Founder of the Order of Preachers (c. 1172-1221)
Dominic Guzman was born at Calaruega in Castile in c.1172‐1173. After completing his studies at Palencia, where he became known for his compassion towards the poor, he was ordained a priest and became a Canon Regular in the Cathedral Chapter of Osma. He became Superior in 1201, proving himself assiduous in prayer and prudent in regard to the regular life. While on a diplomatic mission with his bishop, Diego d’Azevedo, he experienced ﬁrst hand the Albigensian heresy, which was at that time widespread in southern France. From that time on, he determined to dedicate his life to the ministry of preaching and to live a life of evangelical poverty; thus with the approval of Pope Innocent III (1206) he took up the work of spreading the faith.
He was supported in his work by a monastery of nuns which he founded at Prouille for this purpose and in order to provide a refuge for a number of women. Convinced of the need for a group of trained preachers who would spread the truth of the Gospel by their preaching and teaching, and would live in apostolic poverty, in 1215 at Toulouse Dominic organized his fellow preachers into a new religious Order, which was formally approved by Pope Honorius III on 22nd December 1216. Having become more convinced of the universality of the mission of his Order in Rome on 18th January 1217, trusting in God and supported by the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary he dispersed his small band throughout Europe on 15th August 1217. They went especially to Paris and Bologna; the most important centres of learning; Dominic reserve to himself the most burdensome task of preaching in those areas of northern Italy Infested with the Cathar heresy.
It was said of Saint Dominic that ‘he either spoke with God or about God’: while preaching God fervently, he also drew men to God by his life of prayer. ‘He showed himself everywhere, by word and example, to be a man of the Gospel. Whether with his brethren or companions, no-one was more sociable and happy; he was the highest and best consoler.’ He died in Bologna on 6th August 1221 and was canonized on 3rd July 1234 by Pope Gregory IX, who, when a Cardinal, had known Saint Dominic.
A reading from the Libellus by Blessed Jordan of Saxony on the beginnings of the Order of Preachers
Concerning the habits of Master Dominic
Far more impressive and splendid than all Dominic’s miracles were the exceptional integrity of his character and the extraordinary energy of divine zeal which carried him along; these proved beyond all doubt that he was a vessel of honour and grace, adorned with every kind of precious stone. His mind was always steady and calm, except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy; and, since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression. He never allowed himself to become angry. In every reasonable purpose which his mind conceived, in accordance with God’s will, he maintained such constancy that he hardly ever, if ever, consented to change any plan he had formulated with due deliberation. And though, as has been said, his face was always radiant with a cheerfulness which revealed the good conscience he bore within him: “the light of his face never fell to the ground.” By his cheerfulness he easily won the love of everybody. Without difﬁculty he found his way into people’s hearts as soon as they saw him.
Wherever he went, whether he was on the road with his companions or in some house, with his host and the rest of the household, or among important people and rulers and prelates, he always overﬂowed with inspiring words. He had an abundant supply of edifying stories, with which he directed people’s minds to the love of Christ and to contempt for the world. Everywhere, in word and deed, he showed himself to be a man of the Gospel.
During the day, nobody was more sociable and happy with his brethren and companions, but at night nobody was more thoroughly dedicated to keeping vigil and to prayer. “At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn.” The day he gave to his neighbours, the night he gave to God, knowing that “By day the Lord will send his loving kindness, by night his song.”
He used to weep plenteously and frequently, and his tears became his bread by day and by night, by day especially when he celebrated his daily Mass, and by night especially when he kept watch in his uniquely unwearying vigils.
It was his frequent habit to spend the whole night in church, so that he hardly ever seemed to have any ﬁne bed of his own to sleep in. He used to pray and keep vigil at night to the very limit of what he could force his frail body to endure. When at last weariness overtook him and his spirit succumbed, so that he had to sleep for a while, he rested brieﬂy before the altar or absolutely anywhere, sometimes even leaning his head against a stone, like the patriarch Jacob. But then he would soon be awake again, rallying his spirit to resume his fervent prayer.
Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of his charity, and since he loved everyone, everyone loved him. He made it his own business to rejoice with those who were rejoicing and to weep with those who wept. He was full of affection and gave himself utterly to caring for his neighbours and to showing sympathy for the unfortunate.
Another thing that made him so attractive to everybody was his straightforwardness; there was never a hint of guile or duplicity in anything he said or did.
He was a true lover of poverty, and he always wore cheap clothes. He conﬁned himself to a very modest allowance of food and drink, avoiding all luxuries. He was quite content with very simple food, so firm was his bodily self-control, and he drank wine so austerely diluted that, though it satisﬁed his bodily needs, it never blunted his ﬁne sensitive spirit.
Who could ever hope to imitate the virtues of this man? We can, however, admire them, and weigh up the slackness of our own generation against his example. To be able to do what he did requires more than human strength; it presupposes a particular grace, which he alone had, unless perhaps God, in his merciful kindness, deigns to bring anyone else to a similar peak of holiness. But who is there who would be ready for such a gift? But still, Brethren let us follow in our father’s footsteps to the best of our ability, and let us also give thanks to our Redeemer, who has granted to his servants such a remarkable man to lead us along the path we are walking, giving us new birth through him into the clear light of this way of life. And let us entreat the Father of mercies that we may be directed by the Spirit who leads God’s children, so that, following the path marked out by our fathers, we may attain to that same goal of eternal happiness and everlasting bliss to which he has already happily come, and that we may never turn aside from the right way.
you have enlightened your Church
by the merits and teachings of Saint Dominic,
your confessor and our father.
Grant, by his intercession,
that she may never lack temporal help
but grow ever richer in spiritual blessings.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.