Avignon, Bibliothèque municipale, 344, a volume of devotional material including works by Jean Gerson and Pierre d’Ailly, was once in the library of the Celestines of Avignon. The first part of the manuscript, comprising the Dyalogue and the Visio Philiberti, was copied in the first half of the 15th c.


Cest livre est appellé le Dialogue
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DPF Prologue: (Prologue)
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Q. n/a

A. Here’s everything you need to know for salvation.

DPF 01: (Introduction to baptism and belief)
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Q. n/a

A. People used to be baptized as adults, but now they’re baptized as infants. Two things are required for salvation: 1) baptism, and 2) faith. Godparents guarantee that their godchildren will believe properly, though they fall short in this today.  When children come of age, they need to have faith in their hearts and demonstrate that faith in word and deed. What do you think about the state of the world?

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DPF 02: Why does God say he won't recognize some people on Judgment Day?
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Q. How could an omniscient God fail to recognize people on Judgment Day?

A. You can’t understand Scripture without learning and studying. It uses figurative language. On Judgment Day, God will say to the damned that he doesn’t recognize them because he will treat them as if they were strangers and send them to hell.

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DPF 03: Why are you damned for sinning out of ignorance?
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Q. Why does a merciful God condemn those who sin out of ignorance?

M. There are three types of ignorant person: 1) the scornful who refuse to learn (damned); 2) the unfortunate who lack the opportunity to learn (damned); and 3) the insane, who pay penance for Adam’s sin (saved).

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DPF 04: Why is there so much suffering in the world?
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Q. Why are there so many trials and tribulations in life? Even nice things lead to suffering. Good people suffer when then wicked prosper. And we constantly fear there’s worse to come, in this world and the next.

A. I’m glad you’re aware of all this adversity. As a result of the Fall, we live in this world like prisoners, unable to understand suffering fully because our cell is so dark. Some people prosper to encourage them to serve God; others as a reward for the good they’ve done before they go to hell. People suffer for 5 reasons: 1) so that God may be glorified when he rescues them; 2) to test them; 3) as a deterrant; 4) as penance; 5) as a foretaste of hell-pains.

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DPF 05: Did God create creepycrawlies?
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Q. It must have been the devil who created creepycrawlies.

A. This is an old wives’s tale. If you believe there’s more than one God, you’re worse than Jews or pagans. Animals were made for Adam, but some went bad after the Fall. Adam wasn’t obedient, so not all animals obey him.

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DPF 06: How can I avoid going to hell?
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Q. How can I avoid the fires of hell?

A. First, you need to understand the difference between thinking (cuidier), knowing (savoir) and believing (cresre). God rewards belief because it is a sign of obedience. The first thing to believe is that God is three persons in one.

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DPF 07: How can God have three Persons?
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Q. How can God be three Persons in one?

A. You can’t fully understand the Trinity; it’s a matter of faith. But it is (sort of) analogous to the sun, with its heat, light and substance (sustance). Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct, but consubstantial and equal.

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DPF 08: How can one of the Persons exist as soon as another? And how could God not have human form?
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Q. There are two marvels here. 1) How can one of the Persons exist as soon as another? And 2) how can God not have human form when Isaiah saw him in the form of a man?

A. In response to 1), light has existed as long as the sun has, yet the former is born from the latter. In response to 2), God has never been seen directly in this world (even by Moses). When angels appear to people, they make bodies and clothes out of air.

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DPF 09: (Belief in Christ)
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Q. I agree.

A. You also need to believe that Christ was the Son of God, born to the Virgin, was crucified, descended to hell, was resurrected and ascended into heaven. As man is body and soul, so Christ was God, body and soul.

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DPF 10: (More knowledge, please!)
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Q. I know faith is important, but could you give more of an explanation about the nature of Christ?

A. Would my thoughts be visible if I wrote them down?

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DPF 12: (Word made flesh)
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Q. No, erasing what you’d written wouldn’t destroy your thoughts.

A. God became visible (like writing) in Christ, but that doesn’t mean he was any less in heaven than before. And when Christ’s humanity died, that doesn’t mean the deity died.

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DPF 13: Why were we redeemed by Christ rather than anyone else?
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Q. Why were we redeemed by Christ rather than by anyone else?

A. Christ could reconcile God and man because he was both. God is merciful, but he’s also just, so penance had to be paid for Adam’s sin. The devil entered Judas and the Jews and Christ was (willingly) killed. Because the devil tried to lay hands on Christ, he lost his rights over man.

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DPF 14: Why won't everyone be saved?
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Q. Why won’t everyone be saved?

A. Christ only died for those who choose to spurn the devil and (freely) turn to God.

DPF 15: Aren't some people forced to do good or evil by another?
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Q. Surely lots of people are forced to do good or evil by another.

A. It was man’s spirit, not his body, that was made in God’s image. We consent in our minds (corage) to do good or evil.

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DPF 16: Does it matter if you're forced to sin?
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Q. Does it matter, then, if you are forced to commit a sin that you don’t agree with?

A. Yes, it does matter. If the king orders you to commit a sin, you shouldn’t consent even to save your life. Consenting is sinning. But a monk benefits from being commanded to do good by his abbot, because he always consents to some extent.

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DPF 17: Should you force people to do good?
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Q. Is it worth forcing people to do good?

