- Order of Preachers (Pierre Mandonnet, O.P.)
- Dominican Spirituality: Principles and Practices (William A. Hinnebusch, O.P.)
- Dominican Spirituality
- The Ministry of the World
- The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
- Blessed Osanna d’Andreasi and Other Renaissance Italian Dominican Women Mystics
- Dominic Cavalca and a Spirituality of the Word
- St. Antoninus of Florence and Christian Community
- St. Catherine & Contemporary Spirituality
ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE AND CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
This lecture is the third of a series on Ideas in Medieval Christianity. The first was on St. Gregory’s use of symbols to convey theological abstractions, the second on St. Albert the Great’s development of the concept of spiritual growth. This lecture on St. Antoninus’ is centered on his concept of an organic Christiian community.
Preaching calls us to follow Christ, and in this following of Christ, under pastoral guidance, we seek to grow in holiness in Him. This growth, however, is not merely a seeking of individual perfection, but is an entrance into His Kingdom, or, to use another biblical metaphor for the same reality, a “building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), the building of an organic community (I Cor. 12:12-31). This third dimension of pastoral care, that of shepherding, in addition to preaching and sanctification discussed in my first two lectures, is the subject of this lecture.
I will also concentrate on the final phase of the long epoch which is the Renaissance from the middle of the fourteenth century to the beginning of the Reformation. This age has often been presented, as in the famous work of Burckhardt (1), as a renaissance of paganism, a return to a naturalistic way of life in reaction to the long, dreary, anti-human centuries of Christian other-worldliness. The term “humanism” would thus stand for the first dawn of the secular humanism of the Enlightenment and of our own times. Recent scholars, however, such as Kristeller(2), Trinkhaus(3) and others have shown that the Renaissance was essentially a Christian movement, inspired not by a rejection of Christian tradition, but by a return to the Patristic Age when Christians were in touch with classical culture not only in translation, and not only as regards philosophy and science, but also with its literature in the original, its art, and its mathematics. In the thirteenth century Roger Bacon had already pointed out the deficiencies of the medieval universities in these respects.(4)
The Renaissance began in Italy as the expression of a rising commercial bourgeosie who were Christian, but whose concerns were those of a laity, rather than those of the clergy which had dominated the early and middle phases of our epoch. In Italy there had remained a somewhat stronger tradition of a literate laity. Its universities, notably Padua and Bologna, were never dominated, as were Paris and Oxford, by the theology faculties, but by those of medicine and law.(5) Moreover, Italy had not only preserved the monuments of classical art, but had never lost direct contact with the Greek culture of the Eastern Empire until it was finally overrun by Islam only in 1453. The Italian humanists did not reject scholasticism because it was Christian, but because its style of thought and expression seemed to them barbaric as compared with that of the Church Fathers such as Augustine, Jerome, or Gregory Nazianzen, and, more fundamentally, because they were concerned not with educating the clergy, or doctors, or lawyers, so much as training men to speak and write well for a variety of civil tasks in government and business.(ó)
Both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance agreed that the best way to understand the human person is as the “image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26), and in this both differed from Enlightenment humanism which viewed humanity as autonomous not theonomous. The Renaissance differed from the Middle Ages only in that it liked to dwell on that image of God in man as it was before the fall and after its restoration by grace, rather than in its fallen obscurity. In this respect, certainly, the Reformation was a reaction toward the medieval point of view, as we can see in the famous controversy between Luther and Erasmus.
Burkhardt also emphasized the individualism of Renaissance man. I have previously pointed out that this tendency to individualism was already very much apparent in northern spiritual writers of the fourteenth century. It might seem, therefore, that this is not a good period to look for a model of Christian community. However, it is precisely the rise of the laity with its concern for earthly affairs, which makes the problem of community especially significant at this time. Christian community could no longer be thought of as an ideal for the next life, only faintly anticipated here, but now to be seen more incarnationally. To illustrate the pastoral problems this raised I have chosen to consider St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, a city which itself supremely exemplifies the Renaissance spirit.
St. Antoninus of Florence
Anthony Pierozzi was born in Florence in 1389 and nicknamed Antoninus, little Anthony, perhaps because of his always delicate health, always threatened by tuberculosis.(7) His father was a notary of the Republic, a fairly important political post. The boy was fond of church and frequented both the great gothic church of the Dominicans, Santa Maria Novella, and the beautiful new Renaissance church of San Michele. At fifteen he was enthralled by the preaching of a famous Dominican, also a Florentine, B1. John Dominici (d. 1419). Dominici had become a preacher after being cured of stammering by St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) and under her inspiration and that of her confessor and Master of the Order, B1. Raymund of Capua, had become a leader in the order’s reform and that of the Church in the troubled times of the Western Schism. When Antoninus applied to the Dominican novitiate for the new, observant convent at Fiesole, he was told that to prove his fitness he would have to memorize the whole of the great canon-law code, the Decretum of Gratian which he proceeded to do, his memory proving one of his greatest gifts throughout his life, a life which constantly demanded attention to details. In the very strict novitiate his novice master was Lawrence of Ripafratta, who along with two other of his novices has been beatified.(9) Moreover, this class included the future great painter Fra Angelico and his brother, also a remarkable artist, the miniaturist Fra Benedetto.(10) Yet, because of interruptions resulting from the troubles of the Schism, Antoninus did not receive an adequate education and was largely self-taught.
