Dominican Life is the Image of St Dominic

In his life we can find the elements of the Order’s spirituality.  Following the recommendation of Pope Pius XI we study our Founder’s life in order to remain faithful to his original ideal and to have a sure and certain share in the graces that flow from our vocation.

  • At seven started his formal education under the tutelage of an uncle who was a priest.
  • Cathedral school of Palencia: philosophy then four years of theology – exceptional for the time.
  • His love for the truths of the faith nourished in him a deep love for Our Divine Lord, the personification of all the mysteries and doctrines of the Church.
  • His love for Christ appears in his prayer: “he gave his days to his neighbour and his nights to God.”
  • He had a profound devotion to the Mass, celebrating it every day, when possible singing it. He made the Order Liturgical: solemn chanting of the Divine Office.
  • He always carried the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul. Jordan of Saxony relates that he read these works so much that he practically knew them by heart.
  • He deeply loved souls –his prayers and penance were undertaken for their salvation.
  • He wanted to give his life for souls, if necessary: “I would have begged you to put me to death in the slowest possible way, to cut me to pieces bit by bit so my martyrdom would be prolonged for the good of souls.”
  • His compassion for people made him willing, as a student at Palencia, to sell his books to feed the hungry.
  • As a good priest he was firm in correcting, but knowing how delicately a soul must be treated, he did not break a man’s spirit.
  • As a saintly priest he was excellent in giving advice, in counselling and consoling.

SILENCE

  • St Dominic spoke very little, and according to St. James’ precept, kept a guard over his tongue (James 3:5-10)
  • “Spoke only with God or about God.” He lived totally and intensely in God’s presence. This was the sole reason for his silence. He observed it everywhere, in the convent and the road. (Bologna, 3)
  • Exterior silence to maintain interior silence: He was accustomed to walk with his eyes lowered, in order to preserve his sense of the presence of God.
  • Paul of Venice: “ He could not remember him uttering an idle word or lie or bit of flattery or anything evil” (Bologna, 41)
  • St Dominic’s recommendation: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every one.”
FAST
  • When the brethren had two courses for dinner, he was satisfied with one. He would always finish eating before the others, and then, as he listened to the reader, would often be overcome with fatigue and doze.
  • From the days of Osma to the end of his life he ate no meat (Bologna, 4) and usually contented himself with bread and watered wine. (Toulouse, 15)
  • He had no liking for the “extras” included in the refectory fare on certain liturgical feasts. “ You will kill the brethren with all these extras!” (Bologna, 31)

 

POVERTY 
  • He had a great trust in Divine Providence. He so believed in God’s help that he did not want the brethren to store up more food than what they needed for a day.
  • He had no cell of his own, no room he could call his own, this demonstrate his radical poverty.
  • The friars could never locate Dominic’s bed, either in the convent or in stopping places on journeys. (Bologna, 20, 28, 37)
  • He would sit or lie down, fully clothed often not even taking off his shoes, anywhere at all –on a board, on some straw or simply on the ground. (Bologna, 13)

 

PENANCE
  • Determination to spend his nights in prayer.
  • Sleep often overcame him on his travels. William Peyre reports that on journeys Dominic thought nothing of stretching out by the side of the road for a brief nap (Toulouse, 18)
  • In the convent he frequently dozed off in the refectory: “While the brethren were eating, he would fall asleep leaning forward on the table, exhausted as he was by his extended vigils, since he ate and drank very little, sleep overcame him at the table.” (Brother Stephen, Bologna, 38)
  • He followed the common life in everything.
  • He always rejected honours and preferments (Toulouse, 25)
  • Dominic wore a rough hairshirt and iron chain. He used the discipline, taking it himself or receiving it from one of the brothers (Bologna, 25)
  • All these were prompted by his desire to participate in the Passion of Christ, to contribute his share to the redemption of souls.
  • William of Montferrat: “He was friendly to all, no matter who they were.”
  • Jordan of Saxony: “kindly joyousness” “…since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression…”
  • Brother Ventura: “eminently approachable, available to all.”
  • Paul of Venice: “joyous and patient in adversity.”
  • “Whether he was served well or ill at table, well received or the reverse, whether he felt ill or fine, he always seemed “smiling and joyous” (Bologna, 7)
  • Dominic was joyous in the midst of tribulations, and all the more radiant in proportion to their bitterness – strength of soul and confidence in trials.

 

  • Evidence of remarkable self-control.
  • Paul of Venice: “ the saint succeeded in remaining master of himself without prejudice to his enthusiasm or compassion (Bologna, 41). “He never saw master Dominic show anger, agitation or disturbance, either from the fatigue of travel or in the heat of some passion or in any other circumstance.”
  • William Peyre describes him as “calm and intrepid”
  • “Always content with everything.”
  • “His mind was always steady and calm, except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy”
  • Brother Rudolph, (Bologna, 32): “He never made correction on the spur of the moment but, allowing a little time to pass, would make a few calm and gentle observations in a cheerful way.
  • He did indeed follow up their transgressions rigorously, but the humility with which he spoke always left them consoled”

 

  • Fearlessness in “pursuing” the heretics to bring them back to the true Faith. He did this with the impulse of faith and charity. “He ardently devoted himself to the interests of the Faith and of peace” (Toulouse, 3)
  • Revealed in the way he founded the Order. He dispersed the brethren in the face of general disagreement. (Bologna, 26) “Seed rots when it is hoarded, bears fruit when it is sown.”
  • Another example is that of Brother Stephen who, at Bologna, just as he was sitting down to a meal, was summoned by Dominic to come to the convent and once there, without more ado, was given the habit of the Preachers, although he had neither asked for it not been warned ahead of time. (Bologna, 36)
  • His unbounded confidence in God, and consequently in his brethren. “Go in confidence, for the Lord will give you the gift of divine preaching. He will be with you, you will want for nothing.” (John of Navarre, Bologna, 26)

We can imitate our Founder in his love for the doctrines of the church, for the suffering Christ, for the Mass and Blessed Sacrament, for souls, and his reliance on Providence.

We should nourish a tender devotion to our Founder. A spiritual relationship (vows of the religious and the promises of a tertiary) binds him to us. From St Dominic we shall receive spiritual answers: the ability to understand the Dominican life, to live it well and to be zealous for souls.