On January 28th, the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was born into a wealthy and noble family in Aquino, Italy, the pious and brilliant son of a count—and a lucrative career was planned for him. When Thomas sought to enter the newly-founded Dominican order to be a poor mendicant friar, his mother held him prisoner in the family castle in order to dissuade him.
He escaped and joined the Dominicans. Eventually Thomas was ordained to the priesthood and went on to become a famed professor and prolific writer. His works remain immensely influential in philosophy and theology, the most famous being his Summa Theologica, and multiple popes have upheld him as the model of a systematic Catholic education.
St. Thomas Aquinas is the foremost Doctor of the Catholic Church, known as the “Angelic Doctor” for his purity of mind and body and for his remarkable intelligence.
He is the patron of schools and universities, students, philosophers, theologians, apologists, academics, and chastity. If you are a student or know someone who is, here are a few tips from this great saint on how to be more successful in one’s vocation as a student.
Letter of St. Thomas Aquinas to Brother John on How to Study
Because you have asked me, my brother John, most dear to me in Christ, how to set about acquiring the treasure of knowledge, this is the advice I pass on to you: That you should choose to enter by the small rivers, and not go right away into the sea, because you should move from easy things to difficult things.
Such is, therefore, my advice on your way of life:
- I suggest you be slow to speak, and slow to go to the room where people chat.
- Embrace purity of conscience; do not stop making time for prayer.
- Love to be in your room frequently, if you wish to be led to the wine cellar.
- Show yourself to be likable to all, or at least try; but do not show yourself as too familiar with anyone; because too much familiarity breeds contempt, and will slow you in your studies; and don’t get involved in any way in the deeds and words of worldly people.
- Above all, avoid idle conversation; do not forget to follow the steps of holy and approved men.
- Never mind who says what, but commit to memory what is said that is true.
- Work to understand what you read, and make yourself sure of doubtful points.
- Put whatever you can into the cupboard of your mind as if you were trying to fill a cup.
- “Seek not the things that are higher than you.”
Follow the steps of blessed Dominic, who produced useful and marvelous shoots, flowers and fruits in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts for as long as life was his companion. If you follow these things, you will attain whatever you desire.”