The Foundation of the Order of Preachers, by Bede Jarrett

detail of a painting of Saint Dominic de Guzman by Fra Angelico, 1437; Perugia Altarpiece; swiped from Wikimedia Commons

Prologue

To all the Friars Preachers, beloved in the beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ, Brother Humbert, their unprofitable servant, wisheth salvation hereafter in their home and here in their wayfaring the fulness of the works of salvation.

Surely it is the Saviour of the world, under whose charge lies the care of all ages, who, by the incoming of the Holy Spirit to their hearts, has inspired the writers of these legends to record such words and sayings of certain of his servants as are noteworthy of help, in order that the more wonderfully the memory of those blessed fathers is perpetuated in writing, the more may future generations be led thereby to salvation. Thus Eusebius wrote his Ecclesiastical History, and the Damascene the Book of Balaam, and Cassian the Collationes Patrum, and Gregory his Dialogue, and Jerome, Bede, Florus, Odo, Usuardus their various martyrologies, and Gregory of Tours, Peter of Cluny, and many others their many writings of the same kind.

Rumours have reached us of the accounts of our brethren of all nations telling of many things which took place in the Order or concerning it.

Were these written down they must assuredly be a consolation to the brethren and help them to advance in the spiritual life. For this very reason, therefore, many, devoted to God, urged us not to delay in appointing some one to compile such a work as this now offered you before forgetfulness, already destructive of much that should have remained in the hearts of the brethren, bury all in the tomb. When this was discussed by the Priors Provincial at the General Chapter of Paris in 1256, it was determined on their advice that all the brethren should inform us of whatever events in our history they thought worthy of being remembered. Now we certainly cannot excuse very many who have neglected to obey this ordination, but we commend very heartily those who forwarded to us a great deal of material. ‘]’his Nve gave to our most dear brother, Gerard of Litnoges, theta Prior Provincial of Provence, in whose industry in this sort of thing we have great faith, asking and ordering him that he should on examination select the best of them and edit them. The pages that follow prove what he has done. These we have shown to many discreet brethren; and since they have approved of them, we have authorised their publication.

It is not our wish, however, that this should be shown outside the Order without our special leave.

Do you, therefore, most beloved, read herein and see how carefully Providence has befriended our Order, and remembering this, grow always in greater love of it. Let those who have been negligent in sending matter to us for this book diligently correct their negligence. Let those to whom have happened such occurrences as are contained in these pages send an account of them to us or to whoever then be Master, that they may be added to this volume or duly inserted in it.

The Order was the Fruit of the Blessed Virgin’s Prayers

It is clear from a careful study of holy Scripture, that the blessed Virgin is a compassionate advocate and powerful helper of mankind. By her prayers the fire of God’s wrath kindled against sinners is tempered lest they perish, and countless blessings are showered down upon the world. Rightly therefore is she compared to a cloud between the consuming fire of God’s justice and guilty man, softening by her tender influence the heat of his wrath. She is a vessel of loving kindness; and God allows his ire against sinners to be appeased through her and pours forth by her the waters of his compassion in blessings. One of the examples of this is the fact, revealed to many of God’s servants, that this great Order was raised up by Almighty God’s mercy for the salvation of souls, through her all-prevailing intercession.

Before the Order had as yet sprung up, a certain monk, a man of upright and holy life according to the rule of his Order, during three whole days and nights was rapt in ecstasy, scarcely giving token of feeling or life. While his brethren and bystanders were considering what should be done, he regained consciousness as if waking from a deep sleep. When all asked in wonder what had been amiss, and whether he had seen any marvel, he gave no reply but this: ‘ I was a little while in ecstasy,’ whereas he had been so during three days and nights, nor would he for a long while mention what had been shown him. Some years later, when our Order had obtained a sure footing, and our brethren were scattered abroad on their ministry, two of them chanced to come into the neighbourhood to preach. On beholding them this monk began to make diligent enquiries as to their Order, name, and manner of life, since their habit was new to him. Their preaching being over, he drew them aside, and summoning other wise and sober persons, spoke thus to them : ‘ I feel, brethren, that the hour is come for me to reveal the secrets which the Lord was pleased in his goodness to unfold to me and about which I have hitherto been silent, for I now see that they have come to pass. During the time that I was caught up in rapture I saw our Lady, Mary the Mother of God, during those three days and nights, upon bended knees and with clasped hands, pleading with her Son on behalf of mankind, and beseeching him to forbear yet a while that the world might repent. But although during all that time he spoke never a word, at length upon the third day he yielded and made answer: “My own Mother, what can I, or what ought I to do further for the race of men? I sent them patriarchs for their salvation, and for a brief space of time they gave ear unto them; I sent them prophets, and for a while they did penance. After that I myself went unto them, and I gave them apostles, but me they crucified and them they killed. I have since sent them martyrs, confessors, and doctors, and many more, yet despite their toil the world has not amended; nevertheless, at thy prayer – for it is not beseeming that I deny thee aught – I will send unto them preachers and men of truth, through whom the world shall be enlightened and reclaimed. If it so prove, it is well; but if not, there remains no further remedy, but I will myself come in judgement and be avenged upon them.”‘

Another like vision confirms the foregoing. It was told by an aged and holy Cistercian monk of the Abbey of Bonnevaux, in the diocese of Vienne, to Brother Humbert, who was afterwards Master of the Order. It ran thus:

Pope Innocent III having sent twelve Cistercian abbots against the Albigenses [1207], one of them chanced to pass, with his companion, close by a great crowd of men and women gathered round a man who had just come back to life after being dead three days. Out of respect for his own sacred character and that of his Order, he felt loath to give way to his curiosity and draw nigh, but on second thoughts he sent his companion to sift the matter, and to ask the man thus restored to life whether he had witnessed anything deserving of being recorded. When, in obedience to these behests, the monk enquired of the man what he had seen, he made answer that he had beheld our glorious Lady, the Virgin Mother of God, during three whole days and nights, upon bended knees and with clasped hands, tearfully beseeching her Son to have pity upon her in such terms as these: ‘My Son, I thank thee for having deigned to choose me for thy mother and queen of heaven, yet I grieve exceedingly that countless souls should be lost, for whom thou hast undergone so many sufferings of poverty, hardship, and contempt. Therefore I beseech thy clemency, let not the great price which has been paid for them be lost, nor thy precious blood be shed in vain, but devise yet further means for their salvation.’ Upon this the Son answered his blessed Mother: ‘Holy Mother, what can I do, or ought I to do, further for the human race? Have I not sent them patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and doctors of the Church for their salvation? Have I not delivered myself up to death for their sakes ? Ought I then to save the sinner equally with the just, the guilty with the innocent? This is neither in keeping with my justice, nor does it beseem my majesty, for although merciful to the contrite, yet am I just towards the hardened. But tell me, sweet Mother, how ought I to bring this about? What wouldst thou have of me? Ask, and thy request shall be granted.’ At this the Mother continued: ‘Mine is not to teach thee, my Son, who knowest all things, being the sovereign wisdom of the Father, yet am I sure that if thou willest thou canst find some remedy for this perishing people.’ Such prayers as these did the Mother of mercy pour forth for sinners, kneeling at the feet of her Son. At length, on the third day, raising her up with great tenderness, the Son replied: ‘I know, sweet Mother, that sinners are being lost for want of preachers, having none to break to them the bread of the holy Scriptures, or teach the truth, or open the books now sealed to them. Wherefore, yielding to thy entreaties, I will send them new messengers, an Order of Preachers, who shall call the people and lead them to everlasting joys; only then shall we bar the gate to all slothful, accursed, and empty-handed souls.’ After this he saw appearing brethren clothed in the habit which we now wear, and the Son and the Mother sent them forth with their blessing, giving them power to preach the Kingdom of God. It is told that this same monk said afterwards in his monastery: ‘If after my death – for I shall not live to see these messengers of the Mother of God – this Order does not arise, strike my name from out your obit list, and never pray for me.’

From such revelations it may be clearly gathered that one and the same vision granted to both was a sign that the word of the Lord should come to pass and be speedily fulfilled.

