JANUARY 28, 2015 - SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS
Jesus lived in quiet obscurity for about thirty years before he began to preach his new message on the Kingdom of God. Just how he spent his days we are left to our own resources to form an opinion. As time passed Christians began asking themselves just what activities and events contributed to his development during his hidden years that made up at least ninety percent of his time on earth. The only event described in some detail is his visit to Jerusalem aged twelve and his stay in the temple for a few days. Saint Aelred found the episode sufficiently informative and stimulating that he wrote a treatise on Jesus at twelve years of age for his sister who was a nun. Since the Evangelists were so sparing of details on these hidden years, early on various accounts were provided by devoted persons who believed his message. They felt the urge to fill in the large empty places in his life story. Human imagination proved fertile in providing details and we have as a result a series of accounts that are known as apocryphal writings. They provide us with more reliable information about the authors, their piety and the times they lived in than they inform us concerning historically reliable descriptions of the young Jesus. These early writings certainly witness to a lively, popular faith that the young Redeemer of the world lived in a unique relation with the supernatural.
Today as we commemorate the Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, our thoughts naturally turn to his own childhood. We are fortunate to have a good number of witnesses who gave reliable testimony concerning Thomas based on attested facts. The reliability of the account of Thomas's life was made more solid by the fact that he was born into a politically influential noble family, so that his early circumstances are well attested. Of particular interest to us is the fact that at age five he was sent to live as a student at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Casino, near his family's castle at Aquino where his uncle Sinibald was abbot. This circumstance assured that study and the intellectual life were mutually supportive. After studies at the University of Naples aged twenty he chose to enter the studious, contemplative life style of the Dominicans. In reviewing the life Thomas pursued as a teacher we are made aware of the intensity of application he brought to bear on the pursuit of union with God. His intellectual life was integral with his prayerful dedication to the search for union with God. Jesus had presented himself as the truth, wholly in the service of love of the Father. He was soon recognized as the most brilliant expounder of Catholic truth by his writings and lectures. The pursuit and the communication of the loving knowledge of the living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gave a singular consistency to the life and ministry of this brilliant and humble witness to the Wisdom that guides our Universe In God's providence. Shortly before his death he had so intense a spiritual insight that he renounced all further writing for no words could convey the divine reality he encountered.
Significantly, Thomas not only began his studies as a child in a Benedictine monastery, but falling seriously ill while on a journey in Italy he was brought to nearby Fossanova, a Cistercian monastery, where he spent the dying weeks of his short life, cared for by the monks.
We give glory to God in honoring this holy man in this Eucharistic sacrifice. His legacy bears testimony that knowledge of the true God is the fruit of fidelity to the strong and simple faith that in Jesus we attain to the wisdom that is undying life.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger