Saint Thomas Aquinas – The Angelic Doctor

In his book, Saint Thomas Aquinas – “The Dumb Ox”, G.K. Chesterton says the following about great scholastic saint,

“When he was not sitting still, reading a book, he walked around and round the cloisters and walked fast and even furiously, a very characteristic action of men who fight their battles in the mind. Whenever he was interrupted, he was very polite and more apologetic than the apologizer. But there was that about him, which suggested that he was rather happier when he was not interrupted. He was ready to stop his truly Peripatetic tramp: but we feel that when he resumed it, he walked all the faster.”

Today, January 28, is the feast day of one of the greatest minds and theologians the Catholic Church has in her arsenal, as you probably have guessed – it’s Saint Thomas Aquinas. Born into a family of nobility descending from the Lombard’s, his father was a knight and his mother was of Norman descent. He was born around the year 1225 in the quaint town of Aquino, in the castle of Rocca Secca.

At the age of five years old, he was sent to the abbey of Monte Cassino, since one of his kinsmen was abbot at the time. From the age of five to thirteen, he lived and studied in the monastery. Because of the turmoil occurring in the state at the time, he was sent off to the University of Naples where he studied the arts and sciences. While studying in Naples, he was introduced to a new mendicant order and received the habit of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) at the age of nineteen years old.

The news of Thomas’ decision to join the rag tag group of Dominican friars quickly reached his home. To say that is family was upset would be an understatement. They were not upset that he chose religious life, but they were hoping that he would choose the Benedictines and then be appointed to Monte Cassino. Out of all the family members, his mother, Theodora, was the most upset and traveled to Naples to speak to her son about his decision. Catching word that she was in transit, the Dominicans in haste sent Thomas first to Rome and then to Bologna. Not to be out done by the friars, Theodora sent word to Thomas’ older brothers to capture him and return him home. His brothers were serving in the emperor’s army near Tuscany.

As Thomas rested, off the side of the road at Aquapendente near Siena, his brothers seized him. They first tried to forcibly remove the Dominican habit, however, after an unsuccessful attempt captured him and brought him home. For two years, with only his very worldly sister able to visit him, his family kept him in a cell in the castle of Monte San Giovanni. During his time in isolation, Thomas studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard, memorized large quantities of the Holy Scriptures, and even was said to have written a treatise on the fallacies of Aristotle.

In 1245, after coming to the conclusion that Thomas was not going to break his vows to the Dominicans, and the failed the attempt to entice him into a sexual encounter with a prostitute, his family, specifically his brothers, released him and allowed him to return to the order. The Dominicans decided to send him to St. Albert the Great, where he finished his studies in Cologne. The city of Cologne was hustling with universities filled with young clerics from all over Europe striving to make their mark on the life of the Church.

As a young cleric, he was very humble, silent, and was thought to lack real intelligence. Many of his classmates and professors didn’t appreciate his quiet demeanor and referred to him as the “the dumb Sicilian Ox” because of his silence in debates and rather large size. These years in Cologne were not easy for Thomas.

St. Thomas Aquinas

At the request of St. Albert the Great and Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher, Thomas was sent to teach at the University of Paris. It was in Paris where Thomas truly began to evolve into the great scholastic of the Church. His work at the university included: the development and commentary on the Holy Scriptures, specifically the Book of Isaiah and the Gospel of St. Matthew, he worked on the Liber sententiarum of Peter Lombard, and he wrote more commentaries on the Sentences.

After four years of work in Paris, he was awarded his lecture as master and then his doctor’s chair at the age of thirty-one. It was also at the end of this time where he began one of his great works, Summa contra Gentiles, a work that he was inspired to write by fellow Dominican, St. Raymund of Peñafort.

From 1259 to 1268, he spent most of his time in Italy where he served in a variety of roles as a preacher and instructor, but most importantly working for the Papal Court. During the papacy of Urban IV, who instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in 1264, St. Thomas Aquinas was asked by the Pope to write the liturgy for the solemnity. Around the year 1266, Thomas began what would become his greatest work of all, the Summa Theologica.

Three years later, in 1269, Thomas would again find himself back in Paris. Because of his great influence, St. King Louis IX often asked him his opinions when it came to matters of the state. At the University of Paris, he was also asked to answer the question on whether or not the accidents of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament remained really or only in appearance. After deep prayer, St. Thomas wrote a treatise and placed it on the altar before choosing to make it public. The university accepted his answer, and soon after, the Universal Church did as well.

