Translation of the Article THE FRIARS PREACHERS from the Dictionnaire de Spiritualité:
II. IN ITALY
- A. FROM THE ORIGINS TO SAVONAROLA
- 1. Beginnings of the Order.
- 2. James of Voragine
- 3. Thomas Aquinas
- 4. The Fourteenth Century.
- 5. The Reform.
- B. FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY TO OUR TIMES
A. FROM THE ORIGINS TO SAVONAROLA
1. Beginnings of the Order.
Dominican spirituality in Italy dates from the outset of the Order. Founded by St. Dominic, or during his lifetime, the convents of St. Sixtus (1217) and of Santa Sabina (1219), of St. Eustorgius in Milan (1220); and finally those in Siena (1221) and Brescia (1221), were so many citadels of prayer. Hence the first pages of Dominican spirituality recorded in Italy, the account of Blessed Cecilia (1222-1227; in Th. M. Mamachi, Annales ordinis praedicatorum, vol. 1, Rome, 1756, appendix, col. 247-263; critical ed. by A. Walz, in Miscellanea Pio Paschini, vol. 1, Rome, 1948, pp. 293-326) and the anonymous little work Novem orandi modi, quibus Sanctus (Dominicus) utebatur (1250; AS, 4 Aug., Anvers, 1733, pp. 629-632), all dwell at length on the spirit of prayer which inspired the first convents in Italy.
Shaken as much by the confrontation between clergy and empire as by the bloody quarrels between rival states, devastated several times over by the plague, ministered to, in many cases, by a clergy whose worldly pomp was only equalled by the ignorance with which Dante would one day stigmatize them pitilessly (Paradiso XXIX, 88-126), Italy had for some time been at the mercy of all the excesses of an unenlightened mysticism. The Paterines could see salvation only in a rather questionable poverty (3d Lateran Council, c. 27, Mansi, vol. 22, col. 232; Lucius III, Decretum contra haereticos, ibid. col. 477; Innocent III, cf. A. Potthast, Regesta pontificum romanorum, n. 2532 and and 2539). St. Dominic's purpose was to oppose them by true evangelical poverty. The "Pappalardi" got lost, according to D. Cavalca (Discipline degli spirituali, Rome, 1757, pp. 14, 18), in laborious works on the mystery of the Holy Trinity and were quite ready to maintain that, for the friends of God, everything is permissible, Dominic and his sons intended what several Councils (4th Lateran Council, c, 10, Mansi, vol. 22, col. 998-999; Council of Trier, 1227, c. 8, vol. 23, col. 31-32) had vainly solicited, to oppose them by solid instruction. In conformity with the motto of the Order, Contemplata aliis tradere, Dominican spirituality would be formed in Italy and elsewhere by prayer, so as to reveal itself later in preaching. There were therefore, from the beginning, remarkable preachers in Italy.
Such were John of Salerno (+1242), Hugolino of Rimini (+1249), John of Brescia (+1250), Nicholas of Palea (+1255), Bartholomew of Braganza (+1270) (DS, vol. 1, col. 1264), Albert of Bergamo (+1279), Morando of Signa (+1276), Thomas Agni (+1277), Aldobrandino Cavalcanti (+1279), Ruggero Calcagno of Buonaccorso (+1290), John of Vercelli (+1283), Ambrose Sansedoni (+1286), Latino Malabranca (+1294), James of Mevania (+1301), Nicholas Boccasino, better known under the name of Benedict XI (+1304), Remi of Florence (+1309), James Salomoni (+1314), Hugh of Prato (+1322), Aldobrandino of Toscanella (+1314), Simon Ballachi (+1319), John of San Gimignano (+1323), Augustine of Tragurlo (+1323), Amerigo of Piacenza (+1327), Angelo a Porta Solis (+1334), James of Benefactis (+1338).
Most of the Preachers had a considerable influence wherever they appeared. In 1230, we see Blessed Walter (+1244) who sought only the restoration of peace in Italy, at San Germano reconciling Emperor Frederick II with Pope Gregory IX (see Richard de San Germano, Chronicon, in L.- A. Muratori, Rerum italicarum scriptures, vol. 7, Milan, 1725, pp. 1019-1020). In 1233, the many conversions brought about by John of Vicenza determined Gregory IX to grant special powers to this inspirer of the masses, so as to facilitate the return of sinners to the fold (Potthast, Regesta..., quoted above, nn. 9257, 9268, 9294). In 1252, St. Peter of Verona, whose eloquence the Patarines justifiably dreaded, was attacked along the road from Como to Milan and died professing the faith whose intrepid champion he had become.
2. James of VoragineBlessed James of Varazze, better known under the name of James of Voragine (+1298), was likewise, for the north of Italy, a great healer of souls and at the end of his life he was named, in spite of himself, Bishop of Genoa. He reconciled, at least for a time, the Mascarati and the Rampini, or the Guelphs and Ghibellines of Genoa (see his Chronica de civitate Januensi, in Muratori, Rerum italicarum scriptores, vol. 9, Milan, 1726, pp. 6-55). James of Varazze collected his sermons, spread over nearly fifty years of apostolate, in three series: Sermones de sanctis, Sermones de Tempore and Sermones quadragesimales He was therefore the first Dominican of whom we have so extensive a compilation of sermons, which were widely diffused in the Middle Ages. However great their vogue might have been, they were never in demand to the same extent as with the Legenda sanctorum, called even before it was printed: Legenda aurea.
No critical edition of the sermons of James of Voragine exists. We mention here an incunabular edition, without assigning to it any scholarly value: Sermones de sanctis, Cologne, C. Winters, ca. 1478 (L. Polain, Catalogue des livres imprimes au xve siecle des bibliotheques de Belgique, n. 2230, vol. 2, Brussells, 1932, p. 630 (; -- Sermones de tempore, Cologne, C. de Homborch, cat 1482 (Hain-Copinger, Supplement, part. 2, vol. 2, n. 6540); -- Sermones quadragesimales, Lyons, J. Trechsel, 1494 (ibid., n. 6524).
