Detail from Valle Romita Polyptych by Gentile da Fabriano (circa 1400)

Thomas Aquinas is universally regarded as among the most important thinkers and writers on the Christian tradition of reason and divine revelation, one of the great teachers of the Church.

Born the son of the Count of Aquino in Lombardy near Naples, Italy, Thomas was given to the Benedictine order from the age of five in the hope that he would choose that way of life and later become Abbot.

Sent in 1239 to Naples to complete his studies, he became attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy and within four years, and much to his mother’s dismay, he chose a different path – joining the Dominicans. He was consequently captured by his own brother and kept at home for over a year.

Once free, he went to Paris and then Cologne, where he finished his studies, later holding two professorships in Paris, living in the Court of Pope Urban IV and directing the Dominican Schools at Rome and Viterbo.

His great contribution to the Church is his writings on the nature of reason and revelation. The unity, harmony and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” Thomas was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished. His writings systematized the Church’s great thoughts and teaching, combining Greek wisdom and scholarship with Christian Theology.

Most loving Lord, grant me a steadfast heart, which no unworthy desire can drag downward; which no tribulation can wear out; which no unworthy purpose can tempt aside. Impart to me also, O Lord my God, an unconquered heart, an upright heart, understanding to know Thee, diligence to seek Thee, faithfulness to follow Thee, and love to embrace Thee, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. St.

The Summa Theologiae, his last work, deals with the whole of Catholic theology. He stopped work on it after celebrating Mass on 6th December 1273. When asked why he stopped writing, he replied, “I cannot go on…. All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.”

Thomas died on 7th March, 1274.