Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saint Dominic for All Times

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, who answered the Church's need for a steady body of preachers rooted in obedience to the Truth. In early 1200 in France, the Albigensians were flourishing and very effectively teaching a false gospel, gaining many followers. They were preaching that the world and material things--the body--were evil and could not have been created by an all good God. Thus they denied that Christ was truly a man. Suicide by starvation was seen as a noble act. They mortified themselves and lived a very ascetic life in stark contrast to the wealthy monasteries and comfortable lifestyles of monks at the time. The common priest was poorly educated and often did not have the facility to either correct a false teaching or persuasively articulate true Church teaching.

St. Dominic answered by forming a band of itinerant preachers who lived a monastic life out in the world. Poverty, chastity, obedience, and study proved to be the winning formula. St. Dominic carried a copy of the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul with him and poured over them often enough to commit them to memory. Arduous study, contemplation and prayer prepared him to preach with great love, clarity and zeal which won over many hearts and extinguished many heresies. Dominic referred to the preacher as a well which must first be full itself before it can overflow with water for others. Contemplata aliis tradere-to pass on the fruits of one's own conteplation-is a motto of the Order to this day. This mission and this formula are as necessary today as they were in Dominic's time. The Truth--Veritas--attracts. This is evidenced by the booming ministries of the Dominican Order and in a time of contraction for many religious orders in the US, the Dominicans are thriving and expanding. Pope Benedict recently used the example of Saint Dominic as a model for priests during this Year for Priests.

Pray for the continued success of the Dominican Order, that St. Dominic's vision of a preacher, filled with love for Christ in the Gospels and a trained intellect to catechise, teach and reach people to convert hearts will grow in the Church. Pray for all priests that the spirit of Dominic will inspire them to pray fervently, strive for holiness, study, and preach with substance to feed the faithful who are starving for Truth. In this Google world people have become sophisticated in filtering their sources and information. The Gospel message is often not heard because it is drowned out by worldly alternatives, simply not preached, or dismissed as a result of a non credible source. Therefore the preaching must be like that of Saint Dominic. (Brief historical note: the Jesuits were founded to combat the Protestant Reformation). There's a fraternal spirit of competition between the Dominicans and the Jesuits--the two premiere intellectual orders of the Church (though that statement itself is subject to scrutiny)--as to which Order/Society is "better". When's the last time you met an Albigensian? You be the judge.

from the Office of Readings:

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.”

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