The Dominican Revival in the 19th Century

The Dominican Revival in the 19th Century
The Dominican Revival in the 19th Century
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The wars and upheavals of the 17th and 18th centuries had created a situation where by the 19th century, political control was exercised over the Church not only in England and Germany but even in Catholic countries such as Austria, France, and Spain. The new ideas of Febronianism, Jacobism, and the French Revolutionary ideologies spread throughout Europe had done their utmost to bring discredit on the old asceticism and its principal representatives in the mendicant orders, such as the Dominicans. Cardinal Newman thought that the Dominican Order was a “great idea, now extinct.”

Fortunately, not long afterward, the great Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire sought to revive the ancient spirit of St. Dominic in France. Nor was he alone; for when Fr. Jandel (whom Lacordaire inspired to become a Dominican) received his commission from Pope Pius IX to restore the old discipline and abolish the customary relaxation of the day, then new life began to reverberate through the order, and the primitive fervor of its holy founder was brought back to life.

“The Dominican Revival in the Nineteenth Century” vividly recounts the career of Fr. Alexander Vincent Jandel, from his days as a secular priest to a Dominican and then the 23rd Master General of the Order. Then it continues on the subsequent activity of the good Father, the cooperation he met with from his brethren and the splendid success that crowned his efforts and which had brought the order of St. Dominic once more to the forefront as a defender of the interests of Jesus Christ, and His Church.

This edition has been beautifully re-typeset while preserving the original text with exactitude. A great resource for the Church in general, and the Dominicans in particular during the troubled days of the 19th century.

St. Dominic’s Successor: The Life of Blessed Jordan of Saxony

St. Dominic's Successor
St. Dominic's Successor
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Learned and filled with holiness, he not only organized the constitutions, and established the Salve Regina after compline but was instrumental guiding the work of others to establish the Dominican Liturgy.
Though master-general of the order, Bl. Jordan’s humility prevented him from attributing himself as a director of any human authority. He was not and did not wish to be anything but a docile instrument of grace. As a director of conscience in his breadth and delicacy, Jordan had the Catholic sense of the omnipotent and infinite freedom of God and of the supernatural freedom of souls in relation to God. Like Dominic, he had the faith which moves mountains, and also he had hope of great assistance, which was never to fail him, especially and above all that of the Roman Church.
Marguerite Aaron captures the man and his times in this excellent biography, which not only makes use of the ample historical documentation but also utilizes them to enter intimately into his personality, a rare thing with the famous men of his era. Tracing his time from the University of Paris to his death, Aron’s biography is a first rate history, readable, well sourced and well-written. This is the only source in English to learn about the man who picked up and carried St. Dominic’s torch!

***Sample Chapter***

Jordan must have left Bologna at the beginning of April for the General Chapter of the Friars Preachers convened at Paris for Pentecost, May 22, 1222.

