"Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas by Francesco TRAINI, In this altarpiece St Thomas Aquinas receives not only the divine wisdom but also the wisdom of the Evangelists and the philosophers of the classical world. He then convey this to the Christian community, and also, in order to convert them, to the enemies of the Church. The intertwining structure of these rays of vision or wisdom determines the composition of the picture and creates a pictorial order which reflects the divine order of the cosmos."Hymns in honor of the Most Blessed Sacrament written by Saint Thomas Aquinas:
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS.*
REV. J. R. VOLZ, O. P
HAT shall we take a great man to be? That, Carlyle has said, is ever a grand question, and, by the way men answer it, he assures us we shall see, as through a little window, into the very heart of their spiritual condition.
In the early part of his pontificate, Leo XIII., himself a shining luminary in the vast heavens of humanity, revived the interest of the intellectual world, not in a great man simply, but in a great Saint and Doctor of the Church. Setting ourselves to review, as best we may in a brief hour, the influences and energies that made that life culminate in more than earthly glory, may we not promise ourselves over and above an advance in self knowledge, some deeper insight into those fundamental and most vital principles that must forever determine the true relationship of humanity to its Saviour and God? For who was ever so luminous an embodiment of them, or their more lucid exponent, than the Angelical Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, Patron of all Catholic schools? Human greatness is derived from the superior qualities revealed in the resultants of consciously directed life; but life is the sum of inherited and native power and personal activity and achievement. It is the line drawn with more or less of mastery from a point that is absolutely individual and coincident with the beginning of no other being. Looking for racial marks on the mind and temperament of the child Count of Aquino, we at once meet with undoubted evidences of the foundation of his greatness and also with that peculiar sign of mystery that is set upon the chosen souls of God. The starting point of his life, in its human aspect, has the engaging interest of issuing from noble rank. He was born towards the end of the year 1226, some say at Aquino, others at Roccasecca, in the Kingdom of Naples. He was the third son of Landolph, Count of Aquinas, Lord of Loretto and Belcastro, and a grandson of the valiant Thomas of Aquino, who had commanded with distinction, the troops of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. His mother was likewise of noble origin. She was a superior woman, a rare soul who is said to have made it a law to herself to sustain the nobility of her rank and degree by the dignity and worthiness of her works. She did not hold herself above household occupations, and she was wont to seek the spiritualizing benefits of fasting and of prayer. She was a mother to give chaste strength and virile chasteness to her child as a most precious inheritance.
The shadow of saintship seems to have fallen on the child even before his birth. A pious hermit is said to have told the mother that her infant would attain to so exalted a degree of learning and holiness "that the world of his time should not be able to find his equal."
In his babyhood, he was once observed holding in his little hands a paper bearing the words "Ave Maria." When it was attempted to take the paper from him, his infantile resistance went to the extreme of swallowing his precious possession, that he might not be forced to give it up.
His boyhood was singularly conspicuous for its seeking, not childhood's pleasures and diversions, but rather such things as irk most children, thoughtful solitude and exercises of prayer. Thomas was never idle. Leisure had no attraction for him. He wore constantly a relic of Saint Agnes about his neck. It was observed that he had what has been called an ingenious tenderness towards the poor.
Such are the things told about him before he was sent, at the age of five, to the Benedictine school of Monte Casino. It was the custom among the noble families at that time to put their boys in charge of the devoted monks of that famous abbey for their first instruction. There is not a biographer of St. Thomas but speaks wonderingly of his youthful precocity. One of the characteristic stories told of him then is that, when a monk once asked him of what he was thinking, he replied: "I am seeking God. Tell me, master, what is God?" And he seemed never to tire of discussing that question.
After five years had passed, his instructors recommended that the boy should be sent to a high school for more advanced studies. It appears that Thomas' mother, recognizing what a treasure she possessed in this remarkable child, and filled with loving solicitude for him, wished to keep him under the parental roof-tree in the care of tutors, but the Count Landolph's views differed, and it was determined to send Thomas to Naples.
Naples, the beautiful, but alas! also a terrestrial paradise..
