Saints of the Day – Blessed Henry of Cologne


Died in Cologne, Germany, 1224 or 1225. One of the first Dominicans recruited from among the students of the university of Paris, Henry became the first prior of the friary at Cologne. He was the closest friend of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who knew, understood, and promoted friendships as important to the spiritual life. Henry met Jordan when the latter was a professor at the University of Paris. Henry must have been a very personal young man of fine character, for Jordan named him the very flower of the Dominicans. He was “handsome, reverent and virtuous, of a mind to grasp everything and with a rare faculty for expressing himself.”

When Reginald of Saint-Gilles died, Jordan had a vision in which he saw in the cloister of Saint- Jacques a clear and limpid fountain that ran dry. In its place a fountain sprang up, having two heads, surging up like a great river to water the whole earth. It was revealed to him that Henry was one of the fountainheads, and the brethren easily understood that Jordan himself was the other.

By this time Jordan had decided to abandon his academic career and join the Dominicans. But he could not bring himself to leave behind his dearest friend. Often he would later say in sermons, “You do not go to a banquet alone, but with your dear friends; you should not go alone to heaven either!” Jordan’s success in recruiting young men for the order is probably due to this attitude. He could not imagine anyone going into the joy of religious life without bringing his friends along with him. So Jordan delayed entering the order until Henry was ready to do so, too.

After Henry completed his studies in the arts and theology in Paris, Jordan began recruiting him. When Jordan returned from confession to Reginald, shaken and exalted by the ideals that Reginald had envisioned for him, he looked for and found a Scripture text to confirm his resolution. Then the book fell open to the text he wanted for Henry, “Let us stay together, let us never separate.” He urged this on Henry, but the young man, who was chaste and obedient, found it difficult to accept poverty.

Henry argued with himself, prayed and meditated, but still was unable to accept the precept of abandoning all things for the uncertainties of a mendicant life. One night, after he had prayed for a long time, he saw himself at judgement, and a thunderous voice demanded of him, “And you – what have you given up for God?” Henry was shaken by this thought, went to see Master Reginald, and resolved to enter the order as soon as possible. On Ash Wednesday, 1220, the two friends went together to be received.

Jordan, a magnetic preacher, thought that Henry was the model of preachers. Our image of Henry is highly idealized because the only records remaining are those written by Jordan. In 1221, when the priory of Cologne was established, Henry was sent there as prior, and Jordan went to Lombardy. It was a sorrow to see the friends separated, but they wrote frequently. Theirs was a friendship based on the love of God and directed to the furthering of His kingdom.

At about the age of 35, Henry died suddenly in the arms of Jordan, who was visiting Cologne. It was a terrible grief to Jordan, and his letter concerning the death of Henry is one of the saddest and most beautiful of all his eloquent writings. He writes to Blessed Diana in the rawness of his sorrow, “Do not grieve too much about the death of your sister Otta . . . it is good for us to be saddened now at the same time, to go sowing our seed in tears; at the harvest we shall come carrying our sheaves in joy.” Jordan confesses that he wept copiously for his friend and, after giving a beautiful account of the last moments of Henry, he adds, “There is still a long way to go. If you are tired, your Jesus was also . . . in all humility, in all patience, He knew how to wait” (Benedictines, Dorcy).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 August 2020. Web. 25 November 2020. <>