Saint of the Day – Blessed Jordan of Pisa OP (c 1255–1311) – Dominican Friar, Theologian, Professor, renowned Preacher, Founder of the Confraternity of the Holy Redeemer at Pisa, Visionary, Marian devotee, promoter and daring innovator of the vernacular Italian language as a ‘church’ language and a tool for evangelisation – born c 1255 at Pisa, Italy and died on 19 August 1311 at Piacenza of natural causes. At a time when scholars believed that no colloquial tongue could ever replace Latin as a ‘gentleman’s’ language, Jordan worked to make Italian the beautiful tongue that it is today.
Jordan attended the University of Paris where he first encountered the Dominican friars in 1276. Four years later, probably after obtaining his degrees, he returned to Italy and took the habit. He began a long teaching career there as soon as he was qualified to do so.
He preached and taught variously at Siena, Viterbo and Perugia before eventually moving to Florence, in which area he was a widely respected preacher, eventually being appointed by the provincial chapter at Rieti as a lector in the church of Santa Maria Novella in 1305. He held that post for the next three years and contributed greatly to its esteem. In 1301, he attended a general meeting of the order held in Cologne, Germany..
He seems to have been fascinated with the whole question of preaching as an apostolic tool and to have been one of the first to make a scientific study of it. He pointed out that the Greek church was “invaded by a multitude of errors,” because the Greeks had no preachers, he could never say enough in praise of Saint Dominic’s farsightedness in establishing an order specifically for preaching.
Jordan studied methods of making sermons more effective, both by using examples that would reach the people and by the use of the vernacular. This latter was a much-disputed subject in his day, Jordan was considered a daring innovator. Because it was controversial, he strove to make Italian a beautiful instrument on which he could play the melodies of the Lord.
Blessed with an extraordinary memory, Jordan was renowned for his knowledge in general and knew the Breviary by heart, as well as the Missal, most of the Bible (with its marginal commentary), plus the second part of the Summa. This faculty of memory he used in his sermons but he was quick to point out to young preachers that learning alone can never make a preacher. By the holiness of his own life he made this plain and continually preached it to those he was training to preach.
Jordan of Pisa had two great devotions–to Our Blessed Mother and to Saint Dominic. He was favoured with a vision of Our Lady, she came into the fathers’ refectory and served at table. Jordan, who was the only one who could see her, could barely eat for excitement. He spoke often of her in his sermons and also of Saint Dominic.
In 1311 the Master General, Aymericus Giliani, appointed him professor of theology at the friary of Saint James in Paris, to deliver his reading of the Lombard’s Sentences and obtain his master’s degree but Jordan died on his way to Paris. His body was returned from Piacenza, where death overtook him, to rest in the church of Santa Caterina in Pisa.
On 23 August 1833, Blessed Jordan’s cultus was confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI and in 1838 he was Beatified by Pope Gregory XVI.
Jordan studied the use of preaching for evangelisation. He pioneered the use of the Tuscan language for preaching and lecturing, which helped establish it as the foremost among the vernaculars of Italy. His Tuscan was reputedly versatile and musical but never elaborate or ornate. At Florence he would reportedly preach five times a day, walking about, both indoors and out, followed by a crowd of listeners as he developed his topic. During his lengthy sermons his friend and disciple, Silvester of Valdiseve (1278–1348), sometimes sat near the pulpit with wine to refresh him. Some of his listeners took notes that have survived. His preaching was said to have a positive effect on Florentine public life and morality by its emphasis on sound (i.e. Thomistic) doctrine, Christian living and perseverance. What he had to say would have sounded dry in Latin but significantly, no Latin sermons by Jordan have survived.
God of holiness,
by the integrity of his life and gentle manner
You made Blessed Jordan
a fitting minister to preach the gospel.
By following his example,
may we generously strive to serve You
through service to our neighbour
and so gain the fruit of an everlasting reward.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Your Son, who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
General Calendar of the Order of Preachers
Note: The first image above is probably NOT Blessed Jordan but the image found online for him, is actually Blessed Jordan of Saxony. I used this unknown friar above as there seem to be no known images available of Blessed Jordan of Pisa.