A Reflection on St Dominic and Prayer, given by one of our sisters, for first day of our Novena to St Dominic

Taken from The Life of St. Dominic (1170 – 1221) by Bede Jarrett O.P.

For St. Dominic, Prayer was a simple converse of the soul with God; and converse is easier and fuller when it is between two friends.
The more, then, the mind can realise friendship with God, which is the essence of religion, the more facile is the heart’s opening of itself, for the problem of prayer is always how to make God the friend not only accepted and believed in, but to form part of the familiar circumstance of life.

Everything that could help to produce this truth vividly was made use of: vocal prayer, gestures, beads; and, since he found that a dialogue of speech and silence, a chorus of praise, could be more easily secured by a devotion to the sacramental Presence, it was around the altar that St. Dominic grouped his interests. The Mass was the highest expression of it; the crucifix its homeliest representation. The gospels most wonderfully depict that perfect life and character, and show up against background of hill and lake and field and village and cobbled streets the moving figure of the true and loyal friend. Hence the Mass became his most particular devotion; the crucifix his daily companion, his “ever open book”; and the New Testament his favourite study, carried always, learnt by heart, made the textbook of life. “He spoke only of and to God,” said a follower of Dominic; and we feel that he did this naturally because God was the central object of his daily work and nightly watching. As Dante observingly notes of him, he was “the athlete” of Christ, “kindly to his friends, fierce to his foes”; he was the “torrential” preacher just because he was “fast knit to Christ,” and he was fast knit to Christ by means of his vivid and intensely personal prayer.

Is there any need to add that St. Dominic’s devotion to the maiden mother of God was particularly vivid? His friars were “her friars” needing and receiving her special help. Visions were seen, it was reported, of his sons preaching from books held before them by our Lady’s hands; she corrected them, protected them, blessed them sleeping; and was seen in Cambridge to send fire on them when they prayed; at death she comforted them. The spirit of the saint descended, then, on his children, says Gerard de Frachet, to sum up all his record of devotion, “so that studying and praying and sleeping they had her before their eyes and she turned her eyes of mercy ever towards them”.