St Thomas Aquinas was born around 1225. The name Aquinas derived from the territory of his father, Count Landulf of Aquino, in the vicinity of Naples. The mother of Thomas was Countess Theodora. At the early age of five Thomas was sent to school at the Benedictine Monastery of Monte Cassino. He showed at once the great gifts of intellect with which he had been endowed. He would surprise his master with the oft repeated question: "What is God?"
Years later, while studying at the University of Naples, Thomas met members of the Order of St Dominic. He made known his desire to be a Dominican about 1240, and instantly met with strong opposition from his family. At length he received the Dominican habit in April, 1244, and was chosen to continue his studies at the Dominican school at the University of Paris.
Countess Theodora sent two of her sons and a band of soldiers to intercept Thomas on his way to Paris. Held a prisoner in his own family castle, Thomas was constantly urged to forsake his vocation, and on one occasion was tempted by a woman who had been thrust into his chamber. Thomas forced the temptress from his room. In later years he confided to his secretary, Reginald of Piperno, that immediately after this event he was granted his prayer for the gift of perpetual chastity, and thereafter had complete freedom from the motions of concupiscence. It seems probable that this gave first basis for his title of Angelic Doctor.
In 1245 St Thomas began to attend the lectures in theology of St Albert the Great at the University of Paris. He made extraordinary progress in his studies, and three years later accompanied St Albert to Cologne to continue his study. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1250 and accompanied Albert back to Paris in 1252, where he continued lecturing.
St Thomas was called to Rome in 1259, and for nine busy years was teaching, lecturing, and writing as the theologian of the Papal Court. Recalled to Paris, Thomas began the last period of his life, years crowded with writing, teaching, and preaching. It is related of him that, after having written the sublime treatise on the Holy Eucharist, he was seen to fall into an ecstasy, and a voice from the crucifix above the altar was heard to say: "Thou hast written well of Me, Thomas. What reward wilt thou have?" To this the Saint replied: "None, Lord, other than Thyself."
Thomas died on March 7, 1274, at Fossanuova in Northern Italy while on his way to attend the Council of Lyons. He was canonised in 1323 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1567. Pope Leo XIII, in a brief dated August 4, 1880, designated St Thomas Patron of all Catholic universities. The successors of Leo XIII, including Pope Pius XI, have ordered Catholic teachers to make the explanations of Christian Doctrine by St Thomas the basis for all their teaching.
Angelic Doctor, St Thomas, prince of theologians and model of philosophers, bright ornament of the Christian world, light of the Church and patron of all Catholic schools, who didst learn wisdom without guile and dost communicate it without envy, pray for us to the Son of God, who is Wisdom itself, that by the coming of the Spirit of Wisdom upon us, we may clearly understand that which thou didst teach, and by imitating thee, may bring to completion that which thou didst do; that we may be made partakers both of thy doctrine and thy holiness; whereby thou didst shine on earth even as the sun; and finally, that we may enjoy with thee in heaven forever more, the most delectable fruits of the same, praising together with Thee Divine Wisdom through endless ages. Amen.