JAMES XURONE OF MILAN
One frequently runs across the name of Father James Xurone, who is sometimes called Hurone, or even Sutone, in the early annals of the Order. Everywhere he is spoken of as a man of an excellent character. Father Alberti especially praises him as one who was most conspicuous for his ardent zeal, religious spirit, holiness of life, and great learning. Just when and where he became a Friar Preacher is not known. Yet he certainly joined their ranks in the early days of the Order; for he was among the fathers whom Saint Dominic sent to found the Priory of San Eustorgio, Milan, which could not have been later than 1220. From Milan he went to Genoa, where he taught theology to the younger members of that community. Here he also created no little reputation for himself by his eloquent preaching.(1)
Like Father William di Monferrato, Xurone must have known of Saint Dominic's zeal for the conversion of the oriental peoples. At any rate, he soon volunteered his services for that work, and was one of the first Friars Preacher to go to the east. It is said that he made many conversions there by his preaching and miracles, a number of which are attributed to him. The Isle of Crete was the principal field of his labors, where he proclaimed the word of God and toiled for the salvation of souls during many years. The better to provide for the continuance of his apostolate, when he should be gone, he erected several houses of his Order on the island.(2)
Unfortunately, as is the case with most of our early missionaries in the orient, we have very little detailed information of his life and labors there. However, we know that he was admired for his saintliness; that he died a very holy death; and that his memory and relies were held in veneration in Candia and throughout the Isle of Crete as long as Catholics inhabited the country. After the Turks took Crete from the Venetians, 1669, the Mohammedans and schismatic Greeks found a keen delight in demolishing every monument of Catholic piety and trace of the Church. Because of their destructive hands, practically all memory of saintly Father James Xurone has disappeared from the island.
Touron now proceeds to state that Fathers Ambrose Taegio and Michael Pio place the holy missionary's death in 1244, which is likely the correct date, and to refute Father Leander Alberti who says it occurred in 1220.(3) Alberti has been followed by several other authors. But his short sketch of Father Xurone shows that 1220 is a typographical or other error. Bzovius says, in his Annals, that the pious Friar Preacher was living in Crete in 1222, and had a vision of Saint Dominic in heaven.(4) The misprint in Alberti is also clearly shown by the fact that all the writers who speak of Xurone give virtually the same story as that contained in this notice of his life. They place him in Milan in 1220, and in Genoa at a still later date.
It would not be right to call the holy man the father, or style him the founder, of the historic Dominican missions in the orient. Still he was one of the first members of the Order to engage in that work. That he did not go far beyond the border-land of the east was, no doubt, due to the fact that he believed he could effect as much good there as anywhere, and felt that it were wise to establish a center whence others could carry their apostolic labors further. Father Xurone, following the promptings of Saint Dominic's zeal, illustrates the blessed founder's idea perfectly. It would be hard to find a better model for the missionaries to follow. If for no other reason, his memory should always be profoundly cherished. Fathers Leander Alberti and Dominic Marchese style him "blessed."(5)
1. ALBERTI, Leander, O. P., De Viribus Illustribus Ordinis Praedicatorum, folio 185; MALVENDA, Thomas, O. P., Annales Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum, p. 322; MARCHESE, Dominic, O. P, Sagro Diario Domenicano, III, 119.
3. PIO, Michael, O. P., Vite Degli Huomini Illustri del Ordine di S. Domenico, col. 30.
4. BZOVIUS (Bzowski), Abraham, O. P., Annales Ecclesiastici, Anno 1222, col. 306. Alberti, like the other writers, places Xurone at Milan in 1220, and has him teaching at Genoa later, whence he went to the orient. In Crete, says Alberti, the missionary labored "a long time"(diu immoratus). This certainly shows that the "1220," given in Alberti's book as the date of Xtirone's death, is an oversight, or a typographical or other error. It strikes one as strange that the writers who followed Alberti did not detect this mistake. (Ed. note).
5. The reader need hardly be told that the last two paragraphs of this sketch, with the exception of the first sentence in the second to the last, are an addition to Father Touron. (Ed. note).