THOMAS OF TOULOUSE
Meager as is our knowledge of Natalis of Prouille, no greater is that which we have of another of the original Friars Preacher who appeals to the writer with special force -- Thomas of Toulouse. Blessed Jordan, an undeniable authority, places him among the first disciples of the founder of the Order, and says that he was "a most amiable man, and an eloquent preacher." There appears to be no doubt that he was a native of Toulouse.(1)
All the authors, of course, accept the authoritative statement of Jordan. Some say that Thomas belonged to a noble family, represent him as a well-to-do gentleman, give him the surname of Seila, and call him a brother of the Peter Seila who forms the subject of a previous sketch. Yet we find no authority for the last two statements in Jordan's brief story of the beginnings of the Order, in any of the earliest writers, or in the document of the transfer of the Seila property to Dominic and his companions. Indeed, this legal instrument, in the mind of the writer, implies a negation of so close a relationship between Peter Seila and the subject of this paper. It shows that the property, evidently inherited from their parents, was conjointly owned by Peter Seila and his brother Bernard. There is no mention of a Thomas. Doubtless those who claim that the two early Friars Preacher were brothers never saw this document, and depend on an erroneous tradition.(2)
When the little company of missionaries was dispersed for their various fields of labor, in August, 1217, Father Thomas was sent back to his native Toulouse. There he had Peter Seila for his prior.(3) Their birth gave them the right of citizenship. Possibly such a claim had its part in the assignment of both of them; for trouble from the Albigenses might be expected in that city at any time, and in that case their civil status should stand them in good stead. Deeply spiritual though he was, and ever absorbed in the things of heaven, Dominic never failed to manifest a thorough familiarity with the ways of the world.
Alberti (folio 179) says: "Thomas, a companion from Toulouse, and a man possessed of great eloquence, as well as adorned with many virtues, died a pious death at Toulouse." Mamachi (page 373) places his death in the same city. Neither of them gives its date, from which we conclude that they could not discover it. Mamachi adds: "This man [Thomas of Toulouse] was endowed with a rare gift of oratory. With a consummate elegance of language and a most dignified style he combined an extraordinarily attractive and pleasant delivery." The few words quoted from these two authors speak a volume. We doubt not that the early disciple's delightful eloquence was an outward expression of his inner soul. Blessed Jordan refers to his unusual amiability.(4)
Whether the missionary life of Thomas of Toulouse was long or short we have no means of knowing, though there is a tradition that he died young.(5) The statements of Alberti and Mamachi lead one to believe that it was spent in southern France -- most likely in and around the city in which he died. There is no record of his having exercised any authority. We are inclined to think that he was one of those calm, wise men who seek their glory and their reward only in what they can do for God and religion. In this way, his career was almost lost sight of in the strenuous times which then prevailed in his native land. However, his memory was evidently long kept alive in his Order. To this happy circumstance, combined with an occasional brief mention of him in the early authors, is due the little knowledge we have of a man who seems to have been one of the most charming characters among Dominic's original disciples.
1. ALBERTI, fol. 179; Année Dominicaine, I (January), 46; BALME-LELAIDIER, I, 498 ff; CASTILLO, p. 56; JORDAN of Saxony (Berthier ed.), p. 14; MALVENDA, p. 180; MAMACHI, pp. 352, 372-373, 386, 406, 411, and col. 364; MORTIER, I, 21, 27, 28, 90; PIO, col. 10; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 16.
2. BALME-LELAIDIER, I, 498 ff. Possibly Peter Seila and Thomas of Toulouse were cousins, and the tradition of this gradually tightened into brotherhood. Such instances of contorted tradition are not infrequent.
3. See note 1, and sketch of Peter Seila.
4. ALBERTI, fol. 179; MAMACHI, p. 373.
5. Année Dominicaine, as in note 1.