He was ordained in 1413, and when his administrative gifts became apparent he was soon elected prior in Cortona, then Fiesole, then Naples, and finally at Rome. In 1431 the Pope appointed him adjutor of the Rota, the highest court in the Church. He acted as vicar-general of the Dominican observants from 1432-1445. As theologian he took part in the Council of Florence which attempted to reunite the Eastern and Western Churches. Finally he returned to Florence to establish, with the patronage of Cosimo de Hedici (the real power in Florence), the great Church and Convent of San Marco designed by Michelozzo, of which he became prior in 1439. During his goverance the convent was decorated with the sublime frescoes of Fra Angelico, and what was probably the first public library in Europe was established by the gift of one Niccolo Niccoli, which made it a center for the humanists,(11) although John Dominici had been one of the humanists severest critics.(12)
The painter Fra Angelico was soon called to Rome by the Pope to add to the glories of the Vatican and it was he who suggested to the Pope that Antoninus be chosen as Archbishop of Florence. Consecrated in 1446, Antoninus immediately proceeded to a steady program of reform, marked first of all by the extreme simplicity of his own life style, and second by his constant concern for the poor. Becauee of the wide-spread misery caused by the taxes of the Medici, he set up a lay society, known as the Good Men of St. Martin, systematically to seek out the poor and find assistance for them. He also developed two homes for orphans and unwed mothers, one of which was decorated with the charming terra-cotta figures of the Christ Child by Lucca and Andrea Della Robbia which have become so familiar to us on Christmas cards. He was assiduous in visiting the parishes of his diocese, especially with a view to improving preaching, and he gave an example of this by preaching in the parish churches himself. Moreover, he was concerned for the political peace and justice of the city. At this time always turbulent Florence was relatively quiet, but only because it was under the despotic control of the enormously wealthy Cosimo de Medici. Antoninus kept on good terms witn this prudent and rather moderate tyrant, but did not hesitate to side against him in favor of the people on more than one occasion.(13) In old age Cosimo spent much time in a cell prepared for him at San Marco.
During his time as archbishop, not only was Antoninus busied with the writings which I will discuss later, but was several times called to Rome to assist the Pope on various kinds of business. Although the Pope would have liked to retain him in the curia, Antoninus always returned to his beloved Florence, where he died in 1459. His statue was placed in the city’s hall of fame in the Uffizi, the only priest among the memorials of so many famous artists, writers and statesmen of the Renaissance. Thus Antoninus was able, while remaining wholly true to the medieval ideals of his order, to be the very heart of Florence during one of its most creative periods.
I have spoken earlier of what seems to me to be the fundamental thought-structure that characterizes this whole period, namely, the concept of a universal hierarchy, divided and subdivided down to the smallest detail, permitting almost unlimited variety within its well-ordered framework. It is consistent with this thought- structure that the Middle Ages, amid great disorder, dreamt of a Christian Empire in which church and state, although clearly distinguished, would be two poles of a universal order, the state representing the earthly aspect, the church the heavenly, presided over respectively by Emperor and Pope, but with the Pope having the eschatological supremacy. In this world-order every event of life has an earthly and a heavenly aspect, because life is a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem of which the earthly city is only a foreshadowing. The dream of the crusades (which, by the way, both Albert the Great and Antoninus were asked by the Pope to preach) , never fully realized, undertaken by the Emperor on the call of the Pope, was the image of this ideal. The same dream is embodied in the De Monarchia and the Divina Comedia of that other great Florentine, Dante.(14)
Let us look backward from Antoninus, for a moment, to the development of tlais ideal in the long ages we have been discussing until this time. By the time of St. Gregory at the beginning of our epoch the basic structure of Latin Christianity was taking shape.(15) In the Patristic Age the Christian Church was chiefly organized around cities each under the leadership of a bishop, aided by deacons, with a council of priests. But in Gregory’s age the transition was rapidly being made to a system of rural parishes each under its own pastor, although these pastors remained under the control of a bishop located in a city, thus forming a diocese. These dioceses were grouped in provinces loosely under the control of a metropolitan archbishop. While the bishop had formerly presided over baptism, the eucharist, etc., these were now normally the duties of the local pastor. Nevertheless, this clear pattern was until the twelfth century often obscured by the fact that many feudal lords had proprietary churches staffed by clergy under their own control. The bishop visited his own clergy annually and frequently met with them in synods. Important provincial synods of bishops were also often held. The bishops attempted, not always successfully, to maintain the law of celibacy for all priests and to forbid the clergy from engaging in business or war. The church had its own system of courts to which alone the clergy were subject and to which the laity were subject as regards marriage and some other matters. Since the community life led by many priests in the Patristic Age had disappeared, bishops attempted to restore it for some by gathering around themselves communities of canons. For both men and women monastic life under the moderate rule of St. Benedictine was a welcome haven of order in a very rough world, but it was also the monks who provided the most adventurous missionaries.
The collapse of the Roman Empire made it necessary for bishops in many places to take on political functions, and under the new Roman Empire of Charlemagne, who did much to stabilize this whole system, bishops were ranked as nobles, and church property had various exemptions as public property. Hence arose the long investiture quarrel of the State with the Church as to state control over the appointment of bishops. The Church always opposed this in principle, but frequently had to compromise in some respects.
The High Middle Ages saw this fundamental structure more and more strengthened, universalized and centralized under Pope and Emperor. But while the super-national character of the Church was evident in the General Councils — ten of them from the twelfth century to the Reformation — the Empire’s claim to universality was more and more challenged by the replacement of feudalism by great nation states. Conflict between the Church and these states led to the captivity of the popes under the French government at Avignon and then to the Great Western Schism settled by a General Council. Nevertheless, the popes steadily centralized church government and developed a well organized and financed curia needed to enforce a universal order. This also required the development of an effective canon law and the development of schools of law in the universities. In Germany bishops became territorial rulers within the Empire. As we saw in the last lecture, the Sacrament of Confession and the penalities of excommunication and interdict functioned to provide social control in this system, and with the thirteenth century the Inquisition became an instrument to prevent subversion of an order that was both religious and political.
It is important to realize that this ideal of order was far from being perfectly realized. The more we study popular religion and actual life even in the High Middle Ages the more we see how difficult it was for the Gospel or the ecclesiastical and civil ideal in which Christian leaders attempted to incarnate it actually to penetrate into the minds and hearts of a Europe still in many ways pagan and even barbarian.(16) We see in Latin America today a Catholicism which covers over native cultures which it has not yet been able to assimilate.(17) In the United States today we see a so-called “civil religion” (18) into which Christianity is being assimilated. To think of the Middle Ages as the “Age of Faith” is to fail to perceive that it was only a very imperfect incarnation of the Gospel, although its Christian leaders deserve the credit for their often heroic efforts to effect that transformation.
