RUDOLPH OF FAENZA
Father Rudolph of Faenza gets the last part of his name from the place where he was born, an important city in historic old Romagna. The date of his birth is not known. Having completed his theological studies in the University of Bologna, he applied himself to civil and canon law in the same noted educational center, in both of which he obtained the degree of doctor. Later, his learning combined with his faultless priestly life to bring him the pastorship of Saint Nicholas of the Vines, Bologna. This office, true shepherd of souls that he was, he filled with admirable zeal; for he not only instructed his flock and looked after their spiritual welfare with great earnestness, but also showed himself a father to the poor.
On his return to Bologna from the Holy Land, Blessed Reginald of Orleans, O. P., found Rudolph busily engaged with his many pastoral duties. Like a faithful ambassador of Christ, with whose charity he was filled, Reginald's extraordinary preaching gave Saint Nicholas' rector no cause for jealousy. On the contrary, it pleased him not a little to see his people flock to bear the sermons of the noted Friar Preacher; for he was not slow to notice how much they were benefitted by his earnest exhortations. Nay, the pastor soon joined his flock in listening to the new apostle, whose words seemed to set all hearts on fire.(1)
Convinced by his own observation that God spoke through the mouth of Reginald, Rudolph first became his close friend, and then his disciple. The Right Rev. Henry di Fratta, bishop of Bologna, and Cardinal Ugolino di Segni, who was then papal legate to the city, eye-witnesses of the great good the Friars Preacher were doing in the diocese, earnestly desired that they should have the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Vines, together with its appurtenances.(2) Their first home was inconveniently situated, and had become too small for the community. When Rudolph learned of the wish of his superiors, he not only made no objection to the plan, but even advised it. Nay more, he asked to be received into the new religious institute. Reginald gave him the habit. This was in 1218 or 1219, from which time Rudolph became a true son of Saint Dominic.
Earnest about his own salvation, as well as eager for that of others and all that concerned the glory of God, Rudolph soon became a credit to the Order. He preached far and near. At the same time, he acted as syndic of the Convent of Saint Nicholas of the Vines, of which, because of the generous sacrifice of his church, he was regarded as the founder. The position was not an easy one, for the community was in dire poverty. Yet the Faenzan confrère placed his confidence in God. In times of particular stress, following the example of Saint Dominic, whose virtues he ever sought to imitate, he obtained the necessaries through prayer. Similarly, he often passed a good part of the night in penance and supplication before the altar in church that God might bless his apostolic labors.
Because of his continual effort to better himself by imitating the most saintly members of the community, all of whom he loved as his brothers, an intimate friendship soon arose between the former Bolognese pastor and Saint Dominic. Nor was the patriarch slow to discover Rudolph's zeal, practical wisdom, and candor of mind. These drew the two men nearer. Often did Dominic trust his friend with the secrets of his own soul, and tell him his ideas for the spread and mission of the Order.
Rudolph's tenderness of heart at times led him almost to extremes in his charity towards his confrères. More than once Saint Dominic felt obliged to chide him for his generosity to those who had embraced a life of poverty and privation for the love of God. These gentle reproaches, however, were really an honor to the good-natured procurator. Perhaps Dominic largely intended them as such. Possibly also Rudolph regarded them somewhat in this light; for be seems to have taken no great pains to correct a weakness which he believed increased the merit of his good works. On the one band, he maintained that religious are obliged to practise their vow of poverty, and to suffer little wants with patience. On the other, he believed that those in charge should show kindness in providing even some of the comforts of life; for such things tend to the glory of God by fostering happiness and better work.
Indeed, Father Rudolph toiled zealously on for the forty years or more that he lived in the Order, to which he was an ornament, and continued his charitable practices until the end. Doubtless these bad their part in making him so universally beloved. He died October 14, 1259. Some authors style him "Blessed Rudolph."
The veteran missionary was present at the death of Saint Dominic, the translation of his relies, and his solemn canonization. Some say that he held the holy patriarch's head while in his agony.(3) He was the sixth of the witnesses called to give testimony to the saint's virtues and miracles. The chain which Dominic wore around his waist fell to the lot of Rudolph, who also inherited much of his spirit, as well as many of his penitential practices. The name of Rudolph of Faenza must ever occupy a conspicuous place in the history of Saint Nicholas' (now Saint Dominic's) Priory, Bologna. His memory is cherished throughout the Order.
1. MALVENDA, Thomas, op. cit., p. 245, 248; MAMACHI, op. cit., pp. 507 and passim; MARCHESE, op. cit., V, p. 330; PIO, op. cit., col. 78; THEODERIC of Apolda, O. P., Vita Sancti Dominici, in Acta Sanctorum, XXXV (first vol. for August), 611, No. 307, and 635, No. 35 ff. Touron generally calls Blessed Reginald "Reginald of Saint Gilles." We prefer Reginald of Orleans.
2. Cardinal Ugolino di Segni was later Gregory IX. (Ed. note).
3. See MARCHESE, op. cit., V, 331. All the writers speak of Father Rudolph of Faenza in terms of the highest praise.