CHIARO, A NOTED DOCTOR OF BOLOGNA
Many men of letters have sung the praises of the talent and virtue of this illustrious personage. In the confusion of opinions it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty just where he was born. Siennese writers say that he was a native of their city, while those of Florence make the same claim for their municipality. Some give this honor to Bologna, and still others to Rome. The probabilities seem in favor of Bologna. The date of his birth is not less wrapped in obscurity.
One is on sure ground, however, when it comes to Chiaro's learning and ability. He certainly had the advantages of a splendid education, which would indicate that his parents were wealthy, and gave their son every opportunity, both spiritual and temporal. Before the Friars Preacher settled in Bologna, he bad passed through his course of letters, philosophy, theology, and law with great distinction, as well as obtained the degree of doctor. Nay, at that time, he had filled the chair of canon law for some years with marvellous success. His name was a byword for excellence throughout Italy. Yet, in 1219, he gave up his place of honor in the University of Bologna, in order to enter the religious order but lately established by Saint Dominic.(1)
Although he had shone in the university schools, both because of his extraordinary talent and because of his wide learning, this in no way hindered the zealous professor's correspondence with the call from God. From the start, he showed himself a model for his confrères, even though Saint Nicholas', Bologna, was such a sanctuary of religious observance that the good odor of its perfume bad spread all over the Italian Peninsula, and beyond. He soon won the heart of everyone. Hardly had he taken his vows of religion, when he was called upon to perform a good office for his convent, in which he was greatly aided by his experience and knowledge, no less than by his practical piety.
The enemy of man, who, as Saint Peter tells us, "goeth about seeking whom he may devour,"(2) endeavored to disturb the tranquility which prevailed in the community of Saint Nicholas, that he might thus lessen the good they effected, through their preaching and saintly lives. Apparently not a few were led to believe that the new Order would be short-lived, for its requirements were beyond human endurance. Some determined to seek refuge among the Cistercians. The superiors then called Chiaro to their aid in allaying the troubled minds. His authoritative reputation combined with his prudence and deep religious spirit to tide over the difficulty. At the same time, through his prayers and sermons he brought a number of excellent subjects to the convent, whose arrival completely restored the confidence of all.
This signal service of Chiaro to the community, as was but natural, made him still more beloved by his brethren, especially by those whom he had induced to remain where providence had placed them. It also gave added luster to his virtue, and no doubt brought him new graces. Of all this he took advantage that he might be the more useful to his fellow man. The holy religious effected much good through his eloquence; yet he perhaps wielded a stronger influence over souls through his exemplary life. He, stood high both within his institute and without.
At the second general chapter of the Order, held at Bologna in 1221, Saint Dominic appointed Chiaro provincial of the Province of Rome. This office he filled most happily. But it soon deprived the Friars Preacher of his valuable services. It brought him into contact with Honorius III, who, impressed by his ability and virtue, appointed him a papal chaplain and penitentiary. Doubtless Doctor Chiaro, while still a professor at the University of Bologna, had won the friendship and esteem of Cardinal Ugolini di Segni during the latter's stay in that city as legate of the Pope. At any rate, when di Segni ascended the Throne of Peter as Gregory IX, in succession to Honorius, he continued the Friar Preacher in the position of papal chaplain and penitentiary.
In spite of the honor thus shown him, Father Chiaro longed for the life of a religious. He loved to preach the word of God, and to sing the divine praises in company with his confrères. Only obedience held him at the papal court. There he led just as recollected and austere a life as he bad lived in the cloister at Bologna. By this he won the admiration of everyone connected with the curia. Whatever time he could spare he devoted to charity or the instruction of the faithful. Several spiritual books, as well as some works on canon law, philosophy, and theology, are said to have come from his pen. Fontana thinks that he died about 1240. But this seems to be conjectural. It appears certain though that he ended his days as papal chaplain and penitentiary.(3) He left a blessed memory that the Friars Preacher should not suffer to be lost to their Order. He was one of the institute's brightest lights in its earliest days, and it is unfortunate that more is not known about him.
1. ALBERTI, op. cit., fol. 182; DE FRACHET, op. cit., (Reichert ed), pp. 21, 25-26; FONTANA, Sacrum Theatrum Dominicanum, pp. 400, 471; MALVENDA, op. cit., p. 247; MAMACHI, op. cit., pp. 507, 509, 642-643; PIO, op. cit., p. 73; QUETIF-ECHARD, op. cit., 1, 92-93; THEODERIC of Apolda, op. cit.,-- in Acta Sanctorum, XXXV (first vol. for August), 582, No. 130.
2. I Peter, V, 8.
3. See FONTANA and QUETIF-ECHARD, as above. Both Touron and Quetif-Echard say that Fontana places Father Chiaro's death in 1240. But in the edition at hand Fontana says, on page 400, "about 1250," and on page 471 "about 1240." Perhaps a typographical error crept in somewhere. It should also be noted that Chiaro is sometimes called Chiaro Sixtio, or Chiaro da Sesto, or Chiaro Sesto. But, as Echard remarks, this proves nothing; for there were several villages of that name in Italy, and at times such denominations were used arbitrarily. (Ed. note).