Memorial day: February 15th
Men prayed for strength to resist Jordan's burning eloquence, and mothers hid their sons when Master Jordan came to town. Students and masters warned each other of the fatal magnetism of his sermons. The sweetness of his character and the holiness of his life shone through his most casual words in a flame that drew youth irresistibly to the ideal to which he had dedicated his own life. In his 16 years of preaching, Jordan is said to have drawn more than a thousand novices to the Dominican Order, among whom were two future popes, two canonized saints (e.g., Albert the Great), numerous beati, and countless intellectual lights of his dazzling century.
Of Jordan's childhood, nothing is known, except that he was born of a noble family. He was drawn to the order in 1220 by the preaching of Blessed Reginald, the beloved son of Dominic, brought back from death by Dominic's and Our Lady's prayers. Jordan was at that time about 30, a student at the University of Paris, and his reputation for sanctity had preceded him into the order.
He had worn the habit for only two months when he was sent to Bologna as a delegate to the first general chapter of the order. The following year he was elected provincial of Lombardy, Italy, and on the death of Saint Dominic, succeeded him as master general.
The Order of Preachers was only six years old when Jordan became master general. He carried out the yet untried plans of Dominic, who had hurried off to heaven when many of his dreams were just beginning to open out into realization, and still more vistas beckoned beyond. Under him the new order advanced apace, spreading throughout Germany and into Denmark. Jordan will always be remembered for his work in increasing the manpower of the order, but his contribution to its quality should never be forgotten.
He added four new provinces to the eight already in existence; he twice obtained for the order a chair at the University of Paris and helped found the University of Toulouse; and he established the first general house of studies of the order. He was a spiritual guide to many, including Blessed Diana d'Andalo; and somewhere in his busy lifetime he found time to write a number of books, including a life of Saint Dominic.
Jordan was regarded as a menace by the professors of universities where he recruited novices. He emptied classrooms of their most talented students, stole their most noted professors. Young men by the hundreds besieged the order for admittance. Some were mere children, some famous lawyers and teachers, and some were the wealthy young bearers of the most famous names in Christendom. One and all, they were drawn to a life of perfection by this man who preached so well, and who practiced what he preached with such evident relish.
All the old writers speak of the kindness and personal charm of Jordan. He had the ability to console the troubled and to inspire the despondent with new hope. At one time, a discouraged student was busily saying the Office of the Dead when Master Jordan sat down beside him and began alternating verses with him. When he came to the end of Psalm 26, Jordan said the verse with emphasis: "Oh, wait for the Lord!" Wherewith the sorrows of the young man departed. Another student was rid of troubled thoughts by the mere imposition of Jordan's hands. To bring peace to the brothers who were being annoyed by the devil, Jordan established the beautiful custom of singing the Salve Regina after Compline each night.
Jordan was shipwrecked and drowned when returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Benedictines, Dorcy).
THE LEGEND OF BLESSED JORDAN OF SAXONY SECOND MASTER GENERAL OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
For the reader's profit and God's glory I will now proceed to set down in writing all that I have seen or learnt by diligent quest touching our holy and ever memorable father, Brother Jordan, the second Master General of the Order of Preachers, and most worthy successor of St Dominic.
HIS COMPASSION FOR THE POOR
HE was a mirror of all pious observances and a pattern of every virtue, keeping unsullied purity of mind and body to his dying day, besides being a man of heroic sanctity, which, according to the apostle, is all availing both in the cloister and in the world. His tender pity was always awakened at the sight of misery and distress, so that seldom or never did he let a poor man go by without bestowing an alms, even though thereby he ran short himself. It was his daily custom to relieve the first poor person he met each morning, without even waiting to be asked.
HE BESTOWS HIS GIRDLE IN ALMS AND FINDS IT ON THE CRUCIFIX
DURING the time he was studying in Paris he used to rise every night for matins. Starting up hastily one night and throwing his cloak over his tunic, he hurried off to the church in the belief that the bells had chimed: but being accosted on the way by a poor man who piteously begged for an alms, as he had nothing else to spare at the moment he gave him his girdle. Coming to the church he found it locked, for it was not the hour he had supposed, so he had to wait outside until the sacristan came and opened the doors. No sooner had he entered than he went at once to kneel before the great crucifix, and, as he gazed upon it with loving tenderness, he distinctly observed the figure to be wearing the girdle which only a little while before he had bestowed on the beggar out of love for his crucified Lord.
HE ENTERS THE ORDER OF PREACHERS
AFTER graduating as bachelor in theology he was admitted into the Order in Paris by Brother Reginald of blessed memory, who had formerly been the Dean of St Aignan's at Orleans, at whose happy departure from this world this present vision was granted to a fervent brother. He beheld in sleep a limpid fountain gush forth in St James's cloister in which, after swelling into a great river, flowed through the city, and over the face of the whole country, refreshing, fertilising, and gladdening the people and the land, until finally it poured itself into the sea. This vision was very soon verified, for on Reginald's death this same great father Jordan rose in his stead.
He began his public career by expounding St Luke's gospel to the brethren in Paris, after which he travelled over the whole world and beyond the seas, preaching Jesus Christ by word and example, and he is reckoned to have drawn over a thousand subjects to the Order. Beloved of God and man, and devoted to the holy Roman Church, he called on priests and people alike to do penance and take hold of the kingdom of God. This glorious father ended his course, like St Clement, in the sea, and finding in its bosom his way to God, was without delay admitted into the divine presence.
HIS LOVE OF THE POOR AND OF HIS BRETHREN
DURING his life as a religious he was consumed with such burning transports of divine love that often as he walked along the roads he would strip himself of his tunic to clothe some shivering beggar, for which his brethren used often to chide him, and once proclaimed him in the General Chapter. So kind and gentle was he towards his own brethren, not merely by sympathizing with their every suffering, and seeing to all their wants as far as he could, but he even passed over their merely human feelings. He tried to correct faults more by winning gentleness and trusting his subjects than by harsh discipline, although he knew how to use this means as well, but always having regard to time, and place, and persons. He was love and mildness itself to the tempted and sick, often brightening them with his cheery presence, and always helping them by his prayers and advice. Whenever he came to a convent he would first of all get the blessing and salute his brethren, then he would go to the bedside of the sick and cheer them, after which, if there were novices in the house, he would gather them round him and talk familiarly with them, and if any were downcast or beset with temptations he would very soon gladden them.
HE DELIVERS THE TEMPTED BY HIS PRAYERS
ONCE he had scarcely arrived in Bologna before the brethren began to pitch a woeful tale about a novice who was very much distressed and wanted to leave the Order. 'The boy,' said they, 'has been delicately brought up in the world, even beyond his state of life as to his dress and bed, and, furniture, the table he kept, his amusements and the like, so that he does not know what trouble of mind or body means outside his studies; in this matter he had done so well that if he had only stayed a year longer in the world he might have taken his degree in law. He says he never was in low spirits or sick before, seldom got out of temper, and yet never dreamt of fasting or abstaining outside of Lent; he never could endure going to confession more than he was obliged to, and the only prayer he knew was the Our Father, which he had picked up from hearing it recited in the church. One day from sheer curiosity he went to see the friars, and on the spur of the moment took the habit, a step he has soon repented of from his heart, for everything he has to do and all he sees around him is as bad as a second death. He cannot get on with the food, he has fallen out with sleep. His feelings have come to such a pitch that one day he very nearly knocked the sub-prior down with a great choir book.' Thus matters stood when Master Jordan arrived, so he took him on one side, and gathering from him that he was called Theobald, began to explain the name to him and quite cheered him. After that he brought him to St Nicholas' altar, and telling him to say the Our Father on his knees, he laid his hands on the youth's head and began to beseech God to free him from his temptation. So long as he continued praying, and keeping his hands on the brother's head, the novice felt a soothing feeling steal over his mind and heart. When they were removed he declared he felt as if two hands which had been pressing his heart were withdrawn, leaving his soul in great peace and comfort, and many a time in after-life he repeated this account of himself. Thus by this holy father's merits and prayers were the clouds of temptation scattered from over this brother's soul: he plucked up courage, and, his fervor increasing, he toiled hard for many years after and did much good in the Order.
