Aquinas Woodworth

Aquinas' Main Site:

30 December 2023 (Rev 31 May 2024)

"We live in a vast mystery.  Or perhaps that is grandiose; perhaps ours is a middling mystery.  But whatever the value of our mystery, within it lies a gentle whispering joy: an eternity of love." -- Aquinas, 2003, War and Reality 

Aquinas is the director of WorkRox: The Poetry of Work (, a project derived from a Theology of Work that he wrote in 1989.

Prior to WorkRox, Aquinas was a professional contemplative monk, a solitary hermit in the desert, under vows by a Rule of Life that he wrote – a new form of purely contemplative solitary life based on the wisdom and practice of 1800 years of monastic tradition – that was approved and guided by the Catholic Church.

Aquinas was a true hermit monk: he put on leather-palmed canvas work gloves, grasped the weathered wooden oars, and pulled hard against the weight of the current: he stood up to lean his whole body into the pull, driving back against the oars, digging his heels into a rib on the floor of the flat-bottomed metal rowboat: to drive the boat forward: through flooding spring rapids and heat and rain and blowing snow and flowing ice and bitter cold: a boat laden with fifty pound jugs of water and five gallon buckets of food and supplies: to cross the Rio Chama.

To enter wilderness: Once across the river, Aquinas dragged the boat onto shore and loaded the supplies into a large wooden garden cart weathered gray, which he pulled squeaking and rattling along a narrow dirt path that wound around and behind a mesa into an uninhabited wilderness canyon, to a hidden field beneath sandstone cliffs, where a leaky metal trailer on wooden blocks was his hermitage.

Small and uninsulated, the trailer rocked in the wind and sweltered in the summer sun; black roofing tar was smeared over the seams of its aluminum sheathing to keep out rain; and in winter it was heated by a wood fired tin sheepherder's stove that glowed red in its battle against the cold.

Aquinas lived there with only the water that he hauled from across the river, no electricity, and no communications.

He spent time every day with needle and thread mending new tears in his threadbare clothes. He wrapped the instep of his boots with duct tape to hold the detaching floppy soles.

He listened: to wind playing on the canyon walls and swirling through trees: different directions, different altitudes, once furious, then wisping: a gentle tempo: a swirling treble rush above, a distant bassist gust: multi-tonal polyphany, unhurried composition: sophisticated peace: the music of silence.

A silence that Aquinas joined through psalmody: He rose at midnight in the still darkness, lit a kerosene lamp, and prayed twelve psalms. He returned to the psalms six more times each day, from sunrise to sunset.

In that trailer, in that canyon, he lost himself into the silence of God.

When his brother monks across the river at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert needed to earn more money to support their growing community, Aquinas had an idea: He started with the monastery's only telecom, a Yagi antenna wired to a cellphone aimed at a cliff, which bounced an analog signal 15 miles to the nearest cell tower. To this he attached a modem powered by batteries charged by solar panels. Cell phone minutes were free at night, so he spent two all night sessions fiddling with AT commands and error correction until a handshake held: and thus the monastery was connected to the Internet.

Over this slow and unstable connection Aquinas downloaded technical documentation of the Internet and the very new World Wide Web and the software that powered it; he studied and experimented and built; and then he trained and managed a team of monks in web design.

This team built a website for the monastery that gained global fame and became one of the world's most trafficked web sites. This team also became a successful commercial web design agency.

Aquinas subsequently worked as a resident Internet consultant to the Vatican, living in the Papal guesthouse (Santa Marta) in Vatican City under the papacy of St. John Paul II.

At the Vatican Aquinas lived in a modest room directly across the hall from the suite currently occupied by Pope Francis. He shared daily Mass and three meals at a common table with the Holy Father's Sostituto, resident diplomats and other senior officials of the Secretariat of State. He had free access to the Vatican gardens (which he walked daily) and the Papal Apostolic Palace; was formally saluted by Swiss Guards and Vatican police wherever he walked – even from far across the opposite side of Vatican piazze – as though he were a very high-ranking Cardinal; and met the Holy Father: all while wearing the same scuffed and stained monastic work habit that he wore to dig the foundation and lay the concrete block for the outhouse at his primitive desert hermitage.

Aquinas then returned to New Mexico to found NextScribe and conduct the first, early research in Computer Supported Spiritual Development (CSSD).

The Rule of Life that Aquinas wrote for his monastic practice integrates his Theology of Work. This theology distinguishes a threefold nature of work: material, intellectual and spiritual. In his monastic practice Aquinas applied this Theology of Work in pursuit of the highest contemplative purpose of life.

He also applied this theology in building the web design team at Christ in the Desert, in consulting to the Vatican, and in operating NextScribe.

In a more ordinary fulfillment of this Theology of Work – one that expressed the sometimes hidden poetry of work – Aquinas provided ten years of caregiving for his terminally ill parents, including around the clock nursing care for his bedridden, Alzheimer's afflicted mother.

Hidden poetry: Aquinas rose from the chair next to his mother's bed at 2:30 AM. He had not yet slept that day. He was faced by his mother's need: The battle against bedsores ruled the day and the night. She had to be repositioned, rolling her body up and propping her with pillows, so that she would lie alternately left-side then right-side then middle, every two hours around the clock. On this day at 2:30 AM her need also required changing her diapers, cleaning her, changing her sheets and emptying her urine bag.

Bed care is rolling and tucking. Aquinas raised the hospital bed to his waist, then rolled his mom onto her side toward him next to the edge of the bed. He held her stable on her side so she wouldn't fall; removed her diaper and cleaned her; then, still holding his mom on her side, he tightly rolled the dirty bed sheet on the other side of his mom toward her back, in a long bed-length roll, and pushed the roll down into the mattress, into the crease between the mattress and his mom's back, and tucked it under her side, leaving just the bare mattress on the far half the bed.

Then he unfurled a fresh sheet on the far side of the bed, over the now-bare mattress, and draped the other half of the sheet over his mom, who was still held on her side. In the angle formed between his mom's back and the mattress, now covered by a fresh sheet, he stacked an incontinence pad and a diaper on top of the sheet, aligned with his mom. He then tightly rolled the half of the clean sheet draped over his mom, and half of the stacked diaper and pad, into a bed-length roll that he pushed down into the mattress, into the crease between the mattress and his mom's back, and tucked under her.

Tucked under his mom's side were now two rolls of sheets, a dirty roll next to a clean roll under her side; the near side of the bed dirty, the far side clean. Aquinas then rolled his mom off her side and onto her back, walked around to the other side of the bed, and rolled her up onto her other side toward the other edge of the bed: onto the fresh sheet. Then he pulled the dirty sheet away from behind his mom and tossed it to the floor; unrolled the fresh sheet and pad and diaper from beneath her side and laid them over the other side of the bed; and then rolled his mom onto her back and onto the freshly changed bed.

Two hours later, faced by his mom's need, he would repeat the process.

People all over the world care for bedridden patients. The work is hidden and belittled: because it is dirty and backbreaking, because it is enveloped in illness and weakness and death.

In affluent societies the rich outsource caregiving to the poor so that the rich may continue their love affair with the world.

Satan helps God find God's own:

In the hidden places, among the poor, amidst suffering: this is where work belongs to God alone.

This is the poetry that work is called to be.

This poetry lies at the heart of Aquinas' Theology of Work that he teaches through his current project, WorkRox: The Poetry of Work (