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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

The saint we are to honour to-day is one of the sublimest and most lucid interpreters of divine truth. He rose up in the Church many centuries after the apostolic age, nay, long after the four great Latin doctors, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. The Church, the ever young and joyful mother, is justly proud of her Thomas, and has honoured him with the splendid title of the angelical doctor, on account of the extraordinary gift of understanding wherewith God had blessed him; just as his contemporary and friend, St. Bonaventure, has been called the seraphic doctor, on account of the wonderful unction which abounds in the writings of this worthy disciple of St. Francis. Thomas of Aquin is an honour to mankind, for perhaps there never existed a man whose intellect surpassed his. He is one of the brightest ornaments of the Church, for not one of her doctors has equalled him in the clearness and precision wherewith he has explained her doctrines. He received the thanks of Christ Himself, for having well written of Him and His mysteries. How welcome ought this feast of such a saint to be to us during this season of the year, when our main study is our return and conversion to God! What greater blessing could we have than to come to the knowledge of God? Has not our ignorance of God, of His claims, and of His perfections, been the greatest misery of our past lives? Here we have a saint whose prayers are most efficacious in procuring for us that knowledge, which is unspotted, and converteth souls, and giveth wisdom to little ones, and gladdeneth the heart, and enlighteneth the eyes.[1] Happy we if this spiritual wisdom be granted us! We shall then see the vanity of everything that is not eternal, the righteousness of the divine commandments, the malice of Bin, and the infinite goodness wherewith God treats us when we repent.

Let us learn from the Church the claims of the angelical doctor to our admiration and confidence.

Præelarum Christiani orbis decus et Ecciesiæ lumen, beatissiinus vir Thomas, Landulpho Comite Aquinate et Theodora Neapolitana, nobilibus parcntibus natus, futuræ in Deiparam devotionis affectum adhuc infantulus ostendit. Nam chartulam ab eo inventam, in qua salutatio angelica scripta erat, frustra adnitente nutrice, compressa manu valide retinuit, et a matre per vim abreptam, ploratu et gestu repetiit, ac mox redditam deglutivit. Quintum annum agens, monacbis sancti Benedicti Cassinatibns custodiendus traditur. Inde Neapolim studiorum causa missus, jam adolesoens Fratrum Prædicatorum Ordinem suscepit. Sed matre ac fratribus id indigne ferentibus, Lutetiam Parisiorum mittitur. Quem fratres in itinere per vim raptum in arcem castri Sancii Joannis perducunt, ubi varie exagitatus,utsanctum propositum mutaret, mulierem etiam, quæ ad labefactandam ejus constantiam introducta fuerat, titione fugavit. Mox beatus juvenis, flexis genibus ante signum crucis orans, ibique somno eorreptus, per quietem sentire visus est sibi ab angelis constringi lumbos: quo ex tempore omni postea libidinis sensu caruit. Sororibus, quæ, ut eum a pio consilio removerent, in castrum venerant, persuasit ut, contemptis curia sæcularibus, ad exercitationem cœlestis vitæ se conferrent.

Emissus e castro per fenestram, Neapolim reducitur: unde Romam, postea Parisium a fratre Joanne Theutonico, Ordinis Prædicatorum generali magistro, ductus, Alberto Magno doctore, philosophiæ ac theologise operam dedit. Viginti quinque annos natus, magister est appellatus, publiceque philosophos ac theologos summa cura laude est interpretatus. Nunquam se lectioni aut scriptioni dedit, nisi post orationem. In difficultatibus locorum sacræ Scripturæ, ad orationem jejunium adhibebat. Quin etiam sodali suo fratri Reginaldo dicere solebat, quidquid sciret non tam studio aut labore suo peperisse, quam divinitus traditum accepisse. Neapoli, cum ad imaginem Crucifixi vehementius oraret, hanc vocem audivit: Bene scripsisti de me, Thoma: quam ergo mercedem accipies? Cui ille: Non aliara, Domine, nisi teipsum. Collationes patrum assidue pervolutabat; et nullum fuit scriptorum genus in quo non esset diligentissime versatus. Scripta ejus et multitudine, et varietate et facilitate explicandi res difficiles adeo excellunt, ut uberrima atque incorrupta illius doctrina, cum revelatis veritatibus mire consentiens, aptissima sit ad omnium temporum errores pervincendos.

