Jordan the Magnanimous

Categories: Features

Tomorrow is the feast of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the second Master of the Order of Preachers and the successor of our Holy Father St. Dominic. Dominicans today have to thank Bl. Jordan for many things: his writings on the life and person of St. Dominic, his zealous work recruiting men for the Order, his tender counsel and affection for the Dominican nuns, and even our tradition of singing the Salve Regina at the end of Compline. But I will focus on some of the heroic virtues that Jordan modeled for the friars and for all Christians in his life as a preaching brother.

In 1221, Bl. Jordan was made Prior Provincial of Lombardy shortly after putting on the habit. He embraced this responsibility, “even though I had been in the Order only one year and my roots were not so firmly planted as they should have been, for I ought to have learned to rule my own imperfection before being set over others.” (The Libellus of Jordan of Saxony, #88) The next year, after the death of St. Dominic, Bl. Jordan was unanimously elected to rule over others in a greater way as the second Master General of the Order.

How can someone with so little formation in the Dominican life accept this role? Setting aside the practical realities of such a young religious order, we can take this as an opportunity to discuss the virtue of magnanimity. Magnanimity—literally, being “great-souled”—is the virtue of tending to great things. It is a kind of confidence or courage to take on a task and its corresponding honors. Wouldn’t this be contrary to humility? St. Thomas Aquinas clarifies that a person is magnanimous in considering the greatness of the gifts of God he has received and humble in considering the weakness of his own nature (IIa-IIae, q. 129, a. 3, ad. 4). Jordan was humble in examining his imperfections, but confident in the gift of the brothers who chose him, the grace God offered him, and the Order that St. Dominic founded for the salvation of souls.

It is this same magnanimous confidence that must have made Jordan so successful in recruiting men to the Order. It is estimated that he drew a thousand novices into the Order and once ran out of habits to give them as they entered the convent. He saw the way of life of the Friar Preacher as a tremendous gift and honor and called others to accept confidently this honor by trusting in the help of God’s grace rather than their own strength.

What if all Christians adopted this as the spirit of evangelization? The desire that the whole world convert to the one true faith is not born from pride. And refusing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an act of humility. Like Jordan, we ought to have a joyful confidence in this faith, which is essentially a gift, and receive the honor of preaching this faith to all people, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

You can find the Libellus here.

Br. Andrew Thomas Kang, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE