St. Thomas Aquinas remains one of the most influential philosophers and theologians in all of history. While many know his writings, fewer know Aquinas’ life in the context of his time and place. Christendom alumnus Dr. Donald Prudlo is changing that through his new biography on Aquinas, illuminating the Angelic Doctor historically, theologically, and environmentally in surprising new ways.
Prudlo, who is the Warren Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, released Thomas Aquinas: A Historical, Theological, and Environmental Portrait this past June. The work, which is Prudlo’s third, uses the most recent scholarship on the thirteenth century, on the Dominican order, and on sainthood to embed Aquinas in the lived context of his time and place.
Approaching Aquinas as an imperial aristocrat, as a poor mendicant, as a promising student, and as a religious, Prudlo’s groundbreaking work contrasts Aquinas’ brilliance with the massive upheaval brought both by his mendicancy and his adherence to Aristotle in the medieval University. It focuses on Aquinas the man and not chiefly on his intellectual achievements, separating it from other biographies.
The publication of the biography comes as the latest achievement for Prudlo, after he succeeded Dr. Russell Hittinger as the William K. Warren endowed Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa last fall. Hittinger, one of America’s leading thinkers on the intersection of philosophy, religion, and law, gave acclaim to Prudlo’s latest work, calling it “immensely interesting.”
“Donald Prudlo’s Thomas Aquinas comfortably and usefully situates itself between hagiographic and scholarly studies of St. Thomas, even while remaining well-grounded in the virtues of both,” said Hittinger, who is also a former professor at Christendom. “The book is immensely interesting and readable.”
Prudlo graduated with a B.A. in history from Christendom in 1999 before earning his M.A. in theological studies from the college’s graduate school. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2004, going into teaching soon after at Jacksonville State University. Prudlo has a distinguished writing career, with Certain Sainthood and The Martyred Inquisitor both preceding his new work on Aquinas.
“I always tell people that I could not imagine a better formation than the one I received at Christendom; it is the best conceivable preparation that a humanities professor could have,” said Prudlo last year, upon the news of his appointment at the University of Tulsa.