The Legenda aurea was to be found in every library of the Middle Ages, as the ancient catalogues coming down to us testify, Printed for the first time at Basle in 1470, it had as many as ninety printings before the end of the fifteenth century. See Potthast, Bibliotheca historica medii aevi, vol 1, Berlin, 1896, p. 635. -- M. Pellechet, Jacques de Voragine. Liste des editions de ses outrages publics au xve siecle, in Revue des bibliotheques, vol. 5, 1895, pp. 89-98, and Additions a la lisle... ibid., pp. 225-227.
The manuscripts have not yet produced a modern edition. The most authoritative edition is that of Th. Graesse, Jacobi a Voragine Legenda aurea, vulgo historia lombardica dicta, 2d. ed., Leipzig, 1850.
Everything both pro and con has been said about the Legenda aurea. When composing his work, in 1255 according to some, about 1266 according to others (see E. Baumgartner, Eine Quellenstudie zur franziskuslegende historicum, vol. 2, 1909, pp. 17-31; vol.5, 1912, pp. 210-223), the author consulted the sources whenever he could. The most frustrating accounts were furnished to him by the Lectionary, which he merely elaborated. In short, it may be said that, like certain classical epics, the Legenda aurea lived in the popular imagination long before it was written down by James of Voragine. For an extraordinary longing for the marvelous, a chivalrous conception of sanctity, and a robust faith were indeed present in the religious attitude of the period. The Legenda aurea was, for the Middle Ages and beyond, the outstanding Legendary.
Translated into Italian well before the end of the thirteenth century, (Jacopo de Voragine, La leggenda surea, volgarizzamentotoscano del Trecento, ed A Levasti, Florence, 1924), into Provencal in the first half of the fourteenth century (Paris, Bibl. nat., fonds Français, ms 9759; see Paul Meyer, La traduction provencale de la Légende dorée, in Romania, vol. 27, 1898, pp. 93-137), translated the first time into French by Jehan de Vignay (Paulin Paris, Les manuscrits français de la bibliothèque du roi, vol. 2, Patis, 1838, pp. 88-91), a second time by Jean Belet (ibid., pp. 87-88, 91-92) in the first half of the fourteenth century, translated into Czech (ms Prague, Museé national, see Gebauer, Listy filologicke, 1881-1887; A. Patera, Casopis Ceskeho Musea,(1882-1892; Z. Tobolka, Monumenta Bohemiae typographica, Prague, 1926) and into old Glagolitic Slavic (ms Prague, convent of the Dominicans) in the second half of the fourteenth century, and finally into Flemish, or rather into a dialect in 1358 (K. De Flou, De oudste Dietsche vertaling der gulden legende, in Verelagen en Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Vlaamsche Academie, Ghent, 1923, pp. 183-189; C.C. De Bruin, Middelnederlandse Vertalingen van het Nieuw Testament, Groningen, 1935, p. 203), the Legenda aurea has inspired statuary, painting, stained glass of our cathedrals. Without it the Middle Ages cannot be understood.
3. Thomas Aquinas
-- If popular piety had its troubadour in James of Voragine, theology found its master, almost at the same moment, in St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274). Diametrically opposite to one another, these two authors reveal two aspects, equally authentic, of a great epoch. St. Thomas' austere idea of perfection is attested by his reply to Gérard d'Abbeville in the De perfections vitae spiritualis. The saint's commentaries on the Bible, the commentary on the Divine Names of pseudo-Dionysius, the masterly treatises on the virtues to be found in the Summa theologian enable us to glimpse a soul profoundly contemplative and athirst for sanctity. Inevitably, therefore, according to William of Tocco (Processus, ah. 7, n. 58, AS, March 7, Anvers, 1668, p. 705b), the sermons of St. Thomas were highly esteemed. In spite of his extremely intensive program of scholarly activity, St. Thomas preached frequently (see Processus, ch. 8, n. 70 and 75, ibid. p. 709b and 711a; Vita, ch. 8, n. 49, ibid., p. 674b).
All the sermons collected in the edition Piana are not, however, authentic Far from it. The sermons which M. Grabmann has recognized as authentic after minute investigation (Die Werke des hl. Thomas van Aquin, 3d ed., Munster, 1949, pp. 378-393) number but sixteen, up to the present; others will probably be added. Also we may mention the commentaries on the Apostles' Creed, the decalogue, the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary, which originally were "collationes." All these sermons "present the same characteristics: a painstaking effort to divide the matter' in the style of the period, but without dryness, with a great solidity of doctrine and an undeniable talent for exposition." (A. Lecoy de la Marche, La chaire française au moyen age, spécialement au XIIIe siècle d'apres les manuscrits contemporains, Paris, 1886, p. 123).
But neither those sixteen sermons, nor the insights on grace and the infused virtues contained in the Summa Theologiae, nor the most beautiful pages of his scriptural commentaries suffice to form a proper estimate of the influence St. Thomas has had on spirituality. This is found especially in the imprint of his strong personality upon theological teaching. Hence the work of St. Thomas far exceeds the domain of Italian spirituality. It is true that the Sentences of Peter Lombard were not definitively replaced by the Summa Theologiae in the studia of the Order until toward the end of the fifteenth century. But this is a minor detail. Less than half a century after the death of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas' viewpoint gradually replaced that of Peter Lombard in the teaching of the Order.
