I was just reading a history of the Reformation in England and came upon this curious letter from Archbishop Armagh Fitzralph, Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1321. He wrote to the Pope to complain of the evils of the new friars (ie, Dominicans and Franciscans, primarily) who had taken over Oxford in a short span of a couple years. One of his complaints struck a resonant chord:
For that these begging friars through their privileges obtained of the Popes to preach, to hear confessions, and to bury, and through their charters of impropriations, did thereby grow to such great riches and possessions by their begging, craving, catching, and intermeddling with Church matters, that no book could stir of any science, either of divinity, law, or physic, but they were both able and ready to buy it up. So that every convent having a great library, full, stuffed, and furnished with all sorts of books, and being so many convents within the realm, and in every convent so many friars increasing daily more and more, by reason thereof it came to pass that very few books or none at all remain for other students.
He just needs to see my room!
It’s a Dominican vice of then and today – books. [Thankfully, some secular priests share our weaknesses….]
That’s why we Dominicans so admire St. Dominic for having sold his own books to help poor villagers in a famine – because we know, sharing his love of learning, what a great sacrifice that was!
God help us love Him in books, not the books themselves!
Yours in Christ,
Br. James Dominic, OP