St. Dominic’s Compassion

As we continue our Novena to St Dominic, I would like to reflect on St. Dominic’s compassion for others. On his Feast Day, this Thursday, we will sing the Antiphon:

“Dominic had compassion on his neighbours and ardently desired their salvation.”

Dominic’s compassion was not passive, not accepting and encouraging the other in whatever it is they want to do, which seems to be the modern understanding of compassion. His compassion required that he act for the good of the other, even, or perhaps especially, when that meant telling them they were doing wrong. It was out of this compassion that he established his Order (for preaching and the salvation of souls) to bring back to God those who had been led astray by the false, dark vision of God and the world presented by the Albigensians (who taught, among other things, that the material world, including human bodies, was evil, created by an evil spirit).

Our world today is in great need of those who have compassion like Dominic’s, a compassion that drives us to act, to intervene, to help those who are going astray. So many people are spiritually starving themselves to death because they don’t bother going to Mass. They have either forgotten, or have never been told, why we need to go to Mass. It is not merely a rule, or a requirement, but something that is life-giving.

In Baptism we receive new supernatural life (grace) and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet 1:4), members of Christ, and sharers in His life: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). It is as members of Christ that we can enter into inner life of the Trinity. But this life needs to grow. If your supernatural life remains just as you received it in Baptism then it’s not much use and might die;  just like if your heart had remained exactly the same size as it was when you were born you’d be in big trouble now. In order to grow this new life needs to be nourished. To feed our physical life we need physical food, to feed our intellectual life we need intellectual food and to feed the life that is Christ we need the food that is Christ – the Eucharist, in which Christ is really present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is why Jesus says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53) and why the Church requires us to go to Mass every Sunday.

Finally, for us nuns, the manifestation of Dominic’s compassion in prayer for others is particularly significant. As we see, both in the ‘Nine Ways of Prayer’ and his various biographies, he continuously prayed for, and encouraged the brethren to pray for, God’s mercy for sinners. Or, as another one of our Feast-Day Antiphons puts it: “Dominic often exclaimed: Lord, have mercy on your people! What will become of sinners.