Crux. Mihi. Certa. Salus.Thomas was a gentle child, with deep lustrous eyes and thoughtful expression of countenance, in whom piety appeared as a Divine gift of nature, an inborn sense of soul. His earliest turnings of mind and heart were to God, so that even in the dawn of his day he was spoken of as a child of grace. Free from the wonted petulance of childhood, he showed little of its giddiness, still he was always cheerful and of modest demeanour. He loved to gaze with eyes of wonder on the illuminated pages of missals or scripts which he was incapable of understanding, while the stillness of the chapel with its solitary light exercised a fascination on his tender mind. Gentle and fleeting as a Spring shower are the tears of childhood. If at any time they fell from his sunny face, the sight of a book or manuscript would always comfort him: it was his toy, his plaything, and to turn the pages ever and again was his little world of joy; clearly the child was father of the man. There is something startling, even eerie, in a child's piety, in its innocence, unconscious of guile, in its human faith of trust, its first turnings upwards: like the turning of the flower to the sun is a child's soul stirred and drawn heavenwards. When the Psalmist broke out in rhapsody: "Thy magnificence, O Lord, is elevated above the heavens," he instantly turns to the thought of the child: "Out of the mouths of infants and of sucklings Thou hast perfected praise": (Ps. viii. 2, 3). All this we have to realize in the child hood of Saint Thomas, whose young virgin soul, like some clear pool, reflected the Creator's image: As the first years drew on, he, like another Holy Child in Nazareth, grew in spiritual beauty before God and men. His angelic comeliness and sweetness of disposition increased, so that he charmed irresistibly all with whom he came in contact.
Crux. Est. Quam. Semper. Adoro.
Crux. Domini. Mecum.
Crux. Mihi. Refugium.
The Cross is my sure safety.
It is the Cross that I ever adore.
The Lord's Cross is with me.
The Cross is my refuge.
[An Indulgence of 300 days is attached to its recital.]
"Whatever is received by any subject is grasped according to the subject's capacity". And his was a genius which already bid fair to overtop Albertus Magnus.During the month of August three Friars Preachers might be seen journeying afoot from the Rhine to the Seine: they were the Father-General, the master, the disciple : the Venerable John, Blessed Albert, Saint Thomas. Once arrived in Paris, master and disciple resumed their places in the Dominican schools, which were affiliated to the University. Albert's reputation having preceded him, he drew a vast concourse of students to his lectures; in time the assembly grew to be so vast that no hall could accommodate the auditory, until by compulsion he had to lecture in the open square. Master Albert was outpaced in holiness and in learning by his meteor disciple; but the Church has beatified him, the world has acclaimed him as the "Universal Doctor," who knew all that was to be known. Daily on his knees he recited the entire Psalter. His eminent piety has been attested to by many, but let one witness suffice: it is the testimony of his disciple, Cardinal Thomas of Cantimpré: "After this ought it to astonish us that Albert should be endowed with superhuman knowledge, and that his word should enflame the heart more than that of other masters? We know now from what source those transports of love proceeded, which we see so frequently break out in his numerous writings." All the world owes him homage, because he trained the soul as well as the mind of Saint Thomas.
"My VERY DEAR (BROTHER).This letter is unquestionably the reflex of his own rule of conduct. No one could be more affable, more courteous, yet at the same time it was a principle with him to shun all needless visits; the world might come to him, but he would not go out to it. As the time drew near for him to be raised to the sacred priesthood, he gave himself over to more protracted prayer and watchings. Several hours of the day, as well as part of the night, were spent in attitude of adoration before the altar, often sighing and weeping audibly as his soul melted with devotion; the heat of love within was manifest on the glowing countenance. At early morn the brethren frequently found him like the angel guarding the sepulchre. The Archbishop of Cologne raised him to the diaconate, and subsequently to the priesthood. The prelate who had the privilege of consecrating his holy hands was Conrad of Hochstaden, the princely and munificent Archbishop who rebuilt the choir of the old Romariesque Cathedral. The ordination took place in the year 1250. His attitude in celebrating the Divine mysteries upon the altar was one of majesty, and of rapt devotion. William de Tocco, his pupil and first biographer, describes what he was privileged to witness daily: "When he consecrated in mass, he was seized with such intensity of devotion as to be dissolved in tears, utterly absorbed in its mysteries, and nourished with its fruits".
