MONETA OF CREMONA
Before reading this sketch of Moneta of Cremona, one should look over the first few paragraphs of the sketch of Roland of Cremona, which immediately precedes it. The two men were fellow-students, and perhaps were playmates in the days of their boyhood. Like Roland, Moneta takes the last part of his name from the city in which he was born. The two men were richly endowed with natural gifts, which they thoroughly developed by industry. Like Roland again, Moneta made his studies at the University of Bologna, obtained his degree of doctor, was appointed to a professorial chair, and afterwards became regent. Moneta taught the liberal arts, while Roland's branch was philosophy, to which he perhaps added physics.
The similarity between the two professors goes still further. While good men, in the eyes of the world at least, they were exceedingly vain, and much given to frivolous pleasure. However, they were both men of great learning, whose fame was known throughout Italy. Both again, after they left the world and became Friars Preacher, showed extraordinary zeal for their own sanctification, the salvation of the faithful, and the conversion of others, whether sinners or heretics. Their talents, virtue, and apostolic labors for the Church have won for them the same praise from authors, as well as rendered their memories equally worthy of being treasured. The story of Moneta's call to the Order runs thus.(1)
When Blessed Reginald of Orleans returned to Bologna from the Holy Land, his preaching produced a veritable sensation in the city. Professor Moneta, because of his worldly spirit, was mortified, not to say disgusted, at seeing so many of his students and some of his colleagues, first, attend the Friar Preacher's sermons, and then embrace the humble life of his Order. He determined that he himself would not be so foolish. Nay, lest Reginald's fervent eloquence might overcome his repugnance, he studiously stayed away from the holy man's sermons -- even did all he could to induce the students at the university to follow his example.(2)
But, as says the old adage, "man proposes; God disposes." The ways of grace are many, and sometimes powerful. On Saint Stephen's Day, December 26, 1218, some of Master Moneta's pupils told him that they bad deprived themselves of the good they might have derived from Father Reginald's sermons, in order to profit by his lectures and to applaud him. Then they argued that he, in turn, should go with them to bear the great orator preach at the cathedral. At first, Moneta refused. But the students pressed their point until their professor gave them so evasive an answer that they believed he had finally consented to their request.
Then, by ruse, Moneta led his young admirers to San Procolo's, where he proposed that they should first hear mass. He even held them there for three other masses which were said immediately afterwards. After this, he again showed his reluctance to hear Blessed Reginald preach; though, because of much urging by the students, he eventually accompanied them to the cathedral. When they reached the sacred edifice, greatly to his delight, Moneta found that it was so crowded that he could just get inside the doors, and that the sermon was far advanced. Yet, strange to say, almost the first sentence he heard settled his vocation. It was God's way of calling him. Hardly, indeed, had the preacher returned to his convent, when Moneta of Cremona called at Saint Nicholas', and pledged his word that he would enter the Order.(3)
The professor would have been happy to don the habit of a Friar Preacher at once; but his engagement as teacher at the University of Bologna and other matters, possibly connected with the same institution, rendered this impossible. In fact, a whole year elapsed before he could realize his pious design. During this time he was not merely a regular attendant at the sermons preached at Saint Nicholas'; he showed himself as eager to lead his colleagues and students there as he had formerly been to keep them away. He even became an ardent advocate of vocations to the new Order. Father Gerard de Frachet gives a brief, but beautiful, description of Moneta's zeal in this regard.(4) He keenly regretted his past actions, and strove hard to set his affairs in order that he might the sooner enter the community.
Meanwhile Blessed Reginald was removed to Paris. Moneta of Cremona, however, did not change his mind. He received the habit from the bands of Saint Dominic himself, late in 1219, or early in 1220. From the beginning of his religious life, Father Moneta strove so bard and ceaselessly to attain the height of perfection that everyone looked up to him as a model. Because of his learning, the superiors of his Order generally employed him as a professor, a position which he filled in a number of Italian cities. Still he found time for no little apostolic work, as well as for study in various branches of knowledge. By his writing he did excellent service against the Manicheans. Some say that he was also a papal inquisitor.
In all that he undertook the Friar Preacher met with phenomenal success. His reputation as a man of wide reading, as a profound scholar, and as an eloquent preacher was known throughout Italy. He also possessed a rare judgment. Father Alberti says of him that he was "conspicuous for his sanctity, wonderfully skilled in the sacred sciences, endowed with splendid judgment, a brave athlete of the faith, well known for his miracles, and a renowned professor of theology."(5) Practically the same eulogy is given of Moneta by all who have written of him, including Father Gerard de Frachet, who was perhaps personally acquainted with him. Literati, men of science, and leaders in civic government journeyed long distances to consult him on every imaginable subject; while the faithful flocked from near and far to hear him preach.(6)
Worn out by study and toil, Father Moneta finally became blind. This misfortune he bore with the resignation which characterized Tobias under the same affliction. The holy priest's patience, in fact, made him the more beloved by his confrères. No longer able to engage in his various labors, or distracted by objects of sight, he gave himself almost unremittingly to thought on God. The time not spent with his brethren in religion or others, who wished to consult him, he devoted to meditation. He died at the convent in Bologna; but opinions vary as to the time of his death. Some place it about the middle of the thirteenth century. Others think that he surrendered his pure soul to God in 1235. Marchese is one of these, and he designates December 5 as the day.(7) All the authors tell us that the early Friar Preacher died with a great reputation for sanctity, and that he was held in veneration.
Father Moneta of Cremona is known to have written a logic and a theological work against the Manicheans. This latter volume has been highly praised. There are those who think that the only reason why it was not published, after the invention of the press, was the extinction of the sect, whose errors and practices it exposes. His friendship with Saint Dominic is shown by the fact that the patriarch died on Moneta's bed, and clothed in his tunic. About few of the first disciples of the founder has so much been written by Dominican annalists, some of whom call him blessed. In him we have another splendid type of the athletes of the faith whom the holy man from Caleruega gathered around his standard.
1. ALBERTI, op. cit., fol. 183-184; BZOVIUS (Bzowski), op. cit., col. 261-262, 456; CASTILLO, op. cit., p. 72-74; DE FRACHET (Reichert ed.), op. cit., p. 170; MALVENDA, op. cit., p. 443; MAMACHI, op. cit., 467 and passim; MARCHESE, op. cit., VI, 146; PIO, op. cit., 86; QUETIF-ECHARD, op. cit., I, 122. These are general references; and because they occur so often, and have already occurred so frequently, the op. cit. will not be given after them in the future. The Reichert edition of de Frachet's Vitae Fratrum is the one to which we always refer. (Ed. note).
2. ALBERTI, fol. 184; DE FRACHET, p. 169-170; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 123.
3. DE FRACHET, 170, and FLEURY, op. cit., XVI, 467.
4. DE FRACHET, p. 170.
5. ALBERTI, fol. 184.
7. MARCHESE, VI, 146.