Before his conversion, the prolific writer, Father Benedict Ashley, was a student at the University of Chicago studying under Mortimer Adler, a Jewish Thomistic philosopher, who himself finally came into the Church at the eleventh hour, in 1999, at the age of ninety-seven. Adler was the one who introduced the young atheist/communist Ashley (I don’t know if he was born with the name Benedict, as his parents were non-religious) to Saint Thomas Aquinas. The wisdom of Saint Thomas is what moved Ashley to convert and, in the late 1930s, join the Dominican Order. He was ordained in 1948.
The Sacred Page: Sad news. The great Dominican theologian, Benedict Ashley, has passed away at the age of 97. Ashley was an atheist and a communist who converted to Catholicism after reading Thomas Aquinas’ works. He was truly a brilliant theologian and he will be sorely missed by those of us who benefited from his work. More of this amazing story here.
There is a more extensive biographical essay on Father Ashley, which was posted here at the Dominican Friar’s website over a year ago. It is a fascinating read, especially the encounter of Edith Stein (before her conversion) with Mortimer Adler when the saint-to-be was giving a lecture series at the University. Stein took her fist and kept tapping Adler’s on the top of the head as she instructed him critically: “You are a young man who likes to ask a lot of questions.” Dr. Adler was known to do just that, both as a student and as a professor.