A. You should, because it hinders the wicked and it’s always useful to get into good habits.

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DPF 18: Can children, the insane or drunkards sin?
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Q. How can those who aren’t in their right minds, such as children, the insane or drunkards, intend to do good or evil?

A. The insane and children don’t sin, but drunkards do (gluttony). Now back to our subject: after Christ’s Ascension, the Holy Spirit descended on Christ’s disciples.

DPF 19: What was wrong with the Old Law?
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Q. If God had already given his Law to Moses, why did he give another one? What was wrong with the first?

A. The Old Law was like a painter’s sketch. The Jews made sacrifices to God, prefiguring Christ’s sacrifice. Moses instructed his followers to circumcise their hearts and heads, but this means that we should curtail our desires and our pride.

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DPF 20: Was there any virtue in following the Old Law?
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Q. If the Old Law prefigured the New, was there any virtue in following it?

A. Yes, until the painting covered the sketch.

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DPF 21: What is the value of baptism?
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Q. What is the value of baptism?

A. Baptism is so powerful that it cleanses even the most heinous of sinners. Children are saved by the faith of their godparents.

DPF 22: Are we absolved from sin through baptism or Christ's Passion?
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Q. Are we absolved from sin through baptism or Christ’s Passion?

A. You are spiritually resurrected by being baptised. The baptism formula comes from God; it doesn’t matter if the priest is a mass murderer (it doesn’t even have to be a priest). But Confirmation must be performed by a bishop. You also need to believe that bread and wine become Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, which you need to receive in order to be saved.

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DPF 23: How do you receive the Eucharist properly?
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Q. How do you receive the Eucharist properly (dignement)?

A. You mustn’t receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. If your lesser sins are to be forgiven, you must receive it with faith and humility.

DPF 24: What should you do if you've sinned?
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Q. What should you do if you feel you are in a state of sin?

A. A sinner must repent (contrition), confess his or her sins to a priest, and complete the required penance (satisfaction). Next up, you must believe in universal resurrection and the Last Judgment. Too much knowledge is a health-hazard, so here’s a summary of the Creed. One thing I forgot: the Eucharist is like a broken mirror. A history of the Church.

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DPF 33: Should you confess if you think you might sin again?
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Q. If recidivism is so bad, should you confess if you think you might sin again?

A. I ask you whether, if your house catches fire, you would put it out.

DPF 34: (Sin)
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Q. I’d put out a fire before my whole house was alight.

A. Likewise, stamp out sin before it takes over. If someone sins against you, remember the devil has deceived them. Don’t hate or take revenge on a sinner (otherwise the devil wins). To be good: 1) think about whether an action’s good or evil; 2) check you’re doing good for God’s sake (unlike Judas).

DPF 30: What is a mortal sin?
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Q. What is a mortal sin (pechié mortel)?

A. The difference between a venial and a mortal sin is dependent on intention, duration and the nature of the activity. You could kill a man with small stones or with a millstone, but it would still be murder. Murder, perjury, adultery, fornication and hatred are always mortal sins.

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DPF 31: What is wrong with fornication if woman was made for man?
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Q. If woman was made for man, why is fornication between a single man and a single woman considered a mortal sin?

A. God joined man and woman in marriage. So extra-marital sex is a mortal sin. Also, if you intend to sin and are only prevented from doing so by the magnitude of your sin, you’ve still sinned.

DPF 32: Would a merciful God really send that many people to hell?
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Q. Would a merciful God really send that many people to hell?

A. As well as loving God’s mercy, you need to fear his justice. God’s elect are not numerous. You need to confess your sins to a priest, saying who, where, when, how many, why, how long, and how. You should then perform penance and make sure you don’t fall back into sin.

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DPF 26e: Where and for how long will Antichrist reign?

Q. Where will Antichrist reign, and for how long will he preach?

A. He will rule in Jerusalem and the land around it, and (like Christ) he will preach for three and a half years.

DPF 26c: What will Antichrist do?

Q. What will Antichrist do?

A. With the devil’s help, he will persuade all the rich and powerful people in the world, and all the Jews, that he is the Messiah. He will torture those who can’t be converted with bribes and magic.

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DPF 26g: Will Antichrist die right before Divine Judgment?

Q. Will Divine Judgment take place immediately after Antichrist’s death?

A. We don’t know for sure. According to Jerome, there will be 15 signs before Judgment Day. But we don’t know whether these will happen in quick succession or over a long period.

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DPF 28: Is it worth doing good if you're in mortal sin?
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Q. Is it worth doing good if you’re in a state of mortal sin?

A. Yes, because you might be absolved more quickly, or suffer less in hell. If you’re not absolved, you won’t be able to escape hell, however much alms-giving you perform.

DPF 29: How can some people suffer more than others in hell?
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Q. How can some people suffer more than others in hell when they’re all in the same fire.

A. Hellfire burns more ardently when it finds fuel, just as the sun torments someone with a headache more.

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DPF 39: (Epilogue)
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Q. n/a

A. I’d have taught you much more, but I don’t want to overload you. Wake me up if you have any more questions.


Meyer, Paul (1899). ‘Trois nouveaux manuscrits des sermons de Maurice de Sully’, Romania 28, 245-68

Napoli, Claudia (1979). ‘Le Livre du Rossignolet : une traduction médiévale de la Philomena praevia‘, Le Moyen français 4, 7-88

Waters, Claire M. (2015). Translating ‘Clergie’: Status, Education, and Salvation in Thirteenth-Century Vernacular Texts (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P)