Things are much different today than they were 800 years ago. Today, heresy flourishes in postmodern indifference and progressive irrelevance. Back then, however, almost everyone in the Western world was Christian and believed in God, some with a very different view.
That different view was cause for great concern for the Church because, if it were the vessel of truth that Christ established, then that which opposed it put souls in danger. Simple logic.
‘St. Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar’
Author: Donald J. Goeregen, OP
Publisher: Paulist Press
Length: 160 pages
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Order: Paulist Press
In the new book: “St. Dominic, the Story of a Preaching Friar,” Donald Goergen, OP, brings to light one of the greatest and most beloved saints of all time, Dominic de Guzmán. While this is a carefully constructed, well-researched, treatment of St. Dominic, its readability is unquestionable — I read it in two days.
What I found was a different vision of Dominic, probably a more true and distinct view than I, as a life-professed, long-term Lay Dominican, ever knew. For example, we all knew that Dominic was filled with the fire of the Gospels. This fulfilled a dream that his mother, Jane of Aza, had while still carrying him.
We all thought that Dominic was spurred to form an order of preachers after accompanying Bishop Diego de Acebo north on a mission for the King of Spain and discovering the intense heresy that had swept through the entire south of France. Dominic and the bishop discussed the problem and the bishop was intent upon resigning so that he and Dominic could simply preach the Good News.
The idea of a universal order of preachers was actually Pope Innocent III’s and when Diego and Dominic went to visit the Vatican, the pope unleashed his plan upon them. Diego died soon after that, leaving Dominic to carry on. The pope then died and the new pontiff, Honorius III, had been a cardinal when Diego and Dominic came to visit. Dominic wanted the pope’s approval to continue to preach, but the pope carried forward Innocent’s idea of a preaching order and laid it all on a stunned Dominic! When Honorius passed, Gregory IX took over and was also vastly familiar with the original plans. He saw, in Dominic, great organizational and inspirational abilities and he confirmed the Order of Preachers.
Dominic set about doing the work of organizing the Order, establishing convents and monasteries with a contemplative bent, but he also sent friars out two by two in the apostolic manner of Peter and Paul. Dominicans went to the great centers of learning, out of which such scholars as St. Thomas Aquinas were produced. We Dominicans have always been taught that the Order itself produced the first democracy but that wasn’t exactly accurate. The Order did establish a unique representative democracy in which representatives from the various provinces, now including nuns, apostolic sisters and laity, were sent to a common location to define the nature of the Order.
Dominic tried to resign at the first General Chapter of the Order but the brothers wouldn’t have it. This established a couple of the defining qualities that all Dominicans exhibit even today: the penchant for the Word, and obedience to the Rule and to each other. The uniqueness of Dominic’s direction and organizational skills established an ordo (way) of life in which contemplation and apostolic action existed side-by-side and produce exceptional preaching.
Dominic’s passion came directly from the Gospels and he wanted to preach among pagans and Saracens (Muslims) and offer them Christ’s promise of salvation. He was also a great son of the Church, repeatedly setting aside his own ambitions at the direction of bishops and popes who knew him and put their faith in him.
This book is, of course, inspirational and gives each of us a picture of what a Roman Catholic priest, nun, sister, or even lay person should be — a people directing their eyes ever toward the Lord, ready to share that joy with the world.
Celebrate with us the 800th Anniversary of the Order of Preachers by learning about the man and saint who started it all.
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