Jacques Maritain Center : St. Thomas Aquinas / by Placid Conway, OP

Altar piece by Guernico, 
in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, 
Church of St. Dominic, Bologna. PART IV: THE NIGHT OF REST.

"And night shall be my light in the fullness of my delights." -- Psalm cxxxviii, 11



THE holy body was reverently carried beyond the cloister for the consolation of the Countess Francesca and female friends, after which it was laid out in the choir, with the face exposed. A great concourse of the faithful flocked to tbe church; such as were not permitted to enter the chancel touched the coffin with olive branches, which they kept as relics. The Requiem Mass was sung by the Bishop of Terracina, who was a Franciscan, in the presence of the Abbot and Cistercians, the Friars Preachers and Friars Minor. Fr. Reginald of Piperno pronounced the funeral discourse, broken with sobs, as he removed the veil which had concealed a life of consummate holiness. At its conclusion he made formal protest that he only left the body until further arrangements should be made by the Master General of the Order. Then, amid a universal wail, the earthly shrine of Thomas Aquinas was removed, and buried in a vault under the high altar. When tidings of his death reached Lyons, the Pope and Cardinals were filled with profound grief; the Holy Father ordered his treatise "Against the Errors of the Greeks" to be sent on to the Council. The saying of Eliphaz, recorded in Job v. 26, was realized in St. Thomas. "Thou shalt enter into the grave in abundance, as a sheaf of wheat which is brought in its season".

The Cistercians of Fossa Nuova saw a great light over the Abbey for three days, which passed away at his death. The same marvel was beheld over the Dominican priory at Cologne. At the moment of his death one of the Cistercians engaged in prayer in the Abbey church saw St. Thomas's soul mount to heaven like a radiant star.

At the same moment Master Albert in Cologne turned to Fr. Albert of Brescia, exclaiming with tears: "My son in Christ, Thomas of Aquino, the light of the Church, is dead, as God has revealed to me. He was the world's flower and glory, and has rendered superfluous the writings of Doctors who shall come after him."

At Anagni, Fr. Raymund Maturi, while asleep a few nights after this, had a vision in which he saw St. Thomas, duly vested, proceed to the altar and say mass. What struck him as singular was the fact that his right eye appeared to be larger than the other. The saint explained the wonder, with these words: "My son, the knowledge which I enjoy in heaven is greater than what I had on earth, just as my right eye is greater than my left one".

Fr. Paul of Aquila beheld this vision while praying in the church of San Domenico at Naples. He saw Thomas seated in his professorial chair, teaching a crowd of disciples. Presently St. Paul appeared with a number of the saints, who conversed familiarly with him. He distinctly heard Thomas ask St. Paul if he had rightly interpreted his Epistles, whereat the Apostle replied: "Yes, so far as anyone in the mortal body can understand them; but come away with me, and I will conduct you to a place where you will have clearer understanding of all things". Then grasping the holy Doctor by his cloak, St. Paul led him away. Then Fr. Paul shouted aloud: "Alas! Alas! Alas! our Doctor is taken from us!"

Fr. Albert of Brescia, a professor at Cologne, poured out many and frequent prayers, especially to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Augustine, that he might ascertain the Angelic Doctor's degree of glory. As he was kneeling before the altar, he beheld two figures before him, one wearing a Mitre, and the other clad in the Dominican habit: they were St. Augustine of Hippo and Fr. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas's habit was resplendent with precious stones, while on his head he bore a crown of gold and diamonds. From his neck there hung two chains, one of gold and one of silver; on his breast was a large carbuncle stone flashing rays of light like a sun. Then the figure with the mitre addressed him. "Why are you astonished, Fr. Albert? God has heard your prayer. I declare to you that I am Augustine, a Doctor of the Church, sent to acquaint you of the glory of Thomas Aquinas, who is reigning with me. He is my son, because he followed the teaching of the Apostle, and my own, and he has illumined the Church with his learning. This is signified by the precious stones with which he is adorned. The shining jewel on his breast denotes the uprightness of intention with which he defended and proclaimed the Faith: the other jewels represent the books and writings of all kinds which he composed. Thomas is my equal in glory, but surpasses me by the aureola of Virginity."