The General Chapter of Zaragoza in 1309 decreed that the spirit of st. Thomas should resolve every theological difficulty and that the student brothers should, in general, have recourse to his works (MOPH, vol. 4, p. 38). Lastly, the Chapter of Metz (1313) stipulated that henceforth the rectors should, while reading the Sentences, present three or four articles from the doctrine, which means from the Summa Theologiae of Brother Thomas (MOPH, vol. 4, p. 65). Lastly, the London Chapter (1314) decided that between Easter and the first of August the students should read either a treatise on moral philosophy or the text of one of St. Thomas' works, or both (MOPH, vol. 4, p. 72). These facts contributed in great measure indeed, to giving Dominican spirituality its definitive characteristics. The not-too-solid Augustinism of the period was definitely replaced by a strong theological synthesis with three equally admirable aspects: The fundamentally rational basis, profound organic unity, or perfect docility to revelation. Thanks to the direction which St. Thomas caused theological teaching to take in the Order, Dominican spirituality would be henceforth fundamentally intellectualist and speculative.
The Leonine critical edition, still incomplete (Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Doctoris Angelici Opera omnia..., Rome, 1882 ff) is probably the best. For the works not yet included therein, refer to the Piana edition (D. Thomae Aquinatis Doctoris Angelici Opera, Rome, 1570).
On contemplation according to St. Thomas and his Dionysianism, consult DS, vol. 2, col. 83-88 and vol. 3, col. 349-356.
4. The Fourteenth Century.
-- To the thirteenth century in Italy, as indeed everywhere, Dominican spirituality owes its doctrinal substructure. In the fourteenth century it takes its place, usually a distinguished place, in indigenous literatures. Up to that time, on the rare occasions when catechesis in Italy had attempted to dispense with Latin, results were insignificant.
1. The first sermons in Italian, now extant, derive from Bl. Jordan of Rivalto (+1311), also known as Jordan of Pisa. Preached mostly in Florence from 1302 to 1309, these sermons, only a part of which have been published up to now, constitute for Italian letters one of the principal testi di lingua (primitive texts of the language).
Jordan Is sermons show the effects of the intense scholastic studies which he pursued in Paris. Speaking of what is required to produce a good head of state, he quotes the authority of Plato (ed. Narducci, p. 50). On another occasion, dealing with the two ways of Christian life, the active and the contemplative, he cites the Ethics of Aristotle (ed, Moreni, vol. 1, p. 185). But, although he rarely names him, it is above all to St. Thomas that he is indebted. God as pure act (ed. Narducci, p. 33), the convertibility of the divine attributes (p. 33), charity as the principle of merit (p. 235), the good as the ultimate end of our acts (pp. 296-297), are all so many ideas which Jordan borrowed from St. Thomas.
Thus equipped, he deals in his sermons with all aspects of Christian life. He explains the humblest duties of daily life with the same attention as the highest states of prayer; but, contemplative by temperament, as he himself says , (ed. Narducci, p. 250), he dwells in general on contemplation. It is for him the better part (ed. Moreni, vol. 1, pp. 180-189), and at its peak in some privileged souls in mystical espousals, it gives a foretaste of the beatific vision (vol. 2, pp. 119-126).
For lack of a complete edition, one should consult various partial editions, which overlap to some extent; in particular, we have scanned: Prediche de beati F. Jordano de Rivalto..., Florence, 1738 (ed. of the Academia de la Crusca, by D.M. Manni); -- Prediche del beato F. Giordano Rivalto..., coll. Biblioteca classica sacra.., vol. 1-7, Bologna, 1820-1821;-Beato Giordano da Rivalto. Prediche recitate in Firenze dal 1303 al 1306..., 2 vol., Florence, 1831 (ed. de la Academia de la Crusca, by Moreni); -- Prediche inedite del B. Giordano..., published by E. Narducci, Bologna, 1867.
2. Jordan was followed closely by Dominic Cavalca (+1342), James Passavanti (+1357), and Bartholomew de San Concordio (11347). When Bocaccio began his Filocolo, Jordan had already been dead twenty-five years, Cavalca had completed the greater part of his works, Passavanti was giving up teaching so as to devote himself unreservedly to that preaching whose best selections he would later assemble in his Specchio di Vera penitenza, Bartholomew of San Concordio was approaching the end of an already long life. These four authors should rightly be considered the fathers of Italian prose. Extracts can be read in A. Levasti, Mistici del duccento e del trecento, Milan-Rome, 1935 (pp. 469-604, 681-746; see also pp. 999-1008) and G. De Luca, Prosatori minori del trecento, Milan-Naples, 1954.
1) In DOMINIC CAVALCA (DS, vol. 2 col. 373-374), catechesis was much less influenced by the Peripateticism of the school than in the Jordan's case. Of a practical turn of mind, Cavalca preferred to confine himself to counsels which he could apply immediately. Chapters 10-14 of the Frutti della lingua (ed. of Rome, 1754) however, constitute a real treatise on prayer.
The Disciplina degli spirituali and the Trattato delle trenta stoltizie (Rome, 1757) attack especially the illusions of lax Christians. Seeking solely to instruct, Cavalca drew abundantly from the Summa virtutum et vitiorum of William Perrault, of whom entire tracts are summarized in the Trattato della pazienza (1756) and in the Pungilingua (1751). With the exception of Lo specchio della croce (1738), which he seems to have written before translating the Vitae Patrum (Naples, 1852), his works abound in examples taken from the lives of the Fathers of the desert and from the Dialogue of St. Gregory which he likewise translated (Rome, 1764). Cavalca was therefore above all a compiler. Thanks to him, in Italy it was possible to become acquainted with the principal ascetical authors as early as 1330. Lo specchio dei peccati (Florence, 1828), his only dated work, belongs to the year 1333.
