The Saint and the Prostitute

St. Thomas Aquinas, perhaps best known for troubling to come up with five different proofs of God's existence, was born into Italian nobility in 1225, and had the reasonable life of a Benedictine monk ahead of him, until he decided to join the Dominican order instead. His family were horrified. The Dominicans, unlike the more upmarket Benedictines, were a mendicant or begging order, and survived by preaching in the vulgar vernacular and begging for alms.

Aquinas's parents, hoping he might come to his senses, conspired to have him kidnapped and imprisoned for more than a year in the family castle. Aquinas got on with writing logical treatises, until his brothers tried to make him see the error of his ways by helpfully inserting a prostitute into his cell. Aquinas, in a perhaps unprecendented display of monkish restraint, did not succumb to her worldly charms, but rather, wielding a burning stick, chased her from the castle. That night two angels were said to have appeared to him in a dream, strengthening his resolve to remain celibate.

Aquinas's family, realized then that he was a lost cause, allowed him to escape, and Aquinas trotted off to Napes, Rome, Paris and, finally, Cologne, where he took up a professorial position and was ordained to the priesthood.

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