What do a beautiful woman who tried to make herself ugly; a poor humble friar who is the patron saint of barbers and mixed race people; a woman who, in loose terms, told the Pope to “man up”; a 24-year-old handsome young man who loved sports; and an extremely talented artist whose work appears in most major art museums with images from the Rosary have in common?
Here are some hints:
The group they belong to were well known for their love of wine from the very beginning. See the following article (spoiler alert: you will find out the group I’m talking about as soon as you click on the link) Wine Lovers
2) Founded December 22, 1216. Yes, this year is their 802nd anniversary
3) Legend has it that the founder’s mother had a dream about a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth and spreading fire to the Earth. This may be one of the reasons this group is sometimes referred to as the “Hounds of The Lord”
4) The group is known as the “Order of Preachers”
Why, they are Dominicans, of course! Their names in order of the above description include: St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin de Porres, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Blessed Fra Angelico. There are well over 300 saints and blesseds that belong to the Dominican Order. St. Thomas Aquinas is also another famous Dominican.
Who was St. Dominic and how is he relevant today? Well, I will give you a layperson’s “reader’s digest” version of his story. He was born in the Middle Ages, in times of great turmoil, when Spain and Europe were being overtaken and there were wars and more wars between Christian Europe and Muslims: the time known as the Crusades.
St. Dominic didn’t fight those battles though. Instead, he fought against the Albigensian heresy. Read more about St. Dominic’s battle against heresy. Now the following is an oversimplification, but let me go ahead and phrase it this way. The Albigensian heresy were people who thought: “Spirit good, body bad.” While you can probably figure out that there are some religious groups today that believe that, the ones who think the body is where all sin comes from and people don’t have control over what their body does, and so on, as well as those who rationalize that whatever the body does/decisions it makes it doesn’t matter because the spirit is good and has no control over the body (could be a comparison to some New Age beliefs).
Today, in our society, one could argue there is another type of Albigensian heresy where instead of just the spirit mattering and not the body, the opposite is true. “Who cares about the spirit — just do what the body says because there is no spirit and we just live in the now.” Catholic teaching teaches that Jesus came to us as divine God and Man, son of Mary, so thus, he redeemed us both body AND soul. This has so many implications.
St. Dominic didn’t fight this heresy on the battlefield. He fought it in taverns and on the streets, wandering through Europe teaching, listening, and instructing, and he calls his followers to do the same. Dominicans search for Truth; they search by academic study, conversation and more. Their four pillars include Prayer, Common Life, Study, and Preaching and this is how they divide their days. Dominicans can be priests, sisters, friars, and lay people (meaning just like you and me: I am a Lay Dominican, as a matter of fact).
I once heard a joke where a priest said he wanted to “live like a Jesuit and die like a Dominican.” I won’t comment on the Jesuit part, but the Dominican part may be because the Dominicans “look after their own” and many others of course. A Dominican trait is to daily pray for their deceased Dominicans and St. Dominic actually told his friars that he would “do far more for them when he died than he did when he was alive.”
There are MANY wonderful authors much more scholarly than I am who share oodles of information about St. Dominic. Please consider reading their books. There’s also a great podcast on Catholic Answers Focus which is a great interview of Kevin Vost, a Dominican biographer.
Hopefully this blog has lit a small fire to your desire to learn more about Dominicans! We celebrate St. Dominic on August 8: Happy Feast of St. Dominic!
Copyright 2018 Meg Herriot