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS OFFERING HIS WORKS TO THE CHURCH. From a modern painting by Seitz in the Vatican Museum.
haunted by corrupting influences and soul-blighting seductions— was that city to be the scene of the perversion of Thomas' youth and innocence? That, humanly speaking, might well have been feared. The University of Naples was then in the twelfth year of its existence. It had been founded by Frederick II. as a rival to the University of Bologna, because the Bolognese would not recognize his authority. The better to consummate his purpose, Frederic engaged the most renowned professors, and allured students from everywhere by granting them unusual liberties and extraordinary privileges. In this way, the newly founded seat of learning grew apace: but whilst it strode onward to intellectual supremacy, the city at the same time grew more, and more corrupt, until, at the epoch in which the youthful Count of Aquino was sent there, the reign of vice and iniquity had attained proportions truly appalling.
It is perhaps the essence of a great soul to see, under the contingent, the necessary; under the ephemeral, the sempiternal; under the subtly meshed and darkly interwoven influences of the worldly, the calm, serene lucidity and the divine immobility of the Absolute and Infinite. The youthful Thomas had but to look into the holy of holies that had been emplanted and nurtured in his heart, to cause him to shrink with horror from the abominations around him and to fix the eyes of his youthful soul more firmly with that invincible determination of his, on the loveliness of the eternal hills. With his regular habits, his reserve and modesty, his intense application to study and prayer, he soon outstripped his associates in learning and compelled them to look with wonder and respect upon the shining example of his virtues.
It was towards the year 1243 that Thomas brought this period of his university study to a brilliant close. He had taken his course of philosophy under the renowned Peter Martin and his course of natural sciences under the no less celebrated Peter of Ireland. He had reached a critical moment of his youth. Some of his biographers have sought to explain the next great step of his life by his abhorrence of the revolting dissipations and licentiousness which he, had witnessed during his .student years at Naples, and by his dislike for the military life and warfare which he would naturally be called upon to share with his father and brothers, who were then commanding troops of the Emperor in Tuscany. But who shall say that after those incessant heart-cries of his boyhood and youth, after those luminous visions, even then, of the totality of things, that his action was the merely negative one of not wishing to enter upon a career from which his whole nature recoiled, instead of the positive going out of his heart, in enthusiasm and love, to a life that appealed to him with a voice as from the very heart of heaven? A strangely wonderful picture now presents itself to our mind out of the immediately succeeding events of Thomas' life. He has become a Dominican friar and this step of his is viewed with an ill grace by every member of his family. Oh, the folly of it, they seem to say. Can a nobleman, a youth of such rare parts, turn his back upon the fair promise of his rank and degree? Can he so humiliate the illustrious blood of his ancestors under the frock of a mendicant monk?
A fond mother and two affectionate sisters entreat him to reconsider his decision. They argue with him. They plead. The old sense of family pride, of long-cherished ambition, asserts itself in their vivid pictures of his prospects in the state of life to which he was naturally destined, in gloomy portrayals of the trials and tribulations that await him in the mendicant order. They bring strong influences of higher circles into play, that he may be diverted from his purpose. At length, when the young novice, to avoid his family's impunities, is sent on his way to Paris to continue his studies there, his brothers brutally intervene and drag him a prisoner to the ancestral castle and fortress.
Nor have we yet seen the strangest part of an indignant family's effort to thwart a son and brother in his purpose of dedicating himself, against their wishes, to the service of God. How they could even have thought of, not to say instigate, so vile a proceeding, passes all understanding; but they sent a wanton, profligate woman, to his room, "beautiful of body, but corrupt of soul," as St. Antoninus says, to tempt Thomas' virtue. And the result? The nobleminded, pure-hearted youth, when he divined the fold conspiracy, plucked a burning brand from the fire and drove the wretched creature away from him in dismay.
Then there burst a light, as of heaven, into that sanctuary. With the fire-brand still in his hand. Thomas had marked a cross on the wall. Two angels stood beside the youth as he knelt, first absorbed in prayer, and then wrapped in ecstatic sleep, and they girded him with a mystic girdle, as though to signify that the Divine Wisdom had chosen that pure body as an earthly habitation, for the working of many wonders to come!
