Distinguished Canons


The Institution of the Holy Eucharist
from the Verdun Altar at Stift Klosterneuburg



Through his reverent and solemn offering of the sacred liturgy, the regular canon renders praise and glory to God.  This is the essence of the canonical vocation.  The spiritual fruitfulness of this vocation however is not limited to the sanctuary or the choir stall.  Rather it embraces the entire life of the canon, who is to be a model and example to all who seek God.  This can be seen in the lives of the saints of the canonical order as well as in the lives of the many distinguished canons who gave praise to God and a encouraging example to others as scholars, teachers, professors, authors, poets, composers, canonists, diplomats, founders, bishops and popes.  Some of these great men can be found below.   





Blessed Theodore of Celles  ( ca. 1240)
Founder of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross (Crosier Fathers)
To go the saints page for a short biography <click here>

Blessed Jan van Ruysbroeck ( 1381)
First Prior of Groenendaal, mystic and spiritual teacher


















To go the saints page for a short biography <click here>






Gerlac Petersz
( 1411)


Born in Deventer, which was the center of the Devotio Moderna movement, Gerlac entered the Institute of the Brethren of Common Life.  He devoted his time to usual works of the Brothers, e.g. calligraphy and transcription of manuscripts.  He was deeply imbued with the spirituality of the Devotio Moderna, both living and teaching this way of discipleship.  When five of the brothers left in 1386 to found a new community, the Canons Regular of Windesheim, as Groote had wished, Gerlac joined them.  There he remained among these illustrious men, which later came to include Thomas à Kempis, until 1403 as a simple clerk.  He died in 1411.


Gerhard Groote and the Devotio Moderna

Christendom suffered many set backs during the 14th Century.  This was the time of the Black Death, the weak Avignon papacy, widespread social and political instability and the descent of Scholasticism into decadent Nominalism.  Though the Church underwent a great flourishing of holiness during the preceding two centuries as witnessed by the foundations of new and reformed religious orders, e.g. the Cistercians, Augustinian canons, reformed Benedictines and the mendicant orders, the 14th Century saw a decline in religious life as well.

Into this world was born in 1340 a man named Gerhard Groote who strongly influenced the direction of the Church in the 14th and 15th Centuries.  A well educated secular canon and deacon -- something of a rarity in his homeland in those days -- he later withdrew from the world to find God in solitude.  From this deeply personal conversion he felt compelled to teach what he had learned.  He desired to teach people, especially lay people, how to find God, not through scholastic arguments -- which by this point had became fruitless and perilous through the obscurity of Nominalism -- but through trust in God.  This simple way to God went through the humanity of Jesus Christ, emphasizing the incarnation and passion of the Son of God.  Given its relative novelty, it was called the "Devotio Moderna" or "present day piety."

The ascetical practices associated with this spiritual approach included small penances, frequent examinations of conscience and meditation using the imagination, will and intellect.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, later promoted these elements in his spirituality, elements of which are Biblical and Patristic in origin.

As a result of his preaching and teaching, Groote attracted disciples, settled in Deventer and founded the Institute of the Brethern of the Common Life or Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life.  While they professed no vows, they lived a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience as best they could in their homes or especially in the case of clerics in community.  They were expected to support themselves through their work and were not allowed to beg.  The clerics supported themselves by copying books and education.  As a result, many schools were opened throughout the Netherlands and Germany under their auspices.  The earnings were held in common and administered by the superior.  They wished to live as the first Christians as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles.  Chief among their goals was love of God and neighbor as well as humility, simplicity and devotion.  It is not difficult to see what attracted Groote to St. Augustine, who likewise drew much inspiration from early Church as described in the Acts of the Apostles. 

Groote decided to found a companion religious community to the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life.  He had come to know the canons regular  through his contacts with Bl. Jan van Ruysbroeck.  So even before his untimely death in 1384 at the age of 43, he had resolved to found a canonical branch of the Devotio Modern movement.  Therefore, two years after his death some of the Brethren founded the Canons Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim, whose contributions to the life of the Church, especially during the 15th Century were great indeed.

The spirit of the Devotio Moderna also inspired the Canons of San Giorgio in Alga in Venice and the Canons Regular of St. John the Evangelist in Portugal.

To read more about this subject in Fr. Jordan Aumann's CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION , <click here>


Johannes Busch ( 1479)
15th Century Reformer and Chronicler of the Order

The Avignon Papacy and the Great Schism, which followed it, did great harm to the Church, damaging her mission and ministry as well as the faith of many Christians.  Though despair and hopelessness are often the responses to the experience of the sinfulness of the members of the Church, so too is reform.  Ecclesia semper reformanda -- The Church is always reforming -- became the banner under which Catholic reformers confronted the difficulties of their day.  Among these were the Canons Regular of the Windesheim Congregation.  Founded in 1395, they worked diligently and to great effect in the Netherlands, Germany, France and beyond.


The greatest Windesheim reformer was Johannes Busch.  He was born in Zwolle, in Holland in 1399.  Twenty years later he entered the canons regular at Windesheim, the center of the new congregation, despite his parents' wishes that he become a lawyer and was clothed on the Epiphany 1419.  Though he was often tempted against faith and chastity as a novice, he experienced a great and lifelong peace of soul once he made simple vows on Epiphany, 1420.  During this time, Busch was greatly influenced by Johannes Goswini Voss, the General of the Congregation and Prior of Windesheim.  He inculcated a strong reform spirit in Busch and encouraged him to dedicate his life to this holy task.  The austere life of prayer, contemplation, manual labor and scholarly pursuits suited him well.  As a deacon, he accompanied three other canons to Marienberg in the diocese of Cologne to establish a new house, where he was later ordained a priest.  His hard work and sound judgment led to his assignment as reformer of two other canonries, beginning in 1428. 

Following the close of the Council of Basil in 1435, the Windesheim Congregation was entrusted with the task of reforming all canonical houses in the Low Countries and northwestern Germany.  Busch played his part in this task, carrying out numerous visitations and when necessary, reforming delinquent community.  He set about this difficult mission with enthusiasm and his work in the diocese of Hildesheim later included other religious communities.  From 1440 to 1447 he served as Provost of Sülte, where he was charged with renewing this sickly community. 

Moreover in 1447, Busch was invited to reform the canonical houses of the archdiocese of Magdeburg, the one time see of St. Norbert, one of the great canonical reformers of the 12th Century.  In 1448 he was blessed as the new Provost of Neuwerk-bei-Halle, succeeding in an office held by a blessed, the first provost of Neuwerk, Bl. LambertHe accepted the honor purely out of a desire to glorify God.  He said on this occasion "I will build here a new world."  And so he did.  Not only was he Provost of an influential stift, but he was also named archdeacon, under whose jurisdiction were some 120 parishes and 300 priests.  He spent much of the following three years reforming the parishes under his care.  He looked after his priests, travelled throughout the parishes, encouraged good preaching and reformed liturgical practice.  His activities played an influential role in improving the circumstances of the Church in northern Germany. 


The Papal Legate, Nicholas of Cusa, expanded Busch's mission by naming him Apostolic Visitator for all the Augustinian houses of Saxony and Thuringia in 1451.  Given the privileges and authority of a papal legate, he successfully revivified numerous religious houses throughout the diocese of Madgeburg and Mainz, giving these communities a surer spiritual and economic foundation.    He also assisting in the reform of other religious communities, especially those in the Bursfeld reform movement.  All however was not without opposition.  Some resisted his efforts on various grounds and the princes often prevented him from making his visitations without their consent. 

In 1454 Busch was obliged to give up the office of Provost since the Archbishop of Madgeburg insisted upon it.  The Archbishop shortly thereafter regretted this foolish decision. 
Freed from this position, Busch was later able to return to Windesheim in 1456, where he began work on his chronicle of the abbey.  The result was the Liber de viris illustribus, which included pictures of the first Windesheimers.  He then wrote a chronicle of the congregation, which he finished in 1464, and translated Prior Voss' Epistola de passione christi These three works were subsequently collected under the title Chronicon Windesheimense.

