I have to admit, I giggle like my kids when I hear St. Thomas Aquinas’ nickname. “The Dumb Ox”. Really.
If you know the saint, you probably also know why he was nicknamed such an awful thing…and if you don’t know why, I’ll tell ya. When he was a student, he was rather quiet in his classes, making his fellow students and professors think he must be not literally dumb, but rather close. They found him unintelligent and too quiet. St. Thomas was also slow and large, though not necessarily fat (at least in my reading). So, his peers called him “the dumb ox.” Poor Thomas. He apparently offered it up as a sacrifice, because he was a youth devoted to our Lord.
Turns out St. Thomas was no dummy. He was brilliant. He had fostered a strong relationship with Christ through prayer from a young age, knew he wanted to be a Dominican from a young age, and recognized his gift for memory and learning as one of his God-given talents. In fact, while he was kept under house-arrest by his family (who at the time resented his desire to be a Dominican), he managed to memorize nearly all of the Bible. Can you imagine?! I personally can barely even remember the words to songs, much less all the words found in Scripture. This gift for memorizing, and understanding, made him a talented scholar, preacher, and teacher.
Years ago, we chose St. Thomas Aquinas to be a patron for our year of home schooling. Actually, I asked my husband to do the picking, giving him a part in our home school journey. He chose St. Thomas because he is a patron of schools and students. What I knew about “The Dumb Ox” was little, except I knew he was brilliant and I was afraid he’s be an unapproachable saint for my children. I had no idea how, other than ending our morning prayers with “St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us”, we’d become friends with this amazing man of God.
This year, I decided to find a biography about him, and use that as a teaching tool. Turns out there is a sweet little book written by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, which is a great narrative of St. Thomas Aquinas’ life, easy to understand for children.
We have been reading it this month, one chapter every few days. At the end of each chapter, I highlight a few points of interest or importance, which I *hope* take root in my children’s hearts and minds. There are great themes, such as obedience, trust in God, prayerful devotion, listening to promptings of the Holy Spirit, doing our best in all things, holy friendship, vocations, and joy in doing God’s will. Our patron saint *is* becoming a friend, gradually.
Today is the great saint’s feast day. We have been asking his intercession almost daily, as we begin our studies, and today we added a simple, short prayer to our morning devotion. It is found at the end of the biography, and is inspired by, if not composed by, St. Thomas.
“O Merciful Go, grant that I may eagerly desire, carefully search out, truthfully acknowledge, and ever perfectly fulfill all things Thy Name. Amen.”
I hope that my kids will follow some examples from St. Thomas’ life, such as doing their best in their studies, praying often and building a relationship with Jesus, and being joyful about seeking and doing God’s will, whatever their particular vocation might be in life. We have only one chapter remaining in the book, but I plan to go back to the story and the prayers often to encourage my young ones.
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!