Vol. 6, Chapter III. Leaders of Catholic Thought

19. Literature

For § 20. Ockam and the Decay of Scholasticism. — No complete ed. of Ockam’s works exists. The fullest lists are given by Riezler, see below, Little: Grey Friars of Oxford, pp. 226-234, and Potthast: II. 871-873. Goldast’s Monarchia, II. 313-1296, contains a number of his works, e.g. opus nonaginta dierum, Compendium errorum Johannis XXII., De utili dominio rerum Eccles. et abdicatione bonorum temporalium, Super potestatem summi pontificis, Quaestionum octo decisiones, Dial. de potestate papali et imperiali in tres partes distinctus, (1) de haereticis, (2) de erroribus Joh. XXII., (3) de potestate papae, conciliorum et imperatoris (first publ. 2 vols., Paris, 1476). — Other works: Expositio aurea super totam artem veterem, a com. on Porphyry’s Isagoge, and Aristotle’s Elenchus, Bologna, 1496. — Summa logices, Paris, 1488. — Super I V. Iibros sententiarum, Lyons, 1483. — De sacramento altaris, Strassburg, 1491. — De praedestinatione et futuris contingentibus, Bologna, 1496. — Quodlibeta septem, Paris, 1487. — Riezler: D. antipaepstlichen und publizistischen Schriften Occams in his Die literar. Widersacher, etc., 241-277. — Haureau: La philos. scolastique. — Werner: Die Scholastik des spaeteren M. A., II., Vienna, 1883, and Der hl. Thos. von Aquino, III. — Stoeckl: Die Philos. des M. A., II. 986-1021, and art. Nominalismus in Wetzer-Welte, IX. — Baur: Die christl. Kirche d. M. A., p. 377 sqq. — Müller: Der Kampf Ludwigs des Baiern. — R. L. Poole in Dict. of Natl. Biog., XLI. 357-362. — R. Seeberg in Herzog, XIV. 260-280. — A. Dorner; D. Verhaeltniss von Kirche und Staat nach Occam in Studien und Kritiken, 1886, pp. 672-722. — F. Kropatscheck: Occam und Luther in Beitr. zur Foerderung christl. Theol., Guetersloh, 1900. — Art. Nominalismus, by Stoeckl in Wetzer-Welte, IX. 423-427.

For § 21. Catherine of Siena. — Her writings. Epistole ed orazioni della seraphica vergine s. Catterina da Siena, Venice, 1600, etc. — Best ed. 6 vols., Siena, 1707-1726. — Engl. trans. of the Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin Cath. of Siena, by Algar Thorold, London, 1896. — Her Letters, ed. by N. Tommaseo: Le lettere di S. Caterina da Siena, 4 vols., Florence, 1860. — *Eng. trans. by Vida D. Scudder: St. Cath. of Siena as seen in her Letters, London, 1906, 2d ed., 1906. — Her biography is based upon the Life written by her confessor, Raymundo de Vineis sive de Capua, d. 1399: vita s. Cath. Senensis, included in the Siena ed. of her works and in the Acta Sanctt. III. 863-969. — Ital. trans. by Catherine’s secretary, Neri De Landoccio, Fr. trans. by E. Cartier, Paris, 1863, 4th ed., 1877. — An abbreviation of Raymund’s work, with annotations, Leggenda della Cat. da Siena, usually called La Leggenda minore, by Tommaso d’antonio Nacci Caffarini, 1414. — K. Hase: Caterina von Siena, Ein Heiligenbild, Leipzig, 1804, new ed., 1892. — J. E. Butler: Cath. of Siena, London, 1878, 4th ed., 1895. — Augusta T. Drane, Engl. Dominican: The Hist. of Cath. of Siena, compiled from the Orig. sources, London, 1880, 3d ed., 1900, with a trans. of the Dialogue. — St. Catherine of Siena and her Times, by the author of Mademoiselle Mori (Margaret D. Roberts), New York, 1906, pays little attention to the miraculous element, and presents a full picture of Catherine’s age. — *E. G. Gardner: St. Catherine of Siena: A Study in the Religion, Literature, and History of the fourteenth century in Italy, London, 1907.

For § 22. Peter d’ailly. — Paul Tschackert: Peter von Ailli. Zur Gesch. des grossen abendlaendischen Schismas und der Reformconcilien von Pisa und Constanz, Gotha, 1877, and Art. in Herzog, I. 274-280. — Salembier: Petrus de Alliaco, Lille, 1886. — Lenz: Drei Traktate aus d. Schriftencyclus d. Konst. Konz., Marburg, 1876. — Bess: Zur Gesch. des Konst. Konzils, Marburg, 1891. — Finke: Forschungen und Quellen, etc., pp. 103-132. — For a list of D’Ailly’s writings, See Tschackert, pp. 348-365. — Some of them are given in Van der Hardt and in Du Pin’s ed. of Gerson’s Works, I. 489-804, and the De difficultate reform. eccles., and the De necessitate reform. eccles., II. 867-903.

