As children of St Dominic, we love to recount his life and virtues, which still spread their lustre over the Order he founded, nearly 800 years after his death. Time does nothing to dim the brightness of the star over his forehead. Rather, yet another year lived in the company of St Dominic only reveals greater depths of his sanctity and the greater glory of one whom the liturgy of the Church describes as “quasi stella matutina in medio nebulae… et quasi sol refulgens, sic iste effulsit in templo Dei” (Like the morning star amid the clouds… and like the shining sun, so he shone out in the temple of God. Ecclesiasticus 50:6-8)
But the saints are proposed to us not merely for admiration, but also for imitation. Precisely because we know his life “by heart” must we ask if we truly keep his example in our hearts, so our Father Dominic may find some trace of his virtues delineated in the souls of his children.
The life and virtues of our Holy Father St Dominic stand in stark contrast to the creed of the modern world today. The indifferentism of the State, and the liberal “dictatorship of relativism” that denies the objective truth about man’s nature and his ultimate good has been a true diabolical disorientation that has dissolved all conviction regarding religious truth.
Like Pilate, the modern man scoffs, “What is Truth?” Yet for St Dominic and his sons and daughters who fight boldly under the banner of Veritas, Truth is not a purely subjective idea, a private opinion sort of whether you like sugar in your coffee or not.
Truth is objective, “the conformity of the thing known to the understanding of the knower,” – adaequatio rei et intellectus (ST I, q16. I) – and Truth is real, something that can be known with certainty. It is a certainty that transcends even the certainty of empirical science, for it is based on the absolute inerrancy of Almighty God.
For St Dominic, Truth was a real, living thing, a Person, God Incarnate. His life – as hagiography has so faithfully recorded for posterity – is a perfect image of Jesus Christ, Whom he contemplated in Divine Faith enlightened by Charity.
As novices we learnt early on that our Holy Father St Dominic spoke only to God or about God – we were not to have useless conversations and keep the silence according to the Rule and customs of the Order. But deeper than the exterior observance of a monastic rule was the fact that St Dominic’s conversation was such because he rightly perceived that all things have their origin in God Himself.
Then there is the famous incident of St Dominic, while still a student in Palencia, selling all his books which had been annotated by his own hand, manu suas glossatos, and distributing the price to the starving people of the town. This extravagant act of charity shamed his companions into doing likewise. May it not shame us too, for when have we really done an act of charity for our neighbour that truly cost us, that was a real sacrifice?
Another biographer notes that St Dominic’s one constant petition to God was for the gift of true charity. Night and day he wore out the floor of the church [at Osma], says Blessed Jordan of Saxony, giving himself unceasingly to prayer. And God heard his prayer – for nowhere else in the annals of the Church do we read of one whose zeal for the salvation of souls had become a continual and painful wound in his heart – the one consuming passion which would give birth later to the Order he founded. It was St Dominic’s ambition to go to the ends of the earth to ransom souls from the grasp of the devil, to give his blood for Christ and die as a martyr.
It would take too long to recount all the other virtues of our blessed Father Dominic. The ten years of study at Palencia, followed by ten years of prayer at Osma, were to bear fruit later in the ten years of hard apostolic labour in the south of France, and the establishment of the Order of Preachers in all of Christendom. The fruit that the land of the Cathars had refused to him, was now a hundredfold in the whole world. To quote Lacordaire, “Never has a man climbed more painfully towards his purpose to attain it afterwards with such wonderful rapidity.”
May this prayer be on our lips, so we may indeed begin to make steps towards imitating St Dominic’s sanctity:
Lord Jesus, by the merits and prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and those of St Dominic, pour forth upon us the spirit of faith, of sacrifice, of prayer, of humility, of docility, and of charity. Grant, O my Jesus, that this charity be truly supernatural and universal, intelligent and patient, joyful and fruitful. Amen.
(Indulgenced Prayer composed by Bl. Hyacinth-Marie Cormier, O.P., 76th Master General of the Order)