Thursday, December 12, 2013

Daily routines of the saints: Thomas Aquinas

I've been working on a project related to St. Thomas and one thing that amazes me about him is his tremendous productivity. He died when he was only 49, and allowing him time to grow up, he crammed into 30 years what most of us couldn't do in 100.

The Summa Theologiae is huge but it's only one of his works. Besides that, he wrote the Summa Contra Gentiles, the Compendium of Theology, many commentaries on Aristotle, on books of Scripture, besides many other smaller works (treatises, letters, liturgical work, etc.) That's only his writing. He also taught full time courses at the university of Paris and in Naples, he instructed the young Dominicans, attended the Dominicans general chapters, preached, consulted with people, etc. So how did he do it?

He didn't waste a minute. His biographers tell us this was his daily schedule:

1. He celebrated Mass early in the morning.
2. He stayed in chapel to attend a second Mass celebrated by another priest.
3. Then he went to teach.
4. After that, he began to write and would dictate to his secretaries, sometimes to three or even four at the same time. (Though it sounds incredible to us, it is well verified historically that Thomas had the ability to dictate on several topics at once. His mind was amazing.)
5. Only then did he go to eat.
6. Then he went back to his room where he "attended to divine things until rest time. After rest, he began again to write, and it was thus that he ordered his whole life to God." (From Bartholomew of Capua's life of St. Thomas, quoted on p. 244 of Saint Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, The Person and His Work by Jean-Pierre Torrell, OP).

What a schedule! While he may have varied it from time to time, what's certain is that he always worked hard. I'd just like to note a few things.

1. He gave prayer pride of place. He started his day with prayer and no doubt prayer was woven throughout his day as well.

2. He was focused on his goals. As a Dominican friar, his goal first of all was to serve and glorify God. Then his goal was to contemplate so that he could share with others the fruit of his contemplation. As a religious, he lived out the charism of his founder, Saint Dominic.

3. No doubt he also followed the schedule of the friary he lived in, when times of common prayer were called for, community meetings, etc. He knew what he was about. He seems like a man in a hurry. In fact, his handwriting bears that out. It looks like scribbling, (the littera inintelligibilis) done by a man who was in a hurry to finish his earthly work so that he could meet his God.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information! I need to do a project about him too!