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St Thomas Aquinas

"Aquinas" refers to the town of Aquino, in central Italy, roughly midway between Rome and Naples, close to the ancient Benedictine Monastery of MonteCassino. St. Thomas was born there in the year 1225, in the family castle of Roccasecca.

At the age of five, Thomas attended the Monastery school at MonteCassino. At the age of fourteen, he had to move to the University of Naples because King Frederick II, king of Sicily, had his troops banish the monks from MonteCassino, and his troops occupied it as a fortress.

The Dominican order, established only a few years earlier (1216) by St Dominic de Guzman, attracted Thomas, and at the age of 19 he offered himself as a candidate for the priesthood. The Dominicans were a Mendicant order, their members vowing themselves to poverty, and possessing neither personal nor community property.

Thomas's mother was appalled at the idea of her son becoming a "beggar". She chased after him, first to Naples, then to Rome, and discovered that he had started walking to Bologna with a group of fellow Dominicans. She had her elder son, Rinaldo, intercept him and return him to the family castle, where she imprisoned him for twelve months, trying to convince him to give up that idea. Eventually she gave up and permitted him to travel to Paris where he rejoined the Dominicans. At Paris Thomas studied under the Dominican Albert the Great, and in 1256 he obtained his Master's in Theology at the University of Paris.

Thomas's prolific writings include his Summa Theologica, and the Summa contra Gentiles, his commentaries on the books of both the Old and New Testaments, his Disputed Questions, his Opusculae, and his Latin poetry and Eucharistic hymns, and his Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi, which Pope Urban IV commissioned him to compose.

Thomas died on 12th. March 1274, aged only 49.

In 1323, Pope John II canonised Thomas, at a ceremony held in Avignon, France, during the period that the Pope was based in Avignon instead of Rome (referred to as the "Babylonian Captivity").

In 1567, Pope Pius V, a Dominican, appointed Thomas a "Doctor of the Church", and described him as"the most brilliant light in the Church".

In 1879, Pope Leo XIII declared the philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas to be the official philosophy of the Catholic Church, and required that all candidates for the priesthood study it.

Described as "The Angelic Doctor", Thomas is thus hailed as one of the world's greatest philosophers, while he himself referred to Aristotle as "THE Philosopher".

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