Thought for the Day – 22 September – The Memorial of St Thomas of Villanova O.S.A (1488-1555) “The Father of the Poor”
The new Archbishop was so poor that he was given money for furnishings but he took it to the hospital for the indigent. On being led to his throne in church, he pushed the silken cushions aside and with tears kissed the ground. His first visit was to the prison. Two-thirds of his episcopal revenues were annually spent in alms. He daily fed five hundred needy persons, made himself responsible for the bringing up of the city’s orphans and sheltered neglected foundlings with a mother’s care.
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, drink and money. When criticised 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.”
During his eleven years’ episcopate, not one poor maiden was married without an alms from the archbishop. Spurred by his example, the rich and the selfish became liberal and generous. And when, on the Nativity of Our Lady, 1555, after one week of illness, Saint Thomas was about to breathe his last, he gave his bed to a poor man and asked to be placed on the floor.
Holy Mass was being celebrated in his presence when after Communion he breathed his last, reciting the words: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
It has been said that at his death he was probably the only poor man in his see.
This is our “mark” – this generosity to the poor, this utter self-giving and mercy. This total trust in Divine Providence. We are often tempted to tend our image in others’ eyes, without paying sufficient attention to how we look to Christ. St Thomas still urges us to rethink our priorities.