Today is the feast of Saint Dominic, who died on the sixth of August, 1221, having founded one of the great and glorious religious Orders in the Church, the ‘Dominicans’, the ‘domini canes‘, the ‘hounds of God’, as the joke goes. Officially, they are the ‘Order of Preachers’, dedicated to study (they promise, as far as I have heard, at least four hours per day), as well as to preaching, and administering the sacraments. From the beginning, they were focused on the priesthood and the intellectual life, ordered under a clear and precise rule, avoiding much of the chaos and tumultuous growth of the contemporaneous Franciscans.
Dominic’s original focus was the heresy of Albigensianism, a resurgence of early Manicheism, which denied the goodness (even at times the reality) of matter, the body, the flesh, and all things human. Marriage they despised, along with much of the Church, and avoided children like the measles. Hmm. Sounds sort of modern…
The early Dominicans, Thomas Aquinas amongst them, put paid to this pernicious and demonic heresy, adopting the newly-discovered works of Aristotle to help prove the goodness of creation, the body, marriage, which goodness only emphasizes all the more the greater goodness of virginity and celibacy and all things consecrated to God.
Dominic’s Order grew past its initial focus, and they spread far and wide, founding schools, universities, as missionaries and martyrs. May all Dominicans continually rediscover their charism in their saintly and peaceful founder. As it was written of Dominic at the time:
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 Savior 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.
Saint Dominic, ora pro nobis!