ODERIC OF NORMANDY
Brother Oderic of Normandy completes what may be called the canonized list of original disciples of Saint Dominic. Albeit we place him last in the catalogue, he was perhaps not the least in God's love and heavenly merit. He represents a simple yet noble ideal which has brought happiness to many, who, for various reasons, could not have otherwise aspired to membership in the Order.(1)
As the last, part of his name indicates, he was born in Normandy, an old province of France which was long under English domination. A staunch race were the Normans, and this seems to have been the character of Oderic. The date of his birth is unknown. When a young man, we are told, he joined the crusaders against the Albigenses. In this way, he came in contact with Saint Dominic, was enamored of his zeal, sanctity, and personality, and placed himself under his spiritual standard. While we can not say precisely at what time this happened, it is certain that Brother Oderic of Normandy was among the original disciples at Prouille and Toulouse.(2)
Orderic belonged to the branch of brethren who are known in the Order as lay brothers. They neither study for nor are advanced to the priesthood. One of their ,duties is to perform the manual labor necessary for the maintenance of the conventual household. Through such work, no less than by their prayers, they are to sanctify their souls. As a rule, they are persons of little or no education. Good-will, industry, and a religious temperament are their chief asset. Their habit differs from that of the fathers only in the black scapular and capouch which they wear over the white tunic. They as truly belong to the First Order of Friars Preacher as the fathers; yet they are never promoted to any superiorship, or admitted to the conventual council. Thus Brother Oderic, although he was one of the little band at Prouille and Toulouse, could hardly have taken a part in its deliberations.
Oderic of Normandy was the first lay brother of the Order. For this reason, he stands at the head of the long line of holy Dominicans who have sanctified themselves in this more humble vocation. Many eminent men have embraced it by preference, and found great happiness in it. Some of the Friar-Preacher lay brothers have been accorded the honors of the altar. Not a few are considered "venerables." Brother Oderic, we know, was sent to Paris at the time of the Prouille dispersion-the summer of 1217.(3) Unfortunately, from this date, we have no documentary records of him.
However, tradition, which is repeated in several works, tells us that our humble Norman Friar Preacher was most faithful to his duties, lived an exemplary life, and died a holy death. He seems to have labored at Saint James', Paris, until the end; but we do not know when that came. It speaks well for his religious character that, through all the intervening centuries since, he has been held up as a model for those who serve God in the same station. Somehow one feels that his crown of glory is not the least bright even among those first jewels of Saint Dominic.
1. ALBERTI, fol. 261; Année Dominicaine, II (February), 152; BALME-LELAIDIER, II, 135; CASTILLO, pp. 51, 56; JORDAN of Saxony (Berthier ed.), p. 17; MALVENDA, p. 178; MAMACHI, pp. 373, 411, and col. 368; MORTIER, I, 27, 28, 90; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 16.
2. Année Dominicaine, as in note 1. All the authors place Brother Oderic among the first sixteen disciples. Some writers say that he was born in Aquitaine; but Blessed Jordan's authority should settle the point.
3. All the writers agree on this.