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by Thomas Aquinas
Exercitations upon the Gospel of St. Luke
Most Reverend Father in Christ,
By Divine Providence Archbishop of Canterbury,
Primate of all England, etc.
May It Please Your Grace,
Having at length finished (in such a manner as it is) this undertaking of mine upon the four Evangelists, religion, gratitude, and duty require it from me, to commemorate and recognise the infinite mercy of God towards me in bringing me thus far, continuing my life, preserving to me that strength of eyesight, vigour both of body and mind, to and in so great a degree of old age. To all which the same divine mercy hath added this great benefit,--that it hath indulged me your Grace’s compassion, favour, and patronage. This hath not a little sweetened all the rest, securing to me so much leisure for books, tranquility in my studies, the settlement of my family, and an easy condition of life. Without this, my mind, bent towards studies, must have wanted its opportunities: I must have been to seek for leisure, retirement, and a quiet seat. The blossomings of these my labours (if now there be any thing in them that is valuable) must have withered in their first putting out, if, by the Divine favour, the dew of your Grace’s favour had not watered them.
Your Grace may have forgotten (for you are not wont to write your good turns in marble) what great things you did for me in my straits: what kindness and good will I then found from you, what industry of doing me good, even to admiration. However, they must never slip out of my remembrance and acknowledgment till I have forgot myself, and remember no more what I am. But since your humanity hath been such as cannot be fully spoken out, let me comprise the whole matter in this short compendium; that my family had perished, if God’s mercy, by the means of your compassion, had not saved it.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? And what to your Grace for so great a one? But can such a one as I think of making returns to God or you? Let God himself, the Father of mercies, (since I cannot) become your reward: and by an addition of his mercy, make me capable of rendering him myself; grant that I might be wholly his, and he yours. I pray that he would long preserve, protect, and direct your Grace, and at length make you everlastingly happy. This, from the heart and without ceasing, is the prayer of,
Most Reverend Father,
Your Grace’s most humble and most devoted servant,
the Second Week of Advent