The Prayers of Thomas Aquinas
March 7th was the anniversary of the death in 1274 of St. Thomas Aquinas, still the most influential Catholic theologian. (“Aquinas” means “from Aquino,” the city in Italy where he grew up as the son of the Count of Aquino). Over his family’s strong objections — they actually kept him imprisoned for a year — he entered the new order founded by St. Dominic to travel around teaching and preaching. Thomas worked out his theology in very long and very tightly argued books, but he was first a man who loved God deeply.
A very good introduction to his thought, that shows what he was doing in his philosophical way, is G. K. Chesterton’s The Dumb Ox, still in print or available online here. The modern philosopher Etienne Gilson described the book as the best ever written on Thomas.
Thomas was known for bathing all of his scholarly work in prayer, and he wrote many beautiful prayers that can be a resource for all Christians. Here are a few of them.
A Prayer for God’s Help
O Lord my God, help me to be obedient without reserve, poor without servility, chaste without compromise, humble without pretense, joyful without depravity, serious without affectation, active without frivolty, submissive without bitterness, truthful without duplicity, fruitful in good works without presumption, quick to revive my neighbor without haughtiness, and quick to edify others by word and example without simulation.
Grant me, O Lord, an ever-watchful heart that no alien thought can lure away from You; a noble heart that no base love can sully; an upright heart that no perverse intention can lead astray; an invincible heart that no distress can overcome; an unfettered heart that no impetuous desires can enchain.
O Lord my God, also bestow upon me understanding to know You, zeal to seek You, wisdom to find You, a life that is pleasing to You, unshakable perseverance, and a hope that will one day take hold of You.
May I do penance here below and patiently bear your chastisements. May I also receive the benefits of your grace, in order to taste your heavenly joys and contemplate your glory. Amen.
A Student’s Prayer
Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding. Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance. Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm. Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer before Communion
Almighty and Eternal God, behold I come to the sacrament of Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As one sick I come to the Physician of life; unclean, to the Fountain of mercy; blind, to the Light of eternal splendor; poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I beg of You, through Your infinite mercy and generosity, heal my weakness, wash my uncleanness, give light to my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I thus receive the Bread of Angels, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, with such reverence and humility, contrition and devotion, purity and faith, purpose and intention, as shall aid my soul’s salvation.
Grant, I beg of You, that I may receive not only the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Lord, but also its full grace and power. Give me the grace, most merciful God, to receive the Body of your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, in such a manner that I may deserve to be intimately united with His mystical Body and to be numbered among His members. Most loving Father, grant that I may behold for all eternity face to face Your beloved Son, whom now, on my pilgrimage, I am about to receive under the sacramental veil, who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.
Thanksgiving after Communion
Lord, Father all-powerful and ever-living God, I thank You, for even though I am a sinner, your unprofitable servant, not because of my worth but in the kindness of your mercy, You have fed me with the Precious Body & Blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that this Holy Communion may not bring me condemnation and punishment but forgiveness and salvation. May it be a helmet of faith and a shield of good will. May it purify me from evil ways and put an end to my evil passions. May it bring me charity and patience, humility and obedience, and growth in the power to do good. May it be my strong defense against all my enemies, visible and invisible, and the perfect calming of all my evil impulses, bodily and spiritual. May it unite me more closely to you, the One true God, and lead me safely through death to everlasting happiness with You.
And I pray that You will lead me, a sinner, to the banquet where you,with Your Son and Holy Spirit, are true and perfect light, total fulfillment, everlasting joy, gladness without end, and perfect happiness to your saints. grant this through Christ our Lord.
A Final Prayer
Bestow upon me, O Lord my God, an understanding that knows thee, wisdom in finding thee, a way of life that is pleasing to thee, perseverance that faithfully waits for thee, and confidence that I shall embrace thee at the last.