Fr. Vincent Jandel, O.P.

Father Vincent Jandel, O.P. was born in France, nearby Nancy, in 1810. At baptism he received the name of Alexandre. From early childhood he was characterized by great intelligence and resolve, especially for holiness. In a way his attitude should not surprise. Being a son of a courageous mother who during French Revolution did not hesitate to succor persecuted and frequently executed priests, he imitated the saintly model at hand. When Alexandre was six, he was a harsh judge on himself as he used to self-impose penance for actions that only he knew about. Asked by his mother why he had condemned himself so severely since no one had seen him do anything wrong, he replied: “The Almighty God has seen.”

Such a great moral sensitivity was confirmed in his later years during priestly formation in Nancy. As a seminarian, he excelled in scrupulous living out by seminary rules. It was not an easy task though because he never enjoyed good health. His colleagues testify that he daringly imitated saints were matters of love, not empty rules, were at stake. In 1830 all seminaries in France closed down. To continue his theological education, Alexandre moved to Switzerland only to be ordered four years later. A young priest, he was considered a model of sanctity and learning, thus he became a lecturer of Scriptures in the newly reopened seminary at Pont-à-Mousson .

Recognizing vocation to religious life, Fr. Jandel had to discern between Jesuits and Dominicans. Eventually he decided on the latter ones greatly influenced by the fiery preaching of Fr. Jean-Baptiste-Henri Dominique Lacordaire, O.P. It was under his auspices that in 1840 a group of young French brothers started preparations for entrance to the Order in the convent of St. Sabina in Rome. A year later brothers received white habits and new names. Since that point on, Alexandre would be known as Br. Vincent, O.P. Starting in 1843, he undertook the duty of a prior in several newly established convents in France. Their strict observance can be exemplified by a letter from Fr. Lacordaire, the immediate superior of Fr. Jandel. In the letter we read about the reprimand received for agreeing to preach retreats to clergy of Lyon without prior permission of his superior. In 1849 Fr. Jandel becomes lecturer of the convent in Paris.

The breaking point in his life coincided with the nomination to the office of vicar general of the Order of Preachers which occurred through the direct intervention, more so, appointment by Pius IX in 1850. The Pope foresaw in Fr. Jandel a reviver of the entire Order as its situation was lamentable. Only with minor exceptions, there were no sisters or brothers who would follow rules of the Dominican life. Likewise, penance and mortification became a figment of imagination. Fr. Jandel faced this challenge in the midst of an intensifying vocational and material crisis of the Order. The new vicar was very much aware that true revival can come but in no other way than from renewed faithfulness and eagerness on the path delineated by St. Dominic.

In his letters to brothers he highlighted that only faithfulness to the rule and to the vocation of a religious guaranteed apostolic fruitfulness. He refuted arguments that faithfulness to both was impossible in the contemporary world. To the contrary. He proved that the world of rationalism and atheism was desperate for true witnesses of fidelity and zeal. Slowly, but surely, brothers were succumbing to his leadership. The battle for spiritual revival of the Order did not slip the attention of the Pope. In 1855 he nominates Fr. Vincent Jandel, O.P. the General of the Order of Preachers soon to be busy with canonical visitations.

One of the very first trips during his term was the visitation of the Galician province. It was exactly then when he met teenage Rose Bialecka and immediately spotted in her a precursor of revival amongst contemplative-active branches of Dominican women on Polish soil. Rose heard clearly the will of God in Fr. Jandel’s vision. This is why today we celebrate the spiritual birth of the Congregation on July 2, the day of their historic encounter in the sacristy in Pidkamin.

The papal appointment of 1855 was seven years later confirmed by brothers themselves during the General Chapter of 1862. This year Fr. Vincent Jandel, O.P. was elected the 73rd Mater General of the Order so to say running away from the dignity of a cardinal. What truly drew brothers to reform was not so much preaching, requests, and penances imposed on them, but rather his unfailing testimony of a transformed life. When he called brothers to silence, he exemplified how to concentrate on God’s affairs throughout the day. Preaching about fasting, he showed what it meant practically during his canonical visitations. He always ate what all the brothers did disallowing any attempts of special treatment. Till the very end of his life he tirelessly fought for the cause of the return to roots, that is, to faithfulness to the primitive rules in daily life. Thanks to his determination, he managed to place the dam against laxity and secularization threatening the destruction of the Order from the inside.

Maligned by some, praised by others, Fr. Vincent Jandel, O.P. died on December 11, 1872 in Rome.