The Holy Father gave the first of what will be a series of catecheses on St. Thomas Aquinas during Wednesday’s general audience. He remembered the saint's life and commented on the "great grace" of theologians who can reach the people.
The Vatican event coincided with the observance of Republic Day in the Italian capital, celebrated every June 2. Jets from the nation’s military, which left a multi-colored trails across the sky, were greeted with a smile from Pope Benedict XVI as they passed overhead at one point in the audience.
The Pope's address today marked the end of his series of addresses on the priesthood during the Easter season, and brought him back to his previous theme of saints and Christian culture in the Middle Ages.
Pope Benedict chose St. Thomas Aquinas as his subject for the next three catecheses. He remembered the 13TH century saint as the “'Doctor communis,’ whose life and teaching have always been revered as an outstanding model for theologians.”
The Holy Father highlighted the Dominican's dedication to the study of Aristotle’s authentic teaching in an environment in which some rejected his work thinking that it was contrary to the Christian faith. To the Greek philosopher’s work, the Pope noted, “much of his scholarly life would be devoted ... discerning its valid elements and demonstrating its value for Christian thought.”
Benedict XVI then turned to several of the saint’s specific contributions. Of the “great” Summa Theologiae, he said that it “reveals his critical gifts and his conviction of the natural harmony between faith and reason,” while his work on the Corpus Domini liturgy shows “his deep Eucharistic faith and theological wisdom” through its hymns.
Reflecting on Aquinas' preaching capacities, in addition to his studies and work as a professor, the Holy Father commented that "it is truly a great grace when theologians know how to speak with simplicity and fervor to the faithful."
He went on to recall the final stage in the life of the saint, when he gave up writing, having understood through a "supernatural revelation" during Mass one day that everything he had done up to that point was "so much straw.”
"It is a mysterious episode that helps us understand not only Thomas' personal humility but also the fact that all that we are able to think and say about the faith, as elevated and pure as it may be, is infinitely surpassed by the greatness and beauty of God who will reveal himself to us in the fullness of paradise," Benedict XVI concluded
Present among the crowd in St. Peter’s Square for the audience was a large group representing the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception of Buenos Aires, on pilgrimage to Rome to attend the beatification ceremony of one of their own, Mother Maria Pierina De Micheli, last Saturday.
Also on hand was Sr. Margherita Marchione, the noted American Pius XII biographer from the Maestre Pie Filippini order, who was able to greet the Holy Father. Sr. Marchione will be taking part in a convention titled “Eugenio Pacelli-Pius XII, the last Roman Pope” on Friday.