Thomas Aquinas is a towering figure in the history of the Dominican Order of friars in theology and philosophy. The exact date of his birth is not known, but most sources state that the year was 1225, and the place was the castle of Rocca Secca, midway between Rome and Naples. Early in life, he planned to join the Order of Preachers, the Dominican friars. This did not please his family, who conspired to keep him from joining the Dominicans. They even kidnapped him and locked him in a castle tower for over a year. Thomas Aquinas was still drawn by the Order's intellectual apostolate and the mendicant way of life. In 1244, he joined the Order. The rest of his brief life was divided between Paris and Italy, studying, lecturing, and writing. He did this until his death at age 49, in 1274. His greatest writing was the Summa Theologica, completed in 1266. This massive work fills five volumes and addresses Aquinas's very mature thought on all the Christian mysteries. The format consists of questions, objections, and authoritative replies in each article, providing a very concise summary of his view on the matter under discussion. His Summa Theologica became the model and standard theological text in many schools and universities.
The Summa Theologica was written as a systematic exposition of theology. It is divided into three parts, of which the second is further subdivided into two. The first part deals with the reality of God and creation. It also includes a treatment on human nature and the intellectual life. Aquinas strongly maintained the primacy of the intellect over the will. The second part deals with the moral life, considering the final end of humankind and the general moral themes of virtues and vices. The final section concerns Jesus the Christ, and the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. Aquinas was very adept at using Aristotle's and Plato's philosophical insights, patristic writings, and clear reasoning. His oral teachings and his writings on theology, philosophy, and scripture were equal to the work of several people in his day. Sources state that he dictated to four or five secretaries at the same time. Throughout his life he was always very modest and unassuming. A man of deep prayer and spiritual insight, he saw himself as devoting his life to God through theological scholarship. Yet, he also lent his intellect to helping the everyday believer. He wrote commentaries for the average person on the basic prayers, including the Creed, the Our Father, and the Hail Mary.
He was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1323. A later honor was bestowed on him in 1567, being declared a doctor of the Church, because of his writings, and is now known as the "angelic doctor" because of one of his writings on angels. In his day, his writings were not immediately or universally accepted. A commission was appointed to examine his writings, as his use of Aristotle was suspect. Aristotelianism was seen as radical and unorthodox. The use of non-Christian philosophers like Aristotle and Plato brought the attention of Church authorities. Three years after Aquinas's death, 21 theses of Aquinas were condemned as in error by the bishop of Paris. Yet, through the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has embraced his writings, theology, and liturgical music as accurately relaying the true faith. His Summa Theologia was the greatest monument of the age. It was one of only three reference works laid on the table of the assembly at the Council of Trent, the other two books being the Bible and the pontifical decrees. In the revised calendar of feasts in the Roman Catholic Church, the Thomas Aquinas feast day is celebrated on January 28.