Men prayed for strength to resist Jordan’s burning eloquence, and mothers hid their sons when Master Jordan came to town. Students and masters warned each other of the fatal magnetism of his sermons. The sweetness of his character and the holiness of his life shone through his most casual words in a flame that drew youth irresistibly to the ideal to which he had dedicated his own life. In his 16 years of preaching, Jordan is said to have drawn more than a thousand novices to the Dominican Order, among whom were two future popes, two canonized saints (e.g., Albert the Great), numerous beati, and countless intellectual lights of his dazzling century.
Of Jordan’s childhood, nothing is known, except that he was born of a noble family. He was drawn to the order in 1220 by the preaching of Blessed Reginald, the beloved son of Dominic, brought back from death by Dominic’s and Our Lady’s prayers. Jordan was at that time about 30, a student at the University of Paris, and his reputation for sanctity had preceded him into the order.
He had worn the habit for only two months when he was sent to Bologna as a delegate to the first general chapter of the order. The following year he was elected provincial of Lombardy, Italy, and on the death of Saint Dominic, succeeded him as master general.
The Order of Preachers was only six years old when Jordan became master general. He carried out the yet untried plans of Dominic, who had hurried off to heaven when many of his dreams were just beginning to open out into realization, and still more vistas beckoned beyond. Under him the new order advanced apace, spreading throughout Germany and into Denmark. Jordan will always be remembered for his work in increasing the manpower of the order, but his contribution to its quality should never be forgotten.
He added four new provinces to the eight already in existence; he twice obtained for the order a chair at the University of Paris and helped found the University of Toulouse; and he established the first general house of studies of the order. He was a spiritual guide to many, including Blessed Diana d’Andalo; and somewhere in his busy lifetime he found time to write a number of books, including a life of Saint Dominic.
Jordan was regarded as a menace by the professors of universities where he recruited novices. He emptied classrooms of their most talented students, stole their most noted professors. Young men by the hundreds besieged the order for admittance. Some were mere children, some famous lawyers and teachers, and some were the wealthy young bearers of the most famous names in Christendom. One and all, they were drawn to a life of perfection by this man who preached so well, and who practiced what he preached with such evident relish.
All the old writers speak of the kindness and personal charm of Jordan. He had the ability to console the troubled and to inspire the despondent with new hope. At one time, a discouraged student was busily saying the Office of the Dead when Master Jordan sat down beside him and began alternating verses with him. When he came to the end of Psalm 26, Jordan said the verse with emphasis: “Oh, wait for the Lord!” Wherewith the sorrows of the young man departed. Another student was rid of troubled thoughts by the mere imposition of Jordan’s hands. To bring peace to the brothers who were being annoyed by the devil, Jordan established the beautiful custom of singing the Salve Regina after Compline each night.
Jordan was shipwrecked and drowned when returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Benedictines, Dorcy).
Born: 1190 at Padberg Castle, diocese of Paderborn, Westphalia, old Saxony; rumoured to have been born in Palestine while his parents were on a pilgrimage, and named after the River Jordan, but this is apparently aprochryphal
Died: Drowned 1237 in a shipwreck off the coast of Syria while on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Beatified: 1825 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Leo XII
Canonized: University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Engineering