"Since you have asked me how you ought to study in order to amass the treasures of knowledge, listen to the advice which I am going to give you.
"As a mere stripling, advance up the streams, and do not all at once plunge into the deep: such is my caution, and your lesson. I bid you to be chary of speech, slower still in frequenting places of talk: embrace purity of conscience, pray unceasingly, love to keep to your cell if you wish to be admitted into the mystic wine-cellar. Show yourself genial to all: pay no heed to other folk's affairs: be not over-familiar with any person, because over-much familiarity breeds contempt, and gives occasion to distraction from study.
"On no account mix yourself up with the sayings and the doings of persons in the outside world. Most of all, avoid all useless visits, but try rather to walk constantly in the footsteps of good and holy men. Never mind from whom the lesson drops, but commit to memory whatever useful advice may be uttered. Give an account to yourself of your every word and action: see that you understand what you hear, and never leave a doubt unsolved: lay up all you can in the storehouse of memory, as he does who wants to fill a vase. 'Seek not the things which are beyond thee'.
"Following these ways, you will your whole life long put forth and bear both branches and fruit in the vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth. If you take these words to heart, you will attain your desire."
Here beneath these signs are hiddenAfter finishing the work he retired to the church, where he placed it upon the altar, and thus addressed the crucifix: "Lord Jesus Christ, Who art really present and workest wonders in this Sacrament, I humbly beg of Thee, that if what I have written of Thee be true, Thou wilt say so: but if I have written aught which is not conformable to the faith, or contrary to this holy mystery, be pleased to hinder me from proceeding farther". Father Reginald of Piperno and others who had followed him saw our Blessed Lord appear, standing on the manuscript, and heard Him speak these words of approbation: "Thou hast written ably of the Sacrament of My Body, and hast accurately determined the difficulty proposed to thee, in so far as it can be understood by man on earth, and be defined by human wisdom". Then the spectators beheld the holy man uplifted miraculously from the ground, as if drawn heavenwards by the fervour of his devotion. From that day the University looked upon him not merely as a genius of thought, but as a man sent of God. According to the statutes the Master must retire on the expiry of one year, and Thomas complied; but so keen was the sense of loss, that after a few months he was invited to resume his course.
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Signs, not things, are all we see.
Sanctus Doctor est doctrina simul et disciplina.From him the scholar can learn science and method. "He did all things well," as was said of our Lord. Employing both methods, analytic and synthesis, his aim was to construct each work on the basis of a vast synthesis. Of course this does not hold good of his Commentaries, where the purpose is all critical and expository. Nor does it apply to the "Catena Aurea," which is simply the stringing together of quotations from the Fathers: but even here one marvels at the acumen shown in the fitness of the passages culled from each, like a handful from a meadow.
(The Holy Doctor is both doctrine and discipline.)
