ST DOMINIC (CA.1170-1221)
St Dominic was born about 1170 in Castille, in what is now known as northern Spain. It is said he was a member of the Guzman family and was born in Caleruega, half way between Osma and Aranda, He became a priest and a Canon of the Cathedral at Osma, occupying a position of responsibility in the cathedral chapter.
In 1203 St Dominic accompanied his bishop, Diego, on a diplomatic mission to Denmark. Returning through southern France, they encountered a group of Cathar heretics, and a few Cistercians appointed by the Pope to reconvert the heretics to Christianity. Diego encouraged the papal legates to adopt the lifestyle of the Cathars, a Gospel-poverty which the heretics found more compelling than the comfortable lifestyle of Church leaders. Diego was obliged to return to his diocese, and St Dominic remained in the region, preaching the Gospel with the permission Bishop Fulk of the diocese of Toulouse.
In 1206 St Dominic founded a house for women in Prouilhe, similar to the Cathar houses of the "perfectae"("perfects") into whose care Dominic had seen poor families entrust their daughters. This community served as a shelter for women converted from heresy and a base for Dominic's preaching. The foundation marks the beginnings of the enclosed Dominican nuns.
Devoted to his task and a life of prayer, Dominic attracted followers as he preached throughout southern France, hoping to convert heretics. At the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), he sought papal approval for an "Order of Preachers", but the Council decreed that no new religious order could be established unless it adopted an existing rule. With the agreement of his brethren, St Dominic adopted the Rule of St Augustine. In January 1217, Honorius III recognised Dominic and his followers as "preachers in the territory of Toulouse." The Order of Preachers was born.
In August 1217 St Dominic sent the brethren to Madrid and Paris, and a foundation followed in Bologna. From the beginning, St Dominic recognised the Order's need for preachers with a good formation in theology and philosophy. Dominican priories were founded in university cities across Europe. The second General Chapter of the Order (June 1221), sent a delegation of friars to Oxford, England, the last university lacking Dominicans.
St Dominic's personal dream was to preach in Eastern Europe. It remained unfulfilled. He travelled towards Bologna in 1221, arriving in mid-July, and was soon seriously ill. St Dominic died on 6th August, 1221 in the presence of his brethren, and was buried in the priory church, "under the feet of his brethren."
SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS (C.1225-1274)
Thomas was born into an aristocratic family at Roccasecca, in the kingdom of Naples (Italy), around the year 1225.
After an education with the Benedictine monks of Montecassino and at the university of Naples, he entered the Order of Preachers, against the will of his parents, as a teenager.
His superiors sent him to study in Cologne where St Albert the Great (also Dominican) was teaching.
St Thomas became a doctor of theology in 1256 and made very significant contributions to the intellectual activity of the Dominican Order and of the Church. Not least among these contributions is his Summa Theologiae.
In 1274 St Thomas was on his way to attend the Second Council of Lyons in order to settle differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
He died en route, on 7th March. He was canonised in Avignon on July 18th 1323 by Pope John XXII. His feast day is 28th February.
ST RAYMOND OF PENAFORT (1175-1275)
St Raymond was born in the year 1175 in Catalonia. He was educated in Barcelona and Bologna, and was doctor of civil and canon law.
In 1222 he entered the Order of Preachers. At the request of Pope Gregory IX he made a collection of Church laws (canons) which were until that time scattered in different publications. He became Master of the Order in 1238, resigning in 1240.
He subsequently became involved in dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and under his influence, Arabic and Hebrew were studied in the higher educational institutes of the Order.
He died on the feast of the Epiphany (6th January) 1275, and was canonised by Pope Clement VIII in 1601. His feast day is 7th January.
BLESSED REGINALD OF ORLEANS (1180-1220)
Blessed Reginald was born about the year 1180. Professor of canon law at the university of Paris, in 1218 he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his bishop (of Orléans ) and some other clerics.
On his way through Rome he fell ill and was visited by St Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. He was cured and was received into the Order.
After completing the pilgrimage, he returned to the Order in Bologna where he was put in charge of the friars there. His preaching had a great impact on Bologna and many students entered the novitiate.
He was subsequently sent to Paris. As in Bologna, Blessed Reginald received many novices into the Order, among them Jordan of Saxony. Reginald died in early February 1220. His feast day is 12th February.
BLESSED JORDAN OF SAXONY (CA.1190-1237)
Blessed Jordan of Saxony was born in Saxony into the family of the Counts of Eberstein. While a student in Paris, he met St Dominic but did not immediately enter the Order of Preachers.
When Blessed Reginald of Orléans arrived in Paris in 1220 and caused many students of the university of Paris to enter the Order, Blessed Jordan was among those who received the habit on Ash Wednesday.
He was subsequently appointed first provincial of the province of Lombardy, and was later elected to replace St Dominic as Master General. It is said that his preaching caused over one thousand men to join the Order.
He was also author of the Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum (Booklet on the beginnings of the Order of Preachers). This text offers the first history of the foundation of the Order as well as the first life of St Dominic. The now traditional Dominican practice of singing the antiphon “Salve Regina” after Compline each night was established by Blessed Jordan at Bologna.
He died in a shipwreck near Syria in 1237 while returning from Palestine where he had visited priories of the Order. His body was recovered and was buried in Akko, in present day Israel. He was beatified in 1825 and his feast is observed on 13th February.
