St. Thomas Aquinas vision


Has there ever been any opinions or ideas as to what was revealed to St. Thomas Aquinas to make him call his Summa “straw”? I know nobody knows for sure, but has there been a good guess by any other saints?

Pax Christi


St. Thomas had ecstatic visions before his death. At one point, Christ said to him, “You have written well of me, Thomas.”


I wondered, too, and found this in the Original Catholic Encyclopedia:

It is not surprising to read in the biographies of St. Thomas that he was frequently abstracted and in ecstasy. Towards the end of his life the ecstasies became more frequent. On one occasion, at Naples in 1273, after he had completed his treatise on the Eucharist, three of the brethren saw him lifted in ecstasy, and they heard a voice proceeding from the crucifix on the altar, saying "Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?". Thomas replied, "None other than Thyself, Lord" (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 38). Similar declarations are said to have been made at Orvieto and at Paris. On December 6, 1273, he laid aside his pen and would write no more. That day he experienced an unusually long ecstasy during Mass; what was revealed to him we can only surmise from his reply to Father Reginald, who urged him to continue his writings: "I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value" (modica, Prümmer, op. cit., p. 43).

The "Summa theologica" had been completed only as far as the ninetieth question of the third part (De partibus poenitentiae). Thomas began his immediate preparation for death. Gregory X, having convoked a general council, to open at Lyons on May 1, 1274, invited St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure to take part in the deliberations, commanding the former to bring to the council his treatise "Contra errores Graecorum" (Against the Errors of the Greeks). He tried to obey, setting out on foot in January, 1274, but strength failed him; he fell to the ground near Terracina, whence he was conducted to the Castle of Maienza, the home of his niece the Countess Francesca Ceccano. The Cistercian monks of Fossa Nuova pressed him to accept their hospitality, and he was conveyed to their monastery, on entering which he whispered to his companion: "This is my rest for ever and ever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it" (Ps. cxxxi, 14) . When Father Reginald urged him to remain at the castle, the saint replied: "If the Lord wishes to take me away, it is better that I be found in a religious house than in the dwelling of a lay person." The Cistercians were so kind and attentive that Thomas's humility was alarmed. "Whence comes this honor", he exclaimed, "that servants of God should carry wood for my fire!" At the urgent request of the monks he dictated a brief commentary on the Canticle of Canticles.

The end was near; extreme unction was administered. When the Sacred Viaticum was brought into the room he pronounced the following act of faith: "If in this world there be any knowledge of this sacrament stronger than that of faith, I wish now to use it in affirming that I firmly believe and know as certain that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, is in this Sacrament." Then he added: "I receive Thee, the price of my redemption, for Whose love I have watched, studied, and labored. Thee have I preached; Thee have I taught. Never have I said anything against Thee: if anything was not well said, that is to be attributed to my ignorance. Neither do I wish to be obstinate in my opinions, but if I have written anything erroneous concerning this sacrament or other matters, I submit all to the judgment and correction of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass from this life" (Prümmer, op. cit., p. 48). He died on March 7, 1274.

So it would seem that he was wasn't denigrating his work, so much as humbly admitting that there were limits to his philosophy. In the end, Heaven is so much more than that, he felt like it was pointless to continue.


Being an intense researcher of the saint, and having taken him as my patron at baptism recently, I have always thought myself to have a good relationship with him. :slight_smile:

The nature of the vision might be deduced from how utterly shocked he was. Our saint was transformed totally by what he saw. Usually, nothing could stop that most eminent professor and doctor from dictating to his secretaries. Something in the beauty of our Lord’s holiness stopped him. It’s very difficult to stop a quiet, observant genius from communicating his ideas to the world! That’s akin to a Mozart just ceasing to compose, without any warning or explanation. :eek:

I believe St. Thomas saw the futility of his rationalism, in the end. He received the revelation of wisdom, not of knowledge. Many of his articles are intensely detailed when it comes to God, almost putting the Lord under a microscope to dissect Him! Given Thomas’ sudden silence, my vote goes for a simple revelation that he was trying to explain what is not explicable in mortal terms.

Proverbs 25:27 - he was overwhelmed. :wink:


When one uses a marble to describe the earth, they can give a good estimation of the earth to their students. They show that it is round. That it has an atmosphere. That there are things on the surface below. The marble is a good representation of the earth… but compared to the reality of the earth the marble itself is quite unimpressive.

Thomas was saying that when he was given just a glimpse, just a glimpse of the reality of heaven… while his Summa may have given a decent analysis of it, it was nothing like the real thing. The real thing was so far above and beyond what he had written that he felt it was much like straw in comparison. It’s a reminder that God is so infinitely beyond what we can imagine that while we can describe in our words parts of the ‘mystery’, we can never truly wrap our minds around the truth of it.


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