In 1459 Busch was again elected Provost of Sülte.  He renewed his reformer efforts, serving as confessor to numerous houses of canonesses, among other things.  He was also elected as Provost of Heiningen and continuned as papal Visitator.  Both bishops and princes called on him to visit and reform communities under their jurisdiction and lastly he served as visitor for the congregation.  So dedicated was he to this last task that he annually visited every house in the congregation.  He was likewise diligent in his care for all the canonical house of Saxony, for which the Windesheim Congregation was responsible.

Retiring from the office of Provost of Sülte in 1479, he returned to the simplicity of his cell.  His date and place of death are unknown.

Busch traveled over 6,500 miles during his lifetime to promote reform and to give praise and glory to God.  His tremendous work did great good for the Church in a period often noted for its darkness and disappointment.  However in these shadows, his zeal and dedication to God shone ever brightly.  


Johannes Mombaer (Mauburus) ( 1501)
Author, Poet, Teacher of the Devotio Moderna

Born in Brussels in 1460, he was educated in Utrecht at the cathedral school and one run by the Brothers of the Common Life.  At the age of 17 he entered the the Canons Regular of the Windesheim Congregation at St. Agnietenberg near Zwolle.  Following his priestly ordination, he carried out a variety of tasks in the Order and was entrusted with the reform of various houses in northern France.  These were difficult assignments and demand much from him.  Finally, he died, only 41 years old, at Paris on December 29, 1501.


Mombaer loved books and writing.  He also composed a work to teach the canons how to pray while offering the Divine Office.  Mombaer is the last great teacher of the Devotio Moderna.  Though in no way an original thinker, his importance lay rather with his capacity to make the spiritual life compelling to those of his times. 


His most famous spiritual work, The Rose Garden, taught a specific method of meditation, based on memory, intellect and will.  Reliable witnesses testify that it was this work in particular that inspired the influential Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Evidently the Abbot of Monserrat, Garcia de Cisneros, used the works of Windesheim authors, including Mombaer to reform the Benedictines.  So when St. Ignatius of Loyola arrived at Monserrat in 1522 as a pilgrim he would have been introduced to this method of prayer.



Desidarius Erasmus of Rotterdam ( 1536)
Humanist  and Canon Regular of Steyn





Nicholas Breakspeare ( 1159)

Reigned as Pope Adrian IV (1154-59)

Born at Langley in Hertfordshire, Nicholas would become the only English pope.  As a young man, he left England to go to France, where he entered the Canons Regular of Mont St. Eloi in Arras.  He became a canon regular and later advanced in the order. 

His reforming zeal as abbot at Arles earned him enemies in the community and admirers in Rome, among whom was Pope Eugene III, who created him cardinal-bishop of Albano.  From 1152-1154, Pope Eugene III entrusted him with the task of reforming the Church in Scandinavia.  He arrived back in Rome to great acclaim and was shortly thereafter elected pope, taking the name Adrian IV. 

His five year pontificate was occupied with the struggle to maintain papal independence from political domination.  This required Adrian IV to play off the German Emperor, Frederick, against the Norman King, William of Sicily.   He died on September 1, 1159.

One final mention should be made of the persistent controversy that surrounds Adrian IV.  It seems that the English King, Henry II, in 1155 sent an embassy to the English pope, hoping to gain his support for his invasion of Ireland.  Although they did negotiate, no agreement was ever made.  Henry's claim on Ireland rested solely on his military might and not in any way on papal concession or benediction.


Andrew of St. Victor (

This English Hebraist and exegete was born around 1110.  He came to Paris and entered the Canons Regular of St. Victor around 1130, studying under Hugh of St. Victor, whom he later succeeded as a Scripture teacher.  It is particularly in this role that Andrew bequeathed the Church an important legacy.  Through his emphasis on the literal meaning of the text, he strongly encouraged the critical study of the Old Testament in Hebrew.  He wrote commentaries on the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, the Prophets, Proverbs and Ecclesiasties (Qoheleth), which were widely used by the scholars who followed him in the 12th Century. 


Besides his scholarly work, he served as abbot of the newly founded abbey at Wigmore beginning in 1147.  Though he was later brought back to Paris to teach, he later returned to Wigmore Abbey in 1161, when again he was abbot (1161-63).  He spent the rest of his days in England and died in 1175.



William of Newbury ( 1198)

Born in Bridlington in 1136 William grew up near a recently established Augustinian priory, which would later claim St. John of Bridlington as a canon. William's great work, Historia rerum anglicarum (History of England), offered an intelligent and judicious analysis of current events in England in the 12th Century.  Writing history in the tradition of St. Bede the Venerable, this history is noted for its objectivity, preferring to tell a factual and realistic history of the English monarchy as opposed to legends often proposed by his contemporaries.  It is for this reason that William's work is important since it represents a critical history based on reason and investigation.  William died a canon regular in his hometown in 1198.


Robert de Brunne ( 1340)
Grammarian styled as the “Father of the English Language”

Walter Hilton († 1396)

Mystic and Author

Little is known for certain about this 14th Century mystic and author of the The Ladder of Perfection (Scala perfectionis).  He belonged to the Augustinian canons at Thurgarton, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, England.  He was probably born around 1343.  Moreover, it seems likely that he was trained in canon law and studied at the University of Cambridge.  In addition to the Scala Perfectionis, he wrote a number of other shorter works in English and Latin and translated several Latin devotions works into English.  His principal concern in all of these is to give an orthodox exposition of the aims, methods and practices of prayer in order to correct certain errors of his time, especially those of the Lollards and other enthusiasts. Hilton became, after his death, one of the most important spiritual writers of the 15th Century and is often numbered among the English mystics of his time. 



The Ladder of Perfection (Scala Perfectionis)

In the 14th and early 15th Century, England was home to a number of important spiritual writers.  Beside Walter Hilton, there was Richard Rolle (
1349), the unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Julian of Norwich ( 1413) and Margery Kemp ( 1440). 

Hilton composed the The Ladder of Perfection in two volumes intended for women leading the life of an anchoress, one devoted to contemplative prayer.  It seems to have been written toward the end of his life, probably between 1380 and his death in 1396.  Book I treats the active and contemplative life.  He describes three stages in the contemplative life: first knowing God through reason and learning; second knowing God through affections or emotions; and finally knowing God through both reason and emotion.  This last stage, which is the perfection of the title of the book, is available on earth to the Christian.  Purged from sin, the Christian obtains perfect knowledge and love of God after the image of Jesus.

He then considers the means to contemplation. which are lectio divina (reading of Sacred Scripture), mediation and prayer.  He especially treats the last two and considers typical obstacles to prayer.  He gives practical advice on overcoming the seven deadly sins for those in the contemplative life, emphasizing the role of charity, humility and self-knowledge.  For Hilton the transition from our false self according to sin to our true self according to Christ is effected through the foregoing means. 

The second work treats more systematically this transition from sin to sanctity.  He considers importance of baptism and penance as a reformation in faith and a reformation of feelings; The first being a washing away of original sin and a restoration of our dignity as Image of God, the second being the ongoing treatment of the effects of personal sins.  As in book one, Hilton argues that both these reformations must occur before one can reach the perfect state of knowledge and love of God which he advocates.  He notes as well that this is not necessary for salvation and that he is presenting a way of perfection.

He describes the ladder as a pilgrimage to the spiritual Jerusalem and using this extended metaphor, juxtaposes the light of day as the allurements of the world with the darkness of faith.  The eye of the soul must seek the darkness of God over the bright temptations of Satan.  Once a soul has attained this reformation of faith and feeling, then the soul may through a kind of mystical vision gaze up God.

Lest Hilton be accused of Pelagianism, he is strongly affirms the role of love and grace.  God gives love to those who embark on this way in order to overcome the obstacles that impede their progress.  The love of God strengthens these pilgrimages to embrace humility and overcome sin.  The further one goes, the more grace becomes available.  Finally Hilton consider the problem of loosing the vision of God.  He encourages his reader not to judge the presence or absence of God based on feelings, but rather to trust in the unfelt presence of Jesus.

This treatise was one of the most popular spiritual works of late medieval England.  Written in English, it was later translated into Latin and enjoyed a widespread readership, well beyond its initial audience.  Moreover its appeal extended to other religious.  Monastic communities, e.g. Carthusians and Brigittines in and around London, used it as a text for the formation of future monks. 