Another brother who was very much tried by temptation was quite put out at not being able to find Master Jordan, until after a long search he came across him in a quiet nook where he was busy saying the office of the dead. He joined in, and when it fell to him to say the versicle, 'I trust to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living,' the Master looked him straight in the face and gravely responded, ' Wait for the Lord, strive manfully, and your heart will be comforted.' The novice was quite consoled by these prophetic words, and when the office was over, said, 'Good Master, that was indeed a most happy answer you made,' and went his way in peace.
A devout brother of Faenza, near Bologna, in his great eagerness for contemplation, set about to discover what God is, and came at last to such a state of mind that he doubted of his very belief in the existence of God. On mentioning his state to the prior and brethren, they convinced him of this great truth by various kinds of arguments, and showed how he ought to believe: for all this he could not entirely rid his mind of the ever-recurring delusion that perhaps there was no God at all. The prior of the house happening to go to Bologna, where blessed Jordan was staying at the time, told him of this man's temptation and trouble of mind, upon which the Master replied: 'Go home, father prior, and tell him from me that he believes it as firmly as I do.' Returning home, the prior had scarcely given Master Jordan's message before the brother cried out, as if recovering from a trance or ecstasy: 'I do indeed believe most firmly in God's existence.' And so by the power of God's words the brother was delivered from that blasphemous temptation.
A novice of Frankfort,called Engelbert, whom Master Jordan had taken into the Order, was struck down with a deadly fever during his first year of noviceship. Observing his low state of body and mind, the Master said to him one day: 'My son, if you only had faith you would get over your fever at once.' On his professing a very lively faith, blessed Jordan touched him with his hand and said: 'Be thou healed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,' and the youth got up at once quite recovered.
HIS MANNER OF PRAYER AND MEDITATION
GOD was pleased to bestow on him a very special gift of prayer which neither his anxiety for his brethren's welfare, nor his long journeyings, nor any kind of occupation, could ever shorten. He generally knelt with his body upright, and his hands clasped devoutly, and he did this without ever bending forward, or sitting down, or leaning to either side, during such time as one could have easily walked about eight miles. This was specially his custom after Compline, and again after Matins, and that, too, no matter whether he were staying at home or had just returned from a wearisome journey. Meanwhile he wept very bitterly, so that he could easily have taken to himself that saying of the prophet, ' Tears were my food by day and night,' and to this is commonly attributed his short-sightedness. Those who watched him at such times often heard him crying in a loud tone, and he would let the great tears course down his checks while offering up the holy mysteries, nay, sometimes his sermons and instructions were choked with sobbing. Whether in the convent or outside he devoted himself entirely to contemplation, from which he derived great peace of soul. As he plodded his weary way along the roads it was his unvarying custom to busy himself with prayer and contemplation, unless he were saying the breviary with a companion, or conversing on some profitable topic. He enjoined this practice on all his subjects, bidding them select some sacred mystery and afterwards say what noteworthy thoughts had occurred to each. He frequently walked along about a stone's throw ahead singing some favourite melody, such as the Salve Regina or the hymn, Jesu nostra redemptio. These spiritual raptures were often the cause of his straying from others, who used to have to go in search of him. Nobody ever heard a grumble from his lips or saw him put out if they lost their way, and he never tried to put the blame on others, but if any were downcast he would gaily remark: 'Never mind, brothers, it is all part of the way to heaven.'
HE MULTIPLIES BREAD FOR THE POOR
WHILE travelling from Lombardy to Germany with two companions and a cleric named Hermann de Paridilburne, who joined the Order later, they arrived hungry and weary at the Alpine village of Ursern. Stepping aside they made for the only inn in the place, and begged the host to get them some supper. But the innkeeper cried: 'Of a truth I have no bread in the house, for only an hour ago a batch of pilgrims stopped here and ate up all that was to be had in the village, with the exception of two very small loaves I had put by; besides, what good would two such loaves do among so many of you?' 'In God's name bring us what you have got,' cried they; so the two small loaves were brought in. But after blessing the table Master Jordan began to give them away in big pieces at the door to the poor, who came thronging at the news, so that the innkeeper and brethren began to find fault with him -- 'Good Master, what are you about? Don't you know that we are already short of bread?' And so saying they shut the door to prevent the people from thronging in. But the blessed Master made them open it again, and began to dole out the bread afresh, so that out of those two small loaves he gave away thirty large pieces, each enough for a meal of itself, as the quantity was afterwards computed. After this was done the four brethren, their host, and all his household ate as much as they wanted, yet could not finish what was left. At the sight of such a miracle the worthy innkeeper exclaimed: 'Lo, here is a saint indeed!' nor would he take any money in return from the cleric -- 'By no means,' said he, ' and what is more, I shall for the future freely provide for this good father and all his brethren out of the substance God has given me, for they are all alike his servants.' Even this could not satisfy him, for he filled the cleric's flask with wine and told him to keep it for the brethren's use on the journey.
BLEEDING STOPPED BY HIS PRAYER
SOME time after this, when on his way to Zürich, he met a smith in the hamlet of Zugir who had for many years been subject to a bleeding of the nose which weakened him considerably, nay, once in the space of a day and a night it came on no less than thirty times. Knowing the man's faith and piety, blessed Jordan laid his hand upon him, praying meantime, and at once healed him. The man regained his former strength and became a warm friend and benefactor to our brethren, nor did the bleeding ever occur again.
HE HEALS A PRIEST OF A FEVER
COMING then to Uri, which is situated in a valley, he found the priest of the place laid up with a fever, almost spent in strength and means; so heavy had been the cost of medicines that now he had hardly the bare necessaries of life. Touched at the sight and by his earnest appeals, the holy Master heard his confession, and after imposing a suitable penance obtained by prayer his complete recovery. This same priest, later on, joyfully lodged two of the brethren who were passing that way, Conrad of St Gallen and Henry of Mure, and washed their feet with grateful tears at the recollection of this rare favour, nor did he cease for a moment to extol the holiness and merits of blessed Jordan. When he was passing the Alps a smith who had lost the sight of an eye, from the excessive heat of his forge, straightway recovered it from the sign of the cross made over it by the Master's hand.
HIS GIFT OF HEAVENLY SPEECH
THE word of God fell from his mouth with such spirit and fervour that his equal could hardly be found, for it was clearly the result of a most rare grace. A remarkable ease showed itself in his sermons and familiar conversations, so that whatever and with whomsoever he found himself, whether in the company of religious, clerics, cardinals or prelates, nobles, soldiers, students, or persons of any condition whatever, his flow of language was the same with them all, and was enlivened with apt and happy examples, and it was on this account that all were eager to catch his every word as the word of God. Furthermore, it is an established fact and worthy of all belief that since the rise of the religious Orders no one ever drew so many men of letters and clerics of note to any Order as he did to the Order of Preachers. On this account the devil was highly enraged and often complained of him, and tried by every artifice to stop his preaching, or come to terms with him, as we shall see presently. From the death's day of Brother henry of Cologne (a religious of rare worth, the first prior of Cologne, and blessed Jordan's fast friend in the world and in the cloister), the holy Master declared that thenceforth he never again asked for the blessing before going up into the pulpit, because he invariably at that moment beheld dear Brother Henry in the company of angels come and stand by his side, who gave him the customary blessing instead. From this we can easily gather how great must have been the riches of glory and of grace in the giver and receiver.
