Today marks the memorial of Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church. Before you even discuss the worthy works and prayer of Thomas Aquinas, you simply have to be awestruck by the fact that he has been bestowed the highest title possible for a human being by the Catholic Church, that of Doctor.
Throughout the history of the world, there are only 37 doctors in the Church, with St. Iranaeus recently being added as Doctor Unitatis by Pope Francis. But what can we as Knights obtain from the learning alongside this great Saint? First and foremost, we can place prayer at the top of the list. Despite being a learned man who steeped himself in study, he famously said that he learned more from prayer than studying.
St. Thomas was born in 1225, and first studied at the monastery of Monte Cassino, and then the University of Naples. He joined the Friars Preachers, and studied more at Parish and Cologne. One of his teachers was St. Albert the Great. Thomas was only 49 years old when he died.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously. – James 1:5
St. Thomas Aquinas was very adept at learning from this passage! Brother Reginald of Piperno, once said this of his close friend:
When perplexed by a difficulty he would kneel and pray and then, on returning to his writing and dictation, he was accustomed to find that his thought had become so clear that it seemed to show him inwardly, as in a book, the words he needed.
As Catholic Men, as Knights, we have many duties and responsibilities. The first and foremost is uphold and defend His most Holy Church, through our thoughts, words, and actions. Certainly our prayer life has to be intentional and pure.
In addition to upholding and defending His most Holy Church, we are charged with the temporal affairs of our order. Our every decision on the future of our order depends on rooting those decisions in truth, fairness, and should start with prayer.
Simply I learned about Wisdom, and ungrudgingly do I share – her riches I do not hid away; For to men she is an unfailing treasure; those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God, to whom the gifts they have from discipline commend them. – Wisdom 7:13-14
While a necessity to continue that friendship with God, our individual prayers must be focused on obtaining wisdom, and growing as men of faith and virtue. But we must also pray together as a group for peace and unity throughout the world, for an increase in vocations, and for an increase in our Holy and Noble order of Knights.
Our meetings are bookended with devotional prayers, the important prayer that Christ himself gave us, the Pater Noster or Lord’s prayer. We ask for the intercession of Mary most Holy, and from our patronage St. John the Baptist. We pray for the souls of our departed members. We must also not forget to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that our thoughts, words and actions of our leaders at all levels make decisions that are beneficial for our order, our members, and our Church.
Being responsible for the Order of Knights, we must remain obedient first and foremost to God. If we lose that, according to Thomas, even prayer cannot be pleasing to God. As uniformed members of our order, we must remember that we don our uniforms for the Liturgy as Knights of the King. We don’t turn out for our own benefit, although the indulgence prayers are helpful in keeping us on the path to heaven! Even then though, if we do not enter into the sanctuary as Knights obedient to God and with the Eucharist as the source and summit of our being, that vanity and selfish behavior trumps the outward expressions of the protection of the faith.
Why did the Son of God have to suffer and die for us? The easy answer for that is for the expiation of our sins. To be one sacrifice for the cleansing of mankind. But Thomas writes that he also did it as an example of how we are to live – a commandment of example for Knights to shape the fiber of their being and their code of knighthood. In Collatio 6 super Credo in Deum, Aquinas outlines this example. Within Christ’s passion we find love.
Great love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Are we ready to stand, unabashed in our faith for the truth and the light? While Knights of old would have readily laid down their lives for the worthy cause of the Church, are we willing to sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure to evangelize in every way possible? Have we made conscious decisions to put our Knighthood second and seek out worldly affairs before putting God first?
Through the example of Christ, we can seek patience through the Passion of the Cross. Do we bear the burden of our crosses and assist with the crosses of others? Our crosses and burdens shape who we are, and only when tested by the fire can we seek to root out our impurities. If taken out of the fire to early, we are weakened. As champions of faith we must endure the sufferings and trials of this life to gain eternal life at the heavenly banquet table. To patiently and silently accept these trials is to mimic the example set forth by Christ.
We can see acts of humility, and utmost obedience through our spiritual prayer.
We should not seek greatness of rank or become overly attached to clothing and riches says Thomas, as Christ did not seek out worldly favors, but wore His crown of thorns, experienced the harshness of His captures, and drank of vinegar and gall.
Aquinas did not seek out the life he lived for his own personal gain, rather his unsurpassable wisdom he taught and shared freely with others.
“Pray without ceasing.” Thessalonians 5:17
We should be encouraged to come together for the sole purpose of prayer. Men from the Buffalo Grand Commandery meet on the First Saturday of each month. Sacrificing an hour of their busy lives to pray together in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. These encouraging events and times should be fostered and promoted within our Holy and Noble order, as our first duty is to the King, and nothing greater can be done for the King than falling to our knees is true, honest, intentional, pure prayer.
God our Father, you made Thomas Aquinas known for his holiness and learning. Help us to grow in wisdom by his teaching, and in holiness by imitating his faith. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.