The works of Cavalca can be read in eighteenth and nineteenth century editions. Among others, let us mention the following: Trattato della mondizia del cuore seguito dalla ammonizione a S. Paola e dalla Esposizione del Pater Noster, texts set up according to the manuscripts and edited by O. Gigli, Rome, 1846.
2) BARTHOLOMEW OF SAN CONCORDIO left mainly a collection of about two thousand maxims taken from about a hundred authors whom he carefully arranged and annotated. These Ammaestramenti degli antichi (ed. P.G. Colombi, Siena, 1963), which he had first drawn up in Latin, indicate a basically pragmatic mind. The writer gathered together in sentences of eloquent simplicity what pagan and Christian authors left behind of what is most meaningful in relation to the moral life. His compact, precise style represents a milestone.
Having compared the Volgarizzamento delle Collazioni dei SS. Padri del venerabile Giovanni Cassiano (Lucca, 1854) with the Ammaestramenti, Telesforo Bini considered it safe to attribute this work to Bartholomew of San Concordio. His argument does not appear conclusive to us.
3) Not so with JAQUES PASSAVANTI. In Lo specchio della vera penitenza (ed. of the Academia de la Crusca, Florence, 1725) he treats the manner of preparing for the sacrament of penance, and shows himself to be an enlightened director. When he strives to arouse a soul to contrition, he shows a fatherly tenderness. His theology is extremely solid. Frequently we find him quoting St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St, Gregory, Peter Lombard, but especially St. Thomas Aquinas. In Paris between 1330 and 1333 when instruction in the doctrine of St. Thomas had already been compulsory for some years, Passavanti became familiar with his teaching. His definitions are generally taken from St. Thomas' commentary on the Sentences or from the Summa Theologiae. Passavanti was one of the first to abandon the use of Latin in theological surveys. See M. Aurigemma, La Fortuna critica cello Specchio di Vera penitenza.., in Studi in onore di A. Monteverdi, vol. 1, Modena, 1959, pp. 48-75.
4) Blessed VENTURINO OF BERGAMO (+1346) (G. Clementi, It B. Venturino da Bergamo... (1304-1346). Storia e document), Rome, 1904, with the edition of the writings of Venturino in the second part, under separate pagination; a french translation of these writings by A. de Boissieu, coll. Chefs-d'oeuvre ascétiques et mystiques, Paris, 1924, also deals in the vulgar tongue with questions of spirituality (ed. Clementi, 2d part, p. 107). The few of his writings which we possess were all written in Latin probably because they were almost all addressed to mystics from beyond the Rhine or to Provencal nuns. The exile which Benedict XII imposed upon him after the march on Rome of 1335 does not seem to have damaged the "Gottesfreunds"' esteem for him. Several considered him their master and Venturino spoke to them with authority (ibid., pp. 88, 89, 90). "One must," he wrote to one of them, "be wary of those who pretend to have had visions (p. 66) and when they appear to be attached to them, it is a pretty sure sign that they do not come from God (pp. 137-138). Likewise one must be moderate in the use of corporal penances (pp. 109, 125, 127), for there the demon certainly holds out a snare to our humility, and every excess in this domain would fall into his trap fatally (pp. 42, 47, 85, 86, 95, 106, 136, 137, 143). It would be senseless to try to rival Christ in penances (p. 127), but when performed with discretion they will lead to a greater understanding of the suffering Christ (pp. 127-128). "Compassion" comprehended in the etymological sense of the word, and the imitation of the suffering Christ (pp. 104, 124) will conduct a soul detached from earthly things to that sweet union with Christ known as the mystical espousals (p. 121).
The few letters preserved in Echard's apograph, (ms, Paris, Archives nst, M. 864, n. 1) place Venturino of Bergamo among the most authentic mystics, and it is regrettable that more of his writings have not come to us, In fact, Venturino's work encompasses the two most imposing currents of Dominican spirituality: those of the Rhineland and of fourteenth century Italy.
5) To those authors might be added James of Cessole of the convent of St. Dominic in Genoa; although he wrote his Libellus de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium ac popularium super ludo Scaccorum in Latin, several translations into the vulgar tongue were widely diffused. (cf. Th Kaeppeli. AFP, vol. 30, 1960, pp. 149-162; DS. supra, col. 1426).
6) Meanwhile, elite souls were leading a cloistered life entirely conformed to the teaching of the doctors of the Order. In 1306, Bl. Jane, or Vanna, of Orvieto died in the monastery of that city after a life of penance and ecstasies. In 1314, the nuns of the monastery of St. Margaret near Vercelli were mourning their foundress, Bl. Emily Bicchieri. In 1317, St. Agnes of Montepulciano died in the monastery she had founded and which had been witness to her sublime virtues, penances and ecstasies. In 1320, death came for Bl. Margaret of Castello, a tertiary of the monastery of Metola, near Tiferno.
3. CATHERINE OF SIENA. -- Such was the state of affairs when in the humble daughter of a dyer of Siena Dominican spirituality found its most outstanding and engaging expression. Having entered, despite what Robert Fawtier says (Sainte Catherine de Sienne... Sources hagiographiques, Paris, 1921, p. 145), into the Third Order of the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic, St. Catherine (+1380) (DS, vol. 2, col. 327-348) was inured from her youth to all the austerities of the Order. When at San Domenico the Friars were asleep, Catherine was wattching prostrate in prayer in the humble house of Fontebranda. When the bell called the brethren to Matins, Catherine took a brief repose (Legenda major, 1st part, ch. 5, n. 83; AS, 30 April, Anvers, 1675, p. 874). More than once Christ came to converse with her in the retreat under the stairway of her father's house. There, on a day in Carnival season of the year 1367, Christ slipped a gold ring on the third finger of her right hand and espoused her in faith (1st part, chap. 7, n. 114-115; ibid., pp. 881-882). These manifold graces which God bestowed on the soul of the humble penitent had their purpose. God wanted to make use of her for the good of His Church.
