Thomas Aquinas: Magister spiritualis – Homily for the Annual Pinckaers Conference
The Angelicum Thomistic Institute and the Angelicum Institute for Spirituality • Third Annual Pinckaers Conference
Thomas Aquinas: Magister spiritualis
Closing Mass Homily • 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P.
November 11, 2023
Why does the Evangelist St. Matthew go out of his way to tell us in today’s Gospel that the people who went out to meet the bridegroom were ten virgins? Why aren’t they simply described as ten fellow wedding guests…or ten college classmates…or ten members of the bridegroom’s bowling league? Why ten virgins?
Of course, virginity is at the very heart of St. Thomas Aquinas’ sanctity.
- During the canonization process for Thomas Aquinas, an elderly Dominican priest, Fr. Conrad of Suess, testified: “Thomas was a man of a holy life and noble disposition. He was peaceful, sober, quiet, devout, contemplative, and so chaste that he was considered a virgin.”
- Thomas’ first biographer William of Tocco noted that, “Thomas was a most lovable man, so pure and chaste that he was commonly thought to be a virgin as from his mother’s womb.”
- And in the canonization bull of July 18, 1323, Pope John the Twenty-Second stated: “Thomas so shone in the splendor of chastity, carefully guarded with humility, and nourished by recollection, that many believed he remained incorrupt in the virginity of the flesh.”
A well-known story stemming from the incident in 1244 when Thomas’ family imprisoned him in the Aquino castle reinforces this. To dissuade Thomas from his Dominican vocation, purportedly a prostitute was introduced into Thomas’ room to seduce him; it is said that he drove her from the place with a firebrand.
- Pope Pius the Eleventh, in his 1923 encyclical, references this. He says: “If we seek to discover the peculiar and specific characteristics of Thomas’ sanctity, there occurs to Us in the first place that virtue which gives Thomas a certain likeness to the angelic nature, and that is chastity. He preserved it unsullied in a crisis of the most pressing danger and was therefore considered worthy to be girt by the angels with a mystical garment…. If the purity of Thomas therefore had failed in the extreme peril into which it had fallen, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor.”
But maybe it was there in his miserable confinement that St. Thomas grew in his vigilance for the Bridegroom.
- The term “vigilantia” appears 19 times in the writings of Thomas Aquinas.
- And in his On Disputed Questions on the Virtues, Thomas notes: “By ‘watch’ is meant that solicitude which man ought to have so that he will not be found unprepared by Christ” (2. a 11. ad 7).
- That solicitude. Perhaps the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm generated that solicitude in Thomas’ tender heart:
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
For you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary,
for your kindness is a greater good than life.