St Dominic’s Charity and Humility

On this the final day of our Novena in honour of St. Dominic and as we are about to celebrate first Vespers of this special solemnity, I would like to focus this reflection on St Dominic as a man of prayer , with particular emphases on his humility and charity.
Jordan of Saxony tells us in the Libellus that the conferences of Cassian figured amongst Dominic’s favourite reading. Cassian tells us that humility, simplicity and charity are the foundations of all prayer. St. Dominic practised all these to a heroic degree.
Take for example humility: when the Bishop of Osma made him a canon regular in his church, we are told that “he was the lowliest of them all in his humility of heart, but he was their leader in holiness.” ( Libellus No. 12) His first and second Ways of Prayer, are based on humility of heart , as in his first Way of Prayer he “ bowed as low as possible before the altar, as though Christ, whom the altar represents  were present there really and personally” and in the second Way of Prayer,     “ throwing himself flat on the ground, face down, where he was moved to sorrow in his heart and reproved himself and on occasion came out so loud that that phrase of the Gospel, ‘ O God, be merciful to me a sinner’,  was heard to come from him”. At his final Chapter in Bologna, he did not want to be re-elected as Master of the Order but to be given the freedom to be an ordinary friar and to go and preach to the pagans in the East. He was neither ambitious nor power hungry but humble, living a simple life as he spent himself entirely in preaching for the salvation of everyone, “haunting the church by day and by night, devoting himself ceaselessly to prayer”.( Libellus 12)
Dominic’s deepest source of inspiration was his profound love of Jesus Christ, a love which overflowed in his charity for others. “He certainly did not lack the greatest form of charity that a person can have, the charity to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The story goes that when he was urging one of the unbelievers, with loving encouragement, to return to the true faith, the man explained that his association with the unbelievers was prompted by his worldly needs, because the heretics gave him the necessary funds, which he could not obtain in any other way. Dominic was so moved by sympathy that he decided immediately to sell himself and relieve the poverty of this endangered soul with the price of himself. And he really would have done it had not the Lord made other arrangements for meeting the man’s needs.” ( Libellus 35)
Dominic succeeded in reconciling his intense practice of prayer with the new requirements of the apostolate: the preaching mission entrusted to him by the Pope. As Sr. Barbara Beaumont OP states in her book: Keeping Faith with the Preachers, – “Dominic made real the originality of the Order he founded, the apostolic ideal rooted in contemplative prayer. The means to this end were to ensure that prayer in Dominican life must serve as a source for:
1.     Knowledge of self such as one is, and knowledge and love of others as they are.
2.     Conversion to Christ and a personal relationship with him.
3.     Joy in community and labour in the Church at the service of humankind.
Dominican spirituality is simply, in the manner of St. Dominic, to allow oneself to be seized by the mercy of God revealed in the Incarnation and in the Scriptures, to gaze on God with the eyes of the heart, and to gaze equally on people in order that they may be saved.

Through the intercession of St. Dominic and all our Dominican Saints may all of us be given these special graces.