History

St. Thomas Aquinas and chastity.

St. Thomas Aquinas is a powerful patron for chastity because in his own life he received a special grace of chastity and purity and is ready now in heaven to share it with others. St. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1226 as the youngest son of a noble family in Italy. His parents wanted him to become a Benedictine monk in the hopes that he might one day secure become the abbot, or leader, of a prestigious monastery. However, God had other plans. In his teenage years, the monks sent St. Thomas  to study theology in Naples Italy and there he came across members of the Dominican Order. At the time the Dominican Order was relatively young and had little social prestige. St. Thomas became very interested in Dominican life and joined the order against the wishes of his parents. His parents so vehemently opposed his decision to become a Dominican that they had him arrested by his own brothers and jailed in one of the family castles. They would not release him until he relented and attempted many times to persuade him to change his mind. For a full year he refused to relent. Instead quietly studied the bible and grew in wisdom and knowledge. Finally, after becoming tired of waiting, the brothers of St. Thomas conceived one last plan. They were certain that physical temptation would drive him to break his vow of chastity, after which he would surely abandon his religious vocation.

So one night, the brothers introduced a scantily clad prostitute into the room where St. Thomas was being held. The plan did not work as intended. Immediately, St. Thomas snatched a burning brand from the hearth, drove the woman out of the room, slammed the door behind her, and emblazoned the sign of the cross on the door with the red-hot brand. He then fell to his knees with tears of thanksgiving and prayed to be preserved in his chastity, purity, and intention to live the religious life.

According to the records of his canonization, Thomas fell at once into a mystical sleep and had a vision. Two angels came to him from heaven and bound a cord around his waist, saying, “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.” In the records of his canonization, many different witnesses who knew St. Thomas at different points in his life remarked about his evidently high degree of purity and chastity. The angels’ gift preserved St. Thomas from sexual temptation and bestowed upon him an enduring purity that ennobled all his thoughts and actions. Pope Pius XI wrote: “If St. Thomas had not been victorious when his chastity was in peril, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor.”

Over his lifetime, St. Thomas’s conduct revealed that he had indeed received a special grace of chastity and purity – a grace that he is now ready to share with others through the communion of saints.

When was the Confraternity founded?

After the death of St. Thomas Aquinas the cord of purity which he had worn was preserved by the brethren and made available for public veneration in the italian city of Vercelli (though today it resides in the Dominican Church in the town of Chieri, outside of Turin, Italy). Long before the confraternity was officially established, it seems that people began to visit the cord of St. Thomas and to pray for purity. It seems that many would have cords touched to the relic and would wear them, hoping that the prayers of this most pure saint would aid them in the struggle for chastity.

Most people consider Fr. Francis Duerwerders, OP, to be the first one to organize the devotion as it comes to us today. He established it as a confraternity at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, in the middle of the 17th century.

The Confraternity began to grow in different parts of Europe and was officially founded for the whole Church in AD 1727 by Pope Benedict XII. It is one of the three ancient Confraternities of the Dominican Order.

Have any Saints or Blesseds belonged to this Confraternity?

Various Saints and Blesseds, such as St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Columba Rieti and Blessed Stephana Quinzan (who actively promoted the Confraternity among women), have belonged to this Confraternity.