Advice from the Angelic Doctor

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This oil painting of a youthful and svelte Saint Thomas by Paolo de Majo (1703-1784) is in a private collection in Caserta. You can see Tantum ergo sacramentum, the beginning of the penultimate strophe of his hymn for Vespers of the feast of Corpus Domini in the book he is holding. Our monastic lectionary for Matins gives the text below: splendid advice, I think, for all lovers of Truth.

If you are interested in the Confraternity of the Cord of Saint Thomas or of the Angelic Warfare, be sure to look at what I wrote about it two years ago here. The cord of Saint Thomas, a sacramental, is a powerful aid to chaste living.

A Summary of Practical Wisdom

You asked me, Giovanni, dearest brother in Christ, how you should go about studying so as to acquire the treasure of knowledge. Here then is the counsel that I pass on to you. Seek to enter the sea by way of little streams, and not all at once. It is by means of what is easier that one ought to arrive at what is more difficult. I would have you be slow to speak, and reluctant to frequent places where there is a lot of talking. Keep the purity of your conscience. Never abandon meditation. If you want to be let into the wine cellar, cherish staying in your cell.

Living With Others

Be affable with everyone. Don't examine the actions of others. Don't become too familiar with anyone; excessive familiarity breeds contempt and gives one occasions to leave off studying. In no way should you get involved in the words and doings of seculars. Above all flee useless goings-on. Place your feet in the footsteps of the saints and of the good.

Fruitful in the Vineyard of the Lord

Do not stare at the one addressing you, but entrust to your memory the good things that you may hear. When you read and listen, do so in such a way as to understand what you are reading and hearing. Make certain the things you doubt. Strive to arrange all that you can in the library of your mind, as one is wont to fill up a vessel. Don't go after things beyond you. By walking in the path I have traced for you, you will bear and produce foliage and fruits useful in the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth, all the days of your life. If you follow these counsels, you will attain what you desire.

(Saint Thomas Aquinas, Exhortatio de modo studendi ad fratrem Ioannem: Opus. th. ed. Marietti, 1, 451. The translation is my own.)

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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