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he was of the house of Caraccioli, descended from the Norman princes who chased the Saracens and the Greeks from Italy.
Thomas was born at Rocca-Secca, in the kingdom of Naples, towards the end of the year 1226. The chroniclers tell us that it was perceived from his tenderest youth that he was destined for something wonderful. He was exempt, we are assured, from the ordinary defects and passions of childhood ; the impatience, anger, jealousy, spite, and the like so commonly observable in children, were never noticed in him. “The severity of his countenance," says Alban Butler, “the constant evenness of his temper, his modesty and sweetness were sensible signs that his soul had received largely of the benediction of heaven."
Scarcely had he attained the age of five years, when his father took him to the Abbey of Mount Cassino to be instructed by the monks in the first principles of religion and education. His teachers were astonished at the rapidity of his progress, his great talents, and his happy dispositions to virtue. He was but ten years old when the abbot of Mount Cassino told his father it was time to send hiin to some university. The count of Aquino, before he sent him to Naples, took him for some months to see his mother at their seat at Loretto, the place which at the end of that century became so famous for devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Thomas was the admiration of the whole family. Amidst so much company and so many servants, he was as much occupied with heavenly things as when he was in the monastery. He spoke little, but we are told that what he said was always to the purpose ; and he employed all his time in serious and profitable studies and exercises. His great delight was to plead the cause of the poor before his parents, who gave him the means of relieving them.
His mother, who, on account of his good qualities, was passionately attached to him, proposed to her husband that Thomas should continue bis studies at home. She advanced as a reason that his innocence would be too much exposed to danger in the public schools ; but the count was of a contrary opinion, and rejected the proposed measure; the advantages of a private education did not appear to him to .counterbalance those which emulation and mutual communication in studies, afford to young persons. Accordingly he determined on sending his son to Naples, where the emperor Frederick II. had
founded a university. This prince had at that time forbidden students to resort to any university in Italy, as he was, for some cause, exasperated against Bologna. It therefore happened that great numbers of students resorted to Naples, and that disorder and licentiousness accompanied them.
Thomas soon perceived the danger to which he was exposed at Naples, and more than once regretted his absence from Mount Cassino; but the chroniclers of his time relate of him that by his watchfulness he lived at Naples like Daniel in the midst of Babylon; they tell us also that he guarded his eyes with great caution lest they should rest on any thing dangerous to his soul; that he shunned all conversation with women, and avoided with the greatest care all society with persons whose moral purity was suspected ; and whilst his fellowstudents went to profane diversions, he retired to his closet to study and pray, his only pleasures.
Thomas learned rhetoric under the celebrated Peter Martin. As to his course of philosophy, he studied it under Peter of Hibernia, one of the most learned men of the age. His progress was such, we are told, that he repeated the lessons more clearly than his teacher had explained them.
The Order of St. Dominic, who had himself been dead about twenty years, then abounded with men who were the ornament of the Church, by the eminent sanctity of their lives. The frequent conversations Thomas had with one of that body, filled his soul with devotion. The instructions he received from the good monk increased in him the contempt he had already conceived for the perishable things of this world. Finally, disgusted with the world more than ever, he determined to yield to the ardent desire he had of entering the Order of St. Dominic. His tutor perceived his inclinations, and informed the count, his father, of the matter, who omitted neither threats nor promises to defeat such a design; but all was useless. The young Thomas who knew, as one of his biographers says, that the voice of flesh and blood should not be listened to when God calls, persisted in his first resolution, and took the habit of the Dominicans at Naples in 1243, being then seventeen years old.
The countess, his mother, no sooner learned what had passed, than she hastened to Naples to disengage him if possible from that state of life. Thomas, on learning the object of her visit, begged his superiors to spare him the
at to the conuest was grantece moving him
conflicts he would have to encounter, by removing him away from Naples. His request was granted, and accordingly he was sent to the convent of St. Sabina in Rome. Afterwards he was sent to Paris, to be out of the reach of his relations, but did not arrive there for the following reasons:
Two of his brothers, Landulph and Reynold, commanders in the emperor's army in Tuscany, so well guarded all the roads, by their mother's direction, that he fell into their hands near Aqua-pendente. They endeavoured to pull off his habit; but he resisted them with such perseverance, that they conducted him in it to the seat of his parents, at Rocca-Secca. The mother, overjoyed at their success, had no doubt of being able to overcome his resolution. She endeavoured to persuade him that, to join such an order against his parents' advice, could not be the call of heaven-adding all manner of reasons, fond caresses, entreaties, and tears. Nature made her eloquent and pathetic. He was deeply sensible of her affliction; but his resolution was not to be shaken. His answers were modest and respectful, but firm. At last, offended at his resistance, the countess expressed her displeasure in very choleric words, and ordered him to be more closely confined and guarded, and that no one should see him or speak to him but his two sisters.