During some eighteen months of captivity, Thomas never wavered, but showed more and more the firmness and decision of his character. The persevering bent of his mind was manifested in his constant occupation". He had brought with him his breviary and his bible to be his daily solace, and we are told that in this time lie laid the foundation of his marvelously retentive and prodigious memory. To enlarge his knowledge and to sharpen his understanding he is said to have committed to memory the famous four books of the sentences of Peter Lombard, together with some Aristotelean works, so that ever after he was able to remember anything he read.
True greatness never suffers isolation. There are two leading ways of reaching God, and not infrequently, they intersect each other or run together. The unfolding to human intelligence of the Divine Attributes through the marvels of creation, through contact of heart and mind with the great and terrible facts of life, is a mediate process. An immediate one is the abandonment of the soul to the Divine in a life of self-annihilation and of sublime contemplation. Yet in both ways, the mind, the higher part of man, is as wax, and its impressible nature never leaves it and its perfection is measured by the perfection of the impressions it has received.
In Brother Thomas, free at last to pursue his calling and standing on the threshold of the religious life, we already see a spirit, a genius, of a capacity, all the phases of whose development so far are so many marvels. He is a rare growth, not yet in its flower, and we ask ourselves with no little anxiety where shall he find his soil, his environment? But his very loyalty to the white habit which they vainly strive to tear from him, reassures us on this point.
Science, virtue, heroism—all these have been spread ineffaceably on the pages of the annals of St. Dominic's Order of Preachers. St. Dominic, not long canonized when St. Thomas entered the Order, had himself been the living exemplar, the personification of the highest, soul-moving traits. Blessed Jordan, St. Dominic's successor, had been a living force, gathering to itself the best of the refinement, talent, and true piety that then flowered in the Universities. Then came the learned Raymond of Pennafort, first of canonists. He gave enduring form to the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers. Cavour, the keen, crafty statesman, is said to have declared them to be the embodiment of the legislative wisdom of the world. John, the Teuton, follows next on the roll of Master Generals, and it was he who guided the destinies of the youthful Order when St. Thomas sought admission into its ranks. Its influence even then had spread not only over Europe, but into every other part of the known world. Albertus Magnus in Germany was a tower of scientific strength, as he was a shining light of virtue. Hugo of St. Cher, afterwards Cardinal, was edifying the Liege country no less by the sanctity of his life than by his zealous teaching and preaching. In the Milanese districts, Peter of Verona had manifested himself as a mighty defender of Christian truth, and all Lombardy was quickened socially and morally by the sermons and the wonders of John of Vicenza. Hyacinth, the Apostle of the North, had preached the word of God to the Poles and Bohemians, but his restless zeal had also carried him through the length and breadth of Russia, Sweden and Denmark. Nor was he satisfied with this. Leaving Ceslas and some others to prosecute the work he had so gloriously begun, he pushed on to the shores of the Black Sea, to the Islands of the Archipelago, and to the shores of Asia, everywhere combating infidelity, schism and heresy. He baptized many Mussulmans, announced the name and gospel of Jesus Christ to barbaric peoples, and on his return to the north land, he founded convents of the Order and schools in Prussia, Pomerania, on the shores of the East Sea, and in many Muscovite provinces. From these schools went forth the first bishops of the Lithuanians, Livonians, and other peoples brought into the fold of the true Church by the sons of St. Dominic.
History knows of no such large and fruitful activity that has not grown out of some wide-spreading and vital movement of thought. It is to the holy founder himself that the Order of Preachers owes its imperishable glory of uniting contemplation— that is sacred study of the most extended range and of the most comprehensive import—with activity, preaching and teaching. The early legislation of the Order is ample proof of the solicitude of St. Dominic and of his followers for the upbuilding in sacred science of the young students who flocked to the newly raised standard of Truth.
In 1335, the Fathers assembled in General Chapter, justified the yet ampler provisions they were about to make for studies by recalling how "the Order, from its very beginning had been singularly prosperous because of the eminence of its science and learning." The acts of the General Chapter of 1279 state the conviction of its members that the "promotion of the welfare of the Order could follow only from the proficiency of its studies." Again in 1328, stress was laid on the necessity of a high standard of excellence in studies, "lest from their neglect, the Order should ultimately fall into contempt."