THE VAST NUMBER OF STUDENTS HE DREW TO THE ORDER
HE used to frequent those towns which were the seats of learning and in which he knew students abounded, and hence he usually preached the Lent one year in Paris and the next in Bologna. During his stay the convent resembled a bee-hive from the numbers which swarmed in and poured out to join the different provinces of the Order. He would often have a number of habits made in advance, feeling sure that our Lord would not be long in sending him subjects to wear them, a result which came about directly he resumed his preaching: nay, it often happened that so many thronged in at one time that habits could not be provided as fast as they were required. On one memorable occasion tears were shed by every eye on his receiving twenty-one students at once in Paris; for on the one hand the brethren wept for joy, while on the other those present bewailed the loss of their friends. Many of these rose afterwards to be professors of theology in various places. Among them was a young German, whom on account of his youth the Master had repeatedly put off, but since he contrived this time to slip in with the other twenty it seemed hard to turn him away again, the more so as there were nearly a thousand students present, so in pleasant banter the Master whispered, with a beaming smile, 'So, so, one of you is stealing into the Order like a thief.' But as the vestiarian had only provided twenty habits, and could not leave the chapter-house because of the throng of students pressing round, the friars had to give up part of their habits, one his capuce, another his cloak, and another his scapular. This young man afterwards made such progress that he became a professor and preacher of note. The holy Master had even to part with his books sometimes to meet the debts of students entering the Order.
As he was admitting a young student one holiday, after addressing him as he stood in the middle of the chapterhouse, the master continued his remarks to the crowd of students standing by: 'If one of you had been invited to a great feast, and were going alone, do you suppose the rest would be so indifferent as not to wish to bear him company? That would be a wonder indeed.' These words produced such an impression that a young man standing by who had no previous intention of becoming a religious, who had never even given it a thought, threw himself on his knees before them all and cried out, 'Master, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I will bear him company at your bidding'; and so he was admitted with his friend.
HE OBTAINS THE VIRTUE OF CONTINENCY FOR A PENITENT
A CLERIC of the diocese of Rouen confessed to Master Jordan in Paris among his other frailties this one especially, that he felt he could no longer preserve chastity. Moved in his innermost heart at the sight of his tears, the blessed Master said with firm confidence in God, 'Take courage, and I promise you that you will never again be tempted by assaults of the flesh'; and in very deed this was the case, as the cleric afterwards avowed to many of his brethren.
HOW A WILD ANIMAL BECAME TAME AT HIS BIDDING
His words bore weight not only with men, but even with the animals, as this story shows. Quitting the town of Lausanne one day in company with some of his brethren and the under-sacristan of the cathedral, he went to pay a visit to the bishop, whose name was Boniface, a very old friend of his. As they were mounting an ascent, the brethren in front and Master Jordan following some way behind con versing with the sacristan, a weasel ran across their path, which, at the shouts of the friars, betook itself with all speed to its lair. When the Master came up he found them waiting before a cavern, so he asked the reason-'What are you stopping here for?' 'O Master,' they replied, 'a beautiful snow-white animal has run in here; we wish you could have but seen it.' At this he walked up to the mouth of the cave and called out, 'Come forth, good animal, in God's name, that I may admire you.' Out trotted the weasel at once, and standing quietly in front of the cave looked up into his face. Then putting one hand under its front paws, he fondly stroked its head and back with the other, the weasel standing quiet all the time. After caressing it for a good while he dismissed it with his blessing 'Go back now to your lair, and blessed be he who made you.' The animal then darted into the cave, and all who stood by were taken aback. The report of this wonder was kept alive for many years among the brethren, and the under-sacristan, who was present at the time, told it to Brother Achilles, the prior of Basle: and I, Brother Lambert, heard it from the lips of Peter, the Seneschal of Lausanne, who was also of the company.
THE CONVERSION OF A NOBLEMAN WHO SOUGHT TO KILL HIM
WHEN the Master was in Padua, then a great resort for scholars, he took into the Order a young German nobleman of handsome presence and polished manners. His master and fellow students, like so many limbs of Satan, had done their best to prevent him from taking the step; failing in this they shut him up in the same room with an abandoned woman, hoping by destroying his innocence to divert him from his purpose. But the youth being courageous and determined withal, overcame the assault, took the habit, and later on won over his master to follow his example. Now his father, having only this one son as the heir to his estates, was exceeding wrath on hearing of the step he had taken, and set out for Lombardy with a posse of retainers, intending either to bring his son home with him or to slay Master Jordan. While in this desperate mood he chanced one day to meet the Master on the road, and with threatening looks and angry voice burst forth:'Where is this Master Jordan' all the while not knowing it was he. Mindful of Christ's example who, when the Jews sought to kill him, said, 'I am he!' the servant of God replied, 'I am Master Jordan.' Strange to tell, even as the Jews on hearing the words of Jesus fell back, so did this nobleman fall down before him. Conscious at heart of the power of this servant of God from his mere speech, he leaped from his horse, and throwing himself humbly at his feet, confessed with tears the evil designs he had harboured against him, adding: 'Now I am at ease over my son's loss, and I have no further wish to draw him back into the world again. And besides this I promise to go at once beyond the seas and take the cross with all this retinue, which at the devil's bidding I brought here to do this wicked deed.' After taking leave of his son he crossed the seas with a hundred horsemen. From this we can gather how powerful his words were, not merely in preaching, but in his whole conversation.
HOW HE COMFORTED THE SORROWING
As he surpassed all men in his zeal for the spread of the Order, so he took the greatest pains to keep all who once became his subjects. This was another of his special graces, that he never from his own fault or from any want of fatherly care lost a single novice, so that he might have honestly applied that saying of the Scriptures to himself: 'Father, of those whom thou hast given me I have not lost one.' It came about that Brother Henry of Germany was sorely tempted to leave the Order in his noviciate days in Paris, whereupon this good father lavished every attention upon him in hopes of rescuing his soul from so terrible a trial. At last, after repeated exhortations, as the novice still stood to his resolve and asked for his secular clothes, the Master promised to give his consent on the following day, which was the feast of Pentecost, on which the General Chapter was to be held. The mass and procession over, he had the novice brought into the chapter-house before the assembled fathers, and after again gently cautioning him, begged of him to pause before quitting, at the devil's prompting, so great and holy a brotherhood, since no other had during its brief career given such manifest tokens of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, like unto the apostles of old. But as the brother's heart was not yet touched he sent him to the vestiarian to get his secular dress, then putting his whole trust in God, he turned to the capitular fathers and said: 'Let us kneel down and implore God's mercy by reciting the Veni Creator.' Strange to say, the hymn was not ended before the brother returned to the chapter-house, threw himself on his knees before them all, and with bitter tears asked pardon, begging that he might be permitted to remain, and vowing fidelity for the time to come. He went on very faithfully, and in the end became a skilled teacher and able preacher, a result to be ascribed entirely to the merits and loving care of dear Master Jordan.
HIS HUMILITY AND PATIENCE
So humble-minded was he that he learnt wisely to despise all the world's esteem and the honour men paid him. The whole city of Bologna once went out to meet him on hearing of his coming; but he humbly turned aside, and hurrying through the by-streets and deserted lanes, came quietly to the Friars Preachers' convent, edifying many by his conduct.
There was a possessed brother in that convent who, after eluding those whose place it was to watch over him, came upon Master Jordan in the cloister, and with clenched fist dealt him a violent blow on the cheek. Upon this the holy father, in the spirit of meekness and lowliness, at once presented the other cheek, and not receiving a repetition of the blow, bowed his head and moved on.
His rare patience shone forth more especially on the occasion of the General Chapter, for when, as is the custom of the Order, he was proclaimed before the diffinitors for some of his doings and sayings, and he had full grace to excuse himself, he very meekly said: 'Ought a thief to be believed when he seeks to exculpate himself ?' At which saying all were deeply edified, for it sprang from his genuine humility.
