On this great feast celebrating that giant among the saints, Thomas Aquinas, I could think of no better tribute than to make my own the words of that self-described “Hillbilly Thomist,” Flannery O’Connor, who found in Thomas’ rational sobriety a secret and wildly lovely fire:
St. Thomas called art reason in making. In art the reason goes wherever the imagination goes. We have reduced the uses of reason terribly. You say a thing is reasonable and people think you mean it’s safe. What’s reasonable is seldom safe and always exciting.
What I have always found, as a theologian, most attractive in Aquinas is the remarkable integration of intellectual rigor and spiritual depth he achieved. Among the many testimonies to his character collected for his canonization process, this one reported by Thomas of Celano moves me most:
He never set himself to study or argue a point, or lecture or write or dictate without first having recourse inwardly to prayer for the understanding and the words required by the subject. When perplexed by a difficulty, he would kneel and pray. Then, on returning to his writing or dictation, he was accustomed to find that his thought had become so clear that it seemed to show him inwardly, as in a book, the words he needed.
St. Thomas, pray that the Church may be served by more kneeling intellectuals who ‘get’ the unity of thought and prayer.