Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, known alternately as the Angelic Doctor and the Dumb Ox. I think he prefers the former, eh?
At Mass today, I wondered that it is not his intellect that makes him great, as great as his intellect was. It is not his volumous writings that earned him the prize of heaven, and his writings fill bookshelves.
Rather, it was his holiness and his humility, which form the basis and directed his intellect to produce such great works delving into the depths of theology, philosophy, natural sciences, metaphysics, etc. etc. First and foremost, he sought to be united with God, and out of that unity came the depth of understanding that has kept his writings contemporary with every age of man since.
The episode at the end of his life plays this tention out. For Thomas, the goal was the Beatific Vision: seeing God face to face. As it is normally, God appears to us veiled under the mystery of the Eucharist so that we might see and encounter Him in a way that we can comprehend. Towards the end of his life, Thomas was granted the beatific vision, the veil was lifted and he was offered a peek into heaven, as it were. ‘Burn it all!’ was his response, for he recognized that while his writings were prolific, they paled to what he had just experienced.
Luckily, his wishes were not carried through and his writings continue to inspire students of today. But his example of life is even greater. We may not all be blessed with an intellect such as Thomas had, but we all certainly have a heart that is capable of imitating the love he had for God.