Legislative acts dating from St. Thomas' own student days provide that all other sciences and studies are expressly and on principle to be made subsidiary to the chief course of theology. Bible study, philosophy, the liberal arts, the languages, Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew, all these occur as subjects to be considered in the organization of new schools. Even Protestant savants bear witness to the fact that the Dominicans could never be reproached for having made more of the commentators than of the text of the Bible itself.
The oldest house of studies was that of Paris, but as early as 1246, it was legislated that school of higher curriculum should be opened at Oxford, Cologne, Montpelier, and Bologna, each empowered to confer the same degrees as those given in Paris itself. In his "History of Roman Law in the Middle Ages," Savigny states that the doctors created by these schools were universally recognized. We may well believe this from the zealous care that was taken by special legislative acts to send apt students to these seats of learning.
Besides these schools for higher studies, there arose special schools in the provinces. It then became a law that no one could enter a higher school, unless he had first successfully gone through a provincial house of studies. From the minute details in acts of General Chapter making provision for the support of the Order's students, for their travelling expenses, clothing, books, for their exemptions from certain conventual duties and from fasts, that they might be the freer for study, we may easily understand how even a distinguished Protestant authority, Oelsner, could draw the conclusion that "such unremitting diligence among the people by preaching, and such fostering care of studies within the Order could not but draw the attention of youths ambitious to study, and to captivate them."
Is it any wonder in the lace of these facts, that so rare a soul and so gifted a youth, as we have seen Thomas to be, learned to love the Order of St. Dominic and to cherish it as the one place for him in this earthly life? What other body could offer him a preceptor to whom he might address the old query of his boyhood: "Master, what is God?" After not a little deliberation and reviewing of the advantages offered by the different schools of the Order, Thomas' superiors decided to place him under Master Albert of Cologne. If their solicitude for the new novice should seem to any to go beyond prudential bounds, if the ado made in behalf of the young nobleman should savor somewhat of a not disinterested favoritism, we have but to tell, with some of his biographers, how the insistent complaints of Countess Theodora had determined the Pope, Innocent IV. to summon the recalcitrant scion of the Aquinas family into his presence, that he might for himself examine the genuineness of that disputed vocation.
It was in the year 1244, (or 1245 alii) that Thomas appeared before the Holy Father. He was thoroughly and searchingly examined, and we may judge of how fully Divine grace had entered into and taken possession of his youthful soul from the profound impression he made on the Pope, from his begging to decline at the Holy Father's hands the honor of Abbot of Monte-Cassino together with the permission still to remain a Dominican, and from his urgent appeal to the Sovereign Pontiff to be permitted to remain true to the life of humility and poverty to which God had called him.
In October of the same year, the Master General was about to journey to Paris and from there to Cologne, in the interests of the Order. He himself undertook to conduct Thomas to his destination, and then there began that beautiful relationship between master and disciple, whose history shall be told—who can doubt it?—down to the very end of time.
The stories out of those days of St. Thomas' scholastic training have been rehearsed in all the schools of Christendom. They reveal his intense devotion to his calling, his application to study, his humility, his spirit of wondrous contemplation. Who has not heard of that marvellous silence of his, so long and so persistently maintained that his companions began to call him the "dumb ox of Sicily;" that they felt a kind of compassion for him and offered to help him on in his class work? Who has not felt the thrill of the lovable master, when the genius of his pupil burst forth, like an illumination at night, and caused him to utter his memorable and prophetic words: "We have called Brother Thomas a dumb ox, but I tell you that his bellowing shall be heard throughout the whole world!"
It was not long before those who had heard this prophecy began to find dawning indications of its realization. In the initial year of his studies under Albertus Magnus, Thomas achieved his first commentary, a book on the moral philosophy of Aristotle. Yet his modesty was such that he desired the work to be regarded rather as a collection of "chips and shavings" gathered from the workshop of his illustrious preceptor, than as an original production.
After Thomas had spent a year at Cologne, the twenty-third General Chapter of the Order was convened there, and one of the results of its deliberations was the sending of Albertus and Thomas to Paris, the former to take his doctorate, the latter to continue his studies. In 1248, Thomas completed the regular curriculum, and a General Chapter held that year at Paris, reassigned Albertus to Cologne, to assume the regency of the Dominican studies, with Thomas, then twenty-two years of age, acting under him as Master of Students. It was his duty, in this capacity, to teach certain branches of philosophy, to expound the scriptures and the Master of the Sentences; yet he found time to write some of his lesser works at this period and to begin his voluminous and exhaustive commentary on the Four Books of Sentences, the great theological store-house of the middle ages. After two years, he was ordained a priest, and to his other activities, he added that of preaching.
