St. Thomas, the greatest teacher the Catholic Church has ever known, would often say that he learned less from books than at the foot of the Cross, or altar. His devotion to the Holy Eucharist was so great that he often spent long hours before it at night in prayer.
On one occasion, after having many hours of informal conference with two Jews at the house of a rich Count, they agreed to return the next day for further discussion. St. Thomas spent that whole night before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. The next day, the two Jews came back, but not to discussions, they were converted and were begging for the gift of Faith and Baptism. Usually, of all people, it is striking how changeable and flighty are intellectuals. They seem to go from fad to fad and it is from their ranks that the enemy of the Church recruits the founders of new Religions.
But St. Thomas was called by his fellow students “the dumb Ox”, because he never spoke in class and resembled lumbering peasants who don’t speak because they don’t have anything interesting to say. St. Thomas, however, didn’t speak because he was plunging the depths of Truth in his heart and studying carefully how to translate what he knew into devotion and an ever growing love of God. For St. Thomas, learning was not a book, but the acquisition of the world’s light that gives life to all men.
For him, every word was true, it came from Christ, the eternal Word. So like Mary, he either brought all things to Christ or considered them by the light of Christ. In this he solved his most difficult intellectual problems in prayer.
The intellectual habits of St. Thomas were formed very early in his soul in his devotion to Mary and the love of purity. Like Her, he pondered thorny intellectual problem in the depths of his heart in the light of light itself, the Word incarnate, Who only imparts His secrets to those who love. In St. Thomas, the natural instinct of the child to know: “What is that Mommy?” was coupled with an instinct every bit as strong to love it, possess it and live it.
None of us has anything near the talents of St. Thomas, but every one of us has his Catholic instinct – not only to know truth, but to live it. Like him, we must develop this talent by devotion to Mary. Firstly, like him, let us pray to Our Lady to know – not what attracts praise or victory in debate – but what we need to know to love God more and serve Him better. Secondly, let us ask Our Lady to help us to understand why it is true and how we might practice it. Thirdly, let us love this truth, as we love Christ Himself, for He said, I am the Truth. Fourthly, we should memorize it – storing it in our heart. Ave Maria!