What had he done as Provincial of Lombardy, what part had he played in the destiny of the Order since the day when, in company with Everard de Langres, he had left the convent of St Jacques whither he was now summoned back for the General Chapter? At Bologna he had strengthened, enlarged and at the same time wisely consolidated Dominican action. At the time of St Dominic’s death, four priories were being founded: in the valley of the Po, at Brescia, where Guala of Bergamo was now in charge; at Parma; at Plaisance; and at Venice, the last of those intended by St Dominic.
Jordan did what was necessary to establish these houses. But already he was hopeful of making a foundation as yet still uncertain in a place which, according to him, was still more qualified to have a house of Friars Preachers, namely, Padua. Padua, whither doctors and lawyers who found themselves in disaccord with the citizens of Bologna so often emigrated, was the most urgently needed of Lombard foundations. Without doubt Jordan had already been there to ascertain the intentions of the Commune and had worked to instal the Friars Preachers there, for in 1223 the Padua Priory was established.
But we get the impression, hard to prove from definite texts but deduced from general facts, that in this first year of his administrative work the influence of Jordan must have gone beyond the Lombard province. His correspondence with Henry of Marbourg, Prior of Cologne, now unfortunately lost but spoken of by himself in De Initiis Ordinis; his relations with the Universities of Paris and Oxford; his collaboration with the legate of the Apostolic See in Lombardy, Cardinal Ugolino, an all-powerful personage at the Roman Curia, in all that concerned the fight against heresy and the extension of the preaching of the Church; all this allows us to think, not without foundation, that he must have already been mixed up in the general affairs of the entire Order; the more so as the absolute unanimity of his election, on May 22, 1222, made it appear to be the solemn ratification of an established fact.
According to a tradition in early Dominican writings at this chapter he must already, by an act of supreme authority, have decided to send two missionary Preachers to the Holy Land, Burchart of Strasbourg and a brother called Xyronius of Milan.
When Jordan was put at the head of the eight provinces and the forty Priories that the Order had established between 1217 and 1222, he courageously foresaw how they should increase from then on.
In the University of Paris, in the same St Jacques where two years before he had taken the habit of the Friars Preachers, Jordan received the highest office of the whole Order.
It was neither the time nor the place to look back. The Priory itself was already being rebuilt; under the impetus of the new Master, the work increased and so, as at St Nicholas of the Vineyards, the noise of carts unloading materials, the clatter of tools, the shouts of masons, mingled with the psalms of the Office and the coming and going of curious students. The Friars Preachers of St Jacques—the Jacobins, as they were called by the people of Paris, whose number in 1219 was not more than thirty, were one hundred and twenty in 1223. They were probably near to a hundred in 1222, and it is certain that the first buildings were no longer large enough for them. Steven of Bourbon, contemporary Friar Preacher who received the habit at Lyons in 1223 but who had been studying theology at Paris before that date, had known and frequented the Priory of St Jacques and speaks of the work of construction which was then going on. The little chapel of Jean de Barastre was already giving place to a much larger church, very simple in style, with two naves, one for friars and clerics, the other for laymen. At the same time they began to build the cloister, a large refectory, and an infirmary. This work was so urgent that it was completed with a speed not common at those times. This explains the relatively short duration of the buildings of St Jacques, and their complete disappearance when so many other buildings of the same period have left vestiges still standing today. After Jean de Barastre, dean of St Quentin, their first benefactor, it was the University of Paris and its Commune which became benefactors of the Friars Preachers. The University had just conceded to them all rights not only to the hospice of St Jacques but also to the adjoining houses belonging to it; and at the time of the election of Jordan, at least within the month following it—since the gift was ratified by Philip Augustus, who died in 1223—the Commune of Paris gave the Friars Preachers a building large enough for them, enclosed in the ramparts between the St Michael Gate and the St James Gate, and the close adjoining it outside the walls, formerly the ‘Clos du Bourgeois’, which now became the ‘Clos des Jacobins’.
Such considerable additions were not made without great expense. As at Bologna, the Friars Preachers knew financial difficulties. As at Bologna, these were cleared up; not by a bishop-legate but, at the request of the Bishop of Paris, by the Queen, Blanche of Castile.
This fact is attested by Stephen of Bourbon. Blanche of Castile was about to make a pilgrimage to St James of Compostello and was ready to devote to it ‘a marvellous outlay’. The bishop, William of Auvergne, her confessor, who knew that the Parisian Friars Preachers were completely unable to pay off a debt of about 1,500 livres, said to her: ‘Madame, do you not think that you could do something better than spend so much money for the glory of the world and to make a great display in your native land?’
And she, who knew very well in her heart that this pretentious pilgrimage was more a parade than an act of piety, replied: ‘Give me your advice; I am ready to follow it.’
‘The Friars Preachers’, said William, ‘who are called the Friars of St Jacques, are in debt more than 1,500 livres. Take your pilgrim’s staff and go to St Jacques, their house, and pay their debt; and since I have commuted your vow, I promise you that I will answer for you at the Day of Judgment; for you could not do better than to use in this way the money which would otherwise have served only for useless pomp.’ And ‘the woman of wise heart followed the advice of the holy man’.
This holy man was William of Auvergne, who was consecrated Bishop in 1228, and if he was already a bishop at the time of this incident, this puts it between 1228 and 1230. This must indeed have been a difficult time for the Friars to have large debts falling due in the work, which was begun in 1221 or 1222, seems to have been finished in 1231, and judging by the size of the buildings the cost must have exceeded first estimates.
We can see the hand of Jordan in those events whose material shapes we can grasp. Already in 1222 the future Regent of France, soon to be Queen by the accession of Louis VIII, gave ear to the advice of the Master General and showed herself to be a faithful friend of the Friars Preachers. Taken as a child to France to be married when she was scarcely sixteen years old, perhaps she had in the first place loved in Dominic de Guzman and in his first sons something of her own native Castile. She must have seen Blessed Mannes arrive in Paris in 1217. She must have seen St Dominic in 1219. We can scarcely believe that, coming back just then from Spain, St Dominic could have gone through Paris without greeting the daughter of King Alphonso there, without, perhaps, taking to her—in those times when it was the custom to entrust letters to travellers—some message from her homeland.
However that may be, Blanche had confidence in and a constant veneration for the Preachers. It was apparently she who, already near to becoming Queen, obtained from the dying Philip Augustus the grants of land for the enlargement of St Jacques. It was she who urged her husband, Louis VIII, after his accession to the throne, to take up the crusade against the Albigensian heresy in accordance with the wishes of the papal legate, Cardinal Romain de St Ange, and by reason of the information which the Friars Preachers would have given her about the district of Toulouse.
An event which occurred only fifteen days after the election of Jordan as Master General confirmed the interest which Blanche of Castile had in the Friars Preachers and in the extension of their Order in the kingdom of France; and in this event it is impossible not to see Jordan’s own work and influence.
A day’s ride from Paris, on the wooded plateau which dominates the valley of the Eure, the episcopal city of Chartres, although deprived of its former scholastic prestige by the recent growth of the University of Paris, still remained a city of schools and scholars. Peter the Lombard had taught the Sentences there, great masters had come out of it, subtle dialecticians, recognized mathematicians, Guillaume de Couches, Gilbert de la Porrée, who had drawn to their lectures students of all nations. In spite of its decline, at about 1222 Chartres still had illustrious canonists: the Chancellor Robert de Brou, the Dean Bartholomy, soon to be bishop of Paris, the de Grey brothers, Aubry Cornut, Constantine of Sicily.
If a breath of discord arose between students and townsfolk in Paris, just as those of Bologna went to Padua, Verona and Sienna, so Parisian students would make their way to Chartres. No one knew and foresaw this better than Master Jordan.
But there was yet another motive that turned his thoughts toward Chartres. Chartres, a privileged home of devotion to our Lady, had its first cathedral destroyed by fire in 1194, and afterwards, by an unusual co-operation of benefactors of all ranks, benevolent workmen of all conditions and anonymous pilgrims of every social class, raised the triumphant edifice which still stands. A fervour of pious generosity animated a whole army of workmen and craftsmen, stone-masons, master workmen and glass-makers, whose encampment obeyed the discipline, not of bugles and military commands, but of prayers and church bells. Blanche of Castile had taken upon herself the cost of building the north door, especially the famous rose window with the arms of France and of Castile which rises above it, where her son is delineated as a young blond King Solomon; nor was this work finished without her arriving from time to time to see the progress that was being made on it.
She was at Chartres on the Sunday after the Octave of Pentecost in the year 1222, on June 16, fifteen days after the Chapter of St Jacques and the election of the Master General. And there she presided at a ceremony at which Jordan, if he was not there in person, as was probable, was certainly present in spirit. Before the Bishop Gautier of Chartres, the dean of his chapter, Hugues de la Ferté, and a great gathering of magistrates, nobles, and clerics whose names are unfortunately not recorded in the text which has come down to us, she solemnly confirmed the gift of a house made to the Friars Preachers by Hugues de la Ferté. This house, according to tradition, was against the rampart near the Clos Muret. A little old chapel adjoined it, but it needed to be rebuilt.
We do not know who the first Friars Preachers were whom the priory of St Jacques sent to Chartres. But we do know that their installation there was not without difficulties, for, though they had the bishop and the dean on their side, they had the majority of the canons against them; and the sequence of events allows us to understand very well why Jordan had asked Blanche of Castile to give so much help by her presence and that of her court in respect of the donation of Hugues de la Ferté. He had to establish the Friars Preachers in Chartes in such an emphatic way that hostility would be forced to withdraw, but it was not to be finally overcome for eight years and that not without conflict.
The place ceded to the Friars Preachers remained, in accordance with the jurisdiction proper to such places, under the patronage of the Chapter. The Friars could not change anything or build anything without its consent. But a small house was not sufficient to allow the Preachers to have a regular priory and church, and in particular the thing that was essential to their purpose and certainly of greater moment to the bishop, namely, a school.
But the canons were firm in their refusal to allow the Friars Preachers the right to arrange as they wished the place which had been conceded to them and to celebrate the Divine Office there. Quibbling and wrangling, the dissident canons managed by invoking particular laws and usages of the district of Chartres to delay matters from year to year until 1230. It required a fulminating bull from Pope Gregory IX to overcome their stubbornness.
This papal document, sealed as from Anagni on November 9, 1230, was not drawn up without the intermediation of Jordan, as we shall see later; and again it was Blanche of Castile who lent confirmation to its effects by assisting at the first Mass celebrated in the new church of the convent of St Jacques at Chartres on the octave day of the Ascension. She offered to the friars chasubles, copes and dalmatics of silk, and a great silver cross, gilded, ornamented with a fleur-de-lis, containing a relic of the wood of the true Cross.
The first Prior was Nicholas of Sienna, later Provincial of the Holy Land; he came to Chartres from Orléans, where he was a teacher, and was elected in chapter on St Michael’s day, September 29, 1231, in the presence of Pierre de Reims, Provincial of France, and soon to be preacher and advisor to St Louis. The following year, at the Provincial Chapter of France, he and his definitors made a proposition, we do not know what, which was accepted and confirmed by Jordan in a circular letter which has disappeared but the text of which the historian of the Priory of Chartres, Father Le Febvre (Praedicator Carnutens), had seen at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and he had copied a passage which interested him.
