« PrécédentContinuer »
surname of his family, replacing it by that of the city of his birth.
But neither the obligations of his new position, nor his fervent consecration to study and devotion, ever sufficed to extinguish in his heart the feelings of nature, and the obligations that it imposed. His was not that self-concentrated piety which is so very like worldly selfishness. Having nothing else at his disposal, he daily shared with his mother the ration allotted to him in the refectory, having first obtained leave from the Superior. His love for her never declined; he frequently visited her, and showed her the most respectful attention. Preaching one day to an immense audience, when all Granada ran after him, he saw the venerable old lady come in, alone and humbly clad, and observing that no one made room for her, he interrupted his discourse to ask his hearers to let his mother pass.
The rank of a chorister, to which the monks attained immediately after their noviciate, demanded much zeal, great vigour of spirit, and no trifling amount of physical power. The Canonical Hours, which were recited in community at midnight, at day-break, and at nightfall, occupied a considerable portion of the day. The remainder was claimed by attendance at lectures, and the study that was necessary in preparation for them. Every convent of S. Dominic was a sort of University. There were complete courses of the humanities, of philosophy, of divinity, dogmatic, scholastic, and moral, and of other studies which serve to complete these, such as exposition of the Bible, reading of the holy Fathers, and practical exercises in sacred oratory. In all these exercises Fray Luis distinguished himself greatly, in all he surpassed his companions, in all he gained the notice and approval of his superiors. It was not long before they had an opportunity of recompensing his exertions, and publicly declaring his superior merit.
SAN GREGORIO AT VALLADOLID.
The greater colleges were at that time distinguished and privileged corporations, into which none were admitted but those
whose talents, industry, and merit gave hopes of their becoming afterwards teachers in the universities. One of the most distinguished of these colleges was that of S. Gregory at Valladolid, attached to the Order of S. Dominic, and founded by one of her most illustrious sons, Don Fray Alonso de Burgos, Bishop of Cuenca, Cordoba, and Valencia, and endowed by him with ample revenues and magnificent buildings. Every convent of the province had the right of presenting one or two students. One of the prebends or fellowships of this College in the gift of the royal Convent of Santa Cruz at Granada becoming vacant, Fray Luis was unanimously elected by the fathers of the convent to that honourable distinction, a prize which it would have been impossible for a young man born in poverty to obtain from an assembly of learned and impartial judges, if he had not possessed very eminent gifts of intellect, as well as great purity of morals, and stainless lineage.
Fray Luis' admission to the College of Valladolid, which took place on 11th June 1529, opened before him a new prospect of advancement and perfection. Not content with the cultivation of literature in all its branches, whose flowers we see in his works, with the theological studies which the college rules prescribed, and with application to pulpit oratory, to which especially he resolved to dedicate himself, he plunged into the profoundest depths of mystical theology, to which the natural tenderness of his heart, and his highly poetical imagination led him. Its effects may be traced in many of his writings. Among nearly three hundred mystic and ascetic writers who are the boast of Spain, not one is to be found who excels Fray Luis de Granada in beauty of style, variety of images, or soberness and judiciousness of sentiments, the two last of which are qualities too rarely found among those who cultivate this sublime department of theology.
To this epoch of his life is referred an anecdote which none of his biographers have omitted.
He was in the habit of shutting himself up in his cell after the community had retired, and spending long hours of the night in contemplation and penance. One night, at about eleven o'clock, he was disciplining himself severely in a lonely cell,
which he had chosen for the purpose of being unnoticed, and calling upon GOD with groans, when two young men of good family passed by on some sinful errand. Their attention was attracted by the sounds which the stillness of the night made audible. They stood in amazement at the thought that one who had perhaps never committed a deadly sin in his life should be so rigorously chastising himself at the very moment when they were proposing to sin so grievously against GOD. They returned home. Next morning they came and inquired who inhabited the furthest cell. It was Fray Luis de Granada, first in the college in learning, and first in virtue. They asked for an interview, threw themselves at his feet, and strove to kiss them. The humble friar drew back; they told him what had happened, and besought him to commend them to GOD. Fray Luis was grieved that his penance had been discovered, and sought afterwards more diligently to hide it.
