Order of Preachers
FREE Catholic Classes
As the Order of the Friars Preachers is the principal part of the entire Order of St. Dominic, we shall include under this title the two other parts of the order: the Dominican Sisters (Second Order) and the Brothers of Penitence of St. Dominic (Third Order). First, we shall study the legislation of the three divisions of the order, and the nature of each. Secondly, we shall give an historical survey of the three branches of the order.
I. LEGISLATION AND NATURE
In its formation and development, the Dominican legislation as a whole is closely bound up with historical facts relative to the origin and progress of the order. Hence some reference to these is necessary, the more so as this matter has not been sufficiently studied. For each of the three groups, constituting the ensemble of the Order of St. Dominic, we shall examine: A. Formation of the Legislative Texts; B. Nature of the Order, resulting from legislation.A. FORMATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE TEXTS
In regard to their legislation the first two orders are closely connected, and must be treated together. The preaching of St. Dominic and his first companions in Languedoc led up to the pontifical letters of Innocent III, 17 Nov., 1205 (Potthast, "Reg., Pont., Rom.", 2912). They created for the first time in the Church of the Middle Ages the type of apostolic preachers, patterned upon the teaching of the Gospel. In the same year, Dominic founded the Monastery of Prouille, in the Diocese of Toulouse, for the women whom he had converted from heresy, and he, made this establishment the centre of union of his missions and of his apostolic works (Balme-Lelaidier, "Cartulaire ou Histoire Diplomatique de St. Dominic ", Paris, 1893, I, 130sq.; Guiraud, "Cart. de Notre Dame de Prouille," Paris, 1907, I, CCCXXsq). St. Dominic gave to the new monastery the Rule of St. Augustine and also the special Institutions which regulated the life of the Sisters, and of the Brothers who lived near them, for the spiritual and temporal administration of the community. The Institutions are edited in Balme, "Cart." II, 425; " Bull. Ord. Præd.", VII, 410; Duellius, "Misc.", bk. I (Augsburg, 1723), 169; "Urkundenbuch der Stadt.", I (Fribourg, Leipzig, 1883), 605. On 17 Dec., 1219, Honorius III, with a view to a general reform among the religious of the Eternal City, granted the monastery of the Sisters of St. Sixtus of Rome to St. Dominic, and the Institutions of Prouille were given to that monastery under the title of Institutions of the Sisters of St. Sixtus of Rome. With this designation they were granted subsequently to other monasteries and congregations of religious. It is also under this form that we possess the primitive Institutions of Prouille, in the editions already mentioned. St. Dominic and his companions, having received from Innocent III authorization to choose a rule, with a view to the approbation of their order, adopted in 1216, that of St. Augustine, and added thereto the "Consuetudines" which regulated the ascetic and canonical life of the religious. These were borrowed in great part from the Constitutions of Prémontré, but with some essential features, adapted to the purposes of the new Preachers who also renounced private possession of property, but retained the revenues. The "Consuetudines" formed the first part (prima distinctio) of the primitive Constitutions of the order (Quétif-Echard, "Scriptores Ord. Præd.", L 12-13; Denifle, "Archiv. für Literatur und Kirchengeschichte", I, 194; Balme, "Cart.", II, 18). The order was solemnly approved, 22 Dec., 1216. A first letter, in the style of those granted for the foundation of regular canons, gave the order canonical existence ; a second determined the special vocation of the Order of Preachers as vowed to teaching and defending the truths of faith. "Nos attendentes fratres Ordinis tui futuros pugiles fidei et vera mundi lumina confirmamus Ordinem tuum" (Balme, "Cart." II, 71-88; Potthast, 5402-5403). (Expecting the brethren of your order to be the champions of the Faith and true lights of the world, we confirm your order.)