A friar-minor, who had long been the companion of Saint Francis, told some of our brethren – one of whom in turn related it to Brother Jordan, then Master of the Order that when Saint Dominic our Father was in Rome, during the sitting of the Lateran Council, pressing his suit before God and the Pope for the confirmation of his Order, as he was praying one night – according to his custom – in the church, he beheld our Lord Jesus Christ standing by his throne in mid-air, and holding three lances which he was about to hurl against the earth. At the same moment the Virgin Mother, falling on her knees, besought him to have mercy on those whom he had redeemed, and to temper his justice with mercy. ‘Seest thou not what countless wrongs they continue to heap upon me?’ said he. ‘Right willingly would I have mercy, but my justice will not allow evil to go unpunished.’ Thereupon the Queen Mother again addressed him: ‘My Son, I know, as dost thou, who knowest all things, how thou canst restore mankind to thy favour. I have by me one trusty liegeman whom thou shalt send into the world to make known thy word, and thenceforth it will forsake and bewail its evil ways, and follow thee, its Saviour. To him as fellow labourer shall I give another of my servants to toil in even way.’ Upon this her Son answered; ‘Behold, now I am appeased and I accept thy plan; yet show me the man thou hast chosen.’ Then the glorious Virgin, taking Saint Dominic by the hand, led him to our Lord Jesus Christ, who, with an approving smile, replied: ‘Right well and manfully shall he carry out what thou hast said.’ She then brought forward Saint Francis, whom our Lord praised evenly. The blessed Dominic earnestly scanned the features of his companion while the vision lasted; on the morrow recognizing him in the blessed Francis, although hitherto a stranger to him, he ran up and tenderly embraced him with a kiss, saying: ‘You are my comrade, let us stand together, and no foe shall prevail against us.’ After this he told his vision, and from that hour they became but one heart and one soul in God, and enjoined their sons to foster this brotherly spirit to the end of time.

How the Order was Foreseen and Foretold by Many

Prior Stephen, of the Carthusian Monastery of Partes, in the diocese of Lyons, a man so highly reputed for holiness that he was deservedly called a saint, had a revelation from God, and foretold to his brethren the rise of an Order of Preachers. Having gained their credence in this matter, he requested, nay, enjoined upon them, to hold this Order ever in the highest reverence and esteem. This they did most devoutly afterwards, and continue doing to this day, welcoming our brethren as angels sent from God.

A Cistercian bishop of the diocese of Orange, in the Province of Arles, by reason of his exceeding great piety and deeds of mercy, and still more on account of the charm and fervour of his preaching, in which he shone beyond belief, was universally deemed to be a saint of God. Often while preaching he used, in the spirit of prophecy, to foretell the speedy rise of the Order. ‘I foretell to you,’ he would say, ‘that there will soon come men who will preach in very different fashion, and who will bear the name as well as the office of Preachers.’ There are still some surviving who heard him say so.

The blessed Mary D’Oignies, of the diocese of Liège, used also frequently to allude to the coming foundation of the Order. She was a woman of the rarest innocence and perfection, whose wonderful life has been set forth in the lengthy and trustworthy narrative of James of Vitry, the cardinal bishop of Tusculum.

Fulk, bishop of Toulouse, a prelate of great gifts and gentle blood, tells us in the life which he wrote of this same Mary D’Oignies, how, when rapt in ecstasy ten years before the establishment of the Order, she foresaw that the Holy Ghost would shortly visit the Church of God, and enlighten it by means of his preachers. This she dictated at length on her deathbed to some who put it in writing, herself rejoicing at what she had seen.

In Pisa, of Tuscany, there dwelt an aged and holy woman of whom many wonders and miracles are duly attested, and who had furthermore been espoused to Christ in mind and body with a ring still very reverently kept in a monastery beyond the city. The table, also, whereat Christ supped with her, hangs in the sacristy of another monastery which she reformed. Seven times she went in pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James, at Compostella, going and returning in company with our Lord and the apostles, as they who learnt the secrets of her holy life attest. Her name was treasured throughout the dioceses of Pisa and Lucca, but still more in the two monasteries mentioned, and in another near Lucca, of great piety, all of which to this day call her their mother; the people style her Sancta Bona, or the good woman. Now amongst many other events foretold by her in the spirit of prophecy was this – that an Order of Preachers would shortly be given to the world. We have ourselves met many who both saw her and heard it from her lips.

Lastly, Abbot Joachim, the founder of a monastery in Florence, left many prophecies about the Order among his writings, and often used to bid his brethren be sure to welcome it devoutly and heartily when it should appear after his death. This they afterwards did, receiving our brethren processionally when they first visited them.

Visions Preceding some First Foundations

At the time when the Friars Preachers received the church of Saint Nicholas, at Bologna, a cleric, learned but given over to worldliness, was changed in heart by this vision. It seemed to him that as lie went out into the country a thunderstorm was about to break upon him, and that as he fled before it he came to a cottage which he found shut; wishing to take shelter he knocked and begged shelter, but the good-wife of the house cried out from within: ‘I am Justice, and this is my abode; but since thou be not just thou canst not enter here.’ Turning sorrowfully away he made for another dwelling, and knocked. Then the good-wife from within cried: ‘I am Truth, nor will I admit you, for Truth cannot harbour him who does not value her.’ Espying yet a third house, he craved entrance, but he heard: ‘It is I, Peace, here; Peace is not for the evil, but for men of good-will. But since mine are thoughts of peace and not of pain, this advice I give you. Beyond me lives our sister who always helps the needy; go to her, and follow her counsels.’ He did so, and Mercy, for so she was styled, running up to him, exclaimed: ‘If you wish to be delivered from this storm which is now brewing, haste to Saint Nicholas church where the Friars Preachers dwell; there you will find the stable of doctrine, and within, the manger of the Scriptures, the ass of simplicity with the ox of discretion, Mary enlightening and the Christ Child saving thee.’ Coming to himself and turning over what he had heard, he did as advised. This fact was publicly told in the schools by Master Alexander, an upright and religious man, who furthermore set it down in his paraphrase of that verse of the psalm, “Mercy and Truth have met.’ He was for many years a professor of theology at Bologna, and afterwards became a bishop in England, his native country.

The next event we give on the authority of Brother Ralph, a trusty and pious man, who was formerly rector of Saint Nicholas church at Bologna, which charge he gave up through love of the Order, becoming himself a Friar Preacher.

Before our brethren came to Bologna, a devout woman of the city, of mean repute among men, but beloved of God, used often to pray on bended knees, close by a vineyard near the spot where our brethren now are. When the townsfolk laughed at her, as though she were beside herself for so doing, she would turn to them and say: ‘O hapless and little-witted people, if you but knew what kind of men and things will one day here be found, you would not talk in this fashion, for the whole world will be enlightened by those who shall dwell in this place.’ From this we may gather that through the light of the Holy Ghost the after benefits of the Order were foreseen by this good woman.

Brother John of Bologna declares that before the brethren came thither, the keepers of this same vineyard used often to see great lights and halos upon the spot where now they dwell.

Brother Claro of Bologna tells how, when a mere child, as he was one day passing with his father by the spot where the convent now stands, his father said to him: ‘My son, in this place angels’ songs are often heard, which seems to forbode great things for it.’ But when he, as a boy, suggested that perchance they were the voices of minstrels, or of the monks of Saint Proclus hard by, the father replied, ‘Child, anyone can tell the difference between the voices of men and angels’; which words never left his memory.

The removal of the convent of Strasbourg from its former most unsuitable site in a marsh outside the city walls, to where it now stands, seemed, at the time, to be a hopeless undertaking, from the many and weighty difficulties in the way. God was pleased, however, to show what his far-reaching hand could do for the comfort of the lowly, by sending forewarnings to several devout souls. To one devout matron it seemed as if the spot which the friars now occupy, but which then looked beyond all securing, was thronged with strangers.

To another it appeared as if the whole spot was covered with lilies freshly sprung up, which forthwith were turned into Friars Preachers, who, lifting up their eyes to heaven, sang their Maker’s praises with ravishing voices.

A third witness, a woman of uncommon piety and trustworthiness, called Verudadas, the widow of a judge in the city, when on the point of expiring, foretold three things which would shortly happen, one of which was that the Friars Preachers would get possession of the highest spot in the city, which afterwards came to pass.

A wealthy and influential widow, but a heretic, who dwelt some way out of the city of Cuma, in Lombardy, saw countless stars fall from heaven upon the church of Saint John the Baptist, which stood upon a hill commanding the city. So overcome was she at the sight that when her maids wanted her to retire she could not be withdrawn from the terrace. One of her servants happening to come from the city next morning, she questioned him as to whether there were no strange tidings abroad: ‘I know of none,’ said he, ‘except that the church of Saint John the Baptist, which stands on the brow of yonder hill, has just been handed over to the Friars Preachers.’ Filled with wonder, she was led to conclude that this must have been the meaning of the shower of lights shown her, and she became in consequence converted to the Faith. Her confessor vouches for the fact.