Nor should we forget that the Church of this time created many of the fundamental institutions on which our own culture is founded, notably the learned professions. It created the university,(19) which provided the learned professions, not only the clergy, but the lawyers and physicians. It was influential in creating the financial system on which modern economics is teased, (20) not an unmixed blessing. It also created the hospitals, for which the only parallel was in faraway India.(21) Originally simply nursing homes for the poor and the stranger, in imitation of the Good Samaritan, hospitals were eventually supplied with physicians. All the concerns which in the modern state fall under the heading of education and welfare had their institutional roots in the medieval church.
In the Late Middle Ages the complexity of these efforts to unite so many disparate elements into a universal synthesis began to break down. The Church was so over-extended and exhausted that it could no longer maintain its control in the face of the rise of national states. The bishops, on whose loyalty unity depended, were so often political appointments, so entangled in secular business, and so often absent from their posts, that they failed to perform their essential supervisory tasks. The laity, alienated from participation in the sacraments, contemptuous of church penalties which had been abused too often, and angered at the church taxes needed to support an officious bureaucracy, sought a more subjective, less institutionalized religious consolation. The Reformation and its Counter-Reformation became inevitable if the pastors of the Church were to regain leadership of their flocks, but then only at the price of the break-up of the universal church into national churches and sects in Protestant lands, and of a still tighter bureaucratization in Catholic lands.(22) The ideal of a universal, hierarchical yet richly diversified order which reflected the basic thought-structure of the Middle Ages had been obliterated.
Without presuming to encroach on the Reformation and Counter- Reformation period which a colleague is discussing, let me add that from my perspective the Reformation is misunderstood when it is viewed as the beginning of “modern times.” The real break in European history comes in the eighteenth century not in the sixteenth, and not with the Reformation but with the Enlightenment which introduced a new, non-Christian world-view for which it co-opted modern science and technology, originally the creation of the Christian world-view.(23) “Modern times” is for Europe and America a post-Christian era, in which a secular humanism dominates the culture more and more, and Christians become a minority if not in numbers, then in power. On the other hand, the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries were still dominated by a Christian world-view, although a polarized one.
The idea of church reform characterized the whole of the Middle Ages because of the obvious gap between its ideal of hierarchical order and the turbulent reality. Antoninus’ whole life was lived under the banner of that reform, as is evident from his writings, which sum up the developments in medieval pastoral care that I have been describing.
The most widely used of Antoninus’ writings was the Confessionale (identified among many other works of the same title by its first word Defecerunt) which was published in no less that 100 editions in 32 different cities during the fifteenth century, certainly a best sellerl It is the type of guide for confessors that I discussed in the last lecture, practical, concise, but theological as well as canonical in approach.(24) Published in Italian as well as Latin were a briefer guide for confessors, the Medicine of the Soul ( Curam illius habe), and one for those going to confession, the Mirror of Conscience (Omnium mortalium cura).(25) For some ladies of the Medici family he wrote an Italian work a Guide to Good Living (Opera a ben vivere) based on the words of Psalm 34:15, “Turn from evil, and do good; seek peace, and follow after it,”(26)as well as many other small works, some of which have not yet been published, and many letters of spiritual direction.(27)
His chief work, however, is an enormous one of four huge folio volumes of well over a thousand pages, the Summa Theologiae (Moralis).(27) In the preface to this work Antoninus tells us a good deal about himself:
Solomon, wisest of men, invites us to imitate, among all living things, the ant, saying, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom” (Prov. 6:6)…And I betwixt the summer and autumn of my life, deem it necessary to gather up my harvest of knowledge; lest when the winter of my age set in, I perish of hunger. For old age is fit for little work, so weary grows it in its labors, it stumbles with its halting memory and darkening sight, and has but little time to turn the pages of books. So already feeling the tediousness of things, I seek to shake it off by the example of the ant, tiny as it is, but wise beyond other’s wisdom. For “having no captain or master” (Prov. 6:7) she provides for herself against the winter; so I too confess that I had no master in grammar, except when I was a little boy—and he was a poor teacher; nor in any other study except in logic and that was a very much interrupted course; nor again have I had any superior who has forced me to study, as I have been almost continually myself superior. Still eagerly drawn by the sweetness of truth, especially of the moral sciences, I have collected from among all my reading these few notes which have especially appealed to me. And just as the ant gathers up for its food, not what it considers most precious, but what best suits it; so I have given the go-by to all those higher problems and have set down only what I consider most apt for the purposes of preaching, hearing confession and counselling souls, not as though composing poems, but rather to repay the love my brethern have showed me, and for others like myself whose talents are not for deeper questions, or whose books are few or whose time for reading is much broken up by other duties. If I deal with some subjects that exceed my feeble grasp, then I am not unlike the ant who tries to lift objects heavier than its God-given strength. For among an ant’s collection are some things useless and some spoilt. So I doubt not that much in my collection is superfluous, although I sometimes have abbreviated or modified (but I think I have not falsified) some too extended quotations. Also many of these texts have not yet been properly edited, or have afterwards been corrupted or shortened by scribes. Stern is the travail of the ant in its struggle for life; no less stern, as I think, have been my labors throughout long years, interruptedly spent on other business, not of greater value, but more pressing. Thus it has been that sometimes for whole months and years together, I have not added one single stroke to this book, stealing from my occupations a few moments to eat or for the demands of my pastorship which I so unworthly have held so long, or for the true business of a religious, namely prayer and contemplation.(28)
We cannot help but recall the preface of St. Gregory’s Pastoral Care. Both Gregory and Antoninus were more diligent than original, but Antoninus has been more careful than Gregory to order the matter he has collected in a very systematic manner, according to the scholastic method. Many sections of his Summa, however, bear the marks of sermons, based on a biblical theme, properly divided and subdivided in the manner I described in my first lecture. To such sermons, however, he adds extensive discussions of canonical questions and the casuistry of difficult moral problems. At the same time his approach is not only always theological, but contemplative. For example the whole work ends with a lengthy section of over 300 pages which are a devout praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of Christian piety. Thus although Antoninus is not only credited, but also blamed with the writing of the first “moral theology” separate from a “dogmatic theology”, a dichotomy which was to have very unfortunate consequences in post-Tridentine theology, the blame is hardly deserved.(29)
The work is divided into four parts. The First provides a very complete treatise on Christian anthropology, along Thomistic lines. The emphasis here on human dignity in creation and redemption perhaps reflects the Renaissance theme. The Second Part deals with fallen man and the nature of sin, not according to the Thomistic scheme, but according to the Seven Deadly Sins, a method going back to Cassian and the Desert Fathers and more accustomed in preaching. (30) The Third Part which, as we shall see, is the most original, is based on a scheme already used by Antoninus in his Confessionale, namely, a systematic discussion of the various vocations of life in the Christian community and the responsibilities of each. The Fourth Part is on the virtues, gifts, and beatitudes of Christian living and closes, as I have said, with a praise of the Virgin as the model of virtue. If we wonder why Antoninus speaks of her as model, rather than her Son, more acquaintance with the work nakes it clear that in Antoninus’ theology Christ is the source of all grace, Mary the model recipient of grace in faith.