On 15 Aug., 1217 St. Dominic sent out his companions from Prouille. They went through France, Spain, and Italy, and established as principal centres, Toulouse, Paris, Madrid, Rome, and Bologna. Dominic, by constant journeyings, kept watch over these new establishments, and went to Rome to confer with the Sovereign Pontiff (Balme, "Cart." II, 131; "Annales Ord. Præd.", Rome, 1756, p. 411; Guiraud, "St. Dominic", Paris, 1899, p. 95). In May, 1220, St. Dominic held at Bologna the first general chapter of the order. This assembly drew up the Constitutions, which are complementary to the "Consuetudines" of 1216 and form the second part (secunda distinctio). They regulated the organization and life of the order, and are the essential and original basis of the Dominican legislation. In this chapter, the Preachers also gave up certain elements of the canonical life; they relinquished all possessions and revenues, and adopted the practice of strict poverty; they rejected the title of abbey for the convents, and substituted the rochet of canons for the monastic scapular. The regime of annual general chapters was established as the regulative power of the order, and the source of legislative authority. ("Script. Ord. Præd.", I, 20; Denifle, "Archiv.", I, 212; Balme, "Cart.", III, 575). Now that the legislation of the Friars Preachers was fully established, the Rule of the Sisters of St. Sixtus was found to be very incomplete. The order, however, supplied what was wanting by compiling a few years after, the Statuta, which borrowed from the Constitutions of the Friars, whatever might be useful in a monastery of Sisters. We owe the preservation of these Statuta, as well as the Rule of St. Sixtus, to the fact that this legislation was applied in 1232 to the Penitent Sisters of St. Mary Magdalen in Germany, who observed it without further modification. The Statuta are edited im Duellius, "Misc.", bk. I, 182. After the legislative work of the general chapters had been added to the Constitution of 1216-20, without changing the general ordinance of the primitive text, the necessity was felt, a quarter of a century later, of giving a more logical distribution to the legislation in its entirety. The great canonist Raymond of Penaforte, on becoming master general of the order, devoted himself to this work. The general chapters, from 1239 to 1241, accepted the new text, and gave it the force of law. In this form it has remained to the present time as the official text, with some modification, however, in the way of suppressions and especially of additions due to later enactments of the general chapters. It was edited in Denifle, "Archiv.", V, 553; "Acta Capitulorum Generalium", I (Rome, 1898), II, 13, 18, in "Monum. Ord. Præd. Hist.", bk. III.
The reorganization of the Constitutions of the Preachers called for a corresponding reform in the legislation of the Sisters. In his letter of 27 Aug., 1257, Alexander IV ordered Humbert of Romans, the fifth master general, to unify the Constitutions of the Sisters. Humbert remodelled them on the Constitutions of the Brothers, and put them into effect at the General Chapter of Valenciennes, 1259. The Sisters were henceforth characterized as Sorores Ordinis Prdicatorum. The Constitutions are edited in "Analecta, Ord. Præd." (Rome, 1897), 338; Finke, "Ungedruckte Dominicanerbriefe des 13 Jahrhunderts" (Paderborn, 1891), D. 53; "Litterae Encyclicae magistrorum generalium" (Rome, 1900), in "Mon. Ord. Praed. Hist.", V, p. 513. To this legislation, the provincials of Germany, who had a large number of religious convents under their care, added certain admonitiones by way of completing and definitely settling the Constitutions of the Sisters. They seem to be the work of Herman of Minden, Provincial of Teutonia (1286-90). He drew up at first a concise admonition ( Denifle, "Archiv.", II, 549); then other series of admonitions, more important, which have not been edited (Rome, Archives of the Order, Cod. Ruten, 130-139). The legislation of the Friars Preachers is the firmest and most complete among the systems of law by which institutions of this sort were ruled in the thirteenth century. Hauck is correct in saying: "We do not deceive ourselves in considering the organization of the Dominican Order as the most perfect of all the monastic organizations produced by the Middle Ages " ("Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands", part IV, Leipzig, 1902, p. 390). It is not then surprising that the majority of the religious orders of the thirteenth century should have followed quite closely the Dominican legislation, which exerted an influence even upon institutions very dissimilar in aim and nature. The Church considered it the typical rule for new foundations. Alexander IV thought of making the legislation of the Order of Preachers into a special rule known as that of St. Dominic, and for that purpose commissioned the Dominican cardinal, Hugh of St. Cher (3 Feb., 1255), but the project encountered many obstacles, and nothing came of it. (Potthast, n. 1566; Humberti de Romanis, "Opera de vita regulari", ed., Berthier, I, Rome, 1888, n. 43)B. NATURE OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS (1) Its Object
The canonical title of "Order of Preachers", given to the work of St. Dominic by the Church, is in itself significant, but it indicates only the dominant feature. The Constitutions are more explicit: "Our order was instituted principally for preaching and for the salvation of souls." The end or aim of the order then is the salvation of souls, especially by means of preaching. For the attainment of this purpose, the order must labour with the utmost zeal -- "Our main efforts should be put forth, earnestly and ardently, in doing good to the souls of our fellow-men."
The aim of the order and the conditions of its environment determined the form of its organization. The first organic group is the convent, which may not be founded with less than twelve religious. At first only large convents were allowed and these were located in important cities (Mon. Ger. Hist.: SS. XXXII, 233, 236), hence the saying:
Bernardus valles, montes Benedictus amabat,
Oppida Franciscus, celebres Dominicus urbes.
(Bernard loved the valleys, Benediet the mountains, Francis the towns, Dominic the populous cities).
