St. Thomas Aquinas: Counsels to a Student

You have asked me, John, most dear to me in Christ, how you should set about studying in order to build up a rich store of knowledge.  This is the advice I give you on the subject.

  1. Do not plunge straight into the sea, but rather enter it by way of little streams, because it is wise to work upward from the easier to the more difficult.  This, then, is what I would teach you, and you must learn.
  2. I would have you slow to speak.
  3. Cherish purity of conscience.
  4. Never omit your times of prayer.
  5. Love to stay in your own cell if you want to gain admission to God’s wine-cellar.
  6. Show a cheerful face to all.
  7. Never pry into other people’s business.
  8. Do not become over-familiar with anyone, because familiarity breeds contempt and gives a pretext for neglecting serious work.
  9. Take care not to interfere in the words and actions of outsiders.
  10. Do not waste time in useless talking.
  11. Be sure to follow in the footsteps of good and holy men and women.
  12. Do not concentrate on the personality of the speaker, but treasure up in your mind anything profitable he or she may happen to say.
  13. See that you thoroughly grasp whatever you read and hear.
  14. And do your best to hoard up whatever you can in that little book-case of your mind; you wat to fill it as full as possible.
  15. Do not concern yourself with things beyond your competence.

By following this path, you will throw out leaves and bear serviceable fruit in the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts all the days of your life.  If you stick to these counsels, you will reach the goal of your desires.  Farewell.

——St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)


Note:  I copied this from a card I bought for Php 10 from Loyola Schools Bookstore of the the Ateneo de Manila University.  The front cover is the picture of St. Thomas Aquinas holding a book with his left hand and a pen on his right hand.  The backcover is the Arch of the Century of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines.