On Saturday, we Dominicans celebrated the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas with special solemnity. For us, the feast is always accompanied by a certain sense of fraternal pride. After all, this great saint and Doctor of the Church, held up by several popes as the Church’s principal theologian, was one of us. His accomplishments are held up as the Order’s accomplishments. Furthermore, throughout the centuries Dominicans have been committed to understanding, teaching, and commenting on the works of St. Thomas. Yet, it is more than just a certain esprit de corps that marks the Dominican commitment to St. Thomas. His profound insights and theological method have continually been useful in understanding and explaining truths of the faith. In this, his contributions are not just for Dominicans, but for the entire Church. He is your saint too.
While the earliest defenders of St. Thomas were Dominicans, his influence quickly spread throughout the Church. Other religious orders, including Carthusians, Benedictines, and Carmelites, have produced great Thomists throughout the ages. Pope Leo XIII, possibly the greatest papal proponent of Thomism in history, was himself educated by Jesuits. In the 20th century, some of the greatest students of St. Thomas Aquinas were laymen, including the philosophers Joseph Pieper and Jacques Maritain. Drawn by the strength of his arguments, many of the greatest intellectuals have come to learn to think according to the mind of St. Thomas.
The Church has also extended the patronage of St. Thomas to vast fields of study and practice. He is the patron of all Catholic schools, as well as booksellers, pencil makers, and the Angelic Warfare Confraternity. The graces that God has given to the Church through St. Thomas Aquinas are not limited to the Dominican Order. His perennial wisdom can be sought, understood, and applied by all Catholics. While not all of us can spend our lives coming to grasp his thought more deeply, we all can learn from his work and appeal to him as an intercessor. The saint we celebrate is a saint for all Christians. While he may have been a Dominican, he is rightfully claimed by the Universal Church. May we all come to grow in holiness and insight through his influence.
Image: Unknown artist, San Thomas Aquino