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Great Dominicans: Bl. Manez de Guzmàn, Brother of St. Dominic

Monday, October 19, 2015

Brothers can be a mixed bunch. In the Bible, alas, it starts badly for brothers...

The older brother Cain murders Abel; the younger brother Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright; and Joseph is left for dead by his eleven brothers. But, on the other hand, brotherly love can overcome great adversity. Joseph forgives his brothers and saves their lives. Look, too, at the early disciples of Christ: the brothers Peter and Andrew, James and John (sons of Zebedee), among many others. For them, being brothers in Christ was more important than consanguinity; yet it is a beautiful thing when the two brotherhoods overlap. After all, the love between blood brothers or sisters should point to, and school us in, the more perfect love between brothers and sisters in Christ. So, as it is written (Heb 13:1), let brotherly love continue!

Both kinds of brotherly love are evident at the very beginning of the Dominican Order. St Dominic was the youngest of three brothers. His eldest brother, Anthony (Antonio), was also a priest. But it is the middle brother, Manez (also spelt Manés, Mannes or Mames), who interests us here. Manez was old enough to have begun his own training for the priesthood when Dominic was born; but later, he joined Dominic in his preaching mission to the Albigensians. When the Order of Preachers was formally approved by the Pope, Manez was one of the first to receive the habit and make profession in the hands of Dominic, his younger brother.

Manez proved immediately to be active and devoted Dominican friar. He was among those sent by Dominic to Paris in the early dispersal of the brethren in 1217; there Manez was one of the founders of the St Jacques community. In 1219, he was sent to Madrid to be chaplain to the first community of Dominican nuns in Spain. After many more years of service, he died in 1238 and was buried at the Cistercian monastery in Gumiel de Izán.

We know very little else about the life of Manez. His contemporaries reported that he was a gentle and effective preacher, a prayerful and discreet friar. He was inclined towards the contemplative life, but did not hesitate to attend obediently to whatever task he was set. Friar Rodrigo de Cerrato called him a ‘gentle, humble, cheerful and kind and ardent preacher’.

This hiddenness and humility of Manez marks him out as a true brother of Dominic. If the greatness of Dominic owes much to his humility, his giving way to the brethren and the Order's mission above his own personal status, then Manez has perhaps an equal claim to greatness: he devotedly served God in the Order his younger brother founded, not seeking his own advantage or aggrandisement but simply the salvation of souls.

Manez showed no sign of jealousy or sibling rivalry. After Dominic’s canonisation in 1234, he travelled to their hometown of Caleruega to persuade the people to build a church in his older brother’s honour. Although beatified by Gregory XVI, Manez has faded into the background of the Order’s history. But that is what he would have wanted. Dominicans exist to preach Jesus Christ, not themselves; and that is why Manez was a great Dominican.

Fr Matthew Jarvis O.P.

 

Fr Matthew Jarvis is engaged in further studies and is based at the Priory of the Holy Spirit (Blackfriars), Oxford.
matthew.jarvis@english.op.org

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