Though the church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas on January 28, Thomas actually died on March 7, 1274 – 740 years ago today.
I think Thomas is one of the most maligned theologians of the Catholic Church.
In part this is due to the scholasticism that reduced Thomas’ dialectical method into a set of propositions – forgetting the serious questions that pervade Thomas’s Summa Theologica.
We also forget that Thomas, though steeped in the scriptures and in the writings of the fathers of the church, was not adverse to seek inspiration in the writings of the pagan Aristotle as well as in the texts of Jewish and Islamic philosophers.
But I think we also miss that Thomas was a person steeped in the love of God and seek to live this out in his daily life.
He could be a little absent-minded – or, rather, super-focused on a problem. There is the story of his attending a banquet with King St. Louis where, in the middle of the banquet, he pounded the table and stated that he had just found the perfect way to respond to a heresy!
But I think he was also practical.
In grad school a friend told me that Thomas had a three-fold way to respond to feeling bad: a good meal, a bath, and sleep. I have no idea where this is found in Thomas’ works, but it’s rather good advice.
But what I really like about Thomas is what I found this past year in Timothy Radcliffe’s Take the Plunge: Living Baptism and Confirmation:
St. Thomas Aquinas believed that an inability to play was a sign of moral weakness: ‘Therefore, unmitigated seriousness betokens a lack of virtue because it wholly despises play, which is as necessary for a good human life as rest’.
So, today, on the anniversary of St. Thomas Aquinas’ death, let’s play!