If you are under a certain age, about as quick as you can say “Harry Potter”, that headline probably got your attention. Yet it has nothing to do with Mr. Potter, witches, warlocks or the like. Rather, it has everything to do with a prominent Catholic saint.
In 1957, authors Milton Lomask and Fr. Brendan Larnen wrote a children’s book (197 pages) for Vision Press: Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Preaching Beggars. I read that book about eight years after publication and a half century later it has stuck with me. Indeed, a copy remains on my bookshelf.
The first chapter opened with a joust. A subsequent chapter detailed Thomas’s incarceration (by his family no less!) in a dungeon to derail his vocation. The rest talked about his achieving scholastic excellence in overcoming puberty’s obstacles. As a child, I was hooked. So much so I chose Thomas as my confirmation name.
We live in an age where the culture wars declare it unfashionable to follow the lives of the saints. Indeed, a modern confirmant is more likely to choose a Khardashian name than a patron saint’s. This does a disservice to the Church and to a generation. Not only is our Christian culture vibrant and a source of pride, it provides way stations on the road to salvation. Consider just three points from the story of St. Thomas that should continue to resonate eight centuries after his passing.
As a boy, Thomas was so ungainly he was derided as the “Dumb Ox.” Yet he blossomed into the greatest intellectual force the Church has ever produced.Talk about a real life “Ugly Duckling” Story. Wouldn’t children find this alluring?
Thomas’s intellectual acumen was so pronounced there is a moral there for students. Yes, there is more to the day than video games, snap chats and text messaging.
The part about castles, jousting, and dungeons is true. A Catholic Harry Potter story if ever there was one.
Yet lest we be “uncool”, we dare not publicize the best of our traditions to the coming generation. So rather than be inspired by an actual saint, we passively allow starlets, models, athletes and fictional witches to provide moral ballast. Thomas may have been portly, if we are honest about it, the dumb ox is us.