From then on the house of the Friars Preachers at Chartres greatly extended its scope. Their lectures in theology were open to students from outside. Some of their masters, like Friar William d’Autun, went to the Sorbonne; two others, Brother Thomas d’Epeautrolles and Brother John d’Anet, were respectively chaplain to St Louis and his confessor for twenty years, and both were his historians.
Blanche of Castile and her son seem to have preserved a warm regard for Chartres. As for Jordan, this was his first foundation in the Province of France and one that he held dearest to his heart. But he had to visit the other priories of the Order and Lombardy called him back. It is probable that, if he preached in Advent to the students of Paris, he would return to Bologna to preach the Lent there, because it was his almost invariable custom to spend Lent where the General Chapter was held. Thus the Chapter became the occasion for the Master to give the habit to the novices who had been converted during Lent. Moreover, he must have preached at Bologna for Pentecost, June 11, 1223, at the General Chapter.
Another matter, which for some months he had followed attentively from afar, claimed his presence and his authority. Diana d’Andalo had gradually overcome the resistance of her family and the scruples of the bishop of Bologna. Ronzano was to her only a temporary refuge; her wish was to live, under the rule of the Friars Preachers and under their direction, a life of contemplation and mortification for the benefit of their Order. Jordan also wished to see a house of Dominican nuns built at Bologna; he could foresee its social value and the supernatural help it would provide.
It must have been his arrival which finally decided matters, for they were hurried through; the contract of sale of the land bought by ‘the Lady Diana’ to build her convent on was drawn up by a notary in the church of Ronzano on May 13, 1223. Evidently both buyer and seller were already in agreement, for she had only been waiting for that moment to begin the layout of the spot, the cloister and the construction of the little house, low and poor as it was, which received the first Sisters; three weeks afterwards, on the Octave of the Ascension, June 8, 1223, Diana and the four young women of Bologna whom she brought with her came down from Ronzano again and received the Dominican habit in this humble dwelling which had been prepared for them: a robe of white wool with a capuce of the same material, a leather belt, white veil, cappa of coarse serge of black or brown. Finally, on June 29, the feast of St Peter and St Paul, the new Sisters made their solemn vows before Brother Rudolph and Brother Ventura, Brother Bernard the Teuton and Brother Guala of Bergamo, who served as witnesses.
Thus the convent of St Agnes was founded. It was situated outside the city, between the San Mandalo Gate and the Gate of Saragozza, on a little hill not far from St Nicholas of the Vineyards, at a place called Volsampero. Diana’s desire was fully satisfied.
It was Jordan who had brought this to pass, and who had attached enough importance to the consecration of the nuns of St Agnes to delay his departure several days. But a strange impatience possessed him. Not all the students of Bologna had attended the Lenten preaching. Several groups of Ultramontans, after one of their frequent quarrels with the Lombard townsfolk and the Cismontan clerics, had left Bologna before Jordan’s arrival. Jordan, who had got to know them the previous year, was aware of the value there was in them, what advances some of them had made to him and what hopes they had raised in him. He went back in mind to a certain sixteen-year-old student at Padua, a lively and delicate lad, son of a great German family. He knew this youth’s fancy to enter the Order, and how this was opposed by his uncle, who lived with him and who had made him promise not to listen to the Friars Preachers’ sermons any more. He could not forget his fervour, his assurance. Above all, at a glance the Master of Arts, the great mathematician, Nemorarius, had seen in this young man a precocious and assured scientific genius. Such an intelligence, in a soul already sanctified, would radiate a great light. By bringing him into the sound and vigorous Dominican way of life and learning, he would be saved from the current dissipation of mind, from the attraction of useless ambitions, he would be consecrated to truth. Jordan had no wish to make him abandon the sciences. On the contrary, he encouraged him to pursue those researches of which ignorant people were afraid, which frightened timid people; they alone could build a bridge between routine theology, too far removed from rational and experimental methods, and a liberal culture that was without restraint, dangerous to subtle imaginations and to consciences not balanced by a sufficiently strong faith. Albert of Lawingen would be a great man. Master Jordan must find him again and win him over.
Meanwhile, the final establishment of the Priory at Venice, of which the preliminary plans had been drawn up by St Dominic two years before, urgently demanded the presence of the Master General, and to go first to Venice was to travel toward Padua. He did not let Diana d’Andalo keep him. Admittedly, for so young and new a religious as she to undertake alone the formation in the religious life of companions yet more inexperienced than herself was well-nigh impractical; difficulties were already appearing. But provision could be made. ‘Be patient’, Jordan would write to his daughter. These are the letters which, after seven hundred years, provide us with the landmarks of his journeying and bring his travels and his preaching to life again.
So he set forth with long strides, along the dusty road, under the harsh July sun. Two friars accompanied him, Brother Archangelus and Brother John. Archangelus was a man of Bologna, known to Diana to whom he is attached and whose prayers he requests. John and he were to accompany the Master to Paris; their names, which appear again and again, enable us to locate the letters where they are mentioned in the postscripts and to reconstruct their trip with certainty. There are reasons to suppose that these two young Friars Preachers of good family were taken by Jordan to St Jacques so that they could study theology there.
They travelled at his side. The Master sometimes spoke to them of the things of God and of the Order, sometimes remained silent and recollected, inviting them to silence and to prayer, sometimes chanted aloud with them the Psalms of the Office and anthems he loved, such as nostra redemptio, and especially the Salve Regina. They walked quickly and with light step. The two Brothers were scarcely able to keep up with this smiling, robust man, whose temples were already beginning to grow grey, whose head was bowed sometimes by the weight of so much thought.
The first stop on the route must have been Faenza, where still today the road from Bologna forks to Florence at the south-east and to Ravenna toward the west. One of the first Lombard Priories had been established there three or four years before. From there it was not far to Ravenna, where they could take ship to Venice, thus saving considerable time. Jordan was in a great hurry; doubtless this is the route he took and stayed only a very short time at Venice; the letter in which he informs Diana of his happy arrival in that city announces at the same time his departure for Padua.
This short letter had two objects: Jordan did not forget the spiritual needs of his daughter; he urges her to strengthen herself and her sisters in charity. ‘Soon will come the wedding-feast of the Lamb’, he wrote. ‘He will give the sweet wine of the date-palm to those whose soul is bitter with the thirst of love.’ A mystic exhortation which is meant to help the nuns of St Agnes to live in the love and in the hope of God. But at the same time he assigns a precise object to their prayers: that they beg Jesus Christ to bless the preaching that he is about to undertake at Padua, that they obtain ‘for his voice the power of the Word, so that it may bring forth fruit to the honour of God’.
That was his great preoccupation and also his hope. While he went along the road from Venice to Padua, meditating on his sermons, his memory turned back, tender and confiding, towards the humble cloister where he knew they prayed unceasingly for him; dear little house, not in vain has its foundation already cost so much trouble; it is the holy reservoir upon which he relies for his preaching; it will not be either his talent or his prestige, but the unremitting sacrifices and valiant faith of this handful of religious women that will bring down divine grace and win the victory.
Meanwhile these matters were to be long drawn out. The next letter asks again for prayers: ‘The students of Padua are terribly cold; so far only one of them has allowed himself to be won over… I recommend to you to pray assiduously to our Lord that he may deign to move their hearts and to draw them to him for their own salvation, for the glory of God and the Church, and for the growth of our Order.’
On her part, Diana doubtless implored direction and words of consolation. Jordan excused himself for having no leisure to write at length to her; he gives her over to the care of the Holy Spirit, ‘whose consolations are unmixed, and infuse into the soul truth in its entirety. Rest in him, and wait patiently in him for the time of my return.’
The weeks went by, the month of August came, and Jordan, a prey to discouragement, was thinking of returning. But no; suddenly grace flooded into the closed hearts of these students hitherto indifferent; ten of them entered the Order, ‘and among them two sons of two great German lords; one was a provost-marshal, loaded with many honours and possessed of great riches; the other has resigned rich benefices and is truly noble in body and mind.’ This was Albert de Lawingen; he had triumphed over temptation and the artifices of the world, over his uncle, and over his own hesitations; later, among the tribulations of life, it was enough for him to remember the words of Master Jordan at this decisive moment to regain strength and certainty.
He was bound to the Order for ever. Jordan’s letter is a canticle of thanksgiving, a song of praise. He addressed it not to Diana alone, but to ‘his sisters of St Agnes, very dear in Christ’. All had shared in the labour, all must share in the honour and all must be thanked.
Another letter to Diana followed soon after. Twenty-three others had come to join the first ten recruits, ‘all clerics eminent in letters, except two layman who would be Lay-brothers; several are of the high nobility’. Six others, ‘quite notable’, had made a promise binding them in conscience to enter the Order later, and many still were expected. Overwhelmed, Jordan had sent for Brother Ventura, his successor in the office of Prior Provincial of Lombardy, and probably also with him Rudolph de Faenza and several friars formerly at the Priory at Bologna.
It became urgent to open a house of Friars Preachers at Padua: they must profit by the enthusiasm of the University world and by the good dispositions of the town, which was anxious to have the students and masters start this house without delay. Jordan could not wait any longer at Padua; Brother Ventura had the necessary authority and experience to take his place, to begin the education of the novices and, if need be, while waiting for the foundation of the new convent, to take them to the ‘studium’ of Bologna.
Diana was alarmed at the abrupt departure of Brother Ventura, her Superior, her spiritual father, her adviser in Jordan’s absence and her support since the departure of the Master. There was far from unanimity in the house of the Friars Preachers of Bologna on the subject of the foundation of St Agnes; several of them disapproved of the expenses and the anxieties generally involved in looking after monasteries of women; they felt great repugnance for this new charge, not having grasped its value for the Order. Therefore Diana must have felt very strongly about Brother Ventura’s departure.
Jordan reassured her. ‘Do not have any uneasiness on the subject of Brother Ventura’, he wrote, ‘for it is not with the intention of making him Prior of Padua that I have called him here.’ He did more. How could she have thought that he would lose sight of St Agnes, that he was not concerned to organize its life and regularize its administration? Negotiations were under way at Rome to arrange for the transfer to Bologna of a little nucleus of those Sisters of St Sixtus which had been founded not long ago by St Dominic himself. The Prior of the Roman province was charged with this duty. ‘He has written to me’, said Jordan to Diana, ‘about the matter of the Sisters of St Sixtus, and as far as they are concerned, all goes well and they are well disposed towards it.’ The difficulties and the delays in this matter must have come, not from the nuns themselves, but from Honorius III who, proud of his convent of St Sixtus, could not bring himself to denude it in this way.
Jordan wrote in paternal fashion to calm his too ardent daughter: ‘I beseech you in God of your charity that your heart be neither troubled nor afraid… Endure sadness, be patient in humility.’ Perhaps to this message of the Master, Brother Ventura, in collaboration with Rudolph de Faenza, had added the letter of exhortation, the text of which has come down to us. It is a consolation in the allegorical style of the times, addressed to Diana, their Prioress, and to the Sisters and to all in the convent of St Agnes, by Brothers Ventura, Prior, and Rudolph, of the Order of Preachers.