"Creator, beyond human utterance, Who out of Thy wisdom's treasures didst establish three hierarchies of Angels, setting them in wonderful order to preside over the empyrean heaven, and Who hast most marvellously assorted the parts of the universe; Thou Who art called the fountain-head of life and of wisdom, and the one over-ruling principle; be pleased to shed the ray of Thy brightness over the gloom of my understanding, so as to dispel the double shadow of sin and ignorance in which I was born. Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of babes, instruct my tongue, and shed the grace of Thy blessing upon my lips. Bestow on me keenness of wit to understand, the power of a retentive memory, method and ease of learning, subtilty for explaining, and the gift of ready speech. Teach me as I begin, direct me as I advance, complete my finished task for me, Thou Who art truly Godand man, Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen."The fortieth General Chapter of the Order met in London in the year 1263, at Pentecost. We are told that 300 brethren took part in it, in the priory which stood in Holborn, which, on the testimony of Matthew Paris, was previously "the noble residence" of the Earl of Kent. King Henry III gave them a cordial welcome, assisted at the opening ceremony, and, as the Garde-robe Accounts testify, gave a new habit to every friar present; this was by no means a superfluous gift, considering that all had come on foot, and many from remote quarters of Europe. The Chapter was presided over by the Venerable Humbert de Romans, fifth Master-General, who, after nine years of government, now laid down his office owing to infirmities. The resignation came as a surprise, and was accepted with regret, but since the Chapter was not an elective one, no more could be done than choose a Vicar-General for the ensuing year. Master Albertus Magnus was the one selected, and took up office. It was an eminent Chapter, if only from men of eminence who took part in it. Saint Thomas was there, also Blessed Albertus Magnus, Peter de Tarentaise, better known now as Blessed Innocent V, Peter de Luca, the Roman Definitor, all the Provincials of the order with their companions, the Masters from Paris, David de Ayr, the Vicar-General of Scotland, and the Vicar from Ireland, some forty definitors, and the professors from Oxford. The fact of Saint Thomas's presence is not attested by contemporary writers, but by later ones, who set forth many authentic details of his life corroborated from other sources. This need occasion no surprise, since the scope and purpose of the first biographers was to establish the sanctity and miracles of the Angelic Doctor, as set forth by the Commissions. He would have sailed from a French port in a schaloupe, and landed at Deal, from whence a short journey would bring him to his brethren in Canterbury. From Canterbury to Rochester would form the second stage: then on the close of the third day he would be crossing Old London Bridge. There was an affinity between King Henry Plantagenet and Thomas of Aquino, although a remote one, since each sprang from the Princes of Normandy. Two main points occupy the attention of every Chapter: these are regular observance and study. During the great intellectual development of the thirteenth century, the question of the Schools was paramount; the nomination of Masters in Theology to the greater centres of teaching, the assigning of scholars who were to read in the various faculties, the enforcing or modifying of the Norma Studiorum, all these had to be discussed, and the results published. The aim of those first Dominicans, whose motto has ever been Veritas, or Truth, was not to keep abreast of the times, but to go beyond them, to lead, and progress beyond the Sentences of Peter Lombard in divinity, and glosses upon Aristotle. Most of all they sought to specialize. Thus at this very time three hundred of them were engaged under Cardinal Hugh de Saint Cher in compiling the first Biblical Concordance, while Saint Raymund of Pennafort was compiling his Five Books of Decretals, and others were establishing centres for the study of Oriental languages. Their halls in Saint Edward's Schools at Oxford had been open now just forty years, and to these many of the disaffected scholars from Paris flocked. The condition of this General House of Studies, enjoying the privileges of a University, would certainly form a subject for protracted discussion. On the conclusion of the Chapter, Saint Thomas returned to Viterbo by way of Paris and Milan. In this latter city he prayed for some days before the tomb of his holy brother in religion, Saint Peter of Verona, the Martyr, in whose honour a magnificent shrine had just been erected over his remains in the church of the order, San Eustorgio. At the request of the pious donors, he then composed the still extant epitaph
Proeco, lucerna, pugil, Christi, populi, fideique, etc.Saint Thomas was Poet as well as Theologian: his "Summa Theologica" is one vast epic, while his poems are all of them devout and couched in sweet flowing numbers: and right well he sang of the object dearest to his soul, Christ veiled in the Eucharist. The office composed for the festival of Corpus Christi is the rhapsody of a poet inspired by faith and devotion; that he wrote it is due to a command received by Pope Urban IV, whom he petitioned to establish a special feast to be known as Corpus Christi's. The thought was by no means his own, for the honour falls to three holy virgins of Belgium, the Blessed Julienne, Prioress of Mont Cornillon, Eve, the recluse by Liege, and Isabel of Huy. Stirred by a vision of the saints petitioning our Lord to establish such a festival in His Church, they consulted a devout Canon of Liége, John de Lausanne, who warmly approved of their design, and wrote the original Office of the Blessed Sacrament. This good priest furthermore laid the scheme before Urban in the days when he was simply Archdeacon of Saint Lambert in Liége, as well as before the Dominican Provincial, Hugh de Saint Cher, besides consulting with Guy de Laon, Bishop of Cambrai, and three Dominican theologians, John, Giles, and Gerard. Now that the Archdeacon was seated on the throne of the Fisherman, he acceded to the prayers of these devout souls, and commissioned "his own Doctor," as he termed him, to compose a new office for the festival of Corpus Christi. Approaching this work in the spirit of reverent criticism, one is forced to pronounce it a marvel of poetic vein, tenderest thought and sublime doctrine. Dipping his pen as it were into his very heart, he wrote as one inspired; where all is beautiful, one is particularly struck with its doctrinal accuracy. Thus, in the Antiphon for the Second Vespers, he sets forth admirably the fourfold purpose of the Eucharist.
