Last January 27, 2017 (Friday), the University of Santo Tomas celebrated the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, through a procession and Eucharistic Celebration led by its Mass Presider and Homilist, Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., PhD, Vice-Rector and Faculty of Philosophy Dean. Priests from the Priory of Saint Thomas Aquinas concelebrated the Mass.
Tomas: isang taong nabuhay tulad natin
In his homily, Fr. Ang emphasized that Saint Thomas Aquinas, though exalted with any accolades and titles, was first and foremost a man who truly lived. “Marami [siyang] pinagdaanan tulad nating lahat,” said the Vice-Rector.
“No one is born a saint, and sainthood is not given on a silver platter,” said Fr. Ang. He emphasized that the road to sainthood is filled with chances to formed and reformed, each taking place in a chapter in our lives.
The Vice-Rector likewise brought St. Thomas Aquinas closer to the Thomasians, saying that despite the inherent complexities of the Angelic Doctor’s magnum opus, the Summa Theologiae, “we can easily relate to his real-life experiences.” Fr. Ang mentioned in particular the struggle to fight for one’s desired profession or vocation, which Thomas went through, sometimes with one’s own family. History will tell of how Saint Thomas’s family did attempt to stop his entry to the Order of Preachers, taking measures such as having him abducted and festering on him a temptress. Despite, Thomas persevered, stayed true to his vocation, and ended up becoming the Dominican he so wanted to be.
Relating UST’s academic life to Saint Thomas’s own study life, Fr. Ang emphasized the need to continuously study and not be disheartened during moments of failure. “’Pagka dumating ang ganitong panahon, hindi nagtatapos ang mundo. Hindi ibig-sabihin ay wala kayong nalalaman o wala kayo sa itaas.” Quoting G.K. Chesterton, Thomas, as a student in the University of Paris, was never conspicuous in class except for his size and girth. Professors and classmates did not mind “the big boy left behind,” except for Saint Albert the Great, who had faith in Thomas. “Hindi siya nabigo dahil lumabas din ang tinatagong galing ni Tomas matapos ang sikap, sipag, at sigasig.”
Fr. Ang called on the Thomasian community learn from Thomas’s own experience of being bullied and humiliated, and reminded them never to underestimate others, for the lack of knowledge of what this person can actually achieve in the future. “Wala tayong karapatan para sabihin kanino man: ‘You’ll never make it.’”
On Respect for Others’ Opinions
Finally, Fr. Ang used Thomas Aquinas as a model for amicably settling differences through sound argumentation. Relating how Thomas was heavily criticized by academics in Europe for his teachings, the would-be Patron of all Catholic Schools, instead of being reactionary and hot-headed, used his intellect and level-headedness to answer all criticisms one by one with the use of correct reasoning, which brought out the truth.
This successful argumentation by Thomas led people to open their minds and widen their worldview. Now, his theology, once heavily criticized, is regarded as authoritative and sound. “Yes, Thomas Aquinas was ahead of his time, and to be ahead of your time is a risky business and a feat of courage. He was not just a master of theology and philosophy, but he was also a master of re-invention. Aquinas says, ‘We must love them both—those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject—for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.’”
The Vice-Rector rallied the community to progress by encouraging them to “go where we have never been.” “We must be willing to create something we never had,” said Fr. Ang, driving home the idea that if UST were to further improve its stature, the entire community must pay more serious attention to research and innovation programs, as well as internationalization efforts.
“In exploring the new and unknown, and in crossing borders and boundaries, we may encounter and resistance and opposition. The best approach is to remain steadfast and undaunted. Ang lahat ng bagay ay nadadaan sa mapayapang dayalogo at diplomasya. It is dialogue which brings forth mutual understanding and friendship,” said Fr. Ang.
This year’s celebration was preceded by a Triduum held in honor of the Patron Saint of all Catholic Schools and Universities. The festivities were organized mainly by the Office of the Vice-Rector for Religious Affairs and the Center for Campus Ministry, with the support of UST’s academic and administrative units.