By universal consent, Thomas Aquinas is the preeminent spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. He is one of the great teachers of the medieval Catholic Church, honored with the titles Doctor of the Church and Angelic Doctor.
In 1239 he was sent to Naples to complete his studies. It was here that he was first attracted to Aristotle’s philosophy. At the University of Naples, he showed exceptional ability in speech and logic. Influenced by the Dominicans, Thomas entered the religious life, which was unheard of for a person of his noble status; his family, especially his mother, did not support his decisions to become a poor friar. And when the Order sent Thomas to Rome, his brothers kidnapped him, at their mother's insistence, and detrained him in the hopes of changing his mind. They even tempted him with women, but Thomas's virtue was too strong. During his 2-year confinement, his sister brought him books on religion and philosophy, so that he continued to learn.
Realizing the futility of his imprisonment, his mother finally set Thomas free. Thomas received his bachelor of theology in Paris and gained a reputation as an influential speaker. Before receiving this degree of Doctor of Theology, he successfully argued a case before the Pope, to excuse the friars from taking an oath with which they did not agree but which was mandated by the University. He held two professorships at Paris, lived at the court of Pope Urban IV, directed the Dominican schools at Rome and Viterbo.
Through his preaching and writings Thomas demonstrated that faith and reason could abide together. He was in great demand, but continued to write his Summa Theologica, a key treatise that helped fashion the theological language of the Catholic Church. He even turned down the archbishopric of Naples so that he cold lecture and write. Even on his deathbed in 1274, he continued to dictate his clear-minded ideas.
The unity, harmony and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervades his writings. One might expect Thomas, as a man of the gospel, to be an ardent defender of revealed truth. But he was broad enough, deep enough, to see the whole natural order as coming from God the Creator, and to see reason as a divine gift to be highly cherished.