Our Great Patron.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the confraternity,
Happy Feast of our Patron, the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas! We are blessed in the most outstanding way to have an advocate like St. Thomas praying for us before the throne of God. Why? Because St. Thomas is a saint that knows what it means to desire, and he can help us when our desires are not what they should be.
What do I mean when I say he is a saint that knows what it is to desire? I mean that the image of him as a brain is not the entire picture. It is true that he is known most of all for his intellectual prowess and clarity thought, but this ability did not arise from a placid heart unmoved by the trouble of the world. It is just the opposite. He was so moved by the needs of the world, so moved by an incredible longing to love God with all his heart, that he devoted his entire life to this pursuit. This longing is most evident in the Eucharistic hymns that he wrote for the feast of Corpus Christi. Knowing this, we can see that his great intellectual achievements have their source in a profound longing.
But why does this make him a great patron? This longing that filled his heart makes him a great patron for three reasons. The first is that he is a beautiful example. St. Thomas shows us that the life of purity is not a life starved of desire, nor is it a life dedicated to the practice of saying no. Instead, a pure life is one that is filled with desire, but desire rightly ordered. Impure desires seek after cheap satisfactions that enslave us. But rightly ordered desires free us, and they free us in such a way that we learn to desire more, not less, for when we come to desire God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, our hearts need to expand. And in expanding the heart learns to desire ever more strongly and this desire becomes the impetus that drives the soul away from unhealthy longings towards the fulfillment of all desire: God Himself. St. Thomas, therefore, shows us by his passionate search for the truth of God that the pure in heart are not those who lack desire, but who have a greater desire for greater things.
St. Thomas is also a great patron because he teaches us what a purity of heart will look like. In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas spills the most ink on the topic of the moral life. And he begins his treatment of the moral life with a treatise dedicated to the theme of happiness. The moral life, St. Thomas reminds us, is not about becoming an ascetic athlete or a pious porcelain picture. The moral life is about becoming happy. He shows us that the happy life does involve growing in virtue but that virtue is a way of strengthening the soul so that it can desire God above all things. He also shows us that the life of virtue also includes a healthy use of our passions. The virtuous person will be a properly passionate person, but one whose passions find their rest in God above all.
Finally he is a great patron because his prayers for our purity are powerful. In his own life his request for purity was answered in the most surprising way. We know that after driving away the prostitute his brothers sent to him in an attempt to tempt St. Thomas into breaking his vows, he knelt down and begged for purity of heart. And at that moment angels from heaven were sent to him and girded him with a cord of purity. Form that moment he never committed a sin against chastity again. If God will answer St. Thomas’s prayer in such an amazing way while he was walking among us on earth, will not God answer his prayers for us as St. Thomas kneels before the divine throne in heaven? Maybe we ourselves will not experience such a dramatic change, but we know that with the prayers of St. Thomas God will slowly purify our hearts so that we may see Him all the more clearly.
And so dear brothers and sisters, happy feast day to you all. In St. Thomas we have a wonderful friend in the pursuit of purity, so let us not be neglectful of him for we know that he will not be neglectful of us.
May God bless all of you now and always. Know that I said mass for all of you today.
Yours in Christ and St. Thomas Aquinas,
Fr. Ambrose, OP