Thus prepared, Catherine accomplished, by the sheer power of her piety, wherever the astuteness of politicians summoned her, an immense amount of good. The hardest sinners yielded to her eloquence (Legenda major, 2 part, chap. 3, n. 149, ibid., pp. 890-891; ch. 9-10, n. 224-239, pp. 908-913) feuds of long standing were reconciled once and for all (Process, ed. Martene and Durand, vol. 6, col. 1370-1371). Her letters, some written to Popes Gregory XI and Urban VI, others to cardinals and bishops, to heads of state, to her confessor Bl. Raymond of Capua, to members of various religious orders, to respectable citizens, to prisoners of Siena one Holy Thursday, to a woman of ill fame, are rich in doctrine and throbbing with life; some of these 389 letters, the one to Raymond of Capua on the execution of Nicolo Toldo (letter 31; ed. Dupre-Theseider, vol. 1, pp. 126-132) for example, are among the most beautiful pages of Italian literature.
Catherine's teaching, scattered throughout her letters emerges more methodically in the Dialogue or Libro della divine Dottrina. She dictated this work toward the end of 1378 to three of her disciples, Neri di Landoccio Pagliaresi, Stefano Maconi and Barduccio Canigiani. It was outlined for the first time in letter 272 to Raymond of Capua (Le Lettere di S. Caterina.., ed. N. Tommaseo-P. Misciatelli, 3rd edition, Siena, 6 vol., 1912-1922; vol. 4 pp. 199-216), written in October, 1377, (of R. Fawtier, Les oeuvres de sainte Catherine.., Paris, 1930, p. 198). The thesis of J. Hurtaud (Le Dialogue de sainte Catherine de Sienne, traduction nouvelle.., Paris, 1913, preface, p. li) and of J. Joergensen (Sainte Catherine de Sienne, Paris, 1902, p. 418) claiming that she dictated the whole Dialogue in five days, was consequently based upon a false date for letter 272.
We refer in what follows to the edition of Matilda Fiorilli, Libro della divine Dottrina volgarmente detto Dialogo della divine Providenza, according to an unpublished codex, Bari, 1912, and not to the second ed. of 1928, altered by S. Caramella for unaccountable reasons.
The doctrine of the Dialogue can be summed up in a few sentences. The life of the soul consists, if we understand our saint, in the twofold knowledge of God and of ourselves (ch. 10). Proceeding in a negative direction, the soul perceives that God is He-who-is (ch. 46, 54, 98, etc.) and that we are those-who-are-not (ch. 119, 134), and, to affirm that God is devoid of all potency, she is quite ready to call Him the mirror of purity (ch. 13). God is in fact the immutable being (ch. 25, 44, 78). He is above all primary Truth (ch. 87, 88, 89, 119), that is, the normative or creative truth of all things. This twofold knowledge of God is faith, that robust, enlightened faith which Catherine's writings and her life communicate , and which, according to St. Thomas, blossoms into the gift of understanding (Summa theologia 2a 2ae q.8 a.2c), a characteristic Of Dominican spirituality. The union of these two forms of knowledge, of which one will never increase to the detriment of the other (ch. 13), engenders love in us, the image of that essential Love which in God proceeds from the union of the Father and the Word. As in the case of knowledge, this love will be twofold. It will be love of God and, by virtue of this first love, it will be love of neighbor. Therefore, without these two loves, we shall never take the road leading to perfection (ch. 26, 89). All virtues meet in love and it is impossible to accomplish a virtuous act without all the virtues going into action through the intermediary, love, principle of the virtues (ch. 155). For Catherine of Siena every act of virtue is only the expression, individualized by circumstances of time and place, of the faith which inspires us and stimulates love in us. Virtuous acts are consequently human only in the exterior, transitory shell which differentiates them. The marrow of a virtuous act, charity, is on the contrary in the likeness of the ineffable life of God; and that explains the joyous verve which makes of the Dialogue one of the most characteristic works of Dominican spirituality (ch. 158).
The study of the sources of Catherinian doctrine is not complete. What does she owe to St. Thomas , to St. Bonaventure, to Ubertino di Casale, to Dominic Cavalca? Are the literary references indicated to be attributed to Catherine or are they the work of secretaries? See A. Grion, Santa Catherina da Siena. Dottrina e fonti, Milan, 1953.
Refer to the bibliography of the article on CATHERINE OF SIENA, DS, Vol. 2, col. 347-348; - and add: M.-H. Laurent, Essai de bibliographic catherinienne: les premieres editions italiennes (1474/75-1500), AFP, vol. 20, 1950, pp. 349-368. -- L, Zanini, Bibliografia analitica di S. Caterina da Siena, 1901-1950, coll. Miscellanea del Centro di studi medieval), 2 vol., Milan, 1956-1958.
One volume of the critical edition of 88 letters has appeared: E. Dupre-Theseider, Epistolario di santa Caterina da Siena, coll. Fonti for the history of Italy published by the Royal Italian Historical Institute for the Middle ages, Rome, Rome, 1940.
We do not yet have a complete edition of the Process: portions of it, sometimes very brief, can be found in: E. Martene and U. Durand, Veterum scriptorum et monumentorum... amplissima collectio, vol. 6, Paris, 1729, col. 1237-1386;
-- Stephani Baluzii... Miscellanea, ed. J.D. Mansi, vol. 3, Lucca, 1764, pp. 489-492;
-- E. Lazzareschi, S. Caterina da Siena in val d'Orcia, Florence, 1915, pp. 75-85, and S. Caterina da Siena ed i Pisani, Florence, 1917, pp. 125-127.
