JMC : Saint Thomas Aquinas / by Raïssa Maritain

XVI The Humility of the Great Doctor

SO loved by God, so gifted by genius, the counsellor of the King Saint Louis and of several Popes, famous in all the schools of the world, this great Doctor was without vanity or pride.

We must not be surprised at this. He was humble and modest; his soul, like a bough laden down with fruit, was bent and bowed down with its burden.

In sweetness and humility of heart the Angelic Doctor greatly resembled the Lord Jesus.

It was in this way," says William de Tocco, that he deserved to know in meditation the life of the Lord, and to teach it in his sermons."


One day at the convent of Bologna a brother who did not know he was addressing the Saint, asked him to go into town with him. Thomas followed him without saying anything.

The brother walked very fast, and the Saint followed him with great difficulty. The brother turned around often and reproached him for his slowness. The Saint humbly begged his pardon.

Passers-by who knew the illustrious Doctor, indignant at seeing him treated this way, told the ungracious brother the name of the saint. Imagine the confusion of the poor friar!

Another time a young and forward monk, very proud of his new knowledge, sustained in public and before the great Doctor, a thesis contrary to the truth that Thomas had taught in his lessons.

He let the young Master go on, made no objection, and afterwards came back calmly to the convent, in the company of his Brothers.

But they could not resign themselves to the injury done their Master.

"For your sake we were gravely offended," they told him. "He should not speak against your opinion, and you should not have allowed him to deny the truth before the whole University of Paris."

"My sons," replied Saint Thomas, "I was trying to spare the feelings of the new Master on the day of his reception, and not to embarrass him before all the Doctors."

But the next day, before the same audience, Saint Thomas found the means to correct the error of his young adversary, speaking to him with the same gentleness as if he were instructing a faithful disciple.

In this way neither truth nor charity suffered. And it was a deed of profound humility.

<< ======= >>