For § 23. John Gerson. — Works. Best ed. by L. E. Du Pin, Prof. of Theol. in Paris, 5 vols., Antwerp, 1706; 2d ed., Hague Com., 1728. The 2d ed. has been consulted in this work and is pronounced by Schwab “indispensable.” It contains the materials of Gerson’s life and the contents of his works in an introductory essay, Gersoniana, I. i-cxlv, and also writings by D’ailly, Langenstein, Aleman and other contemporaries. A number of Gerson’s works are given in Goldast’s Monarchia and Van der Hardt. — A Vita Gersonis is given in Hardt’s Conc. Const., IV. 26-57. — Chartul. Univ. Paris., III., IV., under John Arnaud and Gerson. — J. B. Schwab: Johannes Gerson, Prof. der Theologie und Kanzler der Universitaet Paris, Wuerzburg, 1858, an exhaustive work, giving also a history of the times, one of the most thorough of biographies and to be compared with Hurter’s Innocent III. — A. Masson: J. Gerson, sa vie, son temps et ses oeuvres, Lyons, 1894. — A. Lambon: J. Gerson, sa réforme de l’enseigement Theol. et de l’éducation populaire, Paris, 1888. — Bess: Zur Gesch. d. Konstanz. Konzils; art. Gerson in Herzog, VI. 612-617. — Lafontaine: Jehas Gerson, 1363-1429, Paris, 1906, pp. 340. — J. Schwane: Dogmengesch. — Werner: D. Scholastik d. spaeteren M. A., IV., V.

For § 24. Nicolas of Clamanges. — Works, ed. by J. M. Lydius, 2 vols., Leyden, 1013, with Life. — The De ruina ecclesiae, with a Life, in Van der Hardt: Conc. Constan., vol. I., pt. lII. — Writings not in Lydius are given by Bulaeus in Hist. univ. Paris. — Baluzius: Miscellanea, and D’Achery: Spicilegium. — Life in Du Pin’s Works of Gerson, I., p. xxxix sq. — A. Muentz: Nic. de Clem., sa vie et ses écrits, Strassburg, 1846. — J. Schwab: J. Gerson, pp. 493-497. — Artt. by Bess in Herzog, IV. 138-147, and by Knoepfsler in Wetzer-Welte, IX. 298-306. — G. Schubert: Nic. von Clem. als Verfasser der Schrift de corrupto ecclesiae statu, Grossenhain, 1888.

For § 25. Nicolas of Cusa. — Edd. of his Works, 1476 (place not given), as ed. by Faber Stapulensis, 3 vols., 1514, Basel. — German trans. of a number of the works by F. A. Schrapff, Freiburg, 1862. — Schrapff: Der Cardinal und Bischof Nic. von Cusa Mainz, 1843; Nic. von Cusa als Reformator in Kirche, Reich und Philosophie des 15ten Jahrh., Tübingen, 1871. — J. M. Duex: Der deutsche Card. Nic. von Cusa und die Kirche seiner Zeit, 2 vols., Regensburg, 1847. — J. Uebinger: D. Gotteslehre des Nic. von Cusa, Muenster, 1888. — J. Marx: Nik. von Cues und seine Stiftungen au Cues und Deventer, Treves, 1906, pp. 115. — C. Schmitt: Card. Nic. Cusanus, Coblenz, 1907. Presents him as astronomer, geographer, mathematician, historian, homilete, orator, philosopher, and theologian. — Stoeckl, III. 23-84. — Schwane, pp. 98-102. — Art. by Funk in Wetzer-Welte, IX. 306-315.


20. Ockam and the Decay of Scholasticism

Scholasticism had its last great representative in Duns Scotus, d. 1308. After him the scholastic method gradually passed into disrepute. New problems were thrust upon the mind of Western Europe, and new interests were engaging its attention. The theologian of the school and the convent gave way to the practical theological disputant setting forth his views in tracts and on the floor of the councils. Free discussion broke up the hegemony of dogmatic assertion. The authority of the Fathers and of the papacy lost its exclusive hold, and thinkers sought another basis of authority in the general judgment of contemporary Christendom, in the Scriptures alone or in reason. The new interest in letters and the natural world drew attention away from labored theological systems which were more adapted to display the ingenuity of the theologian than to be of practical value to society. The use of the spoken languages of Europe in literature was fitted to force thought into the mould of current exigencies. The discussions of Roger Bacon show that at the beginning of the fourteenth century men’s minds, sated with abstruse metaphysical solutions of theological questions, great and trivial, were turning to a world more real and capable of proof.

The chief survivors of the dialectical Schoolmen were Durandus and William Ockam. Gabriel Biel of Tübingen, who died just before the close of the fifteenth century, is usually called the last of the Schoolmen. Such men as D’Ailly, Gerson and Wyclif, sometimes included under the head of mediaeval scholastics, evidently belong to another class.

