The son of Landulph, count of Aquino, St. Thomas Aquinas was born circa 1225 in Roccasecca, Italy, near Aquino, Terra di Lavoro, in the castle of his father, Landulf of Aquino. Thomas had eight siblings, and was the youngest child. His mother, Theodora, was countess of Teano. Though Thomas’s family members were descendants of Emperors Frederick I and Henry VI, they were considered to be of lower nobility.
Before St. Thomas Aquinas was born, a holy hermit shared a prediction with his mother, foretelling that her son would enter the Order of Friars Preachers, become a great learner and achieve unequaled sanctity.
Following the tradition of the period, St. Thomas Aquinas was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino to train among Benedictine monks when he was just 5 years old. In Wisdom 8:19, St. Thomas Aquinas is described as “a witty child” who “had received a good soul.” At Monte Cassino, the quizzical young boy repeatedly posed the question, “What is God?” to his benefactors.
St. Thomas Aquinas remained at the monastery until he was 13 years old, when the political climate forced him to return to Naples.
After completing his education, St. Thomas Aquinas devoted himself to a life of traveling, writing, teaching, public speaking and preaching. Religious institutions and universities alike yearned to benefit from the wisdom of “The Christian Apostle.”
St. Thomas Aquinas believed that the existence of God could be proven in five ways, mainly by: 1) observing movement in the world as proof of God, the “Immovable Motor”; 2) observing cause and effect and identifying God as the cause of everything; 3) concluding that the impermanent nature of beings proves the existence of a necessary being, God, who originates only from within himself; 4) noticing varying levels of human perfection and determining that a supreme, perfect being must therefore exist; and 5) knowing that natural beings could not have intelligence without it being granted to them it by God.
In January 1274, St. Thomas Aquinas embarked on a trip to Lyon, France, on foot to serve on the Second Council, but never made it there. Along the way, he fell ill at the Cistercian monastery of Fossanova, Italy. The monks wanted St. Thomas Aquinas to stay at the castle, but, sensing that his death was near, Thomas preferred to remain at the monastery, saying, “If the Lord wishes to take me away, it is better that I be found in a religious house than in the dwelling of a layperson.”
On his deathbed, St. Thomas Aquinas uttered his last words to the Cistercian monks who had so graciously attended him: “This is my rest forever and ever: Here will I dwell for I have chosen it.” (Psalm 131:14) Often called “The Universal Teacher,” St. Thomas Aquinas died at the monastery of Fossanova on March 7, 1274. He was canonized by Pope John XXII in 1323.