In 1272, Thomas was recalled to Naples and was given the position of regent at a house of study. In 1273, on the feast of St. Nicholas, St. Thomas Aquinas received a revelation. It had such an impact on him that he chose not to finish the Summa Theologica. He said, “The end of my labors is come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.”

As he was traveling to participate in the Second General Council of Lyons, by request of Pope Gregory X, for the uniting of the Latin and Greek churches, where he was to present his treatise – Against the Errors of the Greeks, he became even more ill than he was already. He was taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossa Nuova near Terracina. He was given the abbot’s room and was cared for by the monks. As he was explaining the Canticle of Canticles to them, he died.

On March 7, 1274, at the age of only fifty years old, St. Thomas Aquinas entered Heavenly Glory. In 1323, Pope John XXII canonized him a saint of the Universal Church. Pope St. Pius V gave him the title, Doctor of the Church. In 1880, Pope Leo XIII declared him patron of universities, colleges, and schools. He is known as the Angelic Doctor because of his perfect chastity.

Saint Thomas Aquinas…Pray for Us.

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II, the Virgin Mary, and the Lay Faithful

Over the weekend, specifically on Saturday morning, I kicked off our Saturday Morning Speaker Series at the parish I work at with the talk – “You Too Go Into My Vineyard: St. John Paul II and the Role of the Laity.” Focusing on the practical side of the laity’s role in the Church, I tried to demonstrate for our parishioners the importance they play, we who are not bound by the vocation of Holy Orders and Religious Life, in the life of the Church as individuals but also how we together work in communion for the Church. As laborers in the vineyard, it is our role to work and produce fruit for Jesus Christ while bringing the gospel message to the world.

Although I provided many great quotes from Pope St. John Paul II’s document, Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People), for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I give you the prayer at the end of the document in which the Holy Father invokes the intercession of all the lay faithful and the work of the Synod to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the Synod took place in October of 1987, it was the Marian Year in the Catholic Church.

O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church…

With joy and wonder we seek to make our own your Magnificat, joining you in your hymn of thankfulness and love. With you we give thanks to God, “whose mercy is from generation to generation”, for the exalted vocation and the many forms of mission entrusted to the lay faithful.

God has called each of them by name to live his own communion of love and holiness and to be one in the great family of God’s children. He has sent them forth to shine with the light of Christ and to communicate the fire of the Spirit in every part of society through their life inspired by the gospel.

Our Lady - Berlinghiero Berlinghieri

O Virgin of the Magnificat, fill their hearts with a gratitude and enthusiasm for this vocation and mission. With humility and magnanimity you were the “handmaid of the Lord”; give us your unreserved willingness for service to God and the salvation of the world. Open our hearts to the great anticipation of the Kingdom of God and of the proclamation of the Gospel to the whole of creation. Your mother’s heart is ever mindful of the many dangers and evils which threaten to overpower men and women in our time.

At the same time your heart also takes notice of the many initiatives undertaken for good, the great yearning for values, and the progress achieved in bringing forth the abundant fruits of salvation.

O Virgin full of courage, may your spiritual strength and trust in God inspire us, so that we might know how to overcome all the obstacles that we encounter in accomplishing our mission. Teach us to treat the affairs of the world with a real sense of Christian responsibility and a joyful hope of the coming of God’s Kingdom, and of a “new heaven and a new earth”.

You who were gathered in prayer with the Apostles in the Cenacle, awaiting the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, implore his renewed outpouring on all the faithful, men and women alike, so that they might more fully respond to their vocation and mission, as branches engrafted to the true vine, called to bear much fruit for the life of the world.

O Virgin Mother, guide and sustain us so that we might always live as true sons and daughters of the Church of your Son. Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth the civilization of truth and love, as God wills it, for his glory.

 Amen.

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Abortion (and the March for Life)

Today in Washington, D.C. thousands upon thousands will be standing up to fight for life and humanity as we commemorate the 42nd Anniversary of the tragic Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade. The thousands of witnesses to the sacredness of human life won’t be marching with instruments of war, but protesting peacefully in prayer, song, and at times, in complete silence.

As one who has been blessed to attend the March for Life in the past, it is one of the magnificent displays of the human experience one can see, but of course we won’t hear about it in the media since those who “report” the news are fearful to show you what so many Americans know to be true – that human life is precious and should be protected at all costs.

Human embryo

There isn’t more to say on this topic since I have said it before in other blog posts (see the link above from 2014), but know this, the decision by the highest court in this land in 1972 has caused more grief, pain, anger, isolation, and depression for countless men and women than probably any other Supreme Court decision had before or since this dreadful day. Other than the scourge known as the Nazi Holocaust, this is the most barbaric practice the world has seen in recent memory.