The reiterated solicitations of the two young ladies were a long and violent assault. They omitted nothing that flesh and blood could inspire on such an occasion, and represented to him the danger of causing the death of his mother by grief. Thomas, however, remained unshaken in his resolution, and answered them only by touching discourses on contempt for the world, and the love of virtue. He spoke with so much energy that his sisters became much affected; he had even the satisfaction of seeing them enter into his sentiments, and devote themselves with zeal to the practice of piety. The conversion of his sisters did not a little contribute to soften the rigours of his captivity. He employed the greater part of his time in prayer and meditation; the rest of it he employed in reading books which some of the Dominicans conveyed to him through his sisters. These books were a Bible, the Dialectics of Aristotle, and the works of Peter Lombard, called the “Master of the Sentences."
Meanwhile, liis two brothers, Landulph and Reynold, returned from the army. They found their mother in the greatest affliction, and the young novice triumphant in
morats they left* habit, and after er of the castles
his resolution. This circumstance, which, perhaps, they did not expect, caused them to resort to means reproved by humanity as well as by religion. They began the assault by shutting him up in a tower of the castle. They tore in pieces his habit, and after bitter reproaches and threats, they left him, hoping his confinement, and the mortification every one strove to give him, would have the desired effect.
He suffered this imprisonment and persecution without a murmur for a year, some authors say for two years, when at length the report of his sufferings reached the ears of Pope Innocent IV., and of the emperor Frederick II. These personages became much interested in his case, and remonstrated in his favour with the countess and his brothers, who soon began to relent in their harshness. We are told that the Dominicans of Naples, being informed of this, sent some disguised religious to the castle of Rocca-Secca where one of his sisters, knowing that the countess was no longer opposed to his escape, contrived . his being let down out of the tower in a basket. His religious brethren received him into their arms and bore him with great joy to their convent in Naples.
Thomas made his religious profession the following year. His mother and brothers loudly disapproved of his profession, and going so far as to assign odious motives for the step he had taken, they carried their complaints to the pope. Thereupon, Innocent summoned the young novice to Rome and examined him in their presence, but was well pleased with his answers. The pontiff greatly admired his virtues, approved of the state of life he had chosen, and recommended to him to persevere in it. He was no longer annoyed by his family.
After a little time John the Teutonic, the general of the Order, went to Paris, and took Thomas with him. From thence they went to Cologne, where Albertus Magnus then taught with great reputation, and where Thomas became his pupil.
We will here make a slight digression in regard to Albert, as we think our readers would like to know something more of so famous a character than his mere name. He was born in 1193. His natal city was Laving, in Sua. bia, and his family that of the counts of Bollstadt. The surname of Magnus was not given him, as may well be conceived, on account of his stature, which was comparatively small, but on account of the greatness of his science and of his renown. His parents sent him to study
at Padua. About 1222, at the age of 28 or 29 years, he entered the Order of St. Dominic, and in the course of time, he became one of its most renowned professors.
Albertus was the wonder of his age, as well for his knowledge and discoveries in the physical sciences and arts, as for his great work on the philosophy of Aristotle, to which he consecrated six folio volumes—a work, by the way, which shows conclusively that he was not the blind or tame follower of the Greek philosopher, that some shallow writers have imagined him to be.
In 1254, he was elected provincial of his order for Germany. In the convents he visited in this capacity, his greatest care was in copying books. The pope sent him to Poland, in order to put an end to the barbarous custom that prevailed there of killing deformed children and invalid old people. After having declined many dignities which His Holiness offered him, he accepted the bishopric of Ratisbonne. But the administration of a diocese took too much time from the studies which he loved, and which had become a kind of necessity to him; so, after the third year, he resigned his bishopric, reentered his convent at Cologne, and resumed his labours as a teacher and writer.
The chroniclers of the time relate two extraordinary facts in the life of Albertus. The first is, that, from being originally a dull and stupid youth, he suddenly became a person of amazing intellectual powers, so that he was for several years afterwards the light and the glory of his order. The second is, that, while in the pulpit, in the midst of a sermon, and without any apparent disease, he suddenly lost all his intellectual powers.
Such was the man whose lessons Thomas attended. All the time the duties of religion left him free, the disciple consecrated to study, retrenching part of that which was allowed for his meals and sleep- not," as F. Weninger assures us, “from the desire of the applause of men, but for the advancement of God's honour and the interests of religion."* His humility made him conceal his perception and progress, so that his fellow-students thought he learned nothing, and on account of his reticence, called him, in derision, the Dumb Ox, or the Great Sicilian Ox. One of them, we are told, once offered to explain his lessons to him; he thankfully listened
* Legende der Heiligan.