A characteristic feature of the scholasticism of Durandus and Ockam is the sharper distinction they made between reason and revelation. Following Duns Scotus, they declared that doctrines peculiar to revealed theology are not susceptible of proof by pure reason. The body of dogmatic truth, as accepted by the Church, they did not question.

A second characteristic is the absence of originality. They elaborated what they received. The Schoolmen of former periods had exhausted the list of theological questions and discussed them from every standpoint.

The third characteristic is the revival and ascendency of nominalism, the principle Roscellinus advocated more than two hundred years before. The Nominalists were also called Terminists, because they represent words as terms which do not necessarily have ideas and realities to correspond to them. A universal is simply a symbol or term for a number of things or for that which is common to a number of things. Universality is nothing more than a mode of mental conception. The University of Paris resisted the spread of nominalism, and in 1839 the four nations forbade the promulgation of Ockam’s doctrine or listening to its being expounded in private or public. In 1473, Louis XI. issued a mandate forbidding the doctors at Paris teaching it, and prohibiting the use of the writings of Ockam, Marsiglius and other writers. In 1481 the law was rescinded.

Durandus, known as doctor resolutissimus, the resolute doctor, d. 1334, was born at Pourçain, in the diocese of Clermont, entered the Dominican order, was appointed by Fohn XXII. bishop of Limoux, 1317, and was later elevated to the sees of Puy and Meaux. He attacked some of the rules of the Franciscans and John XXII.’s theory of the beatific vision, and in 1333 was declared by a commission guilty of eleven errors. His theological views are found in his commentary on the Lombard, begun when he was a young man and finished in his old age. He showed independence by assailing some of the views of Thomas Aquinas. He went beyond his predecessors in exalting the Scriptures above tradition and pronouncing their statements more authoritative than the dicta of Aristotle and other philosophers. All real existence is in the individual. The universal is not an entity which can be divided as a chunk of wood is cut into pieces. The universal, the unity by which objects are grouped together as a class, is deduced from individuals by an act of the mind. That which is common to a class has, apart from the individuals of the class, no real existence.

On the doctrine of the eucharist Durandus seems not to have been fully satisfied with the view held by the Church, and suggested that the words “this is my body,” may mean “contained under” — contentum sub hoc. This marks an approach to Luther’s view of consubstantiation. This theologian was held in such high esteem by Gerson that he recommended him, together with Thomas Aquinas, Bradwardine and Henry of Ghent, to the students of the college of Navarre.

The most profound scholastic thinker of the fourteenth century was the Englishman, William Ockam, d. 1349, called doctor invincibilis, the invincible doctor, or, with reference to his advocacy of nominalism, venerabilis inceptor, the venerable inaugurator. His writings, which were more voluminous than lucid, were much published at the close of the fifteenth century, but have not been put into print for several hundred years. There is no complete edition of them. Ockam’s views combined elements which were strictly mediaeval, and elements which were adopted by the Reformers and modern philosophy. His identification with the cause of the Spiritual Franciscans involved him in controversy with two popes, John XXII. and Benedict XII. His denial of papal infallibility has the appearance not so much of a doctrine proceeding from theological conviction as the chance weapon laid hold of in time of conflict to protect the cause of the Spirituals.

Of the earlier period of Ockam’s life, little is known. He was born in Surrey, studied at Oxford, where he probably was a student of Duns Scotus, entered the Franciscan order, and was probably master in Paris, 1315-1320. For his advocacy of the doctrine of Christ’s absolute poverty he was, by order of John XXII., tried and found guilty and thrown into confinement. With the aid of Lewis the Bavarian, he and his companions, Michael of Cesena and Bonagratia, escaped in 1328 to Pisa. from that time on, the emperor and the Schoolman, as already stated, defended one another. Ockam accompanied the emperor to Munich and was excommunicated. At Cesena’s death the Franciscan seal passed into his hands, but whatever authority he possessed he resigned the next year into the hands of the acknowledged Franciscan general, Farinerius. Clement VI. offered him absolution on condition of his abjuring his errors. Whether he accepted the offer or not is unknown. He died at Munich and is buried there. The distinguished Englishman owes his reputation to his revival of nominalism, his political theories and his definition of the final seat of religious authority.

His theory of nominalism was explicit, and offered no toleration to the realism of the great Schoolmen from Anselm on. Individual things alone have factual existence. The universals are mere terms or symbols, fictions of the mind — fictiones, signa mentalia, nomina, signa verbalia. They are like images in a mirror. A universal stands for an intellectual act — actus intelligenda — and nothing more. Did ideas exist in God’s mind as distinct entities, then the visible world would have been created out of them and not out of nothing.

Following Duns Scotus, Ockam taught determinism. God’s absolute will makes things what they are. Christ might have become wood or stone if God had so chosen. In spite of Aristotle, a body might have different kinds of motion at the same time. In the department of morals, what is now bad might have been good, if God had so willed it.