‘We exhort you’, it says, ‘to go forward towards the City which is above… let neither covetousness nor toil stop you: the strong castle which allows itself to be captured as soon as it suffers assault by the engines of war is reputed of little value… If sometimes your hearts are troubled by the song of deceiving sirens or the hissing of other monsters whose prey you might easily become, because you do not know their language, do as the nobles do to ensure the education of their sons, for they send them to the court of the great in France or Germany, so that equipped in every way and instructed in languages, they know how to avoid the snares. So, direct your thoughts towards the heavenly court, so that if you hear some horrible monster, you may be warned to flee the peril by the angelic tongues which resound about you.’

This text, with its clear significance delicately dressed, recalls the first letter sent to Ronzano by Jordan—so much so that it seems to reflect something of Jordan himself.
Meanwhile the Master had taken the road again.
The Priory of Padua was founded. It was the first Lombard creation of the Master General, as Chartres had been his first French creation, and both marked the progress of the Friars Preachers in the University world. Now Jordan was awaited at Brescia.
Located on the highway from Milan to the Adriatic, near Verona and Padua, Brescia had one of the first houses of Friars Preachers established in northern Italy by St Dominic. It was in existence in 1220, and from that time Guala of Bergamo was its Prior. But the original establishment in one of the churches of the town, Saint Afre, was inadequate. By an official act of May 24, 1221, Cardinal Ugolino, papal legate in Lombardy, had invested in Guala of Bergamo the possession of the church of the holy martyrs Faustinus and Jovitus, patrons of the city, with its dependencies, houses and vineyards, on condition that they paid the revenue of these dependencies to the former Canons of the place for four years more.
From then on, Guala of Bergamo was held to have the confidence of the Cardinal-Legate. He might have been forty years old. Born of a noble family, a distinguished canonist of the schools of Padua, he was already a priest when he entered the Order and was sacristan at the Priory of St Nicholas of the Vineyards from the time that Moneta of Cremona entered in 1219. He had been a witness, with Reginald and Rudolph, at the profession of Diana d’Andalo made into the hands of St Dominic, and, with Ventura, Rudolph and Bernard, at her clothing. He was one of the best business men among the Friars Preachers, one of those whose signature most often appears in official acts. In the near future he was to become a familiar of the Roman Curia, which entrusted him with very important diplomatic missions and delicate negotiations with the Lombard League and the Emperor Frederick II. He was to be bishop of Brescia from 1230 and to introduce into the communal statutes new legislation against heresy. Jordan would on many occasions have recourse to him as a negotiator and to gather information. Now he hastened to Brescia at his invitation.

St. Dominic's Successor
St. Dominic's Successor
$18.00
The year had been full of trouble for the city. An earthquake and a flood followed by an epidemic had severely tried it. To avert these evils and in the hope that they would not come again, a solemn translation of relics of the holy patrons of Brescia had been decided upon by the bishop. The relics were exposed and carried with great pomp in procession throughout the city. The Friars Preachers, guardians of the holy bodies, must have led the procession among the higher clergy and the magistrates. It was good to see the Master General in their midst and maybe he spoke in the course of the ceremony. Such demonstrations did much to confirm the prestige of the Order and to establish its authority in Lombardy which was so much disturbed by heresies, and nevertheless so rich in its religious elements. Jordan was well acquainted with the communal spirit and its passionate unreasonableness, and he knew the importance of such demonstrations. He was present at the translation on August 23.

Doubtless he expected to leave Brescia the next day to return to Bologna. But the air of Brescia was charged with the germs of marsh-fever. Jordan fell a victim to it, and attacks were to torment him repeatedly thereafter. He had to give up the return to Bologna and, as soon as he was convalescent, to go to Milan. Jordan was committed to preach the Advent to the students of Paris and to spend all the winter at St Jacques until the General Chapter which would meet at Paris, at Pentecost, 1225. The season was already advanced. To take the road over the Alps, he must go before autumn, before the first snows and the shortened days. Diana grieved in vain. He wrote to her:
‘Since I cannot see you as I wish and as you wish, with bodily eyes, I have written to you several times… so that in spite of the inexact and diverse rumours which may have reached you, your soul shall not be in the least troubled… Know then that after having suffered with fever at Brescia, I am, by God’s grace, now convalescent and have been able to come to Milan, whence I hope that I can happily continue my journey. Console yourself then in the Lord, so that I may myself be consoled thereby in the Lord, for your consolation is my joy and comfort before God. Greet all the Sisters for me and recommend me to them. To them also, good health.’

The Spiritual Life and Prayer: According to Holy Scripture and Monastic Tradition

The Spiritual Life and Prayer
The Spiritual Life and Prayer
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The present treatise on prayer was first of all printed privately in the French language, and was intended exclusively for the instruction of the daughters of St Benedict. All souls, however, who are aiming at perfection may derive profit and edification from its pages. The spirit of the venerable Abbot Gueranger breathes through the whole work. What this distinguished man thought on the all-important subject of prayer, what he expressed in his conferences, and what he wrote in many parts of his classical work, “The Liturgical Year,” is found here systematically arranged. Some of the chapters are real masterpieces.

-Mgr. Paul Leopold Haffner, Bishop of Mayence, September 10, 1896.”

Spiritual Life and Prayer according to the Monastic Tradition, is a spiritual treatise on the soul’s journey to God. Carefully considering the spiritual life as lived among the trials of the world, the Sacraments, the author considers who are the true worshipers of God and how we become such based on the testimony of Sacred Tradition and the Holy Fathers. Though it is a century old, being based on such timeless testimony it has not lost its luster.

This work is a beautiful and orthodox treatise on spirituality that is not just for monks, but for anyone serious about living a true spiritual life. This book has been completely reprinted and reformatted in conformity with the original, it is not a facsimile reprint.

A Capuchin Chronicle: The Origin and Early Years of the Capuchin reform

A Capuchin Chronicle
A Capuchin Chronicle
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The Capuchin Chronicle is a translation of a 16th century account of the first Capuchin Franciscans: their trials, tribulations and holiness as they went on to become a great religious order in the Church. It is attributed to Fra Ruffino da Siena, with sections added from the chronicle of Fra Bernadino Colpetrazzo.

The Chronicle, though anonymous, is attributed to Fra Ruffino da Siena, and begins with a review of previous reforms, laying the ground for the turbulent period of the 1530s and the struggle with the regular Franciscans to establish their first houses. Students of the discalced Carmelite reform will see here similar attitudes and obstacles to overcome to establish reform. It also chronicles great figures who guided the reform at a critical time, such as Fra Bernadino d’Asti, and apostates who lurked within and caused great destruction, such as Ochino who abandoned the order and became a Protestant. It covers how the order was affected by the Council of Trent, and what it is to live the true spirit of a Capuchin Franciscan, embracing the primitive rule of St. Francis.

This chronicle, while near contemporary and a great source for information on the order, is also a spiritual treatise of first rank, on the virtues which the men of that age felt were necessary to not only wear the habit of St. Francis, but truly embrace the spirit of their founder. This should rank as a quintessential Franciscan work.

New! The History of St. Norbert

History of St. Norbert
History of St. Norbert
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History of St. Norbert Hardcover
History of St. Norbert Hardcover
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St. Norbert is perhaps one of the greatest, yet today unknown, saints of the middle ages. Above all he was a great reformer.
Born of nobility, and living in luxury with royal favor, St. Norbert suddenly had a conversion, and embarked to be a new St. Paul, throwing away his rich garments, and preaching to the faithful as a beggar.
Led further, and provided with papal approval, Norbert makes a foundation in the valley of Prémontré, whence his order gets its name. The preaching of St. Norbert and his order restored faith in the Eucharist, badly shaken by heretics, and for this he was long remembered in northern European cities badly affected by heresy such as Antwerp. His life dominated the 12th century where, as a friend of St. Bernard, he worked to reform Church life and to defend the independence of the Papacy.
The great project of St. Norbert was to combine the active and the contemplative life, by establishing canons who lived by the maxims of monastic life, to both work in the world and retire for prayer. In this he anticipates Sts. Francis and Dominic by a century.
Premonstratensian abbeys dotted the landscape of Europe until the revolutions of the 16th-18th centuries.
Fr. Kirkfleet, relying on the best histories and the most accurate primary sources, provides the most complete biography of this great saint in English.
The Mediatrix Press edition has added numerous woodcuts of the life of Norbert to beautify the work. The reprint is unchanged from the original apart from font and page sizes.
This wonderful book shows that the Holy Spirit raises up saints to defend and build up the Church in every age when they are needed, and provides us with the enduring witness of the love of the Church and the love of the Holy Eucharist to be found in the saints.

