January 1 - 30, 2016
Thomas Aquinas was born in Italy about 1226 to Landolfo and Donna Theodora, who were well-to-do members of the lesser nobility. Thomas’ eldest brother, Aimo, was a crusader and another brother, Rinaldo, also a soldier, was a poet of some renown. Of a third brother, Landolfo, little is known except that Thomas believed he would be spending time in purgatory. The custom of the time was that the youngest son would enter religious life. To that end, Thomas’ parents sent him to be raised in the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Cassino, where his parents expected he would be made abbot once he came of age. In 1239, when he was about 15 years old, Thomas was sent to complete his education at the university in Naples. In Naples, Thomas encountered Dominicans begging and preaching on the streets. At the university he knew them as fellow students and was impressed by their dedication to study.
At some point around the age of nineteen, Thomas made a radical decision to join the Dominicans. He abandoned the glorious career his parents had planned for him and became a humble begging friar, receiving the habit of St. Dominic in the spring of 1244. Thomas and the Master of the Order immediately set out north on foot with plans to go to Paris to avoid conflict with Thomas’s family.
Thomas’ family, however, was not pleased and Rinaldo rode forth with a company of soldiers compelling Thomas to return home by force. Held under house arrest for over a year, Thomas’ abduction created quite a stir. The Order even appealed to the Pope in an effort to have their brilliant novice released. The family, however, tried every inducement to convince Thomas to change his mind. Religious life was fine, but not as a begging friar! His sister, Marietta, argued vigorously with Thomas — until he persuaded her to become a nun. Later in life Marietta would become the abbess of her Benedictine monastery.
Girding by the Angels
In one last attempt to break Thomas’s will, his brothers introduced a scantily clad prostitute into Thomas’ room while he was alone. They were certain that the physical temptation would drive him to break his vow of chastity, after which he would surely abandon his religious vocation. (continued)