May Saint Dominic come to the help of your Church by his merits and teaching, O Lord, and may he, who was an outstanding preacher of your truth, be a devoted intercessor on our behalf. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Born: 1175 Castile Spain
Founded: The Order Of Friars Preachers (Dominicans), 1215.
Died: August 6, 1221
Feast Day: 8th August
Patron: Astronomers; astronomy; scientists; falsely accused people.
Attributes: Rosary, Cross, Lily; book; star in forehead; pilgrim’s staff; dog holding torch; books in a fire.
Born about 1175 in Castile (Spain), Dominic hailed from the illustrious Guzman family. First he was a canon regular at Osma; then he founded the Dominican Order, which was approved in 1216. Alongside the Franciscans, it became the most powerful Order in medieval times, giving the Church illustrious preachers — St. Vincent Ferrer, and contemplatives, Sts. Thomas of Aquinas and Pius V — and contributing immeasurably to maintaining the purity of the faith. Through the example of apostolic poverty and the preaching of the word of God the Friar Preachers were to lead men to Christ. To St. Dominic is attributed the origin and spread of the Holy Rosary.
The two contemporaries, Dominic and Francis of Asisi, effected a tremendous spiritual rejuvenation through their own spiritual personalities and through their religious foundations. Of the two, Dominic was the realist who surpassed the other intellectually and in organizational talent. His spirit of moderation, clarity of thought, and burning zeal for souls have become the heritage of the Dominican Order. Legend has contributed the following rare anecdote as preserved in the Breviary: “During pregnancy, Dominic’s mother dreamed she was carrying in her womb a little dog that held a burning torch between its teeth; and when she had given birth, it set the whole world on fire. By this dream it was made manifest beforehand how Dominic would inflame the nations to the practice of Christian virtue through the brightness of his holy example and the fiery ardor of his preaching.”
The Martyrology gives the following: “At Bologna (upper Italy) the holy confessor Dominic, the saintly and learned founder of the Order of Preachers. He preserved his virginity inviolate and gained for himself the grace of raising three dead persons to life. By his word he crushed heresy in the bud and led many souls to piety and to religious life.”
At the end of the twelfth century the Church in France was ravaged by the Albigensian heresy, a doctrine which was not only entirely unchristian but which, in addition, constituted a social evil. Effective measures were required to be taken to combat it. Where others had failed, a Spanish canon, Dominic Guzman, succeeded. He was notable for his learning and love of poverty. The Order of Friars Preachers, which he founded about the year 1215, was endowed by him with these two characteristics; instead of manual labor, as practiced by the Cistercian monks, he required his friars to work with their minds by preaching and teaching.
When Pope Innocent died, in July of 1216, and Honorius III was elected in his place. In October of that year, after Dominic had set up a friary in Toulouse, he went to Rome. Honorius formally confirmed his order and its constitutions in December. The brothers were to be, in the words of the Pope’s bull, “the champions of the faith and the true lights of the world.”
Instead of returning at once to France, Dominic stayed in Rome until the following Easter in order to preach. He suggested to the Pope that since many of the clerics attached to his court could not attend lectures and courses outside, a master of sacred studies in residence would be very useful. Honorius then created the office of Master of the Sacred Palace, who ex-officio serves as the Pope’s personal canonist and theologian, nominates his preachers, and assists at consistories. He ordered Dominic to assume the office temporarily, and ever since it has been held by a member of the order. While at Rome, too, Dominic composed a commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, much commended in his day, but, like his sermons and letters, it has not survived.
During this time Dominic formed friendships with Cardinal Ugolino and Francis of Assisi. The story goes that in a dream Dominic saw the sinful world threatened by the divine anger but saved by the intercession of the Virgin, who pointed out to her Son two figures, one of whom Dominic recognized as himself, while the other was a stranger. The next day in church he saw a poorly dressed fellow whom he recognized at once as the man in his dream. It was Francis of Assisi. He went up to him and embraced him, exclaiming, “You are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.” This meeting of the founders of the two great orders of friars, whose special mission was to go out into the world to save it, is still commemorated twice a year, when on their respective feast days the brothers of both orders sing Mass together, and afterwards sit at the same table. Dominic’s character was in marked contrast to that of Francis, but they stood united on the common ground of faith and charity.
The Dominicans are cloistered, but there is also a Third Order for active workers in the world, religious and lay.
At the close of the second general chapter, Dominic visited Cardinal Ugolino in Venice. Afterwards he fell ill and was taken to the country. He knew the end was near, and made his last testament in a few simple, loving words: “These, my much loved ones, are the bequests which I leave to you as my sons; have charity among yourselves; hold fast to humility; keep a willing poverty.” He asked to be carried back to Bologna, that he might be buried “under the feet of his brethren.”Gathered about him on an August evening, they said the liturgy’s prayers for the dying; “Come, ye saints of God, hasten hither, ye angels!” at the Subvenite, he repeated the words and died; he was only fifty-six years old. The saint died “in Brother Moneta’s bed, because he had none of his own, in Brother Moneta’s habit, because he had not another to replace the one he had long been wearing.”
Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s successor as master-general of the order, wrote of him: “Nothing disturbed the even temper of his soul except his quick sympathy with every sort of suffering. And as a man’s face shows whether he is happy or not, it was easy to see from his friendly and joyous countenance that he was at peace inwardly.” When in 1234, thirteen years after his death, his friend Pope Gregory IX, formerly Cardinal Ugolino, signed the decree of canonization, he remarked that he no more doubted the sanctity of Dominic than he doubted that of St. Peter or St. Paul.
~St. Dominic, Pray For Us!