Saint of the Day – 19 March – Blessed Clement of Dunblane OP (1200-1258) Bishop, Priest and Friar of the Order of Preachers, a great and humble carer of the poor and needy, a zealous Administrator but just as much, a shepherd of souls, Reformer, Writer, a highly renowned Preacher and Linguist, a very learned man indeed. Clement was the first member of the Dominican Order in Britain and Ireland to become a Bishop. Born in Scotland in 1200 and died in 1258 in Dunblane, Scotland of natural causes. Also known as – Clement of Scotland.
Not much is recorded of his birth, childhood, or adolescence. Whether it was due to loss of documentation or no documentation at all, the only information that has survived the test of time was that Clement of Dunblane was born in Scotland in the year of 1200. He was a Scotsman by birth and his native tongue was Gaelic (Rabenstein, 1998). He later went on to pursue an education at the University of Paris, during this time he received his habit and grew fairly close to a man who is now known as Saint Dominic de Guzman.
The Chronicles of Melrose Abbey, which was in what is now Roxburghshire, says: “The Jacobin [Dominican] Fathers first came to Scotland in 1230. King Alexander brought them into the country. As he had great love for them, he proved a generous benefactor to them; for he not only gave them places, but also built and furnished convents for them.”(2) We do not doubt that the young monarch met Dominic at the time mentioned, or that the saint promised to send him a colony of the Order of Preachers. But the founder died before he could carry out his intention. Indeed, it would seem that several years had passed, when Blessed Jordan found it feasible to put the design into execution.
Doubtless Clement, who belonged to this sturdy race, was placed at the head of the little band of missionaries dispatched to labour among the Scotsmen and to establish the Order in his country. Prior to this time, he had shown himself to be possessed of rare talent and had become a learned man, no less than a model, pious and zealous religious. He had a special gift for languages and oratory. According to the Rev. D. O. Hunter-Blair, O. S. B. (Catholic Encyclopedia, V, 286), these Friar Preacher must have first set up their standard at Edinburgh. In Scotland, as in all Europe, marvellous success attended the efforts of the fathers and they were soon scattered throughout the northern Kingdom of the British Isle.
None of them, we may take it for granted, manifested greater ability, more zeal, or a truer religious spirit, than Father Clement. Early Scottish historians assure us that his labours and evident capacity for good, suggested him at once for the See of Dunblane, which became vacant in 1231. Possibly his own humble repugnance to such an honour combined with that of Blessed Jordan to delay his appointment, for he was not Consecrated until two years later. The Chronicles of Melrose Abbey state: “In the year of our Lord 1233, Clement, a Canon of the Order of Preachers, was elected Bishop of Dunblane. He was Consecrated in Wedale, in the southeastern part of County Edinburgh, on the Feast of the Translation of Saint Cuthbert, 4 September by William Malvoisin, Bishop of Saint Andrews.”
From the start, Clement began to give clear proofs of his executive talent; nor did he relax in his zeal throughout his long government of some twenty-five years. He found the Diocese in a deplorable condition. Under his watchful care it soon became a spiritual garden which blossomed with every virtue. Vigorous were his efforts to enkindle fervour and piety in hearts that had grown cold and indifferent from neglect, no less than to uproot vices that had become all too prevalent. Equally active and firm was he in defending the rights of the Church and in putting her laws into execution. God crowned the labours of His faithful servant with success, for in all things, he set the example which he asked others to follow.
Thus, while the model life of the Friar-Preacher prelate won the esteem and admiration of his flock, his kindness and affable ways brought him the affection of their hearts. One of his most prominent traits was charity towards the poor, of whom there were many in the Diocese. Although his varied learning and ability, no less than his virtue, caused all to look up to him as a man of marked distinction, his humility and zeal for souls never let him forget the lowly, or those in distress. These, indeed, were the objects of the holy man’s keenest interest. Like Saint Paul, he became all things to all men in order to gain all to Christ. In this, no doubt, we have the secret of the love in which the people of the Diocese of Dunblane held him.
It would seem, in fact, that Clement of Dunblane possessed a character which won him the good will of all with whom he came into contact. It would be difficult to find a better proof of the affection entertained for him by his Order, than that given by the General Chapter held at London in 1250. Although he had, in a measure, severed his relations with the Order seventeen years before, by his Consecration, the fathers of this assemblage enacted by formal decree:
“We grant Brother Clement, Bishop in Scotland, (after his death) one Mass by every Priest throughout the Order and, by those in the Province of England, the same number which they say for any member of the Province.” Certainly this signal Act of benevolence is an unequivocal indication of the high esteem which he enjoyed among his former confrères, the world over. It inclines one to believe that his services, prior to his appointment to Dunblane, must have been far more than ordinary.
Another document, contained in a contemporary Scottish Chronicle which escaped the craze for the destruction of all things Catholic, speaks in no less high praise of the subject of this sketch. Here we read:
“In the year of our Lord 1258 died Clement, Bishop of Dunblane, a celebrated Preacher, even in the Order of Preachers. He was a skilled linguist and spoke several tongues with eloquence. So was he a man powerful in word and deed, before both God and man. Because of the carelessness of his predecessors, he found the Cathedral Church in a deplorable condition, both spiritually and temporally. Mass was said in it scarcely three times a week, as if it were no more than a rural Chapel. Under him, it became a renowned Sanctuary. Furthermore, he enriched it with lands and prebends (stipends) and supplied it with Canons.”
As a writer, we may attribute to his pen a Life of Saint Dominic, a History of the Establishment of the Friars Preacher in Scotland, a Book on Pilgrimages to Holy Places and a Collection of Sermons. None of these works have ever appeared in general print. They are still in Manuscripts, stored away in archives or libraries, or have, like many other things of the kind, been destroyed by the hand of time. Our Saint also worked on the Cause for the Canonisation of Saint Margaret of Scotland.
One of Clement’s stamp, could hardly have failed to leave a lasting impress on his Order and the Church of Scotland, by neither of which, we may rest assured, will his memory ever cease to be cherished.
Blessed Clement’s Relics are enshrined in the Choir of Dunblane Cathedral.