St Thomas Aquinas
Our patron, Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the most brilliant philosophers and theologians the Catholic Church has ever had so you might think, ‘Can I really relate to a medieval saint who spent his life immersed in books and teaching?’
Yes! Thomas was a very human saint, one who can be a great model for us in many ways.
Physically he was a big man, and Thomas was a gentle giant, known for his humility and kindness to others. Here are some things about him that are fun to know:
He was born and grew up in a castle.
Thomas was from a wealthy family who lived near to Aquino, Italy. He had three brothers and five sisters.
He had a lifelong fear of storms.
That’s probably because when he was a toddler, his infant sister was killed by lightning when they were both taking a nap in the same room. Later in life, Thomas always carried a relic of St. Agnes and prayed to her for protection during storms.
When Thomas was just 5 years old, he was sent to study at the famous monastery of Monte Cassino.
He stayed there until he was a teenager and would probably have started training to be a Benedictine monk as his parents wanted. Benedictine monks make a vow to spend their whole life in the monastery, praying to God.
Thomas ran away when he was a teenager.
Thomas wanted to follow his vocation to become a Dominican monk. Dominican monks were different to the Benedictine monks. They travelled around preaching and teaching so often needed to rely on others for food and shelter. Thomas’s parents couldn’t understand why he wanted to become a Dominican, for them it was a step down in the world.
He was strong-minded.
When his family found out he had joined the Dominicans, a band of soldiers led by his brothers, captured Thomas and brought him home. He spent about a year imprisoned while his family tried to persuade him to give up his dream but he did not change his mind.
He was called the “dumb ox.”
Thomas was a large man, quiet and seldom spoke at university, leading other students to believe he was unintelligent, but his teacher, St Albert the Great prophetically said, "You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching, he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world."
He had terrible handwriting.
However, Thomas’s poor handwriting did not prevent his amazing gift to study, learn and teach because he often dictated his ideas to a secretary. It is even said that Thomas could dictate different ideas to a different secretaries at the same time. He could think a lot faster than they could write! So if anyone has ever criticised your handwriting, take heart, you’re just like Thomas!
He was extremely humble and submitted all his work to the judgment of the Church.
His most famous writings are called Summa Theologica. Before Thomas died in March 1274, he said, “I have taught and written much … according to my faith in Jesus Christ and the holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I submit all my teaching.”
Thomas was canonised in 1323 and made a Doctor of the Church in 1567 which gives his writings and teachings special authority and importance within the Catholic Church.
St Thomas Aquinas feast day is 28th January. He is the patron saint of students, universities and publishers.