Saint Thomas Aquinas

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Saint Thomas Aquinas

Doctor of the Church
(1225-1274)

The great Saint Thomas was born of noble parents at Aquino near Naples in Italy, in 1225; his century was replete with great names and Christian works, yet he dominates it by the power of his thought and the perfection of his works. In his childhood he was the provider for the poor of the neighborhood during a famine; his father, meeting him in a corridor with the food he had succeeded in taking from the kitchen, asked him what he had under his cloak; he opened it and fresh roses fell on the ground. The nobleman embraced his son and amid his tears, gave him permission to follow thereafter all inspirations of his charity.

The young student, like the holy man Job, made a pact with his eyes and forbade them to see anything which might favor in his heart any desires for a life of ease. At the University of Naples he led a retired life of study and prayer, and continued his charities, giving all he had which was superfluous. He was recognized already by his professors as a genius, but it was Saint Albert the Great who later said of his disciple whom some called the mute ox, that some day the lowing of this ox will resound throughout the entire world.

At the age of seventeen he received the Dominican habit at Naples. His family opposed this choice, and he was set upon by his brothers on his way to Paris. They attempted in vain to remove his holy habit, but he was taken in custody and obliged to suffer a two years’ captivity in their castle of Rocca Secca. Neither the caresses of his mother and sisters, nor the threats and stratagems of his brothers, could shake him in his vocation. His older sister was won over by him and renounced a brilliant marriage to embrace religious life; later she was Abbess of her convent in Capua.

While Saint Thomas was in confinement at Rocca Secca, his brothers endeavored to entrap him into sin, but the attempt only ended in the triumph of his purity. Snatching from the hearth a burning coal, the Saint drove from his chamber the courtesan whom they had concealed there. Then marking a cross upon the wall, he knelt down to pray. Immediately, while he was rapt in ecstasy, an Angel girded him with a cord, in token of the gift of perpetual chastity which God had given him. The pain caused by the girdle was so sharp that Saint Thomas uttered a piercing cry, which brought his guards into the room. But he never related this grace to anyone save Father Raynald, his confessor, a short time before his death. Thus originated the Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare, for the preservation of the virtue of chastity.

Having at length escaped, Saint Thomas went to Cologne to study under Blessed Albert the Great, and afterwards was sent with him to Paris, where for several years he taught philosophy and theology. The Church has ever venerated his numerous writings as a treasure of sacred doctrine; in naming him the Angelic Doctor she has indicated that his science is more divine than human. The rarest gifts of intellect were combined in him with the most tender piety. Prayer, he said, had taught him more than study. His singular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament shines forth in the Office and hymns which he composed for the feast of Corpus Christi. To the words miraculously uttered by a crucifix at Naples, Well hast thou written concerning Me, Thomas. What shall I give thee as a reward? he replied, Naught save Thyself, O Lord. Saint Thomas was loved for his unfailing gentleness and his readiness to lend his services or great lights to all who sought them. He died at Fossa Nuova in 1274, on his way to the General Council of Lyons, to which Pope Gregory X had summoned him.

Reflection. The knowledge of God is for all, but hidden treasures are reserved for those who have ever followed the Lamb.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Saturday After the Second Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Saturday After the Second Sunday

The Passion of Christ wrought our salvation by redeeming us

St. Peter says, You were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled (I Pet. 1. 18).

St. Paul says, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. iii. 13). He is said to be accursed in our place inasmuch as it was for us that He suffered on the cross. Therefore by His Passion He redeemed us.

Sin, in fact, had bound man with a double obligation.

(i) An obligation that made him sin’s slave. For Jesus said, whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (John viii. 34). A man is enslaved to whoever overcomes him. Therefore since the devil, in inducing man to sin, had overcome man, man was bound in servitude to the devil.

(ii) A further obligation existed, namely between man and the penalty due for the sin committed, and man was bound in this way in accord with the justice of God. This too was a kind of servitude, for to servitude or slavery it belongs that a man must suffer otherwise than he chooses, since the free man is the man who uses himself as he wills.

Since then the Passion of Christ made sufficient, and more than sufficient, satisfaction for the sins of all mankind and for the penalty due to them, the Passion was a kind of price through which we were free from both these obligations. For the satisfaction itself that by means of which one makes satisfaction, whether for oneself or for another is spoken of as a kind of price by which one redeems or buys back oneself or another from sin and from merited penalties. So in Holy Scripture it is said, Redeem thou thy sins with alms (Dan. iv. 24).

Christ made satisfaction not indeed by a gift of money or anything of that sort, but by a gift that was the greatest of all, by giving for us Himself. And thus it is that the Passion of Christ is called our redemption.

By sinning man bound himself not to God but to the devil. As far as concerns the guilt of what he did, he had offended God and had made himself subject to the devil, assenting to his will.