Eleutherius, a Franciscan theologian of repute, was also favoured with a vision. He beheld the Mother of God seated in glory, while beneath stood St. Francis with St. Thomas, whose cappa was studded with stars. Pointing to St. Thomas, the Seraphic Father spoke thus to Eleutherius: "Confide in this man, for his teaching shall never pass away."

God revealed the saint's glory by very many miracles, ninety-six of which were duly attested, and submitted as evidence for his canonization. While his body lay exposed in the Abbey Choir, the Subprior, John de Ferentino, who was completely blind, placed his eyes against those of the saint, and instantly saw. The holy Doctor's cell in Naples became a resort of pilgrims, one of whom, the renowned Egidius Romanus, uttered the phrase: "I am come to adore in the place where his feet have stood". Master Albert of Cologne could never hear his name mentioned without breaking into tears. Learning that his doctrine was impugned in Paris, although over 80 years of age, he proceeded thither on foot with Hugh de Lucca in 1276, and defended St. Thomas's teaching warmly before the University. "What a glory it is," he exclaimed, "for the living to be praised by the dead!" After representing the saint as being endowed with life while all others were covered with the shades of death, he poured forth a splendid eulogy of his doctrines as resplendent with orthodoxy and piety, and declared himself ready to meet any opponent. He did the same at Cologne, declaring that by his writings Thomas had laboured for all to the end of time.

Owing to the pressure of Church affairs of graver importance, little beyond collecting of evidence was done towards the canonization under the brief pontificates of the Dominican Popes, Blessed Innocent V, and Blessed Benedict XI. Innocent spoke of him in terms of no common praise: "The teaching of this Doctor beyond all others has fitness of terms, manner of expression, and soundness of opinions; so that he who holds it will never swerve from the path of truth: while, on the contrary, he who attacks it must always be suspected". Benedict invariably styled him: "My Master; my Doctor".

The solemn process of canonization was begun in 1318, promoted by Robert, King of Sicily, and supported by petitions from the Universities, the hierarchy, clergy, and the Order of Preachers. The official testimonies to be presented to the Pope at Avignon were entrusted to Friars William de Tocco and Robert de Benevento; as they were proceeding to France by sea, a great storm arose, and the ship was being carried towards the rocks, when they prayed aloud to St. Thomas to preserve them; the wind then veered round, and they reached land safely. On delivering up the documents, Pope John XXII accepted them eagerly, and thus addressed the prelates and friars: "We do not doubt that Br. Thomas is already glorious in heaven, his life having been saintly, and his doctrine miraculous". Three days later, in Consistory, he again reverted to it. "Venerable Brethren: We deem it a great glory for ourselves and for the whole Church, to inscribe this servant of God in the catalogue of the saints." The decree was then read introducing the cause of canonization, and three prelates appointed as Commissioners to examine the evidence of miracles; these were Humbert, Archbishop of Naples; Angelo, Bishop of Viterbo, and Pandulf, an Apostolic Notary. Heaven now aided the cause by striking miracles. The Archbishop of Naples was suffering from an incurable ulcer: he now commended himself to the saint's intercession before retiring to rest, and in the morning it was gone, leaving only a red mark. The Bishop of Viterbo fell ill of a violent fever, and lay at the point of death: he also prayed with confidence to the Angelic Doctor, slept peacefully, and awoke in perfect health. The same thing happened to Matthew, the chaplain of the Archbishop of Naples. Two further Commissions sat, at Naples and at Fossa Nuova, to substantiate the evidence of miracles. While these reports were being examined at Avignon, another singular miracle was wrought by the saint's intercession. Mary d'Arnaud, the Pope's niece, lay at the point of death from dropsy, so the Holy Father sent her the last blessing by the Bishop of Lodevi. It so chanced that the Bishop was a Dominican, who recommended her to have recourse to St. Thomas. She did so fervently, and during the night saw some one draw nigh to her bed, whom she took to be the Bishop. "Do you wish to be cured?" asked the visitor. "I am not the Bishop, but Brother Thomas Aquinas, to whom you have had recourse: fulfil the vow you have made, and you will recover." In the morning she found herself in perfect health.