To read more about this subject in Fr. Jordan Aumann's CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION , <click here>




St. Ivo ( 1116)
Bishop of Chartres and Canonist
To go the saints page for a short biography <click here>

William of Champeaux ( 1121)
Theologian and Founder of the Abbey of St. Victor
Bishop of Chalons

Born in 1070 in Champeaux near Melun, he was able to go to Paris for studies thanks to Manegold of Lautenbach, where he received one the finest theological education available at that time.  Among his teachers was St. Anselm, one of the innovators of a speculative and systematic theology that would later blossom into Scholasticism.  Champeaux became Archdeacon and taught theology and philosophy at the Cathedral School of Notre Dame to great acclaim.  When Peter Abelard, one of his students, successfully challenged William's philosophical doctrines, he decided to retire from public life in 1108.  Through the Providence of God this personal defeat became a source of abundant grace for the Church, because shortly thereafter William and some of his disciples founded the Canons Regular of St. Victor.  His theology and spirituality continued to influence the scholarship of this school long after he departed to become the bishop of Chalons in 1114.  He was held in high esteem by his contemporaries and considered to be pious and learned.  He died in 1121. 

Peter Comestor  ( 1178)

Peter was already a renown theologian when he entered the Canons Regular of St. Victor.  He had obtained great success at the first in hometown of Troyes which led to his promotion to the chapter of secular canons at Notre Dame in 1160.  There he was also put in charge of the esteemed School of Notre Dame, one of the leading centers of learning in Europe at that time.  There he authored many of his works including one on salvation history called Historia Scholastica and several commentaries on the Bible.  Perhaps Peter shared the disillusionment of William of Champeaux, as later in life he withdrew from public life and became a canon regular at St. Victor.  He died there in 1178.

Adam of St. Victor ( ca. 1180)
Poet and Composer of Latin Hymns

After Adam had received his education at the School of St. Victor, he entered the Canons Regular of St. Victor.  He spent his life at St. Victor and was renowned for his liturgical hymns.  He composed over one hundred Latin hymns and contributed to the the 12th Century revival of liturgical music.  Two prose works are also attributed to him: the first is an introduction to Biblical terms for beginners, the second a commentary on St. Jerome's prologues.  He exemplified the twin virtues of the Victorines: piety and learning. 


Stephen of Tournai (†

Bishop and Canonist

Born on February 19, 1135 at Orleans, he attended the prestigious University of Bologna, where he began his lifelong study of canon law.  In 1155 he enter the canons regular at the abbey of St. Euverte in his hometown and completed his academic preparation for the priesthood at Chartres.  In 1165, at the age of thirty, he was elected abbot of St. Euverte.  In 1172 he was elected abbot of St. Genevieve, the most venerable abbey in Paris.  While abbot, he was entrusted with many important diplomatic missions and such was his success that we elevated to the episcopate in 1192, whereupon he served as bishop of Tournai.


His legacy as a canonist comes from his Gloss on the Decretum Gratiani as well as a Summa in two parts and introductions to the Summa of Rolando Bandinelli (later Pope Alexander III) and the work of the canonist Rufinius.


He died sometime between the 9th and 12th of September in 1203.


James of Vitry ( 1240)
Cardinal-Archbishop of Tusculum, Preacher and Historian

This celebrated preacher and writer was born around 1170 in Vitry in France.  After having studied in Paris, he went to Liege which had become something of a spiritual center at that time.  He entered the canons regular at Oignies, where the mystic Bl. Marie d'Oignies was an oblate of the priory and had relocated her community, the first of the Beguines.  He was ordained and embraced with special attention the ministry of preaching, which he did to great success. 

In 1215 he became bishop of Acre in the Holy Land and the next year he traveled to Perugia to serve Innocent III as an advisor.  When he arrived, Innocent III was already dead, but the new pope, Honorius III, retained his counsel and there he remained until 1228 when he retired to return to Oignies.  While in Italy, he met St. Francis of Assisi on several occasions and was a steadfast ally and protector of the Beguines.  Though they had many detractors, he viewed them as a Catholic alternative to the various Albigenisan sects of his time.  The next year in 1229 Gregory IX created him cardinal-archbishop of Frascati (Tusculum) and he remained in the service of the papacy until his death in 1240. 

He left behind several books on the life and spirituality of Bl. Marie d'Oignies, the reform of the Church and historical topics.  His biography of Bl. Marie, De Vita beatae Mariae Oigniacensis, is the most important example of the new type of hagiography that appeared at the end of the Middle Ages.  These works collectively are called the Vitae Matrum and described the pursuit of holiness by women as women.  It introduces new approaches to understanding Christian revelation through the experience of these women mystics.  Thus was born new language of mysticism, which used bodily experience, emotion and feeling, as a way of describing one's relationship to God.



Europe changed dramatically in the 12th and 13th Centuries with the rise of cities for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire.  This social transformation was particularly acute in the Low Countries due to emergence of prosperous cities.  These new cities attracted many from the countryside, where most people lived hitherto.  Trade and commerce forged new social networks and many began to enjoy a measure of wealth, comfort and security.  There was a downside as well.  Shorn from the social relationships of their origins in the country many newcomers found themselves with support when something went wrong; others did not succeed and lived a poor existence in these new towns and cities.  The older religious communities, the monks in particular, had been strong in the countryside and well suited for an agrarian society.  Urban life created different demands for religious life, indeed for the very life of the Church and her faithful.

These new circumstances posed troubling questions.  Looking back we can see that the Holy Spirit provided many of the answers.  Religious life changed.  Canons regular fit well in the cities as did the new orders of friars.  Also with additional wealth and education available, lay people were able to devote more time to their spiritual lives.  More literate and educated men and women sought to deepen their love and devotion for Jesus Christ.  This is evinced by the publication of devotional books and manual of prayer.  While hardly universal, it was a first step to finding new means of diffusing the Christian faith.  Some of these lay people decided to emulate the apostolic life.  One such group is the Beguines and Beghards.

Not all the new movements of this time were orthodox or faithful.  Many were indeed heretical and dangerous.  This made life more difficult for faithful movements like the Beguines, who were often compared negatively to these movements.  It seems that the name itself, Beguine, is a corruption of the word Albigeois, referring to the widespread Albigensian heresy of southern France.  Despite ongoing opposition, this Beguines persisted and thereupon made important contributions to the Church as a source of support for reform and a spiritual path for many women to walk as sisters and disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Beguines did not began as a religious community, though later they did become one more or less.  Faithful Beguines, of which there were many, particularly in Flanders, Brabant and Liege, where the movement originated, took their formation seriously.  They often received instruction and direction from monks, canons or friars and lived in full communion with the Church and her pastors.  Their mysticism focused on Christ and the sacraments, most of all the Blessed Sacrament.  Not surprisingly, these groups attracted many widows and unmarried women, whereas the men's groups attracted those tied to the Flemish cloth industry.

A Beguine would belong to one community, which were generally small in Germany, but larger in Belgium; live chastely while belonging to the community, though always free to leave for marriage and engage in normal lay pursuits; and be obedient to the statues of her house as well as her local superior.  Since she did not vow poverty, she retained her property, but she did support her community through her labors as a teacher, nurse or cloth and lace maker.  She endeavored to permeate her daily life with pious practices and prayer.

The earliest recorded group living this life appeared in Liege under the auspices of a reforming priest, Lambert le Begue (
1177).   Bl. Marie d'Oignies established two important communities of Beguines.  It was through her that the Beguines found a loyal patron in James of Vitry, a canon regular and later bishop, who was familiar with Bl. Marie and her community.  It was he who secured the first papal approbation of this movement in 1216.  They also drew support from their local bishops and the counts of Flanders and dukes of Brabant.

Suspicion of this movement however was not without foundation.  In the 13th Century, problems did arise in Belgium and especially in the houses in Germany, which nearly resulted in their extinction.  Providentially Clement V and John XXII gave flexibility to the hard position taken by the Council of Vienne in 1311, letting faithful Beguines pursue their way of life.  Especially in Belgium, the Beguines became more closely bound to the life of the Church as they adopted the Rule of St. Augustine, identified with older religious communities and associated with regular parochial life.

