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St Dominic

Novena to St Dominic – Day 2

This reflection concerns prayer and spirituality in the lives of St. Dominic and the early Dominicans and I will quote some passages from the book 鈥 Early Dominicans鈥 (The classics of Western Spirituality) 鈥 from the Introduction by Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P.Fr. Simon says :鈥 that the early Dominicans were not particularly concerned either for themselves or for others with what has come to be called the 鈥渋nterior life鈥. Some of them, certainly, were great men of prayer, but their prayer was simple, devotional and largely petitionary. They retained the monastic practice of spending some time in private prayer after Compline and Matins, though this was not put into any constitutional text as an obligation. There is no hint at all of any methodical 鈥榤ental prayer鈥, such as we find in later centuries, nor is there any sign of any theory of mystical progress attached to their simple prayers.鈥 Fr. Simon goes on to say:鈥淲hat we know of the prayer of St. Dominic shows that it was habitually intercessory and his meditations and contemplations are shown as resulting typically in preaching of one kind or another. This suggests that even the prayers and devotions of the Dominicans have an apostolic quality and this impression is reinforced by the discovery that Jordan of Saxony, Dominic鈥檚 immediate successor, who was regarded by his brethren, as a powerful man of prayer, says of himself, 鈥淚 hardly ever pray鈥, a complaint echoed in other early Dominican writings. The all-absorbing ambition of the friars was 鈥渢o be useful to the souls of others鈥. Their own spiritual exercises were designed to make them better preachers, and their own spiritual progress was not sought as a goal in its own right […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 1

A Reflection on St Dominic and Prayer, given by one of our sisters, for first day of our Novena to St DominicTaken from The Life of St. Dominic (1170 鈥 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鈥檚 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 鈥渆ver open book鈥; and the New Testament his favourite study, carried always, learnt by heart, made the textbook of life. 鈥淗e spoke only of and to God,鈥 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 […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 9

While reading the Libellus – on the beginnings of the Order – during the past week my attention was drawn to Bl Jordan鈥檚 description of our holy Father, Dominic, as someone who 鈥渁ccepted the Lord鈥檚 commands so warmly鈥 and whose 鈥渨ill welcomed the voice of his Lover with such loyalty and pleasure鈥, that he was able 鈥 penetrate the mysteries of difficult theological questions with the humble understanding of his heart.鈥濃淒ominic welcomed the voice of his Lover鈥漌e live in a world where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to discern the voice of our Lover 鈥 the voice of the one who has brought us into existence and who loved us so much that He died for us on the Cross. In the 13th century, as in our own 21st century, there were many false prophets proclaiming a message contrary to the Christian viewpoint and many people were confused and led astray. However, Dominic was able to discern and welcome the voice of his Lover 鈥 first of all at Osma where was 鈥渁dept at keeping God鈥檚 word 鈥 his memory being a kind of 鈥榖arn鈥 for God while his external behaviour and actions broadcast publicly the treasure that lay hidden in his holy breast.鈥 Later he would hear the voice of the Lover in very different circumstances – as he argued with the innkeeper in Languedoc and as he travelled the roads of Europe.The readings for this 19th Sunday (Cycle A) provide us with other examples of people who listened and discerned the voice of the Lover calling them to do a seemingly impossible task. Elijah, while fleeing for his life encounters his Lover in the gentle breeze 鈥 […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 8

Continuing our reflection on St Dominic in preparation for his feast, here is an extract from “The Genius of St Dominic” by Marie Humbert Vicaire OP.The Liberty of the ‘Poor Man’The Bull of Recommendation of the Order to the bishops of December 8, 1219, which already contained the essential terms of the Bull to the brethern of December 12, added a precision. It said that the Preachers ‘reject the burden of worldly riches so as to be able to run more freely (expeditius) in the field of this world’. Some months later the text in the Bologna Constitutions that is expressly attributed to Dominic would use the same word. If those who are deputed to study and preaching are set free from every temporal charge, it is ‘so that they can better fulfil their spiritual mission in a greater liberty (expeditius).’ The image behind the word is that of the expeditus, the light infantryman, more rapid and more efficacious than the one weighed down by a heavy equipment. From then on the image became current.Mendicany was a source first of all of mobility. Like the beggar, the Preacher was not tied down to any place or domain on which he depended for his living. He lived on his poverty just as much on his travels as when at home. It also meant a greater facility for getting occasions to preach. The first type of papal Bull of Recommendation that Dominic obtained for his Order already made it clear that ‘they preach the Word of the Lord faithfully and gratis’, ‘presenting themselves in the title of poverty’. The same disinterestedness would facilitate their installation in the towns, for if a church were assigned to them […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 7

