August 7, 2016

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest and Founder

St. Dominic
August 8th, is the Memorial of Saint Dominic (1170-1221). He was born in Caleruega, Spain to a prestigious, noble family. His father was the royal warden of Caleruega. His mother, Bessed Joan of Aza, from whom Dominic received his devotion to God, was deeply religious. Dominic was educated in Palencia, where he excelled in the study of theology. Throughout his life, his concern for the poor compelled him to sacrifice, even to the point of selling his personal belongings, to buy them necessities. When criticized for selling his academic manuscripts to feed the indigent, he told his astonished classmates, "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?"

Near the end of the 12th century, the Church in France was threatened by the Albigensian heresy. It held that there were two gods: the god of light/spirit (represented by Jesus in the New Testament) and the god of darkness/matter, (typically associated with Satan) the "God of the Old Testament." The god of darkness was responsible for creation. Thus, all things material were evil including the body which imprisoned the soul. This contempt for the body led Albigensians to praise suicide. Moreover, Albigensians taught that Jesus, while God, only appeared to be a man during His time on earth. Rejecting physical comfort and aesthetic beauty, Albigensians further believed the Catholic Church was irredeemably corrupted by its wealth and power.

Compelled by the Albigensian heresy, in 1215, Dominic and six followers founded the Order of Preachers, or the Dominicans. According to legend, after receiving Dominic's request to recognize the new Order, Pope Honorius III had a dream in which he saw Dominic protecting the church of St. John Lateran from collapse. Shortly thereafter, the request was granted. The Order of Preachers was endowed with two essential charisms; instead of manual labor, as practiced by Cistercians, Dominic required his friars to apply their minds to preaching and teaching. Together with the Franciscans, the Dominicans helped revitalize the intellectual and spiritual life of the Church.

The spread of the Rosary in its present form is attributed to the efforts of St. Dominic. Popular piety attests that the Virgin Mary gave Dominic the Rosary during an apparition in the church of Prouille, France. One day while praying, Dominic bemoaned the lack of progress in his attempts to convert the Albigensians. In the middle of his laments Our Lady appeared to him saying,

"Wonder not that until now you have obtained so little fruit by your labors: you have spent them on a barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the Earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Preach my Psalter (the Rosary) composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers and you will obtain an abundant harvest."

Dominic taught the Rosary to his fellow friars and began preaching it far and wide. The abundant harvest of which Mary spoke soon became apparent. The devotion spread quickly and with it the conversion of hearts and minds to God. Before long, the Albigensian heresy showed signs of receding, saving the French Church and countless souls. The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary remains an integral part of Dominican spirituality today. Dominic died in Bologna on August 6, 1221. Three years later, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, canonized him. May St. Dominic come to the help of your Church by his merits and teaching, O Lord, and may he, an outstanding preacher of truth, be a devoted intercessor on our behalf.

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