Anyone looking for answers to life’s questions should take the advice Pope Pius XI gave to seekers almost a century ago: “Go to Thomas!” St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) was an outstanding Dominican theologian and philosopher. He is best known for his Summa Theologiae, a massive encyclopedia of Catholic theology. Aquinas’s teachings were so beneficial he was given the honorary title “Doctor of the Church” in 1567. As we prepare to celebrate the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas on January 28th, it would be good to reflect on the top three reasons why it is advisable to “go to Thomas” even today.
Aquinas is a great theologian
Theology, or Sacred Doctrine, is the science of God. Theologians accept revealed truths on the basis of Divine authority, and attempt to make them easier to understand. They also draw the aforesaid truths out to their logical conclusions. Aquinas had an unsurpassed ability to not only deduce these conclusions, but also systematize them into a comprehensive whole. His extensive collection of writings offer in-depth descriptions of God, humanity, and their reconciliation through Christ and His Church. Because of his extraordinary ability in explaining these and many other articles of the Catholic faith, Aquinas remains one of the greatest, most influential theologians in the history of the Church.
Aquinas is a brilliant philosopher
In his encyclical Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII observed, “Philosophy has no part which he [Aquinas] did not touch finely at once and thoroughly . . . ” Aquinas’s exceptional and exhaustive handling of the various divisions of philosophy - the natural knowledge of all things through their ultimate causes - owes to his remarkable aptitude for synthesizing the thought of Aristotle with Sacred Doctrine. The product of his synthesis became known as Thomism, or the perennial philosophy. As a bastion of unchanging truth, it is a philosophy that endures throughout the ages and provides answers to the questions facing every new generation. Aquinas’s ongoing relevance is a testament to his true brilliance as a philosopher.
Aquinas is a model of virtue
Before he received the title “Doctor of the Church,” Aquinas was known as the “Angelic Doctor” due to his reputation for virtue. By all accounts, he was a very pious child, often spending hours in prayer and inquiring about the nature of God. Aquinas professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience with the Dominican order as a teenager. In later years, both as a student and as a master, he developed a reputation for great humility. All these virtues bore fruit toward the end of Aquinas’s life when he was blessed with numerous ecstasies. He is the perfect model for those seeking growth in virtue.
Whenever we have questions, the Church encourages us to go to Thomas. As a great theologian, a brilliant philosopher, and a model of virtue, he has all the answers we seek. St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
Those interested in going to Thomas may visit my website SingleCatholicDad.com for an accessible, introductory reading list.
Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, Encyclical on the Restoration of Christian Philosophy, Vatican Website, January 17, 2017, sec 17.