Dominic, Man of Prayer, and Man of the Gospel: Preacher of Grace and Truth. Blessed Raymond tells us in the Life of Catherine 鈥淪t.Catherine saw the Co-Eternal Son proceeding from the mouth of The Eternal Father and while she was contemplating Him, she saw the Blessed Patriarch, St. Dominic come forth from the breast of the Father all resplendent with brightness. My Son by nature, who is the Eternal Word proceeding from my mouth, preached publicly to the world, whatever I charged him to say. My adopted son Dominic also preached to the world the truth of my Words鈥. He is still preaching in his successors today 800 years later. The radiance from Dominic鈥檚 demeanor and life wholly rooted in Christ captured those who met him, even the most bigoted of Albigensian heretics. His mission was to bring the light of God to the whole world by word and example. His first band of followers saw in Dominic a man specially chosen by God. Blessed Jordan of Saxony spoke of Dominic as a person of exceptional integrity of character, with extraordinary energy of divine zeal. Contemplative at heart, Dominic spoke of God or about God and told his companions to do the same in humility and poverty. He befriended so many along the high ways and bye ways, in the inns and taverns; he just overflowed with inspiring words of God or about God. Blessed Jordan spoke of Dominic鈥檚 great charity, mercy and compassion, for the poor, the lowly and marginalized. Everybody was enfolded in the wide embrace of charity. The Eternal Father revealed to Catherine of Siena 鈥淵our Father was a light that I gave to the world by means […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 6

On this 6th day of our Novena in preparation for St. Dominic鈥檚 Feast day, a few thoughts on his spirit of ZEAL in dedicating himself totally to the salvation of souls through the spreading of the Good News of God鈥檚 Word are surely vital. Our Lord鈥檚 own words in John Ch.2 鈥淶eal for your house devours me鈥 can also apply so aptly to our father, Dominic.In his Divine Comedy, Dante describes St. Dominic as a 鈥榝riend fast-knit to Christ鈥 – how very true, for Dominic was indeed one with Christ in his intense life of prayer, in his thirst for the salvation of souls and in his love for the poor, the sick, the troubled.We read in the Book of Numbers Ch.25, 鈥渢he Lord said to Moses: 鈥楶hinehas, the priest, has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, my people, because he was the only one among them to have the same zeal as I have鈥︹欌. How appropriately these words too, can also be applied to St. Dominic.It was his zeal that led St. Dominic to spend his nights and much of his day in prayer, pleading for the salvation of souls even to the point of offering himself to be cut in pieces to be placed at the gates of hell. How he longed and longed to bring Christ鈥檚 Compassion to the suffering people of his time, and the light of God鈥檚 truth to those led astray by heresy.And so it was that in his zeal, he founded his Order specifically for the salvation of souls. It is no wonder that he is addressed in one of the hymns as 鈥榓 burning ardent lover鈥.Each member of the […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 5

One of the things that strikes me about Dominic is his openness to God鈥檚 will and his willingness to take the step he sees in faith without a clear vision of where it will finally lead. As Augusta Drane says in her account of his life:鈥淗is call was not sudden, or miraculous, or even extraordinary; it was that which is the likeliest to come to people like ourselves; particular impressions of mind were given just at the time when circumstances combined together gradually to develop the way in which those impressions could be carried out. He was always being led forward, not knowing there whither he went. As sub-prior of Osma he probably saw nothing before him but the ordinary community life of the cathedral chapter. Then came the journey to Denmark, on a mission whose ostensible object was a failure, but whose real end in the design of God was accomplished when it brought him into the presence of the heresy which it was his destiny to destroy. Yet though we have reason to believe that from the time of his first collision with the Albigenses a very clear and distinct idea was formed in his mind of some future apostolate of preaching, it is evident that he had no equally clear and determinate view in what direction he was to work; 鈥 He was on the road back to his old home, preparing to take up again the old duties and the old life which had been interrupted by two years, rich with new thoughts and hopes now, it seemed, to be forever abandoned; and then when he had made what was probably a painful sacrifice of great desires, those mysterious orderings […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 4

