Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the Church's greatest philosophers and theologians. He wrote a large number of books dealing with subjects such as the nature of God and the purpose of human life. His work has influenced many great thinkers throughout history, and remains just as significant in the modern world as it did almost 800 years ago.
Thomas Aquinas was born in the Italian town of Aquino in 1224 or 1225. He was one of nine children. His parents were wealthy and the family lived in a castle. Thomas' older brother was destined to inherit the family home and the farmland surrounding it. Therefore, his father decided that Thomas should join the church and become an abbot.
At only five years of age, Thomas began his education in the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino. He received his education from the monastery's Benedictine monks. At the age of 18, Thomas was sent to the University of Naples. While studying in Naples, Thomas became interested in a different and more radical religious order known as the Dominicans. His interest in the group grew, and he decided to join them.
Thomas' parents had always wanted him to be a Benedictine abbot. They were furious when they learnt of his desire to join the Dominican order. Thomas would not change his mind, so his family decided to stop him physically. While travelling to Rome to join the order, Thomas was kidnapped by his brothers. They took him home and locked him in the family castle, where he stayed for more than a year. He refused to change his mind, and rejoined the Dominicans as soon as his parents released him.
The Dumb Ox
In 1245 Thomas went to study at the University of Paris. He had developed into a young man of considerable size, but remained shy and reserved despite his intelligence. His fellow students thought that he was slow, both mentally and physically, and called him the Dumb Ox. Proving them all wrong, he finished his studies before becoming a teacher himself.
By 1256, Thomas had completed his master's degree in theology. He had also earned a great deal of respect among other members of the Dominican order for his detailed examinations of religious texts. As a well-regarded intellectual, Thomas spent his time writing, preaching and debating various religious arguments. He became a famous figure across Europe, and published a number of books that remain just as important today as they were during his lifetime. Two of his most famous works are "Summa contra Gentiles" and "Summa Theologica."
Death and Sainthood
By the age of 45, Thomas Aquinas had become a valued servant to the Pope himself. However, he became ill while travelling to an important meeting called the Second Council of Lyon. He was nursed by monks for several days, but died on 7 March 1274. Fifty years after his death, Pope John XXII pronounced Thomas Aquinas a saint in recognition of his devotion to God and his contribution to theological study.