HE LOSES AN EYE
HAVING lost the sight of one of his eyes in consequence of a very severe sickness, he called the brethren round him in the chapter and addressed these words to them: 'Give thanks to God, my sons, for I have now got quit of one of my enemies; but at the same time beseech the divine pity that if it so please the Lord, and it be for my own good, he may preserve my remaining eye for his honor and the good of the Order.'
HIS SPIRIT OF RETIREMENT
WHO can properly describe the way in which he withdrew himself from all external pursuits, retiring so deeply within himself that he paid little or no heed to what was going on around him!
A noble lady who was deeply attached to him and to the Order asked him for his girdle one day, merely out of devotion, and obtained it, but before returning home gave him another in its stead. Some considerable time after this as he was resting in a meadow with some of his brethren, for he was now advancing in years, one of them spied a silver mounted buckle peeping out from beneath his habit, and drew his attention to it. He looked at it intently for a moment, then sighed: 'Where can this have come from, for I am positive I never saw it till this moment?' What an insight this gives us into the deep recollection of a soul always intent upon higher things, since from his concentration of spirit he was hardly conscious of what was under his very eyes.
HIS DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
HE entertained feelings of the tenderest devotion for the blessed Virgin, the Queen of Heaven, whom he loved especially, and to whom he was always giving thanks, for he knew full well from sure tokens how solicitous she was at all times for the spread and welfare of the Order, whose head and guide he himself was.
A German novice of high birth, but of remarkable piety and simplicity, to whom the Master was warmly attached and was bringing up carefully in the ways of devotion, stayed behind one night to observe him as he stood in prayer before the altar of the blessed Virgin. As he listened he heard him begin the Lauds of her office by saying the following greeting very fervently: 'Take, O most sweet virgin Mary, this word which was sent thee by the Lord through the angel's ministry'; then he said the Hail Mary, and this was his usual way of saying Lauds at all times. At this point, however, a loud yawn betrayed the novice's presence, whereupon Master Jordan turning round said, 'Come, who are you?' 'I am Brother Berthold, your son,' said the youth, for such was his pet name. 'Then get to bed, child!' 'Nay, nay,' pleaded the novice, 'I had rather stay by you and learn that prayer you said just now.' On this the holy father began to explain his manner of prayer, more especially the prayer to our Lady, and the devotion of the five psalms, each of which began with a letter of her name. He made him say first the hymn Ave Maris Stella, then the canticle Magnificat, which begins with M, the first letter of the word Maria: in the next place for the letter A he was to say the Ad Dominum cum tribularer clamavi: for the third, which is R, the Retribue servo tuo: the fourth, I, was to be the In convertendo: and, lastly, for the fifth letter, A, the Ad te levavi oculos. Instead of the usual Gloria Patri at the end of each psalm, he made him say the Hail Mary. 'And now, child,' said he in conclusion, 'I am going to tell you a story, so that you may learn how profitable a thing it is to praise her and how much we are bound to do so.'
APPEARANCES OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN
'A BROTHER was praying very devoutly to the blessed Virgin as he stood one night at his bedside in the dormitory, when, chancing to look up, he beheld a most beautiful and queenly dame, accompanied by a troop of maidens, one of whom carried a vessel of holy water, passing through the dormitory, and sprinkling the brethren, their cells, and even their beds. But there was one whose cell she did not sprinkle with the rest. Then he who saw this sight ran forward, and throwing himself humbly at her feet, besought her, saying: "Dear Lady, I pray thee for dear Jesus' sake to tell me thy name." Then she replied: "I am Mary, the virgin Mother of Jesus, and I am come once more to visit my brethren. I bear a very special love for this Order, and what pleases me most is that you begin all your undertakings, all that you say or do during the day, by asking my help and blessing, and you likewise end them to my praise. In return for this I have asked and obtained of my Son that none of you shall pass so much as one day in mortal sin without either repenting of it, or being found out, or cast out of the Order, that he may not defile my own Order." Then the brother rejoined: "Tell me, then, Lady, why didst thou not likewise sprinkle that brother's cell?" "Because," she replied, "he did not deserve it, but do you bid him hold himself ready in future," and with these words she disappeared.'
Here ends the Master's story, but the man to whom she thus appeared was none other than Master Jordan himself, as he afterwards humbly owned to the brethren.
On the night of our Lord's Circumcision, while the Master, according to the usage of the Order, was reading the ninth lesson of the matins in choir, one of the brethren present fell into a light sleep, but still could hear him reading. Then he seemed to see a very beautiful lady, having a crown on her head and clad in a rich mantle, standing behind the reader at the lectern, and gazing fixedly upon him as he read. The lesson ended, the Master turned towards her, and she, taking the book from his hands, walked majestically before him as he came down the choirs, which were thronged with attendants ; the one who seemed to be their chief, and carried a staff, was somewhat bald, and this one led the way before her, as she ushered Master Jordan to his stall again. The brother who saw the vision was firmly convinced that the lady was none other than the blessed Virgin, and that he who led the way was either St Paul, or St Dominic, who towards the end of his days became slightly bald. Some time after this, the brother questioned Master Jordan as to whether he had experienced any particular sweetness while reading that lesson, telling him of his dream at the same time: whereat the Master smiled benignly, but would reveal nothing.
Brother James of Beneventum, a man of high standing in the Order, a learned doctor and gifted preacher, tells us that he heard the following story narrated by the prior in chapter in Paris, as an incentive to devotion to the blessed Virgin. It ran thus: 'When all were assembled for matins on the night of our Lady's purification, and Master Jordan was occupying the prior's stall, directly the four cantors intoned the invitatory Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus, the Mother of God bearing her divine Son in her arms was seen to walk up to the altar, over which there appeared a throne set, and seating herself upon it began to regard the brethren most benignly, as they stood facing the altar as the rubrics prescribe. After this, as they bowed at the Gloria Patri, which concludes the invitatory, raising her Son's right hand she made him bless the whole choir, and then vanished. None save Master Jordan was favoured with this vision, and one may well conceive how deeply consoled he must have felt at the sight. He often told this incident to the brethren, as a caution against lukewarmness, yet always humbly suppressed his own name.'
ENVY AND ASSAULTS OF THE DEVIL
THE devil tried to cheat him once under the garb of sanctity, for when he was in Paris the foul fiend came to the convent and asked to be shown into the presence of the Master General. His next request on gaining admittance was that those present should withdraw, as he had something for his private ear alone. This being granted, he began to address him after this fashion: 'Master, you are the chosen head of this Order, which is so pleasing to God, and naturally all men's eyes are on you. Now if any sign of falling off, be it great or small, be observed in you, from the frailty of human nature which unfortunately is so prone to fall away, you will be severely punished by our Lord for giving public scandal in departing from the rule and being the cause of dissensions. You are infirm, it is true, yet not so infirm as not to be able to do without a bed, and to abstain altogether from eating flesh meat: besides, if you refuse these same dispensations tomorrow or the next day to another who may be more or less invalided than yourself, murmurs and rash judgements will be the consequence. I advise you then that as heretofore you have shown yourself a model of piety and an example of perfect observance, so for the future you will strive to continue doing the same.' After thus craftily hiding his real motives by these and other like speeches, this arch-deceiver withdrew, muttering to himself like a monk saying the psalter or the canonical hours. Believing him in all simplicity, the servant of Christ refrained for several days from using any dispensations, but soon from want of these very helps his sickness so increased and he became so weak that he was brought to the verge of the grave. Then our Lord made know to him that it was the devil who had cajoled him under the garb of a monk, from envious spleen of his holy life and the success which attended his preaching.
As he was passing through Besançon, before our brethren had a convent there, he chanced to fall seriously ill. While prostrate from fever and suffering from a burning thirst, as is common in fever cases, suddenly there stood before him a youth in the guise of an attendant, bearing in one hand a flagon of wine, and a goblet in the other, and thus greeted him : 'See here, Master, I have brought you some excellent wine to drink; taste it, for it can do you no harm.' Fearing lest it might be only an artifice of the devil, as was indeed the case, Master Jordan commended himself to God, and then making over the youth the sign of the cross, cried out: 'Avaunt, Satan, with all your lies and deceits,' whereat the figure vanished.
