St Dominic, Priest – 08 August
He was born in Castile (part of modern Spain) and became a canon of the cathedral of Osma. He accompanied his bishop (Diego de Azevedo) in a mission of preaching against the Albigensian heresy, which was then strong in southern France. While the official missions lived in formality and splendour, Dominic and Diego lived in extreme poverty, and prepared with great diligence for the debates that they held with their opponents. When the suppression of Albigensianism was undertaken by invasion and war of a particularly savage kind, Dominic continued to try to preach and persuade.
In 1216 he founded the Order of Preachers, dedicated to saving souls by preaching and persuasion. Like the Franciscans, founded a few years before, the Dominicans put great importance on poverty, both of the individual and of the community, and of the need to be involved directly in the world while still living some form of monastic life. At a time when the settled Benedictine monasteries had grown into great and rich institutions, this was a revolutionary and to some a subversive concept. The Friars made a lasting impact on the life of mediaeval Europe, and the Dominicans in particular altered the course of intellectual history by making a well-thought-out and rational response to the new learning that was appearing as long-forgotten thinkers such as Aristotle became known once more in the Christian West.
Dominic died at Bologna on 6th August 1221.
From various writings on the history of the Order of Preachers
He spoke with God or about God
Dominic possessed such great integrity and was so strongly motivated by divine love, that without a doubt he proved to be a bearer of honour and grace. He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.
Wherever he went he showed himself in word and deed to be a man of the Gospel. During the day no one was more community-minded or pleasant toward his brothers and associates. During the night hours no one was more persistent in every kind of vigil and supplication. He seldom spoke unless it was with God, that is, in prayer, or about God, and in this matter he instructed his brothers. Frequently he made a special personal petition that God would deign to grant him a genuine charity, effective in caring for and obtaining the salvation of men. For he believed that only then would he be truly a member of Christ, when he had given himself totally for the salvation of men, just as the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of all, had offered himself completely for our salvation. So, for this work, after a lengthy period of careful and provident planning, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers.
In his conversations and letters he often urged the brothers of the Order to study constantly the Old and New Testaments. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, and so well did he study them that he almost knew them from memory.
Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. Throughout his life, he preserved the honour of his virginity. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves.”