Denis the Carthusian was born Denis van Leeuven c. 1402 at Rycel in Belgian Limburg. He studied first at the school of St Troud and at thirteen moved on to a higher school at Zwolle. At eighteen he offered himself to the Carthusian monastery of Roermond, near Liege. Being under the statutory age, he was advised by the Prior to study for his masterate and return when qualified. Denis then proceeded to the University of Cologne and gained his degree at the age of twenty-one. Almost immediately this devout and gifted young man plunged himself into the Carthusian routine of prayer and study.
It was his mission to found and rule a new Carthusian foundation at Bois-le-duc. After a very few years Denis, who had once been able to boast of a body of iron and stomach of steel returned home, a very sick man, to Roermond. Here he died in 1471 leaving a legacy of one hundred and eighty seven volumes. Immensely popular for long after his death, his books were published at Cologne after 1530 and formed a kind of encyclopedia for the pioneers of the Counter Reformation.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit, is a compilation of what had already been said on the subject by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church as well as many other eminent theologians, among them Greek philosophers. This book consists of four tracts. In the first we have a general discussion of the gifts; in the second we have the gifts of wisdom and understanding; in the third we have counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord. The fourth tract, Denis himself tells us, was added after a period of sixteen years, in which he read and garnered considerably more material. this final tract is intriguing for the reader and is subject to much debate and disagreement among theologians, who are not in total agreement about its meaning.
Sr íde Ní Riain