St. Thomas Aquinas, the ‘dumb ox’

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Today, Jan. 28, is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose nickname was “the dumb Sicilian ox,” because he was stout in body and slow in manner.
But the mind of St. Thomas was nothing but slow. Not only was he a superb theologian, but — without exaggeration — he one of the greatest minds in human history. Just read a piece of his writings, and you’ll see how he reasoned with unassailable logic.

That is why the Catholic Church not only honors him as a Doctor of the Church, but considers Thomas to be the Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. I especially love St. Thomas because of his writings on angels. For that reason, he is also called “Doctor Angelicus” or the “Angelic doctor”.

FOTM, therefore, is re-publishing joandarc’s post on St. Thomas, but with this addition — a video of Fr. & Dr. Chad Ripperger on Thomas Aquinas (h/t FOTM‘s Sher):

Fr. Ripperger is the author of the tome, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, which maintains that the science of modern psychology has not made any real progress in helping the mentally ill because it is fundamentally flawed in that “it has no true understanding of the immaterial, spiritual dimension” of human nature. Highly recommend!


Today, January 28th, we celebrate one of the most illustrious and influential Saints of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas is by far, the spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and divine revelation, being one of the greatest teachers of the Catholic Church, which is why he is named a Doctor of the Church and the Angelic Doctor.
Thomas was born in or about 1225, the youngest of four sons, in the castle of Rocca Secca, to Landulf, a knight, and to Theodora, his mother of Norman descent.  At the age of five, his parents took him to the Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino, hoping that he would join this Order and rise to the position of abbot.  In 1239, he went to the University of Naples in Italy, to study the arts and sciences, and it was through this experience that he became interested in Aristotle.

In or about 1243, Thomas joined the Dominicans, which was against his family’s desires.  In fact, his mother ordered that his brothers capture Thomas.  Accordingly, they did so and he actually remained at his home, wherein his family hoped to change his mind.  You might say that he was put under “house arrest” because of his defiance.  While he was imprisoned, he studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard and learned by heart a great portion of the Bible.
After two years, his family gave up and allowed Thomas to go back to his Order of the Dominicans.  Thomas then went to Cologne, finishing his studies under St. Albert the Great.  Thomas, being reserved and a humble man, was not very well liked by his colleagues.  He was a large man, receiving the nickname of “the dumb Sicilian ox.”  However, St. Albert, his professor, said this of Thomas, “We call Brother Thomas the ‘dumb ox’; but I tell you that he will yet make his lowing heard to the uttermost parts of the earth.”  Thomas’ brilliance was exceeded by his piety, and after he had been ordained a priest, he became so very close and united with God.

In or about 1252, St. Albert and Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher insisted that Thomas go to the University of Paris to teach.  Four years thereafter, he became a master and received his doctors chair.  His duties included lecturing and preaching.

In or about 1259 to 1268, he was made Preacher General in Italy and taught in the school of selected scholars attached to the papal court, teaching also in other towns and cities in Italy.

His writings created harmony between faith and reason, between divine revelation and natural human knowledge.  But Thomas was so in-depth a thinker and lover of God, that he was able to merge the two in his writings, seeing the whole natural order as coming from God, the Creator, and seeing reason as a gift from God to be used for His honor and glory.  He wrote the Summa contra Gentiles, a textbook for missionaries, a defense of natural theology against the Arabians, and the Summa theologiae, setting forth Catholic theology with faith and reason.  And he wrote about the Angels of God using logic, wisdom and the Bible, which is why he is called, “the Angelic Doctor.”

In 1269, he went back to Paris, wherein St. Louis IX consulted him regularly with regard to important matters of state, as the king so respected Thomas.  But the university referred an issue to him, a question upon which they were divided, whether in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar the accidents remained really or only in appearance.  St. Thomas prayed fervently and with great love asked for direction from God.  He wrote a treatise and laid it upon the altar before he submitted his answer publicly.  Our Lord then appeared to St. Thomas saying to him, “Thou has written well of the Sacrament of My Body,” asking Thomas what He could give him as a reward.  Thomas said, “I want only You, Lord, only You.”  Oftentimes during Mass, especially during the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, Thomas would cry, sobbing, being so touched of his role as a priest, and of the precious love of Jesus, knowing that he was in the Real Presence of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

In or about 1272, Thomas was called back to Italy, being appointed regent of the study house at Naples.  On the Feast of St. Nicholas the following year, he was celebrating Holy Mass, wherein he received a revelation that affected him so, that he did not write or dictate anymore, leaving the magnificent work of the Summa theologiae, unfinished.  Thomas told Brother Reginald, “The end of my labors is come.  All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” 