The bull of canonization, Misericordias Domini, was reproduced by the Bollandists (AS, 30 April, Anvers, 1675, pp. 973-976), as well as the Legenda major of Raymond of Capua (pp. 858-959).
5. The Reform.
-- Catherine of Siena's vast influence affected Gregory XI and Urban VI, cardinals and bishops, the group of disciples who followed her everywhere, and the Order of St. Dominic. It was she who touched off the idea of reform.
In her letters to women religious she never stops urging them to a stricter observance of the rule. Thus we find her recommending earnestly to her niece Eugenia, a nun at the convent of Montepulciano, that she avoid all idle conversation (letter 26; ed. N. Tommaseo-P. Misciatelli, vol. 1, pp. 105-106). To the nuns of San Giorgio in Perugia she advises flight from the parlor (letter 217, vol. 3, p. 310). Finally, private life which avoids the common life inspires her in the Dialogue to pages full of sadness (ed. quoted above, ch. 125).
After receiving letters of encouragement from St. Catherine, Bl. Clara Gambcorta (+1419) (letter 194, vol. 3, pp. 186-190; letter 262, vol. 4, pp. 145-150) and Bl. Mary Mancini (+1431) (letter 153, vol. 3, pp. 7-9) embraced the religious life in 1382 and, with four companions, resumed at Pisa the observances which had fallen into disuse. They preserved the spirit of St. Catherine so jealously that they charmend the friars Thomas Ajutamicristi, Nicholas Gittalebraccia, Frederick Frezzi, Bl. Laurence of Ripafratta and Bl. John Dominici each time that they passed through Pisa. So encouraged both by what he had seen at Pisa and by the indelible memory of St. Catherine's exhortations, Raymond of Capua promulgated in 1390 the charter of reform to remedy the general relaxation which had followed upon the plague of 1348. The sacred flame which the humble girl of Fontebranda had enkindled in Tuscany was zealously handed on by the friars of Italy until the end of the Middle Ages. By the foundation of observant convents in Germany, the Low Countries, and France, Bl. Raymond carried it beyond the Alps (see Raymundi Capuani opuscula et litterae, ed. H.-M. Cormier, Rome, 1895; A.W. Van Ree, Raymond de Capoue, Elements biographiques, AFP, vol. 33, 1963, pp. 159-241). Laurence of Ripafratta (+1457) and John Dominici, who had known Catherine in their youth, were confirmed in this spirit by the sisters of Pisa so as to transmit it in their turn to their mutual disciple, St, Antoninus. This same spirit animated Savonarola.
1. Bl. John Dominici (+1419) was the principal instrument of reform, for the convents of St. Dominic at Venice (1390), Chioggia (1392), Citta de Castello (1393), of Sts. John and Paul at Venice (1393), Cortona which at the time were either relaxed or abandoned. To him was due especially the foundation of the convents of Corpus Christi in Venice(1393) and of St. Dominic in Fiesole (1406).
The convent of Corpus Christi was the dearest of all to John Dominici. Founded by him in 1393, by 1397 it counted more than 70 religious (ed. Festugiere, letter 3, p. 296). He addressed to the Sisters of Corpus Christi the 42 letters preserved in manuscript (Florence, Maglabechiano XXXV, 8, 88). The spirituality of John Dominici was austere: the sisters should avoid ecstasies and seek after trials (ed. Biscioni, letter 6), drive out self-love and unconscious pride which lies hidden in many apparently virtuous acts (11); no perfection without obedience (17) and absolute self-renunciation (19). The letters, spontaneous and natural, surpass the other writings of John Dominici; they place their author, who died a Cardinal titular of St. Sixtus, among the best Italian prose writers.
Lettere di Santi e Beati Fiorentini, Florence, 1736, a collection edited by A.M. Biscioni, includes twenty-one letters of John Dominici. In the few letters of the same author translated by A.M.F. (Festurgiere; VS, 1931, vol. 26, pp. 293-304, and vol. 27, pp. 58-65), are included two letters from the Magliabechiano ms (letters 3 and 6, pp. 294-302).
R. Creytens, L' obligation des constitutions dominicaines d'après le bienheureux Jean Dominici, with the edition of his De obligatione constitutionum..., AFP, vol. 23, 1953, pp. 195-235.
-- G. Di Agresti, Considerazioni intorno a due scritti del B. Giovanni.., in Memorie domenicane, vol. 79, 1962, pp. 115-125; Note sul desiderio e sulla visione di Dio nel B. Giovanni.., in Rivista de ascetica e mistica, vol. 8, 1963, pp. 570-579.
Raymond of Capua and John Dominici were backed by religious of solid character, such as Frederick Frezzi (+1416). Provincial of the Roman Province and Bishop of Foligno, he furthered the reform. His Quadrireggio, of particular interest to those concerned with the history of literature, lends an epic tone to the struggle between virtues and vices (ed. E. Filippini, coll. Scrittori d'Italia, Bari, 1914).
2. Prior of St. Mark in 1439, vicar general of the Observants of the Roman Province for several years, Archbishop of Florence from 1446, St. ANTONINUS (DS, vol. 1, col. 725-726) never forgot the lessons of sanctity that his two masters in the religious life had inculcated in him. They must have had him read and re-read the pages of the Dialogue which St. Catherine devotes to discretion. Indeed, this virtue marked his life with the seal of rare wisdom. Spending himself completely to advance the progress of observance, St. Antoninus always reproved every excess, every tendency to singularity. Little drawn to mysticism, he showed himself a man of the golden mean in his letters to Dada, whose real name was Diodata degli Adimari, in his letters to nuns, and in the Opera a ben vivere (ed. F. Palermo, Florence, 1858). His great prudence and his experience with souls have caused him to be considered even today one of the masters of pastoral theology.