Three Dominican Cardinals completed the final stages of the process with zeal and fervour: these were Nicholas Aubertin, Nicholas de Freauville, and William de Godieu.

The day appointed for St. Thomas's canonization was 18 July, 1323. The preliminary ceremony began in the Dominican Church in Avignon on the day before, in the presence of Pope John XXII, the Cardinals, very many Archbishops and Bishops, King Robert of Sicily, his mother Queen Mary, many princes, nobles, and ambassadors. The Pope pronounced a grand eulogium of the saint's works and merits, grounded on this text: "This is a day of good tidings: if we hold our peace, and do not tell it to the morning, we shall be charged with crime: come, let us go and tell it in the King's court" (4 Kings vii. 9).

King Robert of Sicily, a relative of the saint, then gave an address, showing how St. Thomas had merited the honour bestowed, because he had been, and would ever continue to be, "a burning and a shining light" (St. John V. 35).

The Archbishop of Capua followed with a panegyric, who was succeeded by Fr. Raymund Bequin, the Master of the Sacred Palace; further orations were delivered by the Archbishop of Arles, the Bishops of London, Winchester, and others.

On the morning of 18 July the Pope had the Bull of canonization read, assigning 7 March for the feast, after which he sang the votive mass of St. Thomas in the Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms, and pronounced another eulogium. "His doctrine was not other than miraculous," cried the Pontiff. "He has enlightened the Church more than all other Doctors, and more profit can be gained in a single year by the study of his works, than by devoting a lifetime to that of other theologians. He has wrought as many miracles as he has written Articles."

Body of St. Thomas Aquinas 
(in châsse above altar), 
removed from Dominican church 
at the revolution to the Chapel 
of the Holy Ghost, Church of 
St Sernin, Toulouse. CHAPTER X.


FROM the day of his departure, petitions were addressed to the Holy See for the privilege of possessing his incorrupt body: the King of Sicily and the Counts of Aquino and San Severino did so by title of kinship, the Universities of Paris and Naples by reason of his services rendered in life, and his own Order by right of sonship. The Cistercians of Fossa Nuova, however, kept their treasure for close upon a century; since their church had become a sanctuary renowned for miracles, they refused to part with what Providence had sent them.

In October, 1274, Abbot James and two monks secretly removed the body to St. Stephen's Chapel in the cloister, for which the saint rebuked them in a dream: incautiously they opened the coffin, whereupon a marvellous perfume exhaled which penetrated the cells and church, and the deceit practised was exposed. All saw him as if but reposing in sleep: as they carried him back to the church a marvellous light shone around. Abbot Peter translated the body to a befitting tomb in the choir in 1279, situated on the Gospel side of the high altar. The right hand, still perfectly intact and giving forth a delightful odour, was cut off in 1284 and bestowed on his sister the Countess of San Severino, who placed it in a silver reliquary: her son, Thomas, afterwards gave it to the Dominicans of Salerno.

