St. Thomas Aquinas was born near Naples, Italy, in 1225. He was educated in the Dominican Order in Paris and Cologne, and devoted his life to the knowledge of God. He taught at the great medieval University of Paris and at Naples, was engaged in all the major theological controversies of his day, and wrote works on every part of philosophy and theology. He died in 1274, was canonized in 1323, and in 1567 was proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church.
In him is the consummate union of sanctity and intellect. His achievements in philosophy and theology were so profound and permanent that he has long been recognized as the patron of all Catholic education. The Church has conferred upon him the title of Angelic Doctor, not only because of his astounding purity, but because his wisdom surpasses, so to speak, that of mere men. St. Thomas was, in the words of his teacher St. Albert the Great, “the flower and glory of the world.”
“So heartily do we approve the great praises accorded this most divine of geniuses,” wrote Pope Pius XI in Studiorum Ducem, “that we think Thomas should be called not merely the Angelic Doctor but the Common or Universal Doctor of the Church, for the Church has made his doctrine her own.” No other mind in Christendom has been given such distinction. (To read about what other popes have said regarding the importance of St. Thomas Aquinas, see The Popes and St. Thomas.)
The aim of Catholic liberal education is the union of human wisdom and divine truth. The College turns to St. Thomas for help and inspiration not only because our age lacks a sense of the perennial and the true, but also because men today are impatient to take on all questions no matter how deep and complex. “Do not try to plunge immediately into the ocean of learning,” St. Thomas advised a student Brother, “but go by way of little streams; for difficult things are more easily mastered once you have overcome the easier ones.” The “little streams,” the liberal arts, are crucial in the Thomas Aquinas College curriculum.