Hence he did not, by reason of the sin committed, bind himself to God, but rather, deserting God’s service, he had fallen under the yoke of the devil. And God, with justice if we remember the offence committed against Him, had not prevented this.

But, if we consider the matter of the punishment earned, it was chiefly and in the first place to God that man was bound, as to the supreme judge. Man was, in respect of punishment, bound to the devil only in a lesser sense, as to the torturer, as it says in the gospel, Lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge and the judge deliver thee to the officer (Matt. v. 25), that is, to the cruel minister of punishments.

Therefore, although the devil unjustly, as far as was in his power, held man whom by his lies he had deceived bound in slavery, held him bound both on account of the guilt and of the punishment due for it, it was nevertheless just that man should suffer in this way. The slavery which he suffered on account of the thing done God did not prevent, and the slavery he suffered as punishment God decreed.

Therefore it was in regard to God’s claims that justice called for man to be redeemed, and not in regard to the devil’s hold on us. And it was to God the price was paid and not to the devil.

Saints Felicitas, Perpetua and Companions

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Saints Felicitas, Perpetua and Companions

Martyrs
(† 203)

Felicitas and Perpetua are two of the saints commemorated in the Canon of the Mass. Their feast, which actually falls on the seventh of March, is often celebrated on the sixth to avoid conflict with the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The story of these martyrs and their companions is found in a kind of diary kept by Perpetua while she was in prison awaiting execution, and this was later augmented by an unknown eye-witness to the martyrdom.

The martyrs in this story lived in the North African city of Carthage, at a time when it was part of the Roman Empire; they had come under an edict issued by the emperor Severus in the year 202, declaring death to be the penalty for being a Christian. There were six of them: Perpetua, a young noblewoman recently married, with her baby boy; Felicitas, a slave girl expecting a child; and four men – Revocatus, a slave, and Secundulus, Saturninus and Saturus.

Perpetua begins her diary at the time when she had decided to be baptized and was forced to withstand the arguments of her father against this step. She endured his pleading as long as she could, and then spoke: Father, I said, Do you see this vessel lying here – waterpot or whatever it may be? I see it, he said. And I said to him, Can it be called by any other name that what it is? And he answered, No. So also I cannot call myself anything else than what I am, a Christian. Here, Perpetua’s basic decision, the one that caused her martyrdom, had already been made; she had realized that to be a follower of Christ was more important to her than anything else, life included, and that she must be baptized regardless of the consequences.

She was arrested with the others a few days after their baptism. In her diary she described her first day in prison: I was in great fear, because I had never known such darkness. What a day of horror! Terrible heat, thanks to the crowds! Rough handling by the soldiers! To crown all I was tormented there by anxiety for my baby. Her concern for her baby, whom she was still nursing, was her hardest trial, and when she finally obtained permission to keep him with her in prison she wrote: My prison suddenly became a palace to me, and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.

While awaiting trial with her companions, Perpetua experienced the first of several visions that continued throughout her imprisonment: she found herself ascending a brazen ladder, to the sides of which were fastened sharp instruments – daggers, swords, lances, hooks – that tear the flesh of the unwary. When she reached the top, she found herself in a vast expanse of garden where a tall man with white hair, in the dress of a shepherd, was milking sheep. He told her, You have well come, my child, and gave her some of the milk. Perpetua writes that by this dream she and her companions understood that we must suffer, and henceforward began to have no hope in this world.

The next events in the diary are two examinations of the Christians by the Roman authorities; the second was the decisive one and took place in the market square, where a vast crowd gathered. This is Perpetua’s description of it: We went up onto the platform, The others on being questioned confessed their faith. So it came to my turn. And there was my father, with my child, and he drew me down from the step beseeching me: Have pity on your baby. And the procurator Hilarion… said to me: Spare your father’s white hairs; spare the tender years of your child. Offer a sacrifice for the safety of the emperors. And I answered: No. Are you a Christian? asked Hilarion. And I answered: I am… Then he passed sentence on all of us, and condemned us to the beasts; and in great joy we went down into the prison.

The martyrs were forced to wait now; they were being saved for the holiday that would be held on the birthday of the emperor’s son when, in the amphitheater, the Christians were to be given to the wild animals. During this time, Perpetua experienced more visions, in the last of which she went to the amphitheater, was transformed into a man, and engaged in combat with an Egyptian, foul of look (the devil). She overcame the Egyptian and understood this to mean that she would undergo martyrdom successfully. Her account ends after the description of this vision with the words, Such were my doing up to the day before the games. Of what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will.

The unknown contributor continued the story from here, first describing some other events of the last days in prison. He writes that Felicitas was in great sorrow for fear lest, because of her pregnancy, her martyrdom should be delayed, since it is against the law for women with child to be exposed for punishment. She and the others prayed that her child might come, even though it was not yet due, and two days before the games Felicitas gave birth to a girl. But the children were taken from their mothers as the final day, March 7, 203, arrived.