The first fullness of grace is in God who gives grace but receives it from no one…No creature, not even Christ in his humanity, can give grace . . . The second fullness is in Christ in his humanity for as Isaiah says 11:2, “The Spirit will rest on him” with every grace with which he was filled . . . The third fullness, which is only received, according to measure and as an overflow from the source, is a certain habit of soul given by God to make the creature acceptable to Him, and the works of the creature proceeding from that grace meritorious and worthy of eternal life…It was this third fullness which was in Mary, in Stephen, and in Tabitha whom the Acts of the Apostles says was “full of good works”. (9:36) (31)
Through Mary’s example, a believer in Christ like us, Antoninus’ analysis of the Christian life is made concrete.
To make this concrete model even more a lesson for us, Antoninus labored for long over a fifth part called the Chronicles in three more volumes, which is nothing less than a world history beginning, in the Augustinian manner, from creation, tracing the whole of biblical, pagan, and church history down to his own time. His purpose, as he says explicitly,(32) is to illustrate the effects of sin and the fruits of virtue in actual human experience. Historiographers have not found much of value in this work, based largely on the Mirror of History of a fellow Dominican of the thirteenth century, Vincent of Beauvais, except for some information on Antoninus’ own times, but Antoninus not only uses other sources than Vincent, but he makes the material more accessible by the order he gives it.(33) What is original about this laborious undertaking was not the material as such, but the fact that Antoninus felt the need to relate morality once more to history, a need very much obscured in scholastic theology.
The Organic Community
Let us now focus on the third and most original part of this work, to grasp Antoninus’ vision of the Christian community which the pastor must strive to build. Antoninus, just as he began the whole work with a praise of human dignity as image of God, begins this third part with a praise of the Christian community in its universality and in its diversity, speaking of it both as the Bride of Christ and as His Body (Ephesians 5:22-33).(34) Its beauty is – to be found precisely in this e pluribus unum, in the wonderful variety by which it is truly universal. Antoninus explains that he will take the notion of “states” in a broader sense than Aquinas did to include all the various manners of life in the Church. For Antoninus, as for Calvin, all vocations in life are of God, not only the calling to priesthood or religious life.(35) He treats of the following categories: the married, the single, government officials, soldiers, teachers and scholars, physicians, merchants and craftsmen, judges. Also the dying and the hospitalers who care for them. Then the churches as corporations, the clergy and the sacraments they administer, holders of ecclesiastical benefices, and members of religious orders, pastors, bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, cardinals and the Pope. After discussing the ecclesiastical penalties of excommunication, suspension and irregularity, and interdict by which someone might be excluded from the community, Antoninus treats of the relation of the church on earth to that in heaven and to its threshold, purgatory. In each case his concern is the services which each group of Christians is required to perform for others. No class exists merely for itself but for the good of all.
In a lengthy treatment of the duties of a pastor,(36) he points to Christ the Good Shepherd as the model and then lays down three fundamental principles of pastoral care. First, the pastor must feed his flock and not himself. Antoninus details many ways in which he knows from experience pastors can selfishly neglect their people.
Not pet dogs or birds or horses, a pastor should feed, but human beings. Not nobles or knights to curry their favor, nor his relatives to make them rich, nor entertainers nor concubines, but the downtrodden, the noor, and even more should he feed them with the spiritual food of the sacraments and preaching, for Christ did both, giving his body and blood, constantly teaching, and twice feeding the crowds with bread and fishes. (37)
Second, it is essential that a pastor have the right motives, shown not only by what he does for his people, but by his willingness to accept the unpopularity that will result from correcting and reforming them. Third, the pastor must give his people an example of a simple, unpretentious life. He must be humble and available to all who come to him, especially the poor, yet he must have hope of leading all classes of people toward real sanctity. Given these three basic principles, Antoninus then expounds at length the Pastoral Care of St. Gregory, applying Gregory’s discussion of the types of sermon audiences to the general problems of shepherding. Finally, Antoninus painstakingly shows how the provisions of Canon Law if intelligently followed will contribute to the orderly and complete performance of these pastoral duties. At every point he illustrates his instructions by precepts and examples taken from the life of Christ and the rest of the Scriptures. Thus, we see that the Gregorian ideal which had persisted throughout the Middle Ages, in Antoninus’ teaching has received a rich, intitutionalized incarnation.