In the department of civil government, Ockam, advocating the position taken by the electors at Rense, 1338, declared the emperor did not need the confirmation of the pope. The imperial office is derived immediately from God. The Church is a priestly institution, administers the sacraments and shows men the way of salvation, but has no civil jurisdiction, potestas coactiva.

The final seat of authority, this thinker found in the Scriptures. Truths such as the Trinity and the incarnation cannot be deduced by argument. The being of God cannot be proven from the so-called idea of God. A plurality of gods may be proven by the reason as well as the existence of the one God. Popes and councils may err. The Bible alone is inerrant. A Christian cannot be held to believe anything not in the Scriptures.

The Church is the community of the faithful — communitas, or congregatio fidelium. The Roman Church is not identical with it, and this body of Christians may exist independently of the Roman Church. If the pope had plenary power, the law of the Gospel would be more galling than the law of Moses. All would then be the pope’s slaves. The papacy is not a necessary institution.

In the doctrine of the eucharist, Ockam represents the traditional view as less probable than the view that Christ’s body is at the side of the bread. This theory of impanation, which Rupert of Deutz taught, approached Luther’s theory of consubstantiation. However, Ockam accepted the Church’s view, because it was the less intelligible and because the power of God is unlimited. John of Paris, d. 1308, had compared the presence of Christ in the elements to the co-existence of two natures in the incarnation and was deposed from his chair at the University of Paris, 1304. Gabriel Biel took a similar view.

Ockam’s views on the authority of the civil power, papal errancy, the infallibility of the Scriptures and the eucharist are often compared with the views of Luther. The German reformer spoke of the English Schoolman as “without doubt the leader and most ingenious of the Schoolmen” — scholasticorum doctorum sine dubio princeps et ingeniosissimus. He called him his “dear teacher,” and declared himself to be of Ockam’s party — sum Occamicae factionis. The two men were, however, utterly unlike. Ockam was a theorist, not a reformer, and in spite of his bold sayings, remained a child of the mediaeval age. He started no party or school in theological matters. Luther exalted personal faith in the living Christ. He discovered new principles in the Scriptures, and made them the active forces of individual and national belief and practice. We might think of Luther as an Ockam if he had lived in the fourteenth century. We cannot think of Ockam as a reformer in the sixteenth century. He would scarcely have renounced monkery. Ockam’s merit consists in this that, in common with Marsiglius and other leaders of thought, he imbibed the new spirit of free discussion, and was bold enough to assail the traditional dogmas of his time. In this way he contributed to the unsettlement of the pernicious mediaeval theory of the seat of authority.


21. Catherine of Siena, the Saint

Next to Francis d’Assisi, the most celebrated of the Italian saints is Catherine of Siena — Caterina da Siena — 1347-1380. With Elizabeth of Thuringia, who lived more than a century before her, she is the most eminent of the holy women of the Middle Ages whom the Church has canonized. Her fame depends upon her single-hearted piety and her efforts to advance the interests of the Church and her nation. She left no order to encourage the reverence for her name. She was the most public of all the women of the Middle Ages in Italy, and yet she passed unscathed and without a taint through streets and in courts. Now, as the daughter of an humble citizen of Siena, she ministers to the poor and the sick: now, as the prophetess of heaven, she appeals to the conscience of popes and of commonwealths. Her native Sienese have sanctified her with the fragrant name la beata poplana, the blessed daughter of the people. Although much in her career, as it has been handed down by her confessor and biographer, may seem to be legendary, and although the hysterical element may not be altogether wanting from her piety, she yet deserves and will have the admiration of all men who are moved by the sight of a noble enthusiasm. It would require a fanatical severity to read the account of her unwearied efforts and the letters, into which she equally poured the fire of her soul, without feeling that the Sienese saint was a very remarkable woman, the Florence Nightingale of her time or more, “one of the most wonderful women that have ever lived,” as her most recent English biographer has pronounced her. Or, shall we join Gregorovius, the thorough student of mediaeval Rome, in saying, “Catherine’s figure flits like that of an angel: through the darkness of her time, over which her gracious genius sheds a soft radiance. Her life is more worthy and assuredly a more human subject for history than the lives of the popes of her age.”

Catherine Benincasa was the twenty-third of a family of twenty-five children. Her twin sister, Giovanna, died in infancy. Her father was a dyer in prosperous circumstances. Her mother, Monna Lapa, survived the daughter. Catherine treated her with filial respect, wrote her letters, several of which are extant, and had her with her on journeys and in Rome during her last days there. Catherine had no school training, and her knowledge of reading and writing she acquired after she was grown up.