Early in the year 1304, in consequence of a report that Pope Benedict XI meant to restore the remains to the Friars Preachers, the Cistercians amputated the head and placed it in a tabernacle behind the choir; the body, still exhaling the same fragrance, they deposited in a massive chest for secret concealment. It was privately conveyed to the Chapel of the Count of Fondi, another kinsman of the holy Doctor. The Lord of Piperno, who was at feud with him, resolved on carrying off the treasure, so as to extort a heavy ransom. Philip, King of Sicily, now sent an embassy of bishops and nobles, together with a great donation of gold, in order to secure the holy remains, alleging his claim of descent from the Aquinos: but the Count of Fondi would not deliver them up. Years went past, until St. Thomas admonished the Count that his relics were not in their proper place. His mother, who had been healed at his intercession, was praying with the Bishop of Fondi before the great chest, when both beheld him emerge as a living man, and after walking for a short time in silence, laid himself down again to rest. In consequence of this, the Count resigned the body to the Dominicans of Fondi, who placed it in their church. Here, for the second time, St. Thomas came forth visibly before Father Raymund. The Cistercians addressed a complaint to Pope Urban V, who ordered an investigation to be made as to the respective claims of the two Orders; the rights of the Friars Preachers were warmly urged by the Queen of Sicily, the Count of Aquino, and the Dominican Cardinals. The Father General, Elias of Toulouse, then went direct to the Pope. "You come at the right time," said Urban; "it is you who stole the body of St. Thomas." "Holy Father," answered Elias, "he is our brother and our flesh."

"And where then have you ordered it to be deposited?" pursued the Pontiff. "Nowhere, Most Holy Father: that shall be as you decide." Nothing was then decided; within a few days the Court moved to Montefiascone, at Whitsuntide, whither Father Elias followed on Corpus Christi Day. "Holy Father," said he, "to-day's solemnity reminds me that St. Thomas composed the Office of the Blessed Sacrament by order of Pope Urban. Since you bear the same name, I beseech you to grant to the Saint the honour he deserves, and that his body shall rest among his brethren, who will reverence him more than any others." Raising his voice, the Pope gave solemn sentence. "By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, I give and grant to you, the Master General, and to the Order of Friars Preachers, the body of St. Thomas Aquinas, a religious of this Order, to be placed at Toulouse, or Paris, as shall be decided by the General Chapter or the Master General. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." All present then answered "Amen!" Next day the Pope fixed upon Toulouse, as being the cradle of the order. Learning that the head was still at Fossa Nuova, he continued: "And I also give you St. Thomas's head, that it may be translated with the body".

On 4 August, 1368, the head and body were laid in the papal chapel at Montefiascone, and solemnly delivered over to the Master General's keeping. The relics reposed for a month with the Dominican Sisters at Prouille, and many were the miracles wrought on the way. On 28 January, 1369, they were solemnly conveyed to the Dominican Church in Toulouse by Louis Duke of Anjou, many prelates, and a concourse of 150,000 persons. The festival of his Translation became a day of precept for the diocese. His right arm was bestowed on Paris University, and was placed by King Charles in the Dominican Church, in St. Thomas's Chapel; at the Great Revolution it was conveyed to Rome, and now rests in the Minerva Church. The chief bone of his left arm was given to his brethren in Naples, who transferred it to the Cathedral in 1603.

In 1628 a magnificent shrine, with altars at the four sides, was erected in Toulouse. At the Great Revolution it was thrown down, and the remains, draped with the Republican flag, conveyed for safety by the Constitutional clergy to an obscure corner in St. Sernin's crypt. They were exposed for veneration in 1805; the sacred head was enclosed in a new reliquary in the year 1852. On 24 July, 1878, the Archbishop of Toulouse, Monseigneur Desprez, after judicial verification of the relics enclosed them in a superb sarcophagus of gold and silver.



IN the Council of Trent, Master John Gallio de Burgos eulogized his writings: "The name of the Angelic Doctor, already so renowned throughout the Christian world, will be held in still higher veneration by posterity from the honour and cultus which you have been pleased to bestow upon him here. St. Thomas had not the honour of assisting at a General Council during his lifetime, but he still lives on after death. He is present with you in the spiritual treasures of his writings, bequeathed to you as a rich heritage. In this sense we can rest assured that no Council has ever been held in the Church since his blessed death, at which the holy Doctor has not been present, and has not been consulted."