Knowing that there will be a prolific number of Catholics at the March for Life today in our nation’s capitol, I found it fitting to quickly share with you what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on the atrocity known as Abortion –

From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a “criminal” practice (GS 27, § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life. [#2322]

Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being. [#2323]

For a complete understanding of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Abortion, please also read paragraphs 2270-2275.

Please feel free to share this blog post on your social media sites so that others may learn what the Church’s teaching is on Abortion.

To follow along with March for Life 2015, check out their website here.

However you commemorate this day, remember to pray for the End to Abortion, pray for the safety of the thousands walking the streets of Washington, D.C, and pray that those who see abortion as “healthcare” may have the blinders that cover their eyes, and their hearts, removed so that they will someday come to know the beauty and sacredness of human life.

Happy Birthday, Bishop Olmsted!

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

I would like to personally wish the Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, Thomas J. Olmsted, a very happy and blessed Birthday. We are beyond grateful and blessed to have you as our Shepherd in the Diocese of Phoenix. Your leadership inspires many and your desire to unite yourself with Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church brings others closer to Our Lord and Savior each day. You are truest example of the Christian and pro-life warrior. Thank you for your unconditional prayers and love you show each and everyone of us in the diocese.

May Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Blessed Mother, and all the Angels and Saints be with you on this day of your birth.

For more information on Bishop Olmsted, I would encourage you to check out his page on the Diocese of Phoenix website. Check out the Catholic Sun’s page for Bishop’s views and other writings.

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Solitude

Over this past weekend, I spent three days in prayer, reflection, healing, and solitude at a Redemptorist retreat center north of Tucson, Arizona. After enduring some rather difficult weeks, it was advised that I should make a silent retreat. Although I was in solitude it wasn’t completely silent since there were other retreats happening at the same time I was there. However, the days away did help and provided me with some good prayer time and insight for the days and weeks ahead.

As I was there, one of the buildings that houses those on retreat is named – Our Lady of Solitude. Well you know where this is going. After doing some light research, I found this title and some of the traditions behind it. So for today’s “Mondays with Mary”, we are going to discuss quickly this title for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in some countries that speak Spanish is known as Nuestra Senora de la Soledad or Our Lady of Solitude. The devotion to Our Lady under this title was developed as she lay in wait beginning on Good Friday, continuing to Holy Saturday till the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the tradition of this title began with processions honoring the regions patroness – La Virgen de Soledad or the Virgin of the Lonely, the last Sunday before Christmas. According to tradition, as a mule driver was leading his pack of burros in one of the processions, he realized he an extra mule with him who was carrying a heavy box. When the box was opened, the organizers of the procession found inside an image of the Blessed Virgin of Solitude. Because of the weight of the box, the mule died on that spot. In honor of Our Lady of Solitude, a church was built on the site. It dates back to 1692.

Our Lady of Solitude

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, Cavite City

In the Philippines, in three different cities around the country, sits the icons of Our Lady of Solitude. Since Our Lady of Solitude is in mourning for the death of her Son, the icons depict Mary as wearing the traditional color of mourning, which is black. She is also kneeling before the tools of death that killed Jesus – the scourge, nails, hammer, rope, crown of thorns, spear, and the INRI sign placed above the head on the cross. There are angels on both sides of the icon separating the curtains to show Our Lady as the sorrowful Mother.

Along with these traditions, there are others out there as well.

Let us always keep in mind the grieving pain that Our Lady endured as she waited the three days for Jesus’ Resurrection. We must always remember, and it is difficult to remember, since nobody likes to suffer, that there is no Resurrection without the Cross. Even in our darkest nights, with Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother with us, there is always a glimmer of light that is ready to appear on the horizon before us. Go to them and they will bring you peace.

Our Lady of Solitude…Pray For Us.

Sources:

The Marian Messenger Website – Philippines

University of Dayton Marian Website – Questions on Mary.

Silent Retreat This Weekend – Please Pray for Me

Please pray for me this weekend as I am about to attend a 3 day Silent Retreat. It’s the first time going on silent retreat for me, although I have had chances in the past, but because of fear, I chose not to go. After enduring a rather difficult and gut wrenching last few days of 2014 and enduring the same pain over the past couple of weeks of 2015, I feel it’s time to take some time with Jesus alone in solitude on this retreat. My spiritual fathers (Catholic priests) think this will assist me in the healing process that I need right now.

