Son of the Count of Aquinas and Theodora of Naples, Thomas was born in 1225 in Roccasecca, in the south of Latium. He was entrusted at the age of 5 to the Benedictine monks of Monte Cassino. Despite strong opposition from his family, he entered the Order of St. Dominic, a recently founded mendicant order.
A student in Paris at the time of St. Louis, a disciple of St. Albert the Great whom he followed to Cologne, he successfully passed all the academic levels. Upon his return to Paris, he became a doctor in theology in 1256.
Renowned for his knowledge and his purity, and an exemplary religious, St. Thomas authored many works including the Summa Theologica that is a summit of knowledge, concision and method for all students in theology.
He died on March 7, 1274, at the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova, in Latium, on his way to the second council of Lyon assembled by Pope Gregory X. One century later, at the decision of Pope Urban V, his body was transferred to Toulouse, where St. Dominic had founded the Order of Brothers Preachers. His relics are still preserved in the church of the Jacobins.
St. Thomas was canonized on July 18, 1323, by Pope John XXII. St. Pius V proclaimed him a doctor of the Church on April 11, 1567.
Pope Leo XIII extended his patronage on January 18, 1880 to universities and Catholic schools:
The doctrine of St. Thomas is so vast that it contains like a sea all the wisdom that has come down from the ancient authors. Not only did he have a perfect knowledge of everything true that was said, everything wise that was discussed by the pagan philosophers, by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, by superior men who blossomed before him, but he increased this knowledge, perfected it, ordained it with so perceptive a view of the essential principles, with such perfect method and such appropriate terms that he seems to have left those who come after him only the ability to imitate him, while depriving them of the possibility of equaling him.
Known as the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas is the prince of the scholastic philosophy that is the foundation of sacred studies.
“O God, through whom Thy Church is glorified by the wonderful learning of Thy blessed confessor Thomas and profiteth still from his holy labors: grant, we pray, that we may grasp his teaching with our minds and show it, as he did, in our lives” (Collect).