Friday, September 2, 2011

enquiry into thomas

Bartholomew of Capua
XXIX. The witness went on to recall that while brother Thomas was saying his Mass one morning, in the chapel of St. Nicholas at Naples, something happened which profoundly affected and altered him.
After Mass he refused to write or dictate; indeed he put away his writing materials.
He was in the third part of the Summa, at the questions on Penance. And brother Reginald, seeing that he was not writing, said to him:
'Father, are you going to give up this great work, undertaken for the glory of God and to enlighten the world?'
But Thomas replied:
'Reginald, I cannot go on.' Then Reginald, who began to fear that much study might have affected his master's brain, urged and insisted that he should continue his writing; but Thomas only answered in the same way:
'Reginald, I cannot - because all that I have written seems to me so much straw.'
Then Reginald, astonished that ... brother Thomas should go to see his sister, the countess of San Severino, whom he loved in all charity; and hastening there with great difficulty, when he arrived and the countess came out to meet him, he could scarcely speak. The countess, very much alarmed, said to Reginald: 'What has happened to brother Thomas? He seems quite dazed and hardly spoke to me!'
And Reginald answered: 'He has been like this since about the feast of St. Nicholas - since when he has written nothing at all.' Then again brother Reginald began to beseech Thomas to tell him why he refused to write and why he was so stupefied; and after much of this urgent questioning and insisting, Thomas at last said to Reginald:
'Promise me, by the living God almighty and by your loyalty to our Order and by the love you bear to me, that you will never reveal, as long as I live, what I shall tell you.'
Then he added: 'All that I have written seems to me like straw compared with what has now been revealed to me.'

LXXX. The witness added that when Thomas began to feel seriously ill he asked to be carried from Maenza, where he then was, to the abbey of our Lady at Fossa nova: which was done. And on entering the monastery, ill and weak, he clung with his hand to the doorpost, saying:

This shall be my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein.
                                                                            Psalm 131:14
A little later he died and was buried near the high altar of the abbey church - a marshy spot because it is not far from the monastery garden where a stream runs (which they use to turn a wheel there), making the whole place damp, as the witness himself has carefully and frequently observed.

About eight months later there came a rumour that the Dominican Peter of Tarentaise had been made pope and that he wished the body of brother Thomas transferred to one of the greater churches of his Order.
So the monks of Fossa nova, fearing to lose the body, selected three of their number who dug it up one night and cut off the head, which they hid in a secret place in a corner of a chapel behind the choir. The witness knows the chapel well.
The monks argued that if they had to lose the body, they might at least keep the head.
And the witness heard from brother Peter of Monte San giovanni and from another monk that the body was found entirely incorrupt, with all the hair still on the head. The only part missing was one hand, which the countess of San Severino had.
There was also a dent near the tip of the nose as if a mouse had bitten it. The body had a good smell.
Peter of Monte san giovanni
LII. ... The witness added that after Thomas had been buried seven months in the chapel of St. Stephen, he was exhumed and taken to a place before the high altar, where they buried him again.
But when they exhumed him a sweet smell came out of the grave and filled all the chapel and even the cloister.
And the clothes in which the corpse was wrapped were whole and entire, as was the corpse itself, except that the tip of the nose was missing. And some of the monks in order to make sure of that fragrance, came and put their noses right down on the body and so assured themselves that the sweetness came from the body and its clothing....
Then after seven years, the witness himself having now been elected abbot, he had the body again exhumed and transferred to a more honourable place, namely to the left of the altar (as one approaches it) and under a tombstone raised above ground- level. And in this disinterment also the same sort of fragrance was experienced, and again the body and its wrappings were found whole and undecayed, except that a part of the thumb of the right hand had gone.......

Nicholas of Priverno
And later, about fourteen years after Thomas's death, the grave was reopened at the request of one of his sisters, the Countess Theodora, who desired a relic of him; and one of the hands from the body was given to her. And the body was still intact and very fragrant.

William of Tocco
Finally, the witness said that when he arrived at Fossa nova he went to the sacristy and asked Richard the sacristan to show him the chest containing some of brother Thomas's bones. ...
And when he opened the chest a strong scent came out of it, unlike any odour in nature.
On his asking the sacristan about this the latter swore by the altar that he had not put anything on the bones to make them smell. They always had that scent.
And the witness added that one experiences more or less of the scent according to the degree of one's devotion.

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