As we continue our novena I would like to focus on St Dominic’s love of and fidelity to prayer and his ease at praying all through his life especially at moments when he had to make important decisions.

Today the 4th of August we celebrate the feast of St John Mary Vianney who also was a great man of prayer.  Yesterday at Sunday Mass we read the Gospel of Matthew (14: 13 – 14) where Jesus needed to get away from the crowds to pray and grieve for the death of John the Baptist but because of the pressing needs of the crowds he did not get it.  In today’s Gospel following on from the feeding of the multitude and sending the crowds away Jesus goes up into the hills to pray.

Very often St Dominic is addressed in   poems and hymns as ‘Gospel man of Prayer’. Theoderic says: “A certain cleric after hearing Dominic explain the Holy Scriptures could not refrain from asking him in what book he had studied to find matter so sublime”  “My son” replied the saint “I have studied chiefly in the book of Charity, it is there that we learn all things.”  Dominic must have spent many hours before the Crucifix which inspired him to go far and near preaching the Word of God, visiting the poor, consoling the afflicted, healing the sick in imitation of his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

Dominic we are told by those who knew him “spoke only to God or about God.  Biographers tell us when he was on his journey with a band of friars he would remain at the end to be alone and pray.  He was often heard singing the hymn to Mary “Ave Maris Stella”.

At night he spent much time praying, resting his head on the altar steps.  Blessed Jordan of Saxony says  that God gave him the singular grace of weeping for sinners, the wretched, the afflicted.  Day and night Jordan says Dominic prayed without ceasing and using the leisure time afforded for contemplation.

Abbot William of Toulouse at the saint’s canonisation process said “I never saw anyone pray so much or weep so much.  When he prayed he cried out and could be heard by those around him and in these cries he said: “Oh Lord have mercy on your people – what is to become of sinners? – thus he spent his nights imploring, praying for the sins of others.”

Dominic grasped the importance of the liturgy – Mass and the Divine Office.  We are told “none was more fervent when celebrating the Eucharist.  Almost always when he was outside the priory when Dominic heard the first bell for Matins from a monastery he arose and aroused the brethren.  With great devotion he celebrated the entire day and night Office in proper order.  Rudolf of Bologna said “the Blessed Dominic always attended choir with the community”.  When he was there he used his prerogative as father and founder to encourage them “to put their whole hearts into the chanting.” 

Many of us are familiar with the ‘Nine Ways of Prayer’ where Dominic gives us the example of using his body in genuflections, standing and prostrating before the Altar and Crucifix.  Dominic was very aware that we are more than spirit and soul – we are flesh and blood people too.  If our prayer is to be an authentic expression of our faith then devotion and worship must also have a corporal dimension to it.