The Angelic Doctor

Homily for the Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas

Today, we celebrate the Feast of one of my patron saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, who was arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, mind the Church has ever known. Throughout his life as a priest, the Angelic Doctor, as he is known, wrote about various theological and philosophical issues that helped advance the cause of Christianity throughout the world. His most famous work is the Summa Theologiae, a treatise on proving the existence of God. But Thomas is also known for his devout prayer life and intimate relationship with the Lord.

One of my favorite stories of Thomas Aquinas comes from the end of his life. While he was praying before the crucifix in the chapel one day, Jesus came to life for him and the two began having a conversation. This conversation was actually witnessed by one of Aquinas’ Dominican brothers. In the midst of the conversation, Jesus asked Thomas: “You have written well of Me, Thomas. What would you desire as a reward?” It is said that Thomas broke into tears, as he replied, “Nothing, Lord. I’m doing it all for you.” At this point, St. Thomas Aquinas went into ecstasy, and levitated. His entire body floated into the air and hovered over the chapel. All the brothers in the monastery came into the chapel where he was praying, and beheld him suspended in the air.

Towards the end of his life, Thomas stopped working on the Summa, he never completed it. When asked about it, he simply said, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as much as straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” In the end, he realized that there was nothing that he could ever do or say that matched the grandeur and the splendor of God.

Thomas Aquinas constantly allowed the Lord to guide him and direct his writings and his teachings. As our Gospel Canticle for this morning says: “A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path.” And because of that, the Lord was able to use Thomas as a messenger that brought others to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith. Thomas himself became a light that pointed others to the Lord. That was a surprise to many, because when Thomas was a young priest, he was known as the dumb ox. People thought he was literally unintelligent. How wrong they were…thankfully!

Thomas knew the importance of always giving witness to his relationship with Jesus. At the end of his life, as he lay dying, after he made his last confession and received viaticum, he said, “I am receiving Thee, Price of my soul’s redemption; all my studies, my vigil and my labors have been for love of Thee. I have taught much and written much of the Most Sacred Body of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I offer and submit everything.”

In the end, Thomas knew who he was but he also knew whose he was. He belonged to God and everything flowed from that knowledge. May we also come to recognize who we are in the eyes of the Lord and may that recognition change how we live our lives and interact with others. Today, let’s ask for the intercession of the Angelic Doctor, that he might pray for us to have the same strength and the same courage to engage the culture and to be witnesses that point others to Jesus.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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