HERMAN OF GERMANY
Father Touron does not give us any sketch of this early disciple. Most likely the omission was to keep down the size of his volume. Yet Herman's association with the two saintly Poles whose lives have just been seen, the fact that he was brought into the Order by its founder, and his faithful labors certainly entitle him to a place in our outlines, even though but few details of his career have survived the ravages of time. What we do know of him is well worthy of record. The reader will recall, of course, how he went to Rome with Bishop Ivo Odrowaz, and how he there became a Friar Preacher, together with the rest of the episcopal suite. All this has been told in the sketch of Saint Hyacinth; and it is not necessary to repeat it here.(1)
The statement, found in some authors, that Herman was a lay brother at first is altogether untenable, and without any foundation. Father Stanislaus of Cracow, in his Life of Saint Hyacinth, applied the adjective "conversus" to Herman, signifying his conversion to the Order. Alberti took the word (conversus) for a noun, which (in Dominican terminology) means a lay brother. Others followed Alberti. The story led some to conclude that Herman's rare knowledge of the divine sciences and the languages was infused. Mamachi very justly remarks that the mere fact of his being in the official retinue of Bishop Odrowaz, with Hyacinth and Ceslas, and was shortly appointed to an important priorship is proof positive that he was a man of high standing, education, and prudence, as well as of virtue. The Polish historian, Bzowski, says that he was of noble birth. Not in all the history of the Friars Preacher is there any instance of a lay brother having been placed in such a position.(2)
In the sketch referred to we have already traced the little band of four -- Herman, Hyacinth, Ceslas, and Henry of Moravia -- to Friesach, Carinthia. Here, at the request of the Most Rev. Eberhard von Truchsen, archbishop of Salzburg, they started a convent, which was the corner-stone of the Province of Austria. Clergy and laity embraced the new Order in numbers. Within the brief space of some six months a large community had gathered under the standard of the holy man from Caleruega. Three of the original band now continued their way northward. Herman was left in charge at Friesach. Thus he became the first prior of the first convent in Austria-in a sense the founder of the province.(3)
Albeit the writers give us very few details of Herman's life, and practically no dates in its various periods, they are one in praising his virtue and ability, the latter of which some think infused. In his sketch of Saint Hyacinth, Father Touron has told us that the Polish authors laud his oratory in unstinted terms. Others do the same. Father Berthier says he was one of the greatest preachers of his time. His sermons, which we are told were delivered with equal eloquence in several languages, produced immeasurable good.(4)
It is thought that our Friar Preacher was quite young when he entered the Order. Among his most striking devotions was meditation on the sufferings of our Lord and the life of the Blessed Virgin. He never tired of this practice. More than one beautiful story is told of how he gave himself up to it with his whole heart and soul. No doubt he drew from it the inspiration for many of his most telling and effective discourses. It made him a seer and feeler of the things he spoke; and no orator is so pungent, forceful, or eloquent as when he preaches under such an impulse. He obtained frequent and great favors through his prayer to the Mother of God. There are those who make him the earliest of the German mystics of the Order, whose lives have played a conspicuous part in its history in that country. Possibly it is because of him that the religious name of Herman has ever been a favorite among his German-speaking confrères.
Although he is called Herman the Teuton, he was probably what we would today denominate an Austrian. Possibly this had its part in his appointment as prior at Friesach. In that case, he was likely the first native of the country to become a Friar Preacher. How long he presided over the community at Friesach we do not know. The authors tell us that he preached in many places, founded a number of convents, and became their prior. Everywhere he showed the same spirit of zeal, charity, and practice of virtue. He was universally considered a very holy priest. Not a few writers give him the title of blessed.
So toiled on our early disciple, in honor and with success, until the end. Before the close of his life, he seems to have returned to Poland that he might labor in the country of his friends, Hyacinth and Ceslas. Bzowski, Marchese, and Pio assure us that he died at the convent of Oppeln, not far from Breslau, the present Prussian Silesia, where he had evidently toiled for some years. The year 1245 is given by practically all as that of his death; and Marchese says that an old martyrology places it on the seventeenth day of April.
During life Father Herman spent much time on his knees before the crucifix in prayer and in meditation on the passion of our Lord. In honor of the five wounds he often repeated the words: "We adore Thee, O Christ, for through the holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world" (Adoramus te, Christe, quia per sanctan crucem redemisti mundum). At the time of his death, although it was broad daylight, a large, radiant cross of gold was seen to appear above the church of the convent at Oppeln. The fathers took the extraordinary manifestation as a pledge that he died in the odor of sanctity. His memory is still treasured in Germany, Austria, and Poland.
1. ALBERTI, fol. 175; BERTHIER, J. J., O. P., Le Couvent de Sainte Sabine, pp. 168-170; BZOVIUS, XIII, col. 270, 543-544; CASTILLO, pp. 104, 148, 240; FLAVIGNY, Corntesse de, op. cit., passim; MALVENDA, pp. 218 ff, 678-679; MAMACHI, 579, 581, 584; MARCHESE, II, 239 ff; PIO, col. 45.
2. ALBERTI, fol. 175; MAMACHI, p. 581; BZOVIUS (Bzowski), XIII, col. 270.
3. See sketch of Saint Hyacinth.
4. BERTHIER, as in note 1, p. 169.