The foundation and the existence of the convent required a prior as governor, and a doctor as teacher. The Constitution prescribes the dimensions of the church and the convent buildings, and these should be quite plain. But in the course of the thirteenth century the order erected large edifices, real works of art. The convent possesses nothing and lives on alms. Outside of the choral office (the Preachers at first had the title of canonici ) their time is wholly employed in study. The doctor gives lectures in theology, at which all the religious, even the prior, must be present, and which are open to secular clerics . The religious vow themselves to preaching, both within and without the convent walls. The "general preachers" have the most extended powers. At the beginning of the order, the convent was called praedicatio, or sancta praedicatio. The convents divided up the territory in which they were established, and sent out on preaching tours religious who remained for a longer or shorter time in the principal places of their respective districts. The Preachers did not take the vow of stability, but could be sent from one locality to another. Each convent received novices, these, according to the Constitutions, must be at least eighteen years of age, but this rule was not strictly observed. The Preachers were the first among religious orders to suppress manual labour, the necessary work of the interior of the house being relegated to lay brothers called conversi whose number was limited according to the needs of each convent. The prior was elected by the religious and the doctor was appointed by the provincial chapter. The chapter, when it saw fit, relieved them from office.
The grouping of a certain number of convents forms the province, which is administered by a provincial prior, elected by the prior and two delegates from each convent. He is confirmed by the general chapter, or by the master general, who can also remove him when it is found expedient. He enjoys in his province the same authority as the master general in the order; he confirms the election of conventual priors, visits the province, sees to it that the Constitutions and the ordinances are observed and presides at the provincial chapters. The provincial chapter, which is held annually, discusses the interests of the province. It is composed of a provincial prior, priors from the convents, a delegate from each convent, and the general preachers. The capitulants (members of the chapter), choose from among themselves, four counsellors or assistants, who, with the provincial, regulate the affairs brought before the chapter. The chapter appoints those who are to visit annually each part of the province. The provinces taken together constitute the order, which has at its head a master general, elected by the provincial priors and by two delegates from each province. For a long time his position was for life; Pius VII (1804), reduced it to six years, and Pius IX (1862) fixed it at twelve years. At first the master general had no permanent residence; since the end of the fourteenth century, he has lived usually at Rome. He visits the order, holds it to the observance of the laws and corrects abuses. In 1509, he was granted two associates (socii); in 1752, four; in 1910, five. The general chapter is the supreme authority within the order. From 1370, it was held every two years; from 1553, every three years, from 1625, every six years. In the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century, chapters were rarely held. At present they take place every three years. From 1228, for two years in succession, the general chapter was composed of definitors or delegates from the provinces, each province sending one delegate; the following year it was held by the provincial priors. The chapter promulgates new constitutions, but to become law they must be accepted by three constitutive chapters. The chapter deals with all the general concerns of the order, whether administrative or disciplinary. It corrects the master general, and in certain cases can depose him. From 1220 to 1244, the chapters were held alternately at Bologna and Paris ; subsequently, they passed round to all the principal cities of Europe. The generalissimo chapter acknowledged by the Constitution and composed of two definitors from each province, also of provincials, i.e. equivalent to three consecutive general chapters, was held only in 1228 and 1236. The characteristic feature of government is the elective system which prevails throughout the order. "Such was the simple mechanism which imparted to the Order of Friars Preachers a powerful and regular movement, and secured them for a long time a real preponderance in Church and in State" (Delisle, "Notes et extraits des mss. de la Bibl. Nat.", Paris, xxvii, 1899, 2nd part, p. 312. See the editions of the Constitutions mentioned above: "Const. Ord. Fr. Præd.", Paris, 1, 1888, "Acta Capit. Gen. Ord. Fr. Præd.", ed., Reichert, Rome, 1898, sq. 9 vols.; Lo Cicero, Const., "Declar. et Ord. Capit. Gen. O. P.", Rome, 1892; Humbert de Romanis, "Opera de vita regulari", ed. Berthier, Rome, 1888; Reichert, "Feier und Gesehäftsordung der Provincialkapitel des Dominikanerordens im 13 Jahrhundert" in "Römische Quart.", 1903, p. 101).
