PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

 

In publishing the Memorial for the re-establishment of the Order of Friar Preachers in France, my object was to place under the protection of public opinion a useful thought perhaps daring undertaking.  I have had to congratulate myself on my course of action.  Neither book nor work has been animadverted upon or openly denounced, nor any feeling of contempt, hatred, or dislike been manifested; and yet the question in point was St. Dominic and the Dominicans, and the replanting on the soil of France an institution long calumniated both in its founder and in his posterity! But we belong to a century placed at a new point of sight, whence, soaring above the ruins out of which Providence caused it to arise, we can discern things hidden from the intervening ages and from the passions by which they were swayed.  Times of political vicissitude allow free scope to evil as well as to good; with the past they unroot hatred of the past, and convert the world into a battlefield where Truth bivouacs with Error, and where, amid the confusion, God descends to succor His hapless children.

 

Although I have to congratulate myself on the way in which my Memorial and scheme have been received, I am not yet content; for the grand figure of St. Dominic could be but imperfectly sketched in a writing intended to convey a general idea of the Order of St. Dominic, and therefore I immediately applied myself, as far as the duties of the Cloister have permitted, to portray with a firmer hand the life of the Sainted Father.  Few Frenchmen know much about him, and the majority know naught save he established the Inquisition and carried on the war against the Albigenses; two assertions so entirely false that it becomes a curious metaphysical question to know how such things could ever have been believed.  Perhaps some day, should I meet with any serious opponents, it may be necessary for me to enter on the examination of this question, ad manifest the origin and progress of those causes which have rendered the harmonious name of St. Dominic so discordant to the ear of posterity.  For the present, I have contented myself with describing the facts of his life as they have been furnished to me by contemporary evidence, and this evidence is my stronghold.  From him who shall speak otherwise of St. Dominic I will request on line from the thirteenth century, and, if he find me too exacting in this demand, I will content myself with a single word.

 

So much for the book; now for the work.  On the 7th of March 1839, I left France with two companions.  We were going to Rome to take the habit of St. Dominic and make the one year’s novitiate which precedes the vows.  Our year finished, we knelt, but two Frenchmen, at the feet of Our Lady de la Quercia; and, for the first time in fifty years, St. Dominic beheld France represented among his children.  At the present moment we inhabit the monastery of Santa-Sabina on the Aventine Mount.  We are six Frenchmen, all called out from the world by diverse ways, all having led lives different from that to which God now summons us.  We shall, if it please God, spend many years here, not to defer the moment of struggle, but in order to prepare ourselves seriously for our difficult mission; and we  shall take back with us to France, not only our claims as citizens, but those claims which a time-tried fidelity always justifies.  It is hard for us to be separated from our country, and lose all that we might there enjoy; but He who demanded from Abraham the blood of an only son has made renunciation of a present blessing the condition of a future and greater good.  Without sowing there would be no reaping.  We therefore entreat those who hope aught from us, to pardon our necessary absence, retain our memory in their hearts, and our names in their prayers.  Years speed fast away; and when we shall meet once more in the tents of Israel and of France, it will not be amiss for all to have grown a little older, and doubtless, Providence, on its side, will have made some progress too.

 


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Text from the 1880 Burns and Oats edition

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