FOLLOWING the footsteps of Albertus Magnus, his learned teacher and confrere, in integrating fearlessly Aristotelian philosophy into the realm of Christian teaching, in an age when Aristotle was despised by Christian thinkers as pagan and heretical since it came through Arab-Moslem philosophers, Thomas Aquinas mustered enough courage and independent thinking.
Like many of his fellow academicians, he accepted the wisdom and idealism of Platonism. However, he also saw the depths and the relevance of Aristotelian, thinking which was more down-to-earth, hence more capable of explaining the here and now. Armed with intellectual honesty, Thomas admitted that Aristotle’s thoughts were not completely without error, so he proceeded to weed out those falsities.
Fierce opposition to his daring enterprise continued. Even his fellow Dominicans tried putting him down, by placing him in a hole dug in the middle of their dining room. While the rest were eating, Thomas reportedly was placed inside the hole so as to humble him. He meekly accepted the punishment for the sake of truth.
All the indignities he bore like a Stoic, but more as a Christian. When his case was reported to Rome, his friend, Albertus Magnus, stoutly defended him; the case of “heresy” was dropped by the Vatican.
All the while, Thomas Aquinas bore sufferings for the sake of truth. Even when he had written several philosophical and theological masterpieces, such as the Summa Theologica, De Veritate, and Summa contra Gentiles, enlightened by sufferings, Thomas threw away all his works which he saw as “nothing but straw” compared to the wisdom of the cross.
Till the end of his life, St. Thomas Aquinas, rightly called “the Angelic Doctor,” spent hours meditating on the book that really mattered: the Crucifix.