So, too, another lady, also a heretic, had this vision. It seemed to her as if two huge jars were standing on the place where the brethren now have their cloister, one of which was filled with honey and the other with wine. Presently she beheld some new-comers, who began to mix the honey with the wine, and pour wine upon the honey, and gave it to the people to drink; whereupon all who partook of it began to run to and fro as if beside themselves with its sweetness. This marvel brought about her conversion to the Catholic faith, for she believed the friars to be in this case the dispensers of the wine and honey, since they blend in their preaching the sweetness of divine things with the pleasantness of human learning, drawing the same from the two great jars of the Old and New Testaments, by reason whereof men run to do penance and hasten their steps towards God.

Another devout woman beheld, in sleep, a great fountain of limpid water gush forth on the spot where the friars’ cloister now stands in this same city of Cuma, and thence flowing out until it refreshed the whole place, so that thousands ran to drink from it. Our brethren came to live on this very spot some time after, and thither now crowds of

men and women throng with great fervour, the latter coming barefoot to mass and sermon even in winter.

A native of Montpellier, but who dwelt in Burgos, when in his agony, beheld a white-robed procession of such bewitching beauty pass through his garden, which lay at some distance from the town, that he called aloud to the friends around him: ‘See how my garden is thronged with holy men; never send them away, for they are not come for our harm, but for our help.’ Those who heard him say the words, told them, after his death, to our brethren when they came to reside in that very spot.

Before the convent was begun in Lisbon, our brethren were in the habit of preaching on the site it now occupies. Shortly before its foundation some devout women dwelling near Saint Mary’s church, which stands close by, saw a wondrous sight. As they were knitting side by side, by moonlight, as is the custom in these parts in the summer time, suddenly they noticed the heavens open, and a most beautiful ladder of gold and silver let down in the direction of a fig-tree (beneath which I myself have often preached before we had a convent there), one end of the ladder touching the sky while the other rested by the fig-tree. After that they saw three men come down clad in splendid raiment, the first of whom seemed to be a sub-deacon carrying in his hands a handsome cross; the next, evidently a deacon, bearing a thurible; while the third was robed in priestly vestments. Alighting upon the ground they walked round the enclosure of our present convent, incensing it as they passed along; this done, they went back to the ladder, and going up once more entered heaven, drawing it up after them. So long as they beheld this strange sight the women never ceased adoring God on their bended knees. Our brethren saw these same women, but I, for my part, was loath to believe their story, until they brought before me a widow of uncommonly holy life, who was present when it took place, and who faithfully detailed the whole affair. Soon after this, while holding the office of prior, I built a monastery on the same spot, with the consent both of the General and Provincial Chapters, and there our brethren continue to serve God day and night.

A citizen of Limoges assured me that twice in sleep he had seen an imposing white-robed procession upon the place where our brethren afterwards fixed their cloister in that town, and that was some time before their arrival. He furthermore divulged this secret to a bosom friend of his who was afterwards a priest in the Order, and who, in turn, assured me of his having often heard him tell it to others.

Providential Care of the Brethren

The Brother Ralph already mentioned relates that during the time that the Order of Preachers was but a little flock,’ or a young plantation,’ there came over the brethren such a spirit of dejection that many of them began to take counsel together as to which Order they should join, under the conviction that their own, which was of such weak and tender growth, would not survive long. The cause of the disquiet was that two of the most influential brethren, Theobald of Siena, and Nicholas of Campano, had sought and obtained permission from Hugh, bishop of Ostia (then legate of the Apostolic See, and afterwards Pope Gregory IX) to pass to some monastery of the Cistercian Order. On their letters of dispensation being shown him, Brother Reginald called the chapter together and laid the whole affair before them with much grief; at this the brethren also began to weep, and grief beyond power of words to describe filled their hearts. Brother Reginald, with eyes uplifted to heaven, prayed awhile in silence to God, in whom he put all his trust; while Brother Claro, a devout and learned man-who in the world had shone in all the liberal arts, and was well versed in civil and canon law, who was afterwards Provincial of the Roman province and papal penitentiary-arose to address and comfort the brethren. He had scarcely left off speaking when Master Roland of Cremona entered; this was a ripe scholar in the physical sciences, a noted doctor of philosophy in Bologna, and the first of our brethren who afterwards taught theology at Paris. He came alone, intoxicated with the spirit of God, and without more ado sought to be admitted into the Order. The wonder ran that one who before would pay no heed to the idea when broached by others should now, of his own bent and by inspiration, seek for admittance. Without waiting until a habit could be fetched, Brother Reginald took off his own scapular and clothed him on the spot. Brother Guala, the sacristan, rang the bell, which weighed but twenty imperial pounds, while the brethren joined in the Veni Creator. As they sang, with voices half choked with sobbings of joy, the people flocked in, and a crowd of men, women, and children filled the church. The whole town was thrown into an uproar at the news, and devotion to the friars began afresh. There was an end to all difficulties. The two who were bent on quitting the Order threw themselves on their knees before them all, made known their fault with many tears, and refusing the papal indult, plighted their troth that they would be faithful unto death.

During the next night our Lord consoled Brother Ralph by a vision, for he had been deeply depressed through that disturbance among the brethren. He seemed to see Christ the Lord standing before him, having by his side the blessed Virgin and Saint Nicholas. The saint seeing him to be fainthearted, beckoned him to approach, and laying his hand upon his head, said: ‘Fear not, good brother, for all will go well with you and your Order, since God has a special care of you.’ Then, as he looked forth, he saw a ship sail past the convent walls, and in it were countless brethren. ‘Do you see these brethren?’ said the saint. ‘ They are all of your Order, and are going forth to fill and renew the world.’ Taking comfort from what he had witnessed touching the security of the Order, Brother Ralph told it to the brethren, and from that time all went well with them.

The same brother relates how at Bologna the cask of wine for the use of the sick having run short, the infirmarian, after searching in vain for more, went and laid the matter before the brethren, at the same time grieving sorely for his patients, since for the most part only those who were hale drank water. Now in the time of Saint Dominic it was the blessed father’s custom, if anything were needed, to betake himself to prayer, or press the religious to pray with him, after telling them what was needed. Brother Ventura, the venerable prior, did this now, after which he said to the infirmarian: ‘Go now, and try once more if there be any wine.’ The brother went and found the cask brimful, whereat all gave praise and glory to God, who has a continual care of his servants.

Brother Thierry of Auxerre, of holy memory, formerly Provincial of France, declared that while he was prior of the convent at Paris, he found himself one day without any means of providing for the needs of the convent and infirmary. They were burdened, moreover, with debt, and the procurator reckoned that at least one hundred pounds must be speedily found. As he stood buried in anxious thought, a traveller came to the gate, who sent for him, and said: ‘A nobleman has died lately in Greece after bequeathing you one hundred pounds; take the money and pray for him.’ It was very joyfully accepted, and, after returning hearty thanks to God, the prior met his brethren’s wants with this timely aid.

The Countess of Anguillaria, a lady of the highest credit, and very much devoted to the Order, told this incident to the prior of Viterbo. Two lay brothers – Raymond of Orvieto, and Dominic of Viterbo – having called at her residence of Crapalica, near Sutrium, in the neighbourhood of Rome, to fetch her usual dole for the brethren, she not only ordered a bushel of meal to be given them, but actually bestowed it with her own hands. Taking the meal joyfully, yet respectfully, they stowed it away in their wallets on the evening of their arrival, and hurried off home next morning to tell of their successful quest, for they were then in sore need. That very day the Countess, coming by chance to the granary, found the sack full, at which she fired up indignantly against the brothers, whom she called proud, judging rashly that they had slighted her gift, as if deeming it beneath them to be beholden for the like. Some time later, one of them happening to call again, she gave full vent to her wrath, and demanded why he had not taken away the meal. The discomfited brother, although grieved at hearing her use such harsh words, heard her out with unruled patience, and then calmly stated that he had taken it home with him, as was indeed the case. ‘How can you have taken it with you?’ she angrily rejoined; ‘don’t you see that the sack is yet full?’ and in her ignorance of the affair she rated him more soundly than before, whereat the simple brother contended as stoutly that he had carried it home. Overcome by the brother’s evidence of the fact, she summoned all her handmaids and men-servants, and enquired whether any of them had carried in, or seen carried in, any meal on that evening or on the following morning; but they denied all knowledge of it. From which we may gather and believe that lie who by the prophet Elias kept the widow’s measure of meal from failing, did, without a doubt, fill the sack with fresh meal by his unseen power, for the furtherance of the lady’s devotion and piety.

