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Concerning John Gronde
THERE was in those days at Deventer a devout priest, named John de Gronde, who was born in Octmesheim inTwent. This man, well known by repute, eloquent as a preacher and pre-eminent amongst the Clergy by reason of his character for chastity, was quietly content to serve the Altar as a simple Priest.173
For a time he thus lived in the Province of Holland, but then the venerable Master Gerard Groote procured that he should be sent to help him, writing as follows to the priests who were then earnestly serving the Lord in Amsterdam, for he was joined to them by a special bond of love: “Be it known to you,” said he, “that the township of Deventer standeth in urgent need of a good priest to assist the Religious by hearing confessions, for we have none such for our need. Wherefore, I pray you if there be no serious hindrance to the Holy Church in Amsterdam that our beloved John Gronde may be transferred to us from you, for doubtless he will be profitable to us; moreover his position here will be most suitable to him, since it was for this purpose only that he was ordained, namely, to succour those that are truly converted to the Lord, for this is the holiest of all tasks, and we shall receive him most joyfully and gladly.”
(2) He came, therefore, to Deventer to Master Gerard, and being kindly received by him he lived a humble and devout life with the Community, dwelling in the ancient House of Florentius with the Brothers who first formed that holy Congregation; and being fervent in spirit it was his wont to rouse the Brothers to prayer very early in the morning, saying, “Arise, watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” He remained in the same house until the death of Master Gerard, after whose happy departure he went to the House of the Sisters, and dwelt in Gerard’s cell. His solemn voice was often heard preaching the Word of God in the Church at Deventer, and Florentius was sometimes present, reverently hearing his preaching, listening intently and earnestly to the 174sweet and divine discourse which proceeded from his mouth, for his voice was sonorous, penetrating the ears of men and piercing their hearts.
(3) Sometimes also he went to Zwolle to comfort the devout Brothers and Sisters. During one season of Lent he often preached there, and once on Good Friday he expounded our Lord’s Passion in a most earnest manner for above six hours, allowing a short interval in the middle of his sermon to restore the strength of his hearers. When of his brotherly love for them he sojourned at Zwolle, he heard confessions from some of the devout, giving wholesome remedies to the penitents, and persuading them to abide by their holy resolution, for many were found in that place who were eager to serve God, and happily their number has been increased until our own time. So anxiously was this devout preacher sought after, and so gladly was he heard, that even when he was in the Guest Chamber and was sitting at meat he would not deny the Word of Salvation to those who sought him, but while he was refreshing the body he also administered to them that were heartily contrite medicine to heal their souls of those sins which they had confessed to him. In so doing indeed he followed the example of Christ, who as He sat at meat graciously accepted the penitence of the most blessed Mary Magdalene; and when Simon thought wrongfully of the penitent confuted him, and directed him aright, giving a wise reason for the pious deed which she had done for Him.
(4) Also he went at times to the Brothers at Mount St. Agnes to hear their confessions, for they were at this time poor and had no priest, and he said to them: “Let it not seem to you a hard 175thing to follow a God of humility, for by a little toil ye may gain His Kingdom.”
After this he hastened to return to the place of his habitation, being unwilling to be separated for long from the beloved Brothers of Florentius, for it was his only joy to live with them and they loved him with all their hearts. In garb he was simple and in diet temperate, he flattered not worldlings for gain’s sake, but as a true preacher of the Gospel sought an usury of souls and to promote an increase of spiritual progress in these devout communities. Therefore, inasmuch as he was a faithful minister of the Lord and the day was at hand when he should be called to receive an everlasting recompense for his labours, he began to be grievously smitten with sickness.
(5) Thinking he should not live long he had himself carried to the House of Florentius desiring to make an end of his days in the midst of his Brethren; for he trusted that by their prayers and merits he would be greatly holpen at his last hour and faithfully defended from the snares of the enemy. And by the mercy of God so it came about, for the Most High had compassion upon him, so that he was comforted by the presence of Florentius and his Brethren, and at the bidding of the beloved Father made an end of his last words by saying: “In the Name of the Lord”; and thus he committed to Him the issue of his strife and breathed forth the breath of his life early in the morning about the fourth hour on the day after the Feast of St. John before the Latin gate, namely the 7th of May in the year of the Lord 1392. He was buried in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the side of Master Gerard and in the same grave, where they both alike repose in 176peace. This was fitting, that as they had loved one another in life, so in death they should not be divided, but should be buried in the same Church, and beneath the same memorial stone, awaiting the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to be raised up again by Him.
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