You turn to the back of your big study Bible, praying with the turn of each page that you’ll find it in the concordance. Your prayer is answered - it’s there. You look up the passage and sure enough - you remembered it correctly. Your reputation as a great theologian remains intact. You offer a silent word of thanks to God as the discussion continues. But who else should you thank?
Hugo de Sancto Charo, Hugh of St. Cher, was born in the village of St. Cher, near Vienne, France sometime about the year 1200 (we’re not exactly sure). After studying philosophy, theology, and jurisprudence in Paris, he entered the Order of St. Dominic in 1225. He soon developed a reputation for being adept at any task given to him and, as a result, became the confidant and adviser of several bishops, and the trusty envoy of Gregory IX to Constantinople in 1233. When the pope needed someone to reform one of the Catholic orders, the Carmelite rule and liturgy (order of service), it was scholar Hugh chosen to do the job. In 1244 Hugh became the first Dominican raised to the rank of Cardinal.
But the lasting legacy of Hugh of St. Cher is his body of scholarly work, including the "Correctorium Hugonis" known today as the "Correctorium Praedicatorum", a correction of numerous inaccuracies in the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the day. He also initiated a project involving 500 Dominican scholars to create the first ‘verbal index of Holy Writ’ of the scriptures; what we call a ‘Bible concordance.’
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “It contained no quotations, and was purely an index to passages where a word was found. These were indicated by book and chapter (the division into chapters had recently been invented by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury) but not by verses, which were only introduced by Robert Estienne in 1545. In lieu of verses, Hugo divided the chapters into seven almost equal parts, indicated by the letters of the alphabet, a, b, c, etc.” A few years later English Dominicans would add quotations of the passages themselves to the work, greatly increasing its usefulness as an aid to preaching.
Hugh created many other works including the prologues to many books of the Bible (one for the book of Amos is pictured). His third hugely ambitious work was a commentary on the entire Bible that was still in use 500 years after his death. That death took place at a Dominican monastery in Orvieto (Italy), March 19, 1263 – 744 years ago this week.
Other events that took place this week - March 18-24.
March 18, 1314 - Thirty-nine Knights Templar are burned at the stake in Paris, accused of sodomy, blasphemy, and heresy. Created to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land, they had become wealthy after the crusades. At the time few others besides Dante championed the innocence of the oft-maligned military order. Today most scholars now agree that the worst of the accusations against the order were likely inspired by jealously.
March 20, 1852 - Abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of famous Congregational minister Lyman Beecher, publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin (which had been serialized in an anti-slavery newspaper). The book sold one million copies and was highly influential in arousing anti-slavery sentiment. So connected to the events of the day was this book that Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said upon meeting Stowe in 1863: "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!"
March 21, 1747 - After surviving a week long storm that nearly destroyed his ship, slave trading sea captain John Newton dramatically converts to Christianity. He would later write what is arguably the world’s most well-known hymn "Amazing Grace".
March 22, 1818 - The last time Easter fell on its earliest possible date. The Council of Nicea (325) declared that Easter was to be celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring equinox. This meant the date of Easter would always fall between March 22nd and April 25th. March 22 therefore, is the earliest date on which Easter can fall. Since there is seldom a full moon on March 21st, Easter does not often fall on the 22nd. The last time it did was in 1818. During the twentieth century, it never fell on this day. Next year the full moon will fall on Mar. 21, but it will be a Friday so Easter will fall on the 23rd.
March 23, 1540 - Waltham Abbey in Essex becomes the last monastery in England to transfer its allegiance from the Catholic Church to the newly established Church of England.
March 24, 1980 - Roman Catholic archbishop, and Nobel Prize nominee, Oscar Romero, a vocal opponent of the San Salvador military, is assassinated while saying mass. Several men, believed to be part of a death squad, were arrested for the murder but were later released.