As a child she was susceptible to religious impressions, and frequented the Dominican church near her father’s home. The miracles of her earlier childhood were reported by her confessor and biographer, Raymund of Capua. At twelve her parents arranged for her a marriage, but to avoid it Catherine cut off her beautiful hair. She joined the tertiary order of the Dominicans, the women adherents being called the mantellate from their black mantles. Raymund declares “that nature had not given her a face over-fair,” and her personal appearance was marred by the marks of the smallpox. And yet she had a winning expression, a fund of good spirits, and sang and laughed heartily. Once devoted to a religious life, she practised great austerities, flagellating herself three times a day, — once for herself, once for the living and once for the dead. She wore a hair undergarment and an iron chain. During one Lenten season she lived on the bread taken in communion. These asceticisms were performed in a chamber in her father’s house. She was never an inmate of a convent. Such extreme asceticisms as she practised upon herself she disparaged at a later period.

At an early age Catherine became the subject of visions and revelations. On one of these occasions and after hours of dire temptation, when she was tempted to live like other girls, the Saviour appeared to her stretched on the cross and said: “My own daughter, Catherine, seest thou how much I have suffered for thee? Let it not be hard for thee to suffer for me.” Thrilled with the address, she asked: “Where wert thou, Lord, when I was tempted with such impurity?” and He replied, “In thy heart.” In 1367, according to her own statement, the Saviour betrothed himself to her, putting a ring on her finger. The ring was ever afterwards visible to herself though unseen by others. Five years before her death, she received the stigmata directly from Christ. Their impression gave sharp pain, and Catherine insisted that, though they likewise were invisible to others, they were real to her.

In obedience to a revelation, Catherine renounced the retired life she had been living, and at the age of twenty began to appear in public and perform the active offices of charity. This was in 1367. She visited the poor and sick, and soon became known as the ministering angel of the whole city. During the plague of 1374, she was indefatigable by day and night, healed those of whom the physicians despaired, and she even raised the dead. The lepers outside the city walls she did not neglect.

One of the remarkable incidents in her career which she vouches for in one of her letters to Raymund was her treatment of Niccolo Tuldo, a young nobleman condemned to die for having uttered words disrespectful of the city government. The young man was in despair, but under Catherine’s influence he not only regained composure, but became joyful in the prospect of death. Catherine was with him at the block and held his head. She writes, “I have just received a head into my hands which was to me of such sweetness as no heart can think, or tongue describe.” Before the execution she accompanied the unfortunate man to the mass, where he received the communion for the first time. His last words were “naught but Jesus and Catherine. And, so saying,” wrote his benefactress, “I received his head in my hands.” She then saw him received of Christ, and as she further wrote, “When he was at rest, my soul rested in peace, in so great fragrance of blood that I could not bear to remove the blood which had fallen on me from him.”

The fame of such a woman could not be held within the walls of her native city. Neighboring cities and even the pope in Avignon heard of her deeds of charity and her revelations. The guide of minds seeking the consolations of religion, the minister to the sick and dying, Catherine now entered into the wider sphere of the political life of Italy and the welfare of the Church. Her concern was divided between efforts to support the papacy and to secure the amelioration of the clergy and establish peace. With the zeal of a prophet, she urged upon Gregory XI. to return to Rome. She sought to prevent the rising of the Tuscan cities against the Avignon popes and to remove the interdict which was launched against Florence, and she supported Urban VI. against the anti-pope, Clement VII. With equal fervor she urged Gregory to institute a reformation of the clergy, to allow no weight to considerations of simony and flattery in choosing cardinals and pastors and “to drive out of the sheep-fold those wolves, those demons incarnate, who think only of good cheer, splendid feasts and superb liveries.” She also was zealous in striving to stir up the flames of a new crusade. To Sir John Hawkwood, the freelance and terror of the peninsula, she wrote, calling upon him that, as he took such pleasure in fighting, he should thenceforth no longer direct his arms against Christians, but against the infidels. She communicated to the Queen of Cyprus on the subject. Again and again she urged it upon Gregory XI., and chiefly on the grounds that he “might minister the blood of the Lamb to the wretched infidels,” and that converted, they might aid in driving pride and other vices out of the Christian world.

Commissioned by Gregory, she journeyed to Pisa to influence the city in his favor. She was received with honors by the archbishop and the head of the republic, and won over two professors who visited her with the purpose of showing her she was self-deceived or worse. She told them that it was not important for her to know how God had created the world, but that “it was essential to know that the Son of God had taken our human nature and lived and died for our salvation.” One of the professors, removing his crimson velvet cap, knelt before her and asked for forgiveness. Catherine’s cures of the sick won the confidence of the people. On this visit she was accompanied by her mother and a group of like-minded women.

A large chapter in Catherine’s life is interwoven with the history of Florence. The spirit of revolt against the Avignon regime was rising in upper Italy and, when the papal legate in Bologna, in a year of dearth, forbade the transportation of provisions to Florence, it broke out into war. At the invitation of the Florentines, Catherine visited the city, 1375 and, a year later, was sent as a delegate to Avignon to negotiate terms of peace. She was received with honor by the pope, but not without hesitancy. The other members of the delegation, when they arrived, refused to recognize her powers and approve her methods. The cardinals treated her coolly or with contempt, and women laid snares at her devotions to bring ridicule upon her. Such an attempt was made by the pope’s niece, Madame de Beaufort Turenne, who knelt at her side and ran a sharp knife into her foot so that she limped from the wound.