Pope Gregory bid Thomas, although ill, to attend the general council at Lyons for the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches and to bring with him his work, “Against the Errors of the Greeks.”  He became worse during his journey and was consequently taken to the Cistercian abbey of Fossa Nuova.  He was lodged in the abbot’s room and the monks attended to him.  After Thomas made his last confession receiving the Holy Eucharist from the abbot, he stated these famous words:

“I am receiving thee, Price of my soul’s redemption:  all my studies, my vigils and my labors have been for love of thee.  I have taught much and written much of the most sacred body of Jesus Christ; I have taught and written in the faith of Jesus Christ and of the holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I offer and submit everything.”  Two days later, March 7, 1274, being about 50 years of age, he died.  St. Albert who was in Cologne, burst into tears in front of his community and said,  “Brother Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, the light of the Church, is dead.  God has revealed it to me.”

St. Thomas was canonized in 1323, wherein his body lies in the cathedral of Saint-Sernin.  St. Pius V conferred upon him the title of Doctor of the Church, and in 1880, Leo XIII declared him the patron saint of universities, colleges and schools.

Thomas’ theological and philosophical writings fill twenty thick volumes and he was the first to comment on Aristotle, whose teaching he utilized in order to build up a complete system of Christian philosophy.  Indeed, his most important work was the Summa theologiae, the most thorough and full exposition of theological teaching ever given to the world.  This work was one of the three reference works used at the Council of Trent, the other two being the Bible and Pontifical Decrees.

His achievements were not just attributed to his incredible writings.  When Pope Urban IV, influenced by the visions of Blessed Juliana of Liege, decided to institute the Feast of Corpus Christi, he deferred to St. Thomas to compose the liturgical office and the Mass for the day, wherein Thomas showed his remarkable expression, known for doctrinal accuracy as for their tenderness of thought.  Famous hymns, Pange lingua, O salutaris and Tantum ergo, written by Thomas, are regularly sung at Benediction.

In spite of his greatness, he thought the best of others, thinking they were better than him, being extremely modest whilst he stated his opinion.  He did not lose his temper in an argument and was extremely poised.

St. Thomas Aquinas has always been one of my favorite saints.  Whilst I was in high school studying philosophy, I would take books home containing his writings.  I was drawn to these books, so I did not go out with my friends because I would rather stay home with St. Thomas and read what he said in my cozy bedroom.  In fact, though they were kidding, my friends called me a “wallflower” because of my devotion to St. Thomas.  I would laugh and tell them that they did not know what they were missing, and that at some point, they might understand. . .

It is my childlike vision in my mind’s eye that sees a great celebration in Heaven today for our dear and great St. Thomas Aquinas!  We love and respect you! We hope to some day be with you in Our Lord’s heaven, and maybe you can teach us there too!  God be praised for this great and holy man!
With respect and love,



  • One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press.
  • Saint of the Day, Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.
  • Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Edited by F.L. Cross.
  • Read more about St. Thomas Aquinas on Wikipedia.
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0 responses to “St. Thomas Aquinas, the ‘dumb ox’

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas also left us the “Catena Aurea”, a 4-volume collections of comments on the Gospels by early Christian writers. There’s an English translation by St. John Henry Newman.

  2. What an interesting man. Great post!

  3. I took a fair bit of theology & philosophy, and for me, he was always one of the most impressive thinkers of all. The density of his reasoning and solid logic were impeccable and unassailable, and combined with his fervent faith, made him a truly ‘star’ person.
    I always felt he was overworked, which may have contributed to his early death, truly a great loss. However, reading his quotations above I now know that he experienced the same mystic revelations of Godhead as I did long ago, and when that is experienced, it is precisely as he told Brother Reginald, “All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.”
    Thank you, Joan, for this grand presentation, and as Auntie Lulu wrote, “Great post!”

  4. Southside Johnny

    Dear Joan, this is one of your best. I miss the almost daily articles you submitted in the past, particularly on the lesser known saints. It reminds me of my earlier parochial school education under the Dominican nuns, before the chaos of Vatican II clouded everything.

  5. St. Thomas Aquinas was, almost with Providential Certainty, the greatest intellect that ever lived. Hopefully, when the current Madness of Vatican II is over, that same Providential Certainty will inspire a revival of interest in his writings and influence.
    St. Thomas Aquinas’s body lay in the bed in which he died and was completely incorrupt for seven months after his death. This was documented.
    St. Thomas Aquinas—to my knowledge—is not considered to be infallible, at least in the same sense in which the First Vatican Council defined infallibility (for the Pope). Down here on Earth, I hope Dr. Aquinas is wrong about one thing: That there is no afterlife for the animals. The Truth of that Matter shall not be known here on Earth, and I know that God Alone, or, Primarily, will satisfy the souls of the Elect. Yet God made the animals for their innocence, and I hope they can share in the afterlife—to a natural degree, of course—for God’s Glory and for our edification. Again, on this point, we shall have to wait.

