Wednesday, January 30, 2013

St. Thomas Aquinas for Children

I'm into my fourth week as the rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, LA.  And since we do not currently have a curate/day school chaplain, I've been covering the chapel services for St. Luke's Day School.  Worshiping with the children is a powerful experience, and it's wonderful having them serve as acolytes, lectors, and Prayers of the People intercessors.  Every single service with the children moves my heart.

Since the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas fell on Monday this week, we've been observing his day for the lower and middle school chapel services.  Introducing and commending the example of St. Thomas to children is not an easy task!  But I did my best.  With perhaps a bit of poetic license, here's what I shared with the children in my brief homily.

Today we remember a priest and one of the great Christian saints: St. Thomas Aquinas.  St. Thomas lived over 700 years ago, and he is one of the most influential persons in the history of the Church.

When St. Thomas was a boy, he was stocky and had trouble speaking.  Some of his schoolmates made fun of him and called him the "Dumb Ox."  But that didn't phase him.  Because St. Thomas had a gift that not many people have - the gift of understanding really hard things and then explaining them in ways that almost anybody could understand.  He started writing, and eventually wrote around eighty-five works of philosophy and theology.  They are still studied to this day, and many of them have profoundly influenced the Church and even people who aren't Christians.  So instead of calling him the "Dumb Ox," people started calling him "Doctor," which meant teacher.  

One of St. Thomas' works is called the Summa Theologica.  It's massive - way bigger than even the entire Harry Potter series.  In it, St. Thomas offers a big picture of how everything comes from God, and everything returns to God.  And it shows how our task in this life is to so cultivate virtues of mind and character that we are rightly directed towards our true purpose, which is to live forever in the presence of God's beauty and love.

As we remember St. Thomas, we do well to remember what Jesus called the first and greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind.   St. Thomas provides a wonderful example of what it means to love God with all of our mind.  For when we use our minds that God gave us - when we work hard to study and learn, when we do our homework and come ready for school - we are offering praise and thanksgiving to God.  So what we do in church and chapel services, and what we do in our classrooms - it all forms a seamless whole.  It's all about loving and worshiping God.

So use your minds by working hard to study and learn.  For when you do you best by using your mind, you give glory to God.


BC said...

"In it, St. Thomas offers a big picture of how everything comes from God, and everything returns to God" - a great summary of the Summa. And I had been thinking that it was ever so slightly ambitious to talk to school kids about Thomas. Thanks for proving me very wrong!

Joe Rawls said...

Excellent! Wish someone had preached this to me during my Catholic boyhood.

AJW said...

Thank you for making this lesson so appropriate for our students. It's good for children and adults to be reminded of the value of working hard for a greater good.

Ken Mafli said...

That is great that you are making this giant of the faith accessible to the next generation. Great job!