Jacapone da Todi vs. Ives of Kermartin

Today Jacapone da Todi squares off against Ives of Kermartin. Two lawyers in the same matchup? Who knew lawyers were even eligible for sainthood?! Will there be a legal landslide? Or will one of these attorneys be ruled out of order? In 24 hours we'll announce the verdict.

Yesterday, despite a strong showing by Henriette Delille, Absalom Jones got past her 54% to 46% to make it to the Saintly Sixteen, where he'll face Marianne Cope.

And if you've ever wondered about how the annual Lent Madness bracket is formulated, you won't want to miss yesterday's exciting episode of Monday Madness. Now go vote!

Jacapone da Todi
All the world is a stage, and God needs the highly dramatic to play a part. God found this person in Jacopone da Todi. Born around 1230 into a noble family, Jacomo became a successful lawyer and married a deeply religious woman. Jacomo was anything but deeply religious, instead concerned with attaining all the wealth he could, regardless of the human cost. His wife decided to atone for his sins by fasting and wearing clothing to signify her penance for his sins. She was killed in a tragic accident, and when Jacomo discovered his wife’s penitential practices on his behalf, he was shaken and stirred to focus his life on following God.

Following her death, he gave away all his possessions to the poor and entered a Franciscan Order as a layman and a wandering ascetic for almost a decade. During this time, Jacomo had some rather unusual prayer practices, including wearing a saddle, crawling on all fours, and appearing at a wedding tarred and feathered. Not surprisingly, he began to be known by the name Jacopone, which means “crazy Jim/James.”

Jacopone, a name he embraced, sought to be admitted to the Friars Minor, but given his reputation, they were cautious. In response, Jacopone composed a beautiful poem about the vanities of the world. His use of language, particularly in the vernacular of his region, not only led to his admission to the order in 1278, but he also left a legacy of elegant, prayerful language that remains with us today. He used his poetry to capture sorrow, condemn church corruption, call out kings and clergy for ignoring the welfare of the common people, and inspire the faithful.

Jacopone continued to be controversial and dramatic, managing to get himself excommunicated and imprisoned for being on the losing side of a reformation movement within the Franciscans. During his imprisonment, he composed the famous Latin Stabat Mater Dolorosa, a hymn that gives voice to Mary as she witnesses her son Jesus’ crucifixion, and is often sung on Good Friday in many Christian traditions.

At the end of his life, Jacopone retired to a convent of the Poor Clares. On Christmas Eve, in 1306, Jacopone sang a Christmas hymn, listened to the priest chant the Gloria at the beginning of midnight mass, and died.

Collect for Jacapone da Todi
O God, whose blessed Son became poor that we through his poverty might be rich: Deliver us from an inordinate love of this world, that we, inspired by the devotion of your servant Jacapone, may serve you with singleness of heart, and attain to the riches of the age to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—Laurie Brock

Ives of Kermartin
Ives lived, worked, and ministered in the thirtheenth century. As such, he could not have possibly known that he would have a lasting impact on the world, but he did, as evidenced by his nickname, Advocate of the Poor.

Ives is also known as Yves, Ivo, Yvo, Yves, Erwan, Iwan, Youenn, Eozenn, and Saint Ivo of Kermartin. He was a French priest and an important assistant to the bishop. He was also a lawyer, where he made his eternal mark.

Ives was born on October 17, 1253, in Brittany, France, the son of the lord of nearby Kermartin. After studying scripture, he was ordained in 1284 and served as a parish priest in Trédrez and Louannec, France. Ives studied civil law at the prestigious University of Paris and continued his education by studying canon law. He was known to lead a spartan life during his university years, focusing on learning, praying, and visiting the sick. Among his fellow students and colleagues was the great philosopher Roger Bacon.

Ives was tireless in his ministry of law. His life’s work was based on fairness, justice, providing dignity, and respecting the rights of all people, whether poor or rich, young or old, man or woman. He earned his title “Advocate of the Poor” for his defense of widows, orphans, and the poor.

Ives’s dedicated ministry sparked his appointment to the bishop’s staff, becoming an ecclesiastical judge while continuing his defense of poor people. Following a long career dedicated to both civil and church law, he died in 1303. Pope Clement VI canonized Ives in 1347. His feast is celebrated on May 19.

