Tommaso, was born in about 1225 in the castle of Roccasecca (Frosinone) in the Lower Lazio, which was part of the fief of the counts of Aquino; his father, Landolfo, was of Lombard origins and a widower with three children; he married second-wedding Theodora, Neapolitan of Norman origin; from their union born nine sons, four males and five females, of which Thomas was the last of the males.
According to the custom of the time, the five-year-old boy was sent as an "oblate" in the Abbey of Montecassino; the oblature did not contemplate that the boy, who came of age, would necessarily become a monk, but it was simply a preparation, which made the candidates suitable for this choice.
Around the age of 14, Thomas was very well in the abbey, he was forced to leave it, because in 1239 he was occupied militarily by Emperor Frederick II, then in contrast to Pope Gregory IX, and he sent away all the monks, except eight of local origin, thus reducing its functionality; the abbot personally accompanied the teenager Tommaso from his parents, advising them to have him study at the University of Naples, then under the jurisdiction of the emperor.
In Naples he attended the course of the liberal arts, and had the opportunity to know some of the writings of Aristotle, then forbidden in the ecclesiastical faculties, sensing its great value.
He also met the friar Preachers in the nearby convent of San Domenico and was won over by their style of life and their deep preaching; he was almost 20 years old when he decided to enter the Dominican Order in 1244; his superiors sensed the talent of the young man, they decided to send him to Paris to complete his studies.
Meanwhile, his family, especially his mother Theodora remained a widow, who was hoping in him to conduct the business of the family, were astonished by this choice; therefore the castellana of Roccasecca, asked the emperor who was in Tuscany, to give an escort to his sons, who were then at his service, so that they could block Tommaso, already on his way to Paris.
The brothers were able to stop him and bring him back home, stopping first in the paternal castle of Monte San Giovanni, where Tommaso was locked in a cell; the seizure lasted a year altogether; the family members at the same time, tried in every way to make him desist from that choice, considered not appropriate to the dignity of the family.
They even came to introduce one evening, a beautiful girl in the cell, to tempt him in chastity; but Tommaso usually peaceful, he lost his patience and with a burning brand in his hand, he made her run away. The chastity of the young Dominican was proverbial, so as to merit later the title of "Doctor Angelico".
On this situation the stories of 'Life' diverge, it is said that Pope Innocent IV, informed by the worried Dominicans, asked the emperor to free him and so he returned home; others say that Thomas managed to escape; others that Tommaso brought back to his mother's house, who could not accept that one of his sons was part of a 'begging' order, resisted all the attempts made to distract him, so that after a while his sister Marotta also passed by his part and later became a nun and abbess in the monastery of Santa Maria a Capua; finally the mother was convinced, allowing the Dominicans to visit their son and after a year of that situation. he finally let him leave.
Returning to Naples, the Superior General, Giovanni the Teutonico, considered it opportune also this time, to transfer him abroad to deepen his studies; After a stop in Rome, Thomas was sent to Cologne where he taught St. Albert the Great (1193-1280), a Dominican, philosopher and theologian, a true initiator of medieval Aristotelianism in the Latin world and a man of encyclopedic culture.
Thomas became his disciple for almost five years, from 1248 to 1252; a fruitful coexistence was established between two genes of culture; dates back to this period the offer made him by Pope Innocent IV to hold the office of Abbot of Montecassino, succeeding the late Abbot Stephen II, but Thomas, who in his principles shrank from any office in the Church, which could involve him in temporal affairs, decisively refused , also because he loved very much to remain in the Dominican Order.
In Cologne, for his silent attitude, he was nicknamed by his classmates "the dumb ox", also referring to his corpulence; s. Alberto Magno, who came in possession of some notes of Thomas, on a difficult theological question discussed in a lesson, after having read them, decided to have the Italian student sustain a dispute, which Thomas was able to face and perform with intelligence.
Amazed, the Master in front of everyone exclaimed: "We call him a dumb ox, but with his doctrine he will utter a bellow that will resound throughout the world".
In 1252, recently ordained priest, Thomas Aquinas, was indicated by his great master and admirer s. Alberto, as a candidate for the Chair of "baccalarius biblicus" at the University of Paris, thus responding to a request from the General of the Order, John of Wildeshauen.
Tommaso was just 27 years old and found himself teaching in Paris under Maestro Elia Brunet, while preparing himself for his doctorate in theology.
Each religious Order had the right to two professorships, one for the students of the French province and the other for those of all the other European provinces; Tommaso was destined to be "master of foreigners".
But the situation at the Parisian university was not quiet at the time; the Parisian professors of the secular clergy, were fighting against the colleagues of the mendicant Orders, scientifically more prepared, but considered intruders in the university world; and when in 1255-56, Thomas became a Doctor in Theology at the age of 31, the clashes between Dominicans and secular clergy prevented him from entering the chair to teach; in this period Tommaso defended the rights of the religious orders to teach, with a famous and polemical written: "Contra impugnantes"; but several interventions by Pope Alexander IV were necessary so that the situation would be released in his favor.
In October 1256 he was able to hold his first lesson, thanks to the chancellor of Notre-Dame, Americo da Veire, but he spent even more time, so that the Italian professor was formally accepted into the Academic Corps of the University.
Already with the commentary on the "Sentences" of Pietro Lombardo, he had won the favor and admiration of the students; Thomas's teaching was new; a professor in Sacred Scripture, he organized the topic in an unusual way with new methods of proof, new examples to arrive at the conclusion; he was an open and free spirit, faithful to the Church's doctrine and innovator at the same time.
