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LIFE OF HENRY BRUNE
I OUGHT not to pass over one who was a man of deep devotion and holy simplicity, and a priest of angelic purity; and I think it fitting to place his life next in order to that of Lubert, who was his comrade 214from the first and his most beloved fellow-priest, and to set forth here somewhat in praise of him. This is that Henry Brune who was the companion of Lubert; a man beloved of God and accepted of men; one that was kindly to all and burdensome to none. He was born in Holland and was a citizen of Leyden, being sprung from honourable parents and lineage. He, however, counted the riches and honours of the world as of no worth, and withdrawing from the sight of his friends, sought the Lord in the days of his youth, and clave to Him with a perfect heart even unto his old age. He remained under obedience in the House of Florentius, in all humility and meekness, hearing the confessions of the Devout and celebrating Mass with great devotion and reverence; for he lived in quietness and simplicity of heart without a care for temporal things, and dwelt amid the Brethren uncomplainingly, having a good reputation throughout all Deventer, and being known amongst the Devout in divers places as an Israelite indeed in whom was no guile or wickedness; as one without bitterness like a dove and gifted with a singular innocency of life. His eyes were ever looking to the Lord, and whensoever he could be alone he ceased not from prayer and devout meditation.
(2) Once in winter time he was sitting by the fire, warming his hands, but he turned his face to the wall and secretly continued his prayers, observing strictly the rule of silence. And I when I saw this, was greatly edified, and loved him yet the more, nor did I ever hear a complaint concerning him save that he celebrated Mass somewhat more slowly than the others; and yet by so doing he drew many laymen to devotion when he celebrated, 215and this tardiness was readily excused to him since it sprang from his unwillingness to be separated from his beloved Jesus.
(3) It happened that one of the faithful was tempted in a matter of faith by a secret assault of the Devil, for he began to have some doubt concerning the Sacrament of the Altar and the Presence therein of the Very Body of Christ. And so, as he stood to hear the Mass which this devout priest was celebrating, he often sighed, being grieved by the wicked suggestions of that malignant spirit, and he prayed to the Lord that he would deign to pity him for his wavering mind. And the merciful God who doth succour souls to their salvation in many and marvellous ways, did teach this man and console him comfortably in the faith by showing him a new and strange vision. For he saw not the Species of bread between the hands of the priest, but in place thereof there appeared before him the form of One more glorious than the sons of men; and being greatly bewildered and trembling, he returned thanks and blessed God. But the priest knew nothing of this and finished the office of the Mass with the Benediction after the usual manner, for this vision was not shown for the priest’s sake, for he was full of faith and grace, but to strengthen one who was weak in the faith.
(4) Since I am now speaking of the Revered Sacrament I will also mention a similar thing concerning a priest in the province of Frisia, whose life was less praiseworthy. This story I heard from the mouth of our Brother Alardus of pious memory, who told me that there was with him a certain priest whose learning was small and his reputation not bright: and when this priest entered 216the Church to celebrate the Divine Mysteries, an honourable Matron, knowing his lack of learning, began to think scornfully of him and to murmur, saying: “What art thou trying to do, ignorant man that thou art? How can one that is so unworthy duly celebrate so great a Sacrament?” While she was thinking this the priest began to celebrate and to touch the Holy Elements and consecrate Them; and when the Sacred Host was elevated after the Consecration according to the Ritual of the Church, and all the congregation were adoring in faith upon their bended knees, the aforesaid matron opened her eyes, and to her amazement and perplexity saw, at the moment of the Elevation, the Figure of the Man Christ. After Mass was done she told this in private to another priest and humbly confessed the evil thoughts which she had formerly had about the Celebrant; and her Confessor having diligently inquired how the matter came to pass, and concerning the Vision, answered her, saying: “God hath allowed this to come to pass for thy Salvation, lest in future thou shouldest think evil of priests or doubt that they do truly consecrate even if they are of ill -reputation and unworthy life.” The woman, hearing this, held her faith sure and left it to God to judge His priests.
