Thursday, February 05, 2009

Will the real St. Thomas Aquinas please stand up?

I have to admit that, historically, I've not been a person that worries too much about the history and lives of the saints. It's only been recently (since going to the Benedictine Monastery) that I've felt really connected to the saints as arbiters of God's love for us.

I'm in St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, as most of you know. I've heard ad nauseum that St. Thomas didn't want to be a Benedictine because they were affluent and the Dominicans (the order he did eventually join) was still new, not well respected, and (most importantly) poor.

I listened to a podcast this morning called the saint cast ( and hope I learned a slightly different but nonetheless true, take on that oversimplification. The truth is that St. Thomas was born and raised a few miles from Monte Cossina, the abbey St. Benedict founded in Northern Italy. His Uncle was the Abbott of this monastery and it was assumed that St. Thomas would follow in his celibate uncle's footsteps. Also, the Holy Roman Emperor, a relative of St. Thomas, and the Pope got into a fight and divided the monastery. Both of them saw St. Thomas as a logical, intelligent Abbott who would bring together the sharply divided monastery.

St. Thomas, however, decided that he felt a call to more education, so he left for Spain. It was there that he got into contact with St. Albert the Great, an great Dominican teacher...and the rest is history.

So, what it tells me is that St. Thomas' conversion wasn't just about money and power, although you can argue that that's part of it. It was about someone evangelizing him without worrying about that. Someone finally figuring out that this man of incredible intellect and learning needed holy people around him to support him in holiness. I think we all need to learn from the simplicity of St. Thomas.

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