"All I have written is as straw"

What does this mean to you? To St. Thomas? Why did he give up the Summa. How does he mean it was all straw? It seems simple enough to me, but I’m having trouble pinning it down to a defintion.

What do you all think?

I agree, infact all that anyone ever writes or says about God is straw.

I read somewhere a comment made by one of St Francis’ first followers, one of the Brothers, that all that we know of God is nothing much, God has spoken to man like a mother talks to her child in childish talk so that the child will be able to understand her.

We know a small amount about God and what we do know has been delivered to us in ‘childish’ terms so that we children of God may understand a little and for it to suffice that we possess the gift of faith, know a certitude of God’s love for us and that we begin and continue to grow in love.

I would say that our limited minds, our underdeveloped hearts, our immature spirit and our use of words are straw to express any light of faith we may be gifted with to express God.

It’s all straw compared to what we will find out about God in eternity. God is beyond our wildest dreams in heaven, our joy will be inexpressible.

‘No ear has heard, no eye has seen, no mind can conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him’

We must approach God like a child, because He approaches us as children.

After many spiritual chats with learned people I always say ‘But what do I know?’ and then we laugh.:slight_smile:

And that is all the straw I have!:slight_smile:

As I understand it, that statement came at the very end of Thomas’s life, after he was given a vision of the glory of God, in which God complimented him on all the good things he had said.

But it was in that vision of the glory of God that Thomas realized that nothing we can say can come close to conveying God’s glory.

For me, from my own limited experiences of having the “veil” part, I can surely say that there is no way I can describe the incredible peace that comes from just “knowing” that God is in charge. I don’t have to know all this speculative theology, as interesting as it might be.

I really don’t need to know all these rules that we’ve managed to put together. It’s really very easy for me: Love God completely, and love my neighbor as God has loved me. Or, as Augustine put it, love God and do as you please, for in loving God we can only burn with the desire to mirror His love to those with whom we come in contact.

The rest, however interesting it might be, is just straw.


St. Thomas Acquinas is a Doctor of the Church, and his writings are valuable to us.

When St. Thomas experienced the love of God in prayer, in a very high degree, by comparison all his writings were “straw”. But, that didn’t mean that his writings weren’t valuable to the Church.

When one experiences God in such a way, the whole world seems as “straw”. But, we are to live in the world as we follow Christ and, with the help of His Grace, become more like Him.

There is also the story (perhaps apocryphal) that the good theologion had a dream, in which an angel was dipping seawater with a spoon and running up the beach to spill it out, then back to the sea for another spoonful.

The friar asked the angel “what are you doing?”

“Theology” was the reply.

The reason he stopped working on the Summa appears to have been exhaustion & overwork. (See James Weisheipl O.P., in his biography of St. Thomas, who gives a bit more detail). Aquinas was responsible for a great number of works (in the high 90s at least) in little more than 20 years. The Summa Theologiae is only one of several bulky theology texts, & it wasn’t the only one he didn’t finish.

I’m under the impression that that’s only half the quote - that he went on to say “compared to the love of God” (as other posters have touched on. He was simply recognising, at the end of his life (was it him that said the only books he needed in his last days were the Gospels and Augustine’s Confessions?) that, in the end, everything is as straw compared to knowing God. If that’s true, he wasn’t saying that his writings had no value.

That is my understanding as well. We certainly do need theologians to keep our thinking straight!

Please help if you know which is correct or are both: It was not Thomas Aquinas who dipped the spoon in the ocean and called it “Theology” It was St. Agustine who had a vision of a child who said he was emptying the ocean into a hole in the sand, and the revelation concerned the “Most Holy Trinity”

As for Thomas statement that “All is as Straw” happened when he was dumb-struck during the consecration of the Most Holy Eucharist. After he recovered, he made the statement. Clearly the good Saint had a vision of heaven or some other ectasy.

I believe it was an ecstasy as well. And, after that exalted experience he called his writings “straw”. (by comparison to what he experienced and what he could not articulate.)

Unfortunately, some people understand this to mean that all his works that he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that clarified many things for us…were to be discarded.

I thank the Holy Spirit for the wisdom received through St. Thomas Acquinas!

:thumbsup: couldn’t agree more with this post…

It is indeed straw!!! Contemplate the meaning of this!!! If St Thomas considered his works to be straw, consider how we should view our life here in this land of exile!!!

St. Thomas writings are not inspired. The Bible alone is.

I believe I understand what you are saying. Everything is passing away quickly, but I don’t see our lives as straw in the sense that they are unimportant…I don’t think you mean that but it somehow sounded like that.

St. Thomas Acquinas made a great contribution to theological insight, and clarified many things. He is one of many, I believe, who was gifted to help the Church with the insights he was given.

Have a Blessed Lent!


Yes the Bible is inspired, and what great saints have contributed to the Church is gift to us. They help us on our journey here with their insights, and I am so grateful for the grace the Lord gave them to do this.

Peace in Jesus and Mary,


Hi Dorothy;

No, I certainly did not mean to imply that our life here is this world is unimportant. I really meant to convey was to take what St Thomas said as a prophesy that we should long for God, with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. So often we get caught up in worldly affairs that we forget about the Hereafter. As for St. Thomas’ writings, I think they may lead some people to God, but may cause others to focus on the things of this world. Many of the great saints much preferred the solitude of the desert for it helped them in their quest to grow closer to God, likewise many of us would do fine to do away with the things of this world, including the works of Saint Thomas, and focus our attention on God. Our modern world places us at such a handicap for things that are truly holy and beneficial to the soul!!!

PS My lent is going to consist of my growing closer to God in the solitude of my apartment! I will have very limited contact with writings or the outside world.

It seems our beloved saint was referring to the difference between reasoned faith and faithful reason. He probably thought that all his life had only been reason with some faith thrown in, once he had actually seen our Lord. Since he was the most rational of saints, always glorying in even the logic of his pagan source Aristotle, he held the mind in high esteem. Perhaps his comment toward the end hints at a realisation that, no matter how far we stretch reason, it is never enough to make the final leap. We may travel the road of logic to the gate of faith, but our souls must pass through the gate and trust that God is on the other side.

That saint saw, in our Lord, all truth, beauty, and majesty. Once you see that which cannot be defined as ‘majestic’, but ‘Majesty’, all words fail. You might as well feed straw to a horse, or burn straw for a very weak fire, for that is all reason and logic are without faith. He was being somewhat hard on himself, of course, as saints usually are. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your response Robert!

That clarified much better what you really mean. I, too, prefer the “desert”, as I am attracted to the Carmelite Saints on prayer, and have been a Lay Carmelite since 1975. It has been and is quite a journey, and it is supportive to be in a community that is attracted to Carmel. I am there because I need that discipline.

God bless you on your journey!



“Everything I have written seems like straw by comparison with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.”

Keep it simple. Whatever it was that was revealed to him must have crushed him. He further stated that now he wanted to die. Don’t try to find some exotic meaning in this statement. In the Middle Ages what was straw used for? It was used on the floor of stables to cover the manure, and in mud floored huts to keep your feet dry, and perhaps to fill a crude mattress. That makes his writings seem pretty worthless for anything very useful. Just like straw. Perhaps something told him the real truth about God, Creation, Mankind, etc. With an open mind, read some modern 21st Century speculations about mankind’s origins, creation, etc.

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