FRA ANGELICO - BLESSED JOHN OF FIESOLE (CA.1395-1455)
Guido di Pietro was born about the year 1395 in Rupecanino, near Fiesole. By 1423 he had joined
the observant branch of the Dominican Order and was known as Fra Giovanni (Brother John).
He was already an established painter before becoming a Dominican. He is known to have spent some time in the Dominican priories of Cortona and Fiesole before joining the new priory of San Marco in Florence.
His many frescoes in the cells (friars' rooms) of St Marks’s priory, as well as in other parts of the building, are exceptionally well known. The Popes also commissioned some of his work for the Vatican.
He died in on 18th February 1455 while in the eternal city, and was buried in the Dominican Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. He was beatified in 1983. His feast day is 18th February.
ST VINCENT FERRER (1350-1419)
Saint Vincent Ferrer was born in the kingdom of Valencia (in modern Spain) in 1350. He joined the Dominican Order as a teenager and became professor of both philosophy and theology.
Concerned about the division within the Roman Church at the time (since 1378), he attempted in vain to end the Western schism. In 1398 he was seriously ill with fever but recovered. The mystical experiences associated with his illness and recovery were important in his subsequent preaching.
He preached throughout France, Italy and Switzerland calling the people to conversion. He was also frequently called upon to assist in political affairs.
The Western Schism was ended at the Council of Constance (1414-1418) but Vincent did not participate. Instead, he spent the last two years of his life preaching in Brittany (France).
He died on 5th April 1419, and was canonised on 3rd June 1455. His feast day is 5th April in the Universal Calendar, but 5th May in the Dominican calendar.
ST CATHERINE OF SIENA (1347-1380)
Saint Catherine was born into a prosperous urban family, the 23rd of 25 children. She received no formal education and resolved at an early age to remain a virgin for Christ.
At the age of 16 she became a lay Dominican and received the habit, as was the custom at the time. She dedicated her life to helping the poor, and was a voice for reform within the Church.
The Western Schism (1378-1418) was a source of great suffering for her till her death.
In her writings, or rather those she dictated because she never learned how to write, she details her mystical experiences, her visions of Jesus, of hell, purgatory and heaven. Her major work is the Dialogue of Divine Providence.
She died in Rome in 1380, was canonised in 1461, and was declared Doctor of the Church in 1970.
BLESSED IMELDA LAMBERTINI
Blessed Imelda was born into an aristocratic family in Bologna in 1322. She was unusually pious as a child and was placed in Dominican convent of nuns to be educated at her own request when she was nine years old, and she received the Dominican habit soon after her entry.
Blessed Imelda had a particular devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. Her greatest wish was to receive Holy Communion, but this was not possible as she was too young according to Church law at the time (the minimum age was about 12 until the decree of Pope St Pius X “Quam singulari” in 1910).
On Ascension Day when she was eleven years old she remained in the convent chapel after Mass with the other sisters. After Mass and Holy Communion the sisters began to leave, but one of them noticed what appeared to be a host hovering over Imelda’s head who was found to be in a state of ecstacy. The priest hurried forward to receive the host on a paten. Experiencing such a miracle, he felt obliged to give Imelda her first Holy Communion.
It was to be her last because she died during her thanksgiving after Communion. Blessed Imelda was beatified in 1826.
ST ROSE OF LIMA (1586-1617)
Saint Rose was born in Lima, the capital city of Peru, South America, on 20th April 1586. Both her parents were originally from Spain.
Isabel Flores de Oliva was known as “Rosa” because of her beauty which, it is said, increased as she grew older.
She led a life of prayer and penance from an early age. One of her penances was to wearing a spiked crown concealed with roses.
She had a particular devotion to the Blessed Eucharist which she received daily.
Admitted to the Dominican Order in 1602, she died in 1617 at the age of 31. She was canonised in 1671, the first person from the Western Hemisphere to be declared a saint by the Church. Her feast day, outside Latin America, is 23rd August.
ST MARTIN DE PORRES (1579-1639)
Saint Martin was born in Lima, capital city of Peru, in the year 1579. His father was a Spanish knight and his mother a freed slave. He seems to have been neglected as a child, but he befriended a doctor who taught him the art of healing.
He was initially accepted as a servant at the Dominican Priory of Our Lady of the Rosary at Lima. Eventually admitted as a lay brother, he made profession in 1603. He worked with the sick and the poor, as well as taking care of animals, being known to have cured to most frightening of diseases and injuries (as much by prayer and intercession as by his medical skills)
He was taken to much prayer and penance. Having a particular devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, he would spend a long time in thanksgiving each time he received Holy Communion.
He died of fever on 3rd November 1639, and was canonised in 1962. His feast day is 3rd November.
ST ALBERT THE GREAT (CA.1200-1280)
Saint Albert was born some time around 1200 to a family of nobles in Lauingen (Bavaria, Germany). He studied in Padua (Italy) and was ordained priest.
He entered the Order of Preachers in either 1223 or 1221, and studied theology in Bologna. He lectured in different locations: in Cologne, Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg, Hildesheim, as well as in Paris.
Saint Thomas Aquinas was a student of his at Cologne and at Paris. In 1254 he became prior provincial of the province of Teutonia, and was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260 by the Pope. After only two few years as bishop he resigned.
He spent his retirement in the Dominican priories of Würsbourg, Strasbourg and Cologne, and he continued to preach. He left behind him works in theology, philosophy and natural science.
He died in Cologne on 15th November 1280, was canonised in 1931 and declared doctor of the Church the same year. His feast day is 15th November.