RETURN TO GRANADA-PREACHES.
The course of study pursued at the College at Valladolid continued for a fixed time, after which the students returned to their respective convents, and, as a general rule, dedicated themselves to tuition.
Fray Luis returned to Granada, and there, and in other houses of his Order in the province of Andalusia, was successively professor in various departments of philosophy and theology, in which he distinguished himself so highly that in a short time he received the degree of Master in Divinity, which was conferred on him by the Master General of the Order, Fray Vicente Giustiniani, afterwards a Cardinal, and which was confirmed by the Chapter General of the Order, held at Boulogne in 1564.
Not finding, however, in this occupation sufficient scope for the fervent zeal which devoured him, nor sufficient employment for his activity and diligence, he determined to devote himself to the work of preaching, and carefully prepared himself for it.
The circle of his studies was extensive. He compared himself to the silkworm, which does not begin to produce silk till it has
enlarged its body by feeding abundantly for many days, and has come to its full growth and size. He studied chiefly in the Holy Scriptures, especially the prophetic books, the Book of Wisdom, and the prophecies of Jeremiah, so full of indignation against the depravity of mankind. He also studied the Fathers of the Church, and of them he chose S. Chrysostom for his master, on account of his extreme eloquence. From all these books he made large extracts, arranged in order under various heads. The first scene of his triumphs in this branch of his career was the city of Granada, where he continued several years, not only drawing immense crowds who thronged to hear him, but carrying the light of conviction into many rebellious hearts, and powerfully contributing to a reformation of morals, which were grievously corrupt at that time, owing to the evil roots which Mahometanism had planted, and to the licentious disorders that always follow in the train of war and conquest.
But it was not eloquence and learning alone that gave Fray Luis his great influence. It was his pure and holy example, his zeal for souls, and his perfect devotion to GOD's service. He inculcated purity by being himself pure; humility, by being humble; contempt of the world, by refusing honours and dignities; poverty, by being himself poor.
He was employed more than forty years in preaching, occupying the most noted pulpits in Spain, and only relinquished it when compelled by age and infirmity.
He was no less attentive to the work of hearing confessions, and was a most successful physician of sick souls. He was ever pleased to hear the lowly; nor was the number of rich and great who flocked to him less great.
Fray Luis had resided in Granada but a few years when he was called upon to undertake an arduous work, which shows the confidence that his superiors reposed in him.
RESTORES THE MONASTERY OF SCALA CŒLI.
The General of the Order of S. Dominic, in visiting its convents in Spain, found that of Scala Cœli, situated in the mountains of Cordoba, in utter ruin. He appointed Fray Luis prior of that house, a nomination equivalent to the charge of founding it anew, for nothing remained of the building but the walls, nor had it any inhabitants but the cattle which found a shelter there.
Great and pious memories were attached to this foundation. Fearful accounts were spread of portents observed there, ringing of bells was heard, lights seen upon the altars, ghostly chantings echoed at the hour of matins, appearances of monks in prayer or study were seen through the dismantled windows, and the shepherds declared that they had seen a monk of gigantic stature rise from the founder's tomb, and, with a rod, drive their flocks out of the deserted church.
These circumstances, together with the rugged and mountainous nature of the site, and the deep and gloomy solitude which reigns around, concurred to enhance the lively interest with which the entire Order regarded this tarnished jewel of their crown, and to increase their desire of seeing it restored to its ancient splendour.
Besides this, the history of its foundation afforded a subject of interest, so accordant with the prevailing opinions of that epoch, that we cannot refrain from inserting it here, though with the utmost brevity possible.
Fray Alvaro de Cordoba, a friar of the Order of Preachers, having gained great renown by his apostolic labours in Spain, Italy, and Jerusalem, received the honour of being summoned to the court of John II. of Castile, and being named that monarch's confessor. But his love for contemplation and contempt for worldly things constrained him to forsake the court, and to seek in a more congenial scene an ampler scope for the earnest longings of his soul. He conceived he had discovered