It is interesting here to note that whilst Thomas was thus contentedly working and praying in his loved seclusion on German soil, the fortunes of his brothers took a downward turn to utter ruin On account of their political sympathies and actions, Landolpho and Rinaldo incurred the displeasure of the Emperor Frederic, and he punished their defection from his party by razing the town of Aquino to the ground and by despoiling them of their inheritance and acquired wealth. These things, however, did not disturb Thomas' serenity and peace of soul. Had he not even then risen from earthly cares to an angelic condition of calm and profound contemplation of Divine things? It was his hope, as it was his prayer, that the effect of the Emperor's anger, so searchingly and fiercely wreaked on his brothers, would be the means of their conversion, and it is said that in the end it was revealed to Thomas that their losses and humiliations had in truth brought them back to a sense of their higher allegiance and duty to God.
After four years, at the instance of his beloved Master Albert, and of Hugh of St. Cher. Thomas was again sent to Paris to prepare for his final degrees. On his way thither, passing through Louvain, and as the guest of the Duchess of Brabant, he wrote for that lady a treatise on the "right way and means" of governing the numerous Jews resident in her dominions. At Paris, unusual distinctions awaited him. Not only did the University receive him into the number of baccalaureates, but it enrolled him amongst the professors, though he was only twenty-five years old and the law required thirty-five years of age in those to whom that privilege was granted.
In this period of his professional activity, Thomas began to be recognized as an authority of transcendent genius. A long list of his lesser works shows us that he was appealed to from all parts of the intellectual world for enlightenment. Even great and distinguished men did not disdain to submit their difficulties to him, and with this statement, we may consider our present purpose partially concluded. Brother Thomas was one of the fairest flowers that ever grew out of Dominican soil. He was the highest realization of St. Dominic's transcendently beautiful idea of contemplation united with an activity that appeals to men's hearts through their highest intelligence. The Order of Preachers was a tender mother to him, nursing him "with great cares," teaching him how to unfold the wish that brought wisdom to him, which he learned "without guile," which he was henceforth to "communicate without envy," and whose "riches he was not to hide." (Wisdom vii, 13.)
The world has recognized and saluted Thomas Aquinas as one of the greatest doctors of the Church, as one of the most eminent representatives of human science. Our Holy Father, Leo XIII. says of him that he gave singular unity to the scattered fragments of the scholastic teaching, that he arranged and perfected them with such wonderful order, that he is rightly esteemed an ornament and a treasury of the Church. There is no field of philosophy, whose riches he did not glean with equal perspicacity and thoroughness. His investigations of the laws of thought, of the Divine Being, and of incorporeal substances, of man and of the world of sense, of human actions and of their underlying principles, offer a perfect wealth of intellectual material, so harmoniously ordered, so conspicuously methodical, so certain in their premises and so powerful in their conclusions, so clear and exact in their expression, that reason, carried aloft on the wings of the Angelical Doctor, can hardly be capable of higher flight, and Faith needs never again ask for better, for stauncher support.
As Hettinger says, Origen against Celsus, Athanasius against the Arians, Augustine against Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism, Bernard against Abelard, are perhaps figures less providential in the history of Truth than St. Thomas. He gave new meaning to their best achievements and carried his own far beyond them. He stands and will now ever appear as a great light scattering the world's darkness. The treasures of his wisdom shall never be exhausted. In the vast store-house of his immortal "Summa Theologica" alone, unfinished as it is, there are thoughts and principles which are "unlighted torches, awaiting the hand strong enough to ignite and bring them forward." adown the world's highway of research and enlightenment.
What man has done is ever encouraging hope of what man can do, in the way of widening the world's mental horizon: and as Thomas found his soul's nourishment in the Order of Preachers, so shall we find there the impress of his completed personality, his matured genius and sanctity, upon his brethren, who sought no other glory than that of spreading the Angelical's marvelous light.
