St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas was a determined student, writer, as well as teacher. Born into a large noble family near Aquino, Italy. He began his studies at the young age of five, only to become one of the greatest Christian theologians of the Middle Ages. Attending the Benedictine monastery in Monte Cassino. From there he went on to study at the University of Naples, where he was first introduced to Aristotle’s work. After being taken captive by his own family for joining the new order of Dominican Friars instead of becoming the abbot of Monte Cassino, as his father wished, they relented and allowed him to continue his studies of Aristotle in Paris, and then in Cologne under Albert the Great. After more studying and teaching at the University of Paris, he returned to Italy.
In Thomas’s letter to Brother John he shows a less daunting side of himself. He writes to inform him, upon request, of his personal principles of good study. Aquinas lays out his philosophy of how to study in 16 steps, most of which are to avoid contact socially with all others to focus on your studies. Social contact is not completely avoided, just carefully monitored. He speaks to it by saying “ Do not be concerned about what speaker you are listening to; instead, when something good is said, commit it to memory”. He also states to “Make up your mind to start on small streams rather than to plunge into the sea; for one should progress from easier matters to those more difficult” Urging Brother John to start small, and progress slowly not wasting time on things beyond your grasp.
In article 1, can a man teach and be called a master or God alone, Aquinas talks of how one man can not teach another, for knowledge can not be gained or taught from one man to another, only God can truly teach. This does not mean that man cannot teach, it simply means that man cannot teach interiorly. “As Augustine says, nothing except God alone can give the mind of man its form. But knowledge is a form of the mind.