Dominican Saints 101: Bl. John of Vercelli

November 29, 2011

Bl. John of Vercelli (c.1200-1283, feast – Dec. 1), 6th Master of the Order of Preachers, worked diligently for the Church and for the Order.  During his time as Master, he oversaw the renewal and reform of the life amongst the friars.  He ordered a more suitable tomb to be built for Holy Father Dominic, and he was present, with about 500 Dominicans, including St. Thomas Aquinas and Bl. Bartholomew of Vicenza, at the second translation of the relics of St. Dominic, in which he was moved into his new (and current) tomb.  At the request of Pope Gregory X, he selected Bl. Humbert of Romans to propose reforms to the Second Council of Lyons, for the the betterment of the Church.  Moreover, after St. Thomas Aquinas died, John bestowed the cord of St. Thomas on the Dominican Priory in Vercelli and soon after zealously promoted the teachings of the Angelic Doctor amongst the brethren of the Order. All this, and yet, Bl. John is mainly known as the founder of the Holy Name Society.  A historic development in the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus dates back to 1274 when the Second Council of Lyons declared that more reverence should be paid to the name of Jesus.  The task for carrying this out was given by Bl. Pope Gregory X to Bl. John.  Due to his guidance, the Dominican friars quickly spread the devotion, preaching the glories of the Holy Name and combating the blasphemies of the day.  After being removed by Pope Paul VI in 1969, the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus was restored to the universal calendar of the Latin Church by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 2002, as an optional memorial on January 3. The Holy Name Society today continues to spread devotion to the name of Jesus, and the Church continues to sing the praises of this name which is above all names.  Every week at First Vespers on Sunday, the Church sings these words:

Because of this, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name, so that at Jesus’ name every knee must bend, in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.  (Phil. 2:9-11)

For a very brief talk on Bl. John of Vercelli by Fr. John F. Hinnebusch, O.P., click here. O God, you willed that the blessed John should shine with wonderful prudence and constancy; grant, through his intercession, that your family may always and everywhere be governed by beneficial rule.  Through Christ our Lord.

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