Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Beardmata

A common objection to the idea that Catholic men should have beards is that one of (if not the) greatest theologians and saints of the Church, the Universal Doctor of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas, did not himself have a beard.

Of course, those who argue in such a way obviously have never heard of the miraculous phenomenon known as the beardmata. Because salvation consists in conforming as much as possible to Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who had a Beard, and because some men, through no fault of their own, lack the ability to grow a beard in imitatio Christi, God saw fit to bless certain beardless saints with the beardmata.

The first known instance of the beardmata occurred in AD 847, upon the ascendancy of the papacy by Pope St. Leo IV, who was the first non-bearded pope to become a saint.

My beardmata doesn't even itch!

While Thomas Aquinas indeed did not have a visible beard throughout his life, due to being granted the grace of meritoriously suffering the shame of not having a beard in reparation for all the men who shave, he was granted the special grace of receiving the beardmata towards the end of his life.

On December 6 1273, after Matins, Dominic of Caserta saw St. Thomas tearfully praying before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to him, "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?" Thomas responded, "Nothing but you Lord and a beard." Our Lord promised Thomas that while he could not have a visible beard, he could receive the beardmata, which Thomas humbly accepted.

Reginald of Piperno, Aquinas’s assistant, reports that from then on he often saw St. Thomas kneeling in front of the tabernacle stroking his invisible beard in deep contemplation of some mystery of the faith. Reginald also reports that earlier in his life Thomas wrote a treatise on the beardmata, which unfortunately has been lost.

Now, many depictions of the Angelic Doctor show him beardless. However, there is one painting in existence that shows Aquinas with a beard in commemoration of the time St. Thomas lay dying in the Cistercian Fossanova Abbey, where while commenting on the Song of Songs, in the midst of extolling Solomon’s beard as a type of the Beard of Christ, he was caught up in ecstasy and his beardmata was revealed to the Cistercian monks who surround his bed. 

"Priests should not shave their beards, i.e., set aside the perfection of wisdom."
-STh I-II Q. 102 a. 6 ad. 11

It is also said that the great Thomist of the 20th century, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, also was blessed with the beardmata throughout his life.

Thomism: Because sometimes, you're always right.

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