Duns Scotus

Scholars are not clear as to the birth date of Duns Scotus. And suggest that it was between December 1265 and March 1266, but the place was Duns Berwickshire – hence the name John Duns, the Scotsman.

He probably entered the Franciscan order in Dumfries, and as a friar was sent to study at the university of Oxford. There he proved to be an excellent scholar, and eventually lectured there. In October 1302 he began lecturing in Paris. The following year, however, he and other friars were ordered by royal commissioners to leave France, because they had sided with Pope Boniface V111 in a dispute with King Philip 1V. The King wanted to organise a Council to depose the Pope. John may have gone to Cambridge or back to Oxford. In 1304, after the death of Pope Boniface and the election of a new Pope, who made peace with the French king, the friars were allowed back into France. John returned to Paris and lectured there.

From October 1307, John was lecturing at the Franciscan House of Studies in Cologne. He died there on 8th November 1308, and he is buried in the Franciscan church. On his tomb are the words: Scotia me genuit, Anglia me suscepit, Gallia me docuit. Colonia me tenet.

(Scotland bore me, England received me, France taught me, Cologne holds me).

After his death, John was venerated in the Franciscan order for his holiness, and Pope John Paul 11 declared him Blessed for all the church to honour in 1993. He is a Doctor of the Church, with the title the “Subtle Doctor”.

Scotus is honoured as the theologian of the Immaculate Conception.. Mary, a human like ourselves, needed to be redeemed from original sin as well as we all did. Scotus argued that Mary was preserved from sin from the moment of her conception by the forseen merits of her Son’s death on the Cross.

a hymn: Blessed John Duns Scotus

This hymn was written for celebrations during the 7th centenary year of Blessed John Duns Scotus and was used at the services which marked the opening and the closing of that year in Scotus College, Bearsden. It was also used at the conclusion of the Cantata ‘Scotus’ which took place in St Mary’s Church, Calton, Glasgow with some 20 primary schools and instrumentalists. The hymn had two aims: one was to give a devotional tool to people at prayer, and the 2nd was to provide information about one of Scotland’s most distinguished sons. The 3rd verse can be heard in this recording very kindly made by Carissa Bovil to help schoolvhildren prepare for the Cantata. Words (c) Stephen Eric Smyth. Music (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick


John Duns Scotus, son of Scotland,

Click on score for printable version

Click on score for printable version

England, France and Germany;
Known and loved across the nations,
this is how we all should be.
John, Franciscan, theologian,
teacher of philosophy,
‘Subtle Doctor’ using logic
as he sought to help us see.

God’s will and our human freedom
are the keys to understand:
It is love that is the essence,
all creation shows God’s hand.
John Duns Scotus, monk and scholar,
thought beyond old boundaries.
Faith and logic, love and wisdom,
bless us with such gifts as these.

Europe of the Middle Ages
may now seem a dusty page,
Yet the quest for God and meaning
is as fresh in our own age.
John saw clear the role of Mary,
‘Jesus’ Mother’ without sin,
She was born so, out of God’s will,
through the grace of Christ our King.

Mass texts for Blessed John Duns Scotus

Opening Prayer
Lord God, source of all wisdom,
in Blessed John Duns Scotus,
priest and champion of the Immaculate Virgin,
you have given us a master of life and thought.
Grant that enlightened by his example
and nourished by his doctrine,
we may remain faithful followers of Christ,
who lives and reigns

Prayer over the gifts

All powerful God,
look upon the gifts we bring on this feast
in honour of Blessed John Duns Scotus.
May we who celebrate the mystery of the death of the Lord
imitate the love we celebrate.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion

All powerful God,
may we who are strengthened by the power of these sacraments
learn from the example of Blessed John Duns Scotus
to seek you above all things
and to live in this world as your new creation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.