(5) Let it not irk thee to hear yet another miracle concerning this most Holy Sacrament.
When I entered the Monastery of Mount St. Agnes to sojourn there, a certain Religious Clerk, who abode there for a long time with me, had occasion to go to a neighbouring Monastery: and when he was on the way, one that was a layman joined himself to him and became his travelling companion and talked to him as a friend. So as 217they were walking together and conversing about God, the layman said to the Clerk who accompanied him: “My friend, I will tell thee one small matter that hath happened in my life. For a longtime I was in such a condition that when I entered a Church I could never see the Sacrament of the Altar in the Priest’s hands, and thinking that I stood too far off, and that owing to the dimness of my eyes I could not see well, I approached as near as I dared and as was permitted—but this profited me not at all, for still I saw nothing between the Priest’s hands. This continued to me for more than a year, but I did not duly consider what the reason might be. At length, coming to myself and being greatly perplexed I betook me to a priest and laid bare the whole matter in confession; and he heard me kindly, and carefully searching out the secrets of my heart, found that I was in a state of enmity towards a neighbour to whom I would on no account forgive a trespass that he had committed against me. So the good and prudent Confessor, when he knew of this sin of malice, instructed me with chiding and admonition, affirming that it would be most perilous to continue thus hard of heart, and that I could never deserve pardon unless from my heart I forgave all trespasses. And this he said had happened to me because I was not worthy to look upon the Holy Sacrament since mine eye was evil. Hearing this pious admonition of the priest I consented to his counsel, and with hearty repentance forgave all injuries, resolving for the future not to avenge myself, so that I might be reconciled to God and regain the grace that I had lost. Then at length the priest gave me absolution, and having imposed penance upon me, let 218me go. Immediately afterward I went into the Church and heard Mass, and having regained the favour of God I saw most clearly the Holy Body of Christ in the hands of the priest, and returning thanks to God I blessed Him for all His marvellous works.
(6) But I must return to my task and deal briefly with the happy death of Henry Brune, for as his life was adorned with virtue, so the end thereof was deservedly a happy passing away from this world. Amongst the other virtues of this pious and devout man was this, that he was subject in all humility to his superior, giving a good example to priests and clerks not to exalt themselves above the younger Brethren by reason of their priestly rank. Sometimes on feast days he celebrated before the lepers by leave of Florentius, and I served for him on those occasions.
(7) Once he went with the Brothers to obtain indulgences at Arnheim, and while they were in the way he was asked for what consideration he would give up his indulgences. To this he replied: “I would gladly give them all in exchange for this grace, that whensoever I should say anything good to anyone, he should straightway be converted and amend his life.” The Brothers who heard it were marvellously edified by his good reply which proceeded from that earnest zeal for souls which dwelt within his pious and pure heart.
(8) So in the year of our Lord 1439 the plague was raging at Zutphen where the Brothers of the House of Florentius, and many other Religious, then dwelt, having fled from Deventer; and Henry Brune fell sick with the disease and lay at the point of death, confidently waiting to receive the 219
reward of his labours from the Hand of the Lord. He had continued in the Community almost from the time of Gerard Groote and had fulfilled the Office of the Priesthood for about forty-four years, having far outlived all the rest of those who had known their first fervour in the Religious Life with him. But throughout his days he laboured at the work of writing, and I have often seen him washing vessels in the kitchen, and doing other lowly tasks.
(9) He knew scarcely anything save the things that pertain to God and the salvation of souls, nor cared to speak of aught else. And that which had been the habit of his life he maintained unto death, for he recited all the Hours till the very moment that he gave up his soul, nor during his illness did he cease his reading of the Holy Scriptures, for he sought comfort rather in the Word of God than in the discourses of men. The departure of this most godly priest was in the aforesaid year of our Lord, on the day following the Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle (being the feast-day of St. Gregory, Bishop of Utrecht), at about the eleventh hour of the day, and he was buried in the Cemetery of Saint Walburga, the Virgin, which pertains to the College of Canons in Zutphen.220
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