Henry Suso

Blessed Henry Suso, O.P.
Suso bild.jpg
Servant of the Eternal Wisdom
Religious, priest and mystic
Born 21 March 1295
Free Imperial City of Überlingen, Holy Roman Empire
Died January 25, 1366(1366-01-25) (aged 70)
Free Imperial City of Ulm,
Holy Roman Empire
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
( Dominican Order)
Beatified 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI
Feast 23 January (previously 2 March)

Henry Suso, O.P. (also called Amandus, a name adopted in his writings, and Heinrich Seuse in German), was a German Dominican friar and the most popular vernacular writer of the fourteenth century (when considering the number of surviving manuscripts). Suso is thought to have been born on March 21, 1295. An important author in both Latin and Middle High German, he is also notable for defending Meister Eckhart's legacy after Eckhart was posthumously condemned for heresy in 1329. [1] He died in Ulm on 25 January 1366, and was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1831.

Biography

Suso was born Heinrich von Berg, a member of the ruling family of Berg. He was born in either the Free imperial city of Überlingen on Lake Constance or nearby Constance, on 21 March 1295 (or perhaps on that date up to 1297-9). [2] Later, out of humility and devotion to his mother, he took her family name, which was Sus (or Süs). At 13 years of age he was admitted to the novitiate of the Dominican Order at their priory in Constance. After completing that year of probation, he advanced to do his preparatory, philosophical, and theological studies there.

In the prologue to his Life, Suso recounts how, after about five years in the monastery (in other words, when he was about 18 years old), he experienced a conversion to a deeper form of religious life through the intervention of Divine Wisdom. He made himself "the Servant of Eternal Wisdom", which he identified with the divine essence and, in more specific terms, with divine Eternal Wisdom made woman in Christ. From this point forward in his account of his spiritual life, a burning love for Eternal Wisdom dominated his thoughts and controlled his actions; his spiritual journey culminated in a mystical marriage to Christ in the form of the Eternal Wisdom. [3]

Career

Suso was then sent on for further studies in philosophy and theology, probably first at the Dominican monastery in Strasbourg, perhaps between 1319 and 1321, and then from 1324 to 1327 he took a supplementary course in theology in the Dominican Studium Generale in Cologne, where he would have come into contact with Meister Eckhart, and probably also Johannes Tauler, both celebrated mystics. [4]

Returning to his home priory at Constance in about 1327, Suso was appointed to the office of lector (lecturer). His teaching, however, aroused criticism - most likely because of his connection with Eckhart in the wake of the latter's trial and condemnation in 1326-9. Suso's Little Book of Truth, a short defence of Eckhart's teaching, probably dates from this time, perhaps 1329. In 1330 this treatise, and another, were denounced as heretical by enemies in the Order. Suso traveled to the Dominican General Chapter held at Maastricht in 1330 to defend himself. The consequence is not entirely known - at some point between 1329 and 1334 he was removed from his lectorship in Constance, though he was not personally condemned. [4]

Knowledge of Suso's activities in subsequent years is somewhat sketchy. It is known that he served as prior of the Constance convent - most likely between 1330 and 1334, though possibly in the 1340s. [4] It is also known that he had various devoted disciples, a group including both men and women, especially those connected to the Friends of God movement. His influence was especially strong in many religious communities of women, particularly in the Dominican Monastery of St. Katharinental in the Argau, a famous nursery of mysticism in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the mid-1330s, during his visits to various communities of Dominican nuns and Beguines, Suso became acquainted with Elsbeth Stagel, prioress of the monastery of Dominican nuns in Töss. The two became close friends. She translated some of his Latin writings into German, collected and preserved most of his extant letters, and at some point began gathering the materials that Suso eventually put together into his Life of the Servant.

Suso shared in the exile of the Dominican community from Constance between 1339 and 1346, during the most heated years of the quarrel between Pope John XXII and the Holy Roman Emperor. He was transferred to the monastery at Ulm in about 1348. He seems to have remained there for the rest of his life. Here, during his final years (possibly 1361-3), he edited his four vernacular works into The Exemplar.

Suso died in Ulm on 25 January 1366.

Mortifications

Early in his life, Suso subjected himself to extreme forms of mortifications; later on he reported that God told him they were unnecessary. During this period, Suso devised for himself several painful devices. Some of these were: an undergarment studded with a hundred and fifty brass nails, a very uncomfortable door to sleep on, and a cross with thirty protruding needles and nails under his body as he slept. In the autobiographical text in which he reports these, however, he ultimately concludes that they are unnecessary distractions from the love of God. [5]

Other Languages
brezhoneg: Heinrich Seuse
español: Enrique Susón
Esperanto: Henriko Suso
français: Henri Suso
italiano: Enrico Suso
Nederlands: Hendrik Seuse
norsk nynorsk: Henrik Suso
polski: Henryk Suzon
português: Henrique Suso
русский: Генрих Сузо
slovenčina: Henrich Suso
slovenščina: Henrik Suzo
svenska: Henrik Suso