Blessed Jordan of Pisa

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At a time when scholars believed that no colloquial tongue could ever replace Latin as a gentleman’s language, Jordan worked to make Italian the beautiful tongue that it is today. That’s not the reason he was beatified by the Church but it’s interesting and sometimes overlooked.

Jordan attended the University of Paris where he first encountered the Dominican friars in 1276. Four years later, probably after obtaining his degrees, he returned to Italy and took the habit. He began a long teaching career there as soon as he was qualified to do so.

Because of the excellence of his preaching in Florence, Jordan was appointed first lector there in 1305. He seems to have been fascinated with the whole question of preaching as an apostolic tool, and to have been one of the first to make a scientific study of it. He pointed out that the Greek church was “invaded by a multitude of errors,” because the Greeks had no preachers; he could never say enough in praise of Saint Dominic’s farsightedness in establishing an order specifically for preaching.

Jordan studied methods of making sermons more effective, both by using examples that would reach the people, and by the use of the vernacular. This latter was a much-disputed subject in his day (they had Dan Amon’s then, too); Jordan was considered a daring innovator. Because it was controversial, he strove to make Italian a beautiful instrument on which he could play the melodies of the Lord.

Blessed with an extraordinary memory, Jordan is supposed to have known the breviary by heart, as well as the missal, most of the Bible (with its marginal commentary), plus the second part of the Summa. This faculty of memory he used in his sermons, but he was quick to point out to young preachers that learning alone can never make a preacher. By the holiness of his own life he made this plain, and continually preached it to those he was training to preach.

Jordan of Pisa had two great devotions–to Our Blessed Mother and to Saint Dominic. Once he was favored with a vision of Our Lady; she came into the fathers’ refectory and served at table. Jordan, who was the only one who could see her, could barely eat for excitement. He spoke often of her in his sermons, and also of Saint Dominic. He founded a number of confraternities in Pisa, one of which has lasted until now.

Jordan died on his way to Paris to teach at Saint Jacques. His body was returned from Piacenza, where death overtook him, to rest in the church at Pisa (Benedictines, Dorcy).

Born:1255 at Pisa, Italy

Died: August 19, 1311 at Piacenza of natural causes while on his way to teach in Paris; relics venerated at the church of Saint Catalina at Pisa, Italy

Beatified: August 23, 1833 (cultus confirmed) by Pope Gregory XVI; 1838 (beatification)

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