On another occasion, Brother John di Colunna, who was Provincial of the Roman province, and afterwards archbishop of Messina, came to stay at this very house. Full of joy at having to entertain so worthy a guest, the countess hurried to her strong box to fetch out the money requisite for providing the supper. But here the enemy of hospitality put a hindrance in her way, for after diligent search the key could nowhere be found. As a last resource, in her despair of opening it, she tried a very small key which, naturally, was out of all keeping with the lock, when, to her no small surprise, and that of her guest and household, the chest was found to be open. And this came about without the aid of any proper key, for, as has been observed, the one tried was utterly unsuited to the lock: but it was rather done by him ‘who shutteth and no man openeth, openeth and no man shutteth.’ Furthermore, lest it might seem to have come about by means of the small key, she could never after open the chest with it.

Brother Henry tells how, in the early days of the Order, two of our brethren were on the road together, both hungry and footsore, for they had not broken their fast although it was now past mid-day. As they plodded on, discussing where they might possibly find refreshment in so poverty-stricken a place and among strangers, a man, in pilgrim garb, suddenly joined himself to them, and spoke thus: ‘O ye of little faith, why are you solicitous? Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. Have you so far trusted in God as to quit all things for his sake, and do you now fear that he will leave you unprovided for? Let this be a sign to you. Cross the meadow, and in the hollow beyond you will come upon a hamlet: as you enter, the priest of the place will press you to stay with him, then a soldier will come up at the moment and also invite you, and while both are contesting the honour of providing for you, the patron of the church will appear upon the scene and hospitably entertain you. Trust in God, and let this business prompt your brethren always to leave themselves entirely in his hands.’ With these words the man was seen no more, and everything turned out just as he foretold them. On their return to Paris they made the affair known to Brother Henry and the few poor brethren who were there then.

Our brethren of Macon had to endure many bitter trials at the hands of William de Saint Amour, a canon of the town, and this from the very beginning of their foundation. Thus were they brought to the severest straits of want and misery, while, to crown all, they were burdened with debt. Strange to tell, one of them had a dream in which he saw the King of France and Cardinal Hugh de Saint Cher conferring together as to how they could help this very convent. Not long after these two sent from France and Italy one hundred pounds apiece, in pure alms. The friars fully paid their debts with the money, and all going well with them, they ever after enjoyed peace.

The brethren of Auxerre had to endure similar hardships and privations from the outset, as Brother Bernard, their prior, bears testimony. Getting neither advice nor help from any quarter, they had recourse to fervent prayer, beseeching our Lord to succour and guide them. Very soon after this a man of high standing, a wealthy canon in the city, entered the Order, and as he brought most of his wealth with him they were relieved in their pressing needs.

At the same time there lived in the Cistercian abbey of Saint Galganus, near Siena, a monk named James, a man of great simplicity and piety, and worthy of credit, on which account he was often summoned to the court of Rome: very marvellous, too, are the accounts given of his visions and revelations while he was saying mass. Having a very special love and devotion for the Order on account of its fruitful labours, he was often heard to declare he wished all his brethren the world over were one with ours in preaching the gospel. It chanced that some of our religious, after preaching at Saint Galganus, with great profit of souls, besought him to offer up a special prayer for the Order. During the next night, as he was praying with more fervour than usual, entreating our Lord to reveal the most fitting prayers he could use for the Order, it was revealed that he should say the following in the holy mass. They were given him by our Lord Jesus Christ in person, with these injunctions:’ Brother James, take these prayers, and so continue to pray for the Order of Preachers.’

Collect – Enlighten, O Lord, the hearts of thy servants with the unction of the Holy Ghost, bestow upon them the gift of burning eloquence, and grant increase of merit to such as preach thy word, through Christ our Lord.

Secret – Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, the gift of winning speech to thy servants, and whilst thou sanctifiest these offerings made unto thee, visit their souls with thy saving presence, through Christ our Lord.

Post-communion – Keep thy servants, O Lord, who have partaken of the body and blood of thy only-begotten Son, and shed the fulness of thy saving grace upon all who preach thy word, through Christ our Lord.

These prayers were approved of by the Pope, who had them inserted in the Missal.

Two Friars Preachers of Magdeburg, in Germany, were sent by their prior to Coblentz. After spending the night at Langele-Ampalunsone they resumed their journey in the morning, but before long began to have doubts as to which direction their road lay. Sitting by the wayside, they were talking the matter over, when the elder of the two espying a kite hovering in mid-air, thus addressed it: ‘ Brother kite, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I bid you show us the way.’ Down to earth darted the kite, like the lark when he has finished his song, and hopping along in front, turned to the right from where they had been sitting, and sure enough there lay the road, which they had not seen from the height of the hedges. ‘Come along, brother, for here lies our way,’ said the elder of the two; and it proved to be the right one. Now he did not ascribe this wonder to any merits of his own, but entirely to the power of the name of Jesus, who, in every place, has a special care of his brethren.

A brother of the convent of Naples, who was strongly tempted to leave the Order; saw himself, in a vision, standing in the choir with his brethren, all of whom wore white stoles. Then while they sang the response, Leave us not, holy father, answer was made, ‘No, my son, I will not leave you, but if I be dear to you, do not abandon what you have begun.’ Hearing this he was much comforted, and renewed his determination of persevering in the Order.

Not long after the Order had been established, Christ our Lord appeared, in sleep, to the venerable abbot Everard of the Cistercian abbey of Salemannes, and said to him: ‘ To-morrow I am going to send my horses your way, and you must see that they are provided for in my stead.’ The abbot, on waking, began to think the matter over, and tried to puzzle out which could be the horses he had been bid see to; but he could find no way out of his dream. That very day there came to the abbey gate Brother John of blessed memory, who was afterwards bishop and master of the Order, and with him Henry of Cologne. After greeting them, the abbot began to make respectful enquiries as to their religious profession, and, likewise, what could be their object in going about with staves and books, for he had never seen habits like theirs before. Then Brother John enlightened him on each point, setting forth the end for which they had been founded, and their manner of life in the Order, illustrating it by that saying of the prophet Zachary, ‘The horses of God’s chariot are piebald and vigorous, and are ever ready to speed through the world.’ Lastly, he ended by saying that the Lord bestowed nothing upon his preachers beyond the staff of his cross, which they preached, and his Virgin Mother, in whom they trusted. On hearing this the abbot cast himself at their feet and kissed them, saying, ‘You are, indeed, those sturdy horses which our Lord pledged himself to send me.’ He next washed their feet, and bringing them in with great joy, gave order that new shoes and all other things they required should be given them, and from that hour he became a special friend and benefactor of the Order as long as he lived.

While the Prior Provincial was singing the high mass in the church of Santa Sabina, in Rome, a devout man saw – as he afterwards solemnly bore witness – four handsome youths standing one at each corner of the altar and holding a snow-white veil over the altar and brethren until all had communicated.

A novice in the same convent who was praying at his bedside after the others had gone to sleep, heard the tread of persons walking in the dormitory. Looking up he saw three strangers wearing our habit, one of them carried a cross, another the holy water vessel, while the third sprinkled the cells as they passed along. Thinking that it might be the prior and his ministers, he got quickly into bed and covered himself up, that he might be thought to be asleep. As the visitors passed on they sprinkled his cell like the rest, and he heard one of them say to the others: ‘We indeed chase them from out the dormitory, but who shall drive them from the other quarters of the house?’ ‘There are many more besides us sent by our Lord,’ rejoined the next, ‘and these go through the rest of the house casting them out’; with which words they departed. For many months the novice never spoke of it, believing it to have been the prior and his acolytes who acted thus, but as he never again observed the like, after many diligent enquiries he laid the whole matter before the Master of the Order, and at his request told it to many of our brethren.

Two religious, who had been sent out by their prior to preach in the diocese of Tusculum, were, on arriving at Colonna towards nightfall, conducted to an inn filled with noisy rustics. Here the younger of the two, reflecting upon the poverty, the toil, and hardships of the Order, and upon the many discomforts which attended their journeys, lost heart altogether, and threw himself in tears on his wretched pallet. He wept himself to sleep, and soon our Lord Jesus Christ stood before him and spoke to him: ‘Get up, brother, and hear what I have to tell you.’ The brother rose with feelings of awe and great fear, and saw Christ distinctly standing before him, having by his side one of our brethren with a staff in his hand, as is the custom on our journeys. Now this brother whom he saw had only entered the Order that year, and was in good health on their quitting Rome. Then Christ spoke: ‘I have taken this brother from your Order, and he is coming with me to heaven; you must live on and dare many undertakings for my name’s sake: be of good cheer, then, and take comfort through all your toils, for I will come again and take you away likewise in my company as I have done this brother’; saying which he departed in great glory. The brother told his companion what he had witnessed, and on their return they found that the novice had ended his life devoutly on that very same day.

Two others, Siegfrid and Conrad of Wurzburg, in Germany, came on their journeying to a river, on the opposite bank of which they could see a boat securely moored while, as it was a holiday, the people on the further side were flocking to mass. As they were anxious to get across that they might address the throng, and yet had no one to ferry them over, Brother Siegfrid called out, ‘ Come across, little boat, come across at once.’ In answer to his summons the boat crossed over at once, although there was no one propelling it, and the current was very rapid. They stepped in, only to find that it contained neither sail nor oar, when lo! from a neighbouring hillock a little maiden of some eight summers came tripping along and enquired if they wanted to cross. On their answering that they were so minded, she speedily rowed them to the other side with a tiny paddle she was carrying on her shoulder, and then ran out of sight. This marvel made them wonder; so they entered the town blessing God, and preached with fruit to an attentive throng.

We have already made mention of Roland of Cremona as an eminent master of theology. Once, while he was afflicted with a painful ulcer on the knee, it seemed as if the nerves were being torn from his flesh with iron pincers, so he called out, ‘Lord God, what has become of that saying of thy apostle; “God is faithful, and will not suffer you to be tried beyond your strength,” see, I am on the verge of madness and can endure no more!’ Instantly the pain ceased, as he testified to the Master of the Order.

Our Blessed Lady’s Love of the Order

One of the brethren grieved sorely on being told to go and convert the Cuman Tartars, so he put his trouble before a holy hermit and besought his prayers, since he could not see how the obedience could be for his good. The devout hermit complied, and while praying for him that night beheld this spectacle. He saw a broad river spanned by a bridge upon which the members of various Orders were passing, one by one, with evident tokens of joy. Presently he beheld the Friar Preachers also crossing over, and not by the bridge like the others, but breasting the flood, each of them drawing after him a boatful of men. But when some of them seemed to be on the point of sinking from exhaustion in drawing their load, the hermit observed the glorious Virgin our Lady come nigh and help them with her own hands, and in this way all got across safely. After their happy passage over the river, he saw our brethren and those whom they had drawn over all dwelling happily together in a most lovely country. He told the vision to the timid brother, who took great comfort from it. At once he complied heartily and gladly with his obedience, understanding that our brethren undertake greater and more arduous and more fruitful labours for souls than such other religious as are content with merely saving their own souls, and that they enjoy the blessed Virgin’s special protection.

One of our English brothers named ,John, feeling sorely tried on having an office of responsibility put upon him, and feeling it might be hurtful to his soul, had recourse to our blessed Lady’s help. As he was praying very fervently and earnestly, behold, the Mother of mercy appeared and addressed him in these words: ‘Fear not, brother, only act manfully and your heart will be comforted; bear up a while longer, and this burdensome task will be for your merit and crown.’

Another, who is in every way deserving of belief, used to tell how, on his first coming to the Order, he found that everything jarred with his tastes and feelings, and how he grew thinner from hunger and distress, and could get no sleep from the hardness of the beds and other discomforts. The prior, in pity for his condition and to give him relief, sent him out one day as companion to a preacher. Owing to the fatigue of walking, a thing he had not been used to, he grew very weary in mind and body, and letting his companion go on lie sat down and wept. ‘O most blessed Virgin,’ cried lie, ‘it was to serve thee and thy Son that I entered this Order, and see me now fainting from weariness at the very outset; get me the strength needful to keep up with my companion and to stay in the Order.’ Presently he found himself sprinkled as with a fragrant dew; up he sprang and running overtook his companion. From that hour he continued hale and strong, so that what heretofore he could not endure became a pleasure ; helped in this way by our Lady’s merits, he happily endured to the end his earthly course.

A holy anchoress in Lombardy, who was very devout to the blessed Virgin, hearing of a new Order known as the Order of Preachers, was anxious to meet our brethren from the report of their preaching and exemplary lives. Two of our brothers chanced to be passing that way on their missionary rounds, the elder of whom was Brother Paul, a thoroughly religious man, graceful, an accomplished preacher, and innocent as a child in mind and body, through whom God wrought much good in those parts. On their going to visit her they discoursed upon the holy Scriptures, as is the custom among us: she then asked to what Order they belonged, so they replied that they were Friars Preachers. On hearing this, all her previous reverence for them was at an end, nay, she began to think the very contrary to what she had heard respecting the Order. Noticing how fair complexioned they were (for they were freshly shaven), and how good-looking in their comely habit, she utterly despised them at heart, saying within herself, ‘How can such men keep chaste going thus through the world?’ Previous to the meeting she had pictured them to herself’ as men of austere and forbidding mien, wearing long beards as if come fresh from some desert: so she slammed the window to and shut herself up. That same night the blessed Virgin appeared before her, wearing a look of grave displeasure, and rebuked her sharply, saying, ‘See how grievously you offended me yesterday.’ Then the recluse being quite at a loss to know how she could have offended her, replied, ‘ Lady, I know not what I can have said, or done, or even thought to displease thee, unless it were by what I could not help thinking of those friars yesterday.’ Then Mary spoke: ‘Therein indeed you offended me deeply and grievously. Cannot I watch over them as they go through the world? But that you may understand the special care I take of this Order, let me show you the brethren you saw yesterday.’ Then opening wide her mantle with both hands, she showed her a great throng of our brethren, and those brothers standing in their midst just as she had seen them. ‘See, now, what care I take of them,’ said Mary. Casting herself down in great fear, the woman begged and obtained forgiveness, and for the rest of her life had a very special love for the Order.

During the year in which Raymond of Pennafort resigned the Mastership of the whole Order, Nicholas of Lausanne, the sub-prior of Paris, told this incident, in chapter, in order to stir the brethren to say our Lady’s office more devoutly. A member of one of the more ancient Orders, a man of high standing, of mature age, and a devout client of the blessed Virgin, entreated her to show him how he might become yet more pleasing in her eyes, and serve her better. Day after day he renewed his suit, until, as he was praying very fervently in the oratory of his monastery, he chanced to look up towards the altar, and there he saw the blessed Virgin seated, while by her side stood a man in the attitude of confession as we practise it in the Order. Filled with joy at the thought that now his request was about to be granted, he reverently drew near, and, kneeling at her feet, with many tears poured forth his suit.

The holy Virgin continued to gaze lovingly upon the one who was confessing, and then turning to the monk she asked ‘What is your desire?’ ‘That I may learn how better to serve thee,’ returned he. ‘And how does a man serve his beloved?’ pursued the holy Virgin. ‘That I know not,’ answered the monk, ‘and therefore I beg thee to tell.’ ‘Know then,’ said Mary, ‘that she is loved, and praised, and honoured.’ ‘But, alas! Lady, I know not how better to love, and praise, and honour thee.’ To this she made no reply, so he continued with much earnestness and tears to entreat her that she would show him more fully those three things. At last the blessed Virgin gave him for answer: ‘Go to my sect, and they will teach thee.’ It occurred to him that there were many different sorts of religious brethren, so he cried again to her: ‘But, my Lady, there are all sorts of brethren: from Citeaux and Cluny and Grammont and Prémontré and Val des Choux; there are the Minors and Preachers. To which of them dost thou send me?’ ‘Go to the Friars Preachers,’ said Mary, ‘for they are my brethren: go to them, and they will teach thee.’ For this purpose he came to Paris with some of his fellow monks, and told the whole occurrence to the sub-prior and some of the brethren, but he was himself a Cistercian. When the sub-prior repeated all this in the chapter, weeping was heard on every side; one religious, in his emotion, ran to the Lady altar and cried out: ‘And am I, then, one of those thou dost call thy brethren?’ Nor is it to be wondered at that the blessed Virgin should have sent that man to our brethren, since they cherish a very special love for her, and praise her exceedingly in their public worship, while by a happy gift and rare grace they honour her more than do others in their public sermons. Our Order, beyond any other, teaches these three things regarding Mary in every discourse or sermon, viz.: how to praise, and love, and honour her. Who can tell the number of souls the world over who from our brethren’s preaching have been taught to love, and praise, and honour her! She is, then, to be ever specially loved as the sweetest of mothers, specially praised as deserving of all praise, and most specially honoured as our peerless Queen.