The dyer’s daughter now turned her attention to the task of confirming the supreme pontiff in his purpose to return to Rome and counteract the machinations of the cardinals against its execution. Seeing her desire realized, she started back for Italy and, met by her mother at Leghorn, went on to Florence, carrying a commission from the pope. Her effort to induce the city to bow to the sentence of interdict, which had been laid upon it, was in a measure successful. Her reverence for the papal office demanded passive obedience. Gregory’s successor, Urban VI., lifted the ban. Catherine then returned to Siena where she dictated the Dialogue, a mystical treatise inculcating prayer, obedience, discretion and other virtues. Catherine declared that God alone had been her guide in its composition.

In the difficulties, which arose soon after Urban’s election, that pontiff looked to Siena and called its distinguished daughter to Rome. They had met in Avignon. Accompanied by her mother and other companions, she reached the holy city in the Autumn of 1378. They occupied a house by themselves and lived upon alms. Her summons to Urban “to battle only with the weapons of repentance, prayer, virtue and love” were not heeded. Her presence, however, had a beneficent influence, and on one occasion, when the mob raged and poured into the Vatican, she appeared as a peacemaker, and the sight of her face and her words quieted the tumult.

She died lying on boards, April 29, 1380. To her companions standing at her side, she said: “Dear children, let not my death sadden you, rather rejoice to think that I am leaving a place of many sufferings to go to rest in the quiet sea, the eternal God, and to be united forever with my most sweet and loving Bridegroom. And I promise to be with you more and to be more useful to you, since I leave darkness to pass into the true and everlasting light.” Again and again she whispered, “I have sinned, O Lord; be merciful to me.” She prayed for Urban, for the whole Church and for her companions, and then she departed, repeating the words, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

At the time of her death Catherine of Siena was not yet thirty-three years old. A magnificent funeral was ordered by Urban. A year after, her head, enclosed in a reliquary, was sent to her native Siena, and in 1461 she was canonized by the city’s famous son, pope Pius II., who uttered the high praise “that none ever approached her without going away better.” In 1865 when Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome was reopened, her ashes were carried through the streets, the silver urn containing them being borne by four bishops. Lamps are kept ever burning at the altar dedicated to her in the church. In 1866 Pius IX. elevated the dyer’s daughter to the dignity of patron saint and protectress of Rome, a dignity she shares with the prince of the Apostles. With Petrarch she had been the most ardent advocate of its claims as the papal residence, and her zeal was exclusively religious.

In her correspondence and Dialogue we have the biography of Catherine’s soul. Nearly four hundred of her letters are extant. Not only have they a place of eminence as the revelations of a saintly woman’s thoughts and inner life, but are, next to the letters written by Petrarch, the chief specimens of epistolary literature of the fourteenth century. She wrote to persons of all classes, to her mother, the recluse in the cloister, her confessor, Raymund of Capua, to men and women addicted to the pleasures of the world, to the magistrates of cities, queens and kings, to cardinals, and to the popes, Gregory XI. and Urban VI., gave words of counsel, set forth at length measures and motives of action, used the terms of entreaty and admonition, and did not hesitate to employ threats of divine judgment, as in writing to the Queen of Naples. They abound in wise counsels.

The correspondence shows that Catherine had some acquaintance with the New Testament from which she quotes the greater precepts and draws descriptions from the miracle of the water changed into wine and the expulsion of the moneychangers from the temple and such parables as the ten virgins and the marriage-feast. One of her most frequent expressions is the blood of Christ, and in truly mystical or conventual manner she bids her correspondents, even the pope and the cardinals, bathe and drown and inebriate themselves in it, yea, to clothe and fill themselves with it, “for Christ did not buy us with gold or silver or pearls or other precious stones, but with his own precious blood.”

To Catherine the religious life was a subjection of the will to the will of God and the outgoing of the soul in exercises of prayer and the practice of love. “I want you to wholly destroy your own will that it may cling to Christ crucified.” So she wrote to a mother bereft of her children. Writing to the recluse, Bartolomea della Seta, she represented the Saviour as saying, “Sin and virtue consist in the consent of the will, there is no sin or virtue unless voluntarily wrought.”

To another she wrote, “I have already seen many penitents who have been neither patient nor obedient because they have studied to kill their bodies but not their wills.”

Her sound religious philosophy showed itself in insisting again and again that outward discipline is not the only or always the best way to secure the victory of the spirit. If the body is weak or fallen into illness, the rule of discretion sets aside the exercises of bodily discipline. She wrote, “Not only should fasting be abandoned but flesh be eaten and, if once a day is not enough, then four times a day.” Again and again she treats of penance as an instrument. “The little good of penance may hinder the greater good of inward piety. Penance cuts off,” so she wrote in a remarkable letter to Sister Daniella of Orvieto, “yet thou wilt always find the root in thee, ready to sprout again, but virtue pulls up by the root.”

