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Idiota

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(RAYMUNDUS JORDANUS)

The nom de plume of an ancient, learned, and pious writer whose identity remained unknown for some centuries. The name need not be understood in the ordinary sense as now used. According to the original Greek, idiota means private, simple, or peculiar, and it is probable that the writer in question employed it in this sense to signify that he was a person of no consequence. The works of this author soon became widely known although he himself remained unknown. They have all been printed several times in the "Bibliotheca Patrum", and his "Contemplationes de amore divino" are often found in small manuals bound up with the meditations of St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and St. Anselm. In the "Magna Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum" published in 1618, his works are given among the writers of the tenth century and, according to Cardinal Bellarmine, Idiota flourished about the year 902.

Father Theophilus Raynaud, S.J., was the first to discover that Raymundus Jordanus was the author of the works found in the library of the Fathers under the name Idiota. In his preface to one of the works of Idiota, the "Oculus Mysticus", which he published in 1641, he accounts for this discovery by the testimony of contemporary writers, and by the fact that some of the original Manuscripts had been signed by Raymundus. Biographical writers have, in general, accepted Raynaud's theory since the year 1654, when, under his editorship, a complete edition of the works of Idiota was published in Paris under the name of Raymundus Jordanus. It is known for certain that this Raymundus was a Frenchman, a Canon Regular of St. Augustine, prior of the house of his order at Uzès, in France, and afterwards Abbot of Selles-sur-Cher, France where he lived and died. Selles, it appears, was not then a Cistercian monastery. Raymundus wrote about the year 1381. In an account of a transaction between the Canons Regular and the Bishop of Uzès which occurred in the year 1377, Raymundus is styled licentiate, and it is stated that he was elected by the chapter of his order to present and conduct its cause before an ecclesiastical tribunal presided over by Cardinal Sabinensi, which he did with ability and success. Whether Raynaud is right in his theory that Raymundus Jordanus is Idiota, or whether Idiota is to remain unknown like the Auctor operis imperfecti, so often quoted by spiritual writers, may still be regarded by many as an open question.

There is however no question as to the works themselves. They were all written in Latin and none of them has been translated into any other language. In the edition of his works published in Paris in the year 1654 we have the following collection: — six books of "Meditations"; a "Treatise on the Blessed Virgin"; a "Treatise on the Religious Life"; and the "Spiritual or Mystical Eye". He wrote also a "Commentary on Psalm xv". His book of "Meditations" contains the following chapters:

  • (1) De amore divino;
  • (2) De Virgine Maria;
  • (3) De vera patientia;
  • (4) De continuo conflictu carnis et animæ
  • (5) De innocentia perdita;
  • (6) De morte.

These meditations were published in Paris in 1519, and the volume is said to have been the work of a pious and holy man who gave no other name than Idiota. All his works are written in a simple, clear, and pure style; and they are replete with Christian wisdom. They well deserve to be classed with the works of the early Fathers of the Church, and to be made known in the vernacular for the benefit and edification of pious readers.


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