Brother Bene of Lombardy, being much tempted to abandon the Order, began to exclaim with tears as he stood in the lay brothers’ choir, ‘O blessed Virgin, it was thy wont to help me when I was in the world, and wilt thou now forsake thy client?’ As he gazed upwards he saw the blessed Virgin in the air above him, who gently comforted him.

On another occasion, within the octave of the Assumption, he dreamt he was being kidnapped by two men, so he cried out: ‘Lady, help me now, and give me the grace of preaching thy Son’s name for my own and others’ saving.’ At once the holy Virgin answered, ‘Most willingly.’ He was an exceedingly trustworthy and devoted brother, and sent these accounts in writing to the Master of the Order.

Brother Raoul of Rome, who was a pattern of holiness and perfection in fasting, watchings, and prayer, a zealous and renowned preacher in the city, used to tell the story of this vision among ourselves, but always concealed the name of the man who was favoured with it. We have it, however, on the authority of Brother James of Beneventum, a skilled lector and preacher, who affirms, furthermore, that he learnt from Brother John of Penna that it happened to Raoul himself. This brother used to keep prayerful watch over his brethren in their cells, and often in the early night, when the brothers had gone to sleep, he saw the blessed Virgin, accompanied by holy maidens, pass through the dormitory and bless the brethren and their cells. One night lie remarked that as she passed along she not only did not bless a particular cell, but covering her face with the corner of her mantle, would not even look that way. Observing whose cell it was, he called the brother aside next day, and asked him if all were right with his conscience. After cautioning him to be on his guard against offending God or the blessed Virgin, he told him what he had seen, and found that the only blameworthy action of the novice was that owing to the very great, heat he had gone to rest without being dressed as the rule prescribes, that he might enjoy a little coolness, for he was a very delicate youth; yet this slight want of propriety had offended the blessed Virgin. He forebore ever to do the like again, and the same brother saw him afterwards blessed by our Lady with the other brethren. It is commonly thought that he who told the story was the eye-witness.

It is related that another brother was comforted by a somewhat similar vision, and Gerard of Florence says it was Brother Martin of Padua, who was famed for holiness all over Lombardy. This can easily be credited to him, as he was a man of excelling merits.

During the time when some of the professors of theology in Paris were stirring up the university against the friars and our Order, as the brethren were at a loss to know what to do in such straits, the General Chapter held in Paris ruled that all over the Order recourse should be had to our Lord, to our advocate the blessed Virgin, and to Saint Dominic our protector, by saying the seven penitential psalms, the litanies and prayers appointed for times of affliction. While the prayers were being said in Santa Sabina, a devout brother fell asleep for a short while, and seemed to see a throne set over the high altar above the baldachino, on which sat our Lord Jesus Christ watching the brethren as they lay prostrate in the choir below, saying their litanies. By his side stood the blessed Virgin, having one hand resting on his arm, while with the other she pointed towards the prostrate brethren, as they prayed: then she spoke to her Son, ‘hear them, my Son, hear them,’ and so the vision ended. The brother who saw it related the matter to the Master General, who was then in Rome. Nor can it be doubted but that the blessed Virgin pleaded for the Order in those days, and our brethren obtained the victory, for shortly after this the Pope pronounced sentence in favour of the Order, and against the university, and had it been otherwise it would have gone hard with us.

A student of Flanders who was staying in Paris, in an impulse of fervour after hearing a sermon, entered the Order. In his early novitiate days God’s mercy kept him in great peace of heart and sweetness, for his heart used to grow warm in devout meditations, and he experienced much comfort. But lest the greatness of these heavenly favours might puff him up with self-conceit, our Lord let him feel the shaft of temptation. There came over him such a craving to quit the Order that, heedless of his soul’s salvation, he got ready to return to the world. One evening, after Compline had been said, and having greeted the Queen of mercy with the Salve Regina, while the others were yet paying their visits to the altars, this truant at heart went to his cell to scheme how he should get away. Not being able to think of any other way out, he resolved on going out by the front door, determined even to knock down the porter if he tried to stop him. As he slipped quietly along to the door he had to pass by our Lady’s statue in the corridor, and even now knelt before it as he had always done: the Hail Mary said, he tried to rise and make off, but the divine power so held him rooted to the spot, that he could not stir. Again and again he essayed with all his strength, but had to bide there as if he had been tied down. This brought him to his senses: he called to mind God’s mercies and Mary’s, upbraided himself bitterly, and vowed to persevere. This done, he got up speedily, opened his mind in confession, and lived long and well afterwards in the Order.

A brother of gentle birth and delicate in body, a man worthy of all credit, told the Master General, in confidence, that during his noviceship he was strongly tempted to run away. Before quitting the cloister he remembered our blessed Lady, to whom he was very devout, and said within himself, ‘How now, you wretch, are you going out without asking leave from your mistress, the glorious Virgin?’ Moved by the thought, he entered the church, went to her altar, and spoke thus, ‘O glorious Virgin, no longer can I bear the hardships of the Order, and I needs must leave it, but my good mistress, I may not go without thy leave, so I have come for it and commend myself to thy care.’ As he spoke a heavy fever seized hold of him; unable to stand from trembling, he fell down straight before the altar. The others, hearing his groans, lifted him up and carried him to the infirmary. He soon recovered his strength and kept true to the Order, nay, drew very many to it afterwards by his zeal and affection.

Brother Bartholomew, in the days when he was a student at Leipzig, told Brother Albert, the Provincial of Germany, how an importunate creditor came clamouring one day for the five silver marks he had loaned to Brother John, the prior of the brethren of that town. The prior prayed him to wait until after vespers, that he might call his council together, and consider how the debt was to be met. While he was talking the matter over with the older religious, and could see no way out of the difficulty, the porter came and said, ‘A stately lady, evidently of high rank, whom I have never seen before, wants you to come to her, at once, at the door.’ The prior went, and met there the unknown lady of gracious aspect and stately bearing, who said at once, ‘Accept this money,’ putting, at the same time, five silver marks into his hands. On his enquiring to whom he stood indebted for the gift, she made answer, ‘Ask not, only give thanks to God, the giver of all good gifts.’ The prior, rejoicing, went back to the fathers and told them how God hall provided for them through a generous lady, showing them the silver pieces. Then regretting that he had not asked her name, he sent out into the streets and squares, but neither found her nor heard of her again: but the community piously believed that she was the blessed Virgin Mary, and set it down to her.

When the friars of Limoges proposed changing the site of their convent, which was a very inconvenient one, and had no money to pay for their new one, the prior and procurator, after spending an entire day in looking up such wealthy friends as they had, and even trying the money lenders, but all to no purpose, asked further advice from the council. Then spoke a gentle and learned brother: ‘Listen, father prior, can you not hear the brethren asking our Lady to show them the blessed fruit of her womb – Jesus?’ for it was after Compline and they were singing the Salve Regina. This remark moved the prior to reply: ‘And I need three hundred pounds from our Lady for her dear Son’s sake.’ Next morning, while they were singing the votive mass of the blessed Virgin, the rector of Dille came to them from a long way on horseback, having started directly after hearing of the prior’s trouble. When the brothers were assembled with him in the chapter-house he addressed them after this fashion: ‘Dearest brothers, you have bought a new site, and can find no patron to help you with the money; now the blessed Virgin, whom you serve day and night, will be your patroness, and I will pay in her stead.’ After some refreshment, he rode home, and next day sent the three hundred pounds on his horse to the brethren, who blessed God and their glorious Queen.

The Cistercian monk of Saint Galganus already spoken of, while dining in the Friars Preachers’ refectory at Pisa, was observed by some one to eat very sparingly, so after dinner this brother said to him: ‘Brother James, why have you dined so frugally? You have hardly eaten anything, although there was no stint to-day.’ ‘Believe me,’ replied the monk, ‘I have never in all my life dined so well.’ This seemed strange, so the brother, not understanding how that could be, rejoined: ‘How is that? You hardly ate at all.’ Then the Cistercian, explaining himself, continued. ‘I have never dined so well, for I have never before had such a person to wait on me as I had to-day. What Order but yours can boast of such a server? for I most clearly saw our Lady the blessed Virgin wait upon the brethren, and set each dish before them, and so overcome was I at the sight, that I could eat little or nothing from sheer joy of spirit.’

While our brethren were preaching, this same monk frequently beheld the Virgin Mother to hold an open book before them so long as they spoke, and it was noticed that very much profit came of such sermons.

A brother who had very carefully prepared his sermon, on the spur of the moment changed his subject and spoke on quite a new topic, and by our Lady’s help acquitted himself better than if he had expressly prepared it. This same Cistercian was present, and told us he saw the blessed Virgin standing before the preacher and holding an open book during the whole sermon time, and the preacher seemed to the monk and to the people present to speak better and with greater profit to souls, and far more fervently than he had done for a long time back.