The forms of life or activity of the Order of Preachers are many, but they are all duly subordinated. The order assimilated the ancient forms of the religious life, the monastic and the canonical, but it made them subservient to the clerical and the apostolic life which are its peculiar and essential aims. The Preachers adopted from the monastic life the three traditional vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty; to them they added the ascetic element known as monastic observances; perpetual abstinence, fasting from 14 Sept. until Easter and on all the Fridays throughout the year the exclusive use of wool for clothing and for the bed a hard bed, and a common dormitory, silence almost perpetual in their houses, public acknowledgment of faults in the chapter, a graded list of penitential practices, etc. The Preachers, however, did not take these observances directly from the monastic orders but from the regular canons, especially the reformed canons, who had already adopted monastic rules The Preachers received from the regular canons the choral Office for morning and evening, but chanted quickly. They added, on certain days, the Office of the Holy Virgin, and once a week the Office of the Dead . The habit of the Preachers, as of the regular canons, is a white tunic and a black cloak. The rochet, distinctive of the regular canons, was abandoned by the Preachers at the General Chapter of 1220, and replaced by the scapular. At the same time they gave up various canonical customs, which they had retained up to that period. They suppressed in their order the title of abbot for the head of the convent, and rejected all property, revenues, the carrying of money on their travels, and the use of horses. The title even of canon which they had borne from the beginning tended to disappear about the middle of the thirteenth century, and the General Chapters of 1240-1251 substituted the word clericus for canonicus in the article of the Constitutions relating to the admission of novices ; nevertheless the designation, "canon" still occurs in some parts of the Constitutions. The Preachers, in fact, are primarily and essentially clerics. The pontifical letter of foundation said: "These are to be the champions of the Faith and the true lights of the world." This could apply only to clerics. The Preachers consequently made study their chief occupation, which was the essential means, with preaching and teaching as the end. The apostolic character of the order was the complement of its clerical character. The Friars had to vow themselves to the salvation of souls through the ministry of preaching and confession, under the conditions set down by the Gospel and by the example of the Apostles : ardent zeal, absolute poverty, and sanctity of life.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
The ideal Dominican life was rich in the multiplicity and choice of its elements, and was thoroughly unified by its well-considered principles and enactments; but it was none the less complex, and it, full realization was difficult. The monastic-canonical element tended to dull and paralyze the intense activity demanded by a clerical-apostolic life. The legislators warded off the difficulty by a system of dispensations, quite peculiar to the order. At the head of the Constitutions the principle of dispensation appears jointly with the very definition of the order's purpose, and is placed before the text of the laws to show that it controls and tempers their application. "The superior in each convent shall have authority to grant dispensations whenever he may deem it expedient, especially in regard to what may hinder study, or preaching, or the profit of souls, since our order was originally established for the work of preaching and the salvation of souls ", etc. The system of dispensation thus broadly understood while it favoured the most active element of the order, displaced, but did not wholly eliminate, the difficulty. It created a sort of dualism in the interior life, and permitted an arbitrariness that might easily disquiet the conscience of the religious and of the superiors. The order warded off this new difficulty by declaring in the generalissimo chapter of 1236, that the Constitutions did not oblige under pain of sin, but under pain of doing penance (Acta Cap. Gen. I, 8.) This measure, however, was not heartily welcomed by everyone in the order (Humbert de Romanis, Op., II, 46), nevertheless it stood.
This dualism produced on one side, remarkable apostles and doctors, on the other, stern ascetics and great mystics. At all events the interior troubles of the order grew out of the difficulty of maintaining the nice equilibrium which the first legislators established, and which was preserved to a remarkable degree during the first century of the order's existence. The logic of things and historical circumstances frequently disturbed this equilibrium. The learned and active members tended to exempt themselves from monastic observance, or to moderate its strictness; the ascetic members insisted on the monastic life, and in pursuance of their aim, suppressed at different times the practice of dispensation, sanctioned as it was by the letter and the spirit of the Constitutions ["Cons". Ord. Praed.", passim;. Denifle, "Die Const. des Predigerordens" in "Archiv. f. Litt. u. Kirchengesch.", I, 165; Mandonnet, "Les Chanoines -- Prêcheurs de Bologne d'après Jacques de Vitry" in "Archives de la société d'histoire du canton de Fribourg", bk. VIII, 15; Lacordaire, "Mémoire pour la restauration des Frères Prêcheurs dans la Chrétienté", Paris, 1852; P. Jacob, "Memoires sur la canonicité de l'institut de St. Dominic", Béziers, 1750, tr. into Italian under the title, "Difesa del canonicato dei FF. Predicatori", Venice, 1758; Laberthoni, "Exposé de l'état, du régime, de la legislation et des obligations des Frères Prêcheurs", Versailles, 1767 (new ed., 1872)].Nature of the Order of the Dominican Sisters
