28 Jan – Memorial for St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church
Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was the son of the Count of Aquino. He was born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. He was educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.
He studied in Paris, France, from 1245-1248 under St. Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. He was ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. He taught theology at the University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught at several Italian cities. He was recalled by the king and the University of Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.
On 6 December 1273, he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writings were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.
His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized Her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.
- Patron Saint Index
Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.
It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.
All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.
It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’
And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
longing for a better homeland
Today, we still see news of asylum seekers trying to find a home, away from all their previous settlements due to war or political instability. They always look forward to a place where they can settle in peace and begin some sort of family life where they do not have to worry about just trying to stay alive each day. For them, there is nothing much to look back to, but seeking salvation in a country where they can start anew, with lots of hope ahead for them.
Someone of my background can never understand the hardships that they are going through, the faith that they have in them keeps them going forward. As with today’s reading, the Lord promises and delivers what is deserved over time. The unwavering faith in Abraham sets a good example of obedience and hope for everyone. We can always look around us and be sensitive to the needs of others, together with the works of the Holy Spirit in us; let us show unto others what faithfulness in God is about.
Despite all the hardships and difficulties that we are experiencing, we can rely on trusting God in calming the nerves. I think it is only very natural for us to feel jittery, anxious all the time and being so frightful of uncertainties ahead of us. Perhaps there is something for us to learn from those tough asylum seekers, that they do not look back but embrace what is ahead, where hope is, where home is, where the Lord is.
(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for those who are seeking home, who are trying to keep their family together due to violence or hatred, that being forgiving and loving is what Christ has promised us.
Thanksgiving: We truly give many thanks for peaceful surroundings, that we feel protected and encouraged to pass that peace onto others.