Feast day: 8th of August
Our Holy Father Dominic Priest Solemnity
Dominic de Guzman was born at Caleruega, Spain, around 1172-1173. After completing his studies at Palencia, he was ordained a priest and became a Canon Regular in the Cathedral Chapter of Osma. 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 simplicity. Eventually he was supported in his work by a monastery of nuns at Prouille which he had directed from its foundation in 1206.
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 December 22, 1216. His own love of prayer and study, his zeal for the salvation of souls, and his belief in apostolic poverty became the foundation stones of his Order. On August 15, 1217, he dispersed this small band throughout Europe and from such beginnings the Order grew.
It was said of Saint Dominic that “he either spoke with God or about God.” He died at Bologna on August 6, 1221.
The second reading taken from the supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers:
From the Libellus: On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers of Blessed Jordan of Saxony.
“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 honor 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 which 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 in deed, he showed himself to be a man of the gospel.
During the daytime 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.”Tears waited for him at night, but joy in the morning.” The day he gave to his neighbors, the night he gave to God, knowing that “by day the Lord sends his mercy, and by night he gives songs of praise.”
He used to weep plenteously and frequently, and “his tears were his bread by day and 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 very frequent habit to spend the whole night in church, so that he hardly ever seemed to have any fixed 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 neighbors and to showing sympathy for the unfortunate.
Another thing which 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.