instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, October 28, 2005

Diegos, Peters, and Arnolds

Peter of Vaux-de-Cernai was a Thirteenth Century Cistercian monk who wrote a history of the Albigensians, including the following description of the work of the Spanish bishop Diego of Osma:
In the year of the Incarnate Word 1206 Diego, Bishop of Osma, an eminent man worthy of renown, visited the Roman Curia with the intention of resigning his bishopric, so that he could be free to go among the pagans and preach the Gospel of Christ. But the Lord Pope Innocent was unwilling to grant the holy man's request and instead commanded him to return to his own see...

On his return journey from the Curia the Bishop of Osma reached Montpelier where he met the saintly Arnold, the abbot of Citeaux, as well as Brother Peter of Castelnau and Brother Ralph, Cistercian monks, all legates of the Apostolic See seeking to renounce the legacy enjoined upon them out of sheer discouragement, since they could attain nothing or hardly anything in preaching to the heretics. Whenever they began preaching to the heretics, the latter would taunt them with remarks about the scandalous lives of the clergy; so, if they wanted to correct the way of life among the clergy, they would have to give up their preaching.

The aforementioned bishop, however, offered them an effective solution to their dilemma by warning and counselling that, forgetting everything else, they should concentrate all their ardor on preaching. Moreover, to shut the mouths of their detractors, they should go forth humbly, doing and teaching according to the example of their Holy Master, go on foot without gold and silver, and thereby imitate the manner of the Apostles. However, since all this was something new, the above mentioned legates were not in favor of undertaking it by themselves. So they answered that if someone with due authority were willing to show them the way, they would gladly follow him. What else was there to do? The man of God offered himself, and soon, sending his carriages and his entire retinue to the city of Osma, he kept one companion and, with the two frequently mentioned legates, namely, the monks Peter and Ralph, he left Montpelier. The Cistercian abbot, however, returned to Citeaux, both because the general chapter of the Cistercians was to be held in the near future, and because, upon the completion of the chapter, he would return with some of the abbots of his Order who would help carry out the duties of preaching assigned to him.
In this story -- let's treat it as a parable, lest we do violence to the memories of holy men -- we have the figures of Diego; a bishop who could see what needed to be done and was prepared to do it himself; of Peter, a monk who would not do it himself, but was prepared to follow another; and of Arnold, who approved of Diego's way but attended to his own business first.

This story came to mind on reading a post at Sacramentum Vitae that identifies "a false sense of entitlement" among our bishops as a problem with the Church today.
...the solution is for bishops to do what all Christians are called to do, and begin to do, in baptism: conform themselves with the crucified Christ by dying to the old self. It should truly be said of each and every bishop what St. Paul said of himself: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." Such an ideal is probably unattainable for many in this vale of tears; but a crucial step forward will have been made if the bishops understand what the ideal entails for them, value it above self-preservation, and strive accordingly. Only if the bishops as a whole take that step will the Church in this country be worth anybody else's taking seriously again.
Ah, but the bishops as a whole include Diegos, Peters, and Alberts; I would suggest they always have, and I would not be surprised if there have always been more Peters than Diegos, and more Alberts than Peters.

Any call for reform, then, should take this into account. As a rule, Albert will not become Diego, even if scolded. (Look to your own hearts for the truth of this, my fellow lay Alberts.) Odds are that any given person's bishop is not Diego, and the one after him won't be, either.

So as we pray for the reform of the Church, let's by all means pray for a miracle, but don't expect the one we get to be the straightforward, "the bishops get it" one.

As a matter of history, Peter, who remained with Diego, was martyred in 1208; he is now styled Bl. Peter of Castelnau, with a memorial on January 15. His death was the excuse for the crusade of the barons, more interested in gold than in God.

For his part, Arnold Arnaury of Citeaux rejoined the preaching field along with twelve other Cistercian abbots; they, with their companions, "came on foot without any display... in accordance with what they had heard about the Bishop of Osma." Their success was limited; as one report had it, "They reclaimed a small number; they instructed and confirmed in the faith the few Catholics whom they encountered." Within a year, the preaching had all but ended.

Not entirely, though. That "one companion" Bishop Diego kept when he sent the rest of his retinue on to Osma was, as you may know, the sub-prior of the canons of the Osma cathedral, Dominic de Guzman.

And Diego? He returned to Osma and died soon thereafter. He is remembered today largely as the MacGuffin that brought St. Dominic to Languedoc, which precipitated the founding of the Dominican Order.