A Dumb Ox
Today is the feast day of one of my all time favorite saints. A saint who forged the principles of Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. He is honored as a Doctor of the Church, and considered the Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. He was an Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest. An immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism. He is sometimes referred to as the “Doctor Angelicus” and “Doctor Communis”. He was foremost a classical proponent of natural theology, and the father of Thomism. G.K. Chesterton referred (and even wrote a book) to him as “the dumb ox” because he was a large man but with a great, quiet humility. He is St. Thomas Aquinas.
I would love to write more about his life, his work, his writings, his visions, his chastity. But I am afraid I am not a seasoned writer. It would take me 20 blogs to scratch the surface of St. Thomas Aquinas and most of you would not have time to read them. I will let people like EWTN, New Advent, and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy do that for me, as they would do a far better job than I.
So instead, I will provide some unusual facts, quotes and a prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas.
1. When St. Thomas Aquinas told his family he wanted to be a dominican, he was locked up and a prostitute was paid to break his chastity. St. Thomas runs to the fireplace, grabs a burning log, and chases the woman out of his room. But that isn’t where the story ends. St. Thomas then draws a cross on the wall with the charcoal end of the log . He then falls on his knees in prayer. When he does this, he falls into ecstasy and 2 angels appear, one on his right the other on his left. The angels wrap a belt around St. Thomas’ middle which signifies his obedience to chastity. It is said he never struggled with a sexual temptation the rest of his life.
2. St. Thomas Aquinas would sometimes get “writers block” or confused when writing. When this happened, he would get up from his desk and head to the chapel. He would then rest his head on the tabernacle until his mind was clear. (A unique parallel to St. John resting his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper. St. John wrote some of the deepest theological books in the NT)
3. “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.” –St. Thomas Aquinas
4. St. Thomas was worried he was going to become a bishop. He didn’t want to become a bishop because he loved teaching and writing so much. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to him and told him that he didn’t need to worry because he wasn’t going to become a bishop.
5. “Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church” – St. Thomas Aquinas
6. “Good can exist without evil, whereas evil cannot exist without good.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
7. “Because we cannot know what God is, but only what He is not, we cannot consider how He is but only how He is not.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
8. “All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
9. On the feast of St. Nicholas (right after finishing the writings on the Eucharist in the Summa), St. Thomas, while in ecstacy, has a vision of Christ. Christ says to St. Thomas, “You have written well of me. What do you desire?” St. Thomas replies, “Only you Lord! Only you!”. After this vision, he doesn’t write anything else even though the Summa wasn’t completed. When asked why St. Thomas answers, “Everything I have written compared to what I have seen, seems to appear like straw.”
10. St. Thomas gave 5 ways to demonstrate the existence of God. (Read STh I, a. 2, q.3).
1. First Way: Argument from Motion – The first way holds since all things are in motion, there must be something that is the first“unmoved mover,” which we call God.
2. Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes – The second way holds since we all experience the principle of cause and effect, there must be an initial first cause, which we call God.
3. Third Way: Argument from Possibility –
- The third way observes all things are contingent, which is to say all things have not always existed and might not always exist.
- Trees, homes, leaves, people, nations, rocks, rivers, etc. come and go.
- Yet if this is the case absolutely, then at some point nothing would have existed and thus nothing could come to be.
- But this is impossible because things do exist.
- Therefore, there must be “something” that is not contingent and responsible for the existence of all contingent things.
- In other words, while things come and go, one thing must remain always the same, and this is God.
4. Fourth Way: Argument from Degrees of Being –
- The fourth way is also difficult to understand.
- The fourth way observes gradation in all things.
- Some things are better than others.
- There is the best of everything in every class.
- So when it comes to existence, something must be “the best.”
- With regard to all things that exist there must be one that exists in the greatest and best way—one who is existence itself, and this is God.
Fifth Way: Argument from Design –
- The fifth and last way is perhaps the easiest and most effective argument for God.
- The fifth argument observes there is design in creation.
- It is the old watchmaker argument.
- Suppose you were walking in the desert and you came across upon a golden watch.
- Would you assume that bits of sand had rubbed together to form gears, crystal, springs, hands, levers, and a wristband all by chance?
- Or would you rather observe the intricate design of the object and assume a designer had crafted it?
- The fifth way appeals to complexities of creation and the design found within it. Seashells display mathematical proportionality.
- The tilt of the axis of planet earth provides an optimal seasonal change for life.
- The eyeball is an amazingly efficient optical instrument.
- Nature displays order and design everywhere. Therefore, there must be one who designed the cosmos, and this is God.
Full Quote from Pope Leo XII in Aeterni Patris:
While, therefore, We hold that every word of wisdom, every useful thing by whomsoever discovered or planned, ought to be received with a willing and grateful mind, We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences. The wisdom of St. Thomas, We say; for if anything is taken up with too great subtlety by the Scholastic doctors, or too carelessly stated — if there be anything that ill agrees with the discoveries of a later age, or, in a word, improbable in whatever way — it does not enter Our mind to propose that for imitation to Our age. Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others.”
St. Thomas Prayer for after Communion:
I thank You, Lord, Almighty Father, Everlasting God, for having been pleased, through no merit of mine, but of Your great mercy alone, to feed me, a sinner, and Your unworthy servant, with the precious Body and Blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this Holy Communion may not be for my judgment and condemnation, but for my pardon and salvation. Let this Holy Communion be to me an armor of faith and a shield of good will, a cleansing of all vices, and a rooting out of all evil desires. May it increase love and patience, humility and obedience, and all virtues. May it be a firm defense against the evil designs of all my visible and invisible enemies, a perfect quieting of all the desires of soul and body. May this Holy Communion bring about a perfect union with You, the one true God, and at last enable me to reach eternal bliss when You will call me. I pray that You bring me, a sinner, to the indescribable Feast where You, with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, are to Your saints true light, full blessedness, everlasting joy, and perfect happiness. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Want to read the Summa Theologiae in 1 year? This is a great way to do it! Click Here
Interested in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity? Learn more here
Here’s 10 Thomas Aquinas resources from Fr. Robert Barron. Click Here
SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS – PRAY FOR US!