A religious who had been chosen prior of a priory in Tuscany, and confirmed in his office, sought by every means to escape the burden, so at last he slipped away and wandered from place to place, like another Jonas, before the face of the Lord. He chanced to come across this same Brother James, the Cistercian, who, besides, was a friend of his, and laying open his trouble of mind, entreated him to pray to Christ and the Virgin Mother for him. As the monk was praying earnestly for this intention that same night, he beheld – as he afterwards testified – the blessed Virgin prepared to set out on a journey to the place where the brother had been chosen prior. When the monk asked whither she was going, she made this reply: ‘I am going to take care of those religious who are without a prior.’ This being told the brother, he consented to accept the priorship.

While the same monk was watching in prayer one night by the window of Cardinal Reyner’s palace at Viterbo, which looked out upon the convent of the Friars Preachers, he saw a white-robed procession wending its way along from outside the town to the friars’ place, and he could distinctly note the forms of those in the procession and hear their voices. There was, moreover, among them one venerable figure distinct from all the rest, to whom all paid reverence as to their mistress. When they reached the place a seat was set where now our choir is; then there came up another figure with torn garments and dishevelled hair, who threw herself at the other’s feet, crying out: ‘Avenge me, lady, of mine enemies.’ Then the first rejoined: ‘Why dost thou ask this of me? Soon shalt thou see a rare and almost unheard-of chastisement overtake them.’ At this point the vision ended. Very soon after there took place that miserable capture of bishops at Pisa, nor can there be any doubt but that it was the Church personified thus making entreaty to our blessed Lady against the injuries and enmities of many bishops and doctors directed against the Order.

A young religious of the convent of Orvieto, a man of blameless life and beloved of his brethren, fell sick of the malady whereof he died. After having had the last rites, he was lying one morning in the infirmary, under another’s care, while the rest were at mass, when presently he began to gaze with fixed and distended eyes towards one spot. The brother in charge, deeming that he saw some unusual sight, as was the case, said coaxingly to him: ‘Brother Simon, for God’s sake tell me what you are looking at, so that if it be good I may rejoice with you, but if not, that I may help you.’ The sick man answered never a word, but signed with his hand for him to be quiet. When the other again and again begged him to say what he saw, the sick man broke out into a wail of despair, ‘All that I have ever done in the Order is lost.’ The terrified brother tried to soothe him as best he could with words of hope, believing him possessed of a devil, telling him not to believe a word said by one who is a notorious liar, and the father of lies. With a shake of the head the sick man cried out: ‘All, all are in hell, Pope, Cardinals, Friars Preachers and Minors, Jeremites, and the whole body of them,’ for so the devil made him to believe. Then the brother, as a last resource against despair, begged him to pray to the blessed Virgin for help, almost forcing him to say the verse:

‘Maria Mater gratiae,
Mater misericordiae,
Tu nos ab hoste protege
Et hora mortis suscipe.’

Strange to say, hardly were the words out, before he cried joyously: ‘Did you not see the ever-watchful Virgin, our protectress, hurl into headlong flight the pack of devils who were here?’ At the brother’s request he now said the Te Deum, and on the return of the brethren, very humbly and sincerely confessed his despair, falling asleep in the Lord very soon after. He who faithfully wrote this account heard it from the brother in charge at the time and many more brethren throughout Tuscany knew of it.

A lay brother called Lantrin, of the same convent, whom the brethren held in high repute for holiness, and who was specially noted for never spending an idle moment, while lying awake in the infirmary during his last sickness, most clearly saw the blessed Virgin, our Lady, enter in company with some young maidens, bearing towels and basins for washing. As she drew near, he who saw the vision asked her what she would do. ‘ I am come,’ said she, ‘ to cleanse the brethren from the infamy now attaching to them in the town.’ There had been an apostate who, with great malice, had so slandered them by word and by nearly sixty letters scattered all over the town and diocese amongst some who were jealous of the good our brethren were doing, that they could scarcely hold their heads up for very shame and grief. This sick brother then, in a vision, saw her cleanse him and all the brethren. He who put all this down in writing testified that very shortly afterwards that great disgrace was wiped out, for the miserable apostate, being thrown into prison, owned that he had maliciously invented the whole falsehood.

In the convent of Puy, town in Provence, Brother Peter, being near his end, began to cry out most fervent greetings to the blessed Virgin, at the same time saluting her with inclinations of the head and clasping his hands. When those who stood by asked: ‘Why do you behave in this way, brother?’ the sick man replied: ‘What! See you not our Lady, who of her bounty has come to visit me?’ and so saying he departed peacefully.

A brother of the convent of Montpelier, named Leo, being visited on his deathbed by a very dear brother of his, told this to him: ‘Last night I had a beauteous vision, for I caw the blessed Virgin, our glorious Mother, come to me and ask: “Wilt thou come away with us?” “Who art thou, Lady!” I said. Then she replied: “I am the Mother of God.” “I cannot believe thee to be the Mother of God,” was my reply, “for I am a most vile sinner, and it is not befitting so great a lady to come and visit me.” Again she insisted: “I am the Mother of God,” and again I made the same remark. When, at last, she said to me: “Have no fear, my son, for I am indeed Christ’s Mother,” I rejoiced: “If thou art the Mother of God, I will most willingly go with thee.” ‘ The brother died that very day about vesper time.

That devout soul and gifted preacher, Brother Henry of Germany, recounted in a public sermon in Paris how a brother of our Order, who was a man of blameless life and very devout to Mary, being come to the hour of his death, was so exceedingly glad that his whole countenance was radiant. Brother Henry, observing his exceeding joy, made this remark: ‘I wonder at seeing you welcome death so joyously, since everyone meets it with a natural dread.’ To which he replied: ‘I have kept up in the Order my old college custom of making a daily memory of Saint Nicholas and Saint Catherine in Matins and Vespers. One night of late, Saint Catherine seemed to lead me to a most lovely spot, and said: “This is my rest for ever and ever”; and while I was lost in admiration of it, Saint Nicholas came and took me to a still more heavenly place, and he too said: “This is my rest for ever and ever.” As I stood, fairly amazed at the sight, the blessed Virgin joined us and led me away to the most beautiful spot imaginable, and she also said to me: “This is my place of rest for ever and ever.” Then said I: “But, Lady, I have never deserved to dwell here.” “Nay,” said she, “for I have prepared this place on purpose for thee and thy brethren the Friars Preachers.” ” But I am no preacher,” said I, “although I wear the habit of one.” Then our Lady made answer: “This is your place, since it is reserved for the brethren of your Order; come and take possession of it.” On this account,’ said the dying man, ‘I look forward to my death with joy, and am all eagerness to hasten away to the place prepared and shown me by the Queen of heaven.’ Well might that dying brother address our blessed Lady in the words of the patriarch Jacob: ‘Now I can die content, since I have seen thy face.’

When the Roman court was removed to Naples on the death of the Emperor Frederick II and of his son Conrad, certain prelates so embittered the mind of the reigning pontiff against the mendicant friars and our Order, that in six cases brought before him, he gave judgement each time against the friars, and to the hurt of their manner of life. As his heart was not to be moved by arguments or entreaties, nor was he to be turned aside from his purpose, when the papal letters had been officially read and were on the eve of being dispatched through the world, our brethren at the court, of whom I was one, were in terrible straits and trouble. One of us, who had safely brought other difficult matters to a happy issue, was at his wits’ end to know what to do. One day, while the brethren were at dinner, this man went to his usual refuge in all distress, the glorious Virgin, and on his knees before her altar and image, prayed for the Order with many tears and deep grief of soul, beseeching her to come to our aid in such dire distress. Then that special patroness of the Order made reply and said: ‘ Within this very hour your Order shall be set free.’ And anon the tidings came to the convent that it was indeed saved from its grave peril.

A brother of long standing in the Order, a devout and praiseworthy man, saw one night, most distinctly, our blessed Lady come with two maidens to the dormitory door while the brethren were saying the matins of her office, and heard her greet them with this salutation: ‘Take courage, courage, ye brave men!’ This he both saw and heard as surely as anything can be seen or heard. He told it to the sub-prior in the prior’s absence, that he might exhort the brethren to be still more devout in their homage to our Lady, especially in reciting her office fervently and reverently; and this the sub-prior did right willingly.