Ives is the patron saint of attorneys, legal professionals, paralegals, advocates, abandoned children, and the Brittany region in France. The honors live on, with numerous law schools and lawyers’ associations named for Saint Ives. He is often depicted with a money bag in his right hand, representing the assets he gave to the poor, and a scroll, signifying the law, in the other.

On his 700th birthday, Ives was honored with a tribute from Pope John Paul II: “The values proposed by Saint Ivo retain an astonishing timeliness. His concern to promote impartial justice and to defend the rights of the poorest persons invite the builders of Europe today to make every effort to ensure that the rights of all, especially the weakest, are recognized and defended.”

Collect for Ives of Kermartin
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Ives special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant that by this teaching, we may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Neva Rae Fox


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Jacapone da Todi: By Paolo Uccello - The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=159867)
Ives of Kermartin: Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden / Public domain


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116 comments on “Jacapone da Todi vs. Ives of Kermartin”

  1. A remarkable man was St. Ives
    (not the fellow who had seven wives).
    It was said everywhere
    That his verdicts most fair
    Brought some justice to fellow-men’s lives.

    1. Yes, Ms. Fox, there still are some good, compassionate lawyers out there, and my son is one of them. I would have voted for Ives, but the Vote button wasn't there. Sigh!

  2. Gotta go with the composer of Stabat Mater Dolorosa -- I'm thinking, Good Friday, Stations of the Cross. Another "miss" this year. #Covid

  3. Just curious about the anachronism ... on the 700th birthday of Ives, the pope would not have been John Paul II.

    1. I googled: It was John Paul II, but in 2003, for the 750th anniversary of Ivo's birth. But numerous RC sources (all derived from the same math-challenged Q source, no doubt) erroneously refer to his 700th birthday.

      1. Nice catch, Paul! You have detected an error in the Wikipedia entry for Ives of Kermartin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivo_of_Kermartin) that was repeated in the saint's writeup.

        The source cited in the Wikipedia article is John Paul II's 5/13/2003 message to the bishop of Saint-Trieuc and Tréguier, which begins: "On 19 May 2003, the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier celebrates the seventh centenary of the dies natalis of Ivo Hélory of Kermartin, a son of Brittany." (http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2003/may/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20030519_bishop-fruchaud.html)

        The phrase "dies natalis" can be literally translated as "date of birth", but it is also used to mean "feast day" or "birth into heaven day", i.e. date of death. St. Ives' death was on 5/19/1303, so the 700th anniversary of his dies natalis would indeed be 5/19/2003.

        As discoverer, you may correct the Wikipedia article on Ives if you wish.

    2. Nice catch, Paul. You have detected an error in the Wikipedia entry for Ives of Kermartin that was repeated in the saint's writeup.

      The source cited in the Wikipedia article is John Paul II's 5/13/2003 message to the bishop of Saint-Trieuc and Tréguier, which begins: "On 19 May 2003, the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier celebrates the seventh centenary of the dies natalis of Ivo Hélory of Kermartin, a son of Brittany."

      The phrase "dies natalis" can be literally translated as "date of birth", but it is also used to mean "feast day" or "birth into heaven day", i.e. date of death. St. Ives' death was on 5/19/1303, so the 700th anniversary of his dies natalis would indeed be 5/19/2003.

      1. Arghhh…
        Sorry for the near-duplicate reply; the first post was marked "held for moderation" (its apparent sin: containing two URLs). When it disappeared altogether, I pruned it and reposted.

  4. As a retired lawyer I felt compelled to vote for Ives. Unlike the admittedly more colorful Jacapone, Ives continued to exercise his profession in the service of widows, orphans and the poor.

  5. Although a bit of a drama queen myself, the thought of a man who tirelessly and quietly works for justice for all was very appealing. I vote Ives.

  6. For a man whose name has many variations, he managed to bring his faith to life.

  7. I was leaning towards Jacapone, though I'm put off by zealots, simply because I love that hymn. But then I read about Ives and went with him instead because he was at University of Paris in the 14th century and, if we're choosing between two lawyers, I voted for the better one. (Plus he was a legal Aid lawyer.... gotta give them props)

    1. Jacapone lost me at wearing a saddle and walking on all fours as a prayer practice.

    2. The University of Bologna is even older than that of Paris, and was in the Middle Ages probably *the* most prestigious school for both civil and canon law in all of Europe (Paris didn’t formally offer civil law until the 1600s, I think.) So Jacopone was no slouch!

