Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, an Italian Dominican priest who was arguably one of the greatest minds in the Catholic Church, and the patron of our chapter. He is the author of Summa Thelogica, a compendium of Catholic philosophy, theology, Scripture and Tradition. It is a tradition that he also composed the well-known prayer, Soul of Christ, Sanctify me (Anima Christi), which was a favorite of St. Ignatius, who introduced it into his book of Spiritual Exercises.
St. Thomas Aquinas was once asked what he considered the greatest gift he had ever received from God. After reflecting on the question for a few moments he said, “I think that of having understood whatever I have read”. He remembered everything he had once heard, so that his mind was like a well-stocked library. He often wrote, dictating at the same time on other subjects to three or four secretaries and never losing the thread of his arguments.
On December 6, 1273, he laid aside his pen and would write no more. That day he experienced an unusually long ecstasy during Mass; what was revealed to him we can only surmise from his reply to Father Reginald, who urged him to continue his writings: “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value” (modica, Prümmer, op. cit., p. 43).
On March 7, 1274, Thomas died. Near his death, as he was given the last rites and the sacred viaticum was brought into the room, he is reported to have said this final act of faith:
If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament . . . I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and laboured. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life.