St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers
By connie cissell / sun editor
Fire and light were common themes running throughout the life of St. Dominic. One story passed down over the centuries is that his mother had a dream before St. Dominic’s birth that a dog leapt from her womb carrying a fiery torch in its mouth. His zeal at preaching the truth is said to have been a beacon of light during a time of darkness in the world.
Born in 1170 in Calaroga, Spain to Felix and Bl. Joanna of Aza, St. Dominic was reared in a devout family. One brother followed St. Dominic’s footsteps and joined the Order of Preachers and another was a diocesan priest. Because of his family’s position, he was well educated, first by an uncle who was an archpriest and later by attending the university in Palencia where he was a devoted theology scholar. It is notable that unlike other students who likely were caught up in the city life, St. Dominic was known for his seriousness and commitment to studies. This alone singled him out amongst his peers.
Because of his austerity and piety Dominic was named canon regular in the Diocese of Osma near his birthplace around the age of 25. During this time, St. Dominic accompanied the bishop of Osma on a journey to Denmark on behalf of the King of Castile to secure a wife for his son. It was on this trip that Dominic discovered the errant preaching of the Cathars. Those preaching heresy, St. Dominic noted, were not without intelligence but rather they were making inroads with preaching zealously. This, St. Dominic thought, must be matched by equal zeal by men preaching the truth. That was the beginning of his determined efforts to found a community of preachers educated and on fire with a desire to preach the Gospel.
It was actually a women’s monastic community that was first founded by St. Dominic in either late 1206 or early 1207. The community in Prouille, France, was primarily made up of sisters seeking to avoid the heresy of the Cathars. St. Dominic had stayed in the south of France, driven by his desire to combat the heresy. Eventually he was ordered back to his diocese. He set his sight on founding an order that combined both the contemplative prayerful life of monasticism and the ability to go out into the world and preach truth and morality. St. Dominic gained papal permission for his order in December of 1216.
His intellectual prowess was well known and sought after by the hierarchy, and St. Dominic spent much time in Rome where the pomp and splendor of some of the clerics of the day left him appalled. He told them they would be better served by living humbly. It was no wonder that sects were gaining ground, St. Dominic surmised.
He traveled constantly, preaching and keeping in touch with his brother preachers. St. Dominic decided Bologna, which offered the intellectual pursuits of the nearby university, was a convenient place to settle. He died there in 1221 after one of his preaching tours. St. Dominic was canonized in 1234 and his feast day is Aug. 8.
A man of complete humility, St. Dominic practiced extreme penance all of his life. He sold his positions during his university days giving the proceeds to the poor. His piety and love of prayer still inspire the order today.
A community of Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary live in the city of Syracuse. They have been celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Dominican order since the First Sunday of Advent 2006 and will continue through the Epiphany of Our Lord in 2008. Pope Benedict XVI grants a plenary indulgence to all who visit any Dominican Monastery Chapel in the world as a place of pilgrimage during this time. They must also recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed in addition to the usual confession, Communion and prayers for the pope.
The sisters’ monastery is located at 802 Court St. It is open every day at 7:30 a.m. with Mass at 8 a.m. followed by the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament until 4:30 p.m. It is their hope that others will come to know the peace and joy that abound in their lives.
“Our whole life is called to be a prayer of praise and blessing within the order of the church,” wrote Sister Mary Augustine Worhach, OP. “We are the hidden seed which is the beginning of the joy of the full fruit. Like the seed, our life is a secret, hidden growth which is mysteriously fruitful; a prophetic sign of the quiet, still power of God’s grace, often hidden, at work in the whole church.”