January 28 is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas. He is a giant in the Catholic intellectual tradition, but his mental powers did not outpace his prayerful faithfulness.
Born in 1225 in Aquino, Italy, he was educated at the Monte Cassino monastery before studying at the University of Naples when he was 13. There, Thomas met the Order of Preachers, the religious community founded by St. Dominic.
When considering joining religious life, Thomas’ noble family supported him, but they did not want him to join a community that strongly emphasized poverty. So they kidnapped him and tried to talk him out of joining the Dominicans. In fact, they even brought in a prostitute with the intention of luring Thomas to sin. But the tactic did not work — Thomas just chased her out. While he was confined by his family, Thomas began studying the Bible, even learning much of it by heart.
Eventually, his family gave up and he completed his studies under St. Albert the Great at the University of Cologne. As he began his classes, Thomas was given the name “dumb ox” because he did not initially participate in class discussions like his other classmates. Yet, Thomas’ incredible intelligence would soon prove he had plenty going on upstairs.
Outside of the classroom, Thomas developed a rich prayer life — during Mass, he would fully submit himself to God and give his full attention to the Eucharist.
After receiving his doctorate, Thomas taught at the University of Paris and preached across Italy. He incorporated the philosophy of Aristotle in his explanations of divine revelation, and the theology that flowed from his synthesis has served the Church for centuries. Though he never finished his greatest work, the Summa Theologiae, it remains the fullest body of theological teaching ever written.
Thomas died at the age of 50 following an illness. After being canonized, he was declared a doctor of the Church.
Get to know the patron saint of students, universities, and schools through our study playlist inspired by his life and work.