Tuesday 3 October 2023

Saint Thomas Aquinas The Story of the Dumb Ox - Mary Fabyan Windeatt

Saint Thomas Aquinas
The Story of the Dumb Ox
ISBN 9780895554208

I have been asked several times if I have ever read and reviewed any of the books by Mary Fabyan Windeatt. This was the second volume I have read and it was an amazing read, I could hardly put it down, and as I shared with my youngest children ages 15 and 13 they want to read it as well.. I am usually asked by reader who found my series of reviews of books in these two series:

Encounter the Saints - Pauline Books and Media

From this first one I would state they are on par with the Encounter the Saints Series, and a little below the reading level of the Vision Books for Young Readers Series. According to the TAN site there are 20 books in TAN edition of the series. It appears a few of these had alternate titles in previous editions. There also appears to be 7 other volumes not available from TAN. There are also companion and teaching manuals for many of the volumes. There are also some colouring books, and some audio dramas, but back to this volume. The description of this book states:

““The Dumb Ox” was a perfect nickname for young Thomas Aquinas—although it was none too kind. Thomas was big, slow to speak—a quiet and solemn youth. Even Father Albert was inclined to think him rather dull. No one knew about Thomas’ amazing memory, or that he knew most of the bible by heart, or that no subject was difficult for him. One day, Thomas decided to amuse himself by writing a paper on a really hard problem in Theology. Then, somehow, after writing it, he lost it. A few days later it turned up on Father Albert’s desk. Father Albert read it, then called Thomas to his cell. “Brother Thomas,” he asked, as the student entered the room, “did you write this?” This book describes what happened next, plus the other events in Thomas’ remarkable life. It tells how his mother fought against his vocation, how his brothers kidnapped him and put him in a tower, how his sisters helped him, and how angels brought him something from heaven. All in all, this book shows how Thomas “The Dumb Ox” came to be the Patron of Catholic Schools and the greatest teacher ever in the history of the Catholic Church.”

About the author TAN books states:

“Mary Fabyan Windeatt was known as the “Storyteller of the Saints” in the 50’s and 60’s. Her renditions of the lives of the saints and important events in Catholic history are some of the best-known Catholic books for children. Your child will love her engaging style, and you will love the faith-filled message and lessons in virtue!”

And also:

“Mary Fabyan Windeatt lived from 1910-1979 and grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Mount Saint Vincent College awarded her a Licentiate of Music degree when she was just seventeen, and she began writing Catholic works when she was about twenty-four. Later she sent one of her stories to a Catholic magazine, and after it was accepted, she continued to write. In total she composed at least twenty-one children's books, as well as periodical children's pages written for The Torch, a monthly Dominican magazine.”

I have had this volume and one other on my shelf for a while now. But I had not got around to reading them. In part I found the covers lacked appeal. And in part because of my dual form of dyslexia I greatly prefer eBooks. Because with digital books I can change the page colour the font and font colour. However after reading the first one I now desperately want to read all of them I can lay my hands on. And even though I own a physical copy of this one, I picked up the eBook to make reading easier.  

This story is like a mashup between Deadpool and typical biography. The story is written as if Thomas is speaking and interacting directly with the readers. This happens on a number of occasions and is part of what makes this such an excellent volume. In fact the book begins with this:

“I HAVE been dead a long time. In fact, I died on March 7, 1274, and my body now rests in the Dominican church in Toulouse, France. But my body is the least important part of me. It is my soul that matters, and my soul has been having a wonderful time for hundreds of years because it is in Heaven.

Through the grace and by the gift of God, my soul sees all the boys and girls in the world today. My soul knows each of you very well, the schools you attend, the teachers who instruct you in religion, arithmetic and geography. My soul is very anxious that you do well in school, that you learn much—especially about our holy Catholic Faith, and that you grow up to do great things. This is not so strange, since some years ago the Pope made me Patron of Catholic Schools. He gave me special charge of each Catholic student in the world. I have been very busy since then helping boys and girls in their work.

