Saint of the Month- AUGUST – SAINT DOMINIC
Feast Day – August 8th
Dominic was born in Castile in Spain in 1170 into an upper-class family of nobility. His mother Blessed Joan of Aza was well known for her piety and brought Dominic up to be a good catholic man, enrolling him to study at the University at Palencia in 1184 where he studied diligently for the next ten years, aided by his kindly priest uncle who became a source of inspiration to the young Dominic. It wouldn’t be long before Dominic would follow in his uncle’s footsteps and follow Christ as a priest.
As a young person Dominic ‘s zeal was evident by demonstrative acts of faith and love, such as selling his expensive books to provide for the poor. His books it seems were not enough, he even tried to sell himself into slavery to obtain freedom for the captives of the Moors, a sacrifice not permitted by Divine Providence it appears.
Living roughly at the same time of Saint Francis, God had other work for Dominic. While Francis became God’s beggar, a beggar with a heart, Dominic would make use of his mind in God’s service and spread God’s word in the midst of much opposition and heresy. The prevailing heresy of the day was the Albigensian heresy, and at the time of Dominic’s birth it was spreading like a contagious disease, and those who administered it were fervent and strong, unparalleled by any orthodox Christian teacher at the time until the rise of the great Dominic and his Order of Preachers or Dominicans (OP).
The heresy bore some similarities to cults of earlier times, one in particular known as Manichaeism (which had been dabbled in by St Augustine of Hippo before his conversion) seemed to have resurrected itself in the region of Southern France and, causing Pope Innocent III great worry and distress certain persons were commissioned to counter its influence; St Dominic was one of those persons! The Albigensianists held certain beliefs that we might call dualistic, God and the devil, light and darkness, the soul and the body, this world and the next. The former being highly exalted over the latter especially in regard to the soul and the body made the concept of suicide an intrinsic good, for to the adherents of this heresy one needed to escape the corruption of the body in which the soul was trapped, not dissimilar it would seem to some ancient Greek ideas.
For Dominic however the body was intrinsically good, for Christ himself was not just a man as they contended but fully God and Man and deigning to take upon himself the lowliness of human flesh he sanctified our mortal state and made it ‘good’ again. -St Dominic’s preaching and apologetics (defence of the faith) were beyond comparison for the time and won many souls away from such heretical groups such as the Albigenisianists, as many as 100,000! -His inspiration he claimed came from the book he used which he claimed was ‘the book of love’ and with fervent love of the people to whom he preached he implored his followers to be devoted to study of the bible and prayer. Further to this, Dominic spread devotion to Our Lady and the propagated and promoted the recitation of the rosary.
Dominic’s followers spread rapidly, even in his own lifetime, and opened houses in Paris, Madrid, Rome, Bologna and even unto Poland and Palestine and England.
Three times Dominic had rejected the office of a bishop, claiming he would rather flee into the night with just his staff!! He never forgot his direct and arduous commission to combat heresy and spread the beauty of the truth. He was honoured with the title: Master of the Sacred Palace, or the Pope’s Theologian, a title which certain Dominicans still hold today.
The famous miracle at Fanjeaux illustrates rather beautifully the power of truth prevailing in the heart, mind and on the lips of Dominic. The story runs that a certain dissertation of Dominic’s countering the fallacies of the heretics was being considered at a gathering of believers and unbelievers. After the judges had carefully examined his case and the case of his opponents they could not decide which to side with. And so with the mind of the middle-ages all books were cast on a fire to be consumed by the flames, all were destroyed save the truth penned by the mind of St Dominic. Whether this story is illustrative of the lasting nature of truth in the hearts of those prepared to receive it or whether this was an actual miracle doesn’t matter, its message is clear- That which is true is true for all times and will persist despite the ravages of heresy and evil.
Dominic died on August 4, 1221, at Bologna, Italy. He is the patron saint of astronomers, scientists, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. His remains are in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, Italy.
Saint Dominic was canonized July 3, 1234 by Pope Gregory IX at Rieti, Italy