We have indicated above the various steps by which the legislation of the Dominican Sisters was brought into conformity with the Constitutions of Humbert of Romans (1259). The primitive type of religious established at Prouille in 1205 by St. Dominic was not affected by successive legislation. The Dominican Sisters are strictly cloistered in their monasteries ; they take the three religious vows, recite the canonical Hours in choir and engage in manual labor. The eruditio litterarum inscribed in the Institutions of St. Sixtus disappeared from the Constitutions drawn up by Humbert of Romans. The ascetic life of the Sisters is the same as that of the Friars. Each house is governed by a prioress, elected canonically, and assisted by a sub-prioress, a mistress of novices, and various other officers. The monasteries have the right to hold property in common; they must be provided with an income sufficient for the existence of the community; they are independent and are under the jurisdiction of the provincial prior, the master general, and of the general chapter . A subsequent paragraph will deal with the various phases of the question as to the relation existing between the Sisters and the Order of Preachers. Whilst the Institutions of St. Sixtus provided a group of brothers, priests, and lay servants for the spiritual and temporal administration of the monastery, the Constitutions of Humbert of Romans were silent on these points. (See the legislative texts relating to the Sisters mentioned above.)(5) The Third Order
St. Dominic did not write a rule for the Tertiaries, for reasons which are given further on in the historical sketch of the Third Order. However, a large body of the laity, vowed to piety, grouped themselves about the rising Order of Preachers, and constituted, to all intents and purposes, a Third Order. In view of this fact and of some circumstances to be noted later on, the seventh master general of the order, Munio de Zamora, wrote (1285) a rule for the Brothers and Sisters of Penitence of St. Dominic. The privilege granted the new fraternity 28 Jan., 1286, by Honorius IV, gave it a canonical existence (Potthast, 22358). The rule of Munio was not entirely original; some points being borrowed from the Rule of the Brothers of Penitence, whose origin dates back to St. Francis of Assisi ; but it was distinctive on all essential points. It is in a sense more thoroughly ecclesiastical ; the Brothers and Sisters are grouped in different fraternities; their government is immediately subject to ecclesiastical authority; and the various fraternities do not form a collective whole, with legislative chapters, as was the case among the Brothers of Penitence of St. Francis. The Dominican fraternities are local and without any bond of union other than that of the Preaching Brothers who govern them. Some characteristics of these fraternities may be gathered from the Rule of Munio de Zamora. The Brothers and Sisters, as true children of St. Dominic, should be, above all things, truly zealous for the Catholic Faith. Their habit is a white tunic, with black cloak and hood, and a leathern girdle. After making profession, they cannot return to the world, but may enter other authorized religious orders. They recited a certain number of Paters and Aves, for the canonical Hours; receive communion at least four times a year, and must show great respect to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. They fast during Advent, Lent, and on all the Fridays during the year, and eat meat only three days in the week, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. They are allowed to carry arms only in defense of the Christian Faith. They visit sick members of the community, give them assistance if necessary, attend the burial of Brothers or Sisters and aid them with their prayers. The head or spiritual director is a priest of the Order of Preachers, whom the Tertiaries select and propose to the master general or to the provincial; he may act on their petition or appoint some other religious. The director and the older members of the fraternity choose the prior or prioress, from among the Brothers and Sisters, and their office continues until they are relieved. The Brothers and the Sisters have, on different days, a monthly reunion in the church of the Preachers, when they attend Mass, listen to an instruction, and to an explanation of the rule. The prior and the director can grant dispensations ; the rule, like the Constitutions of the Preachers, does not oblige under pain of sin.
The text of the Rule of the Brothers of the Penitence of St. Dominic is in "Regula S. Augustini et Constitutiones FF. Ord. Praed." (Rome, 1690), 2nd pt. p. 39; Federici, "Istoria dei cavalieri Gaudent" (Venice, 1787), bk. II, cod. diplomat., p. 28; Mandonnet, "Les règles et le gouvernement de l'Ordo de Poenitentia au XIIIe siècle" (Paris, 1902); Mortier, "Histoire des Maîtres Généraux des Frères Prêcheurs", II (Paris, 1903), 220.