Monastic as Catherine was, yet no evangelical guide-book could write more truly than she did in most particulars. And at no point does this noble woman rise higher than when she declined to make her own states the standard for others, and condemned those “who, indiscreetly, want to measure all bodies by one and the same measure, the measure by which they measure themselves.” Writing to her niece, Nanna Benincasa, she compared the heart to a lamp, wide above and narrow below. A bride of Christ must have lamp and oil and light. The heart should be wide above, filled with holy thoughts and prayer, bearing in memory the blessings of God, especially the blessing of the blood by which we are bought. And like a lamp, it should be narrow below, “not loving or desiring earthly things in excess nor hungering for more than God wills to give us.”

To the Christian virtues of prayer and love she continually returns. Christian love is compared to the sea, peaceful and profound as God Himself, for “God is love.” This passage throws light upon the unsearchable mystery of the Incarnate Word who, constrained by love, gave Himself up in all humility. We love because we are loved. He loves of grace, and we love Him of duty because we are bound to do so; and to show our love to Him we ought to serve and love every rational creature and extend our love to good and bad, to all kinds of people, as much to one who does us ill as to one who serves us, for God is no respecter of persons, and His charity extends to just men and sinners. Peter’s love before Pentecost was sweet but not strong. After Pentecost he loved as a son, bearing all tribulations with patience. So we, too, if we remain in vigil and continual prayer and tarry ten days, shall receive the plenitude of the Spirit. More than once in her letters to Gregory, she bursts out into a eulogy of love as the remedy for all evils. “The soul cannot live without love,” she wrote in the Dialogue, “but must always love something, for it was created through love. Affection moves the understanding, as it were, saying, ‘I want to love, for the food wherewith I am fed is love.’”

Such directions as these render Catherine’s letters a valuable manual of religious devotion, especially to those who are on their guard against being carried away by the underlying quietistic tone. Not only do they have a high place as the revelation of a pious woman’s soul. They deal with unconcealed boldness and candor with the low conditions into which the Church was fallen. Popes are called upon to institute reforms in the appointment of clergymen and to correct abuses in other directions. As for the pacification of the Tuscan cities, a cause which lay so close to Catherine’s heart, she urged the pontiff to use the measures of peace and not of war, to deal as a father would deal with a rebellious son, — to put into practice clemency, not the pride of authority. Then the very wolves would nestle in his bosom like lambs.

As for the pope’s return to Rome, she urged it as a duty he owed to God who had made him His vicar. In view of the opposition on the Rhone, almost holding him as by physical force, she called upon him to “play the man,” “to be a manly man, free from fear and fleshly love towards himself or towards any creature related to him by kin,” “to be stable in his resolution and to believe and trust in Christ in spite of all predictions of the evil to follow his return to Rome.” To this impassioned Tuscan woman, the appointment of unworthy shepherds and bad rectors was responsible for the rebellion against papal authority, shepherds who, consumed by self-love, far from dragging Christ’s sheep away from the wolves, devoured the very sheep themselves. It was because they did not follow the true Shepherd who has given His life for the sheep. Likening the Church to a garden, she invoked the pope to uproot the malodorous plants full of avarice, impurity and pride, to throw them away that the bad priests and rulers who poison the garden might no longer have rule. To Urban VI. she addressed burning words of condemnation. “Your sons nourish themselves on the wealth they receive by ministering the blood of Christ, and are not ashamed of being money-changers. In their great avarice they commit simonies, buying benefices with gifts or flatteries or gold.” And to the papal legate of Bologna, Cardinal d’Estaing, she wrote, “make the holy father consider the loss of souls more than the loss of cities, for God demands souls.”

The stress Catherine laid upon the pope’s responsibility to God and her passionate reproof of an unworthy and hireling ministry, inclined some to give her a place among the heralds of the Protestant Reformation. Flacius Illyricus included her in the list of his witnesses for the truth — Catalogus testium veritatis. With burning warmth she spoke of a thorough-going reformation which was to come upon the Church. “The bride, now all deformed and clothed in rags,” she exclaimed, “will then gleam with beauty and jewels, and be crowned with the diadem of all virtues. All believing nations will rejoice to have excellent shepherds, and the unbelieving world, attracted by her glory, will be converted unto her.” Infidel peoples would be brought into the Catholic fold, — ovile catholicum, — and be converted unto the true pastor and bishop of souls. But Catherine, admirable as these sentiments were, moved within the limits of the mediaeval Church. She placed piety back of penitential exercises in love and prayer and patience, but she never passed beyond the ascetic and conventual conception of the Christian life into the open air of liberty through faith. She had the spirit of Savonarola, the spirit of fiery self-sacrifice for the well-being of her people and the regeneration of Christendom, but she did not see beyond the tradition of the past. Living a hundred years and more before the Florentine prophet, she was excelled by none in her own age and approached by none of her own nation in the century between her and Savonarola, in passionate effort to save her people and help spread righteousness. Hers was the voice of the prophet, crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

