In 1938 he began his studies of philosophy, but because of the Nazi occupation, he was forced to abandon those studies and to work. Again between 1942 and 1945 he continued his studies, but with interruptions due to forced labour. Later he became prefect of the secondary school of Velehrad, where he taught the Czech and Russian languages. Since 1951 he has been a collaborator with Vatican Radio, preparing the Sunday homilies in the Czech language. He was a lecturer at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and also taught courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University. He is known for his preaching of spiritual retreats, and in 1995 he led the retreat for the Holy Father and the Roman Curia. He is also the author of many written works.
He has served as a consultor of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of 21 October 2003, of the Deaconry of St. Agatha of Goti.
Cardinal Tomáš Špidlík died on 16 April 2010.