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St. Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Guide and Follower of Christ

We often find the life of the mind placed in opposition to the spiritual life. However, is this a fair opposition? Aquinas can be our guide in resolving this tension.

Whether through the podcast “Pints with Aquinas” or the Aquinas 101 course on YouTube, many people today realize the importance of Thomas Aquinas as an intellectual guide for our times. However, what is often lost is that Aquinas is not only an intellectual guide, but also a profound spiritual guide.

We often find the life of the mind placed in opposition to spirituality or mysticism. However, is this a fair opposition? Aquinas can be our guide in resolving this tension.

One of the unofficial mottos of the Dominican Order is “to contemplate and share the fruits of contemplation.” We find one of the first articulations of this motto in the writings of Aquinas. While Aquinas discusses this phrase when talking about the relationship between the active and contemplative life in his Summa Theologiae, we also find this expression discussed when Aquinas talks about the life of Christ in the Third Part of the Summa when he examines why Christ lived a life with other people rather than a solitary life.

St. Thomas Aquinas, from the Demidoff Altarpiece, tempera on poplar by Carlo Crivelli, 1476; in the National Gallery, London.

To contemplate and then share the fruits of contemplation is not, therefore, an empty platitude or ideal. It is instead a description of Christ’s life, and is thus a model for all Christians. Every Christian ought to seek to understand the great mysteries of God, guided by the gift of faith, and then share the results of this inquiry with others. This is the vocation every Christian possesses by virtue of their baptism and confirmation. To seek to understand the mysteries of the faith is to imitate Christ, who, being in the Father’s bosom, understood God’s hidden mysteries and shared that knowledge with us.

Aquinas embodied this Christian vocation well. That is why the Church upholds him as a model for us all. Aquinas lived a life modeled after the life of Christ, diligently seeking to understand the truths of the faith so that he might lead others to a deeper love of God.

Let us, then, by the intercession of St. Thomas, follow in his footsteps, praying with him: “Give to me, O Lord my God, understanding of You, diligence in seeking You, wisdom in finding You, discourse ever pleasing to You, perseverance in waiting for You, and confidence in finally embracing You.”[1]


[1] Robert Anderson and Johann Moser, eds., “Prayer For Ordering a Life Wisely,” in The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas (Manchester, N.H.: Sophia Institute Press, 2000), 13.


Br. Nathaniel Maria Mayne, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE