The following is a brief sermonette that I gave on January 28, 2016, to the students of Marian Middle School in St. Louis on the occasion of the Feast of St Thomas Aquinas.
Dear Marian Girls:
It is great to see you this morning, as this is an exciting morning for me as a Dominican and for all of my Dominican brothers. As you can see, I am wearing my cappa, this black cape, which we wear for special occasions. The special occasion is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, probably the best known Dominican friar and one that I hope you grow to have a devotion to, as he is the patron saint of students.
St Thomas Aquinas lived during the 13th century, the mid-to late 1200s in Italy. As I said, he is the patron saint of students, but he was more than just a student. He was a teacher, a writer of many letters, books, articles and more, including the first religion textbook. He was also a composer, a preacher who traveled all over Europe preaching God’s love, and a kind pastor. He sure did a lot of things, and as you might guess, he was very intelligent and talented.
However, above all else, he loved God… He really loved God and focused all his energies on loving and serving God. St Thomas used his many talents to serve God and to bring glory to God. This is something that we all should try to do. Whether we are good at basketball, knitting, singing, dancing, writing, reading or being a friend, we should seek to use our talents to serve God by helping people.
There is a famous story that about St Thomas that I want to share with you. This story reflects St Thomas’ dedication to God. In fact, this image, this painting depicts the story. (pictured above) Now, I have heard the story is several different ways, but the basic premise is that towards the end of St Thomas’ life he was praying in a chapel after having reflected on all the things he had written about God. While he was praying he laid this books on the altar as an offering to God. While he was reflecting and praying, Jesus suddenly appeared to St Thomas in a vision and complimented him on all that he had done, saying, “Thomas, you have written well of me, what would you like as your reward?” St. Thomas responded to Jesus in Latin, the language of the day, “Non Nisi Te Domini.” This means, “nothing but you Lord.” In other words, his response was that he did not want fame, power or money, he simply wanted to grow in his friendship with Christ.
Now, the reason I wanted to share this little story with you, is because it shows how our lives should be oriented. We should be focused on Jesus and do everything we can to serve him. The greatest and most important thing in our lives should be our relationship with Jesus.
The reason I brought this image to show you is that for me it is a reminder of the attitude that I should have. The same one we can see in St Thomas praying and offering his talents to Jesus on the cross. A total self-giving attitude. When you leave today, I hope that you will take a love of this image with you today and that you will frequently recall the message of it.
Okay, now for your test.
Can anyone tell me what the phrase, “Non Nisi Te Domini” means?
What can St Thomas Aquinas show us about using our talents?
What can we learn from St Thomas Aquinas about prioritizing God?
Excellent job! You definitely were paying attention. Now when you go home tonight, tell your parents that you learned how to say something in Latin, and that today was the feast day of the patron saint of students.
I want to close now with a brief prayer that is dedicated to St Thomas, asking his intercession for students. So, let us quiet our hearts and minds, and if you want to close your eyes, go ahead.
Come, Holy Spirit, Divine Creator, true source of light and fountain of wisdom! Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance. Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion. This I ask through Jesus Christ, true God and true man, living and reigning with You and the Father, forever and ever. Amen. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.