New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

St. Thomas of Villanova - 10th September 2008

Thomas García Martínez was born in 1486 in Fuenllana, Ciudad Real, Spain. He spent his childhood in the family home in Villanova de los Infantes.

A gifted student, Thomas entered the University of Alcalá at the age of 15. He earned a degree in Theology in a very short time, and was asked to join the faculty of this famous university.

His reputation as an excellent teacher spread, and the prestigious University of Salamanca offered Thomas a professorship in 1516. He refused the position, instead seeking admission into the Order of Saint Augustine.

He professed his vows as an Augustinian in 1517 and was ordained a Priest in 1518. Recognizing his leadership ability, his fellow Augustinians chose him to serve as Prior (local superior) and later as Provincial (regional superior). In this position, Thomas encouraged a more faithful adherence to the principles of Augustinian life. He also promoted missionary activity by Augustinians in the New World.

Thomas grew into a deeply spiritual life. He lived simply, giving away the small fortune that he inherited from his parents.

Asked to become Bishop of Granada, Thomas refused, preferring the simple life to a life of power and prestige. Several years later, Thomas was asked to become Bishop of Valencia. When he refused again, the authorities persuaded Thomas' religious superiors to order him under his vow of obedience to accept.

He reluctantly accepted, and became Archbishop of Valencia in 1545. There he found an archdiocese in spiritual chaos. He began his episcopacy by visiting every parish in the Archdiocese to discover what were the needs of the people. He then set up programs in which funds provided by the wealthy would help to provide for the poor.

The money his cathedral chapter gave him to furnish his house was given to a hospital instead. His explanation to them was that "our Lord will be better served by your money being spent on the poor in the hospital. What does a poor friar like myself want with furniture?"

He wore the same habit that he had received in the novitiate, mending it himself. The canons and domestics were ashamed of him, but they could not convince him to change. Several hundred poor came to Thomas's door each morning and received a meal, wine and money. When criticized because he was at times being taken advantage of, he replied, "If there are people who refuse to work, that is for the governor and the police to deal with. My duty is to assist and relieve those who come to my door." He took in orphans and paid his servants for every deserted child they brought to him. He encouraged the wealthy to imitate his example and be richer in mercy and charity than they were in earthly possessions.

In order to have a well-formed clergy, Thomas started Presentation Seminary in 1550. He established schools where the young would have access to a quality education. He turned his own home into a sort of soup kitchen and shelter, giving to the poor and the homeless food to eat and a place to sleep. For that reason he was known as Beggar Bishop and Father of the Poor.

Criticized because he refused to be harsh or swift in correcting sinners, he said, "Let him (the complainer) inquire whether St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom used anathemas and excommunication to stop the drunkenness and blasphemy which were so common among the people under their care."

Thomas became ill in 1551. As his illness progressed and he grew weaker, he gave away all of his remaining possessions. As he lay dying, Thomas commanded that all the money he possessed be distributed to the poor. His material goods were to be given to the rector of his college. Mass was being said in his presence when after Communion he breathed his last, reciting the words: "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."He died September 8, 1555 in Valencia. His remains are preserved at the Cathedral there. He was canonized in 1658.

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