II. HISTORY OF THE ORDER A. THE FRIARS PREACHERS
Their history may be divided into three periods: (1) The Middle Ages (from their foundation to the beginning of the sixteenth century); (2) The Modern Period up to the French Revolution ; (3) The Contemporaneous Period. In each of these periods we shall examine the work of the order in its various departments.(1) The Middle Ages
The thirteenth century is the classic age of the order, the witness to its brilliant development and intense activity. This last is manifested especially in the work of teaching. By preaching it reached all classes of Christian society, fought heresy, schism, paganism, by word and book, and by its missions to the north of Europe, to Africa, and Asia, passed beyond the frontiers of Christendom. Its schools spread throughout the entire Church its doctors wrote monumental works in all branches of knowledge and two among them, Albertus Magnus, and especially Thomas Aquinas, founded a school of philosophy and theology which was to rule the ages to come in the life of the Church. An enormous number of its members held offices in Church and State -- as popes, cardinals, bishops, legates, inquisitors, confessors of princes, ambassadors, and paciarii (enforcers of the peace decreed by popes or councils). The Order of Preachers, which should have remained a select body, developed beyond bounds and absorbed some elements unfitted to its form of life. A period of relaxation ensued during the fourteenth century owing to the general decline of Christian society. The weakening of doctrinal activity favoured the development here and there of the ascetic and contemplative life and there sprang up, especially in Germany and Italy, an intense and exuberant mysticism with which the names of Master Eckhart, Suso, Tauler, St. Catherine of Siena are associated. This movement was the prelude to the reforms undertaken, at the end of the century, by Raymond of Capua, and continued in the following century. It assumed remarkable proportions in the congregations of Lombardy and of Holland, and in the reforms of Savonarola at Florence. At the same time the order found itself face to face with the Renaissance. It struggled against pagan tendencies in Humanism, in Italy through Dominici and Savonarola, in Germany through the theologians of Cologne but it also furnished Humanism with such advanced writers as Francis Colonna (Poliphile) and Matthew Brandello. Its members, in great numbers, took part im the artistic activity of the age, the most prominent being Fra Angelico and Fra Bartolomeo.
(a) Development and Statistics
When St. Dominic, in 1216, asked for the official recognition of his order, the first Preachers numbered only sixteen. At the general Chapter of Bologna, 1221, the year of St. Dominic's death, the order already counted some sixty establishments, and was divided into eight provinces: Spain, Provence, France, Lombardy, Rome, Teutonia, England, and Hungary. The Chapter of 1228 added four new provinces: the Holy Land, Greece, Poland, and Dacia (Denmark and Scandinavia). Sicily was separated from Rome (1294), Aragon from Spain (1301). In 1303 Lombardy was divided into Upper and Lower Lombardy ; Provence into Toulouse and Provence; Saxony was separated from Teutonia, and Bohemia from Poland, thus forming eighteen provinces. The order, which in 1277 counted 404 convents of Brothers, in 1303 numbered nearly 600. The development of the order reached its height during the Middle Ages ; new houses were established during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but in relatively small numbers As to the number of religious only approximate statements can be given. In 1256, according to the concession of suffrages granted by Humbert of Romans to St. Louis, the order numbered about 5000 priests ; the clerks and lay brothers could not have been less than 2000. Thus towards the middle of the thirteenth century it must have had about 7000 members (de Laborde, "Layette du trésor des chartes", Paris 1875, III, 304). According to Sebastien de Olmeda, the Preachers, as shown by the census taken under Benedict XII, were close on to 12,000 in 1337. (Fontana, "Monumenta Dominicana", Rome, 1674, pp. 207-8). This number was not surpassed at the close of the Middle Ages ; the Great Plague of 1348, and the general state of Europe preventing a notable increase, The reform movement begun in 1390 by Raymond of Capua established the principle of a twofold arrangement in the order. For a long time it is true, the reformed convents were not separate from their respective provinces; but with the foundation of the congregation of Lombardy, in 1459, a new order of things began. The congregations were more or less self-governing, and, according as they developed, overlapped several provinces and even several nations. There were established successively the congregations of Portugal (1460), Holland (1464), Aragon, and Spain (1468), St. Mark in Florence (1493), France (1497), the Gallican (1514). About the same time some new provinces were also established: Scotland (1481), Ireland (1484), Bétique or Andalusia (1514), Lower Germany (1515). (Quétif-Echard, "Script. Ord. Praed.", I, p. 1-15; "Anal. Ord. Praed.", 1893, passim; Mortier, "Hist. des Maîtres Généraux", I-V, passim ).
