By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Friend of Thomas More & Erasmus Gives Advice

Bruges (Belgium): bust of the humanist Juan Lu...Image via Wikipedia
    Bust of Vives, Bruges, Belgium
That friend is the Spaniard Juan Luis Vives (1492-1540), who was also hired by Henry VIII of England to be the tutor of the future Queen Mary (daughter of Henry's Spanish wife Catherine of Aragon) and who was a professor at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (For a fuller biography, see this link and this link.)

Henry beheaded Thomas More for opposing his treatment of Catherine; Vives, as a Spaniard who also opposed Henry on the matter of the marriage, was exiled to Belgium. Vives was also a professor at Louvain. He was a friend of More and also of Erasmus.

Yet, Vives was also alienated from his native Spain--his father and other relatives were executed by the Inquisition for suspicion of secretly practicing Judaism; this tragedy is just one example why Pope John Paul II was determined to apologize for the acts of some Catholics in our long history, as we entered this new century.

 Vives, among other works, wrote a series of short proverbs collected in a book called Introduction to Wisdom (Introducción a la Sabiduría) published in Louvain in 1524. Here are some of his pieces of wisdom for your enjoyment (the numbering follows that of a book published in Spanish in Buenos Aires in 1960 and translated from the Latin by Lorenzo Riber; the English translation from the Spanish is my own):

  36. What else is life but a certain pilgrimage, on all sides fenced in by disasters and assaulted by a thousand fortuities, in which, in each moment, its end is apparent and the end can take place at any hour due to very trivial causes? 


51. It is insanity to brag about having a good father [or ancestor], if you are evil and with your bad deeds you put a stain and blemish on your noble lineage. 


79. Despising, then, the approbation of the vulgar, hold as the greatest of evils not poverty or a poor lineage, or prison, or nakedness, or disgrace, or physical deformity, or sickness, or weakness, but rather the vices and their consequences, ignorance, stupidity, and madness. 


193. It would be very good if each night, a little before you go to bed, sitting alone in a chair, without anyone else present, you recall all that you have seen, read, heard, and done on that day. 


209. So much diligence is applied to the care of the body, yet how much more should we take care of the soul, since its ailments are more hidden, more serious, more dangerous.
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