Economics and Pastoral Care
What is most remarkable is the attention which Antoninus gives to the duties of business men and craftsmen, to the economic side of community life, not only in the rather brief section in Part Three,(38) but in the 330 pages of Part Two which he devotes to the deadily sin of Avarice! It is understandable why economics looms so large in his pastoral concerns when we read in James Westfall Thompson’s Economic and Social History of Europe in the Latin Middle Ages:
Florence in the popular mind is usually thought of as a place in which the arts of all kinds predominated; in which poets and writers, painters and sculptors vied with one another. In reality it was primarily a factory town during the Renaissance. There were whole streets devoted to certain industries, the silk street, the streets where stockings were manufactured, the dyer’s street, the weaver’s street. (40)
It was this remarkable textile industry which made Florence one of the great industrial centers of the Renaissance. The Medici made their vast fortune in textiles, a fortune which not only enabled them to be the despots of Florence for three hundred years, but which made them, along with the Fuggers in Germany, the bankers of Europe. Thompson says that the Florentine textile industry was started in the ninth century by some nuns who supported themselves by making vestments for an archbishop predecessor of St. Antoninus!(41)
The treatise on Avarice (42) is labeled “in the manner of a sermon” (per modum praedicationis) and it seems likely that a good deal of it was compiled from sermons which he had delivered before the hard-headed capitalists of Florence. So rich in practical detail is this treatise that economic historians have mined it for information, and it has been studied as one of the first contributions to the science of economics, although Antoninus’ purpose is purely moral not technical.(43) The famous controversy over the thesis of Max Weber who explained the rise of capitalism by the “Protestant Ethic” and the justification of taking interests on money loans by Calvin is not yet finished.(44) One of the main objections to this thesis is that European capitalism was well developed before the Reformation. The Avignon papacy had by its bureaucratization of church taxes provided the first example of international finance,(45) and as we have seen the Medici and Fuggers, who were neither Protestant nor Jewish, but Catholic, were the first great bankers.(46)
Antoninus confronted the dubious practices of these fathers of capitalism. He stoutly defends the medieval principle that money as such is unproductive and hence it is against natural law for a lender to demand interest beyond the safe return of his capital. To do so is to exploit the necessity of the borrower. As a commissary of the Pope appointed to attack usury throughout Tuscany, Antoninus excoriates it as the harlot of the Apocalypse, “Who sits upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). John T. Noonan Jr. in his excellent study of this question writes:
St. Antoninus is particularly concerned with the many frauds and evasions by which the capitalistic class has endeavored to avoid the stigma of committing open usury. Usury is entrenched, St. Antoninus believes, in the two principal businesses of Florence, exchange-banking and the textile industry; and in addition to the men actually in these businesses, the whole rentier class, especially widows, wards, and nobles, have invested in them in usurious fashion. Nor is the city alone accustomed to the practice of usury. In the country, the breeding of animals and the rents of farms, themselves legitimate transactions, are frequently financed by usurious measures. At the same time, the sale of shares in the public debt makes usury open to everyone.(47)
Antoninus, moreover, is not content merely to expose this network of what he regards as fraud. He attempts in a way consistent with principle to draw the line by a sane casuistry between legitimate business practices and usury, allowing for moderate profits and for insurance on risks, but he is merciless with specious excuses. Later theologians, after a long struggle, came to accept interest-taking on the grounds that in a capitalist economy money is, in a sense, productive, and Catholic church authorities have recognized in canon law the legitimacy of this view. Today however, as we look back over the consequences of capitalism as an economic system, it is really not so clear that the medieval opposition to usury, (of which, according to Noonan, Antoninus was perhaps the last and most consistent theorist,(48) was so mistaken after all. Certainly Karl Marx and perhaps the liberation theologians of today would agree with the saint.
Antoninus’ positive view of economics is based on a comprehensive understanding of the economic processes of his time. He treats of production, distribution and consumption.(49) As to production he teaches that God has supplied us with necessary resources, but that the law of work binds all to use these resources to meet not only their own needs but those of others. Work is naturally pleasant, but has been made burdensome by our fallen condition in a sinful society. We are endowed by God with a diversity of talents to develop the division of work needed by the community, yet “to acquire by labor the amount of food sufficient for persevering one’s being requires only a moderate amount of time and a moderate amount of anxiety.”(50) Unfortunately, as Antoninus shows in grim detail, there are many kinds of fraud in manufacture and many defective products on the market.(51)
As to distribution, he agrees with the labor theory of exchange value, which became the basis of Marx’s economic theory, but he also puts forward a theory of just price which rests on common estimation, including considerations of usefulness, scarcity, and personal preference. He opposes the profit motive in excess of what is required to meet the moderate needs of the seller and his family, and favors state regulation of prices. In situations of extreme necessity he even approves of communism, but regards this as ordinarily undesirable. He especially emphasizes that truth in selling is the basis of economic justice.
As for consumption, Antoninus vigorously opposes the pursuit of luxuries and urges a life of modest contentment, so that there will be adequate care of those unable to care for themselves, concerning whom Antoninus raises no question as to whether they are “deserving” or not. Thus for Antoninus the measure of a good economic system is not an ever increasing GNP but its ability to meet the basic needs of all, even the most neglected. Undoubtedly we see in the picture he paints of a just city (52) a criticism of the wealthy Florentine families like the Medici, although in his Chronicles he admits that Cosimo do Medici has contributed much to the prosperity of Florence.(53) As pastor of that city he never ceased to expose the dangers of avarice and injustice both to the spiritual welfare of the capitalist and to the commonweal, and he attempted to enforce this both through preaching and the confessional.
Thus Antoninus provides us with a view of the Christian community which extends to the details of economic life. Such a community is organic because every member of the community works for every other both as regards material and spiritual needs. Very different this spirituality from that northern mysticism which I described in my last lecture which was concerned for an inner poverty, but said little about the social problems of the poor!
