Who is Thomas Aquinas?
Thomas Aquinas OP (/əˈkwaɪnəs/, ə-KWY-nəs; Italian: Tommaso d’Aquino, lit. ‘Thomas of Aquino‘; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar and priest, an influential philosopher and theologian, and a jurist in the tradition of scholasticism from the county of Aquino in the Kingdom of Sicily, Italy. Thomas was a prominent proponent of natural theology and the father of a school of thought (encompassing both theology and philosophy) known as Thomism. He argued that God is the source of the light of natural reason and the light of faith. He has been described as “the most influential thinker of the medieval period” and “the greatest of the medieval philosopher-theologians”. His ideas, unlike many currents in the Catholic Church of the time, embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity. He is known in Catholic theology as the Doctor Angelicus (“Angelic Doctor,” with the title “doctor” meaning “teacher”), and the Doctor Communis (“Universal Doctor”). In 1999, John Paul II added a new title to these traditional ones: Doctor Humanitatis (“Doctor of Humanity/Humaneness”).
His best-known works are the unfinished Summa Theologica, or Summa Theologiae (1265–1274), as well as the Disputed Questions on Truth (1256–1259) and the Summa contra Gentiles (1259–1265). His commentaries on Christian Scripture and on Aristotle also form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the church’s liturgy. The Catholic Church honours Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).
As a Doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honoured with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”
According to the English philosopher Anthony Kenny, Thomas was “one of the greatest philosophers of the Western world.”