Nor can we here pass over in silence the reverence borne him by the bishop and canons of Besançon on account of the many tokens of holiness they observed in him. Out of love for this blessed Master and his Order they, with much entreaty, begged and obtained the foundation of one of our convents in their midst, where to this day they are held in special veneration.
As he lay under the same fever and almost at the point of death, when at his request the canons brought him the Body of our Lord, he at once sprang up from his bed, and throwing himself upon the ground knelt to receive the holy Viaticum, and with such outbursts of devotion that all present were moved to admiration of his exceeding holiness and merits. We have gleaned these facts from Stephen of Besançon, of whom mention has been made before, who furthermore declares that the blessed Master more than once foretold sundry future events to his wife.
A possessed friar at Bologna became so frantic that no cords or bands could hold him, and in his frenzy he would at times strike our brethren. Now Master Jordan happening to enter on one such occasion, the maniac as he lay bound hand and foot, yelled at him: 'Ho there, you blind dotard, if I could only get you within my clutches I would tear you piece-meal!' The Master fearlessly bade them set him free, and then said to him: 'Now that you are at liberty, come and do your worst'; but the demoniac could not stir from the spot. Again he screamed out: 'Oh, if I could only get your nose once between my teeth, I would gladly snap it off at a bite'; then the other bending down put his nose in front of the man's mouth, yet, though actually touching it, he was powerless to harm it.
Another possessed friar cried out in the midst of the assembled brethren: 'Pray, brothers, for that half-blind dotard who is at this moment preaching in Naples, for the devil rejoices much in consequence, since he is puffed up with vain-glory at being able to prophesy future events.' But soon after repenting him of what he had said, the man continued: 'Do not believe a word of what I have been saying, brethren, for it is all a lie.' The brothers, however, took note of the day and hour when this occurred, and afterwards found out that on that very day and hour Master Jordan had been actually preaching in Naples when the possessed man at Bologna had thus spoken. This same maniac used frequently to vex and abuse the brethren, but when Master Jordan came to visit the convent he rose to his feet and respectfully greeted him. After that he began with uncommon glibness of tongue to praise his extraordinary preaching and religious modesty, his piety and perfection in all the virtues, hoping to make him fall through pride. The servant of God, however, being fully aware of the evil one's craftiness, put him to shame by his deep humility.
At Bologna the tempter cast such sweet odours upon his person that he used to cover up his hands lest it should come to the knowledge of others, fearing to lose that holiness of which he was hardly conscious to himself. If he only took a chalice into his hands it gave forth so pleasant a smell that all were amazed. But the spirit of truth within him could not brook such lying deceits. One morning before saying mass, as he was reciting the psalm Judica Domine nocentes me, which is of the greatest efficacy in driving away illusions, he paused awhile at the verse, 'All my bones shall cry out: " Who is like unto thee, O Lord?" ' and such fervour of spirit came over him that it seemed as if the very marrow of his bones was filled with the spirit of God. Upon this he asked our Lord to let him know if that fragrance came from the devil's trickery; and he was given to understand that it was all part of the devil's spite, who sought by these artifices to make him fall through vanity. From that hour they ceased altogether, and the Master wrote an account of it in his journal, which he used to read to the novices in Paris.
After this, Satan spoke to him by word of mouth. Heaping a torrent of curses and threats upon him, joined to complaints against his stirring sermons, by which countless souls were plucked from his grasp, the evil one at last said: 'Blind man, I want to come to an understanding with you. If you promise to give over preaching, I on my part pledge myself not to tempt you or your brethren any more.' On hearing him say this the blessed Master cried out in tones of thunder: 'Far be it from me to enter into terms with death, and to join in a league with hell.'
HIS JOYFUL POVERTY
WHEN on his way to the General Chapter held in Paris, in company with a batch of our brethren, one morning the blessed father sent them all out into the town to beg bread for their breakfast, bidding them join him at a neighbouring fountain. When they met again they found that they had scarcely enough for half their number. Then the Master, breaking forth into joyful strains of the praises of God, exhorted the others by word and example to do the same, and presently they were all filled with such spiritual gladness and holy joy that a woman standing close by took scandal at the sight, and rebuked them -- 'Are you not all religious men? Whence comes it that you are merry-making at this early hour?' But when she learnt the real cause of their mirth, and saw them rejoicing over their want of food, she was deeply touched, and hurrying home brought them bread and wine and cheese, saying: 'If you were merry and gave thanks to God for such a miserable pittance, I want you now to have greater cause for rejoicing.' After this she withdrew feeling highly edified, and begged for a remembrance in their prayers.
WINE IMPROVED BY HIS MERITS
A DEVOUT French lady was in the habit of showing hospitality at times to our brethren, an action which did not altogether please her husband. Once while she was entertaining Master Jordan and his companion, her husband came in, and barely cloaking his wrath joined them at table. But discovering shortly that the best wine had been drawn for their use, he called out in a temper to the servant: 'Go and fetch some of my own special wine -- you know which cask I mean.' This was said in cutting irony, for the wine in that cask was sour and past use, but he meant in this way to annoy his wife and spoil her guests' dinner. The servant retired to the cellar, drew a measure of wine as bidden, and returned with it. When the master of the house tasted it he found it had a capital flavour, and bawled out more vexed than ever: 'You stupid, why did you not bring the wine I particularly mentioned?' The astonished domestic could only stammer out that he had done so. The command was a second time given very precisely, and with the like result. Furious beyond bounds the master leaped up from the table, drew the wine for himself, and found it capitally flavoured as before. Then he learnt that the wine which heretofore had been sour and unfit to drink had through Master Jordan's merits lost its acidity and become vastly improved in quality. Malice gave place to friendship, and from thenceforth he let his wife entertain the brethren hospitably. We give this incident on the word of the Provincial of France, and it was besides well known to all our brethren of that country.
HE SAVES A WOMAN FROM SIN AND DEATH
A WOMAN came at last to despair of her salvation from habits of sin. She often determined to cut her throat, or hang herself, but as nature recoiled in fear from the act, she at last swallowed a poisonous spider. Feeling death coming over her, she was moved to sorrow, and began with bitter tears to invoke the Mother of mercy. Presently she heard a voice say distinctly: 'Brother Jordan, the Master of the Friars Preachers, is coming this way, go to him and say that I have sent you; make your confession to him and you will be spared.' On the Master's arrival she confessed her crimes, and on the spot vomited up the venomous spider. Being again restored to health she thanked God heartily, and became a devout client of the blessed Virgin, and her divine Son, and of his faithful minister.
VISIONS AND MIRACLES AT HIS DEATH
THE good Master died on February 13, 1236, after visiting the holy places of Palestine, as appeared from the following letter: ' To our venerable and beloved brethren the prior and convent of the Friars Preachers in Paris, the papal penitentiaries, Brothers Godfrey and Reginald, send greeting and comfort in the Holy Ghost.
Learn that a great storm arose at sea, which dashed to pieces on the beach the vessel in which our sweet father and Master was sailing, and he with his two companions and twenty-nine other persons were drowned, and thus freed from the bondage of this wicked world. Still, dearest brethren, let not your hearts be weighed down with grief at this loss, for our heavenly Father who is the God of all comfort has left a solace for us who are poor orphans, and has sent a calm after the tempest. As those who escaped from the wreck and buried the drowned do affirm, there shone each night great lights from heaven over their unburied bodies as they lay upon the beach. At such a marvel the natives came in crowds, and those who witnessed the miracle do further testify that an exceedingly sweet fragrance exhaled from the bodies of our three brethren, which for ten days clung to the hands of the men who carried them to their graves. And the same perfume was perceived all round the spot where they were laid, until our brethren came in a ship and carried them away to Acre: and there the blessed father lies bestowing benefits on many. May God be blessed in all things. Amen.'
