Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. This great saint struggled against the wishes of his family to fulfill his vocation as a member of the Order of Preachers and went on to be an esteemed academic, saint and Doctor of the Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas has had a profound impact on the Church, particularly with regards to his studies in Philosophy and Theology. As a student, Thomas studied under St. Albert the Great and eventually went on to receive his doctorate in Theology from the University of Paris. His academic work has proven to be immensely influential and has received great praise and admiration. Pope Leo XIII even spoke of St. Thomas Aquinas in Aeterni Patris stating, “like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching.”
His academic work as a Dominican, however, almost did not occur due to his family’s opposition. At the age of nineteen, St. Thomas entered the fledgling community of the Order of Preachers in Naples. His family was distressed because they did not believe that a noble like Thomas should join a mendicant order and desired that he enter the renowned Abbey of Monte Cassino where a kinsman was Abbot. His brothers, imperial soldiers, captured St. Thomas on his way to Cologne and confined him to the castle of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca where they sought to tempt him away from his vocation. After two years, his family relented and he was released allowing him to profess vows in Rome.
After professing vows, St. Thomas went on to have an exceptional academic career though, after experiencing a time of ecstasy at Mass, he ceased to write saying, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value” St. Thomas’ academic work has proven to be tremendously significant, however, and he is now considered the patron of students and universities. His persistence to fulfill his vocation and search for Truth, makes him an extraordinary figure for students.
The IRL is committed to promoting universities that provide strong formation in Catholic spirituality as students discern their vocation and obtain a college degree. Several colleges in the United States are affiliated with the IRL and provide a Catholic setting where students can seek Truth.