  8. A male saint who retired in a convent? My, what a year it's been.

    Gotta vote with the social justice lawyer today.

  9. I'm so tempted to vote for Jacapone da Todi, who after experiencing wealth and power, gave away all his wealth, lived to praise God, and penned the magnificant Stabat Mater which great musicians have put to music. Ives of Kermartin however gets my vote as a man who worked tirelessly for the poor, pursuing justice, mercy, dignity for all. We need his guidance today.

  10. I'm a choral singer, so my vote goes to the saint who wrote the deeply emotional hymn about the grieving mother that has been set to glorious music by Dvorak, Pergolesi and many others.

    1. Choir singer, here, too -- and started singing Pergolesi Stabat Mater in fourth grade at St. James Birmingham, MI. Nonetheless I had to go with Ives and social justice.

  11. Ives, because he continued to serve as a lawyer. My church suffered three arson attacks last year. Despite arresting a suspect, there has been no prosecution. It seems there are no victim advocates when the victim is an entire congregation. Ives all the way for his pursuit of justice and the patron saint of advocates.

  12. St Ives' 700th birthday would have been in 1953. Pope John Paul II was not pope then. He was pope in 2003 on the 700th anniversary of St. Ives' death.

  13. Ives got my vote! He worked tirelessly through his life, and the courts were the only way to get justice! And he the patron saint of abandoned babies... does that sound like the ultimate in saintlyness?!?

  14. I shall vote for Ives in honour of Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative eji.org, where the spirit of Ives lives on powerfully!

    1. What a wonderful thought. I join you in this tribute. Bryan Stevenson carries on the tradition admirably.

  15. I voted for Jacopone da Todi for several reasons not entirely emphasized in today's brief biography. Jacopone was among the handful of Franciscans to remain true to Francis of Assisi's witness of poverty and humility. Francis, as we know, being one of the few Christians ever to follow Jesus's words and example to give up all your wealth and be a servant-minister. For that he and many of the "Spiritualists" were persecuted by the church hierarchy, including some of Francis's original companions. Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned in a dungeon and it's likely this imprisonment that led to his death shortly thereafter. He was a poet and along with the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, the equally stunning Stabat Mater Speciosa is attributed to him. It's one of the most powerful Christmas poems/carols you'll ever encounter: https://stabatmater.info/stabat-mater-translations-and-languages/stabat-mater-speciosa-latin-text/. English mystic Evelyn Underhill felt so in sync with Jacopone's mysticism that she wrote a biography of him: https://www.forgottenbooks.com/en/books/JacoponeDaTodiPoetandMystic12281306_10531254. As you all likely know, in the last 5 or so years of his life, Francis lost control of his own order to a growing faction that wanted to claim his sanctity without truly following his example. Jacopone was born 4 years after Francis's death. I honor him for reversing course in his pursuit of wealth and power (like Francis himself, who gave up the life of a wealthy merchant/wealthy merchant's son), walking in Francis's footsteps despite persecution (some were even burned as heretic's), being a mystic, and writing the most powerful meditation on the Nativity I have yet to read.

    1. Thank you, Gaen - I was leaning toward St. Ives, but this swayed me. I'm a choral singer at St. Francis Episcopal (at least, I was and expect to be again post-pandemic) - and these two things helped me decide to vote for Jacopone, though St. Ives' example is compelling. Besides - I love a Holy Fool!

    2. Today we vote for St. Ives
      whose work for the poor we believe
      upheld discarded kids,
      to pro quos refused quids,
      an avocat the match of any English reeve.

        1. But what about, “As I was going to St. Ives?” I met a man with seven Weeve? A puzzle.

          1. As I was going to St. Ives,
            I met a man with a seven-page c.v.
            He was applying for teaching jobs and buying beehives
            in order to support so many wives,
            feeding them honeycomb and steak from his herd of beeves.

    3. Wow, thank you, Gaen. I voted for Ives, but now you've inspired me to go break open my Evelyn Underhill texts and listen to the Stabat Mater. I was drawn to Jacopone's gift for poetry.

    4. I am finding the bios just a bare beginning at finding out about the saints in the bracket. So many people are so good at and motivated to dig even deeper that it is a blessing. Thank you Gaen for expanding so well on Jacopone. As a lover of words and music, I felt drawn to him at once. You have given me further blessing to feel comfortable with my choice. I shall have to listen to Stabat Mater Dolorosa at lunch today.