A novice, who was very devout to our Lady and a faithful lover of observance, while praying fervently one night after matins, fell into a light sleep at his prayers. It then seemed to him as if a lady of great beauty stood by his side and put her hands on his shoulders. Seeing that it was a woman, he called out in alarm: ‘My God, how can women have got in here, and at this time of night!’ But she soothed him by telling him in a gentle voice who she was, and inviting him to say with her the Little Hours of the blessed Virgin’s office. He agreed, and began the Ave Maria, while she answered throughout. She seemed to recite her part so sweetly and gently that his heart was stirred wonderfully, more especially as she repeated the versicles after each chapter. As she said the versicle for none, ‘Elegit eam Deus ‘ (‘The Lord hath chosen her’), the tones sounded with such heavenly melody in the novice’s ears that his whole heart melted, and was rapt in God. She disappeared, and he woke to find himself radiant with a joy he could not control. While preparing to serve as acolyte that morning, the same joy shone so brightly on his countenance that a fellow novice rebuked him for it; and as he could not contain himself for gladness, the other served mass in his stead. As this gaiety was an unusual thing with him, his companion questioned him thereon, and after a long time drew out of him the secret of what he had seen, under strict promise of not letting it be known: and that joy lasted for a very considerable time.

Learn now from these examples what special care the blessed Virgin takes of the brethren of our Order, while they are preaching, on their journeys, at their work, in sickness and death, at their meals, in their griefs and trials, and at their prayers.

Origin of the Salve Regina, Sung After Compline

The Virgin Mother of all love both cherishes with a very special affection and watches over this Order which she has founded, while the devil-who is jealous of everything that is good, and who hesitated not to tempt the Lord of all assailed our brethren in Bologna and Paris. As superiors bore witness, he threatened one with a burning furnace which seemed about to fall upon him, he would suddenly embrace another under the guise of a woman, to this one he appeared like an ass with horns, to another he offered fiery serpents, others he abused with scurrilous words, so much so that at last some of the brethren had to keep guard while the rest slept: some lost their reason, others were horribly tormented. Having recourse to their singular protectress, Mary most holy, they made it a rule to have a solemn procession, after Compline, while singing the Salve Regina with its proper prayer. At once the phantoms were put to flight, those who had been tormented were left in peace, two who had gone mad were restored to their wits (one of them in Paris was son to a king), and from that time all went well with them. How pleasing their procession was to God and his holy Mother was shown by the piety of the people, the way they thronged to our churches, the devotion of the clergy who came to assist at it, the tears and sighs of devotion, and the visions accorded.

Many persons testified to this fact, that when the brethren were approaching the Lady altar, they saw her and a throng of heavenly citizens come down from on high, and as the words ‘O sweet Virgin Mary’ were sung, she bowed to them in turn, and gave them her blessing: after this, as they returned to the choir, she went back to heaven.

A holy and honest woman dwelling in Marseilles, but a Lombard by race, who loved God and our Order well, one evening was caught up in ecstasy in the church during the singing of the Salve, and saw four things deserving of being ever remembered and prized. She observed the (Queen of mercy perform four actions in keeping with the four sentiments of the antiphon. First of all, as the brethren sang the words ‘Our life, our sweetness, and our hope,’ she saw the blessed Virgin graciously return their salutation. As the anthem was continued, at the words ‘Turn then, O gracious advocate,’ she observed her fall on her knees before her Son and make intercession for them. At the phrase ‘Thine eyes of mercy towards us,’ she looked at them with a most gracious and happy smile; lastly, as they sang, ‘After this our exile, show unto its the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O holy, O sweet Virgin Mary,’ she saw her clasp her Son as a child, and hold him out to each in turn. The woman remained in this rapture until the signal was given at the end of Compline, and, afterwards, privately told it, with many tears, to her confessor, who was a very prudent man. The same holy person, during the time that the bishop was holding an ordination in Marseilles, saw the Holy Spirit come down on all those who were being ordained, with the one exception of a secular clerk.

Brother Jordan of blessed memory, the second Master General of the Order, wrote in his history of the foundation of the Order how a holy and trustworthy man told him that while the Salve was being sung he often saw the blessed Virgin Mary cast herself at her Son’s feet and pray for the preservation of the Order.

In the country of Avignon, close by the Rhone, stands the stately château of Tarasconne, where Martha, who was Christ’s hostess, rests. The present revelation was made known to the mother of the Sieur Alphonse, a lady most devoted to God and the Order, and it is witnessed to by Fulk, who, afterwards, became in turn bishop of Puy, archbishop of Narbonne, cardinal bishop of Sabina, and, finally, Pope, under the name of Clement IV. The following letter is from his own hand:

‘To the religious brethren the Friars Preachers of Montpellier, Guy Fulk sends greeting and peace.

‘As the feast of last Pentecost was approaching, when your General Chapter was to be held, my sister, the Lady of Tarasconne, being very desirous of seeing so famous and joyous a gathering of the friends of God, went down fifteen days before to stay among her friends and acquaintances at Saint Gilles. When any of her gossips called upon her, and they were all of them highly edified by her behaviour, she used to ask them as often as they said the Lord’s prayer they would likewise salute his holy Mother, to the end that he might send down the Holy Ghost upon the brethren who were going to meet in the chapter, and that the Mother of mercy might bestow her best favours upon them. Hers was assuredly a praiseworthy devotion, for her forethought was the more commendable in not resting content with just providing for their temporal needs, but begging even for spiritual alms, deeming it hardly possible for God not to hearken to prayer, since he, who is faithful to all his promises, binds himself to hear the entreaties of his devoted servants. Coming to Montpellier with her sister, while the divine offices were being performed on that festival in your church, she cast herself prostrate upon the ground in prayer and began very fervently to entreat the Lord to look graciously upon so many brethren met together in his name, some of whom had either laboured or were labouring in distant quarters of the globe, and to deign to enlighten them with his Holy Spirit, so that if any were lacking in merits he might make it good in his mercy. While turning all this over in her mind and praying heartily, the Cantors intoned the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus, and directly she saw a sheet of fire come down from heaven which enveloped all the choir and brethren until the hymn was ended. This she beheld with great joy, and without saying a word about it to anyone, or ascribing it to any merits of her own, she gave thanks to God who lavishes his bountiful gifts on the Preachers of our time as on the first fishers of men. That same evening she returned for Compline, and while the brethren were singing that sweet anthem the Salve Regina, the Queen of heaven stood visibly before her and cautioned her not to quit her side. She then saw her pass up the choir and bow on either side to the brethren as they sang, and take up her stand close by the acolytes until the prayer was finished, after which she went back to heaven, drawing her up in desire. On regaining her senses she was overcome with the taste of such sweetness, gave humble thanks to God, and turned over the whole matter in her own mind. For three successive days she had exactly the same vision at Compline time, but, like a wise and silent woman, never breathed a word about it to her sister nor to anyone at all, until being laid low with a severe sickness, and feeling the hand of death upon her, a thing she had long desired, she told the story first of all to me, then to her sister and her son, and afterwards to your prior of Arles, and to three of your brethren. After this she died, and we laid her to rest in your brethren’s cemetery at Arles, for at that time they had no convent in Tarasconne.

A brother of the English province fell so seriously ill after matins that he almost died, and during all the next day he felt the same pains in his heart, but did not on that account absent himself from the Compline. While the rest were singing the Salve he joined in as well as he could, and fearing a repetition of what he had suffered the night before he entreated the blessed Virgin to have compassion upon him: ‘If thou art the Queen of mercy,’ said he, ‘let me experience thy pity now.’ As he said the words, he felt caught up in spirit, and saw the blessed Virgin approach him carrying her Son all blood-stained, as if he had been slain but that very hour: ‘You will never suffer as much for the love of him as he has endured for you,’ were her words, saying which she clasped Christ to her bosom and passed from sight. The brother felt himself cured on the instant from all his pains, and after giving thanks to God, wrote an account of the matter privately to the Master of the Order.

While a terrible storm of thunder and hail was raging round the sisters’ convent of Prouille, the terrified nuns ran to the choir and sang the Salve Regina most devoutly, beseeching the Mother of mercy of her clemency to protect them and their lands, on which they depended for support. And now a great wonder was wrought by him who ‘commandeth the winds’ and ‘turneth the lightnings into rains,’ for whereas in all the country round the harvest and vines were beaten flat to the ground and destroyed utterly, all the sisters’ possessions were, by God’s favour and Mary’s protection, kept safe and untouched.

Brother Seyer, a professor of Cambridge University, who was renowned for piety and learning, reported to us how a certain holy man used often to behold a globe of light come down from heaven and rest upon the heads of the brethren while they were devoutly singing blessed Mary’s anthem after Compline.