O Sacred Banquet! whereinThe language of theology is didactic, but in the sequence, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem, he sings even while he defines, like some bell-mouthed Seraph strayed from heaven. With the year 1264 closes his Noon-tide of life. The morning star's lustre has given place to the light of the full noon.
(1) The Christ is received,
(2) The memory of His Passion recalled,
(3) The Soul is filled with grace, and
(4) A pledge of future glory given to us.
As a river of limpid knowledgeTen years had elapsed since the attack was made on the Mendicant Orders by William de Saint Amour, who was forced to retire apparently a broken man. Once more he returned to the fray with a more plausible work, which the Pope handed over to the Master General for Saint Thomas to confute. In 1268 appeared the Apology for the Religious Orders, entitled "Against those who would withdraw others from entering the Religious State". He wrote this Apology for a purpose, and he attained it: the purpose was to combat prejudice against youth seeking the state of perfection. Presently he added another treatise, "On the perfection of the Spiritual Life," to show wherein Christian perfection lies essentially, and by what means it may be attained.
He irrigates the entire Holy Church.
"Most tender Jesus, may Thy most sacred Body and Blood be my soul's sweetness and delight, health and holiness in every temptation, joy and peace in every sorrow, light and strength in every word and work, and my last safeguard in death."Saint Thomas was now held in universal esteem as an oracle sent of God: halls and churches were taxed to their utmost capacity to contain his eager auditory, and those listeners were no mere youths, but Doctors of the schools, Bishops and even Cardinals. He had such mastery over mind and senses that he dictated to four secretaries at the one time on widely different subjects, and was known to dictate still while fast asleep. Such is the testimony of two such secretaries, Reginald of Piperno and Hervey Brito. So capacious was his memory, that he never forgot what he had once read. One evening while dictating the treatise on the Holy Trinity, he held the candle so as to assist the scribe: soon he became so lost in sublime thought that he let the candle burn out in his fingers, without being conscious of the pain.
Quique sacerdotes casti, dum vita manebat.It gives union with God, and closeness, by bestowing fitness for contemplation. "Where there is cleanness there is understanding;" "What removes a hindrance is an indirect mover," as Saint Thomas constantly urges. Chastity lends fitness for contemplation by removing carnal desires, which so affect the mind's eye that even the truest see sin through a distorted lens. Lastly, it invites to the eternal nuptials. The closer anything approaches to its principle, the more perfect it becomes: but God, Who is our Principle, is a most Pure Spirit: therefore, Chastity leads up to perfection. But our last end is to be one of inseparable union with the all-clean God, as guests at the nuptials of the Lamb; therefore Chastity disposes for such union. The saint lived and died a perfect virgin in mind and body: his heroism in youth drew Angels down from heaven. "He who loves cleanness of heart, for the grace of his lips, shall have the King for a friend." (Proverbs 22:11)
-- AEneid, vi. 66i.