NB: Hardcover and Kindle coming soon!

The Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze

Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze
Autobiography of St. Charles of Sezze
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St. Charles of Sezze was a Franciscan mystic and stigmatist of the 17th century.
Although he was quite unlettered, still, through the ever increasing influence of the Holy Spirit he wrote books that number in size, and content make him one of the greatest mystical writers of the Church, ranking with St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. In his own times this mystical doctrine, illustrated in this Autobiography, served as a powerful counterweight to fatal Quietism and Jansenism.
The canonization of St. Charles after his having remained unknown for several centuries should serve to indicate that his life and writings carry a message for modem man. His complete obedience rebukes the present-day lust for self-determination; his humility, its pride and boastfulness; his poverty, its precipitate rush after material pleasures. What he suffered at the hands of the demons also carries a lesson for modem times. It is that the devil is very much in existence, and deliberately to close our mind against the thought of him will only serve to give him greater power. St. Charles teaches us the way to oppose the devil and all the fallen angels in their incessant warfare against our souls. Very few will ever be asked to suffer bodily harm from the devil, but all must suffer, and overcome, his temptations to pride, lust and ambition.

St. Charles’ autobiography is more than just history, it is a spiritual treatise of development of the Holy Spirit in the soul through obedience, prayer and love. This is not a work to be missed!

St. John Fisher, Reformer, Humanist Martyr: Sample Chapter

The following is from St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr by E.E. Reynolds, the only complete biography of St. John Fisher currently in print! View a glimpse of the excellent historical work that makes this book a must have! If you like what you see here don’t forget to order at the links below!

 

CHAPTER VIII
THE BISHOP IN HIS DIOCESE—I

CAMBRIDGE affairs were only part of the business that occupied John Fisher’s days and thoughts. He was summoned to the Parliaments and Convocations of 1510, 1512 and 1515. Nothing is recorded of the part he played on those occasions. We get glimpses of him at great functions; thus on 15th November 1515 he was crosier to Archbishop Warham at Westminster Abbey when Wolsey received the Cardinal’s hat, “in so solemn wise,” wrote George Cavendish, “as I have not seen the like unless it had been at the coronation of a mighty prince or king.” In the following year, the Bishop of Rochester christened the son of Mary, the king’s sister, who was now Duchess of Suffolk after having been Queen of France.
Pope Leo X urged the princes of Europe to war against the Turks who were threatening to carry their power north of the Danube. He proposed in 1518 to send Cardinal Campeggio as his legate to England to advance this intention. Henry and Wolsey objected that it was contrary to English practice to receive a cardinal legate; this difficulty could be overcome, however, if Wolsey were granted the same powers as Campeggio. So on 17th May Wolsey became cardinal a latere, an exceptional appointment that he skillfully made permanent. Campeggio was kept waiting at Calais until further, and more profitable, concessions were granted to Wolsey. John Fisher was one of the prelates who received Campeggio at Canterbury on 23rd July 1518, and, no doubt, joined the cardinal’s train as far as Rochester.
Shortly afterwards, Wolsey called a synod of the clergy; in this way he demonstrated that his new powers were greater than those of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The early biographer of John Fisher gives an account of this synod which needs to be read with the caution that it does not report speeches verbatim, but as historical reconstructions. The words he puts into the mouth of John Fisher no doubt expressed the bishop’s real opinions though it may be questioned if he would have used some of the phrases given to him.

This council was called by my lord Cardinal rather to notify to the world his great authority and to be seen sitting in his pontifical seat, than for any great good that he meant to do, which this learned and wise prelate [Fisher] perceived quickly. Wherefore having now good occasion to speak against such enormities as he saw daily rising among the spirituality, and much the rather for that his words were among the clergy alone, without any commixture of the laity, which at that time began to hearken any speaking against the clergy. He there reproved very discreetly the ambition and incontinency of the clergy, utterly condemning their vanity in wearing of costly apparel, whereby he declared the goods of the Church to be sinfully wasted and scandal to be raised among the people seeing the tithes and other oblations given by the devotion of them and their ancestors to a good purpose so inordinately spent in indecent and superfluous raiment, delicate fare and other worldly vanity.
Which matter he debated so largely and framed his words after such sort that the Cardinal perceived himself to be touched to the very quick. For he affirmed this kind of disorder to proceed through the example of the head and thereupon reproved his pomp, putting him in mind that it stood better with the modesty of such a high pastor as he was, to eschew all worldly vanity, specially in this perilous time, and by humility to make himself conformable and like to the image of God. “For in this trade of life,” said he, “neither can there be any likelihood of perpetuity with safety of conscience, neither yet any security of the clergy to continue, but such plain and imminent dangers are like to ensue as never were tasted or heard of before our days.”
“For what should we,” said he, “exhort our flocks to eschew and shun worldly ambition, when we ourselves, that be bishops do wholely set our minds to the same things we forbid in them? What example of Christ our Saviour do we imitate, who first exercised doing and after fell to teaching? If we teach according to our doing, how absurd may our doctrine be accounted? If we teach one thing and do another, our labour in teaching shall never benefit our flock half so much as our examples in doing shall hurt them. Who can willingly suffer and bear with us in whom (preaching humility, sobriety and contempt of the world) they may evidently perceive haughtiness in mind, pride in gesture, sumptuousness in apparel and damnable excess in all worldly delicates? Truly, most reverend fathers, what this vanity in temporal things worketh in you I know not; but sure I am that in myself I perceive a great impediment to devotion and so have felt a long time, for sundry times when I have settled and fully bent myself to the care of my flock committed unto me, to visit my diocese, to govern my church, and to answer the enemies of Christ, straightways hath come a messenger for one cause or another sent from higher authority by whom I have been called to business and so left of my former purpose. And thus by tossing and going this way and that ways, time hath passed and in the meanwhile nothing done but attending after triumphs, receiving ambassadors, haunting of princes’ courts and such like, whereby great expenses rise that might better be spent many other ways.”

That last passage may well have been spoken from the heart of one who regarded himself first as a bishop and to a less degree as a statesman.
The early biographer went on to lament that “few were persuaded by his counsel. . . . So that (excuses never wanting to cover sin) this holy father’s words spoken with so good a zeal were all lost and came to nothing for that time.”

As Rochester lay on the road from Canterbury to London, visitors of distinction who were travelling from or to Dover would expect to be received by the Bishop of Rochester.
The letter he received from the Council in 1514 when the sword and cap presented by Leo X to Henry VIII arrived in England, is typical of others.

. . the prior of Christ’s Church of Canterbury shall meet with the said ambassador and . . . shall conduct him to some place convenient between Sittingbourne and Rochester, where the king hath appointed that your lordship, the Master of the Rolls, and Sir Thomas Bolyn shall meet with him and so conduct him to London.

So too in 1522 when Charles V came to England, the Bishop of Rochester had to be at Canterbury with the archbishop to meet him, and, on the way to London, to entertain the emperor at Rochester during a Sunday.

The early biographer said that “if any strangers came to him, he would entertain them according to their vocations with such mirth as stood with the gravity of his person, whose talk was always rather of learning or contemplation than of worldly matters.”
John Fisher could easily have allowed affairs of state and the prestige and allurements of court life to draw him more and more away from the care of his diocese, nor would anyone have thought this surprising; he was peculiar in that he never allowed secular matters to overwhelm his primary duty to the Church as a bishop. William Rastell recorded the opinion of a young contemporary.