After a period of decay, the Beguines underwent a revival in the 17th Century and even survived the hardship brought upon them during the French Revolution.  They continue to this day upholding the traditions of their spiritual forebears.  Counted among their members is Beatrice of Nazareth, the mystic Hadewijch and Mechtild of Madgeburg.




Raymond Jordan (ca. 1400)
Spiritual Writer


This 14th Century French spiritual writer remained unknown for hundreds of years because his works were composed under the nom de plume Idiota.  Though the modern connotations of the word "idiot" are certainly negative, its use in those days, derived from the original Greek meaning of "simple" or "private", intended to convey the sense of a person of no consequence or unimportance and hence the works are anonymous.


For hundreds of years the spiritual works of Raymond Jordan were included in important collections of Patristic writings and at times his "Contemplationes de amore divino" have been placed along side the works of St. Augustine, St. Bernard and St. Anselm.  Idiota was thought to have lived in the 10th Century.  However the true identity of Idiota came to light in the Seventeenth Century, when Jesuit Father Theophilus Raynaud, persuasively argued that Idiota was indeed Raymond Jordan.


These biographical details of Raymond Jordan are certain: he was a Frenchmen, a canon regular of St. Augustine, prior of the canonry of Uzès, and later the abbot of Selles-sur-Cher, where he spent the rest of his life.  Raymond is identified in 1377 a holder of licentiate in sacred theology and was elected by the chapter of the canons to represent them before an ecclesiastical tribunal presided over by Cardinal Sabinensi.  Still despite Raynaud's arguments and the evidence he presented, we cannot know for sure whether Idiota is Raymond Jordan.


There is no question, however, about the works of Idiota.  This body of spiritual writings, entirely composed in Latin, was published in Paris in 1654.  The collection includes six books of "Meditations"; a "Treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary"; a "Treatise on the Religious Life"; and the "Spiritual or Mystical Eye".  He also wrote a commentary on Pslam XV".


With respect to the "Meditations", they were published in Paris in 1519 and consist of six topics: (1) De divino amore; (2) De Virgine Maria; (3) De vera patientia; (4) De continuo conflictu carnis et animae; (5) De innocentia perdita; (6) De morte.


A sample of Raymond Jordan's spiritual writings, a selection from the Contemplation of Divine Love is given below.  


The love of God returns the soul


Most gracious Lord Jesus Christ, you who are the fullness of love, neither honor, money nor any earthly wealth, nor even goodness, nor any skill or knowledge can fill the heart and satisfy the craving of our conscience, but only a true and pure love for you. 


For love is either accompanied by grace or without it; but without grace it cannot be true love.  Now, the only thing which can restore and calm our souls on their journey is grace; similarly, love containing this is true love.  And because the man who love you, Lord, possesses you, as it is written: "If we love one another, God dwells in us", he cannot be poor, because he possesses God whom he loves.  Indeed how can he be poor who possess you in his inmost understanding, for you are every blessing.  The man who has gold in a safe is not rich, but he who has you in his heart is rich.  This is why it is written of you: "In me are riches and glory, so that I may enrich all who love me and fill up their treasure store."


O most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, richest in love: he who wants to be enriched and satisfied must have true love, which restores and perfects the heart, and satisfies it.  For the man who is without true love, even if he had all the world's riches and in addition wisdom, courage, simplicity, loveliness, in short all the virtues listed by the philosophers, nevertheless he would be poor and wretched because, not content with them, he would always be seeking other things.


So it is written about one who loved earthly things: "You say, 'I am rich and wealthy, and lack nothing', and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable, destitute, naked and blind.  I advise you, buy gold tried in the fire, that you may become wealthy."


O kindest Lord Jesus Christ, consuming love, what a wonderful lesson you have shown us sinners for our salvation in warning us to buy tried gold, by which is understood wholehearted love: for as gold surpasses all other metals, so does love surpass all other virtues.


However, this gold must have been tried in the fire of your love and made to burn through and through by this love of yours.  It cannot be bought for any money, but by a good will, good desire, good disposition.  Thus nothing can be bought that is better than this love and nothing is more precious than this when it is gained.


O most gentle Lord Jesus Christ, rich in love, I am wretched and pitiable, destitute, naked and blind; give me this tried gold, that is love of you, so that my heart may be set on fire with it, that it may be restored and clamed in you, and I myself, enriched by your grace and love, may reach love's eternal kingdom.



Saint Peter Fourier ( 1640)
Founder of the Congregation of Our Lady and the Congregation of Our Savior of Lorraine
To go the saints page for a short biography <click here>


Charles Faure
( 1644)
Abbot of St. Genevieve in Paris and Founder of the Congregation of France


Born in Luciennes near Paris to a prosperous family, his father sent him to study with the Jesuits near Bourges.  Shortly thereafter his father died and his mother transferred him to the Abbey of St. Vincent de Senlis, a canonry where she knew the abbot.  St. Vincent de Senlis was founded and endowed by the Russian widow of King of France in 1060.  In time, the canons fell into indolence and decadence.  It was to these religious that God sent Faure.  He was clothed there in 1604.   The life of the community was so lax that Faure spent most of his time in his cell, even avoiding the choral office. 

However, times were changing.  The reforms of Trent were sweeping through the Church, many zealous bishops and saints were appearing on the scene and religious communities were enthusiastically embracing the Church's call to holiness and service.  Therefore, the lax observances of the canons were becoming more pronounced.  Meanwhile Faure was finishing his novitiate in Paris and going to pursue further studies when he was recalled to abbey to assist in his community's reform. 


The bishop of Senlis, Cardinal Rochefoucault, decided to act.  He directed several of Faure's friends and confreres to undertake this difficult work of reforming the canons.  Faure returned home to join them in their efforts.  Pleased with his performance, Cardinal Rochefoucault ordained him in 1618 and named him prior.  Under his administration, the life of the house finally returned to canonical discipline.  Faure became a well known reformer and others came to observe and learn from his example and success.


Cardinal Rochefoucault then wished to reproduce Faure's success at the venerable Abbey of St. Genevieve.  Faure was named abbot and arrived with 12 canons from St. Vincent de Senlis.  Through prayer, skillful leadership and hard work, Faure and his confreres restored the canonical life to St. Genevieve.  Cardinal Rochefoucault then gave Faure the mandate to unite all the houses of canons regular in France.  St. Genevieve became the headquarters for the new Congregation of France.  Though the General of the order, Faure remained a humble canon, taking his turn to serve at table during the meals with his brother canons.  In this position Faure had to bear many burdens.  He not only had to manage the burgeoning congregation, but also had to oversee the reform of so many houses.  Exhausted, he went as a good and faithful servant to God in 1644.



Blessed Alanus de Solminihac ( 1659)
Reformer and Bishop of Cahors
To go the saints page for a short biography <click here>


Barthelemy Amilia († 1673)

Canon Regular of Pamiers and popular preacher

Amilia is one of the many French priests and religious who responded to Trent's clarion call for reform.  His apostolate, like St. Vincent de Paul, focused on the desperate state of the faithful in the countryside.  Like his more famous contemporary, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Amilia dedicated his priestly ministry as a canon regular of Pamier to evangelization and popular preaching in the Languedoc.  He did so by missions, processions and catechetical songs.  In fact he so resembled his contemporary that he was dubbed  “The Grignion de Montfort of Languedoc.”

Jean-Baptiste Senteul († 1697)

Canon Regular of St. Victor and renowned classical Latin poet

Santuel (or Santeuil or Santolius) was born in Paris on May 12, 1630.  He entered the Canons Regular of St. Victor, where he received the minor order of sub-diaconate, but never became a priest.  He was praised by his contemporaries for his talents and noted for his eccentricity.  His greatest gift was that of Latin poet.  At the beginning of his poetic career, he wrote exclusively on profane themes.  Later, 1 dramatic conversion of heart was manifested in the new direction of his poetry.  Instead of profane subjects, Santeul turned his imagination to Christian subjects, the result of which was some four hundred hymns.  Indeed, his work was of such incomparable value that the vast majority of the hymns found in the 1680 Breviary of the Archdiocese of Paris came from his pen.  He died on August 5, 1697 in Dijon.  


