Canadian Martyrs/Saint Thomas Aquinas
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Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas Surrounded by the Doctors of the Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas [Thomas of Aquin, or Aquino] (c. 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Catholic philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Universalis. He is the most famous classical proponent of natural theology. He gave birth to the Thomistic school of philosophy, which was long the primary philosophical approach of the Catholic Church. He is considered by the Catholic Church to be its greatest theologian and one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Church. There have been many institutions of learning named after him.

The life of Thomas Aquinas offers many interesting insights into the world of the High Middle Ages. He was born into a family of the south Italian nobility and was through his mother, Countess Theadora of Theate, related to the Hohenstaufen dynasty of Holy Roman emperors.

Aquinas had made a remarkable impression on all who knew him. He was placed on a level with the Saints Paul and Augustine, receiving the title doctor angelicus (Angelic Doctor). In the poem La Comedia (The [Divine] Comedy), Dante sees the glorified spirit of Aquinas in the Heaven of the Sun, with the other great exemplars of religious wisdom.

At the Council of Trent only two books were placed on the altar, the Bible and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. The same was done at the Second Vatican Council. No theologian save Augustine has had an equal influence on the theological thought and language of the Western Church, a fact which was strongly emphasized by Leo XIII in his Encyclical of 4 August 1879, which directed the clergy to take the teachings of Aquinas as the basis of their theological position, stating that his theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine. Also, Leo XIII decreed that all Catholic seminaries and universities must teach Aquinas' doctrines, and where Aquinas did not speak on a topic, the teachers were "urged to teach conclusions that were reconcilable with his thinking."

In 1880 Aquinas was declared patron of all Roman Catholic educational establishments. In a monastery at Naples, near the cathedral of St Januarius, a cell is still shown in which he supposedly lived. His feast day is celebrated on 28 January.