St. Thomas of Villanova
Bishop Confessor (1486-1555)
Born at Fuentellana in Castille, Spain, to Alanzo Tomas Garcia and Lucia Martinez Casterllanus, St. Thomas got the suffix "Villanova" by virtue of the close proximity of his own birthplace to that of his parents, i.e., Villanueva de los Infantes. This "Almsgiver" and "Father of the Poor", was raised in the virtue of practical charity by his father, a miller, who gave away in alms all he earned to the poor and the needy.
At 16, he joined the hermits of St. Augustine at Salamanca. After his Ordination he rapidly gained fame as a learned lecturer of theology and, as an inspired preacher, was much in demand all over Spain. Emperor Charles V- then the master of Europe _ had a great reverence for his personal sanctity and made him his court preacher and councilor of state and, during his frequent absences from Spain, carried on voluminous correspondence with him.
Thomas soon rose to be Provincial of his congregation and from Castile sent out the first band of Augustinian missionaries to Mexico. In 1544 he was made to accept under obedience the Archbishopric of Valencia, a See which had not seen a Bishop in residence for some 100 years. Here he labored at reforming the morals of both clergy and laity; he did away with underground prisons; a money gift which he received from the cathedral chapter for use in his palace, he used instead for the rebuilding of the fire-gutted general hospital; he founded a college for young clergy, another for poor students and an orphanage for foundlings and children of indigent parents' and for the benefit of working people, Masses were offered at very early hours of the morning.
He set an example for others by himself living in utter simplicity and poverty, mending his own clothes, and giving away two thirds of his Episcopal revenues in alms. Thus, about 500 people were fed daily, and special almoners sought out respectable persons who, finding themselves in financial difficulty shrank from asking for help. Mechanics were provided with the necessary tools to enable them to earn a living _ in short, his life was one of continuous self-sacrifice and charitable action.
Thomas also had the gift of miracles, whereby he healed the sick and converted hardened sinners. His writings on mystical theology have seen over 20 editions.
He died in 1555, was beatified in 1618 and canonized by Pope Alexandar VII on 1 November 1658.
Reflection :"The highest wisdom is the science of right living. If you possess this wisdom you are the wisest man" (St. Thomas Villanova).