    5. I looked up the text to Stabat Mater Dolorosa
      ten prayed with the Stations of the Cross at Lent.

      At the cross her station keeping,
      Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
      Close to Jesus to the last.

      Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
      All His bitter anguish bearing,
      Now at length the sword had passed.

      Oh, how sad and sore distressed
      Was that Mother highly blest,
      Of the sole begotten One!

      Christ above in torment hangs.
      She beneath beholds the pangs
      Of her dying glorious Son.

      Is there one who would not weep,
      Whelmed in miseries so deep,
      Christ's dear Mother to behold?

      Can the human heart refrain
      From partaking in her pain,
      In that Mother's pain untold?

      Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
      She beheld her tender Child,
      All with bloody scourges rent.

      For the sins of His own nation,
      Saw Him hang in desolation
      Till His spirit forth He sent.

      O thou Mother: fount of love!
      Touch my spirit from above,
      Make my heart with thine accord.

      Make me feel as thou hast felt;
      Make my soul to glow and melt
      With the love of Christ my Lord.

      Holy Mother, pierce me through;
      In my heart each wound renew
      Of my Savior crucified.

      Let me share with thee His pain,
      Who for all my sins was slain,
      Who for me in torment died.

      Let me mingle tears with thee,
      Mourning Him who mourned for me,
      All the days that I may live.

      By the Cross with thee to stay;
      There with thee to weep and pray,
      Is all I ask of thee to give.

      Virgin of all virgins best,
      Listen to my fond request:
      Let me share thy grief divine.

      Let me to my latest breath,
      In my body bear the death
      Of that dying Son of thine.

      Wounded with His every wound,
      Steep my soul till it hath swooned
      In His very blood away.

      Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
      Lest in flames I burn and die,
      In His awful Judgment day.

      Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
      Be Thy Mother my defense,
      Be Thy Cross my victory.

      While my body here decays,
      May my soul Thy goodness praise,
      Safe in Paradise with Thee. Amen.

    1. Am I the only one who caught “shaken AND stirred” in Jacopone’s bio? He gets my vote as well, although it sounds like Ives will move on.

  16. Forgot this bit on Jacopone, apologies. As for the saddle wearing and "craziness" -- Francis called on his followers to be Jugglers of God (the word jongleur being variously interpreted in the many biographies). And Francis himself did some crazy-sounding things -- but used them to speak honestly and get people to reckon with how they were truly living.

  17. I also was first going for Crazy James, but upon reflection realized Ives is a steadfast faithful saint who deserves honor and is an inspiration. Instead of causing conflict, he aided both the high and the lowly.

  18. Had to go for Ives. It seems to me that Jacopone's wife is the one who should be considered the saint.

  19. I like the poetry, but Ives is an example for our times. In honor of the child benefit included in the COVID relief bill due to be enacted today, I voted for him.

    A little housekeeping: Ives’s adversary was named “Jacopo”and nicknamed “Jacopone” which I believe, though with less certainty, means “Big Jim.” “-one” is a common Italian augmentative suffix. My favorite example is that first there was the viol (viola), then the little viol (violino), then the big viol or double bass (violone), and finally the little big viol (violoncello), which in English is usually shortened to “’cello.” It would be like referring to a piglet as a “’let,”. Italian has many such suffixes, with all kinds of meanings.

    Thank you, dear readers, for allowing my alter ego, Word Nerd, to get this off his chest.

    1. As a fellow Word Nerd, I feel compelled to point out that "Ives" rhymes with "sleeve" and not "wives." That opens up a whole new opportunity for limericks, no?

      1. As I was going to St. Yves
        I met a man with seven sleeves...

        Nope, not the same. Even if he had seven cats up each sleeve.

        1. As I was going to St. Ives,
          I met a man who knew how to weave;
          he wove warm sleeves for the poor
          causing Cornish cats to be dour;
          plush fibres out of claws' reach, they could only grieve.

    2. I had had the same question about the "one" suffix so I asked my husband, who is fluent in multiple Romance languages, including Italian, who tells me that while the "one" more literally means big (sort of similar to Spanish I think) it also can be used for "awkward" "ugly" "crazy" etc. . . .

  20. I’m loving the recognition of the saintliness of which the mentally ill are capable.

  21. Bryan Stevenson is a "Holy man". I hope he makes it to the Lent Madness bracket some day.