THE FIRST DISCIPLES OF ST. DOMINIC
Father Anthony Touron, O. P., was one of the outstanding historians of his Order in the eighteenth century. God blessed him with a splendid mind and a life of far more than the ordinary length of years, both of which he conscientiously used in behalf of religion. He was no less conspicuous for his virtue than for his tireless industry. A man of his learning, ability, and character must have exerted a strong influence on his generation. Touron first saw the light of day at Graulhet, in the Department of Tarn, southwestern France. Some give 1688 as the year of his birth; but the correct date seems to be September 5, 1686. As he lived until September 2, 1775, he lacked only three days of attaining the ninetieth year of his age. He died and was buried in Paris.
Father Touron's early life in the priesthood was most likely spent in teaching and preaching; for he seems to have been fifty years of age, if not more, before he began to write in earnest. Yet by the time of his death he had brought out some thirty volumes, eight or nine of them quartos, on various subjects. The greater part of his literary output, however, deals with Dominican biography and history, fields in which he has certainly deserved well of all who are interested in that class of knowledge.
One generally finds it stated that the first product of Touron's pen was the Life of Saint Thomas of Aquin. with an exposé of the Angelic Doctor's teaching; and that this book appeared in 1737. Yet the two copies of it before us bear the date of 1740. The Life of Saint Dominic, Founder of the Friars Preacher, containing biographical outlines of some of his first disciples (Histoire Abrégée des Premiers Disciples de Saint Dominique) was issued in 1739. Both these works are in quarto. From 1743 to 1749 they were followed by six other quarto volumes entitled: Illustrious Men of the Order of Saint Dominic (Histoire des Hommes Illustres de l'Ordre de Saint Dominique). All the learned Friar Preacher's writings were published in Paris, and (with the exception of a short Latin treatise on the Most I-Ioly Trinity) are in French. The last of them, fourteen twelvemo volumes on the general history of America -- written from an ecclesiastical point of view, was not completed until 1770, when its author was well past eighty years of age. Doubtless this fact explains why it f alls below the standard of his other studies.
Practically all Touron's works have received (and deservedly) a generous measure of praise. De Feller (BiographieUniverselle, XII, 173) likens his Divine Providence, in some respects, to Bossuet's Civil Polity Drawn from the Holy Scriptures (Politique Tirée des Paroles de 1'Ecriture Sainte). Many of them have been translated into other languages. Some critics laud our author's style, which at times is a little jerky and oratorical. But that which specially appeals to the student is his keen historical sense and acumen. These combine with frequent references and quotations to gain credit for his statements. Investigation and comparison have shown him to be well acquainted with history as well as accurate in his presentation. For these reasons, it need hardly be said that the high repute which he enjoys as a reliable writer is no more than his due. Ever and always is it clear that what he says has stood the test of close and candid scrutiny.
Unfortunately, like most of the literary men of his age, Father Touron frequently does not give either the full names of the authors to whom he refers, or the full and exact titles of their works. At times one finds only the Latinized name of the writer, then not an uncommon thing, and an abbreviated form of the title, or even merely the substance of it in a language different from that in which it appeared. Dates and places of publication were often lacking. The same difficulties were not infrequently met with in the books used for collation. Nor was it always possible to ascertain whether the source was printed or in manuscript. For these reasons, ever and anon, we could not be as full and exact in the references as was desirable. This will explain such launae which the reader will hardly fail to notice in the footnotes and bibliography. Yet we did the best that could be done under the circumstances.
That part of the erudite Frenchman's works which is here adapted into English for the first time is the second portion of the book which gives the life of Saint Dominic, or Brief Outlines of the Lives of the First Disciples of Saint Dominic (Histoire Abrégée des premiers Disciples de Saint Dominique). Touron does not profess to write about all who deserve to be better known. In fact, he expressly says that he chose only those who seemed to him to be the more noteworthy. Yet, as will be seen in the text, these pages contain sketches of several whom he, accidentally no doubt, overlooked. A number of others were noted who might well have been included; but the difficulties, which will now appear, rendered it next to impossible to look up their careers.
This adaptation has been accomplished under exceptional obstacles. In a disastrous automobile accident its compiler received a concussion of the brain, a compound fracture of the hip joint, and other injuries, which all but resulted in death, and caused him to be bedridden for some months. The work was begun when he was barely able to sit up. During a great part of the task it was necessary to call others, that they might get and bring books which were needed. Even after they had been placed within reach, it was with the greatest difficulty that they could be handled. Indeed, it was only towards the end of the work that the writer could at all manage for himself.
Despite these hindrances, however, no pains, except a search of other libraries (which was out of the question), were spared in order to verify the original author's statements, collate his work with those of different writers, ascertain ungiven dates, learn the full names of persons mentioned in the text or references, and find the titles of the many sources from which the story was drawn. These efforts may be partly seen from the "additional bibliography" at the end of the volume. Just now and then did we find it necessary to go against his opinion.
The tedium of convalescence inspired the adaptation; and the work is about the only kind its compiler could have undertaken at the time. We confidently trust that it will prove of no little interest to Catholics, whose mother-tongue is English, the world over, for heretofore nothing has appeared in our language on by far the most of the noted men here laid bef ore their view. The lives of over fifty of Saint Dominic's disciples are sketched in its pages. All of them were in the Order during his lifetime. Practically all of them received the habit from his hands. They filled, and with rare honor, nearly every position in the Church. Two of them have been canonized, and eleven beatified. A number of others, who are still held in the highest veneration, may yet be accorded similar honors. Without exception they lived holy lives, toiled with all their strength for the salvation of souls, and died saintly deaths. They belonged to and labored in almost every Christian country of the period.
When it is remembered that Saint Dominic died in less than four years and eight months after the confirmation of his Order, the foregoing facts and figures certainly speak volumes in his praise. Any one might justly be proud of them. They are almost without a parallel. Yet they were but the beginning of a spiritual glory that had just begun to blossom. They afford an idea of the extraordinary picture we should have, if the early fathers had been careful to provide for the preservation of the memories of their confr&res and the history of their institute by adequate records.
Sincere thanks are extended to all who in any way gave a helping hand in the work. The reader is requested to look kindly on whatever shortcomings or inconsistencies may have resulted from the difficulties under which it was executed.
Victor F. O'Daniel, O.P.
The Dominican House of Studies,
Catholic University of America,
Washington, D. C., August 4, 1928.
"Father O'Daniel has been faithful, as well as tireless, in his chosen field of labor; and he has deserved well of Catholic historical literature. This latest product of his able pen, The First Disciples of Saint Dominic, not only maintains the high standard of his other works, but also fills a long-felt want in the English language. It makes delightful, edifying, instructive reading" (Right Rev. Thomas J. Shahan, S. T. D., rector emeritus of the Catholic University).
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- Nihil obstat:
- Fr. Guillelmus Owens, O.P., S.T.Lr.
- Fr. Georgius B. Stratemeier, O.P.,S.T.Lr., Ph.D.
- Fr. Raymundus Meagher, O.P., S.T.Lr., Prior Provincialis
- Rmus Jacobus J. Hartley, Episcopus Columbensis
Laus Deo Patri, et Filio,et Spiritui Sancto
TO MARY AND FRANCIS DOUGHERTY OF LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA NIECE AND NEPHEW OF THE VERY REV. CHARLES H. McKENNA, O. P. "FATHER OF THE HOLY NAME SOCIETY IN THE UNITED STATES"