So again, I ask, please keep me in your prayers this weekend. I hope to come off this retreat re-engergized and ready to continue my work at the parish and on this blog for Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church.

Also, I want to say thank you to my blog followers, Facebook followers, and Twitter followers. Without you, this little blog on the Catholic faith would not be as far reaching and successful as it as been.

 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Marian Thought of St. Hilary of Poitiers

Since tomorrow is the feast day of St. Hilary of Poitiers – The Athanasius of the West, I found it fitting to explain his Marian Thought as well as to provide you with an excerpt of his writings of his work, De Trinitate, on ‘Mary in the Economy of Salvation.’ For more on his life and other Doctors of the Church, I encourage you to read my series on them here.

Like most of the Early Church Fathers, St. Hilary had a great devotion and theological understanding to the Blessed Virgin Mary. For Hilary, the reason he sees Mary as the great Mother of Our Lord and the most dominant religious figure in the early Church is because of her glorious virginity. He believes that Mary’s role in Salvation History is unique to her, but always subordinate to the role of Jesus Christ. However, for Hilary, Mary’s role is supremely important for she appears with Christ in the prophesies that speak of the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament scriptures.

Focusing on Mary’s Virginity, St. Hilary teaches that this experience for the Mother of God as Virgin must have been so inspirational and overpowering that nothing short of her life as a perpetual virgin would suffice. For Mary, there was never any thought that she would enter into the conjugal embrace with her husband. St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine of Hippo both write on how more than likely Mary took a vow of virginity in the Temple as a young girl.

Mary’s Motherhood, which would be declared dogmatic at the Council of Ephesus in 422, was not a problem for St. Hilary either. He understood well that Mary as Virgin would assist in the work of redemption, but always remaining subordinate to her Son. Hilary knew that the Incarnation of Jesus Christ had an impact on the salvation of humanity. Mary becomes the model of redeemed humanity when she graciously accepts, without reservation, and with unconditional faith, the infinite gift of salvation from God at the Annunciation.

Sassoferrato - Virgin Mother

For St. Hilary, defending Mary’s Virginity was at the forefront of his Marian theology because of the other arguments that contradicted this teaching during his lifetime. He understood the importance of Mary’s Virginity – before, during, and after the birth of Christ. Although it would not be declared dogmatic until 649 by Pope St. Martin I, Mary’s Perpetual Virginity was taught, believed, and professed by him and other Early Church Fathers.

Now that you understand St. Hilary’s Marian Thought, let’s take a look at ‘Mary in the Economy of Salvation’ from his document, De Trinitate

Other witnesses explicitly affirm that the economy of salvation proceeds from the Father’s will. The Virgin, the birth and body [of Christ], and, in turn, the Cross, death, and descent among the dead constitute our salvation. For the Son of God was born of the Virgin and the Holy Spirit for the sake of the human race.

In so doing, he places himself at his own service and, overshadowing the Virgin with his power (that is, with the power of God), he planted the initial seed of his body and set up the beginning of his life in the flesh. In this way, having become man in his birth from the Virgin, he took upon himself the nature of human flesh so that, through this commingling, the body of the whole human race was sanctified in him (italics mine). And as all men have found in him their foundation, through his willingness to assume a bodily nature, so he was restored, in turn, to all men through his invisible existence. Thus the invisible image of God did not refuse the shame of being born in a human manner, passing through conception, birth, crying, cradle, and all the humiliations proper to our nature.

And we, with what worthy gift shall we respond to a love so full of benevolence? Behold the one, only begotten God, whose origin from God is absolutely inexpressible, planted like a seed in the womb of the holy Virgin, developing little by little, taking on the form of a tiny body.

He who contains who things, in whom through whom everything receives existence, behold he comes to light according to the human law of birth. He at whose voice archangels and angels tremble, at whose voice heaven, earth, and all the elements of this world are unraveled, hark, the sound of his newborn wailing! The Invisible and Ungraspable, before whom sight, senses, and touch proclaim their helplessness, wrapped up, in a cradle.

So on this day, let us give praise and thanksgiving for Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessing of His Incarnation. Let us joyfully give thanks to our Perpetual Virgin – Mary, the Great Mother of God. And, let us give thanks to the many Early Church Fathers, today, specifically, St. Hilary of Poitiers, who defended both Mary’s Virginity and Christ’s Incarnation with the words inspired by God.

Source:

Gambero, Luigi. Mary and the Fathers of the Church. Ignatius Press, 1999.