Following the learned Pere Berthier, a Dominican still teaching in the University of Fribourg, I wish to give here a few facts of history, which are at once derived from or associated with the impetus that St. Thomas' teaching and achievements gave to the intellectual and religious activity of St. Dominic's Order. For St. Thomas is a signal illustration of what V. Humbert of the Romans has called a chief characteristic of the Order of Preachers, that it was the first to place study as a particular end of the religious life. Sacred study primarily, and all other subsidiary sciences are the true Dominican's one great preoccupation. It was fidelity to this ideal that brought the sons of St. Dominic into active participation in the life of some seventy-five of the world's most renowned universities.
In the way of scientific and devotional movements initiated by savants of the Order, it is known that the critical study of the Bible, always fostered in the Order and leading to the foundation in our own days of a special biblical school at Jerusalem, found expression, as early as 1236, in the first handbooks of biblical corrections, whose object was to ascertain and safeguard the correct texts of Holy Writ. Hugo of St. Cher, in the life-time of St. Thomas, wrote the first biblical concordance which is in general use to this day, and which has served for similar concordances of the Greek and Hebrew editions of Sacred Scriptures. The same learned Cardinal wrote and published, in the same period, the first complete biblical commentary. Peter Paludanus, who died in 1342, was another to write a similar comprehensive work, perhaps the second of its kind.
The general laws of scientific biblical interpretation found their first expression in a set of rules drawn up by Fr. John of Ragusa, for the use of the Council of Bale in 1433. The first introduction, properly so-called, to the Bible studies was published by the Dominican Sanctes Pagnini, at Avignon, in 1525, and this work was developed and carried to greater perfection by Sixtus of Siena in his "Bibliotheca Sacra," published at Venice in 1566.
The same Sanctes Pagnini was the first after St. Jerome to make a complete translation of the Bible from authentic sources. This work, only one of many to his credit, was published, after twenty-five years of preparation, at Lyons in 1528. At the same time, a Dominican contemporary, Fr. Marmochini translated the original texts into Italian. Previous to this version, however, there was one from the Vulgate, the first of the thirteenth century, and noted for its elegance, by Bl. James of Voragine. A little later, the Dominican John of Relach gave out the first published translation of the Bible in German. Fr. Augustine Giustiniani not only opened the first official course of Hebrew in the University of Paris, but he was the first, with what was called "novel and immense" audacity, to put into one tome the two Testaments in five principal languages —Hebrew, Chaldaic, Greek, Latin, and Arabic.
Biblical Orientalism was inaugurated by Fr. Raymond Martin in 1250, in his "Defense of Faith," still regarded as a masterpiece of its kind. He was one of the glories of the Oriental schools that flourished in St. Thomas' time. He could speak, and write, with equal ease, Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Arabic.
The science of biblical ethnology was brought into being by the Dominican Riccoldo of Montecroce, in his "Itinerary," just as in the seventeenth century Fr. Wansleben was the precursor of Champollin in Egyptology.
The first, the greatest in its range of matter, and the most logical of encyclopedias was the creation of the Dominican Vincent of Beauvais. St. Raymond of Pennafort, St. Antoninus, and Bp. Melchoir Canus are the originators respectively of the canonistic, moral, and controversial sciences of the Church. The "Paradise of the Soul" by V. Humbert of the Romans was declared by Cardinal Manning the most perfect of prayer books.
The science of Roman Liturgy was founded by Durandus de Mende; its disciplinary organization was the work of the Dominican Pope Pius V.; and the Dominican Fr. Goar created the science of the liturgies of the Oriental Churches. Time will not permit more mention under this heading.
Highly esteemed catechisms were the production of such Dominicans as Bernard Guy, Peter Soto, Fr. Caranza, and John of St. Thomas; but the greatest of them all, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, is the glory, as it is almost entirely the creation of the Dominicans Foreiro. Foscari, and Marini, under the direction of Pius V.
In the work of expounding truth to the people, many Dominicans are distinguished for their contributions to the development of modern languages. In the thirteenth century, Fr. Lawrence wrote the first philosophical treatise in French. In Germany, the sermons and writings of Tauler and Suso, mark a distinct era in the development of German prose. In Italy, Jordan of Pisai Bartholomeo of San Concordio, Passavanti, Cavalca, and later Bl. John Dominic, rendered no less a service to the vernacular of their country.
