Antoine Touron’s 'La Vie de S. Thomas d’Aquin'

The attempt to provide an ‘objective’ and accurate description of the life of St. Thomas by contemporary biographers can sometimes lead to losing sight of the central motives of his thought and spirituality. In addition to these biographies, therefore, it is worthwhile to read La vie de S. Thomas d'Aquin de l'Ordre des Frères Prêcheurs, Docteur de l'Église, avec un exposé de sa doctrine et de ses ouvrages, first published in 1737 by Antoine Touron (1686-1775), the French Dominican biographer and historian.

While Books I-III (pp. 1-312) and V-VI (516-696) - which deal with his life, work and reception by the Church - can be easily found in modern biographies, it is Book IV (pp. 322-504), the center piece of the work, which intends to give us an insight into the heart of the saint and scholar. While a mere list of the chapters and subchapters of Book IV (see here) will be enough to inspire readers (and perhaps a translator), here follows just one beautiful observation of Antoine Touron O.P.

Touron devotes a chapter of Book IV to “the sources from which St. Thomas has drawn science and wisdom”. In describing the second source as “the knowledge and love for Jesus Christ and His Cross”  - the first source being “the intimate union with God through continual prayer” – he notes that “the Cross of his Savior was his first Book, the great object of his meditations, the rule of his entire life. It is at the foot of the Cross that he humiliated his mind in order to merit the understanding of the Mysteries. At the foot of the Cross he purified his heart in order to render it able to receive such understanding.” Touron continues by saying that “this divine wisdom, which the Apostle acquired in the third heaven, the beloved disciple on the breast of the Savior, St. Augustine in the Scriptures, St. Thomas learned at the feet of the Cross. The wounds of Jesus Christ were the masters whom he consulted in his doubts, and to whom he listened in his difficulties. […] It is from this source that he drew the principles of his science, the abundance and purity of his doctrine.”

Touron 1740 La_vie_de_saint_Thomas_d_Aquin-6-page-001.jpg

Jörgen Vijgen

DR. JÖRGEN VIJGEN holds academic appointments in Medieval and Thomistic Philosophy at several institutions in the Netherlands. His dissertation, “The status of Eucharistic accidents ‘sine subiecto’: An Historical Trajectory up to Thomas Aquinas and selected reactions,” was written under the direction of Fr. Walter Senner, O.P. at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy and published in 2013 by Akademie Verlag (now De Gruyter) in Berlin, Germany.