Adrian Grea († 1917)
Founder of the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception


To go the congregation page for a short biography <click here>




Germany and Austria

Manegold of Lautenbach († 1103)

Provost of Marbach and
Author of the Consuetudines of Marbach

Manegold was born in 1030 in Alasce.  He became a wandering teacher and celebrated philosopher, who at the end of his life sought to settled down and pursue the contemplative life.   He was married at some point.  Later he entered the canons regular at Lautenbach around 1084 and assumed the position of prefect of schools in Alasce.  He authored a polemic against Emperor Henry IV during the Investiture controversies and a further work which admonished Christians to avoid the study of pagan philosophers and poets.  No doubt this was a reaction against his earlier classical education.  In addition to these works, he also wrote commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures, Ovid and Plato. 

Evidently Manegold's made many enemies since he had to flee his community after living there only two years.  He relocated to the great center of canonical reform at Rottenbuch in Bavaria where he became dean.  In 1089 he returned to Alasce to found with the help of Burkhard of Geberschweier the canons regular of Marbach.  Bringing the model of Rottenbuch with him, Manegold authored the Consuetudines (customs) of Marbach, which many canons adopted.  Marbach itself founded other houses and at its height thirteen houses belonged to this Alsatian canonry.


Manegold's approach to salvation centered on the question of obedience.  As Christ has overcome evil, sin and death through his trustful obedience to his father, so too must the canons travel the way of obedience.  In fact the customs of Marbach enshrined this notion in the rite of investiture, where obedience, conversion, putting on the New Man in Christ and the renunciation of worldly desires were emphasized.  For Manegold, the clothing of the canons symbolized his interior conversion and desire to follow the obedient Christ. 


Interior conversion was matched by a emphasis on following the poor Christ through a vow of poverty.  The canon takes the poverty and humility for his model, rather than the wealth, power and influence that had often come to associated with the canonical life.  Finally, Manegold wished the canons to appreciate their place in the right ordering of Church, so that peace could be restored to the strife torn Church of his day. 


Manegold died around 1103.

Hugh of St. Victor ( 1148)
Philosopher, Theologian, and Mystical writer

Often called an "
alter Augustinus," Hugh was the first great theologian of the School of St. Victor.  Born to an aristocratic family in Saxony in 1096, he first entered the canons regular at St. Pancras in Hamerleve despite the opposition of his parents.  Due to inauspicious circumstances in Saxony, his uncle, Reinhart, Bishop of Halberstadt, who had studied under William of Champeaux, encouraged his nephew to leave for Paris.  There he found the Canons Regular of St. Victor and a home for his desire for scholarship and devotion.  In 1133 he became head of the School of St. Victor, which achieved great success under his guidance.  He died in 1148.

is one of the founders of Scholasticism.  Put simply, he helped to develop a new method for investigating the mystery of God and thereupon laid the foundation for the flourishing of theology in the 13th Century.  This might not have happened.  Peter Abelard was also developing this new method at the same time.  However he took it in radical directions that could have led to a rejection of this method entirely.  Abelard's emphasis on dialectics -- questions and answers -- endangered the primacy of the Bible and its Patristic commentators.  It was this dangerous implication that caused Hugh and others to reject Abelard's version of the Scholastic method.  So it is thanks in large part to orthodoxy and moderation of Hugh and his disciples that Scholasticism survived. 

Hugh wrote a number of books on theology, mystical works and commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures.  His most important work, The Sacrament of Christian Faith, was a broader and more careful  systematic presentation or "Summa theologica" than Abelard's.  His method consisted of two steps.  First Hugh laid out the Biblical and Patristic origins of Catholic dogma.  Then he analyzed these truths with the assistance of philosophy to demonstrate their logical coherence.  While this permitted him to engage in speculative theology in order to discover relationships between the dogmas of the faith, it did not endanger the primacy of the
Sacra Pagina (Sacred Scripture). 

Hugh is also know for his contribution to mystical theology.  He systematized the soul's journey to God through three steps: thought, meditation and contemplation.  Each step brings the soul closer to knowing God.  Thought finds God through the material world, meditation finds God in ourselves and contemplation finds God through a supernatural intuition.  His student Richard of St. Victor elaborated Hugh's mystical theology. 

To read more about this subject in Fr. Jordan Aumann's A History of Christian Spirituality, <click here>


Gerhoch of Reichersberg ( 1169)
Theologian, courageous defender of the liberty of the Church and reformer of the clergy

Born at Polling, Bavaria, in 1093, Bishop Hermann of Augsburg called this promising young cleric to teach at his cathedral school.  Impressed, the bishop made him a canon of the cathedral even though he was still only a deacon. Gradually Gerhoch became disenchanted with his bishop and left on a leave of absence to live with the reformed canons of Rottenbuch in 1121.  Shortly thereafter Gerhoch was reconciled with his bishop, but had decided to resign his position and enter the Canons Regular of Rottenbuch, which he did with his two half-brothers in 1124.  

Ordained a priest in 1126, Gerhoch underwent various trials until Archbishop Conrad I of Salzburg appointed him provost of the canons regular at Reichersberg in 1132.  Through his governance of Reichersberg many blessings came to his community.  He authored several books while at the same time working vigorously for the reform of the clergy.  Deeply imbued with the spirit of the Gregorian reforms, he advocated of the common life for all priests.  His strident approach earned him many enemies throughout his life.  As a result of these rivalries and his initial hesitancy to support the legitimate pope in the disputed papal election of 1159, he suffered greatly at the hands of the spurned imperial supporters of the anti-pope.  Reichersberg was attacked and he spent much of his last ten years on earth in flight.  He died shortly after returning to Reichersberg in 1169.


Thomas Hemerken à Kempis ( 1471)
Author of the Imitation of Christ.

Thomas was born at Kempen nearly Cologne around 1380.  When he was 13 years old he left his home to go to Deventer in the Netherlands where he expected to find his older brother John and attend a school.  Upon his arrival he found out that his brother and five of his confreres from the Brothers of the Common Life had left for Windesheim two years earlier to found a community of canons regular.  His brother provided him with an introduction to Florant Radewyn, the head of the Brothers of the Common Life, who took a great interest in Thomas and his spiritual and intellectual formation during the next seven years. 

In 1399 Thomas entered the canons regular at Mount St. Agnes, a new foundation of the Canons Regular of the Congregation of Windesheim near Zwolle, where his brother John was then prior.  Thomas had to wait quite a while to enter the novitiate and was not ordained until 1413 as a result of joining this new foundation, which lacked just about every necessity.  Thomas held several positions at Zwolle, including sub-prior, director of the juniors and novice master, before he was finally able to devout himself entirely to prayer.  Among the brother he was known for his love of solitude, whether in prayer or in books, which he avidly read.

His greatest work, The Imitation of Christ, was published anonymously in 1418, though later in life he was identified as its author.  In addition many of his homilies and conferences he gave as novice master still extant as well as a number of lesser known works.  He died in 1471 after a long and holy life dedicated to the love of God.


Michael Kuen († 1765)
Provost of Stift Wengen, Historian


Born on September, 2 ,1709 in Weissenhorn, he entered the canons regular at Stift Wengen at Ulm and became Provost in 1754.  This important abbey and center of the Catholic faith in a Lutheran part of Germany had been awarded the privilege of pontificalia in 1676.  Kuen excelled as a historian, whose principal competence lie in the history of the Order and the Church.  He wrote both scholarly and polemical works, some of which were written under a pseudonym.  It was during his reign as Provost that the abbey church was redecorated according to the baroque style and his brother, Franz Martin Kuen, painted frescos inside.  Michael died in 1765.


Eusebius Amort († 1775)
Canon of Stift Polling and Polymath

This extraordinary polymath was born in Bavaria and at an early age joined the canons regular of the esteemed Stift Polling, where he spent his life in diligent study of the sacred and natural sciences.  He founded an influential review forscholars and organized an academy that later became the model for the Academy of Science in Munich.  He was well acquainted with the learned men of his time and published many books and pamphlets.  Eusebius turned his sharp intellect to one of the most pressing problems of his day: moral theology.  Though not without his detractors, many held his approach to avoid the errors of rigorism and laxism. Another area in which Amort was a tireless laborer was the history of the canonical Order. His work in this field is still quoted to this day.


