Last week we celebrated the feast day of “the Angelic Doctor,” St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a behemoth of a theologian and one of the greatest minds the Catholic Church, and the world, has ever known. Here are a few ways you can be as awesome as the Dominican friar.
Aquinas was a persistent writer. His Summa Theologica alone suffices for more than 2.5 millions words… and he didn’t even complete it. If blogs would had existed in the 1200s, he’d probably post 5 times a day.
2. After you blog, tweet
St. Thomas actually recommended that peopler read “The Shorter Summa”, a summary of the main points of his theological arguments, before reading the entire Summa. So, it would make sense that whatever he would have blogged about, he would have put it in smaller bits afterwords. My friend Brandon Vogt agrees:
On the contrary, I argue Aquinas would prefer Twitter for it is, like God, altogether simple. (ST I,3,7)
— Brandon Vogt (@BrandonVogt) July 23, 2014
3. Be in the clouds
According to the story, St. Thomas was invited as a special guest to St. King Louis’s palace for dinner. While the other invitees were listening to the King talk about the proper ways to dress, Aquinas was lost in thought. While the King was in mid-sentence, Aquinas’ fist came down upon the table making the goblets and plates leap as he shouted “And that will settle the Manichees!” The King instantly called for the nearest scribes to write down the thoughts that Aquinas had in his mind that would eventually lead to the refutation of the Manichees.
4. Get a voice recorder
Had Aquinas had a voice recorder or the Evernote app, this whole scene would have been avoided. But then we wouldn’t have an awesome story to tell now would we?
5. & 6. Go to adoration and Mass
Aquinas was obsessed with the Eucharist. His entire life rotated around it. Every morning, he would celebrate Mass, then serve at another immediately afterword in thanksgiving. He was so in tune with the Real Presence that when Pope Urban IV declared the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ), he had St. Thomas Aquinas write the liturgy for that feast day. Almost 800 years later, we still celebrate the feast in St. Thomas’ words.
7. Punk your parents
Aquinas’ parents were of Spanish nobility and had his vocation picked out for him. They sent him out to become a Benedictine, but he decided to take the road less traveled and become a mendicant Dominican. #Punkd
8. Chase prostitutes with flaming hot pokers
Apparently, after he punk’d his parents, his parents kidnapped St. Thomas and locked him in their castle until he refuted the Dominican habit and become a benedictine. At one point, they sent a prostitute down to entice him to leave the priesthood completely. St. Thomas was not amused, so he chased her out with a flaming hot poker. Once all was said and done, angels came to visit him and gave him a chastity belt that supposedly made it so he would never feel tempted by sexual immorality again.
Image, Lawrence OP via Flikr
9. Get a spiritual advisor
St. Augustine had St. Ambrose. St. Thomas Aquinas had St. Albert the Great. Who is YOUR Spiritual advisor?
10. Don’t get caught in lies
According to legend, a fellow Dominican brother attempted to trick St. Thomas by telling him that a pig was flying outside of the classroom window. Aquinas jumped up excitedly to see the spectacle, but he was greeted with the laughter of his companions. “Did you really think you’d see a flying pig?” said his companion? “I’d believe that flying pigs exist before my own brother would lie to me.” responded the Saint.
Aquinas was known to be of heavy girth.
“Aquinas was asked for what he thanked God most. He answered simply ‘I have understood every page I ever read.'”(Chesterton, The Dumb Ox)
“St Thomas was so stolid that the scholars in the schools which he attended regularly thought he was a dunce indeed he was the sort of a schoolboy not unknown who would much rather be thought a dunce than have. his own dreams invaded by more active or animated dunces.” (Chesterton, The Dumb Ox)
14. Be an introvert
“St Thomas was a huge heavy full of a man fat and slow and quiet very mild in monogamous but not very sociable shot even apart from the humility of holiness and abstracted even apart from his occasional and carefully concealed experiences of trance or ecstasy.” (Chesterton, The Dumb Ox)
15. Be a rebel
“It is a paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it most.” (Chesterton, The Dumb Ox) The medieval period had Dominic and Francis. Today’s world needs another pair of contradictory mendicants.
16. Be humble, study Philosophy
“He wanted the body and all its senses because he believed rightly or wrongly that it was a Christian thing… St Thomas was, if you will, taking the lower road when he walked in the steps of Aristotle. So was God when he worked in the workshop of Joseph.” (Chesterton, The Dumb Ox)
17. Be called names
“You call him a Dumb Ox; I tell you this dumb Ox shall bellow so loud that his bellowing a will fill the world.” St. Albertus Magnus
18. Write poetry
Mike Aquilina, and many other scholars, have dubbed Aquinas as the “poet laureate of heaven”. So while St. Thomas Aquinas’ is most well known for his direct and succinct writing style, he could still flow.
19. Embrace obscurity
“All that we know of Thomas tells us that he was perfectly courteous to those who spoke to him, but spoke little, and was soon forgotten in the most brilliant and noisy clatter in the world…” (Chesterton, The Dumb Ox)
20. Be careful around tree limbs
St. Thomas Aquinas was not a martyr. In fact, his death is really quite mysterious. He was traveling to the Council of Lyons in 1274 per the Pope’s request, but while on his way, he smacked his head on a low-hanging tree branch. He was taken to a nearby house where he passed into eternity.
21. Become a Dominican
Whether you are discerning a vocation as a consecrated religious or lay religious, the Dominican Order is open to having you become a full-fledged member. Check out the following sites for more information on how to join.
22. Read the Summa
“As a magister of theology, his purpose is never simply to satisfy the curiosity of the mind; rather, it is to change the lives of his readers, the transform their hearts, in a word, to move them to salvation.” (Fr. Robert Barron, St. Thomas Aquinas, Spiritual Master)
Need some help in figuring out how to read the Summa? Check out this resource called Read the Summa in One Year. Sign up and join the rest of us wannabe Thomists!