A summo Pontifice Urbano quarto Roman vocatus, ejus jussu ecclesiasticum lucubravit Officium in Corporis Christi solemnitate celebrandum; oblatos vero honores, et Neapolitanum archiepiscopatum etiam deferente Clemente quarto recusavit. A prædicatione divini verbi non desistebat; quod cura faceret per octavam Paschæ in basilica sancti Petri, mulierem, quæ ejus fimbriam tetigerat, a fluxu sanguinis liberavit. Missus a beato Gregorio decimo ad Concilium Lugdunense, in monasterio Fossæ Novæ in morbum incidit, ubi segrotus Cantica canticorum explanavit. Ibidem obiit, quinquagenarius, anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo septuagesimo quarto, Nonis Martii. Miraculis etiam mortuus claruit; quibus probatis, a Joanne vigesimo secundo in sanctorum numerum relatus est, anno millesimo trecentesimo vigesimo tertio; translato postea ejus corpore Tolosam, ex mandato beati Urbani quinti. Cum sanctis angelicis spiritibus non minus innocentia quam ingenio comparatus, doctoris angelici nomen jure est adeptus, eidem auctoritate sancti Pii quinti confirmatum. Leo autem decimus tertius, libentissime excipiens postulationes et vota omnium pene sacrorum antistitum orbis Catholici, ad tot præcipue philosophicorum systematum a veritate aberrantium luera propulsandam, ad incrementa scientiarum, et communem humani generis utilitatem, eum ex sacrorum rituum Congregationis consulto, per apostolicas litteras cœlestem patronum scholarum omnium Catholicarum declaravit et instituit.
The distinguished ornament of the Christian world and light of the Church, the most blessed man Thomas, was born of noble parents, his father being Landulph, Count of Aquino, and his mother a rich Neapolitan lady, by name Theodora. While yet an infant he gave proof of his future devotion towards the Mother of God; for having found a leaflet on which was written the angelical salutation, he clenched it so fast that the nurse tried in vain to take it from his hand. His mother, however, having forced it from him, the child succeeded by tears and signs, in recovering the paper, which he immediately swallowed. When he was five years old he was sent to Monte Cassino, that he might receive from the Benedictine monks his first training. Thence he was sent to Naples, where he went through a course of studies, and, young as he was, joined the Order of Friars Preachers. This step caused great displeasure to his mother and brothers, and it was therefore deemed advisable to send him to Paris, He was waylaid by his brothers, who seized him, and imprisoned him in the castle of Saint John. After having made several unsuccessful attempts to induce him to abandon the holy life he had chosen, they assailed his purity, by sending to him a wicked woman: but he drove her from his chamber with a firebrand. The young saint then threw himself on his knees before a crucifix. Having prayed some time, he fell asleep, and it seemed to him that two angels approached him, and tightly girded his loins. From that time forward, he never suffered the slightest feeling against purity. His sisters also had come to the castle, and tried to make him change his mind; but he, on the contrary, persuaded them to despise the world, and devote themselves to the exercise of a holy life.

It was contrived that he should escape through a window of the castle, and return to Naples. He was thence taken by John the Teutonic, the General of the Dominican Order, first to Rome and then to Paris, in which latter city ho was taught philosophy and theology by Albert the Great. At the age of twenty-five, he received the title of doctor, and explained in the public schools, and in a manner that made him the object of universal admiration, the writings of philosophers and theologians. He always applied himself to prayer, before reading or writing anything. When he met with any difficult passage in the sacred Scriptures, he both fasted and prayed. He used often to say to his companion, brother Reginald, that if he knew anything, it was more a gift from God, than the fruit of his own study and labour. One day, when at Naples, as he was praying with more than his usual fervour, before a crucifix, he heard these words: ‘Well hast thou written of me, Thomas! What reward wouldst thou have me give thee?’ He answered ‘None other, Lord, than thyself.’ His favourite spiritual book was the Conferences of the Fathers, and there was not a book which he had not most carefully read. His writings are so extraordinary, not only for their number and variety, but also for their clearness in explaining difficult points of doctrine, that his copious and sound teaching, so wonderfully consonant with revealed truth, is most apt for utterly refuting the errors of all ages.

