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St. Thomas Aquinas Essay, Research Paper
I chose to write about Saint Thomas Aquinas because I have heard of his life and found it
interesting. There was also a large pool of knowledge to research from, about Saint
Thomas Aquinas. I also knew he is called Doctor of the church and I wanted to learn
more about that.
I was interested in Saint Thomas Aquinas because he was misunderstood
by his peers and was also called “the Dumb Ox”. I wanted to understand how someone
can be so misunderstood stood and be a brilliant philosopher. After reading about him I
realize he was truly a humble being who did not need to prove himself to anyone. His
love of God came first in his life. He was able to overcome the obstacles in his life and
pursue his dream of learning about God and the truth. Finding the truth in all things is
what made Thomas a great saint. Faith and truth were always his main thought.
Before I did the research I didn’t know what to anticipate, I learned that
Thomas Aquinas was a saint, philosopher, theologian, doctor of the church, and a patron
of catholic universities. Many religious orders study and follow the teachings and
followings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. In this paper I have uncovered the true life of Saint
Thomas Aquinas and his methods of Theology. He strongly emphasized his belief of
theology through revolation. By looking further into his teachings, I have become more
familiar and feel closer to my own personal faith.
Saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the most famous saints of the Catholic
Church. He is called a ‘Doctor of the Church.’ He was a theologian, and philosopher. A
theologian is someone who spends their life thinking about Jesus’ life. They figure out
things about God and the Catholic faith through prayer and study. Theologians help
everyone learn about God.
Saint Thomas’ love of God and learning wasn’t always respected. His
parents sent him to a monastery when he was five years old to study and learn. His
teachers were surprised by how quickly he learned and his great faith. But when Thomas
announced that he wanted to become a Dominican, his family tried to stop him. His
brothers captured him and locked him up in a castle. His mother, sister and brothers kept
him there for two years.
Finally, they changed their minds, and at last Thomas was allowed to join
the Dominicans. Even there though, he still had some trouble. Thomas was a very big
man with a kind and humble manner. Because he didn’t talk very much, everyone thought
he was stupid. They called him ‘the ox.’ But when they heard him preach everyone
realized how wise and pious he really was. After he became a priest, Thomas studied in
Paris and then taught at universities in many cities of Europe. He wrote more than 40
books and several beautiful hymns. All of his work praises God and has helped many
people understand their faith better.
At the end of his life, Saint Thomas stopped writing. He had a vision of
Heaven and decided that compared to the great glory of God, his writing was ‘like straw.’
Three months later, on his way to see the Pope, he died. He is now in Heaven, and after a
lifetime of studying and writing about God, he is in the presence of God.
He was born in Italy in 1225, the son of a count. When he was five years
old, his parents send him to study with the Benedictines of Monte Casino. There, and
later at the university of Naples, he was taught the ‘liberal arts’ – the Trivium; grammar,
logic and rhetoric, and the Quadrium; music, mathematics, geometry and astronomy.
This was a complete education in those times. His teachers were surprised by his
intelligence. He especially excelled in learning as well as practicing the virtues.
When he was 19 years old, and old enough to decide how to spend his life,
he announced that he wanted to become a Dominican friar. His family, who by some
accounts wanted him to become a Benedictine, protested violently. His mother instructed
his brothers to capture Thomas and lock him up in a castle.
They kept him there for nearly two years, trying one thing after another to change his
mind. They even send a woman of bad reputation into his room, but Thomas chased her
out with a piece of burning wood from the fire. After this event, he prayed to God, asking
for purity of mind and body. Two angels appeared to him in a dream, to assure him that
his prayers had been answered and that God was giving him the gift of perfect chastity.
From this, he earned the title ‘Angelic Doctor.’
He spent his imprisonment reading and in prayer, so when his family
finally relented and Thomas joined his Dominican brothers, his superior exclaimed that
‘He had made as much progress as if he had been in a studium generale’. After he made
his vows, and was closely questioned by the Pope about his motives for joining the
Dominicans, he was sent to study under a renowned professor of the Dominican order. In
the school, Thomas’ size, humility and reluctance to speak were misinterpreted as
dullness. He was given the nickname ‘The Ox.’ But when his teachers and fellow students
heard him speak on a difficult topic, they realized what a mistake they had made.
Soon, Saint Thomas was teaching where before he had studied. He was in
great demand as a teacher and speaker, frequently called to confer with the king of
France and the Pope. The rest of his life was spent praying, preaching, teaching, writing,
and journeying. Saint Thomas wrote many theological and philosophical books, as well
as composing several beautiful hymns. His most famous work, the Summa Theologica,
was never finished. During a Mass on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, the saint had a
mystical experience, one that convinced him that ‘All that I have written seems to me like
straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.’
