Bl. Henry Suso
Feast day: January 23
1300 - 1366
Famed German Dominican mystic wrote many classic books. Born Heinrich von Berg in Constance, Swabia, he entered the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, at an early age. Undergoing a conversion, he developed an abiding spiritual life and studied under Meister Eckhart in Cologne from 1322-1325. He then returned to Constance to teach, subsequently authoring numerous books of spirituality. As he supported Meister Eckhart who was then the source of some controversy and had been condemned by Pope John XXII in 1329 Henry was censured by his superiors and stripped of his teaching position. He subsequently became a preacher in Switzerland and the Upper Rhine and was a brilliant spiritual advisor among the Dominicans and the spiritual community of the Gottesfreunde . He endured persecution right up until his death at Ulm. Pope Gregory XVI beatified him in 1831.
His father belonged to the noble family of Berg; his mother, a holy woman from whom he took his name, to a family of Sus (or Süs). When thirteen years of age he entered the Dominican convent at Constance, where he made his preparatory, philosophical, and theological studies.
From 1324 to 1327 he took a supplementary course in theology in the Dominican studium generale at Cologne, where he sat at the feet of Eckhart von Hochheim, "the Master", and probably at the side of Tauler, both celebrated mystics. Returning to Constance, he was appointed to the office of lector, from which he seems to have been removed some time between 1329 and 1334. In the latter year he began his apostolic[disambiguation needed ] career. About 1343 he was elected prior of a convent, probably at Diessenhofen. Five years later he was sent from Constance to Ulm where he remained until his death.
Suso's life as a mystic began in his eighteenth year, when giving up his careless habits of the five preceding years, he made himself "the Servant of the Eternal Wisdom", which he identified with the Divine essence and, in a concrete form, with the personal Eternal Wisdom made man. Henceforth a burning love for the Eternal Wisdom dominated his thoughts and controlled his actions. He had frequent visions and ecstasies, practised severe austerities (which he prudently moderated in maturer years), and bore with rare patience corporal afflictions, bitter persecutions, and grievous calumnies.
He became foremost among the Friends of God in the work of restoring religious observance in the cloisters. His influence was especially strong in many convents of women, particularly in the Dominican convent of Katharinental, a famous nursery of mysticism in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in that of Töss, where lived the mystic Elisabeth Stagel, who turned some of his Latin into German, collected and preserved most of his extant letters, and drew from him the history of his life which he himself afterwards developed and published.
In the world he was esteemed as a preacher, and was heard in the cities and towns of Swabia, Switzerland, Alsace, and the Netherlands. His apostolate, however, was not with the masses, but rather with individuals of all classes who were drawn to him by his singularly attractive personality, and to whom he became a personal director in the spiritual life.
It has often been incorrectly said that he established among the Friends of God a society which he called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom. The so-called Rule of the Brotherhood of the Eternal Wisdom is but a free translation of a chapter of his Horologium Sapientiae, and did not make its appearance until the fifteenth century.