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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Great Dominicans: Hugh of Saint-Cher

Monday, November 02, 2015

Hugh of Saint-Cher was, quite literally, one of the most eminent of the early Dominicans. Born in France he went on to become Provincial of that country before being named Cardinal Priest of Santa Sabina, the Dominican Order's mother house, in Rome.

His early life, like that of so many of his Dominican brothers, had led him through the University of Paris where he studied philosophy, theology and law before going on to teach these subjects himself. Indeed he made a small contribution to the intellectual life of Christendom through the compiling of Biblical commentaries and concordances which were widely used. For Hugh the academic apostolate was something that sprang out of the very being of the preacher, though his own commentaries and sermons have never penetrated the life of the Church to the same extent as those of his brothers like Thomas or Albert; he nevertheless showed that being engaged in the intellectual life is not the special vocation of particular Dominicans but rather is a foundational part of the service the Church calls all Dominicans to offer.

Then again, Hugh did have a somewhat unique role amongst his early Dominican contemporaries, serving the Church not so much as a preacher-scholar but as a prince and diplomat. During his time as Provincial of France Hugh came to the attention of Pope Gregory IX and was sent to the seat of the Eastern Patriarch of Constantinople as the Pope's ambassador. He continued to serve the papal court as a legate being sent on to participate at the Council of Lyons and later the election of the new Holy Roman Emperor in 1250. He was briefly made Bishop of the prestigious see of Ostia and helped in the governance of the Church through the regulation of laws, religious rules and even served as one of the Roman Curia's senior judges.

Perhaps Hugh of Saint-Cher comes across as a rather distant but un-engaging figure. While being a papal diplomat is a rare charge, serving as a functionary in a medieval court, even if it is the Church's, doesn't sound too exciting. However, if we think about it we might see in Hugh a useful exemplar. He wasn't obviously 'great' and his life might not be found particularly inspiring but he served his God quietly and diligently, doing what was asked without fancy or fuss. Hugh was a humble man who took his seat low down at table ready to serve. Because of this he was the first son of St Dominic to hear the Pope say 'Friend, come up higher' and be given the red hat of the princes of the Church (Luke- 14:10).



Br Jordan Scott O.P.

Br Jordan Scott O.P.


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