Reform and Renewal
This ideal of reform that extended to both church and state goes back to Joachim of Flora ( d. 1202) and to St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1126) and St. Dominic (d. 1221) and their ideal of voluntary poverty. Antoninus is clear that poverty as such is an evil not a good,(54) but good can come out of it, namely a detachment that frees us to serve God and neighbor. Before Antoninus, St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1330) who had inspired the reforming preaching of John Dominici that attracted Antoninus to the Dominican Order, in her great Dialogue had taught that true love of the God whom we cannot see demands the practical love of the neighbor we can see. She had eloquently rebuked the pastors who neglected their flock, and in Siena, Avignon, and Rome she had called for the reform of church and society. She had almost been killed in Florence itself when she came there in an effort to reconcile the city with the Pope.(55)
Just sixteen years after Antoninus’ death, a novice, Girolamo Savonarola, entered San Marco, where Antoninus had been prior, and after ordination taught theology there, and finally became its prior in 1491.(56 ) His powerful, apocalyptic preaching against the injustice of the Medicis, who had become even more tyrannical after the death of Cosimo, and his demands for a council to reform the church and to depose the simonaical Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, ended at last by his being hanged and burned by the city officials in the public square. There is no time to recount Savonarola’s prophetic efforts to bring about a radical reform of his city as a democratic commonwealth radically obedient to the Gospel. No doubt some of you might find his city as little to your liking as Calvin’s Geneva. There was, however, a difference in that Savonarola was the inspiration of humanists and artists such as Botticelli, Fra Barolomeo, and Michelangelo.(57) The gentle warnings of Antoninus and the fiery prophecies of Savonarola in the end seemed to have failed, yet they had tried, they converted some in their own time, and they left us a message.
To summarize some of the lessons it seems to me we can draw for our own Christian ministries from the experiences of Christians between 600 and 1500 which I have tried to sample, I would like to return to the topic of my second lecture, that of sanctification. In treating of this pastoral task I dealt principally with the Sacrament of Confession and with spiritual direction but passed over the subject of worship and liturgy, although for the Middle Ages as for the whole Patristic Age the sacraments were both the source and the culmination of holy Christian living.
To be holy is to praise God in a prayer of thanksgiving which expresses our whole being, not only as individuals but as a community, the Body of Christ. That prayer is the Eucharist. Consequently, the way in which the Eucharist is offered in any age or place manifests vividly the faith of any Christian community, its holiness,and its social organization. Hence if we look at the medieval way of celebrating the Eucharist we can best see both the success and the failure of the pastoral efforts of the epoch.
First, there is no question of the centrality of the Eucharist for Christians of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, one has only to look at the great painting of Raphael, the so-called Disputa, in the Vatican, to see how for him the whole culture of Christendom radiated from the Host as rays from the sun. The scholastic theologians like Aquinas taught that all the sacraments flow out from and to the Eucharist, and priests of this time saw their own ministry in the same terms, as did mystics like St. Catherine of Siena. Moreover, eucharistic worship was extended through the whole day and night by the praise of God in the liturgical Hours, while innumerable popular devotions, such as the Rosary make the same praise accessible to the people. The medieval Mass summed up that theme of hierarchical universality which I have so often pointed out structured the whole of this culture.
Yet, if we look at medieval liturgy we also cannot help but notice how in many respects it came short of that of the Patristic Age. Baptism as a rite of conversion and initiation was an event of childhood whose significance was no longer much alive in the minds of adults except as something for their children. Not only was the Eucharist in Latin, but it was so sacred that in the medieval cathedral it was almost screened from view and at a great distance, so that the people could only look on from afar. In fact the average Christian received communion very rarely and then only under one species. While the sense of communal fellowship had by no means disappeared, especially in the small parish church, the Eucharist was a sacrifice to be watched, rather than a meal to be shared. The rather rigid class divisions of medieval society and especially the division between clergy and laity was all to evident in the ceremonies and structure of the churches. Thus the organic community, of which I have spoken, tended to become like a body in which the parts were made for each other, but in which the vital intercommunication of parts was inhibited by paralysis.
The pastor, therefore, although he knew his people and could recognize the categories to which they belonged, did not find it easy to reach them in a personal way. He was defined for then and them for him by status and role, but not personally. The penitential system which I have discussed at some length, was a method of maintaining control and order and of giving consolation to reduce the wear and tear of discipline and guilt, but since most people went to confession seldom and many priests were poorly trained, its effectiveness was often superficial. While spiritual direction might remedy this depersonalization, it was available only to a few.
Preaching was a normal part of the Sunday Eucharist, but significantly from the time of the mendicants on it tended to be separated from the liturgy, and its concern was strongly moralistic, rather than taking on that contemplative character it might have had as part of the Eucharistic praise of God. The symbolism of the liturgy as it became less intelligible was in part replaced by the verbal symbolism and allegory of the preacher.(58)
The three themes I have stressed in these lectures: Gregory’s use of symbols to convey theological abstractions, Albert’s development of the concept of spiritual growth, and Antoninus’ concept of an organic community, are powerful ideas in medieval Christianity, and because they are also biblical and essential to the Gospel message they remain powerful for us. In the Church after 1500 symbols gave way more and more to a literalism which has placed the modern pastor in direct competition with the modern world of materialism in which mystery is considered to be obscurantism.
We have come to a demythologization of Christian revelation which attempts to translate our relation to God into nothing more than psychological relations with ourselves and other human beings. Again the notion of spiritual growth was almost eliminated by the Reformers, stress on justification and the assurance of once-for-all salvation; while the Counter-Reformation became suspicious of mysticism except for the select few, so that today pastors find their people looking East for spiritual direction. Finally, as the Church became a place for the salvation of the individual, the sense of community was transferred to secular society and religion became a private affair, so that pastors find those looking for social justice turning to Marxism rather than the Gospel for a prophetic word of liberation.
