answered: ‘None other, Lord, than thyself.’
His favourite spiritual book was the Conferences of the Fathers, and there was not a book which he had not most carefully read. His writings are so extraordinary, not only for their number and variety, but also for their clearness in explaining difﬁcult points of doctrine, that his copious and sound teaching, so wonderfully consonant with revealed truth, is most apt for utterly refuting the errors of all ages. Being called to Rome by Pope Urban IV., he composed, at his command, the ecclesiastical Ofﬁce for the solemnity of Corpus Christi; but he refused to accept any honours, as like Wise the archbishopric of Naples offered to him by Pope Clement IV. He was most zealous in preaching the word of God. On one occasion, during Easter week, as he was preaching in the church of St. Peter, a woman touched the hem of his habit, and was cured of an issue of blood. He was sent by Gregory X. to the Council of Lyons; but having reached Fossa Nova, he fell sick, and was received as a guest in the monastery of that place, where he wrote a commentary on the Canticle of Canticles. There he died in the ﬁftieth year of his age, in the year of our Lord 1274 on the Nones of March (March 7). His sanctity was made manifest after his death, by miracles: which being proved, he was canonized by Pope John XXII. in the year 1323. His body was translated to Toulouse by command of blessed Urban V. Being comparable to the angels, no less by his innocence than by his genius, he has received the title of angelical doctor, conﬁrmed to him by the authority of St. Pius V. Pope Leo XIII. joyfully acceding to the ‘desires and petitions of the bishops of the Catholic world, by a decree of the sacred Congregation of rites and by letters apostolic, ordained and declared him the heavenly patron of all Catholic schools; and this especially for the purpose of repelling the evil of so many philosophical systems abandoned to error, for the increase of knowledge, and for the common utility of mankind.
How shall we worthily praise thee, most holy Doctor! How shall we thank thee for what thou hast taught us? The rays of the divine Sun of justice beamed strongly upon thee, and thou hast reﬂected them upon us. When we picture thee contemplating truth, we think of those words of our Lord: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. Thy victory over the concupiscence of the ﬂesh merited for thee the highest spiritual delights; and our Redeemer chose thee, because of the purity of thy angelic soul, to compose for His Church the Ofﬁce whereby she should celebrate the divine Sacrament of His love. Learning did not impair thy humility. Prayer was ever thy guide in thy search after truth; and there was but one reward for which, after all thy labours, thou wast ambitious, the possession of God.
Thy life, alas was short. The very masterpiece of thy angelical writings was left unﬁnished. But thou hast not lost thy power of working for the Church. Aid her in her combats against error. She holds thy teachings in the highest estimation because she feels that none of her saints has ever known so well as thou, the secrets and mysteries of her divine Spouse. Now, perhaps more than in any other age, truths are decayed among the children of men; strengthen us in our faith, get us light. Check the conceit of those shallow self-constituted philosophers, who dare to sit in judgment on the actions and decisions of the Church, and to force their contemptible theories upon a generation that is too ill-instructed to detect their fallacies. The atmosphere around us is gloomy with ignorance; loose principles, and truths spoilt by cowardly compromise, are the fashion of our times; pray for us; bring us back to that hold and simple acceptance of truth, which gives life to the intellect and joy to the heart.
Pray, too, for the grand Order which loves thee so devoutly, and honours thee as one of the most illustrious of its many glorious children. Draw down upon the family of thy patriarch St. Dominic the choicest blessings, for it is one of the most powerful auxiliaries of God’s Church. We are on the eve of the holy season of Lent, preparing for the great work of earnest conversion of our lives. Thy prayers must gain for us the knowledge both of the God we have offended by our sins, and of the wretched state of a soul that is at enmity with its Maker. Knowing this, we shall hate our sins; we shall desire to purify our souls in the Blood of the spotless Lamb; we shall generously atone for our faults by works of penance.
COMMEMORATION – FERIA IN LENT
STATION AT THE FOUR HOLY CROWNED MARTYRS
Ecclesiasticus 15: 5
In medio ecclesiæ aperuit os ejus: et implevit eum Dominus spiritu sapientiæ, et intellectus: stolam gloriæ induit eum. Ps. 91: 2. Bonum est confiteri Domino: et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. Gloria Patri.
In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. Ps. It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High. Glory be to the Father.
O God, through Whom Thy Church is glorified by the wonderful learning of Thy blessed Confessor Thomas and profiteth still from his holy labours: grant, we pray, that we may grasp his teaching with our minds and show it, as he did, in our lives. Through our Lord.
Collect – Commemoration of the Feria in Lent
We beseech Thee, O almighty God, grant that as year by year we devoutly keep these sacred fasts, we may please Thee both in body and mind. Through our Lord.
Wisdom 7: 7-14
I wished, and understanding was given me; and I called, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me; and I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches, nothing in comparison of her. Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone, for all gold in comparison of her is as a little sand, and silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay. I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light, for her light cannot be put out. Now all good things came to me together with her, and innumerable riches through her hands. And I rejoiced in them all: for this wisdom went before me, and I knew not that she was the mother of them all which I have learned without guile, and communicate without envy and her riches I hide not; for she is an infinite treasure to men: which they that use, become the friends of God, being commended for the gift of discipline.
Psalm 36: 30-31
The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom, and his tongue shall speak judgment. The law of His God is in his heart: and his steps shall not be supplanted.
Psalm 111: 1-3
Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: he shall delight exceedingly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed. Glory and wealth shall be in his house: and his justice remaineth for ever and ever.
Matthew 5: 13-19
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, Who is in heaven. Do not think that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and so shall teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Psalm 91: 13
The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow up like the cedar of Libanus.
May the holy prayer of Saint Thomas, Thy Confessor and Doctor, fail us not, O Lord: may it render our offerings acceptable, and ever obtain for us Thy pardon. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of the Feria in Lent
May the Sacrifice we offer up to Thee, O Lord, be ever our life and our protection. Through our Lord.
PREFACE FOR LENT
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. Who by the fasting of the body dost curb our vices, elevate our minds and bestow virtue and reward; through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the dominions worship it, and the powers stand in awe. The heavens and the heavenly hosts, with the blessed seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With these we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt cæli et terra glória tua. Hosánna in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosánna in excélsis.
Luke 12: 42
The faithful and wise servant, whom his lord setteth over his family: to give them their measure of wheat in due season.
May blessed Thomas Thy Confessor and illustrious Doctor intercede for us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that these Thy sacrifices may obtain for us salvation. Through our Lord.
Commemoration of the Feria in Lent
We have received the Sacraments of salvation, O Lord, and beg that and increase of eternal redemption for us may be their fruit. Through our Lord.
PRAYER OVER THE PEOPLE
Mercifully hear our supplication, we beseech Thee, O Lord: and to those to whom Thou givest the desire to pray, grant the help of Thy protection. Through our Lord.
This extraordinary Eucharistic hymn, by the great St. Thomas Aquinas.