In the field of Church history, Dominicans have likewise reaped glory. Martin of Poland, Ptolemy de Lucquer, Ciacconio, are authors copiously drawn from by later historians; but perhaps the greatest of them all is Natalis Alexander, whose monumental work has the greatest value for the theologians of the Church.
Ludolph, the Carthusian, who passed into that severer Order from the Dominican ranks, is the author of the most beautiful Life of Christ. Cardinal Hugo of St. Cher was the first to approve the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, whose Confraternity, like that of the Holy Name, was instituted by the Dominicans. B. John of Vicenza originated the truly Christian salutation of "Praised be Jesus Christ" with its response "Forever more, Amen," as still practised in many Catholic countries. Books on devotion to the Sacred Heart were published by the Dominicans Del Nante in 1648, and Barbieux in 1661. Novenas are a Dominican thought, first realized in the Minerva College in Rome, 1610. Passing over the long roll of Dominican defenders and propagators of the honor and dignity of the ever Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, we will take only a passing glimpse here and there of whiterobed workers in the field of science, as ordinarily understood. In linguistics, he have in the thirteenth century, besides a Latin grammar, assuredly one of the oldest and best known of medieval dictionaries of languages and sciences, called the Catholicon, from the pen of Fr. Giovanni Balbi. It was esteemed the best work on the physical sciences of its day. The first known Hebrew grammar was the work, in 1475, of John Schwarz. In 1756, when the modern conception of comparative philology was unknown, Fr. Boniface Finetti published at Venice a treatise on "Hebrew and its cognates" as a portion of a work on all the languages of the world. The first English dictionary ever published was the work completed in 1499, by "Richard Fraunces, a preaching or black friar."
There are, no doubt, some apocryphal stories, and many doubtful ones, of inventions ascribed to Albertus Magnus and to other Dominicans; but leaving them aside for what is indisputable, we may first refer to Fr. Gallien. as having strong claims to be considered as the true inventor of the balloon. This father was well versed in mathematics and the physical sciences, including electricity; but his principal glory is a work called the "Art of Navigating in the Air," published at Avignon, 1757. He foresees and formulates the laws of aerial navigation, thirty years before the experiment of the celebrated Montgolfier brothers. A marine dictionary of the late Fr. Guiglielmotti, republished at the expense of the present Pope, is the best, if not the only book of its kind.
One of the first paleontologists was undoubtedly Fr. Ciacconio, (died 1599), who based his work on his own magnificent collection of fossils. One of the most distinguished botanists was.Fr. Barrelier, who had been a doctor of medicine of the University of Paris. His researches took him through France, Italy and Spain; and his multitudinous studies and drawings of specimens are still appreciated in the learned world.
In the field of geographical and astronomical science, we meet with many famous names of Dominicans. They made numerous masterpieces of original maps of different parts of the world, and, a series executed by Father Ignatius Danti, (died 1586), adorn one of the famous galleries of the Vatican and also a Florentine collection. The Dominicans were known for their defense of Columbus at the famous Salamanca disputes, and the great navigator himself ascribes the glory of the discovery of the New World to his friend and protector, the Dominican Diego de Deza. Galileo numbers amongst his staunchest friends three Dominicans, Fathers Ricardi, Paolucci, and the eminent theologian, mathematician and architect, Fr. Vincent Maculano. Numerous chroniclers mention Lanfranc, Lutold, and Godefroy, Dominicans of the thirteenth century who calculated eclipses and were otherwise successful in astronomical work. The first public clock erected in Italy was a Dominican work accomplished at Milan. Another was built at Farli, and the famous hydraulic time-piece of Fr. Embriaco of recent days is an object of general interest at the Pincio in Rome. Art, in all its senses, is too vast a field for us to investigate here, even in its Dominican aspect. We have given but the barest outline of the results of the activities set in motion by St. Dominic himself and perfected by the Angelical Doctor. Of the latter's immediate influences on poetry, painting, and sculpture, it would be tempting to offer some of the more striking evidences; but we must be satisfied with the bare statement that his sublime speculations were the acknowledged inspirations of Dante, and who does not know in what relation Dante stood to artistic Italy? To the Angelical Doctor, there is assigned an altogether principal role in the 'Paradiso" of the Divine Comedy. Indeed, in everything, Dante follows him, as a disciple follows his master. Critics have said that it is impossible to master the great poet's ideas without consulting St. Thomas, and there is not a specialist of note but bears witness to the assertion.
