Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church
(II Samuel6:12b-15.17-19; Mark 3:31-35)
St. Thomas Aquinas is recognized as one of the three or four greatest minds in history. It is said that he knew about everything that there was to know at the time when he lived. But it was not so much the breadth of his knowledge that makes Thomas so prodigious as its depth. He saw relationships among things that gave him a complete grasp of the whole.
Because Thomas had such a tremendous mind, some may think that he was canonized for his intelligence. It may seem understandable, if somewhat misleading, that the Church would declare him a saint because he was able to fold all the strands of Scripture and theology into a coherent doctrine. But his holiness was as serene as his intellect. He never taught or preached without first praying at length. Three characteristics stand out in Thomas’ prayer. First, as just indicated, Thomas linked prayer with study. Second, he was so devoted to the Eucharist that he attended mass twice a day. And finally, he either prayed before a crucifix or before the altar, the liturgical symbol for Christ.
Thomas offers all of us, not just theologians, a model to be imitated. We may not be able to write three coherent sentences or even to write at all. But we can and should pray to God that what we say about Him to others makes sense. We may not be able to even pronounce the word “transubstantiation,” which Thomas clarified. But we can and should receive Holy Communion knowing that it is the body and blood of Christ. We may not be able to explain how Christ’s death has justified humans in their sinfulness as Thomas did. But we can and should look at the crucifix with a word of thanksgiving on our lips.