By Mike Sullivan | January 28, 2009
His mentor was St. Albert the Great, who once said, “You call him the Dumb Ox, but one day the bellowing of this ox will resound throughout the world.”
For many years, I’ve had a fervent devotion to St. Thomas Aquinas, and always considered January 28th a special day. But this date also marks one of the most significant (and tragic) events in my memory.
This is the date that my good friend, Brad Fallon, died in 2005. The fact that he died on the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas was no accident. I’m convinced that it was a heavenly reminder of the heroic virtue exemplified in Brad’s life.
I recall learning early in my theological studies that St. Thomas Aquinas was the patron saint of theologians. His profound faith was continuously deepened and expanded by his search for understanding. St. Anselm of Canterbury famously defined theology as “faith seeking understanding,” and St. Thomas has been a living example of this quest throughout the centuries.
Brad Fallon was a man of tremendous faith and a curious nature, who always searched for understanding. Brad, too, had a profound devotion to St. Thomas. I recall many conversations in which Brad and I would discuss St. Thomas’s teaching and writings.
Brad suffered from a rare kidney disorder that debilitated him and required him to quit his job as a theology professor and spend long hours on dialysis. He would pack his briefcase with classic literature or St. Thomas’s writings and head out the door “for work,” as he described his hours of dialysis to his children.
He battled the disease for many years and recognized his role as a suffering servant. As he once wrote: “I have been given the inestimable honor and privilege of suffering in sickness with Christ, both for my sins and those of my wife and children…. And in this I have always desired to find my happiness: that the secret to understanding my life might also be woven into the words of Isaiah 53.”
I think it is no accident that the last book Brad and I talked about, (and the last book he was able to read) was St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), a commentary on the Four Gospels.
Brad’s remarkable family—his widow, Victoria, and their seven children—have become an example of joyful suffering and holiness for all who know them.
May we all learn from their example and bear our suffering with patience and joy. And, through the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, may we all grow in faith and seek understanding!
To read more about Brad Fallon, see the following articles from Lay Witness:
“Embracing the Cross” by Emily Stimpson
“When Those We Love Die” by Regis Martin