In the convent of Limoges, which was one of the first foundations of the Order, there was a brother who was devotedly attached to blessed Jordan. While praying one night after matins in the church, before the death of the venerable Master was known on this side of the Alps, the Lord shed over his heart the dew of heaven, and he fell into a deep sleep. Presently he seemed to be standing on the verge of deep and far-reaching waters, while he observed a number of corpses lying on the shore, seemingly cast up by the waves. As he continued gazing on the sight he beheld Master Jordan emerge from the bosom of the deep, clad in the habit of the Order, and looking happier and more majestic than ever he had seen him before. Then with his eyes fixed on a crucifix which he held, his hands and feet apart as artists love to represent St Andrew the apostle, he speedily and confidently mounted heavenwards. As the brother followed him with upturned eyes, the blessed Master looking down upon him addressed him smiling: 'Unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you'; saying which he folded his hands across his breast while yet clasping the crucifix, and so was borne up to heaven. After he had disappeared the brother still seemed to see his corpse upon the beach: nor was it until the tidings and manner of his death were made known that his friend realised the full meaning of the vision. He to whom it was granted was a model religious and a man of high standing in the Order, who when prior of Limoges told it in confidence to the writer of this narrative.
We cannot now relate all the miracles which took place on the spot where he ended his earthly career, or which happened in various parts of the world, because of their great number, more especially at Acre, whither his body was transported. Still, for the praise and glory of so saintly a father, we shall give a few in this present work.
HE APPEARS AND COMFORTS A NUN
ABOUT this time there was a Cistercian nun named Lutgarde, living in the monastery of Aywers in Brabant, through whom God wrought many miracles in life and after her death, and who was exceedingly devoted to the blessed Master Jordan. For forty years she had served God in the holy religious habit, but now from old age and excessive weeping she could no longer see. It was on Christmas Eve that he appeared to her in this way. She had been praying from morning till noon without feeling any of her usual fervour, and beginning to grow weary, cried in anguish: 'O tender Lord, why am I thus afflicted, for I feel sure that if I had a friend in heaven or upon earth to pray for me, I should not find myself so dull at heart.' Tears flowed as she spoke, when instantly before the eyes of her mind there appeared a friar, arrayed in such splendour and majesty that she failed to recognise him. 'Who art thou?' she cried in wonderment; upon which the figure made answer, 'I am Master Jordan, the late Master General of the Order of Preachers. I have passed from earth to the glory of paradise, where I now reign exalted among the choirs of prophets and apostles, and I have been sent from heaven to cheer you on this festal day. Take courage, for you will likewise be crowned very soon by the most High, but until the end does come you must not fail to say every day the psalm Deus misereatur nostri, with the collect of the Holy Ghost, as you promised me, for the good estate of our Order.' After this he went away leaving her such peace of soul as she had never felt before.
The venerable father likewise revealed the same fact to others in many different ways; to wit, that his place thenceforth was amid the throngs of heaven's most exalted princes. The foregoing vision may be. read at greater length in St Lutgarde's life.
HE KEEPS A CARMELITE IN HIS ORDER
A FRIAR of the Order of Mount Carmel who had been tempted to quit his Order became more unsettled in mind on hearing that Master Jordan had been drowned. 'It is no use trying to serve God,' said he, 'for either the father who perished in such a way was not a good man, or God does not properly reward his servants.' Being now fully bent on quit ting the Order as soon as day should dawn, there stood before him that night a religious of comely aspect and shining with a halo of glory. 'Lord Jesus, come to my assistance,' cried the awestruck and trembling brother. 'What can be the meaning of all this?' 'Fear not, brother,' said the figure, 'for I am the Master Jordan concerning whose fate you are troubled: and learn furthermore that all who serve our Lord Jesus Christ to the end shall be saved.' With these words he passed from view, leaving the brother very much consoled. Our brethren got to hear of it from the friar himself, and from the prior of the convent, who was a pious and trustworthy man.
A PRIORESS HEALED BY INVOKING HIM
A TRULY devout religious whom Master Jordan had made prioress of a convent, after laudably filling the office for many years, became at last so paralysed as to be unable to move without help. She had often begged to be relieved of her office, but to no purpose, for the whole convent cried out against such a proposal, since in their eyes she seemed even in her weak state of health more fit to govern them than anyone in the house. Hearing of the many miracles wrought by invoking blessed ,Jordan after his death, she one day told two of the sisters during the dinner hour to carry her in a chair to the church and leave her before the altar. On their withdrawing she began to invoke him very earnestly, since she firmly believed he was then reigning with Christ, and to entreat him to obtain from our Lord that either she might be speedily called away, so as to be no longer a burden to the community; or else released by superiors from her office, since she could not properly discharge the duties; or, as a last resource, that she might be restored to health and enabled to resume her charge. Suddenly she became conscious of a feeling as of new strength filling her body, and first putting one foot on the ground and then the other, she rose and began to walk about the choir to try if she were really cured. Then hearing the refectory bell ring and the sisters rise from table, she went to meet them as they walked processionally to the church chanting the Miserere. The novices on seeing her were puzzled to know if it could possibly be their prioress, but when the chantress on leaving the refectory with the elder sisters saw her whom a few minutes before they had left sitting feebly in a chair, now walking erect, dropping the Miserere she loudly intoned the Te Deum. While all were joining in the song of praise at the top of their voices, the neighbours, hearing the unusual commotion, caught up their weapons and ran to protect them, believing that cut-throats had made their way into the convent, but when they heard the whole story told by the prioress from a window they also joined in the thanksgiving.
HE RESTORES A DEAD CHILD TO ITS MOTHER
ABOUT this time there dwelt in Prague of Bohemia an honest citizen called Conscius, and his wife Elizabeth. This woman, when nearing her confinement, vowed that if a male child were born she would dedicate him to blessed Jordan, the late Master of the Order of Preachers, declaring it to be impossible for him not to be a saint after hearing such marvellous accounts of his holy life and preaching; but if a female, she would dedicate her to St Elizabeth of Hungary, who had just been canonised. Her time of delivery being come she gave birth to a still-born male child. Full of grief the poor mother began to invoke blessed Jordan, beseeching him piteously to bring back her child to life again. In this way she kept on praying until midnight, bidding the nurses look from time to time whether the child had not come to life. As a last resource they dipped the infant into freezing water, for it was winter, to see if there were any tokens of animation, but all was of no avail. The neighbours did their best to cheer her, but she never left off praying, and in the morning the babe was found to be alive. In return fox this benefit she gave hearty thanks to God and Master Jordan, and as a testimony of the miracle wrought by him on her behalf, she gave his name to her son. When the bell of our church sounded for prime she sent for the brethren that they might come and search into the miracle. Two of them were deputed for the purpose, Timon of Poland, who was a professor in the convent, and Simon the sub-prior, who, finding everything stated to be true, gave their joint testimony to the fact.
