My mother told me she named me after St. Thomas Aquinas. I don’t know why she had a devotion to him, but I have certainly spent a lot of time with Thomas’ thought over the years. I studied at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and the University of St. Thomas in Houston; I had four Dominicans especially influential in my philosophical formation; and I slogged my way through the Summa Theologiae, the Summa Contra Gentiles, De Spiritualis Creatoribus, De Ente et Essentia, and sections of many more.
Thomas is also well known to liturgists and church musicians from the hymns he wrote for Corpus Christi: Adoro Te Devote, Pange Lingua Gloriosi, Lauda Sion, and more. These show not only a mind illuminated by wisdom, but more: a heart fired with love for Jesus. Aquinas was a scholar, a professor, a writer; but he was first a Dominican, a man who chose poverty and simplicity, a priest, a believer.
When he was about 45 years old, Thomas had an episode that today we would identify as a stroke. His biographers noted some slurred speech, a changed gait, a facial droop, some difficulties in finding words. Simultaneously, he had a vision of Jesus speaking to him from the crucifix in his monastic cell. He recounted that Jesus said to him: “You have written well of me, Thomas; what do you desire?” His reply was: “Non nisi te, Domine” – that is, “Nothing but yourself, O Lord.”
Following this episode, Thomas ceased his writing – in fact, the Summa Theologiae was never finished by Aquinas, although his students compiled some of his notes and lectures and published a conclusion as the Supplement to the Summa. It is clear this addition is not from the same clear and succinct mind of the Master. More importantly, Thomas chose to stop writing with the comment: “After having seen Christ, all that I have written is as so much straw.”
I have chosen those words of St. Thomas as the title of this blog, which I hope to share with you weekly: non nisi te. This is the goal of our discipleship, and the final destiny we long for when our pilgrimage here is complete: to see Jesus as He is, and to want nothing else, nothing more, nothing better.
While we are on our way here, many faces and names, events and responsibilities fill our lives. But we ask Thomas to help us keep our focus always on the Lord, for there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ, and no greater desire we can have.
St. Thomas may well appear here occasionally, but this will mostly be reflections and catechesis from different saints, theologians, philosophers, inspiring persons. Sometimes it may stretch you a bit – I lean towards the intellectual life by training and disposition, I suppose – but I promise to try to keep it relevant and accessible and avoid mere abstraction for its own sake.
Nothing but yourself, O Lord – may you discover that longing, and that fulfillment, in Jesus.