I would like to reflect a little on St Dominic’s single-mindedness in his pursuit of holiness and his mission of preaching.
As a young man Dominic studied the liberal arts at a thriving arts faculty in Palencia – no doubt, a brilliant future awaited him! However, Bl Jordan tells us, very graphically, that after a short while, Dominic “fled to the study of theology as if afraid to waste his limited time on less fruitful study.” We might ask ourselves if he had struggled with himself to give up the study of arts? – for he had a keen intellect and could have persuaded himself that this could be helpful for his own future human and spiritual development. But one senses through the pages of the Libellus that something deeper was drawing him or rather Someone who demanded that he leave all aside, even good things and focus all his attention on the ‘one thing necessary.’ Bl Jordan describes Dominic’s “eagerness to imbibe the streams of Holy Scripture” as being so “intense and unremitting that he spent whole nights without sleep.” Again “he, Dominic, “welcomed the voice of his Lover with such loyalty and pleasure” that he received abundant graces and light to penetrate difficult theological questions. (cf Libellus 7)
Here he was influenced by what he had imbibed from his reading of the Conferences of Cassian who claims that one can truly contemplate and enter into the deep and hidden mysteries of the Word only by purity of heart and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. (Cf Conference XIV,9). Purity of heart in the monastic tradition refers to the absence of all love of creatures that might distract us from love of God and awareness of God’s Presence. It means total freedom to be totally dedicated to the love of God and is practised in the face of external attractions and internal passions (cf Praying the Bible by Mariano Magrassi, OSB).
Later on when he began his preaching mission we find the same single-mindedness – he would spend whole nights praying: “Lord have mercy! – what will become of sinners.” We are told that he “spoke only to God or about God” – not wasting his time on frivolous conversations and gossip – yet he was a most affable companion on the road, always joyful and caring for his brothers and all whom his encountered. In time of difficulty and hardship he persevered – for example at Fanjeaux, before forming his band of preachers, he spent ten years preaching with very little success; he was always clear-minded about what was needed for the establishment of his Order of Preachers and made the many journeys to and from Rome to obtain the various Bulls of authorisation from the Pope.
As we reflect on St Dominic during these days we may examine ourselves on how single-minded are we in our response to the Lord’s invitation to leave all and follow Him or do we allow ourselves to be distracted by trivialities along the way?
In his Apostolic Constitution on women’s Contemplative Life, Pope Francis exhorts us to focus our gaze of faith on the Lord as the treasure of our life, our wealth and sufficiency. (Cf VDq 9). He invites us to become, in the midst of the Church, “a living continuation of the mystery of Mary, Virgin, Bride and Mother who welcomes and treasures the Word in order to give it back to the world.” (VDq 37) – a wonderful description of Dominican contemplation at its best! As we celebrate his feast, may our holy Father Dominic intercede for us that “shunning the cares and illusions of the world we may allow the seed which is the Word of God to grow in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit and in so receiving it may we be interiorly renewed and more closely conformed to Christ our Saviour.” ( cf LCM 99) Like Mary may we strive to be a stairway by which God descends to encounter humanity and humanity ascends to encounter God and to contemplate his face in the face of His Beloved Son. (cf VDq 37)
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