Vatican II and the corresponding liturgical movements in the Protestant churches are trying to restore these same three themes in worship. The pastor, presiding over the Eucharist, must see that it is celebrated in such a way that it truly expresses those values which Gregory, Albert, and Antoninus struggled to realize in their own times, with only a partial yet a glorious success. Our preaching must touch the depths of the human heart in words that are more than words, in symbols that reveal the abyss of mystery. Our spiritual guidance must help people grow in the Spirit in practical virtue and contemplative prayer. And our shepherding must build a community of mutual service that expresses itself in thanksgiving to God in Christ, whose Body we are and by whose Blood we are vivified.
1) Jakob C. Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, 3rd rev. ea., New York, 1950, Phaedon. Cf. William K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought: Five Centuries of Interpretation, New York, 1948, Houghton Mifflin, pp. 290-385.
2) Oscar Kristeller, Medieval Aspects of Renaissance Learning, Durham, North Carolina, 1974, Duke University and I1 pensiero filosofico di Marsilio Ficino, Florence, 1953, G. C. Sausoni.
3) Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, 2 vols., London, 1970, Constable, vol. 2 Summary, pp. 761-774.
4) Stuart C. Easton, Roger Bacon and His Search for a Universal Science, New York,-I952, Columbia University Press, pp. 140, 215-216.
5) J. H. Randall, The School of Padua and the Emergence of Modern Science, Padua, 1961, Ed. Antenore.
6) Kristeller, Medieval Aspects (note 2 above), “The Scholar and His Public in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance” pp. 3-28 and Trinkhaus, op.cit., vol. l, pp. 18-27.
7) On the life of St. Antoninus see James Bernard Walker, O.P., The “Chronicles” of St. Antoninus, Washington, D.C., 1933, Catholic University of America, pp. 3-18 and Bede Jarrett, O.P., St. Antonino and Medieval Economics, St. Louis, 1914, B. Herder. The main sources, which include a life by Francis Castiglione, Antoninus’ secretary for many years, are in the Acta Sanctorum, May vol. I, pp. 310-358.
8) On the authenticity of this story see Walker, p. 5. It was attested at the canonization hearings.
9) Jarrett, p. 26. Antoninus’ own recollections of Bl. Lawrence are in the Bianchi edition of Lettre di Sant’ Antonino, Florence, 1859, Letter 24, pp. 198-202.
10) See Vincenzo F. Marchese, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects of the Order of St. Dominic, 2 vols, Dublin, 1852. Langton Douglas, Fra Angelico, 2nd ea., London, 1902, and J. Pope-Hennessey, Fra Angelico, New York, Ithaca, New York, 1974, Cornell University Press.
11) According to Lauro Martines, The Social World of the Florentine Humanists 1340-1460, Princeton, 1963, Princeton University Press, pp. 311-312, the main center of humanist activity was another monastery, that of the Camaldolese, Santa Maria degli Angeli, under the leadership of Ambrogio di Bencivenni Traversare (d. 1439), General of the Order.
12) Certainly John Dominici’s Lucula Noctis, ed. by Edmund Hunt C.S.C., Notre Dame, Indiana, 1940, University of Notre Dame Press, an attack on Coluccio Salutati, Chancellor of the Republic of Florence, and other humanists could not have made him very popular with them. Jarrett points out that while Antoninus took much the same stand as Dominici, he seems to have softened somewhat in later years, “That the pagan authors are scandalous in their lives, he does not deny, ‘but this should not blind us to the truth of much that they have written, for truth wheresoever found is ever the truth of God’. (Summa moralis I, t. 1, c. iv. p. 37 c)” (op.cit. p. 37). Antoninus here is quoting St. Ambrose.
13) Walker, pp. 13-14. On his attitude to Cosimo de Medici see Raoul Morçay, Chroniques de Saint Antonin, Fragments Originaux du Titre XXXIII (1378-1459), Paris, 1913, Gabalda, pp. xlv-xlvi, Jarrett, pp. 9
14) See A.P. d’Entreves, Dante as a Political Thinker, Oxford, 1952 and Charles Till Davis, Dante and the Idea of Rome, Oxford, 1957.
15) For these sketchy remarks I have used Hubert Jedin, ed, Handbuch der Kirchegeschichte, Freiburg, 1975, Herder, vols. 2-4; Margaret Deansley, A History of the Medieval Church 590-1500, London, 1965, Methuen, and Karl BihImeyer and Herman Tüchle, Church History, Westminister, Md., 1960, Newman.
16) For the darker side of popular religion see George G. Coulton, Five Centuries of Religion, Cambridge, 1923-50, Cambridge University Press, 4 vols.
17) See Enrique Dussel and Maria Mercedes Esandi, E1 catolicismo popular en la Argentina: no.5, Historico, Buenos Aires, 1970, Editoria Bonum.
18) See Robert N. Bellah, The Broken Covenant: American civil religion in a time of trial, New York, 1975, Seabury. In my own opinion the so-called “civil religion” of the United States is not a least common denominator of the religions of our country, but the Secular Humanism of the Enlightenment, an alternative religion to Christianity, like Buddhism or Marxism.
19) See Henri I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, New York, 1956, Sheed and Ward, pp. 212-216, 340-342; and M L. Clarke, “Higher education in the Ancient World”, Albuquerque, 1971, University of New Mexico Press.
20) James Westfall Thompson, Economic and Social History of Europe in the Late Middle Ages, New York, 1960, Frederick Ungar, pp. 11-12; 284-298.
21) See William A. Glaser, Social Settings and Medical Organization: A Cross-National Study of the Hospital, New York, 1970, Atherton. Also B. Ashley and K.D. O’Rourke, Health Care Ethics, St. Louis, 1978, Catholic Hospital Association, pp. 95-98.
22) While the Counter-Reformation in many respects developed a genuine Christian humanism for the Laity, it tended to separate the areas of life proper to clergy and laity even more rigidly than in the Middle Ages, until Vatican II reversed this tendency.
