Biography in Brief – Aquinas

G. K. Chesterton’s biographical portrait of Aquinas, Saint Thomas Aquinas – “The Dumb Ox” (New York: Doubleday, 1933/1956), is masterful. Aquinas, medieval Christianity’s most significant figure, is brought to life by Chesterton who harnesses his knowledge of St. Francis to provide a concise and useful comparison between the two theologians.

Though far from being any authority at all on Aquinas, Chesterton has given us arguably the most accessible introduction to Thomas of Aquinas that we have. Etienne Gilson, a leading Aquinas scholar has noted regarding Chesterton’s book, ‘I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement … Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep’.

A quote:

Of the personal habits that go with the personal physique, we have also a few convincing and confirming impressions. When he was not sitting still, reading a book, he walked round and round the cloisters and walked fast and even furiously, a very characteristic action of men who fight their battles in the mind. Whenever he was interrupted, he was very polite and more apologetic than the apologizer. But there was that about him, which suggested that he was rather happier when he was not interrupted. He was ready to stop his truly Peripatetic tramp: but we feel that when he resumed it, he walked all the faster.

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