The day of the victory dawned, and they proceeded from their prison to the amphitheater, as if they were on their way to heaven, with gay and gracious looks; trembling, if at all, not with fear but joy. Perpetua followed with shining steps as the true spouse of Christ, as the darling of God, abashing with the high spirit in her eyes the gaze of all. The officials tried to force the Christians to put on the costumes of pagan gods before entering the arena, as the custom was at such times, but Perpetua resisted steadfastly… For she said: Therefore we came to this issue of our own free will, that our liberty might not be violated; therefore we pledged our lives, that we might do no such thing: this was our pact with you. Injustice acknowledged justice; the commanding officer gave permission that they should enter the arena in their ordinary dress.

They proceeded into the amphitheater, and the ordeal began. Saturninus was mauled to death by a leopard and a bear, and Saturus was killed by the leopard. The two women were exposed to a mad heifer: Perpetua was tossed first, and fell on her back. Sitting down she drew back her torn tunic from her side to cover her thighs, more mindful of her modesty than of her suffering… Then she rose, and seeing that Felicitas was bruised, approached, gave a hand to her, and lifted her up. And the two stood side by side, and the cruelty of the people being now appeased, they were recalled to the Gate of Life. This was an entrance to the arena where those who were victorious in combat were allowed to leave; the mob was fickle, however, as mobs always are, and it was soon shouting for blood again. When the martyrs heard this they rose unbidden and made their way whither the people willed, after first kissing one another… The rest, without a movement, in silence received the sword… Perpetua, however, that she might taste something of the pain, was struck (by mistake) on the side and cried out, and herself guided to her throat the wavering hand of the young, untried gladiator.

This is all that is written; yet, what more can be said? The story of courage and faith speaks for itself.

The Catholic Press, The Lives of the Saints for every day of the year 

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Friday After the Second Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Friday After the Second Sunday

Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet

Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new monument.– Matt, xxvii. 59.

By this clean linen cloth three things are signified in a hidden way, namely:

(i) The pure body of Christ. For the cloth was made of linen which by much pressing is made white and in like manner it was after much pressure that the body of Christ came to the brightness of the resurrection. Thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day (Luke xxiv. 46).

(ii) The Church, which without spot or wrinkle (Eph. v. 27), is signified by this linen woven out of many threads.

(iii) A clear conscience, where Christ reposes.

And laid him in his own new monument. It was Joseph’s own grave and certainly it was some how appropriate that he who had died for the sins of others should be buried in another man’s grave.

Notice that it was a new grave. Had other bodies already been laid in it, there might have been a doubt which had arisen. There is another fitness in this circumstance, namely that he who was buried in this new grave, was He who was born of a virgin mother.

As Mary’s womb knew no child before Him nor after Him, so was it with this grave. Again we may understand that it is in a soul renewed that Christ is buried by faith, that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts (Eph. iii. 17).

St. John’s Gospel adds, Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden ; and in the garden a new sepulchre (John xix. 41). Which recalls to us that as Christ was taken in a garden and suffered His agony in a garden, so in a garden was He buried, and thereby we are reminded that it was from the sin committed by Adam in the garden of delightfulness that, by the power of His Passion, Christ set us free, and also that through the Passion the Church was consecrated, the Church which again is as a garden closed. 

Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet of Christ

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Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet of Christ

In 1206 one of the Winding Sheets used at the burial of Christ was brought to Besançon by Otto de La Roche, and the feast of its arrival (Susceptio) was ordered to be kept on 11 July. At present it is a double of the first class in the cathedral, and of the second class in the diocese. The Office is very beautiful. Another feast originated about 1495 at Chambéry, in Savoy, to honour the so-called sudario of Christ which came there in 1432 from Lirey in Burgundy, and which since 1578 is venerated in the royal chapel of the cathedral of Turin. This feast is celebrated on 4 May, the day after the Invention of the Cross, and was approved in 1506 by Julius II; it is now kept in Savoy, Piedmont, and Sardinia as the patronal feast of the royal House of Savoy (4 May, double of the first class, with octave). A third feast, the Fourth Sunday in Lent (translation to a new shrine in 1092), was during the Middle Ages kept at Compiègne in France, in honour of a winding sheet brought there from Aachen in 877. The feast which since 1831 is contained in the appendix of the Breviary, on the Friday after the Second Sunday in Lent, is independent of any particular relic, but before 1831 it was rarely found on the diocesan calendars. It has not yet found its way into the Baltimore Ordo. The office is taken from the Proprium of Turin.

Sources

NILLES, Kalendarium Manuale (Innsbruck, 1897); ROBAULT DE FLEURY, Instrumens de l Passion (Paris, 1870); CHEVALIER, Le Saint-Suaire de Turin in Analecta Bollandiana (1900).

About this page
APA citation. Holweck, F. (1912). Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet of Christ. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Holweck, Frederick. “Feast of the Holy Winding Sheet of Christ.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.