He was in holiness, learning and diligence in his cure and in fulfilling his office of bishop such that of many hundred years England had not any bishop worthy to be compared unto him. And if all countries of Christendom were searched, there could not lightly among all other nations be found one that hath been in all things like unto him, so well used and fulfilled the office of bishop as he did. He was of such high perfection in holy life and strait and austere living as few were, I suppose, in all Christendom in his time, religious or other.

The diocese of Rochester, it has already been noted, was the smallest in the kingdom, but it was even smaller than a map suggests; there were thirty-four parishes belonging to Canterbury and forming the deanery of Shoreham; these therefore did not come under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rochester.
There were two episcopal palaces and several manors belonging to the bishop. In those days of horseback travel and of bad, and, in winter, sometimes impassable roads, it was necessary for the bishop to have several centres from which he could carry out his duties. This also met the problem of supplies as the produce of each manor could be used in turn. The palace of Rochester, which had been built during the previous century, was between the monastery (the present cathedral) and the river. The site today seems more removed from the Medway mud than Erasmus suggested, but the banks of the river have been built up and there may have been inlets up which the tide could wash. There are no substantial remains of the buildings.
The bishop’s London palace was by Lambeth Marsh adjoining the archbishop’s palace to the east, so it was simple for John Fisher to hurry off to show William Warham the complimentary passages in the Novum Instrumentum. From the Register we learn that John Fisher built a brick wall round the palace and repaired the buildings. It ceased to be a palace of the Bishops of Rochester in 1540; after many changes of use and occupation it was demolished in 1827.
There were manors at Hailing (between the church and the river), at Bromley, at Stone (near Dartford), and at Trottescliffe (near Wrotham), but John Fisher does not seem to have used the last two.
The Register for the period of John Fisher’s episcopate has been preserved; so too has the Act Book of his Consistory Court.
Unfortunately the records of his visitations have not survived. The first began on 15th May 1505. The early biographer gives us:

And first, because there is small hope of health in the members of that body where the head is sick, he began his visitation at his head church of Rochester, calling before him the priors and monks exhorting them to obedience, chastity and true observation of their monastical vows; and where any fault was tried, he caused it to be amended. After that he carefully visited the rest of the parish churches within his diocese in his own person; and sequestrating all such as he found unworthy to occupy that high function, he placed other fitter in their rooms; and all such as were accused of any crime, he put to their purgation, not sparing the punishment of simony and heresy with other crimes and abuses. And by the way he omitted neither preaching to the people, nor confirming of children, nor relieving of needy and indigent persons; so that by all means he observed a due comeliness in the house of God.

During the first half of his episcopate, he carried out visitations in 1508, 1511, 1514 and 1517. His archdeacon no doubt shared this important work but to what extent we cannot now determine.

From the Register we can follow the bishop’s movements about the diocese from year to year. Occasional intervals of a month or two indicate when he was away on state or university business but without giving information of what occupied him.
A survey of one year, 1513, will give a typical record of his official acts. There is much more we should like to know, but these bare facts add something to the picture.
The first entry is dated 5th March; it records an abjuration of heresy before the bishop in his chapel at Hailing. Henry Potter of West Mailing was accused of saying publicly that he would not believe in the Last Judgment “till I see it.” He promised to avoid suspect persons in the future, also books of Scripture in English, and to give information about them as soon as possible. The bishop absolved him from excommunication and ordered him as penance to walk in procession in his parish church with the faggot on his back, and to do so again in the cathedral on the following Sunday unless dispensed from this by the bishop. In addition he was to see that no harm came to those who had testified against him. Finally he was not to leave the diocese for two years, during each of which he must present himself to the bishop. Henry Potter made his cross on the record.
On 12th March, also at Hailing, the bishop ordained a deacon. He was at Rochester on 4th April when he collated one priest and admitted another to vicarages. On the same day he confirmed the election of the new abbot of Lesnes, William Ticehurst, formerly Prior of Bilsington. The bishop, vested in pontificals, received the profession of obedience of the abbot elect. There is a long account of the proceedings, including testimonies that William Ticehurst was of legitimate birth, and discreet and circumspect. On 27th June at Lambeth, the bishop admitted a cleric to a vacancy in Cobham College in conformity with the king’s wishes.
The bishop collated three priests to livings on 20th August at Bromley, and on 7th October, two others at the same place. There is then a copy of a letter from the bishop instituting Richard Clarke to the vicarage of Hailing vacant by the deprivation of John Cotton. Here the Acts of the Consistory Court explain the circumstances. On 17th September at Hailing the bishop had dealt with five cases of correction of his clergy. One of these was John Cotton who had again fallen into adultery; he said, “I would my lord had put me in prison when he commanded Joan Hubbard to prison.” The investigation took several sittings and was not concluded until 27th September.
There is also the copy of a letter dated 1st October. This is from the bishop to the Barons of the Exchequer stating what arrangements he was making to collect the four-tenths ordered by the king. The Augustinian canons of Tonbridge and of Lesnes, and the prior of Rochester were to be responsible for making the collection by stated dates. A list of nearly forty benefices follows which he described as too poor to be taxed.
This summary of one year of the Register shows the pattern of the normal diocesan business. A similar account could be given for any one of the other years of John Fisher’s long episcopate, the only noticeable variation being that in the later period he seems to have spent more time at Rochester; this may have been due to declining health.
Some particular entries may be noted from the other years for the first half of his rule. One instance of an abjuration has been given. Two earlier cases give other examples of heretical opinions before the onset of the full tide of Lutheranism.

The first is dated May 1505. John Mores (or Wener) of St. Nicholas Parish, Rochester, was accused of saying, in addition to expressing “divers doubts concerning Scripture”:

1. that Christ did not die in perfect charity on Good Friday because he did not die to redeem Lucifer as well as Adam and Eve;
2. that our Lady “is butt a sakk”, and the Son of God desired the Father to come to middle earth to take a sack upon his back.

It is impossible to make sense of the last statement. Mores made his cross to a document in which he promised to have no further dealings with heretics, nor to use any suspect books of Scripture in English, and to denounce such books and persons as soon as possible.
The abjuration was made in the Lady Chapel of the Cathedral before the bishop. Mores was freed from excommunication and had to do penance in the usual form. He was not to leave the diocese for seven years. He made his cross on the record.
Another case of heresy was brought before the bishop in 1507. This concerned a Richard Gavell of Westerham who said that:

1. the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle [sic: of Canterbury?] should not be observed;
2. it was not necessary to take holy water “of the priest’s hand”;
3. offerings and offering days were only ordained by priests and curates “by their own covetous minds and singular avayles [advantages]”; on one such day he had caused Joan Harries to withhold her offering “to the evil example of the people”.

It was further stated that:

1. he often left church and went to the alehouse rather than hear a sermon;
2. he had spoken against the priest while he was in the pulpit, saying “Now the priest standeth in the pulpit and he doth nothing but chide and travail for I look more on his deeds than of his words whatsoever he saith”;
3. he despised the authority of the Church saying that the Church’s sentence had no effect, only that of God who was not in the power of priests and bishops;
4. after being accursed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and so openly by my curate demanded now of late in the church of Westerham”, he replied, in the presence of divers persons, “Sirs, though my lord of Canterbury has accursed me, I am, I trust, not yet accursed of God, and pray, sirs, fear ye not to company or eat and drink with me for all that.”;
5. he had a bad reputation for heresy.