Thomas began to prepare for death. But when he was summoned to the
Council of Lyons by Pope Gregory X, he set out. He collapsed on the way and was taken
to the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova, where he lay in his final illness for a month.
When the end was near and extreme unction administered, Saint Thomas
pronounced this 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 labored. 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
He died on 7 March, 1274, and numerous miracles proved his sanctity. He
was canonized in 1323. After some discussion between the monks of the house where he
died and those of his Order, his remains were transferred to the Dominican church in
Toulouse. The shrine built over the spot was destroyed during the French revolution and
his body was then moved to the Church of Saint Semin where it is today. A bone of his
left arm is preserved in the cathedral of Naples and a bone of his right arm in Rome.
The Nature and Method of the Theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas
in his theology, St. Thomas Aquinas synthesizes various principles that characterize the
various intellectual traditions which he appropriated. St. Thomas’ theology is based
fundamentally on the authority of revelation, yet understood according to the
philosophical principle of instrumental causality. Theology begins with the truth of
Sacred Doctrine, the truth of God’s knowledge of Himself and of humans’ as being
ordered to Him as to an end. Since God alone can impart His knowledge of Himself, the
act of revelation by which it is given, and the act of faith, by which it is received, are
fundamentally God’s actions. Yet this knowledge is imparted to humans, by humans and
for humans. And since it is a principle of Thomistic thought that “whatever is received is
received according to the mode of the receiver,” revelation is also a human act
conditioned by the human. The truth of Faith is transmitted through Sacred Doctrine and
is the human participation in divine science, i.e. the knowledge which God and the
blessed share in heaven. Theology, insofar as it is distinct from Sacred Doctrine, is a
human science of the divine. However, both start first with God and then proceeds
according to the human. Theology in fact differs from Sacred Doctrine only to the extent
that in theology the truth of faith is explicated through the more conspicuous use of
rational arguments. In fact, theology, when properly done, will merely present all of, and
only, the truth of Sacred Doctrine in another form. This is possible because of Thomas’
conviction that reason of itself can attain truth. The human, by employing faith and
reason together, can attain the truth about divine things since both are legitimate means
of attaining truth.
These principles by which St. Thomas understands the structure of
theology are an application of principles learned from Aristotle and Plato and applied to
the reality of Christian revelation. At the core of his theological synthesis is what is
fundamentally a philosophical doctrine, i.e. the real distinction between essence and esse.
Since in all of creation a thing’s esse is limited by its essence, the only way to account for
it existing at all is through unlimited esse causing it, and this we call God. By his
metaphysics of esse, Thomas combines God’s causality of creation with creation’s
participation in the divine. The combination of these two traditions allows him to justify
true rational knowledge of God through analogy. Creation is, by analogy, like God since
He created it. And in receiving being from God, it imitates and emanates from Him and
tends toward Him who is perfect Being by tending toward the perfection and
continuation of its own being.
This last principle of emanation and return provides St. Thomas with the
structure of his Summa Theologiae. The Summa is organized in three parts: the First Part
deals with God and his creative activity; Second Part treats of human actions, along with
their virtues, by which God is united to human beings in the communion of knowledge
and love; finally, Christ and his Church are treated in the Third Part as the particular and
historical means, necessitated by the Fall of Adam and Eve.
In Christ, an effect of God is united or returned to Himself in a manner
that extends beyond participated existence, or rational communion. In Christ, God is
united to creation and humanity in God’s own personal existence. Thus, the Second
Person of the Trinity is efficient cause of the humanity of Christ, God acting in a
temporal way. As being united personally to God, Christ’s humanity is the perfection of
human communion and its final cause. And as the perfect human , Christ is humanity’s
Although St. Thomas lived less than fifty years, he composed more than
sixty works, some of them brief, some very lengthy. This does not necessarily mean that
every word in the authentic works was written by his hand; he was assisted by secretaries,
and biographers assure us that he could dictate to several scribes at the same time.
It is not possible to characterize the method of St. Thomas by one word,
unless it can be called eclectic. He chose the best that could he found in those who
preceded him, approving what was true, rejecting the false. His powers of synthesis were
extraordinary. No writer surpassed him in the faculty of expressing in a few well-chosen
words the truth gathered from a multitude of varying and conflicting opinions; and in
almost every instance the student sees, the truth and is perfectly satisfied with St.
Thomas’s summary and statement. Not that he would have students swear by the words of
a master. In philosophy, he says, arguments from authority are of secondary importance;
philosophy does not consist in knowing what men have said, but in knowing the truth
In the Church. the esteem in which he was held during his life has not
been diminished, but rather increased, in the course of the six centuries that have elapsed
since his death. It is known that nearly all the founders and framers of laws of religious
orders commanded their societies to study and religiously adhere to the teachings of St.
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