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Heinrich von Ahaus

Founder of the Brethren of the Common Life in Germany, b. in 1371; d. at Munster, 1439

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Heinrich von Ahaus (HENDRIK VAN AHUIS), founder of the Brethren of the Common Life in Germany, b. in 1371, the natural son of Ludolf, Lord of the principality of Ahaus, and Hadwigis of Schoppingen; d. at Munster, 1439. About 1396 he joined the Brethren of the Common Life at Deventer, where personal intercourse with the companions of the founder, especially Florentius Radewyns, thoroughly acquainted him with the spirit and methods of the congregation, then in its first fervor. It is probable that during the plague of 1398 he left Deventer for Amersfort with Florentius, on whose death he returned to his native Munster to establish a community there. In any case the records at Munster point to 1400 as the date of foundation. The benefactions of his family enabled Heinrich to provide generously for the new community, and in 1429 to establish it on his family estate of Springbrunnen (Ad fontem salientem), where he and his companions, besides continuing their missionary work in the diocese, applied themselves to the copying of MS. Heinrich also founded houses of the congregation at Cologne (1416), Wesel (1435), and Osnabruck, and communities of sisters at Borcken, Kosfeld, Lippstadt, Wesel, and Bodeken, laboring all the while in the face of continuous opposition from both priests and laymen. He accompanied Johann Vos of Huesden, rector of Windesheim, to the Council of Constance, to refute the charges lodged against the Brethren by the Dominican, Matthaus Grabow, and of which they were triumphantly cleared. In 1428 he inaugurated the union of the Munster and Cologne houses, which was sanctioned by papal decree, a few months after his death, and joined in 1441 by the house at Wesel. Heinrich’s influence was incalculable, in connection with the training and reform of the clergy, the cause of education, the spread of religious literature, and the advancement of the spiritual life among the masses of the German people.



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