The usual penance of going in procession was imposed; he was not to leave the diocese for four years, and during those years, he was to present himself annually to the bishop. Richard Gavell made his mark. The penance was to be carried out at Bromley and at Rochester, but he was dispensed by the bishop from appearing in the cathedral.
The problem of heresy must be dealt with more fully later in these pages; here it may be noted that the penances imposed by the bishop were of the customary character.
Some further examples from the Register will indicate the scope of the bishop’s activities.
On 17th July 1508 in the chapel of St. Blaise at Bromley, the bishop received the profession of William Temple, “singleman”, as a hermit. He gave him the eremetical habit with his blessing. The hermit promised before God and the Saints to direct his conduct and conversation according to the rule of St. Paul the first hermit; he was to live in the hermitage built in honour of St. Catherine at Dartford. All this was written down and the hermit made his cross.
There is one example of the bishop’s desire to have a better instructed clergy. On 29th November 1508, Hugh Taylor of Foot’s Cray came before the bishop with letters of presentation from the canons of St. Mary Overy, Southwark, to that benefice. The bishop examined him but was not satisfied with his attainments. Hugh Taylor was therefore told that he must spend a year in a grammar school, and if, after that, he had made sufficient progress, he would be admitted. Meanwhile a curate would be put in charge. Hugh Taylor made good use of his twelve months and was then able to satisfy the bishop.
On 21st April 1511, the bishop received the vow of chastity of Elizabeth Fitzwaren, a widow of Beckenham. She undertook “to be chaste of my body and truly and devoutly shall keep me chaste from this time forward as long as my life lasteth after the rule of St. Paul [the hermit].”
The bishop presided at a synod of his clergy on 6th October 1518. After a Mass of the Holy Ghost had been sung, he preached a sermon; this was followed by the reading of the constitutions, provincial and legatine, against concubinage.
The Acts of the Consistory Court do not add much to out knowledge of the bishop’s work. The court was held in the churches of parishes conveniently situated for the cases to be heard. Thus in December 1511 the itinerary was West Mailing, Strood, Gravesend, Dartford, Trottescliffe and Swanscombe, dealing with over a hundred cases in all. The bishop himself rarely presided, but from time to time he was present for more serious cases; thus on 17th March 1511 at Lambeth he absolved a priest from his contumacy (the nature of which is not stated), but suspended him from saying Mass in his parish or elsewhere in the diocese.
The Register records one royal intervention in the work of the court. A letter from the king, 13th February 1520, ordered the bishop not to proceed with the action brought by William Rogers, vicar of Plumstead, for tithes against William Goldwyn, gent. The vicar had denounced Goldwyn in the church at Woolwich and declared him excommunicate in defiance of the decision of the civil courts.
The Acts of the Consistory Court and the Register do little more than tell us of the normal duties of a bishop; the unusual feature for the times was that John Fisher carried out these duties himself as far as other responsibilities would allow.
The early biographer adds life to the bare facts of these records.

Wheresoever he lay, either at Rochester or elsewhere, his order was to inquire where any poor sick folks lay near him, which, after he once knew, he would diligently visit them. And where he saw any of them likely to die, he would preach to them, teaching them the way to die, with such good persuasions, that for the most part he never departed till the sick persons were well satisfied and contented with death. Many times it was his chance to come to such poor houses as for want of chimneys were very smoky and thereby so noisome that scant any man could abide in them. Nevertheless himself would there sit by the sick patient many times the space of three or four hours together in the smoke, when none of his servants were able to abide in the house, but were fain to tarry without till his coming abroad. And in some other poor houses where stairs were wanting, he would never disdain to climb up by a ladder for such a good purpose. And when he had given them such ghostly comfort as he thought expedient for their souls, he would at his departure leave behind him his charitable alms, giving charge to his steward or other officers daily to prepare meat convenient for them (if they were poor) and send it unto them. Besides he gave at his gate to divers poor people (which were commonly no small number) a daily alms of money, to some 2d., to some 4d., some 6d., and some more after the rate of their necessity. That being done, every one of them was rewarded likewise with meat, which was daily brought to the gate. And lest any fraud, partiality, or other disorder might rise in the distribution of the same, he provided himself a place whereunto immediately after dinner he would resort and there stand to see the division with his own eyes.

To this may be added William Rastell’s testimony:

He, like a good shepherd, would not go from his flock, but continually fed them with preaching of God’s word and example of good life. He, like a good shepherd, did what he could to reform his flock both of the spirituality and temporality, when he perceived any of them to range out of the right way, either in manners or doctrine.

The first half of John Fisher’s episcopate was a period of steady work and quiet achievement. He had regulated his diocese and had gathered round him like-minded men such as Nicholas Metcalfe. He knew his small diocese as only a diligent bishop could know it. By 1520 the priests must have known him as a person and as a pastor to whom they could turn in times of difficulty. The example of his austere and devout life would be a reproach to the easy-going and an inspiration to the faithful. “All pastors and curates used him for their lantern, as one of whom they might perfectly learn when to use action and when contemplation; for in these two things did he so far excel that hard it were to find one so well practised and expert in any one of them, apart, as he was in both of them together.”
His work for his university had prospered; Christ’s College was established, and, in spite of all the obstacles, St. John’s had been well founded. His encouragement of sound learning and preaching, and of the study of Greek and Hebrew had helped to lead Cambridge out of the lethargy of the past into the more vigorous world of the new scholarship.
The second half of his episcopate was to prove more and more discordant; the rapid spread of heresy, not least in his own beloved university, and the increasing bitterness of anti-clericism, of themselves would have brought sorrow enough, but to these was to be added “the king’s great matter” and his subsequent claim” to be “the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England.”

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St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More
St. Thomas More
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St. Thomas More Hardcover
St. Thomas More Hardcover
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St. Thomas More, by E.E. Reynolds, is a complete life of the saint based on primary source accounts, state papers and contemporary registers. Reynolds leaves no written source uncovered in drawing together for us the man who became one of the most famous men not only in England, but even in Europe, who gave his life for the rights of the Church over the tyranny of the state.

Reynolds traces More’s life and environs, as well as More’s writings and poetry, to bring out the man and the hour in which he lived. There are lengthy studies of Richard III, Utopia, and The Dialogues which More wrote against heretics. Lastly, he concludes with a penetrating legal analysis of the reasons which brought More to the Tower and to beheading.

Throughout there are many crucial and important direct quotes from letters, speeches and of course, the words of More related by early authorities in court and at his trial. Thereby we see the warm relationship between More and great scholars like Colet and Erasmus, as well as his close relationship with his daughter Margaret (Meg) and his great strides to provide her an education which she took up brilliantly. This makes More come to life as a real person, with wit and joy and above all passion, not the plaster saint of a second nocturn variety. There is a reason why More is one of the few and best known laymen to be canonized and remembered through the ages.

This will be an excellent companion to Reynold’s Life of St. John Fisher, which is also available from Mediatrix Press.

The Life of Leo XIII

The Life of Pope Leo XIII
From an authentic memoir
by Bernard O’Reilly, D.D., L.D.

$26.99

The Life of Pope Leo XIII, written by the learned American Fr. Bernard O’Reilly, was written while that Pope was alive, and based on a memoir furnished to him by the Holy See. Thus, this work is nearly autobiographical, being based on the Pope’s life as he wished it to be written.
Fr. O’Reilly, making copious use of the Pope’s Italian memoir, presents to us Giacchino Pecci, the future Leo XIII, in the midst of the dramatic and revolutionary changes affecting the Church in both Italy and all Europe in the 19th century. In all events, Pecci as priest, Bishop, Cardinal and later Pope, fought courageously for the Universal Church with prudence, humility and care, and above all defending his priests and the sacrament of Marriage against the innovations of the revolutionaries holding the seat of government throughout Europe.

If you are amiss over the radical changes coming over society today, and want to see where they came from, this is the book for you. More than just learning about Leo XIII, you learn about his time, the troubled days after the French Revolution where, being exported to Italy, it reeked havoc through the regime of “liberty” and freemasonry, assaulting Catholic education, introducing civil marriage, undermining faith and morals from every angle. In this book you see the future Leo XIII as Archbishop Pecci, fight the revolution head on in unwavering support for Pope Pius IX. You will see how wrong the liberal view is that holds Mazzini and Garibaldi as heroes, and, moreover, how tyrannical the new Italian regime became in its persecution of the Church. This book is a tour de force, filled with many writings from Pope Leo XIII from his time as an Archbishop and Cardinal that have not been seen by English language audiences since this book was first published.

Written in 1887, the book concludes with another 16 years left to Pope Leo’s papacy, yet it covers in remarkable detail the lesser known life of the “Light from the Heavens”.

The Mediatrix Press edition has completely reprinted and re typeset it form the original, adding our famous font effects from the renaissance. The work will be available in hardcover and kindle very soon! Order today!

Sermons of the Curé d’Ars for the Sundays of the Year, with sample chapter

Sermons of the Cure d'Ars - Paperback
Sermons of the Cure d'Ars - Paperback
$20.00
Sermons of the Cure d'Ars - hardcover
Sermons of the Cure d'Ars - hardcover
$45.00
Cover :

Mediatrix Press is pleased to provide a reprint of the 1901 edition of St. John Vianney’s Sermons! These sermons cover all the Sundays of the Year and all the principal feasts, combined with a few of the greater saints. It is almost 400 pages and unabridged from the original (whereas other editions by the same title have only 200 pages).