HE HEALS A FRIAR WHOM GOD PUNISHED FOR MURMURING
ONE of the brethren, who, in his own eyes, seemed to be a man of no common ability and station, was ordered by superiors to go with a companion and live in another convent. He took this very sorely to heart, and during the first day's journey did nothing else but grumble unceasingly against the obedience given him. 'What have I ever done,' said lie, 'or how have I deserved to be treated in this way? Why should such a command have been thrown especially on my shoulders? I shall see about this, that I shall'; and so on in the same strain. As he kept on grumbling in his companion's hearing the divine vengeance suddenly overtook him, for he was struck down senseless to the ground. Deprived of speech, his face livid, sight and hearing gone, and unable to stir hand or foot, he lay on the road like a corpse. His tongue swelled so much that his mouth could hardly contain it, and everyone clearly saw lie had been overtaken by a judgement for his sins. At this harrowing sight, and at the thought of the shame which would be sure to fix itself upon the man and the Order, the companion became a prey to grief and dismay, and hardly knew what to do or which way to turn. As he stood reflecting on the mishap, he bethought him of having recourse to blessed Jordan, who had then entered into rest, so he addressed this prayer to him: 'O Master Jordan, so kind and tender a father, who hast so spread and adorned and uplifted our Order, come at once to thy son's aid in this present trial, lest thy brethren be put to shame through this brother's fault. O Lord God, by Master Jordan's merits -- and he was thy most faithful servant -- help us out of this present trouble.' Then turning to his companion he shouted in his ear: 'Brother, bethink thee how this disaster has befallen thee on account of thy murmuring to-day, but now vow heartily to God and blessed Jordan that if delivered from this mishap thou wilt refrain from murmuring for the future, and readily fulfil the obedience given thee.' The brother returned somewhat to consciousness, and bowed his head slightly in token of assent, though still remaining dumb. Wonderful indeed had been God's chastisement, but more wonderful even was his forbearance, for directly the one invoked blessed Jordan, the other who lay smitten was cured on making this resolution in his heart. After this he very meekly and gladly fulfilled his obedience, nor did he ever again relapse into the same fault. When afterwards living in different houses, both wrote an account of it to Brother Humbert, who was Master General at the time.
HIS PRUDENT AND WITTY REPLIES
A LAYMAN once put this question to him: 'Master, is the Our Father worth as much in the mouths of simple folk like myself, who do not know its full meaning, as in the mouths of learned clerks who understand all that they are saying?' To this he answered: 'Of a surety it is; just as a precious stone is equally valuable in the hands of one who does not know its full worth as it would be even if he did.'
While conversing in friendly guise with the Emperor Frederick II, he dared thus gently to chide him: 'Sire,' quoth he, 'I wonder much that thou hast never enquired of me the news from the divers and sundry places through which I have passed in visiting the houses of my Order.' 'What need have I of news,' cried the monarch, 'seeing I have trusty spies in every province and court, and thus am fully informed of all that takes place all the world over?' . 'Peradventure that is true,' answered Master Jordan, 'yet know that our Lord Jesus Christ, though being God he knew everything, yet asked his apostles: " Whom do men say that the Son of man is?" Thou, sire, art only a man, and knowest not much that is bruited abroad concerning thee and thy doings, which it would do thee no harm to hear. For men even say that thou dost oppress the Church and despise her laws, yea, that thou dost consult with soothsayers and favour Jews and Saracens, paying no heed the while to trusty advisers. The talk moreover runs that thou dost not respect Christ's Vicar, St Peter's successor and thy liege lord, and of a surety all this but ill becomes thy majesty.' This was his fashion of paying court, and thus did he prevail on the Emperor in divers ways to mend his manners.
Being once asked to state what rule he professed, he rejoined: 'Nothing beyond the rule of the Friars Preachers, which is to live holily, to learn with docility, and to teach ; three things which David prayed for when he said in the psalms: " Teach me goodness and discipline and knowledge " ' (Ps. cxviii, 66).
A country fellow is reported to have bluffly accosted him after this fashion: 'Tell us, Master, how comes it that we working folk often remark amongst ourselves that since you Preaching and Minorite Friars came among us the land hasn't been blessed nor prospered as of yore?' 'If I liked I might dispute your statement altogether,' said the Master, ' and I could very soon convince you of the contrary; however, granting that it is so, I will show you the justice of your hardships. Since our arrival we have held up to the world's eye many of its evil doings of which it was heretofore ignorant, and which, since still men will not forsake them, have now become more heinous, for sin which is knowingly committed becomes more grievous. So you see it is from men's graver sins that the Lord has let the land become barren, according to that saying of the prophet, "A fruitful land he has turned into a wilderness because of the wickedness of the inhabitants thereof "; this is why God has sent you bad times and severe weather. More than this, I now warn you that if you do not change your ways, since you know your duty in good and evil, greater evils still will come upon you, as he who lieth not said in the gospel, "The servant who knew his master's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes." '
When Brother John of Vicenza was preaching with great success in Bologna, stirring up the people and drawing nearly the whole of Lombardy after him by his eloquence and miracles, some deputies -- chiefly doctors and men of letters -- came from Bologna to Master Jordan as he was sitting in the General Chapter, and asked him on behalf of the entire State not to remove Brother John from their city. One of the chief reasons they alleged was this, that he had sown the word of God with great profit in their city, and the expected results might never be realised if he were taken away. The Master praised their goodwill and devotion towards his brethren, and then gave them this weighty reply: 'Good sirs, the reasons you allege in favour of Brother John's stay among you, on the grounds of having sown the word successfully, which might never bear fruit if he were removed, move me not in the least. When the ploughman has scattered his seed all over the field he does not usually bring his bed and lie there until he sees the blades shoot up and ripen: on the contrary, he goes his way and casts his seed over another field, after commending the first to God's providence. In the same way Brother John must go elsewhere with profit to sow God's word, as it is written of our Saviour: "I must needs go and preach the word of God to other cities."
'However, out of the love we bear your city we shall take counsel with our diffinitors touching your request, and by God's help do what we can to satisfy you.'
While he was staying in a Cistercian abbey, some of the monks gathering around him asked: 'Master, how will your Order continue, since you have no fixed revenues, but are dependent upon alms? Although just at present the world smiles upon you, yet it is written in the gospel that "the charity of many shall grow cold," and then when you get no further aid, you must of necessity come to an end.'
At this the Master, with his usual playfulness, rejoined: ' By zoo means, brethren, but rather the contrary will happen, for your Order will certainly come to an end first. Look at the gospels, and you will find these words were written of the time when "iniquity shall be rife, and fierce persecutions arise." Then you will find to your cost that these tyrants will strip you of your temporal possessions, and so, from not being accustomed to going about from place to place in quest of alms, you will perforce cease altogether. Our brethern will be scattered likewise, but only to reap still more abundant fruit, like to the apostles of old when separated by persecution; nor will they fly terror-stricken, but go from place to place by twos, and find their bread as they have been in the habit of doing. And what is more, I warn you that those who shall despoil you will readily bestow their illgotten gains on our brethren, if they will only take them; for we have often had experience of this, that robbers and thieves would gladly endow us with what they had filched from others if we would but accept their gifts.'
Meeting a vagabond upon the road who feigned sickness and poverty, he gave him one of his tunics, which the fellow at once carried straight to a tavern for drink. The brethren, seeing this done, taunted him with his simplicity: 'There now, Master, see how wisely you have bestowed your tunic.' 'I did so,' said he, 'because I believed him to be in want through sickness and poverty, and it seemed at the moment to be a charity to help him; still, I reckon it better to have parted with my tunic than with charity.'
Pope Gregory IX having entrusted the reform of several monasteries to some of our brethren, these, heedless of the proper course of law, deposed the abbots whom they found guilty of misgovernment, whereat the Pope and cardinals were so vexed that they were on the point of quashing their acts. But wishing to appease them, Master Jordan went to the Pope, and spoke as follows: 'Holy father, it often befell me as I turned aside to some Cistercian abbey that I found the highway leading to the abbey gate to be so long and winding, that it was sore and wearisome to me and my companions to be kept thus walking backwards and forwards while the place was at hand all the while and right before our eyes, and on such occasions I not infrequently struck across the meadows and so got quickly to the gate. Supposing now the porter had begun to question me by saying: "by what road did you come here ? " and on my owning that I had trespassed on the meadows, he were then to reply: "You have not come the right way; pack off and come back by the high road, or you shall not enter here at all." Do you not think that would have been hard? Even so, holy father, although our brethren may not have deposed those abbots according to legal formalities, which seemed too lengthy a way of procedure, still, since they were rightly deposed, as you can easily see for yourself by going into the various cases, may it please you, then, to confirm what has been done, no matter how the result has been achieved.'
