Today we continue our regular series called “Learning from the Saints.” Our guide is expert Bert Ghezzi, a dear friend of mine and the author of numerous books including Voices of the Saints, Saints at Heart, and Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus.
Today, Bert profiles Bl. Jordan of Saxony.
With hard-edged discipline and brilliant confrontation, St. Dominic established the Friars Preachers to proclaim the gospel and revitalize the Church. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, his successor, took a different tack to advance the work of the Dominicans. He used gentleness and charm to attract new members and expand the order throughout Europe. A divine hand seems to have arranged this succession, tapping the right man at the right time.
Jordan’s meteoric rise to head the Dominicans measures his exceptional leadership ability. Two months after he entered the order in 1220 he was one of a select group invited to participate in the first general chapter at Bologna. And just two years later, after Dominic’s death the community chose Jordan as its second master general.
Sometimes called the first university chaplain, Jordan had a gift for evangelizing college-aged youth. When he preached at universities, he enthralled his hearers. He personally brought a thousand young men into the order, including St. Albert the Great. During his tenure, he sent friars throughout Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.
Following Dominic, Jordan believed that the prayer of contemplatives fueled the activism of the friars. So he fostered the development of the Dominican sisters who devoted themselves to intercession. He personally directed the spiritual career of Blessed Diana d’Andalò who headed a cloister in Bologna. Jordan’s fatherly letters to Diana have a lyrical charm. In the following selection, he exhorts her and her sisters to keep heaven in mind:
“Apply yourselves with all your might to the life of virtue and the practice of the godliness that the apostle says is profitable to all things (see 1 Tim 4:8). And do not work so much at bodily penances that can so easily exceed the limits of prudence and wisdom. Let your hearts be always filled with a burning desire for the blessed city of the saints in paradise, that glorious storeroom of perfect joy and gladness, that abode of light, radiant with the splendor of utter beauty, far exceeding the understanding of man: a realm truly divine, worthy to be the dwelling place of him who is created in the image and likeness of God (see Gn 1:26).
“Let the loving thought of the Bridegroom be constantly in your minds. And as his eyes are upon you, do all you can to make your beauty perfect before him. Rid yourselves of any stain or blemish however small that might sully it and offend his divine gaze. Let there be purity in your hearts and innocence in your lives. In all that you do, be of one mind and one heart, in peace and concord, in unshakable love, and in that loving humility that is the guardian of all good things. So that, while your souls find deep and lasting delight in the life of holiness, they may themselves be a source of delight to the Son of God who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.”
Bd. Jordan wrote a life of St. Dominic that the main source of information about the founder and the early Dominicans. In 1237, while on the way to the Holy Land he and two friars died in a shipwreck off the coast of Syria.
Once when Jordan was at evening prayer with some novices, a fit of giggles broke out among the young men. An older brother gestured them to stop. Jordan asked the senior friar, “Who made you novice master?” Turning to the youths, he said, “Go ahead and laugh! Laugh all you want, for you have escaped from the devil, who used to hold you captive.”
(Image Credit: Nossa Senhora De Aparecida)
Read more from Bert at his website www.BertGhezzi.com, or check out his many books on Amazon.