Little inclined to speculation, St. Antoninus generally explained everyday duties. He did so with wholesome good sense. The ten commandments of God, which he presented to the laity in the Confessionale "Curam illius habe" (Bologna, 1472), were the same ones he exposed for souls attempting a higher perfection; the "pasture" (pastura), an expression proper to St. Antoninus, is quite different.
"A wife's every effort is made to please her husband and to be loved by him. If the spouse acts thus for an earthly man, what should not the spouse of Christ do to please him?" Thus St. Antoninus began a letter to the nuns of the Paradiso (ed. Marchese, cited below, letter 20, pp. 171-188). Nuns, he went on to say, should not believe in dreams, nor be superstitious; it does not become them to be on the watch for news; they should be careful not to wish for anyone's death. It is wrong to lie when the bishop is holding visitation. He warns them against boredom, especially that which attacks religious. He scourges the presumptuous tongues which meddle by judging and criticizing everything. Poverty inspires in him the fine maxim that nothing but our faults are strictly our own. He ends by impressing upon them that the human soul cannot live without joy. Hence they should use their ingenuity to find consolation and happiness in devotion.
To a woman of the world, whose name was Dianora dei Soderini, he gave the advice, in the Opera a ben vivere, that true piety consists in getting rid of one's faults and acquiring lasting virtues (cf DS, vol. 3, col. 1105-1106). To explain this to her, St. Antoninus compares the soul to a garden lying fallow which needs to be developed. He exhorts her to take the discipline every Friday and when she is about to communicate, and forbids her to go beyond this. In conformity with the spirit of the times, he advises her to communicate twelve times a year, on the principal feasts, while being careful not to appear singular. The life of a Christian woman should be a continual prayer, but piety must not be prejudicial to the duties of own. state in life.
The bibliography (DS, vol. 1, col. 726) may also include what relates to the Letters: for want of a complete edition, one may consult the collection cited above, by A.M. Biscioni and that of V. Marchese, Lettere di Sant'Antonino... Florence, 1859
3. During the priorate of St. Antoninus, about 1438, Fra Angelico (+1455) began the forty-four frescoes in the cells of San Marco, and those of the chapter room and refectory. These frescoes, his own as well as those of his pupils, come under the category of spirituality as well as that of art. Did the Novem orandi modi, quibus Sanctus utebatur (cited above, p. 25) inspire the nine frescoes of the dormitory opening on to the courtyard of the convent? G. Benelli demonstrates that this influence was exerted through the mediation of St. Antoninus (S. Domenico negli affreschi dell' Angelico in San Marco di Firenze, in Il Rosario, Memorie domenicane, vol. 35, 1918, pp. 277-296). The nine attitudes of Dominic, ranging from weeping to silent contemplation, are in fact those which St. Antoninus, indebted in more than one respect to Thierry d'Apolda, attributed to the holy patriarch (Cronica seu tres partes historiales, 3rd part, tit. 23, c.2, #1; ed. Baste, N. Ressler, 1491, f. 191v-192r). Now, Thierry of Apolda's account, with the Novem orandi modi added to it as an appendix, had been in circulation for a long time. Ultimately therefore, the little anonymous work inspired the nine frescoes; they illustrate a whole treatise on spirituality.
4. At that time, the congregation of Lombardy, more flourishing than ever, experienced an influx from everywhere of religious won to observance by a need for an integral Dominican life. With no clearly defined limits, it included houses in almost all parts of the peninsula. Although in existence for some years, the congregation acquired juridical status only in 1459. A tree is known by its fruits: in forty years the congregation of Lombardy gave to the Church and to the Order twelve beatified friars.
Anthony delta Chiesa (+1459) restored Dominican life at Savona, Novi, Bologna, Como. In 1466, Bartholomew Cerveri, Inquisitor in Liguria, succumbed to the heretics' hatred six years after the martytrdom of Anthony Neyrot in Tunis (1460). Matthew Carrieri (+1470), formed to observance in the convent of Mantua, was the admiration of all for the austerity of his life. Constant of Fabriano (+1481), disciple of St. Antoninus, reformed the convent of Perugia (1446) and revived that of Ascoli. Andrew of Peschiera (+1485) founded in 1456, at the foot of the Alps, the convent of Morbegno. Augustine Fangi (+1493) was, in turn, Prior of Biella, Soncino, Vercelli, Vigevano, and everywhere re-established observance. Aimo Taparelli (+1495) was named preacher by appointment to the court of Bl. Amadeus of Savoy. Sebastian-Maggi(+1496) was twice placed at the head of the congregation of Lombardy and to him it owed in great part the expansion it attained by the end of the 15th century. Mark of Modena (+1498) was the edification of the convent of Pisauri where he was Prior. Finally, Stephen Bandelli t+l450) opened the way to uniformity of observance by his penitent life at the then relaxed convent of Piacenza.
The spirit of observance was not, moreover, the prerogative of the congregation of Lombardy. As early as 1428, Bl. Peter Geremia (+1452) restored uniformity of observance in Sicily. He instructed Bl. John Liccio (+1511) in his vocation when he entered in 1441. Bl. Peter also restored observance to the monastery of Dominican nuns at Palermo, where Bl. Margaret of Savoy lived (+1464); and his spirit some years later, inspired Bl. Bernard of Scammaca (+1486) in the reformed convent of Catania. Finally, let us mention three beatified members of the Third Order, Columba of Rieti (+1501), Madalene Panatieri (+1503), and Hosanna Andreasi (+1505). The first lived at Perugia, the second at Trino near Vercelli, the third at Mantua.