From “On the Beginnings of the Order of Preachers” by Jordan of Saxony OP:Far more impressive and splendid than all his miracles, though, wre the exceptional intergity of his character and the extraordinary energy of divine zeal which carried him along; these proved beyond all doubt that he was a vessel of honour and grace, adorned with every kind of “precious stone”. Hi mind was always steady and calm, except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy; and, since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression. He never allowed himself to become angry. In every reasonable purpose his mind conceived, in accordance with God’s will, he maintained such constancy that he hardly ever, if ever, consented to change any plan which he had formulated with due deliberation. And though, as has been said, he face was always radiant with a cheerfulness which revealed the good conscience he bore within him, “the light of his face never fell to the ground”. By his cheerfulness he easily won the love of everybody. Without difficulty he found his way into people’s hearts as soon as they saw him.Wherever he went, whether he was on the road with his companions or in some house, with his host and the rest of the household, or among important people and rulers and prelates, he always overflowed with inspiring words. He had an abundant supply of edifying stories, with which he directed people’s minds to the love of Christ and contempt for the world. Everywhere, in word and in deed, he showed himself to be a man of […]

Novena to St Dominic – Day 3

Dominic and PrayerThe Nine Ways of Prayer of St Dominic was written by an anonymous author, probably at Bologna, sometime between 1260 and 1288. The source of his information was Sr Cecilia of the Monastery of St Agnes at Bologna (who had been received to the habit by St Dominic) and others who had been in contact with the Holy Founder. This venerable document testifies to the eminent holiness of the Saint, showing something of his intimate life and intense love of God.The Fourth Way of PrayerSt Dominic would remain before the altar or in the chapter room with his gaze fixed on the Crucified One, looking upon Him with perfect attention. He genuflected frequently, again and again. He would continue sometimes from after Compline until midnight, now rising, now kneeling again, like the Apostle St James, or the leper of the gospel who said on bended knee: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Mt 8:2). He was like St Stephen who knelt and called out with a loud cry: “Lord, do not lay this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Thus there was formed in our holy father, St Dominic, a great confidence in God’s mercy towards himself, all sinners, and for the perseverance of the younger brethren whom he sent forth to preach to souls. Sometimes he could not restrain his voice, and the friars would hear him murmuring: “Unto thee will I cry, O Lord: O my God, be not thou silent to me: lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit” (Ps27:1)and comparable phrases from the Sacred Scripture.At other times, however, he spoke within himself and his voice could […]

Novena to St. Dominic – Day 2

Reflecting on the life, character and example of St. Dominic during this Novena and simultaneously aware of the Mass Readings this morning focusing so strongly on the Eucharist, I was struck again, as I have been before, on how deeply St. Dominic seemed to have understood the extraordinary mystery of the Eucharist. We know this from several witnesses who gave testimonies at the process of canonization-for example:Brother Bonvisus said: 鈥淪ometimes I served his Mass. I would then watch his expression, and I used to see so many tears running down his face that the drops ran in a stream.鈥滲rother Stephen testified 鈥 that very frequently he saw him celebrate Mass, and noticed that his eyes and cheeks were wet with tears during the Canon. It was quite easy for those present to perceive this devotion from his great fervour during Mass and the way that he said the Pater Noster . He never remembers having seen him say Mass with dry eyes.鈥 Brother Paul of Venice said that 鈥 if Dominic could find a suitable church, he wanted to celebrate a High Mass every day.鈥 We know that in the 12th & 13th Centuries it was both unusual and exceptional for priests to celebrate Mass daily and yet we know that Dominic did. The historian, William Hinnebusch, says of Dominic in reference to his love of the Eucharist: 鈥 Endowed with a charm and compassion that drew both men and women into the orbit of his love, his dominant trait was a priestliness that was marked by a profound love of Christ and the Eucharistic Mystery.鈥滻t seems to me that St. Dominic was graced with an understanding of the deepest […]