"Dearest and most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, overflowing with affection, Daughter of the Sovereign King, and Queen of the Angels: Mother of Him Who created all things, this day and all the days of my life I commend to the bosom of thy regard my soul and my body, all my actions, thoughts, wishes, desires, words, and deeds, my whole life, and my end: so that through thy prayers they may all be ordered according to the will of thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Lady most holy, be my helper and my comforter against the attacks and snares of the ancient foe, and of all my enemies."A few days before his death he told Father Reginald that Christ's dear Mother had appeared to him on several occasions, assuring him that his life and writings were pleasing to God, and that he would persevere in his state. Saint Vincent Ferrer and Saint Antoninus of Florence affirm that in his difficulties he used to turn to her as a child to a mother. Then she would stand visibly before him, and, turning with a smile to the Divine Babe in her arms, ask Him to bestow the enlightenment he sought.
"Before passing in, pay reverence to this statue, and to the chair from which Saint Thomas pronounced so many oracles to a countless throng of students, for the glory and happiness of his age".Every morning he said mass at an early hour in Saint Nicholas Chapel, after which he heard another; he made his thanksgiving still vested in alb and girdle, but when he served mass, he resumed the black cappa. At the moment of consecration he used his favourite ejaculation: "Tu Rex gloriae, Christe. Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius". His Vesper hour of life had come, and he welcomed it: during the year 1273 his raptures became more and more frequent; seldom he went out, except to deliver the daily lecture. Now that the Commentary on Boetius was finished, his philosophic labours were ended. His pre-occupying theme now was the Sacred Godhead. As revealed in prophecy, it is the gist of his exposition of Isaiah: as revealed in the Incarnation and Redemption, it is the burden of the "Summa" in its concluding part. One night his friend and secretary, Reginald, who occupied the cell next to his, heard him talking in a loud tone as if engaged in animated conversation, which was the more remarkable since it was being carried on in time of profound silence. After a while Thomas came to his cell and bade him to get up. "Light the lamp, and bring the manuscript which I have begun upon Isaiah:" for a long space of time he dictated rapidly, then told him to retire again to rest. Reginald then threw himself upon his knees, and besought him to tell with whom he had been conversing. Finally, in God's dear name and in the name of their friendship, he adjured him to speak. "Dear son," replied the saint, "for many days past you have witnessed my affliction of spirit. I had misgivings over a passage in the text I have been commenting upon, so that I besought God with tears to give me understanding. Now this very night God has had compassion upon me, sending me His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, who have brought me complete light. And now, in God's name, I command you to keep absolute silence as to this fact, during my lifetime." After the Commentary on Isaiah he wrote his Exposition of the first fifty-one Psalms. During the Lent of this year he preached every day in the Cathedral upon the words, "Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee," giving a summary of Mary's rare privileges. The Compline hour at home filled him with the deepest devotion: tears coursed freely during the singing of the Lenten anthem: "Cast us not off in the season of our old age, when our strength shall fail us: Lord God, do not forsake us". As he was praying in the choir, he saw before him the figure of Father Romanus, to whom he had relinquished his chair in Paris. "Welcome indeed, dear brother," said he; "but when did you arrive here?" "I have passed from life," said the dead friar, "but I am permitted to appear on your account." Saint Thomas was much overcome, but recovering self-possession, put these apt questions: "How do I stand with God, and are my works pleasing to Him?" "Thou art in a good state, and thy works are pleasing to God." "What then of thyself?" asked the holy Doctor. "I am in bliss," replied Romanus, "but have passed sixteen days in Purgatory." "Tell me then," cried Thomas, "how do the Blessed see God, and do our acquired habits abide with us in heaven?" "It is enough," answered Romanus, "if I tell you that I see God: ask me no more: 'As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of Hosts':" saying which he vanished. The Angelic Doctor at once gave voice to his conclusion: "therefore it is by specular vision that the Blessed see God".
Such his wisdom upon earth,The was his legacy to the Church.
Like to the Cherubim in lustre glowed.
. . . . . . . . . .
One of the lambs of that blest flock was I
Which Dominic so leads in righteous ways,
They thrive, unless they fall by vanity.
Adoro Te devote, latens deitas,He uttered this Divine song to the finish, and yielded up his soul in the early morning of 7 March, 1274.
quae sub his figuris vere latitas.
O Thoma, laus et gloria
Nos transfer ad caelestia
Professor sacri Numinis.