On being asked to give a reason why students in the arts more frequently joined the Order than theologians or canonists, he very ingeniously made this reply: 'You know that country clowns who have only been in the habit of drinking water become more quickly drunken with good wine than noblemen or gentlemen who from habit are but little moved by the best wine. Even so also students in the arts are refreshed only with the water of Aristotle and the philosophers, whereas in the Sunday or holiday sermon the preacher gives them a deep draught of Christ's words, and when thus filled with the new wine of the Holy Ghost they are easily moved by it, and readily give themselves and all they have to God. On the other hand, theologians being used to read the Word of God are not in like manner carried away by it; just as the slothful sacristan from much passing before the altar becomes careless in his genuflections, and oftentimes hardly notices it, while others are bowing down before it.' '
Once, when in the company of several bishops, he was called upon to explain how it was that. some bishops taken from the Mendicant Orders had not given entire satisfaction. He answered with simple truth thus: 'The fault lies entirely with yourselves. So long as they kept to their Order we were careful to rebuke them as often as they deserved it, but the laxity you complain of has come upon them since they joined your ranks. Furthermore, I can testify that during the many years I have passed in the Order I do not recall a single instance in which his holiness the Pope, or any Legate, or Cathedral Chapter, has ever asked me or any of our Superiors, or any General or Provincial Chapter to find them a good bishop. On the contrary they have picked their own men at will, either because of parentage or relations, or from some other less spiritual motive, and so no blame can rest with us.'
Being unable from sickness to address the brethren at the General Chapter, he was asked to say only a few edifying words, whereupon he gave this short speech: 'My brethren, during this week we often say these words: "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost." You know that a full jar can hold no more, but all that is poured in, after it is once brimful, only flows out again. On this account the blessed apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, because they had previously been emptied of their own spirit. Moreover we sing in the psalms, " Thou shalt take away their spirit, and they shall fail " (Ps. ciii 29); that is to say-to themselves, that they may advance in thee, " and they shall again return to their own dust." And again we say, "Send forth thy Spirit and they shall be created"; which is as if David had said, "If by thy grace they shall have emptied themselves of their own will, and feelings, and self-love, they shall be filled with thy Holy Spirit." ' At this brief instruction all present were highly edified.
While exhorting his brethren one day to shun all idle talk, he drew their attention to this homely example. ' Dearest brothers, you see that no matter how high the psalm is pitched in the choir, the voices gradually and almost imperceptibly fall again. Even so, as often as we begin to speak of holy things, owing to the frailty of our nature, we come down again by degrees to idle talk. But the good religious, when he detects this failing, should do like the cantor in the choir who raises the tone at the proper places. When the fervent religious finds that idle words are creeping into his conversation, he ought to bring in appropriately some story or spiritual maxim, and so ward off in time what might prove hurtful. In the same way when we see that through the weakness of the flesh we are gradually slipping down, not merely in speech, but in our common fervour, we ought mutually to uplift one another.'
A Saxon noble stole a cow belonging to Master Jordan's mother, and not long after this the nobleman's son was admitted by the Master into the Order. But when the friends and retainers came to complain of this, and chided him sharply for having taken away their master's son, he made them this pleasant reply: 'You know of the good old custom in Saxony, that when any wrong has been done to a woman no one deems it unfair for her son to avenge the injury she has sustained.' To this they all nodded their assent. 'Well,' said he, 'since your master injured my mother by robbing her of her cow, what wrong have I done him, think you, in walking off with his calf?'
When he was beyond the seas, before he had quite mastered the French language some Knights Templars from France asked him to give them a sermon, and this is the simple way in which he got over the difficulty. Wishing them to understand from the very outset that he knew but little French, and trusting, by means of an occasional word in that tongue, they might gather the meaning of along sentence. in German, he stood with his back to a wall of about his own height, and began-'Brethren, supposing an ass were standing on the other side of this wall, and were simply to raise his head high enough for you to see one of his big ears, we should all conclude rightly that a whole ass was there, for so we would take in the whole by means of a part. And so, too, it often comes to pass that a whole phrase is gathered from one short word slipped into the middle of a long German sentence.'
When on his way home to his convent with a fresh batch of novices, as they were all saying compline together, one of them fell to laughing, and the rest catching on joined in right heartily. Upon this one of the blessed Master's companions made a sign for them to be quiet, which only set them off laughing more than ever. When the blessing had been given at the end of compline, the Master turning to this friar rebuked him sharply: 'Brother, who made you their master? What right have you to take them to task?' Then addressing the novices very gently, he said, 'Laugh to your hearts' content, my dearest children, and don't stop on that man's account. You have my full leave, and it is only right that you should laugh after breaking from the devil's thraldom, and bursting the shackles in which he held you fast these many years past. Laugh on, then, and be as merry as you please, my darling sons.' They were all much relieved on hearing him say so, and never again indulged in a hearty laugh without a good reason.
In one of his sermons in Paris, as he was denouncing the folly of those who continue living in mortal sin, it occurred to him that in the holy Scriptures sin is called the gate of death. Presently he cried aloud: 'If any one of you were to come day after day to our convent, and always met the same scholar sitting in the porch, to-day, to-morrow, and for many days together, would it not strike you that he was evidently bent on joining our Order? Very well, then, think you not that those who tarry at hell's gates will some fine day or other find themselves inside.'
Here are a few of his homely sayings to his brethren: 'Just as the mason in repairing a shattered wall takes out some of the stones which were hidden away, and after refacing them puts them back in some prominent place, so ought a prudent superior to do in sending out his subjects. At one time he should force some to become more active who want to remain in the background, and check others who are too eager in coming to the fore.'
And again: 'If I had paid as much heed to any branch of learning as I have done to that saying of the apostle, "I am become all things to all men," I should long since have proved a master in that faculty. It has always been my aim to adapt myself to the ways of others, and not to differ from them, as for instance, suiting myself at one time to a soldier, at another to a religious, now to a cleric, and again to the tempted.'
In his zeal for reclaiming an apostate he first consulted his brethren, but there was one who would not give his consent. Then the holy Master answered: 'What if this man has been guilty of many crimes, he will in all probability commit as many more except he be reclaimed.' Still the brother would not yield, upon which the Master said impressively 'Ah, brother, if you had shed but one drop of your blood for this poor man, as Christ has given the whole of his, you would look on the affair very differently.' At this truly touching appeal the other fell on his knees to beg pardon, and readily gave his consent.
One of his brethren being full of scruples at the thought of the many benefactions he shared in, and for which it seemed to him impossible to make fitting return only by prayers, the venerable father solved his difficulty in this simple manner. 'Since spiritual things are priceless when compared with earthly ones, it stands to sense that they infinitely surpass them beyond all reckoning. Know then for a certainty that you have fully discharged your obligations in return for all the alms you have received, or shall ever receive, if you but say one Our Father devoutly.'
Every now and then he used to preach again some old sermon, and when people found fault with it, he would gaily retort: 'Suppose, now, one of you had gathered pleasant herbs and had made of them a right tasty drink, think you he would do wisely to throw them away at once and begin without delay to gather more?'
One of the brothers on being proclaimed in chapter for having shaken hands with a woman, excused himself by saying that she was a person of fair fame. Thereupon Master Jordan, who was presiding, made this curt reply: 'Rain is good, and earth is good, yet mingled they form mud. In similar fashion, though the hands of men and women are both good, yet evil may arise in thought and affection if they are brought together.'
Another religious asked him whether it was more profitable to occupy himself continually in prayer, or in studying the holy Scriptures. This was his last rejoinder: 'Which do you deem to be the better of the two, to be always eating, or always drinking? To my mind they are best taken in turn, and so is it with regard to prayer and study.' The other then asked him to point out the best means for praying well. 'Good brother,' said the blessed Master, 'those means are the best which prompt us to readiest compunction, so use them without stint, for what stirs your affections most will most benefit your prayer.'