Who Was Saint Thomas Aquinas? The Legendary Christian Philosopher In 10 Quotes


A stained glass depiction of St Thomas Aquinas, by Andreas F. Borchert.Wikimedia Commons

On this day in 1274, a Dominican friar named Thomas Aquinas died. His works of theology transformed the Church and western philosophy, and he is regarded as a Saint in the Catholic Church.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was not known for his good looks, but his mighty intellect could not be questioned. His stature meant that some derided him as the 'Dumb Ox'. The Aristotelian scholar Albert 'the Great' saw great potential in young Aquinas however.

'We call him the Dumb Ox,' Albert said, 'but the bellowing of that ox will resound throughout the whole world'.

Aquinas is most famous for his vast, unfinished epochal work, the Summa Theologicae ('Summary of Theology'). His ideas about Natural Theology, ethics, apologetics and philosophy have been supremely influential, and his writing is regarded as official doctrine in the Catholic Church. He has been called the 'Universal Doctor of the Church'.

Many find Aquinas' dense, complex writing to be daunting and impenetrable, but nonetheless 'The Angelic Doctor' also produced some pithy sayings which capture his wise understanding of the world and man's search for God. At the end of his life, Aquinas reportedly had a profound experience of God, after which he regarded his vast theological works as being 'like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me'. Here are ten of his best quotes.

1. 'Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.'

2. 'To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.'

3. 'How is it they live in such harmony, the billions of stars, when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds?'

4. 'Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.'

5. 'We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have laboured in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.'

6. 'The things that we love tell us what we are.'

7. 'Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.'

8. 'There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.'

9. 'The Study of philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is.'

10. 'Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.'