Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Dominic, Priest, 1170-1221
The son of the warden of a small town in Spain and Blessed Joan of Aza, Dominic was educated by his mother until about his fourteenth birthday. At that time, Dominic entered the school of Palencia, and studied to become a priest. Upon ordination, he stayed with the community of priests from the school, living under the Rule of Saint Augustine.
Dominic had been appointed a canon of the cathedral at Osma while still a student and continued in these duties after ordination. When Diego d’Azevedo, the prior of the monastery, was named bishop of Osma, Dominic was chosen as his successor at the age of thirty-one.
In 1204, Bishop Diego was sent to Denmark by the King of Castile and he asked Dominic to accompany him. En route, they passed through a town in France which was beset by the Albigensian heresy (this heresy held that the body and all material things were evil, therefore they denied the Incarnation of Jesus). Dominic, feeling kindness toward their host who professed this heresy, spent the whole night in discussion with him. As a result, the man rejected the heresy. It is commonly thought that this was when Dominic recognized what God’s work for him was to be.
Upon return from their mission, Diego and Dominic went to Rome seeking the pope’s permission to preach the Gospel in Russia. Instead the pope asked them to return to Spain and oppose the heresy there. During this time, Dominic took the first steps toward establishing a preaching order to become known as the Dominicans (officially, the Order of Preachers).
Dominic himself was a very persuasive preacher and ultimately can be credited with stemming the tide of the Albigensian heresy. He later sent his preachers out to other lands, and once more requested permission to preach in Russia. But the pope asked Dominic, now greatly respected throughout the Church, to effect reforms among several orders living in Rome at that time.
One story told about Dominic occurred during this latter stay in Rome. The nephew of a cardinal, a boy named Napoleon, was thrown from his horse and killed. The saint ordered the body to be brought into the house where he offered Mass. Following this, he arranged the bruised limbs of the body, then knelt down to pray. When he arose, he made the Sign of the Cross over the body and called out, “Napoleon, I say to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, arise.” In that instant, in the sight of all, the young man arose with no signs of any injuries.
Dominic was known not only as a great preacher, but also as a gentle, charitable, and humble person. In 1220, he visited Bologna and halted construction of a priory for his friars when he judged it to be too stately and not consistent with his idea of poverty. Indeed, when he died on August 6, 1221, he died in a brother priest’s bed because he had none of his own.
When Gregory IX canonized Dominic in 1234, he said that he no more doubted the sanctity of Dominic than he did that of Saints Peter and Paul. We honor this saint by a memorial celebrated on August 8. Saint Dominic is the patron of astronomers.
Dominic's message today: Dominic had great faith in God. With this gift, he was able to turn back a heresy and perform miracles. God has given the same gift to each of us and if we strengthen that faith, anything is possible to us. As Jesus told us, “if your faith is the size of a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible for you." (Mt 17:20)