We have also have taken a great deal of time to provide the layout with the beautiful

effects that you have come to expect from Mediatrix Press:

  • Easy to read layouts with large font;
  • Beautiful dropcaps and floral effects
  • Balanced margins that provides an easy reading experience

The difference between this edition and other editions of this in print is it has all 85 of the extent sermons of St. John Vianney, and several additional sermons distributed to cover all the Sundays of the Year as well as the principal feasts (as they were in 1901). There is a lot more here to find spiritual nourishment.

This wonderful work by the patron of parish priests should be in every home!

 

Sample Sermon:

 

SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST SHOULD GIVE TESTIMONY OF HIM

“And you shall give testimony, because you are with me from the beginning.”
John xv. 27.

When two kingdoms are at war with one another it is easy to distinguish the soldiers of either party by their arms, their uniforms, and their flags. A violent struggle has been going on since the beginning of the world between the King of heaven and earth and the prince of darkness as to which of them the human race should belong. Christ, the Redeemer, by His death and resurrection, has won the victory over hell. Before He entered gloriously into heaven as a conqueror, leading with Him the souls of the just of the old law, as the first-born of His victory, He founded His Church upon earth as His kingdom, in which we should continue to combat against hell, and by His power we should and could complete the victory. Therefore He says to His Apostles, the generals of His kingdom, “You will give testimony of me,” and Holy Writ says of them, “With great power did the Apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Acts iv. 33.) The words of Christ apply also to us. We are all obliged to give testimony of Him, not by sermons and miracles, as the Apostles did, but by our life, by the imitation of Jesus; for as we have all become members of His body, and have received from Christ the name of “Christians,” we are obliged to lead a life worthy of this Chief, not to bring disgrace upon His Holy Name, but so to live that in our life the Christian can be distinguished from the non-Christian. This is our testimony of Christ. I will now speak on this subject. In the Canticle of Canticles, the divine Bridegroom says to the soul that loves Him: (Cant. viii. 6): “Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.” We bear this seal of Christ when we imitate Him:

I. In our will.
II. In our words.
III. In our works.

I. 1. David expresses what the will of our Redeemer was in these words, which the Holy Ghost permits Him to speak (Ps. xxxix. 8-9): “In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do thy will: O my God,I have desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart.” But Christ says of Himself (John vi. 38), “Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me,” and (John iv. 34) “My food is to do the will of him that sent me”; and the Apostle extols Him, saying (Phil. ii. 8): “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” When He descended from the glory of heaven upon earth He sacrificed Himself to the will of His Father. “Thou wiliest, O my God,” He said, as it were, with complete resignation, “that I should be born in a desolated stable; that I should shed my blood at the circumcision; that I should flee before Herod; that I should bear the burdens and the troubles of this earthly life for three and thirty years. Thou wiliest that I should be betrayed, despised, spit upon, buffeted upon the cheeks and scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the cross, and suffer the most cruel of deaths. My God, I will it also. I am ready to suffer these and still greater afflictions.”
2. Now, dear Christian, behold and act according to this model in thy dispositions. When a thousand disappointments beset you, say, too, “My God, I will it! “When poverty afflicts you, when the calumniator’s tongue wounds you, when false friends deceive you, when sickness visits you, when bodily pains torment you, with invincible patience imitate Christ, and say, “My God, I will it!” You must have these dispositions, this will; then the life of Christ is your model and you give testimony of Him.
3. How have you acted up to the present? Examine yourself and acknowledge how different your dispositions have often been to those of the Lord. Ah, how many ambitious people there are whose whole thoughts and actions are directed toward the acquisition of honor, recognition, offices, and dignities! How many avaricious people who ponder night and day how to increase their mammon! How many world lings who think continually of their pleasures! How many revengeful souls who will not forget the insults they have endured! Is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathens do likewise, who give testimony of satan?

II. 1. Of what kind are the words of Christ the Lord? Peter once said (John vi. 69), “Thou hast the words of eternal life,” for all His words were directed to the honor of God, the extirpation of sin, the growth of virtue, and the salvation of souls. Consider this in the seven last sacred words which He spoke from the cross in the midst of His death-agony. First He prayed to the heavenly Father, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke xxiii. 34.) These are words of mercy and reconciliation. To the penitent thief He said, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise “(Luke xxiii. 43)—words of blessed promise. He addresses these words to His Blessed Mother, “Woman, behold thy son!” and to His disciple, “Behold thy mother!” (John xix. 26.) What consoling words! In the moment of abandonment He cries out, with entire submission and confidence in God, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt,xxxvii. 46.) His desire to suffer still more and in the highest degree for the sake of our salvation is proved to us by His cry, “I thirst” (John xix. 28), “It is consummated” (John xix. 30). He says, full of joy, that He has completed our redemption, and He recommends His soul with resignation into the hands of His Father: “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke xxiii. 46.) Now, dear Christians, look at this model and act accordingly in thy words. Whatever you speak must be to the honor of God, and to thine own and thy neighbor’s salvation. Speech is given to us, as a servant of God says, to praise God, to the edification of our neighbor.
Have your conversations been of this description, dear Christian? Ah, how different have they often been from the Lord’s! If we go into the houses and palaces of the rich and powerful, what talk, what conversations are there in vogue? What words do we hear in the halls of learning, in the assembly of the leaders of the people? In the streets we meet the indications of sensual pleasures, in the stores it is vanity; at home, in the workshops, too often, unfortunately, it is unbelief and blasphemy. Where is the place in which reputations are not blasted, slanders, blasphemies, oaths, and especially where improper conversations have not found a home, in our days? Even family life is no longer pure, and words are dropped into the ears of innocent children that poison their souls. Dear Christians, is this giving testimony of Christ? Do not the heathen do likewise, who give testimony of satan?
III. 1. Let us consider, in conclusion, the works of the Lord. St. Bernard describes them to us thus: “Under the name of Jesus I picture to myself a man humble and meek of heart, kind, temperate, chaste, merciful—in short, distinguished in every virtue and holiness.” Our Lord’s own teaching is witness that He was perfect in the practise of all the works which He taught. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” and from His birth in the stable until His death upon the cross He was Himself the poorest, “for He had not where to lay His head.” “Blessed are the meek,” He says, and He forgives not only the wrong done to Him, but he rewards it with the richest of benefits. “Blessed are the sorrowful;” He expiated our sins by His whole body, and wept over them tears of blood. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice;” but His food was to do the will of His Father. “Blessed are the merciful;” He heaped good deeds upon His enemies. “Blessed are the peacemakers;” He made peace between God and man. “Blessed are those who suffer persecution for justice sake;” He bears hatred and persecution on account of His teaching until His death.
2. But how do we perform our works? Do you not love your body and your comfort inordinately, and adhere so obstinately to the maxims of the world that you are almost ashamed to be a Christian? Or you love sin, allow your vices to become habits, and have even laid aside all feelings of shame therefore, or you only think of that which is earthly, and live on like the unreasoning animal, constantly pursuing pleasures and sensuality. Unhappy Christian, is this the way to give testimony of Christ? Do not the heathen do the same, who give testimony of satan? Is it any wonder that heretics and unbelievers are not converted when they see that Catholics and Christians are worse than they are?
3. Therefore, my dear Christians, behold, and behave according to the model that is shown to you. It is your duty to imitate the teaching and the example of the Redeemer and to practise diligently Christian perfection. You must serve God and reflect night and day upon His laws; you must crucify your flesh with its wicked desires; you must not be overcome by adversity, nor dazzled by happiness. It is your duty so to practise the Christian virtues that even unbelievers shall admire them, and say that they are not able to reach to such a high perfection. If this could be said of all Christians, surely the whole world would soon be Christian! Do not delay, dear Christian, to conform your life to the life of Jesus Christ, and thereby to give testimony of Him. Hear how the Apostle exhorts you (II. Cor. iv. 10): “Always bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.” By mortification you must make your life a copy of His life. Your eyes should not be overcurious, nor your mouth without shame, nor your sensual desires ungovernable, as the heathens are; your conduct must not correspond with the life of the rich glutton. On the contrary, all those who see your retirement and your modesty must acknowledge that you are not only in name, but in deed and truth, a Christian, a follower of the Crucified One, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

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