The Preachers possessed a number of able administrators among their masters general during the Middle Ages, especially in the thirteenth century. St. Dominic, the creator of the institution (1206-1221), showed a keen intelligence of the needs of the age. He executed his plans with sureness of insight, firmness of resolution, and tenacity of purpose. Jordan of Saxony (1222-1237) sensitive, eloquent, and endowed with rare powers of persuasion, attracted numerous and valuable recruits. St. Raymond of Penaforte (1238-1240), the greatest canonist of the age, ruled the order only long enough to reorganize its legislation. John the Teuton (1241-1252), bishop and linguist, who was associated with the greatest personalities of his time pushed the order forward along the line of development outlined by its founder. Humbert of Romans (1254-1263), a genius of the practical sort, a broad-minded and moderate man, raised the order to the height of its glory, and wrote manifold works, setting forth what, in his eyes, the Preachers and Christian society ought to be. John of Vercelli (1264-1283), an energetic and prudent man, during his long government maintained the order in all its vigor. The successors of these illustrious masters did their utmost in the discharge of their duty, and in meeting the situations which the state of the Church and of society from the close of the thirteenth century rendered more and more difficult. Some of them did no more than hold their high office, while others had not the genius of the masters general of the golden age [Balme-Lelaidier, "Cart. de St. Dominic "; Guiraud, "St. Dominic" (Paris, 1899); Mothon, "Vie du B. Jourdain de Saxe" (Paris, 1885); Reichert, "Des Itinerar des zweiten Dominikaner-generals Jordanis von Sachsen" in "Festschrift des Deutschen Campo Santo in Rom" (Freiburg, 1897) 153; Mothon, "Vita del B. Giovanini da Vecellio" (Vecellio 1903); Mortier, "Histoire des Maîtres Généraux", I-V]. The general chapters which wielded supreme power were the great regulators of the Dominican life during the Middle Ages . They are usually remarkable for their spirit of decision, and the firmness with which they ruled. They appeared even imbued with a severe character which, taking no account of persons, bore witness to the importance they attached to the maintenance of discipline. (See the Acta Cap. Gen. already referred to.)
(c) Modification of the Statute
We have already spoken of the chief exception to be taken to the Constitution of the order, the difficulty of maintaining an even balance between the monastic and canonical observances and the clerical and apostolical life. The primitive régime of poverty, which left the convents without an assured income, created also a permanent difficulty. Time and the modifications of the state of Christian society exposed these weak points. Already the General Chapters of 1240-1242 forbade the changing of the general statutes of the order, a measure which would indicate at least a hidden tendency towards modification (Acta, I, p. 14-20). Some change seems to have been contemplated also by the Holy See when Alexander IV, 4 February, 1255, ordered the Dominican cardinal, Hugh of Saint Cher, to recast the entire legislation of the Preachers into a rule which should be called the Rule of St. Dominic (Potthast, 156-69). Nothing came of the project, and the question was broached again about 1270 (Humbert de Romanis, "Opera", I, p. 43). It was during the pontificate of Benedict XII, (1334-1342), who undertook a general reform of the religious orders, that the Preachers were on the point of undergoing serious modifications in the secondary elements of their primitive statute. Benedict, desiring to give the order greater efficiency, sought to impose a régime of property-holding as necessary to its security and to reduce the number of its members (12,000) by eliminating the unfit etc.; in a word, to lead the order back to its primitive concept of a select apostolic and teaching body. The order, ruled at that time by Hugh de Vansseman (1333-41), resisted with all its strength (1337-40). This was a mistake (Mortier, op. cit., III, 115). As the situation grew worse, the order was obliged to petition Sixtus IV for the right to hold property, and this was granted 1 June, 1475. Thence forward the convents could acquire property, and perpetual rentals (Mortier, IV, p. 495). This was one of the causes which quickened the vitality of the order in the sixteenth century.
The reform projects of Benedict XII having failed, the master general, Raymond of Capua (1390) sought to restore the monastic observances which had fallen into decline. He ordered the establishment in each province of a convent of strict observance, hoping that as such houses became more numerous, the reform would eventually permeate the entire province. This was not usually the case. These houses of the observance formed a confederation among themselves under the jurisdiction of a special vicar. However, they did not cease to belong to their original province in certain respects, and this, naturally gave rise to numerous conflicts of government. During the fifteenth century, several groups made up congregations, more or less autonomous; these we have named above in giving the statistics of the order. The scheme of reform proposed by Raymond and adopted by nearly all who subsequently took up with his ideas, insisted on the observance of the Constitutions ad unguem, as Raymond, without further explanation, expressed it. By this, his followers, and, perhaps Raymond himself, understood the suppression of the rule of dispensation which governed the entire Dominican legislation. "In suppressing the power to grant and the right to accept dispensation, the reformers inverted the economy of the order, setting the part above the whole, and the means above the end" (Lacordaire, "Mémoire pour la restauration des Frères L Prêcheurs dans la chrétienité", new ed., Dijon, 1852, p. 18). The different reforms which originated within the order up to the nineteenth century, began usually with principles of asceticism, which exceeded the letter and the spirit of the original constitutions. This initial exaggeration was, under pressure of circumstances, toned down, and the reforms which endured, like that of the congregation of Lombardy, turned out to be the most effectual. Generally speaking, the reformed communities slackened the intense devotion to study prescribed by the Constitutions; they did not produce the great doctors of the order, and their literary activity was directed preferably to moral theology, history, subjects of piety, and asceticism. They gave to the fifteenth century many holy men (Thomae Antonii Senesis, "Historia disciplinæ regularis instaurata in Cnobiis Venetis Ord. Præd." in Fl. Cornelius, "Ecclesiæ Venetæ", VII, 1749, p. 167; Bl. Raymond of Capua, "Opuscula et Litterae", Rome, 1899; Meyer, "Buch der Reformacio Predigerordens" in "Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Dominikanerordens in Deutschland", II, III, Leipzig 1908-9; Mortier, "Hist. des Maîtres Généraux", III, IV).
