JMC : Saint Thomas Aquinas / by Raïssa Maritain

I. The Angel of the Schools is Saint Thomas Aquinas

THIS book is written for those children who know a little about Saint Thomas and love him very much, and it is written also for those who will love him when they know him.

All the saints are lovable because of their goodness which touches God's heart and our own, but each has his particular beauty, just as all flowers are beautiful, but each in its own way.

I want to show you the beauty and holiness which belonged especially to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, Common Doctor, Angelic Doctor, Angel of the School.

For he has been given all these names and many others, too, to signify his marvellous wisdom, a source of light for all men.

Doctor, here, does not mean the one who comes to see us when we are ill, but a doctor who is charged with teaching. Angel means messenger of God.

Angels are not chubby-cheeked babies, nor knights armed with lances. They have neither bodies nor heads -- they are pure spirits.

All the pictures of them that we see simply mean that they are fine, pure, intelligent, strong, burning with the love of God, Whom they see face to face, and devoted to the welfare of man.

These pure spirits are invisible, but it is not only what we see that exists. You do not hear nor see the waves that pass silently in the air; and yet, if you have a radio, you hear at home a concert going on hundreds of miles away. All this music is in those places, and it is here at the same time. And a message sent from any point of the earth goes out into the air, and nothing seems to interfere with it until it reaches the middle of the ocean and the ship to which it sent.

Nevertheless the waves are material -- angels are immaterial, more invisible than the waves and more rapid than lightning, carrying to earth the messages of God.

Saint Thomas, to tell the truth, was not invisible. He was even very tall, and very big. But like an angel he was pure and strong and a messenger of divine light. He was charged with a special message for those who are studying, and for those who love the truth with all their hearts, who are looking for it everywhere, wishing to know it and to serve it.


His feast is not observed in parish churches with any particular ceremony, but in the seminaries and Catholic universities it is celebrated with great solemnity; in the morning a fine sermon is preached in honour of the Saint, and in the afternoon the rejoicing takes a very studious form: before an assembly of professors and their pupils, two students take part in a great combat of eloquence and learning, one supporting the affirmative and the other the negative; it is what is called a scholastic dispute, the only kind of a dispute in which each taking part in it is polite and kind to his enemy. And sometimes concerts and theatricals in honour of Saint Thomas are also given on this day.

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