"Already since then, he divided his teaching according to his fundamental scheme, which contemplated the whole of creation, which, coming out of the hands of God, was now returning to rituffarsi in his love" (Enrico Pepe, Martyrs and Saints, New Town, 2002).
In Paris, Thomas Aquinas, at the invitation of s. Raimondo di Peñafort, former General of the Dominican Order, began to write a theological treatise, entitled "Summa contra Gentiles", to give a valuable help to the missionaries, who were preparing to preach in those places, where there was a strong presence of Jews and Muslims.
At the University of Paris, Thomas remained for three years; in 1259 he was recalled to Italy where he continued to preach and teach, first to Naples in the convent cradle of his vocation, then to Anagni where he was the papal curia (1259-1261), then to Orvieto (1261-1265), where the Pope Urban IV established his residence from 1262 to 1264.
The pontiff took advantage of the work of the now famous theologian, residing in the same Umbrian city; Thomas thus collaborated in the compilation of the "Golden Chain" (continuous commentary to the four Gospels) and always at the request of the Pope, engaged in negotiations with the Eastern Church, Thomas deepened his knowledge of Greek theology, obtaining the Latin translations of the Greek fathers and then he wrote a treatise "Contra errores Graecorum", which for many centuries had a positive influence on ecumenical relations.
Also during the period spent in Orvieto, Tommaso received from the pope the task of writing the liturgy and the hymns of the feast of Corpus Domini, established on September 8, 1264, following the Eucharistic miracle in nearby Bolsena in 1263, when the priest Bohemian Peter from Prague, who had doubts about transubstantiation, saw copious blood, from the consecrated host he had in his hands, bathing the corporal, the linens and the floor.
Among the hymns composed by Thomas Aquinas, where the great theologian profused his poetic and mystical spirit, as a true singer of the Eucharist, there is the famous "Pange, tongue, glorious Corporis mysterium", of which two verses begin with "Tantum ergo", they have been singing since every time the blessing is given with the SS. Sacrament.
In 1265 he was transferred to Rome to direct the "Studium generale" of the Dominican Order, which was based in the convent of Santa Sabina; in the two years spent in Rome, Thomas had the task of organizing theology courses for the students of the Roman Province of the Dominicans.
In the decade spent in Italy, in various places, Thomas composed many works, among which, besides those already mentioned before, also "De unitate intellectus"; "De Redimine principum" (political treatise, left unfinished); the "Quaestiones disputatae, 'De potentia' and 'De anima'" and a good part of his masterpiece, the aforementioned "Summa theologica", the text that would have inspired Catholic theology up to our times.
At the beginning of 1269 he was recalled again to Paris, where the contrast between the secular masters and the masters of the mendicant orders was resumed at the University; the presence of a valuable theologian was necessary to sedate souls.
In Paris, Thomas, as well as continuing to write his works, five, and the continuation of Summa, had to disprove other famous writings, the adversaries of the mendicant Orders on the one hand and on the other hand defend their Aristotelianism against the Franciscans , faithful to the Augustinian neo-Platonism, and above all refuted some doctrinal errors, from Averroism, to the heterodox theses of Sigieri di Brabante on the origin of the world, on the human soul and on free will.
In 1272 he returned to Italy, to Naples, stopping at Montecassino, Roccasecca, Molara; Ceccano; in the capital he organized, at the request of Charles I of Anjou, a new "Studium generale" of the Dominican Order, teaching for two years the convent of San Domenico, whose theological study was incorporated at the University.
Here he began writing the third part of the Summa, which was interrupted and completed after his death by the faithful collaborator between Reginaldo, who used the doctrine of his other treatises, transferring the appropriate paragraphs.
With the intention of detaching himself from the environment of his Neapolitan convent, which constantly reminded him of his studies and books, in the company of Reginaldo, he went to visit a sister, Countess Teodora of San Severino; but the living room was disconcerting, Tommaso absorbed in an interior ecstasy, he could hardly utter a word, so that the sorry sister, thought that he had lost his head and in the three days spent at the castle, was surrounded by affectionate care.
He then returned to Naples, staying there for a few weeks ill; during the illness, two religious saw a great star entering the window and resting for a moment on the head of the sick and then disappearing again, just as it had come.
Meanwhile in 1274, from France, Pope Gregory X, unaware of his health conditions, invited him to participate in the Council of Lyons, organized to promote the union between Rome and the East; Thomas once again wanted to obey, although he was aware of the difficulties for him to undertake such a long journey.
He left in January, accompanied by a small group of Dominican friars and Reginaldo, who always hoped for a revival of his master; To complicate matters, along the journey there was an accident, descending from Teano, Tommaso hurt his head bumping into an overturned tree.
Arrived at the castle of Maenza, where his granddaughter Francesca lived, the group stopped for a few days, to allow Thomas to regain his strength, here he fell ill again, losing his appetite; it is known that when the friars encouraged him to eat, they asked him what he wanted, he replied: "the anchovies", like those he had eaten years before in France.
All the care was useless, feeling the end of approaching, Tommaso asked to be taken to the nearby Abbey of Fossanova, where the Cistercian monks received it with delicate hospitality; arrived at the abbey in February, he remained ill for about a month.
Nearing the end, three days before he wanted to receive the last sacraments, he made the general confession to Reginaldo, and when the Abbot Teobaldo brought him Communion, surrounded by monks and friends of the surroundings, Thomas said some concepts on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, concluding: "I have written and taught much about this most Sacred Body and the other sacraments, according to my faith in Christ and in the Holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I submit all my doctrine".
On the morning of 7 March 1274, the great theologian died at the age of 49; he had written more than 40 volumes.