Pope St. Pius V proclaimed him Doctor of the Church in the year 1567. The Vatican Council of 1870 likewise placed his "Summa" on the altar.

On 4 August, 1879, Pope Leo XIII published the Encyclical "AEterni Patris," dwelling on the importance of basing Christian dogma on sound Philosophy. "Amongst the Scholastic Doctors, the Prince and Master of all, Thomas Aquinas, shines with incomparable splendour. Enriched with all Divine and human sciences, justly compared to the sun, he reanimates the earth by the bright rays of his virtues, while filling it with the splendour of his doctrine. Distinguishing accurately between reason and faith, he unites them in the bonds of perfect concord, while preserving the rights and maintaining the dignity of each. So then, reason, upborne on the wings of Thomas, can soar no higher, while faith can obtain from reason no more numerous and efficacious helps than those furnished by Thomas.

"We cannot wonder then at the immense enthusiasm of former ages for the writings of the Angelic Doctor. Nearly all the founders and legislators of Religious Orders have ordered their subjects to study the doctrine of St. Thomas, and to keep to it religiously: they have provided beforehand that no one amongst them should depart with impunity, even in the least point, from the teaching of so great a man."

Another Brief followed on 4 August, 1880. "In virtue of our supreme authority, for the glory of Almighty God, and the honour of the Angelic Doctor, for the advancement of learning and the common welfare of human society, we declare the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron of all Universities, Academies, Colleges, and Catholic Schools: and we desire that he should be venerated and honoured as such by all."

O Thoma, laus et gloria
Praedicatorum Ordinis,
Nos transfer ad caelestia
Professor sacri Numinis.


J. V. de Groot. "Het. Leven van den H. Thomas van Aquino." Utrecht, 1882.

P. Mandonnet. "Des écrits authentiques de S. Thomas d'Aquin." Fribourg, 1910.

A. Touron. "La Vie de S. Thomas d'Aquin, Critique sur les OEuvres." Paris, 1741.

Natalis, Alexander. "Opuscula Apologetica pro doctrina S. Thomae Aquinatis." Paris, 1680.

J. de Gerson, Chancellor of Paris. "Epistola ad studentes Collegii Navarrensis de doctrina S. Thomae Aquinatis."

B. de Rubeis. "Dissertationes in singula opera D. Thomae Aquinatis." Venice, 1740.

R. B. Vaughan. "Life and Labours of S. Thomas of Aquin." Hereford, 1871.

"Bullarium Ordinis Praedicatorum," to the eighteenth century, gives thirty-eight Constitutions of eighteen Popes, extolling the writings of S. Thomas.

"Analecta Ordinis Praedicatorum," Rome. Vol. II, 1895, gives the Apostolic Letters of Leo XIII to the Universities of Lille, Baltimore, and Louvain, commending S. Thomas's teaching and imposing it. Vol. III., 1897, Pope Leo's Apostolic Letter of 30 December, 1892, to the Jesuits, to the same effect. Vol. IV, the Letter to the Friars Minor of 25 November, 1897.

J. Vielmus. "De Divi Thomae Aquinatis Doctrina et Scriptis." Parma.

Bollandists, "Acta Sanctorum: Vita S. Thomae Aquinatis," given under 7 March, embodying the life by Tocco.

The learned Commentators of his works: Cajetan, Soto, Capreolus, Sylvius, Capponi, Medina, Joannes a S. Thoma, Bannes, Billuart, and the Theologi Salmanticenses.

The chief editions of the "Opera Omnia": Rome, 1570; Venice, 1594; Antwerp, 1612; Paris, 1660; Venice, 1775; Parma, 1852-69; the Leonine at Rome, 1882-1907 and still in progress.

Nihil Obstat:
Revisores Ordinis

Prior Provincialis Anglia

Nihil Obstat:
Censor Deputatus

Vicarius Generalis Westmonasteriensis

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