The Feast of the Dumb Ox
Today, Jan 28, is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the greatest intellects in the history of the world, and his theology/philosophy dramatically impacted European thought for centuries. St. Thomas Aquinas went to great lengths to demonstrate how faith and reason go hand-in-hand; and how reason actually reinforces faith.
It is quite fitting that today is also the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. Although many other saints could be patrons for schools and education, all of our schools are indebted to the work that St. Thomas Aquinas did.
For a while the world pushed his work to the side, in favor of more material (read: non-Divine) explanations of how things work. However, there is a resurgence in the study of his work, as materialism has failed to achieve what it promised. (Of course, it failed precisely because it is untrue; it denies the power and existence of God. How could it explain anything?)
His greatest known work is the massive Summa Theologica. In the Summa, St. Thomas provides the greatest example of the scholastic method of inquiry. One of the best known parts of the Summa is his proofs for the existence of God.
St. Thomas Aquinas was given the name “The Dumb Ox” by one of his university professors. (“Dumb” here means “silent”.) He was a thick, heavy-set man who was not given to excited motions; but moved rather slowly. He also spoke very rarely in class, except to ask and answer questions that stumped even his teachers.
His classmates would poke fun at him; however his professor told the students that one day the bellows of the Dumb Ox would shake the world. And, indeed they have!
Toward the end of his life, St. Thomas Aquinas fell into an ecstasy. When he came back into the world, he said that Jesus allowed him to get a glimpse of Heaven. At that moment, he completely stopped his voluminous writings (including the incomplete Summa). He said that what he had written was like “so much straw” compared to what he had been shown.
This very small post cannot do justice to St. Thomas Aquinas. I recommend strongly the biography of St. Thomas Aquinas (the book also includes a bio of St. Francis of Assisi) by G.K. Chesterton. (You can borrow the book from the library at Queen of All Saints).
In fact, I recommend everything by G.K.C. But that’s a topic for a different post.