Being called to Rome by Pope Urban IV., he composed, at his command, the ecclesiastical Office for the solemnity of Corpus Christi; but he refused to accept any honours, as likewise the archbishopric of Naples offered to him by Pope Clement IV. He was most zealous in preaching the word of God. On one occasion, during Easter week, as he was preaching in the church of St. Peter, a woman touched the hem of his habit, and was cured of an issue of blood. He was sent by Gregory X. to the Council of Lyons; but having reached Fossa Nova, he fell sick, and was received as a guest in the monastery of that place, where he wrote a commentary on the Canticle of Canticles. There he died in the fiftieth year of his age, in the year of our Lord 1274 on the Nones of March (March 7). His sanctity was made manifest after his death, by miracles: which being proved, he was canonized by Pope John XXII. in the year 1323. His body was translated to Toulouse by command of blessed Urban V. Being comparable to the angels, no less by his innocence than by his genius, he has received the title of angelical doctor, confirmed to him by the authority of St. Pius V. Pope Leo XIII. joyfully acceding to the desires and petitions of the bishops of the Catholic world, by a decree of the sacred Congregation of rites and by letters apostolic, ordained and declared him the heavenly patron of all Catholic schools; and this especially for the purpose of repelling the evil of so many philosophical systems abandoned to error, for the increase of knowledge, and for the common utility of mankind.

The Dominican Order, of which St. Thomas is one of the greatest ornaments, has inserted the three following hymns in its liturgy of his feast:

Hymn

Exsultet mentis jubilo
Laudans turba fidelium,
Errorum pulso nubilo
Per novi solis radium.

Thomas in mundi vespere,
Fudit thesauros gratiæ:
Donis pienus ex æthere
Morum et sapientiæ.

De cujus fonte luminis,
Verbi coruscant faculæ,
Scripturæ sacræ Numinis,
Et veritatis regulæ.

Fulgens doctrinæ radiis,
Clarus vitæ munditia,
Splendens miris prodigiis,
Dat toti mundo gaudia.

Laus Patri sit, ac Genito
Simulque sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito
Nos cœli jungat agmini.

Amen.
Let the assembly of the faithful exult in spiritual joy,
and give praise to God,
who has made a new sun to shine in our world,
and disperse the clouds of error.

It was in the evening of the world
that Thomas shed his treasures of heavenly light.
Heaven had enriched him
with gifts of virtue and wisdom:

From this fountain of light
we have derived a brighter knowledge of the Word,
the understanding of the divine Scriptures
and the rules of truth.

The effulgent rays of his wisdom,
the light of his spotless life,
and the splendour of his miracles,
have filled the universe with joy.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost.
And may our God, by the intercession and merits of his saint,
admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven.

Amen.

Hymn

Thomas insignis genere,
Claram ducens originem,
Subit ætatis teneræ
Prædicatorum Ordinem.

Typum gessit luciferi,
Splendens in cœtu nubium,
Plusquam doctores cæteri
Purgans dogma Gentilium.

Profunda scrutans fluminum,
In lucem pandit abdita,
Dum supra sensus hominum
Obscura facit cognita.

Fit paradisi fluvius,
Quadripartite pervius;
Fit Gedeonis gladius,
Tuba, lagena, radius.

Laus Patri sit, ac Genito
Simulque sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito,
Nos cœli jungat agmini.

Amen.
Noble by birth and parentage,
Thomas, while in the bloom
of youth, embraced
the Order of Preachers.

Like to the star of morn,
brightly does he shine amidst the luminaries of earth,
and, more than any doctor of the Church,
refutes the doctrines of the Gentiles.