6. Savonarola and the Congregation of St. Mark. -- In 1493, the Congregation of Lombardy had the beautiful convent of St. Mark taken away from it. The influence of the Prior of St. Mark's was so great that many convents aspired to follow its spirit. From 1494 on, the convents of St. Mark in Florence, St. Dominic in Fiesole, and those of San Gimignano and Pisa were united under the jurisdiction of Savonarola. The Congregation of St. Mark was then organized and Savonarola gave it the impress of his strong personality.
An assiduous man of prayer, Savonarola was also brimming over with activity. Few had realized the union of the ocntemplative and active life to such a degree. For Savonarola prayer included reading, meditation, prayer proper and contemplation (Expositio orationis dominicae Philippo Valori dedicata). Reading, preferably from the Bible (De simplicitate, vol. 5, ch. 15), insures contact with revealed truths. If it is to lead to meditation, he wrote on October 17, 1497, to the Third Order sisters in Florence, one must above all detach the heart from all creatures. Only then will the Holy Spirit write in the soul his words of life (Della sane e spirituals lettione, ed. Ouetif, p. 230). The truths pondered in the course of meditation will then be presented to God in prayer which, if the soul is ripe for it, will expand into contemplation. This latter presupposes the complete subjection of all faculties to the action of the Holy Spirit and, in the higher intellect, an ample participation in the gift of wisdom (cf. Summa theologiae 2a 2ae q. 45 a. 2c). Considering God with the eyes of faith, the soul only glimpses the divine perfections in an indirect manner. Hence it strives to make of the God it contemplates an ever more elevated concept, more complete and more adequate (Prediche italiane, vol. 3, 1, sermon 3, pp. 73-73). It no longer considers created things except in an eminent way in God, and thus attains to that beautiful synthesis which, directed from on high, does not draw its unity from its fundamental principles, but from its final object. This union of the intellect with God, eulogized by Savonarola in the De simplicitate vitae christianae, is followed in the will by the union of love, which inspired in Savonarola the Psalmus seu oratio devotissima: Diligam te Domine.
Savonarola's spirituality was austere and traditional; the rather rigid impress he left upon the new Congregation of St. Mark testified to this. For Savonarola, perfection is measured in terms of charity, which is recognized by the acts it inspires. The highest perfection in no way dispenses from the laborious effort consequent upon the uncertainty of our final perseverance (see Expositio orationis dominice fratris Hieronymi Savonarola de ferraria.., s 1 (Paris), 1510, f. b VIIIr and f. c Vv). He tended to recommend vocal prayer as a preparation for mental prayer, but insisted that it be subordinated to the latter (Tractato in defensione et commendations della oratione mentale, f. 19r-20v).
Finally, the principal means of sanctification, for him, were almsgiving to the poor (see Al suoi Discipoli figluoli, Regole del vostro vivere, ed. Quétif, p. 208), the assiduous reading of the Bible (Della sane e spirituale lettione, ed. Quétif, pp. 230-232) and above all the sacraments of penance and the eucharist (Regole del ben vivere, ed. Quétif, pp. 214-216). He considered weekly communion frequent and did not raise the question of whether daily communion could be commended (A una devote donna Bolognese sopra la communions, ed. Quétif, p. 248).
Savonarola's spirituality was also Dominican. The great devotions of his Order to Jesus in the Eucharist, to the suffering Christ, to the Blessed Virgin, were very close to his heart. During the night he spent hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He always considered himself a child of Mary, and the pages he devoted to her, both in his treatises and in sermons, witness to his filial piety (Prediche italiane, vol. 2, sermon 18, pp. 252-253; vol. 3, 2, sermon 44, pp. 461462; ed. Florence, 1845, pp. 119-140, 483-492). His tender devotion to the Virgin accompanied an ardent love for Christ in the Eucharist and in his Passion. Sermon 43 on Amos and Zacharias is a commentary on the SummaTheologiae, 3a q. 73 a. 6 of St. Thomas. But it was the Passion which inspired Savonarola with his most moving pages: intensely enamoured of the mystery of the Cross, Savonarola dedicated to it, in the Trattato dell 'amore di Iesu Christo and the Trattato del misterio della croce, some extremely arresting pages,
A complete edition of the works of Savonarola does not exist. The many old partial editions are not very reliable. Critical editions have been initiated:
1) Sermons: l'Ente rationale di culture of Florence has published, under the title Prediche italiane al fiorentini, the sermons on Haggai and on the Psalms (vol. 1 and 2, Perugia-Venice, 1930 by F. Cognasso) and on Amos and Zacharias (vol. 3, in two books, Florence, 1933, 1935, by R. Palmarocchi); the collection Opere di Girolamo Savonarola contains the sermons on Ezechiel (vol. 1, 2 books, Rome, 1955, by R. Ridolfi) and on Exodus (vol. 2, 2 books, Rome, 1955, by P.G. Ricci); also available is the edition Prediche di Fra G. Savonarola.., Florence, 1845.
2) Letters, critical edition by R. Ridolfi, Le lettere di Girolamo Savonarola ore per la prima volta raccolte e a miglior lezione ridotte, Florence, 1933.
3) Affective meditations and treatises: edition of J. Quétif, Epistolae spirituales et asceticae, miram vitae sanctitatem... spirantes. Nunc primum collectae.., Paris, 1674; -- a collection arranged by E. Ibertis and G. Odetto, Fra Girolamo Savonarola, Guida sprituale, 4 vol., Turin, 1952.
Biographies: J. Schnitzer, Savonarola. Ein Kulturbild aus der Zeit der Renaissance, 2 vol., Munich, 1924. -- R. Ridolfi, Vita de Girolamo Savonarola, 2 vol., Rome, 1952. -- M.-Ferrara, Bibliografia savonaroliana... (from 1800 to 1958), coll. La Bibliofilia, Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana 31, Florence, 1958. Stephanus G. AXTERS,
| Back | Index | Next |