Louis of Granada

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Dominican spiritual writer; b. Louis de Sarriá, Granada, Spain, 1504; d. Lisbon, Dec. 31, 1588. The death of his father in 1509 left Louis and his mother in such poverty that they had to beg food at the Dominican priory of the Holy Cross. On June 15, 1524, Louis received the Dominican habit at the priory of the Holy Cross and after his year of novitiate he spent the next four years at the same priory, studying philosophy and theology. In 1529 he was sent for advanced study to the college of St. Gregory at Valladolid. Here he changed his name to Louis of Granada. During his stay at Valladolid he was exposed to three influences: Thomistic scholasticism, Christian humanism as expounded by Francisco de vitoria, and zeal for the apostolate of preaching as exemplified by savonarola. Louis preferred to be a preacher rather than a professor. When he was on the point of being sent to the Americas as a missionary, there was a change of plan, and his provincial assigned him to restore the abandoned Dominican priory at Escalacaeli, near Córdoba.

Louis soon became renowned as a preacher in the area of Córdoba and in 1538 he was selected as the Lenten preacher at the cathedral. In 1539 the general chapter of the Dominican Order invited him to a professorship at Valladolid, but Louis declined. Gradually he lost interest in academic life and speculative theology and was drawn more to preaching and writing.

Some time after 1547 Louis became prior at Badajoz and began to preach in neighboring Portugal. The prince cardinal, son of Don Manuel I of Portugal, obtained him as confessor and chaplain in 1551 and Louis soon became confessor to Queen Catherine of Portugal, sister of Charles V. During this period he began to write in earnest, and between 1554 and 1559 he published 12 books. In April of 1556 he was elected provincial of Portugal. Later he was offered the archbishopric of Braga, which carried with it the title of primate of Portugal, but he refused the honor and arranged that it be given to Bartholomew de los Mártires. In 1559, through the efforts of Melchior cano, books by Louis and his former professor, Carranza, later archbishop of Toledo, were placed on the Index. The books were subsequently approved by Pius IV and in 1562 the chapter of the Dominican Order conferred on Louis the title of master of sacred theology. In his later years, afflicted with failing health and partial blindness, Louis was unwillingly involved in court intrigues in Lisbon. He settled the dispute between Don Sebastian and Queen Catherine in 1568. Shortly thereafter, his book on prayer was again brought before the Spanish Inquisition, but for a second time Louis was exonerated. Queen Catherine died in 1568, and Don Sebastian was killed in battle that same year.

Although the aged cardinal, who had been Louis' penitent, was the successor to the Portuguese throne, the nobility demanded that he abdicate or obtain permission to marry and thus provide a successor. Three pretenders claimed the throne: Catherine of Braganza; Anthony, the natural son of the Infante Louis; and Philip II of Spain. As soon as the cardinal died, Anthony claimed the throne and Philip II sent the duke of Alba to conquer Portugal. A false papal brief was sent to Louis, appointing him vicar provincial, and this action resulted in placing him in disfavor with Philip II. The king pardoned him, however, when he learned of the fraudulence of the document. Another source of distress for Louis was a Dominican nun of Lisbon, Sor Maria de la Visitación, who claimed to have received the stigmata on March 7, 1584. Her statement was accepted by the Inquisition, the master general of the Dominican Order, and even by GregoryXIII. Louis was told to write her biography, which he compiled from documents provided him by the nun and her confessor. But when in 1588 it was discovered that the case involved fraud or delusion, the scandal was the occasion of Louis's last sermon, in which he spoke upon the theme of sinners in public life.

Louis has enjoyed fame as a spiritual writer and especially for his doctrine on the practice of prayer. He was one of the first ascetical writers to formulate a method of prayer for the laity. He used as his sources Sacred Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, Thomistic theology, St. Catherine of Siena, Savonarola, Bautista de Crema, and the spiritual writers of the Rhineland, especially Tauler. Granada's doctrine was primarily Christocentric, and his spiritual methods were seven: the practice of prayer, cultivation of virtue, contempt for the world, contemplation of God in nature, the practice of mortification, obedience to the Commandments and use of the Sacraments, and imitation of the saints. Granada emphasized throughout his writings that all Christians are called to become Christlike and to strive for perfection, and on this point he was condemned by Melchior Cano and the Inquisition. His works are noted for their literary quality. They have been translated into many languages and can be found in every land. The saints who were influenced by his teaching include Charles Borromeo, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus Liguori, Rose of Lima, Teresa of Avila, Louise de Marillac, and Vincent de Paul.

The most important and most widely diffused works of Louis of Granada are Libro de la oración y meditación (1544; definitive text, 1566); Guía de pecadores (1567); Memorial de la vida cristiana (1565); Adiciones al memorial (1574); lntroducción del símbolo de la fe (1583).

Bibliography: e. a. peers, Studies of the Spanish Mystics, 2v. (New York 192730) 1:3176. l. de granada, Summa of the Christian Life, tr. j. aumann, 3 v. (St. Louis 195458) 1:xviixxxvii. r. l. oechslin, Louis of Granada (St. Louis 1962). a. huerga, "Ascetical Methods of Louis of Granada," Cross and Crown 3 (1951): 7291.

[j. aumann]