HENRY OF MORAVIA
If one may judge of the place of his birth, as indicated by the second part of his name, this early Friar Preacher was a Czecho-Slovak, although he is sometimes called a Teuton. A few authors have overlooked him. However, it is certain that he was in the retinue of Bishop Ivo Odrowaz, when that virtuous prelate went to Rome, and that he was there brought into the Order by Saint Dominic at the same time, and in the same way, as Hyacinth, Ceslas, and Herman, of whom we have written. He was one of "the noble four." Father Touron speaks of him in his outlines of the lives of Saint Hyacinth and Blessed Ceslas; but, as in the case of "Herman the Teuton," he gives no sketch of him. Still our Moravian deserves a place in these pages for the same reason as Herman.(1)
Bzovius and others say that Henry was a man of wealth as well as of noble origin. Mamachi very reasonably alleges his connection with Bishop Odrowaz's suite as a proof of his standing, virtue, and education. He is thought to have been rather young at the time. While we have no positive proof to that effect, he was probably in the early years of his priesthood. Circumstances, at least, indicate that he had been ordained.
For the sake of brevity, and in order to avoid useless repetition, the reader is referred to the sketch of Saint Hyacinth for the story of the Moravian's vocation and first days in the Order. He took part in the f oundation of the convent at Friesach, Carinthia. From there, according to Touron and others, he accompanied Hyacinth and Ceslas to Cracow. When he had aided the two Christ-like brothers in firmly planting his religious institute in the ancient Polish capital, he accompanied the younger (Ceslas) on the same mission to Prague, the capital city of Bohemia. But all this has been told in the outlines of the lives of Hyacinth and Ceslas.(2) That Henry did his full duty in the various spiritual enterprises described there we may take for granted; for he was a faithful, zealous subject. In those days there seem to have been few who failed to do their utmost.
From this time on, owing to the lack of records, it is impossible to follow the holy man's course with any degree of certainty. Indeed, it is not known how long he remained at Prague and in Bohemia. Yet the little we are told shows that be was a true ambassador of Christ, filled with a thirst for the good of religion and the salvation of souls, no less than a personage favored by God and pleasing to all with whom he came in contact. From this we may conclude, as some writers state, that our Moravian Friar Preacher journeyed frequently and extensively on preaching tours, and that his missionary efforts never failed to accomplish great good.
Furthermore, it is said that Henry established a number of houses of his order. Two of them are mentioned by name -- the one at Olmütz, the chief city of Moravia; the other in Vienna, afterwards the capital of the Austrian Empire. There are those, it is true, who assign the foundation of the convent at Olmütz to the time of Hyacinth's and Henry's journey to the north from Friesach; yet, if Touron's opinion is true, it belongs to a later date. The Duchy of Styria, in southern Austria, also appears to have been traversed by our tireless Friar Preacher.(3) In this case, there can be but little doubt that the historic convent of Graz either arose under his influence, or owed not a little to the impulse of his zeal. In his edition of de Frachet's Lives of the Brethren (Vitae Fratrum, page 268), Reichert informs us that the Moravian was provincial of the Province of Poland about 1245. It is unfortunate that we are not given the time of his election, or told how long he held the office; for this information might throw more light on the course of his life. Most likely he had returned to Poland, and was laboring there when chosen for the position.
The date of Henry's death is uncertain. Father Bzowski (or Bzovius) says that he died about the same time as Herman, which was in 1245. Father Dominic Frydrychowicz, another Polish Dominican, places it in 1255. The Italian Father Pio (perhaps by a typographical error) makes it as late as 1263.(4) All agree that he surrendered his pure soul to God in Saint Adalbert's Priory, Breslau. Possibly he was buried at the side of his friend, Blessed Ceslas.
As is the case with many of those whom Saint Dominic received into his Order, an account of singular beauty is told of Henry's last moments. Feeling that his end was near, he received the sacraments with every manifestation of deep piety. Then he tenderly fixed his eyes on the crucifix before him, and in a weak voice sang: "I come safe and joyful to thee, that thou mayest with exultation receive the disciple of Him who died upon thee" (Securus et gaudens venio ad te, ita ut et tu exultans suscipias discipulum ejus qui pependit in te). Asked (because of his evident happiness) by one of the fathers what he saw, he replied: "I see our Lord and His apostles." Then, questioned as to whether be felt that he was worthy of a place among such society, the holy man answered: "Yes, for that is true of all the brethren who keep their rule faithfully." With a smile on his lips and a radiant countenance, he died saying the words: "I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, the one true God."(5)
Henry of Moravia left a memory "blessed by heaven and venerated on earth." It is still treasured throughout his Order.
1. BERTHIER, J. J., O. P., Le Convent de Sainte Sabine, pp. 167-168; BZOVIUS, XIII, col. 270, 544; DRANE, Augusta Theodosia, O. S. D., History of Saint Dominic, p. 229; FLAVIGNY, Comtesse de, op. cit., passim; MALVENDA, pp. 218 ff; MAMACHI, pp. 579, 581; PIO, col. 44-45.
2. Some of the writers do not agree with Touron as regards Cracow and Prague.
3. FLAVIGNY, op. cit., p. 40; DRANE, as in note 1.
4. BZOVIUS, XIII, col. 544; FLAVIGNY, p. 136; PIO, col. 45.
5. DE FRACHET (Reichert ed.), pp. 268-269.