He also wrote important works on canon law and wrote a book that questioned the visions of Bl. Maria de Agreda and her Mystic City of God.  He also wrote books on the devotional life and piety and argued in favor of Thomas à Kempis as the author of the Imitation of Christ, a hotly contested question for many years owing to the importance and influence of that work.  Remembered for his scholarship and encyclopedic knowledge as well as his good judgment and piety, he remains a model to all canons regular.


Johannes Ignatius Felbiger (†  1788)
Provost of Sagan in Silesia and reformer of Catholic education

Born in 1724 in Silesia, he later entered the canons regular at Sagan, an ancient house associated with the Canons Regular of Arrouaise.  He was deeply concerned about the poor quality of Catholic education and sought a solution.  Beginning in 1761 he reformed the schools belonging to his community and after having visited Berlin in 1762 where he was exposed to new pedagogical methods, he founded a teachers' college in 1763.  The success of his reforms began to attract widespread attention and he was supported by the Silesian minister von Schlabrendorff in his reform efforts. 


The next few years witnessed new regulations for all the Catholic schools in Silesia as well as an influential Silesian catechism.  At the request of Empress Maria Theresia, Felbiger went to Vienna to reform the schools of the German speaking lands of the Habsburg Empire.  His educational model was also adopted in Bavaria, other German speaking lands and even Russia.  Not without his critics, his position remained sure as long as Maria Theresia reigned.  Her son Joseph II objected to his religious principles and in 1782 transferred him to oversee the reform of Hungarian education, which he did from Pressburg (Bratislava) until his death in 1788.



Franz Töpsl († 1796)
Provost of Stift Polling in Bavaria


Töpsl was one of the great leaders of the Catholic Enlightenment and bequeathed to the Church a legacy of scholarship, sound leadership and artistic achievement. 


Born November 11, 1711 to a prosperous Bavarian family and educated by the Jesuits in his home town of Munich,  Töpsl entered the canons regular at Stift Polling in 1729.  After his priestly ordination he served for several years in the Abbey's parishes, becoming dean in 1742 and provost in 1744, whereupon began his 50 year reign over one of most important religious communities and cultural institutions in Bavaria. 


Töpsl's great contribution to the Church was his ability to lead his community in its pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful.  He took keen interest in promoting the good of his community and those whom they served.  He was an effective steward and undertook an ambitious building program.  He oversaw the building  of the new library, as well as other buildings, chapels, parish churches and rectories.  He also played an important role promoting the common good through his work in the Bavarian government, particularly in the area of public education.  He was also instrument in defeating attempts to secularize religious community, something that was quite fashionable in Catholic lands of that time.  


In addition to being scholar in his own right, authoring works on diverse subjects including the Scriptures, Patristics, contemporary French and Spanish theology and Church and local history, he created an environment conducive to scholarship and research.  Thank to Töpsl, Stift Polling had the largest number of books in Bavaria, provided a number of professors for the Univeristy of Ingolstadt and was home to Eusebius Amort.  Töpsl and he worked together to lay the foundation for the Bavarian Academy of Science. 


Not only did Töpsl bring beauty to his time through the patronage of various artistic endeavors, most importantly the renovation of the church, but he also worked hard to build up bonds among the canons through Europe.  He wish the splendor of the Catholic faith to shine far and wide and to support and encourage his canonical brothers elsewhere.  He maintained extensive correspondences with canons in Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal and France.


Töpsl died in the night behind the 11th and 12th of March in 1796.



Pius Parsch (  1954)
Canon of Klosterneuburg and
Promoter of the liturgical reform movement

After the First World War, Klosterneuburg gained a new mission as a center of popular liturgical renewal and reform, one very much in keeping with the canonical vocation.  The Augustinian Canon, Pius Parsch, wanted to make the treasures of the Bible and the Liturgy more easily available to the Catholic faithful.  |From this desire was born a movement – beginning humbly at first in Klosterneuburg – that soon embraced the Church and through the Second Vatican Council deeply affected Her.

The “People’s Liturgical Movement”, as it was soon to be called, and the Klosterneuburg Bible Work made the name of Klosterneuburg known far beyond Austria.  The active participation of the faithful at the Mass and the Catholic bible study – both of which are so common place today as to be taken for granted – were innovations pioneered by Pius Parsch.


Pius Johann Parsch was born in 1884 and grew up in Olmütz in what is today the Czech Republic.  He, like many of Germans from Bohemia and Moravia – at that time still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – entered religious houses in Austria.  He entered the canons regular at Stift Klosterneuburg in 1904.  Already as a student he became interested in the renewal of the liturgy.  The Beuron Congregation of Benedictines had given the impetus to this movement in German speaking lands and by this time interest was likewise growing in academic circles.  However this scholarship and its implications for the liturgy remained remote from the Catholic faithful. 


To bridge this gap was what Parsch desired; a desire that was conceived during his time as a military chaplain during World War One.  Upon his return to Klosterneuburg, he sought to translate scholarship and theology into a practical program for parish life.  In 1919 he offered his first Catholic Bible Study.  Three years later in 1922, the Romanesque Church of St. Gertrude in Klosterneuburg became his liturgical laboratory, where he developed new and meaningful forms for the liturgy in the German language. 


He founded the magazine The Bible and Liturgy in 1926 and wrote numerous pamphlets.  These and his books, the most important being The Year of Grace, An Explanation of the Mass, The People’s Liturgy and Liturgical Preaching,  were spread far and wide and translated into various major languages.  In 1950 Parsch founded the Klosterneuburg Bible Apostolate, which made inexpensive editions of the Bible and introductions to the Bible widely available.  Through this apostolate, the Catholic Church in Austria was able to provide Catholics behind the Iron Curtain with Bibles and other materials to sustain the faith during the years of Communist persecution.  It is therefore easy to see how Parsch, who died in 1954 after a painful illness, influenced the Father of the Second Vatican Council.  His desire to make the Bible and Liturgy accessible to the faithful are hallmarks of the Church today.






Lamberto Scannabecchi († 1130)

Reigned as Honorius II (1123-1130)


A canon regular of Santa Maria di Reno near Bologna, he was called to Rome on account of his great learning by Paschal II.  He became a canon of the Lateran basilica and in 1117 a Cardinal.  He spent most of the three years between 1119 and 1122 working for the reconciliation of the Emperor with the Pope.  It was chiefly through his peace making efforts that they were reconciled on September 23, 1123, whereupon the Emperor renounced any claim of investiture and insured the liberty of the Church.


After the death of Callistus II, whom he faithful served, he was elected Pope on December 15, 1124, but under such dubious circumstances that he himself refused the office until all the cardinals acknowledged his election as legitimate.  Honorius II found a loyal supporter of the Church in the newly elected Emperor of Germany, Lothair and had a measure of success in his dealings with the King of England, Henry I.  He found Roger of Sicily a much less compliant partner in southern Italy however.


Honorius reformed Cluny and Monte Cassiono and approved the Premonstratensian Order on February 26, 1126, six years after St. Norbert had founded it in Premontre.



Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso († 1145)
Reigned as Pope Lucius II (1144-45)

A canon regular of San Frediano, he later became the Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome in 1124 and served as papal legate to Germany on several occasions.  He was a stronger supporter of the Premonstratensians and was instrumental in the appointment of St. Norbert as bishop of Magdeburg in 1126.


On March 12, 1144 he was elected to succeed Celestine II and governed the Church as pope for five months and twelve days.  It was not a particularly successful reign.  He had trouble with King Roger of Sicily in the south and the Roman senate, led by Pierleoni, brother of the anti-pope Anacletus, seized control of the city.  Lucius II was roundly defeated when he had recourse to arms to put down the rebellious senators and moreover was mortally wounded in the fight.  He died a few days later on February 15, 1145.