He explores the depth of mysteries,
and brings to light the hidden gems of truth,
for he teaches us what the mind of man
had else never understood.

God gives him to the Church as a fountain of wisdom,
like to that four-branched river of paradise.
He made him to be her Gedeon’s sword,
her trumpet, her vase, her torch.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost.
And may our God, by the intercession and merits of his saint,
admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven.

Amen.

Hymn

Lauda, mater Ecclesia,
Thomæ felicem exitum,
Qui pervenit ad gaudia
Per Verbi vitæ meritum.

Fossa Nova tunc suscipit
Thecam thesauri gratiæ,
Cum Christus Thomam efficit
Hæredem regni gloriæ.

Manens doctrinæ veritas,
Et funeris integritas,
Mira fragrans suavitas,
Ægris collata sanitas.

Monstrat hunc dignum laudibus
Terræ, ponto, et superis;
Nos juvet suis precibus,
Deo commendet meritis.

Laus Patri sit ac Genito,
Simulque sancto Flamini,
Qui sancti Thomæ merito
Nos cœli jungat agmini.

Amen.
Dear Church, our mother!
the happy death of thy Thomas deserves a hymn of praise.
By the merits of him that is the Word of life,
he is now in endless joy.

It was at Fossa Nova that the rich treasury
of grace was welcomed as a guest.
It was there that he received from Christ
the inheritance of eternal glory.

He has left us the fruits of truth;
he has loft us his glorious relics
which breathe forth a heavenly fragrance,
and work cures for the suffering sick.

Right well, then, is honour his due:
earth, and sea, and heaven, all may give him praise.
May his prayers and merits
intercede for us with God.

Praise, then, be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost.
And may our God, by the intercession and merits of his saint,
admit us into the choir of the blessed in heaven.

Amen.

How shall we worthily praise thee, most holy Doctor! How shall we thank thee for what thou hast taught us? The rays of the divine Sun of justice beamed strongly upon thee, and thou hast reflected them upon us. When we picture thee contemplating truth, we think of those words of our Lord: 'Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.’[2] Thy victory over the concupiscence of the flesh merited for thee the highest spiritual delights; and our Redeemer chose thee, because of the purity of thy angelic soul, to compose for His Church the Office whereby she should celebrate the divine Sacrament of His love. Learning did not impair thy humility. Prayer was ever thy guide in thy search after truth; and there was but one reward for which, after all thy labours, thou wast ambitious, the possession of God.

Thy life, alas! was short. The very masterpiece of thy angelical writings was left unfinished. But thou hast not lost thy power of working for the Church. Aid her in her combats against error. She holds thy teachings in the highest estimation, because she feels that none of her saints has ever known so well as thou, the secrets and mysteries of her divine Spouse. Now, perhaps more than in any other age, truths are decayed among the children of men;[3] strengthen us in our faith, procure us light. Check the conceit of those shallow self-constituted philosophers, who dare to sit in judgment on the actions and decisions of the Church, and to force their contemptible theories upon a generation that is too ill-instructed to detect their fallacies. The atmosphere around us is gloomy with ignorance; loose principles, and truths spoilt by cowardly compromise, are the fashion of our times; pray for us; bring us back to that bold and simple acceptance of truth, which gives life to the intellect and joy to the heart.

Pray, too, for the grand Order which loves thee so devoutly, and honours thee as one of the most illustrious of its many glorious children. Draw down upon the family of thy patriarch St. Dominic the choicest blessings, for it is one of the most powerful auxiliaries of God’s Church.

We are on the eve of the holy season of Lent, preparing for the great work of earnest conversion of our lives. Thy prayers must gain for us the knowledge both of the God we have offended by our sins, and of the wretched state of a soul that is at enmity with its Maker. Knowing this, we shall hate our sins; we shall desire to purify our souls in the Blood of the spotless Lamb; we shall generously atone for our faults by works of penance

 


[1] Ps. xviii. 8, 9.
[2] St. Matt. v. 8.
[3] Ps. xi. 2.