Monday, July 28, 2003


On the Discalced Carmelite calendar, this is the feast of Blessed John Soreth, O.Carm. (The Ancient Observance celebrate his feast on 24 July.)

Blessed John was born in 1394 in Caen, and thus was a fellow Norman with St. Therese of Lisieux. He was a noted theologian of the Order in the 15th century and eventually became Prior General from 1451 until his death in 1471. It was Blessed John who was responsible for Pope Nicholas V in the bull Cum Nulla officially incorporating nuns into the Order and legally establishing the Carmelite Third Order. Pope John Paul II’s recognition of the 550th anniversary of Cum Nulla may be found here.

Thus it is Blessed John who is at least remotely responsible for the existence of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Had he not worked to provide for those women who wished to be Carmelites, St. Teresa of Jesus [of Avila] would have had no Carmelite convent to join. She might still have been a very holy woman and a canonized saint. She might even have reformed some order. But it wouldn’t have been the Carmelite Order.

An essay discussing a collection of his sermons can be found here in PDF format. There is some discussion of his life here and a good deal of his personality is revealed by means of these sermons. He was apparently quite a fiery preacher. A contemporary says: “Once he preached in Liege about the blood of Christ poured out in love for our sake on the altar of he Cross, when he so enflamed his hearers that tears fell on the cheeks of both men and women, wetting their clothes and flowing onto the pavement of the church.”

It looks as though he wouldn’t have made a very good capitalist. Michael Novak would have a seizure. “In sermons dealing with sin, Soreth reproves first of all the sins of the merchants. Sermons 25 through 31 as well as 33 and 34, deal specifically with economic questions, especially with usury. The first of these uses trade mainly as a metaphor, but no. 26 attacks the question straight on. Since goods need to be carried from place to place, Soreth says, there must be merchants, but the life of a merchant is spiritually dangerous: Dame Avarice waits for him. Merchants should only work to support their wives and children, and to give to the poor, not in order to gain ‘grans estas.’ He enumerates the sins of merchants: breaking the Sabbath and feasts, charging more than a just price, speculating on the resale of goods, swearing false oaths, using false weights and measures, selling fraudulently in dark places, cheating in negotiation, selling tainted food and drugs, speculation in exchange rates, and taking long trips without their wives, so that the marriage debt is not paid.”

The current collect for Blessed John’s feast day can be found here.

This is his collect in the old liturgy (which in those days was on 30 July):

Bonorum omnium largitor Deus, qui beatum Joannem ardenti honoris tui zelo et singulari in subeundis periculis fortitudine roborasti : ejus meritis et precibus concede ; ut adversa omnia tolerare et in tua dilectione persistere valeamus. Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum.

My translation: "O God, Giver of all good things, who strengthened Blessed John with ardent zeal for Thy honour and with remarkable fortitude in undergoing trials, grant by his merits and prayers, that we may be able to bear all adversities and persevere in Thy love. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ." (Complaints may be sent to the usual address.)