1. He was born and grew up in a castle.
Thomas was from a well-to-do family in Roccasecca, Italy. He had three brothers and five sisters.
2. He had a lifelong fear of storms.
That’s probably because when he was a toddler, his infant sister was killed by lightning when they were both taking a nap in the same room. Later in life, Thomas always carried a relic of St. Agnes and prayed to her for protection during storms.
3. When he was a boy he was sent to study at the famous monastery of Monte Cassino.
He stayed there through his teens and probably became a Benedictine oblate. While there Thomas got to know the spiritual writings of St John Cassian, which he treasured throughout his life.
4. He ran away from home to follow his Dominican vocation.
While his family wouldn’t have objected to him staying at Monte Cassino in view of becoming the abbot, they just couldn’t understand why Thomas would want to become a Dominican. For them it was a step down in the world, since the Dominicans were itinerant preachers and went around begging.
5. He was stubborn.
When his family found out he had joined the Dominicans, a band of soldiers led by his brother Rinaldo captured Thomas and brought him back home. He spent about a year under a sort of house arrest while his family tried to persuade him to give up his dream. He did not.
6. He was called the “dumb ox.”
This is often misunderstood. It didn’t mean that the other students thought he was unintelligent. They called him that because he was very quiet and didn’t talk much.
7. He had terrible handwriting.
It was so bad it’s called in Latin the littera inintelligibilis. So if any of your teachers ever criticized your handwriting, take heart, you’re just like Aquinas!
8. He could dictate to two or three secretaries at once.
His handwriting didn’t matter because he usually dictated to secretaries. Although it may seem incredible, it’s well-documented that Thomas could dictate to a few at one time. He could think a lot faster than they could write.
9. He never criticized people; he only critiqued ideas.
The closest he ever came to criticizing someone in his writings was when he called an opinion of a certain David of Dinant stultissimus, which loosely translated means, “wow, what a stupid idea!” But it was the idea he was criticizing, not David.
10. He was extremely humble and submitted all his work to the judgment of the Church.
At the point of death, he said, “I have taught and written much . . . according to my faith in Jesus Christ and the holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I submit all my teaching.”
Amen! Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!