    • St. Thomas wrote that animals have souls, though different than the souls of humans. So, in principle, animals could have an afterlife because even according to him, they are not mere material but possess a spiritual dimension — a soul.
      And yes, Thomas Aquinas was not infallible. For that matter, no human being is infallible, even the pope. The Catholic Church insists that popes are infallible in doctrinal matters, but then the Church also claims that the s/election of popes is guided by the Holy Spirit, and yet the Church has had simply awful popes in its history.

      • Yes, Aquinas taught that animals have animalistic or brute souls, and that those souls died with the body. The difference is this: In human beings, the soul “informs” or drives the body; Whereas in animals the body “informs” or drives the soul.
        Aquinas also taught that plants have vegetative souls.
        Obviously, The Angelic Doctor is right in this much, and it is a starter: A living being MUST have a soul to “inform” its being, to drive it, to allow it and make it carry life.
        As for the (s)election of Popes, I do believe that the Holy Ghost does make every attempt to inspire the conclave to elect or choose the right man. However, God, being the Gentleman that He is, never forces Himself on anyone, not even a conclave. I do believe that the Holy Ghost very well may have tried to inspire the selection of Cardinal Siri to be Pope after the death of Pius XII; That, however, did not prevent the conclave to be corrupted by the hearts and minds of a sufficient number of wicked men. I do believe that the Holy Ghost very well may have inspired a second Vatican Council, but that did not prevent much the same collection of wicked men from hijacking it. I look at it this way: God DID NOT WILL jet planes and a Tomahawk cruise missile to hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, respectively, on September 11, 2001. But, due to the plans of wicked men, He allowed it, in part, as the expression of His Passive Will that allows evil to proceed. BUT: Whatever evil He allows to proceed He NEVER Actively Wills or approves of, and said evil can only proceed after He first declares (to the Devil) the precise limit of that evil, which MAY NOT proceed beyond a certain point. The totality of it is a mystery, of course, but he allows this, in part, as His Judgment against the people, collectively or nationally, as a Sign of His Withdrawal of Protection against the very evil the People wish had never occurred.
        (I personally believe that Pius XII was the ONLY good Pope in my lifetime; I will be 60 next month).

  6. Steven, did you know in Vasari’s ‘Lives’ he documented [if that’s the right word] that when Michelangelo died there was a huge state funeral, and even though it was in the midst of a typically hot & humid Roman Summer, his body was on casket display for two weeks, and showed no sign of decay or corruption? Readers need to know that embalming was not known at that time.
    Now I don’t know if or how this other fact relates, but Michelangelo was a vegetarian for most of his life, as was Bertrand Russell, who drank a bottle of Red Hackle Scotch a day, and died two days or weeks shy of 100 years. And others who ate both a lot of meat AND drank heavily, such as Winston Churchill, also lived long lives. The ways of our Lord are truly mysterious!

    • I did not know that of Michaelangelo. As for Churchill, recent investigation (by Henry Makow et al.) has proved that he was a Great Traitor to all of humanity.

      • Yes, in re Churchill, I quite agree; i use him and others as noteworthy sots who were ‘movers & shakers’ in their time, but never affirming them as valuable to humankind.

        • Frankly josephbc69, I would never say that St. Thomas was not valuable to humankind. Such a conclusion is not only ridiculous, but insulting.

  7. Southside Johnny

    Steven Broiles, that was an excellent post. Let me opine on a few of your topics. 1) I know that many in the FOTM community love their four legged furry friends. So, if these animals have some kind of souls, do other living creatures, not quite as lovable, also have souls ? Do cockroaches, snakes, bacteria, fungi and viruses also have souls ? I loved my dog when I was growing up, but does that mean there is a place in Heaven for dogs, etc. Too many people in America care more for their pets than they do for their fellow man, or unborn babies. This is part of that idolatry that PETA foments. 2) Google “The Pope in Red” to learn about Cardinal Siri. Apparently, he was elected twice in 1958 to succeed Pope Pius XII, even with the release of white smoke, and he was going to take the name Gregory XVII. Follow the links on that site to find that it was reported in the Italian papers, and that the FBI confirmed it ( I guess EVERYONE was fair game for surveillance during the Cold War ; Was the KGB also listening in on the conclave ? ). 3) Winston Churchill, while Post-WWI British Secretary of War, employed the notorious, brutal ‘Black and Tans’ paramilitary in Ireland to support the police in their fight against the Irish Republican Army starting in 1919. Not quite the short, pudgy, cigar-chomping curmudgeon we remember from the WWII newsreels.


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