Gabriele Condulmer († 1447)

Reigned as Pope Eugene IV (1431-47)

Born to a noble family in Venice in 1388, this future pope was the nephew of Pope Gregory XII and cut an impressive figure.  Though his prospects in the world were great, he decided instead to distribute his great wealth, 20,000 ducats, to the poor and helped to found the Canons of St. George of Alga, just outside of Venice.

At the age of 24, his uncle, Gregory XII, appointed him bishop of Siena.  He did not remain there long, however, because the Sienese did not want an outsider as bishop.  In 1408 he was created as the Cardinal priest of St. Clement in 1408.  His effective service to Martin V, especially in assisting in the governance of the Papal States, made him a most likely candidate for the papacy.

Elected in 1431, he took the name Eugene IV, perhaps choosing it because he expected his pontificate to be as stormy as that of his 12th Century predecessor, Eugene III.  It was in fact turbulent times for Christendom.  There were much ferment for reform, some orthodox, some heterodox.  Eugene needed to judge wises and govern the Church well if he was to restore unity and bring about reform.


His greatest challenge lay in responding to conciliarism, a doctrine that asserted the authority of ecumenical councils over the papacy.  Eugene faced this problem head on, but did so in a brusque manner.  He impetuously commanded the dissolution of the just begun Council of Basle in 1431, only months after he took office.  This became a contentious point between the pope and many of the Cardinals and rulers of Europe.  Two years this controversy dragged on until finally Eugene recognized the gathering as ecumenical.

The following spring, in May, 1434, Eugene had to flee Rome for Florence due to an uprising fomented by his enemies.  The ten year long exile in Florence was providential because it brought him and the papacy into close contact with the flourishing Renaissance.  He consecrated the new Duomo designed by Brunelleschi and strongly promoted this humanistic movement.

Meanwhile radicals took control of the Council of Basle, thereby alienating many of the Cardinals and rulers of Europe.  There was also a question of relocated the council to somewhere more convenient for the Eastern Churches, so that Christian unity could be achieved.  This eventually occurred, leading to the the legitimate council transferring to Ferrara in 1438 and to Florence thereafter.  From this Council of Florence came a decree of union between the Catholic Church and the Greek Church in 1439.  Though it did not in the long run hold, this success did dramatically enhance the prestige of the papacy.  Similar agreements were subsequently signed in the next few years with the Armenians, Jacobite, and Nestorians.

The frustrated radicals of Basle rejected Eugene's suspicion of their meeting and accused the pope of heresy.  Thereupon to their everlasting shame, they elected the anti-pope, Felix V.  No one in Europe was interested in another divided papacy and this schism fizzled immediately.

Upon his return to Rome in 1443, he set about relieving the misery of the population and consolidating the position of the Church among the nations of Europe.  Though he was unsuccessful in his attempt to overturn the disastrous Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), which empowered the French Kings to meddle in the internal affairs of the Church, he did win several important concessions from the Germans.

Eugene was a pivotal pope.  He helped to restore the prestige of the office of pope and bequeathed his successor the possibility of a united Christendom under the spiritual authority of the pope.


Agostino Steuco († 1549)

Bishop and Scholar

Born in Gubbio in 1496, this extraordinary man entered the canons regular at San Secondo, a house of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savior.  He lived at  Sant' Antonio in Castello, where he served as librarian, Reggio Emilia and finally again in Gubbio, where he was prior of both San Secondo and Sant' Ambrogio.  In 1538 he became bishop of Kisamos in Crete and Prefect of the Vatican Library.  He later went to Bologna to assist with the Council of Trent, but died shortly thereafter due to his fragile health. 

Agostino was a man of broad erudition and deep piety.  He successfully combined vast learning, cultural breadth and a genuine religious vocation.    Fluent in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, he was at home with Sacred Scriptures and likewise familiar with pagan literature and philosophy.  His principal work,
De perenni philosophia, was the fruit of his life's work.  In it Agostino attempted to interpret all ancient philosophy in the light of Christian revelation. 


Girolamo Vida († 1566)

Bishop and Renowned Latin epic poet

Born in 1480 at Cremona in Italy, Vida was received into the Canons Regular of St. Mark and served under Pope Julius II and Leo X, where he made the acquaintance of many of the leading literary figures of his time.  Admired by many for his humility and talent, he was a devotee of Virgil and composer of many poems.   His most famous work is the
Cristiades, a Latin poem about the life of Christ in the style of Virgil.  He left Rome to serve as provost of three different communities of canons before Clement VII recalled him to Rome and made him bishop of Alba.  He was a participant of the Council of Trent and undertook his own diocesan synod to promote reform of his diocese.  He died in 1566.

Giovanni Crisostomo Trombelli († 1784)
Abbot General, theologian and historian

Born in 1697, he received his education in Bologna, where he entered the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savior in 1713.  A careful scholar and an excellent administrator, Trombelli went onto hold teaching positions at Padua as a philosopher and at Bologna as a theologian and later became a member of the Bologna Academy of Science.  His most important work is the six volume De cultu sanctorum dissertationes decem.  He wrote a number of other historical and theological works including the history of his institute.  In addition to his scholarly efforts, he governed his community as superior in Bologna and then later governed the entire congregation as Abbot General.  He died on January 7, 1697.



Vincenzo Garofoli ( 1839)

Abbot General and Founder


Born in Rome in 1760 at the height of the Enlightenment, he entered the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savoir (Renana canons) on May 22, 1781, after a stint in the Roman seminary.  He chose the canons because he believed that a priest should be supported in his apostolate by the common life.  Determining how to balance properly the two goals of the canonical vocation, the priestly apostolate and the common life, would consume much of the energy and attention of this great reformer.


In 1794, the chaos unleashed by the French Revolution arrived at the gates the Eternal City.  The Papal States were overthrown and the Roman Republic was proclaimed.  French troops occupied the city and Pius VI was led off to France as a prisoner.  The Renana congregation was suppressed, though a few houses did in fact survive.  Garofoli, who had taught theology and served as the librarian at the Renana house of studies at St. Peter in Chains (San Pietro in Vincoli) since 1788, was the only canon permitted to remain.  The community was turned out and French troops used the church and its adjacent buildings as a barracks.  In 1800, the situation took an unexpected turn.  An agreement between Pius VII and Napoleon gave Garofoli, now procurator general of the congregation, the chance to reorganize what was left of the decimated order.


Ten years later, however, Garofoli was forced to flee Rome as Napoleon issued a degree suppressing all religious houses on April 25, 1810.  He went to Naples, where he conferred with both Renana and Lateran canons.  Perhaps it was there that the idea of a union was conceived. 


In March 1814 Napoleon freed Pius VII, permitting him to return to Rome.  With this good news, Garofoli went to meet him in Imola, where he and the Holy Father discussed his plans for the canons.  Naturally Pius VII was enthusiastic and gave Garofoli his blessing.  Thereafter Garofoli went about vigorously promoting the revival of his congregation and a union with the Lateran canons. 


In the fall of 1814 Garofoli and others refounded the Renana Congregation, first in Bologna, then shortly thereafter in the three Roman houses (San Pietro in Vicolo, San Agnese fuori le muore and San Lorenzo).  In the years that followed canons returned to Gubbio, Orvieto, Urbino, Lucca and Fano.  At the same time, the Lateran and Renana canons living in the Kingdom of Naples were being encouraged by the Holy See to establish a joint house.   The result of this move came on September 7, 1819, when nine priests and five lay brother renewed their religious vows and donned their habits for the first time in many years.


By 1823 the preparations for the union between the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savior and the Lateran were complete and Garofoli was elected to be the first Abbot General of the new congregation.  He refused re-election as Abbot General in 1829 since it was not within the tradition of either congregation.  However he did accept the office of Procurator General and carried out that role with diligence and zeal. 


In 1832 he was named titular bishop of Laodicea, though he continued to assist the new congregation as procurator general.  Struck with paralysis in 1837, he died on March 2, 1839 and was buried in St. Peter in Chain's, honored as the founder of the new congregation.