23) A.C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo, 2 vols., London, 1964, Mercury Books and John H. Randall, Jr., The Career of Philosophy, New York, 1962, Columbia University, vol. 1, pp. 256-307 show the roots of modern science in medieval thought.
24) I have used the Venice 1538 edition of the Defecerunt. On this work see Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation, Princeton, W.J., Princeton University Press, pp. 39-42.
25) I have used the Venice 1514 edition of the Curam illius habe and the Omnium mortalium cure.
26) Opera a Ben Vivere, ed. Francesco Palermo, Florence, 1958, Cellini, There is a French translation, Une règle do vie au xve siecle, tr. by Madame Thierard-Baudrillart, Paris, 1921, Perin et Cie. On the pious ladies of the day see her introduction pp. xii-xiv. Recently another of these short spiritual treatises has been discovered, called “The Spiritual Ship,” see Giacinto D’Urso, O.P., “Riscoperta e identificato il tratto ‘La Nave’ di S. Antonino Pierozz,i, O.P.,” Rivista de Ascetica et Mistica, IV, 48 (April-June, 1979) pp. 181-200. See also the special number of the Rivista, Sant’ Antonino, O.P. maestro di vita spirituale, Florence, 1959, Libreria Ed. Florentina.
27) See note 9 above.
28) Summa Theologica (Moralis), 4 vols. Verona, 740 ed. vol.I, Prologue, colt 3-4. I have completed and adapted Jarrett’s translation, op.cit., pp. 80-81.
29) On this split see Bernard Häring, The Law of Christ, Corker, 1965, Mercier Press, vol. 1, pp. 17-20 and Louis Vereecke, “Préface a l’histoire do la théologie morale moderne”, Studia Moralia I, Rome, 1962, Academia Alfonsiana, pp. 87-120.
30) Morton W. Bloomfield, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1952, Michigan State College Press traces the origin, development and literary influence of this concept.
31) Summa Theologica Moralis IV, Tit. 25, c.5, colt l009f.
32) “And this is the whole purpose of this work, that from the knowledge of what is narrated in histories men may learn to live well in this world, so that they might hope for beatitude from the Lord and attain it”, Chronicon, Preface; the whole text can be found in Walker, op,cit. Appendix, pp. 165-170. See Walker’s discussion of Antoninus’ concept of history, pp. 103-111.
33) I have used the Douay 1624 edition of the Speculum quadruplex. On this work see Richard K. Weber, O.P., Vincent of Beauvais: A study in historiography, Ann Arbor, 1965, University of Michigan diss. and B.L. Ullman “A project for a New Edition of Vincent of Beauvais”, Speculum, 1933, pp. 312-326.
34) Summa Tneologica Moralis II, Prologue, cols. 1-10.
35) See Ronald S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, Wm. B. Eerdmans, pp. 154-156.
36) Summa Theologica Moralis III, Tit. 19, c.ll, colt 1045-1092.
37) Ibid., c.11, I. col. 1083.
38) Ibid., III, Tit. 8, col. 291-322.
39) Ibid. II, Tit. 1, pp. 7-340.
40) Thompson (note 20 above), p. 257.
41) Ibid. , p. 258.
42) See note 33 above.
43) For a good appreciation see Jarrett, op,cit., Chapter VII, “His Social Ideals”, pp. 57-78.
44) For various views see Robert W. Green, Protestantism and Capitalism: The Weber Thesis and its Critics, New York, 1959, Heath; M.J. Kitch, Capitalism and the Reformation, New York, 1367, Barnes and Noble; and S.N. Eisenstadt, The Protestant Ethic and Modernization, New York, 1968, Basic Books; with the judicious summing up of John Gilchrist, The Church and Economic Activity in the Middle Ages, New York, 1969, Macmillan, “Conclusion: The Weber-Tawney Thesis in Retrospect”, pp. 122-139,
45) Thompson, op.cit., pp. 284-298.
46) Ibid., pp. 415-430.
47) John T. Noonan, Jr., The Scholastic Analysis of Usury, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Univeristy Press, 1957, p. 79; See Benjamin N. Nelson, The Idea of Usury, Princeton, N.J., 1949, Princeton University Press; Raymond de Roover, Le pensée économique des scolastiques: Doctrines et méthodes, Conference Albert-le-Grand 1970, Montreal Institute d’études médiévales, 1971, with its selected bibliography, as well as the work of Gilchrist in note 44 above.
48) Noonan, p. 77.
43) Jarrett, pp. 57-78 and the work on which he much depends, Carl Ilgner, Die volkswirtschaftlichen Anschauunzen Antonins von Florenz, Paderborn, 1904, F. Schöningh. It is Ilgner who makes this division of Antoninus’ economic doctrine according to production, distribution and consumption.
50) Summa Theologica Moralis IV, Tit. 12, 3, i, col. 623 c.
51) Ibid. II, Tit. 1, col. 7-340.
52) Jarrett, pp. 75f.
53) Morçay (note 13 above) p. 45-58: Chronicon, Tit. 23, c.10, #3.
54) Summa Theologica Moralis IV, 12, c.3, col. 619-623.
55) See Arrigo Levasti, My Servant Catherine, New York, Westminister, Md., 1954, Newman, pp. 9-272.
56) Cf. E. Garin, La culture filosofica del Renascimento Italiano, Florence, 1961. Daniel P. Walker, The Ancient Theology, London, 1970, Duckworth, pp. 42-62; Donald Weinstein, Savonarola and Florence, Princeton, N.J., 1970, Princeton University Press. Weinstein discusses Piero Crinito’s De Honesta Disciplina which recounts Savonarola’s dialogue with G. Pico, Poliziano and other leading humanists in the early 1490’s held in the library of San Marco.
57)See Marchese (note 10 above) vol. 1, Supplement, pp. 512-513 for a list of some of these artists.
58) G.G. Coulton (note 16 above) chapter xv, “The Poor Man’s Bible” pp. 293-320 raises some serious questions about how deeply this symbolism actually penetrated the minds of the masses.
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