It was a chilly and dark night. All in the city of Paris was asleep. It was still a young city. Pavers were just being laid at the crossroads of two Roman roads on the banks of the Seine. The spires of Notre Dame were still taking shape against the Parisian sky. The city was flooded with young men drawn from around Europe to study in the now renowned university.
Suddenly, one of these men woke with a start. Of noble birth, Bl. Jordan of Saxony had come to Paris from Germany. Now almost thirty years old, he was a Master of Arts and taught grammar at the university while continuing his studies in theology. Thinking he’d heard the bell for matins, he leaped from his bed, tightened his belt around his tunic and dashed out the door and into the darkness. As he hurried along the streets, a poor man stepped toward him asking for alms. Having nothing to give him, he removed his belt and continued on his way. When he reached the church, he found the doors closed, for the bell had not rung after all. He waited on the steps until the doorkeeper opened them, and then went immediately to the crucifix inside to pray. As he looked up at the crucifix, he suddenly noticed that the corpus of Christ was wearing the belt he’d given the poor beggar on the street.
This complete devotion to Christ and His Church, as well as his love and compassion for others marks the life and work of Bl. Jordan. He was not simply content to live a holy life – he wanted to bring as many souls to heaven with him as he could. It was Bl. Reginald of Orléans who led Bl. Jordan to decide to enter the Order. But Jordan would not enter alone. He pressed his best friend, Henry, encouraging him that he should join with him. Henry was not as eager as Jordan, so Jordan appealed to our Blessed Mother that Henry be granted the grace of desire to give his life for Christ as a Friar Preacher. His petition was granted and Jordan and Henry set off for St. Jacques. They entered as the friars were singing, “Let us cast off our old garments and put on the garment of Christ”, which they then did right there – casting off their cloaks, they were immediately clothed in the Dominican habit. Bl. Jordan would be with his best friend and brother Henry at his death as well. “I weep for my very dear friends, I weep for the brother who loved me so much, my very dear son Henry…” he wrote to Bl. Diana, telling of Henry’s death.
After Bl. Jordan received the habit, his devotion, talents and skills were immediately noted and he skyrocketed to the top of governance in the Order, first as a delegate to the General Chapter two months after his entrance, then a year later he was elected provincial of Lombardy. Finally, only two years after Bl. Jordan entered the Order, St. Dominic died. His brothers elected Jordan to succeed him as Master General. His time in office was spent continuing the work of St. Dominic, including adding four new provinces to the already existing eight; he twice obtained for the Order a chair at the University of Paris and helped found a university at Toulouse, France; and he established the first house of studies for the Order. He soon garnered a reputation for recruiting the best men to the Order – he became a fear of mothers and a menace to universities, for he would empty their classrooms of their best students and accomplished professors. Many of these men would be popes, saints and blesseds.
“The father was so full of grace and so fervent in the word of God and in the job of preaching, that there was hardly another to be found his equal. The Lord had given him a certain privilege and a special grace, not only in preaching but also in conversation, so that wherever he was, whoever he was talking to, he overflowed with enthusiastic talk, brilliant with apt and powerful illustrations, so that he spoke to the precise condition of all those he addressed, giving satisfaction and encouragement to all alike. Everyone longed to hear him.” (From the Lives of the Brethren.)