Giuseppe Ricciotti ( 1964)

Abbot and Exegete


Born in Rome in 1890, he entered the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savior and the Lateran and was ordained a priest in 1913.  Following his decorated service as a chaplain during World War One, he went onto an important scholarship career in which he wrote several important work defending the Catholic faith against its detractors.  What Pius Parsch did for the liturgical reform movement, Ricciotti did for the Scriptures.  Both were imbued with a desire to bring the spiritual wealth of the Church to the faithful by making it accessible to their fellow Catholics.


Ricciotti's works made the Bible available to many Italians and his works were translated in other languages because they successfully combined scholarship with piety.  In The Life of Jesus Christ, Ricciotti critically examined the sources and witnesses of Christ, reconstructing his life step by step, in its actual context and in The History of Israel, Ricciotti traced salvation history using Biblical and extra-Biblical sources.  He also turned his attention to the history of the early Church in a work on the martyrs and one on the great foe of Christianity, Julian the Apostate.

Besides his scholarly endeavors, Ricciotti served as Abbot of the Lateran Congregation.  He died in 1964.





Aegidius Cardinal Alvarez Carrillo de Albornoz († 1367)

Canon in Zaragoza and second Founder of the Papal States

This eminent Spanish Churchman was born in 1295 in Cuenca.  He was a regular canon of the cathedral of Saragoza and a canonist trained in Toulouse, France and finally the archbishop of Toledo, succeeding his uncle in 1338.  Not surprisingly, his position as archbishop was significant to both the Church and the nascent Spanish state.  This successful administrator was made a cardinal in 1350 by Clement VI, who was reigning over the Church in Avignon.  The popes had left Rome in 1309, remaining in France for 70 years.  The French took advantage of the weakened state of the papacy, and in so doing, did great harm to the Church. 


In June, 1353, his successor, Innocent VI gave Albornoz the office of papal legate to Italy in order to prepare the Papal States and Rome for the return of the popes.  Reform of the Church demanded strong leadership that only a pope could provide, a pope independent of a king, which was impossible as long as they remained in France.  Albornoz had a difficult task, but he met the challenge with great success; By mid-1357 he had centralized the administration of the Papal States, suppressed lawlessness and banditry and restored peace.  He also promulgated the Constitutiones Aegidianae, which gave a legal order to the Marches of Ancona and were later extended to all the Papal States, remaining in effect until 1816.  He also established a college for Spanish students in Bologna, which is home to one of the first universities in Europe. 


His downfall came of the fate of Bologna.  The Milanese coveted Bologna.  They brought great pressure to bear against Innocent VI.  As a result, the pope relieved Albornoz of his office and he returned to Spain.  His stay was short and he was already back in Italy the next year in 1358 to deal with the question of Bologna and the return of the popes to Rome.  A second time he was removed from his office in 1363, but remained in Italy as papal legate to the Kingdom of Naples.  He died on August 23, 1367, while escorting Urban V to Rome.  In addition to his legacy of legal and pastoral service, he generously endowed numerous charities in several countries.

The popes did finally return to Rome in 1376.  Gregory XI ended the Avignon papacy, but sadly after his death in 1378 a worse division engulfed the Church: the Great Schism  during which time the pope in Rome was rivaled by a French anti-pope in Avignon.  This went on for 40 years until 1417.  The damage done to the Church was incalculable.




Martin de Azpicueta Navarrus († 1586)

Canonist, Moral Theologian, Counselor to three popes.

Born on May 13, 1492 and called Navarrus on account of his land of origin, Navarre in Spain, Martin was a cousin of St. Francesco Saverio and corresponded with his cousin often.  He received an excellent education in theology and canon law at Cahors in France and went onto teach there and thereafter in Tolosa, Salamanca and Coimbra.  He wrote several books including manuals to assist confessors and was himself a sought after counselor to Popes and Kings alike.  He died in Rome in 1586.










Benito Arias Montanus († 1598)

Exegete and Editor of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible

A gifted linguist, Arias undertook studies in theology and oriental languages at Alcala, the great center of Spanish humanism.  He became a clerical member of the Military Order of St. James of the Sword, the priests being canons regular.  He was an advisor to the Bishop of Segovia and traveled with him to Rome for the final session of the Council of Trent (1562).  King Philip II of Spain chose Arias to supervise the publication of a new Polyglot Bible

The Antwerp Polyglot Bible laid out the Biblical texts in columns so comparative research could be undertaken.  This research Bible also included a number of supplementary volumes for which Arias was responsible.  Arias brought the Polyglot Bible to Pope Gregory XIII for his approbation.  There ensued a nasty dispute between Arias and another Spanish scholar, Leon de Castro, over which text should be considered authoritative for translations: the Latin Vulgate or the Hebrew text.  Arias argued for the latter and was eventually exonerated. 

Refusing to become bishop, he accepted the position of royal chaplain, which permitted him to continue his scholarly work.  He wrote numerous commentaries on various books on the Bible and also wrote poetry.  It was reputed that when he was not studying he was praying.  He died a holy death in 1598 in Seville.  

Polyglot Bibles

These Bibles represent an important innovation in the study and appreciation of the Sacred Scriptures.  The production of these multilingual (poly-glot) Bibles made more widely available rare Biblical manuscripts in the original languages. 

Cardinal Ximenes provided the patronage for the production of the first Polyglot Bible, the Complutensian Bible, in 1502-17 at Alcalá, the great center of Spanish humanism.  The purpose of this publication, which was endorsed by Pope Leo X, was to give students of the Sacred Scriptures accurate printed texts of the Old Testament in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and the New Testament in Greek and Latin.  It also contained excerpts from the Aramaic Targums and subsequent volumes were Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek grammars and dictionaries.


Under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, the next major Polyglot Bible, the Antwerp Polyglot, was supervised by Benito Arias Montanus and published from 1569-72.  This edition added interlinear translations of Hebrew and Aramaic Targums for the Old Testament and interlinear translation of the Syriac edition of the New Testament.


Later notable Polyglot Bibles appeared in Paris and London in the following centuries. 


Thanks to these Bibles and their accompanying grammars and dictionaries the scientific study of the Sacred Scriptures became feasible.  While not always a peaceful or direct ascent to truth, this body of research has produced many valuable insights into the Sacred Scriptures.  




Miguel Carlos de Cunha († 1799)

Prior General and Bishop of Coimbra


Born in 1703 in Lisbon, he entered the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross in 1728 and in 1737 he was already elected general of the congregation.  Shortly thereafter he became bishop of Coimbra.  He took great care of his community, securing permission from Benedict XIV to found an academy for scholarship, history and liturgy at the abbey of the Holy Cross.  However this promising effort was not supported by the Portuguese king, who suppressed it in 1768.  The bishop faced many difficulties due to the increasingly anti-clerical attitude of the government.  For his resistance to their policies, he was imprisons in 1768.  He was freed two years later with a change of ministers.  He died on August 29, 1779.





Richard of St. Victor († 1173)
Theologian and Mystic


Little is known of Richard's origins, though it seems he was a Scotsman and probably entered the Canons Regular of St. Victor as a young man.  Either directly as his student or as an inheritor of his legacy, Richard was deeply influenced by Hugh of St. Victor, the first great master of the order.  Richard preferred the cloister and had little contact with the world, though he no doubt met St. Thomas of Canterbury when he visited St. Victor in 1065 and his letters suggest that he also knew St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  This decision to separate himself from the world was in fact his desire.  He wished to devote his entire attention to God.  He considered the study of things other than God to be foolish, fraught with temptations to pride and vanity. 


In earlier times Richard was principally esteemed for his treatment of mystical theology -- hence the  title "mystic doctor" --  which was the first major work of its kind.  However with the growth in interest in Trinitarian theology in the 20th Century, Richard's dogmatic works on the Holy Trinity, especially his De Trinitate, are once again receiving attention.


In addition to his research, he held positions in the governance of the community where he became sub-prior in 1159, then later prior.  It was in this position where he was left in the unhappy position of having to attend to the crisis caused by Abbot Ervisius.  The latter's scandalous lifestyle led to papal rebuke and a protracted struggle to unseat him.  He finally resigned as abbot and retired from the community in 1170.  Though it appears that Richard did not become directly involved with the proceedings, such a crisis must have been a cross for this holy man.  Richard died three years later in 1173.


To read more about this subject in Fr. Jordan Aumann's CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION , <click here>