In recalling the women of the century from 1350 to 1450, the mind easily associates together Catherine of Siena and Joan of Arc, 1411-1431, one the passionate advocate of the Church, the other of the national honor of France. The Maid of Orleans, born of peasant parentage, was only twenty when she was burnt at the stake on the streets of Rouen, 1431. Differing from her Italian sister by comeliness of form and robustness of constitution, she also, as she thought, was the subject of angelic communications and divine guidance. Her unselfish devotion to her country at first brought it victory, but, at last, to her capture and death. Her trial by the English on the charges of heresy and sorcery and her execution are a dark sheet among the pages of her century’s history. Twenty-five years after her death, the pope revoked the sentence, and the French heroine, whose standard was embroidered with lilies and adorned with pictures of the creation and the annunciation, was beatified, 1909, and now awaits the crown of canonization from Rome. The exalted passion of these two women, widely as they differ in methods and ideals and in the close of their careers, diffuses a bright light over the selfish pursuits of their time, and makes the aims of many of its courts look low and grovelling.


22. Peter d’Ailly, Ecclesiastical Statesman

One of the most prominent figures in the negotiations for the healing of the papal schism, as well as one of the foremost personages of his age, was Peter d’Ailly, born in Compiegne 1350, died in Avignon 1420. His eloquence, which reminds us of Bossuet and other French orators of the court of Louis XIV., won for him the title of the Eagle of France — aquila Francia.

In 1372 he entered the College of Navarre as a theological student, prepared a commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard three years later, and in 1380 reached the theological doctorate. He at once became involved in the measures for the healing of the schism, and in 1381 delivered a celebrated address in the name of the university before the French regent, the duke of Anjou, to win the court for the policy of settling the papal controversy through a general council. His appeal not meeting with favor, he retired to Noyon, from which he wrote a letter purporting to come from the devil, a satire based on the continuance of the schism, in which the prince of darkness called upon his friends and vassals, the prelates, to follow his example in promoting division in the Church. He warned them as their overlord that the holding of a council might result in establishing peace and so bring eternal shame upon them. He urged them to continue to make the Church a house of merchandise and to be careful to tithe anise and cummin, to make broad the borders of their garments and in every other way to do as he had given them an example.

In 1384 D’Ailly was made head of the College of Navarre, where he had Gerson for a pupil, and in 1389 chancellor of the university.

When Benedict XIII. was chosen successor to Clement VII., he was sent by the French king on a confidential mission to Avignon. Benedict won his allegiance and appointed him successively bishop of Puy, 1395, and bishop of Cambray, 1397. D’Ailly was with Benedict at Genoa, 1405, and Savona, 1407, but by that time seems to have come to the conclusion that Benedict was not sincere in his profession of readiness to resign, and returned to Cambray. In his absence Cambray had decided for the subtraction of its allegiance from Avignon. D’Ailly was seized and taken to Paris, but protected by the king, who was his friend. Thenceforth he favored the assemblage of a general council.

At Pisa and at Constance, D’Ailly took the position that a general council is superior to the pope and may depose him. Made a cardinal by John XXIII., 1411, he attended the council held at Rome the following year and in vain tried to have a reform of the calendar put through. At Constance, he took the position that the Pisan council, though it was called by the Spirit and represented the Church universal, might have erred, as did other councils reputed to be general councils. He declared that the three synods of Pisa, Rome and Constance, though not one body, yet were virtually one, even as the stream of the Rhine at different points is one and the same. It was not necessary, so he held, for the Council of Constance to pass acts confirming the Council of Pisa, for the two were on a par.

In the proceedings against John XXIII., the cardinal took sides against him. He was the head of the commission which tried Huss in matters of faith, June 7, 8, 1415, and was present when the sentence of death was passed upon that Reformer. At the close of the council he appears as one of the three candidates for the office of pope, and his defeat was a disappointment to the French. He was appointed legate by Martin V., with his residence at Avignon, and spent his last days there.

D’Ailly followed Ockam as a nominalist. To his writings in the departments of philosophy, theology and Church government he added works on astronomy and geography and a much-read commentary on Aristotle’s meteorology. His work on geography, The Picture of the World, — imago mundi, — written 1410, was a favorite book with Columbus. A printed copy of it containing marginal notes in the navigator’s own hand is preserved in the biblioteca Colombina, Seville. This copy he probably had with him on his third journey to America, for, in writing from Hayti, 1498, he quoted at length the eighth chapter. Leaning chiefly upon Roger Bacon, the author represented the coast of India or Cathay as stretching far in the direction of Europe, so that, in a favorable wind, a ship sailing westwards would reach it in a few days. This idea was in the air, but it is possible that it was first impressed upon the mind of the discoverer of the New World by the reading of D’Ailly’s work. Humboldt was the first to show its value for the history of discovery.