My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Having finished G.K. Chesterton’s The Dumb Ox for my book club, I thought it would be good supplementary material to read a more straight forward biography of this saint. Chesterton is amusing and clever and did a fine job of making me appreciate Aquinas, but he obviously was counting on the reader to already know the basics. As I know only a smattering of legends, I needed more! Based on reading de Wohl’s The Restless Flame about Augustine, I thought he’d be a good source for Aquinas’s life story.
I chose wisely, because I thoroughly enjoyed The Quiet Light, which spent as much time on the Aquino family and their Holy Roman Emperor problems as it did on youngest, determined son Thomas. My admiration for De Wohl only increased as I saw how he used both storylines to paint a full picture of the times. Thomas in Paris proved, as his teacher Albert the Great predicted, that “this dumb ox” had a roar that would be heard throughout the world, while English knight Piers headed off to (St.) King Louis’s court in Paris. Simultaneously St. Bonaventure was being called upon to defend the Franciscans. I had no idea that all these saints were contemporaneous. I especially appreciated the rare mentions of Aquinas and Bonaventure’s mutual respect and friendship, always coupled with how very different both were from each other.
On a personal level, I was inspired by Thomas’s ability to let insults slide off, simply ignoring them. This goes hand-in-hand with reading Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word about the beatitude discussing meekness. It said that meekness is not being a doormat but is the ability to always be open to the opportunity to do good, to turn evil into a work for God. Methinks there is a very powerful message for me in all this.
I am not sure when De Wohl wrote this in relation to his book about St. Augustine, but this one showed considerably more expertise in conveying information while keeping the reader engaged. Although St. Thomas is seen relatively rarely in the overall story, it has the effect of making the impact much greater. I may never forget the vivid description of him dismantling the opposition’s faulty treatise in front of the board of cardinals. I read it three times for the beauty and clarity of the passages.