St. Thomas Aquinas - Biography

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, OP, also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican friar and priest and an immensely influential philosopher 
Born: January 28, 1225, Roccasecca, Italy
Died: March 7, 1274, Fossanova Abbey, Priverno, Italy
Education: University of Paris, University of Naples Federico II

 Italian Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most influential medieval thinkers of Scholasticism and the father of the Thomistic school of theology.

Philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas was born circa 1225 in Roccasecca, Italy. Combining the theological principles of faith with the philosophical principles of reason, he ranked among the most influential thinkers of medieval Scholasticism. An authority of the Roman Catholic Church and a prolific writer, Aquinas died on March 7, 1274, at the Cistercian monastery of Fossanova, near Terracina, Latium, Papal States, Italy.
Early Life

The son of Landulph, count of Aquino, St. Thomas Aquinas was born circa 1225 in Roccasecca, Italy, near Aquino, Terra di Lavoro, in the Kingdom of Sicily. Thomas had eight siblings, and was the youngest child. His mother, Theodora, was countess of Teano. Though Thomas's family members were descendants of Emperors Frederick I and Henry VI, they were considered to be of lower nobility.

Before St. Thomas Aquinas was born, a holy hermit shared a prediction with his mother, foretelling that her son would enter the Order of Friars Preachers, become a great learner and achieve unequaled sanctity.

Following the tradition of the period, St. Thomas Aquinas was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino to train among Benedictine monks when he was just 5 years old. In Wisdom 8:19, St. Thomas Aquinas is described as "a witty child" who "had received a good soul." At Monte Cassino, the quizzical young boy repeatedly posed the question, "What is God?" to his benefactors.

St. Thomas Aquinas remained at the monastery until he was 13 years old, when the political climate forced him to return to Naples.

St. Thomas Aquinas spent the next five years completing his primary education at a Benedictine house in Naples. During those years, he studied Aristotle's work, which would later become a major launching point for St. Thomas Aquinas's own exploration of philosophy. At the Benedictine house, which was closely affiliated with the University of Naples, Thomas also developed an interest in more contemporary monastic orders. He was particularly drawn to those that emphasized a life of spiritual service, in contrast with the more traditional views and sheltered lifestyle he'd observed at the Abbey of Monte Cassino.

Circa 1239, St. Thomas Aquinas began attending the University of Naples. In 1243, he secretly joined an order of Dominican monks, receiving the habit in 1244. When his family found out, they felt so betrayed that he had turned his back on the principles to which they subscribed that they decided to kidnap him. Thomas's family held him captive for an entire year, imprisoned in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. During this time, they attempted to deprogram Thomas of his new beliefs. Thomas held fast to the ideas he had learned at university, however, and went back to the Dominican order following his release in 1245.

From 1245 to 1252, St. Thomas Aquinas continued to pursue his studies with the Dominicans in Naples, Paris and Cologne. He was ordained in Cologne, Germany, in 1250, and went on to teach theology at the University of Paris. Under the tutelage of St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas subsequently earned his doctorate in theology. Consistent with the holy hermit's prediction, Thomas proved an exemplary scholar, though, ironically, his modesty sometimes led his classmates to misperceive him as dim-witted. After reading Thomas's thesis and thinking it brilliant, his professor, St. Albert the Great, proclaimed in Thomas's defense, "We call this young man a dumb ox, but his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world!"

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