And now, since time urges, what concluding word remains to be said of Thomas Aquinas, Patron of all Catholic Schools? We have seen whence he drew the amazing riches of science, consecrated by divine love, and how an overflow of learned sanctity from that great, generous heart of his, became the precious inheritance of his brothers and sisters in St. Dominic, in every part of the world down to our own days. Look back, through the ages, to the year 1274, on that tall, commanding, dark, yet gravely beautiful figure, overtaken on a journey of obedience, by death, at the Monastery of Fossa Nova. It was he to whom the Christ, from a Crucifix had spoken the commending words: "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?" It was the same who answered: "None other than Thee, Lord." His reward was now at hand. He had consummated his work, even though he left his masterpiece, the "Summa," a commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, another on the Canticle of Canticles, and a treatise on aqueducts, unfinished. His terrestrial visions are now to be merged with those of heaven. And if, to quote Carlyle again, "the degree of vision that dwells in a man is the correct measure of a man," must we not stand in profoundest awe before the great saint and Angelical Doctor? It is assuredly in such a presence that we feel more keenly the mother-power of Holy Church. She has given him to all her schools to be their special patron, and we, disciples and pupils, may feel confident of his interest in our work and sympathy with us in our difficulties. He will be true to his calling yet, who can doubt it? And we are enabled to reach him with the words which the Church places on the lips of her faithful children. "O Thomas, thou praise and glory of the Order of Preachers, take us to Christ's heavenly Kingdom, thou Doctor of Divinity!"
*A lecture given before the faculty and pupils of St. Catherine's Academy, Springfield, Ky.
The Rosary Magazine Confraternity of the Rosary,Volume22, 1903.
Prayer of St Thomas Aquinas to the Blessed Virgin Mary
O most blessed and most sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God, full of all love, daughter of the Most High King, Queen of angels, Mother of our Creator, to thy maternal love I commend myself this day and every day of my life, my body, my soul, all my actions, thoughts, desires, words, works, my whole life and end; that through thy intercession all may be directed to good according to the will of thy Divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; that thou mayest be to me, my most holy Queen, my helper and consoler against the snares and dangers of all my enemies. Deign to obtain for me from thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grace to resist powerfully the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil, to have a firm purpose to sin no more and to persevere in thy service and in the service of thy Divine Son. I beseech thee also, my most holy Queen, to obtain for me true obedience and humility of heart, that I may know myself a weak and miserable sinner, powerless not only to do good, but even to resist continued attacks, unless assisted by the grace of my Creator and by the help of thy most holy intercession. Obtain for me also, my most holy Queen, perpetual chastity of mind and body, that I may serve thy Son and thee (in thy Order). Obtain for me voluntary poverty with patience and peace of mind, that (I may endure the labors of that same Order) and work for my own salvation and that of my neighbor. Obtain for me, O most sweet Queen, true charity, that I may love thy most sacred Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with my whole heart, and my neighbor in God and for God; so that I may rejoice in his welfare and mourn over his misfortune; that I may neither despise nor rashly judge any one, nor in my heart prefer myself to any one. Fill my heart, O Queen of Heaven, with a continual fear and love of thy most beloved Son, so that I may ever thank Him for the benefits bestowed upon me, not through any merits of my own, but out of His own infinite goodness and mercy; so that I may make a good and sincere confession of my sins and be truly repentant and thus be worthy to obtain His mercy and grace. I beg thee, O Gate of Heaven and Advocate of Sinners, my only Mother, permit me not at the close of life to fall away from the Catholic faith, but in thy great goodness and mercy come to my aid and defend me against the evil spirits. Obtain for me pardon for my sins and fill me with hope in the blessed passion of thy Divine Son and in thy holy intercession, and, dying in thy love and in the love of thy Divine Son, do thou lead me to His throne in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.