Before he became known as "saint," Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century professor, philosopher and Dominican priest, was known by a much-less appealing term - "the dumb ox."

St. Thomas Aquinas was a huge man physically and usually silent, so it might not be too surprising that some of his fellow university students came up with the unflattering nickname until his brilliance was revealed.

He was only 49 when he died in 1274, but he led a life that was remarkable as he was. St. Thomas was a friend of the French king who eventually became St. Louis. He was a valued spiritual son of three popes. One of the most brilliant people ever, he became one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of all time with his Summa Theologica as his masterpiece. He was canonized and then earned the much-rarer title of "doctor of the Catholic Church."

Moving ahead from 13th century Italy to 21st century Shamokin, I was at a produce display at one family's stand at the Saturday morning farmer's market when a man came running across the street.

Heavily tattooed, with long hair and a bit "rough around the edges," the man told the husband and wife at the stand that the man's 80-some-year-old father had fallen. The stranger reassured the couple that the family patriarch was not seriously injured and offered to do whatever he could do to help.

Reflecting upon the incident, I decided I wasn't any better than St. Thomas Aquinas' fellow students were when they judge him solely on the basis of his appearance. I did that when I first saw the Good Samaritan before I heard how he had helped the elderly gentlemen.

The incident served as a pointed reminder that we should leave judgment to God, who truly knows what is in a person's soul.

If I make the mistake of judging someone by appearances, I will really be what his judgmental fellow students called Thomas Aquinas - a dumb ox.


Instead of judging others, be a witness for God.