As I said, my body is in the French city of Toulouse, but my soul is very much alive. Someday your soul and my soul will meet. In the meantime, please believe that I am your friend, always ready to listen to your troubles, your plans, your studies.

But who am I?”

Reading the book is therefore much like a conversation. We are getting to know a new friend, a friend in heaven. The chapters in the book are:

I Go to School
I Go to Naples
I Go to Prison
I Go to Cologne
I Go to Paris
I Go to Heaven
I Go to Work

The prayers in the book are:

Prayer to Saint Thomas Aquinas Before Study Or Lecture
Prayer to Saint Thomas Aquinas to Obtain A Special Favor
Prayers of the Angelic Warfare
Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas
Prayer for Purity
Another Prayer of Saint Thomas
Prayer to Saint Thomas Aquinas Patron Of Catholic Schools

And if you pick up the digital edition of the book there is a bonus booklet at the end, Confession Its Fruitful Practice: With an Examination of Conscience originally published by the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration. The book itself was originally published serially in The Torch and was later republished in book format as My Name Is Thomas. The book received the:

Nihil Obstat
Imprimi Potest

This was a fascinating read. I knew the broad strokes of Saint Thomas’s life, but I was unaware of some of the details. His brothers hog tying him and locking him in a castle to prevent his service in the order. His sisters coming around and believing in his calling and lowering him out a window in a basket. The story is part action and adventure. And it is about the greatest adventure, finding our calling from God and learning to live it out.

I loved the two books I have read in this series and I plan on tracking down all the volumes in the series and reading them. You can buy the set of 20 physical books from TAN. They do not have a collection of the eBook, and not even all 20 have eBook editions available. I find this a pity, I have a dual form of dyslexia and prefer eBooks so I can change the font, and the font and page colour to make reading easier. And my son has eye tracking issues and prefers eBooks as well. This is one of the volumes that does have a digital edition, and as mentioned with a great bonus section. It was well worth the read. 

This is a great read in an excellent series. I am glad TAN has brought it back into print. I can easily recommend this book and the series for home, school or church library! It is an excellent read for the whole family.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Mary Fabyan Windeatt:
Blessed Marie of New France - The Story of the First Missionary Sisters in Canada
King David and His Songs - A Story of the Psalms
Patron Saint of First Communicants: The Story of Blessed Imelda Lambertini
Pauline Jaricot: Foundress of the Living Rosary and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith
Pennies for Paulina: Marie Pauline Jaricot-Foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith
Saint Benedict - The Story of the Father of the Western Monks
Saint Catherine of Siena - The Story of the Girl Who Saw Saints in the Sky
Saint Dominic - Preacher of the Rosary and Founder of the Dominican Order
Saint Francis Solano - Wonder-Worker of the New World
Saint Hyacinth of Poland - The Story of the Apostle of the North
Saint John Masias - Marvelous Dominican Gatekeeper of Lima, Peru
Saint Louis De Montfort - The Story of Our Lady's Slave
Saint Margaret Mary and the Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saint Martin De Porres - The Story of the Little Doctor of Lima, Peru
Saint Masias Marvelous Dominican Gatekeeper of Lima 
Saint of First Communicants - The Story of Blessed Imelda Lamertini
Saint Paul the Apostle - The Story of the Apostle to the Gentiles
Saint Rose of Lima: The Story of the First Canonized Saint of the Americas
The Children of Fatima and Our Lady's Message to the World
The Cure of Ars - The Story of Saint John Vianney
The Little Flower - The Story of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus
The Miraculous Medal - The Story of Our Lady's Appearances to St. Caherine Laboure
The World Is His Parish: The Story of Pope Pius XII
Warrior in White: The Story of Blessed John Masias
Saint Benedict: Hero of the Hills

Books with alternate titles in other editions:
King David: The Story of the Psalms
Lad of Lima The Story of St Martin de Porres
Little Sister: The Story Of Blessed Imelda, Patroness Of First Communicants
My Name is Thomas
Song in the South: The Story of Saint Francis Solano Apostle of Argentina and Peru
Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Story of the Angelic Doctor and Patron of Schools
The Man on Fire: The Story of Saint Paul 

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