(d) Preaching and Teaching
Independently of their official title of Order of Preachers, the Roman Church especially delegated the Preachers to the office of preaching. It is in fact the only order of the Middle Ages which the popes declared to be specially charged with this office ( Bull. Ord. Præd., VIII, p. 768). Conformably to its mission, the order displayed an enormous activity. The "Vitæ Fratrum" (1260) (Lives of the Brothers) informs us that many of the brothers refused food until they had first announced the Word of God (op. cit., p. 150). In his circular letter (1260), the Master General Humbert of Romans, in view of what had been accomplished by his religious, could well make the statement: "We teach the people, we teach the prelates, we teach the wise and the unwise, religious and seculars, clerics and laymen, nobles and peasants, lowly and great." (Monum. Ord. Præd. Historia, V, p. 53). Rightly, too, it has been said: "Science on one hand, numbers on the other, placed them [the Preachers] ahead of their competitors in the thirteenth century" (Lecoy de la Marche, "La chaire française au Moyen Age", Paris, 1886, p. 31). The order maintained this supremacy during the entire Middle Ages (L. Pfleger, "Zur Geschichte des Predigtwesens in Strasburg ", Strasburg, 1907, p. 26; F. Jostes, "Zur Geschichte der Mittelalterlichen Predigt in Westfalen", Münster, 1885, p. 10). During the thirteenth century, the Preachers in addition to their regular apostolate, worked especially to lead back to the Church heretics and renegade Catholics. An eyewitness of their labours (1233) reckons the number of their converts in Lombardy at more than 100,000 ("Annales Ord. Præd.", Rome, 1756, col. 128). This movement grew rapidly, and the witnesses could scarcely believe their eyes, as Humbert of Romans (1255) informs us (Opera, II, p. 493). At the beginning of the fourteenth century, a celebrated pulpit orator, Giordano da Rivalto, declared that, owing to the activity of the order, heresy had almost entirely disappeared from the Church ("Prediche del Beato Fra Giordano da Rivalto", Florence, 1831, I, p. 239).
The Friars Preachers were especially authorized by the Roman Church to preach crusades, against the Saracens in favour of the Holy Land, against Livonia and Prussia, and against Frederick II, and his successors ( Bull. O. P., XIII, p. 637). This preaching assumed such importance that Humbert of Romans composed for the purpose a treatise entitled, "Tractatus de prædicatione contra Saracenos infideles et paganos" (Tract on the preaching of the Cross against the Saracens, infidels and pagans ). This still exists in its first edition in the Paris Bibliothèque Mazarine, incunabula no. 259; Lecoy de la Marche, "La prédication de la Croisade au XIIIe siècle" in "Rev. des questions historiques", 1890, p. 5). In certain provinces, particularly in Germany and Italy, the Dominican preaching took on a peculiar quality, due to the influence of the spiritual direction which the religious of these provinces gave to the numerous convents of women confided to their care. It was a mystical preaching; the specimens which have survived are in the vernacular, and are marked by simplicity and strength ( Denifle, "Uber die Anfänge der Predigtweise der deutschen Mystiker" in "Archiv. f. Litt. u. Kirchengesch", II, p. 641; Pfeiffer, "Deutsche Mystiker des vierzehnten Jahrhundert", Leipzig, 1845; Wackernagel, "Altdeutsche Predigten und Gebete aus Handschriften", Basle, 1876). Among these preachers may be mentioned: St. Dominic, the founder and model of preachers (d. 1221); Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237) (Lives of the Brothers, pts. II, III); Giovanni di Vincenza, whose popular eloquence stirred Northern Italy during the year 1233 -- called the Age of the Alleluia (Sitter, "Johann von Vincenza und die Italiensche Friedensbewegung", Freiburg, 1891); Giordano da Rivalto, the foremost pulpit orator in Tuscany at the beginning of the fourteenth century [d. 1311 (Galletti, "Fra Giordano da Pisa", Turin, 1899)]; Johann Eckhart of Hochheim (d. 1327), the celebrated theorist of the mystical life (Pfeiffer, "Deutsche Mystiker", II, 1857; Buttner, "Meister Eckharts Schriften und Pred
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Apostles' Creed
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
- The Our Father
- Evening Prayer
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.