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CHAPTER I

Of the first Congregation of Clerks in Deventer

(1)

THE righteousness of good men, as reason doth dictate, everywhere deserveth due praise. For those who lived lives worthy of praise ought not after their death to be given over to forgetfulness. The deeds of such should be held in remembrance if only for the consolation of them that survive; and should be set up as a pattern to other faithful people. Wherefore it behoves us above all to commend those who studied to serve God in humility and devotion in the House of our reverend Father Florentius from the time of the foundation of that House, and remained with all constancy under the rule of holy obedience with great fervency of Spirit unto their lives’ end. Yet I do not purpose to write of the virtues of all of them, a thing which is by no means possible, but as concerning several 170of them I desire to record a few things that are within mine own knowledge.

(2) When I had come to study in Deventer, in the days of my youth, I sought the way to the Regulars at Windesheim, and having found there the Canons Regular, amongst whom was my brother, I was led by his advice to approach that most reverend man Master Florentius, who was Vicar of the Church of Deventer, a devout priest, whose most excellent fame had already reached the Upper Provinces, and had drawn my mind to love him: for a great multitude of scholars used to praise him for his conduct of holy things. Both his appearance and his words confirmed his righteous reputation, and he was in favour in the sight of all men, for indeed he was a true worshipper of God and most devoted in his reverence for our Holy Mother the Church.

When I came into the presence of the reverend Father he kept me for a while with him in his house, being moved thereto by fatherly affection; and he placed me in the School, and besides this gave me the books which he thought I needed. Afterwards he obtained for me a lodging, at no cost to myself, with a certain honourable and devout matron, who often showed kindness to me and many other Clerks. So being associated with this man who was so holy, and with the Brothers of his Order, I had their devout lives daily in my mind and before my eyes, and I took pleasure and delight in the contemplation of their godly conduct, and in the gracious words which proceeded from the mouths of these humble men. Never before could I recollect to have seen such men, so devout and fervent were they in the love of God and of their neighbour. Living in the world they had no 171part in the life thereof, and seemed to take no heed to worldly business. Remaining- at home they laboured carefully in copying books, being instant continually in sacred study and devout meditation. In the hours of labour they had recourse to ejaculatory prayer for their consolation; in the morning, having said Matins, they went to the Church, and during the Celebration of Mass they poured forth as an offering to God the first fruits of their mouth and the aspirations of their heart, and prostrating the body lifted up their pure hands and the eyes of their soul to Heaven, seeking by prayer and lamentation to reconcile God to them through the Saving Host.

(3) The first founder and the Spiritual ruler of this notable Community was Master Florentius, who was adorned with virtue and filled with Divine wisdom and understanding in his knowledge of Christ, because he, with his priests and clerks, humbly imitated the manner of the Apostolic life. These men, therefore, having one heart and mind in God brought every man what was his own into the common stock, and receiving simple food and clothing avoided taking thought for the morrow. Of their own will they devoted themselves to God and all busied themselves in obeying their Rector or his Vicar, and holding holy obedience as the highest rule, strove with all their strength to conquer self, to resist the passions, and to break down their own will, and besides this they sought earnestly to be gravely admonished for any acts of omission and neglect. For this reason there was in them much grace and and true devotion: and they edified many by their words and example; likewise, by patiently abiding the mockery of the world, they led many to despise the same, 172and those who had formerly contemned them and considered their life—which was without honour—as a folly, afterward being converted to God, and having experienced the grace of devotion, were compelled by their consciences to confess openly that these men were truly servants and friends of God.

(4) Many persons therefore, both men and women, despising worldly felicity, were converted to the Lord, and were instant to keep His commandments and to practise acts of mercy to the poor with Christian devotion, relying upon the counsels of the beloved Father Florentius. All the Brothers of his Order helped him, holding fast to the Word of Life, for they, like the luminaries of Heaven, gave light to a world growing old, dwelling in the midst of the turmoil thereof. Some who were priests and were learned in their knowledge of the Divine Law, preached earnestly in the Church, and by their preaching faithful people were wholesomely instructed to the practice of pious deeds and the hearing of holy discourses.

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