The Mystical Side of St. Thomas

Was he the great doubter or just a trust-but-verify believer? In two recent posts, here and here, I have presented both views of St. Thomas: one is from the traditional Western perspective and the other view is also a traditional view, namely the view held by the St. Thomas Christians from India. So who is right? Or are these two views necessarily incompatible with each other?

I believe there is a way of reconciling these two views and it can be done through a third view of St. Thomas—as the saint who was the first to have a radical personal encounter with Christ, literally putting his hands in His wounds. It’s not for nothing that most introductions to the Five Wounds devotion that you’ll find (examples here and here) will quote the passage from the Gospel of John where the story is told.

I think putting the emphasis on this final encounter with Christ, brings the key elements and themes of the story into focus. The element of doubt is an undeniable one, based not only on the immediate text but the broader context of the gospel accounts of the Resurrection. What’s distinctive about St. Thomas is not that he doubted, but where that doubt led. St. Thomas did not shrink back from Jesus. He did not wallow in his doubt. Instead, his doubt became occasion for drawing closer to Christ and having that mystical personal encounter, at Jesus’ invitation. If there’s any true lesson to be learned from ‘doubting’ Thomas, this must be it.

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Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at

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