St Dominic 800 Years Later

A pilgrim’s notes

Fausto Gomez, OP

On August 8 of every year, the Dominican Family of brothers, nuns, sisters, and lay and clerical fraternities celebrate solemnly the feast of their Father and Founder St. Dominic de Guzman. This year (2015), the celebration has an added significance: the coming 800 Jubilee of the Order of Preachers which will start on November 7, 2015, the feast day of all the saints of the Dominican Order.

The approval of the Order of Preachers founded by St. Dominic was confirmed by Pope Honorius III on December 22, 1216, the day the Pope signed the Bull of Confirmation of the Order as a local religious institution in Toulouse, where Dominic began his preaching adventure with a group of brothers.  The Jubilee 800 will close on January 21, 2017, the day the same Pope signed a second confirmation of the Order, this time giving them authority to preach throughout the world.

Eight hundred years later (2016), the Dominican Family praises the Lord, gives him thanks, asks for forgiveness for the failures of brothers and sisters, and embarks itself on a journey of change and renewal, a journey that takes them back to their origins, to Dominic, the evangelical and apostolic man.

Dominic Of Guzman, the Man and the Founder

Dominic was born in the noble town of Caleruega, Burgos, in Castilla, Spain in the year 1170. He had two brothers: Antonio, who became a priest, and Manes, who joined Dominic in his project of the Order. When he was about fourteen/fifteen years of age, Dominic was sent by his parents to the famous school of Palencia, where he pursued diligently the studies of liberal arts and theology, which he loved. Through his student years, Dominic had three loves: study, prayer and the poor; three loves that will ground his future life and mission.

Dominic, the contemplative canon regular (1196 – 1204). By 1196, we see Dominic at Osma, where he becomes a canon regular at Osma Cathedral. Here, Dominic committed himself to pray the Divine Office, meditate and administer the Sacraments. In 1201 he was elected Sub-Prior. He followed the Rule of St. Augustine, and came to love silence, prayer, contemplation and some monastic observances.

Dominic, the active apostle of Christ (1204 – 1215). Through the Languedoc Region in Southern France, Dominic preached the Word of God, the true doctrine against the heresies of the Albigensians. These ten years in Dominic’s life constitute the preaching adventure of Dominic and some companions.

Dominic, the contemplative-active Founder of the Order of Preachers (1216 – 1221). Living as a family consecrated to God for the salvation of souls, Dominic and his band of itinerant preachers prayed, studied and proclaimed the Word, through Europe, following closely the footsteps of Jesus and his apostolic community.

Dominic, the Preacher and the Saint

Dominic was, the early chroniclers tell us, “Patient, kind, compassionate, sober, loving, humble and chaste, and he was always a virgin. I never knew anyone to compare with him in holiness of life;” “he rarely spoke except with God or about God in prayer and he encouraged the brethren to do likewise” (Paul of Venice). He often wept “while preaching, which made the people weep too” (Rudolph of Faenza). He was always joyful. His radiant face seduced all. God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena: “The religion of your Father Dominic is joyful and lightsome.”

The founding Father of the Dominicans was a very compassionate person. “The compassion of Dominic, like that of Christ, was nourished by the suffering of people – of sinners, the poor, the wretched, for whom he had a special grace of prayer; he was incapable of controlling his tears” (V. de Couesnongle, OP). He loved the poor in a special way: as a student in Palencia, Dominic decided to sell his books. Why? He said: “I will not study on dead skins while men are dying of hunger.” At that time, there was a great famine around.

Dominic was democratic in governing the Order, always searching for consensus among the brothers. Above all, the Founder of the Order of Preachers was a preacher. His preaching was fed by prayer, rooted in poverty and study, and supported by the brothers and nuns.

Friend of Francis of Assisi, Dominic was also a great devotee of Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. In fact, he placed his apostolate under her constant protection and contributed greatly to the popular devotion to the Rosary of Mary.

The Father of the Dominicans was canonized by Gregory IX on July 3, 1234.

The Dominicans Today: Bact to Dominic

St. Dominic did not leave any major writings or personal works. His work is his Order of priests, brothers, nuns, sisters, secular institutes and fraternities of lay men and women, and priests. Who are the Dominicans? The Dominicans are followers of Dominic and the Dominican Order is an apostolic, missionary and intellectual Order. The Dominicans’ basic rule is St. Augustine’s, a rule that underlines community and apostolic life, and the fundamental directory of the brothers is the Book of Constitutions and Ordinations (LCO).

The mottos of the Dominicans are: Veritas (truth), Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere (to contemplate and give to others the fruits of their contemplation). Laudare, benedicere and praedicare (to praise, to bless and to preach).

The key elements of the Order of Preachers (OP): Community life, prayer, study, and preaching. The priority of priorities is preaching. Dominican preaching is a combination of the basic elements of the Dominican charism, namely, proclamation of the truth as grounded on community life, prayer, study, and ordered to the salvation of souls, which is the end of preaching.

The Dominican Family is spread throughout the world.  The branch of brothers is made up today of 50 independent institutions, most of them Provinces (38). There are currently nearly six thousand brothers. The number of brothers is growing in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. The Dominican Province of Our Lady of the Rosary is present in many countries of Asia since its foundation in 1587, including Hong Kong and Macau. Dominican sisters Missionaries of the Rosary are also present in Macau.

The celebration of 800 years of Dominican life in the world will be a unique opportunity for the whole Dominican Family to tell the world who they are, what they do, where are they going, and where do they come from. Through 2015-2017, the Dominicans will go back to their past to renew their vocation and re-live it in the present faithfully and creatively.

They are going back to Dominic who continues pointing to Christ.   With his companions, Dominic wanted to go back to the roots of faith, to the Gospel, and to imitate Christ as closely as possible. It has been said that the intense love of Dominic for Jesus and for all men and women is the fountain of the foundation of the Order for preaching and the salvation of souls.

Brothers in Bologna were sad and crying when Dominic was dying. Their Father tells them: “I shall be more useful to you and more fruitful after my death than I was in my life.” This is the central idea of the lovely Dominican hymn O Spem Miram. Dominic died on August 6, 1221. Eight hundred years later, Dominic continues to be alive throughout the world in the Dominican Family.

Salient virtues of Dominic

Humility: He turned down the episcopacy twice or thrice. He wanted to resign as Master General of the Order at the first General Chapter. Reason: “I deserve to be removed, because I am useless and lax.” Everything he did never pointed to himself, but always to God and to the neighbor.

Love of God and Neighbor: The night is for God, and the day for the neighbor, because God has made the night for thanksgiving and the day for mercy, he said. Above all, love of God: “He just talks about the Lord.” Dominic talks only with God or about God.  His whole life was prayer and preaching.

Poverty: “Never asking for reward…” Poor in spirit and in fact, a mendicant, Dominic lived on alms and was sober and austere. He proposed poverty not just as a vow but as an overarching attitude of every Dominican, a conditio sine qua non to preach the Gospel effectively.

Penance: He fasted and mortified his senses. He disciplined himself at night thrice: one, for his sins; another, for the conversion of sinners, and the third for the souls in purgatory. Penance, he learned from St. Augustine is needed to be able to have the body under the spirit and the spirit under God.

Chastity: He was always a virgin. Pure in body and soul! Chastity is for the love of God and the love of all neighbors.

Obedience: He obeyed the Pope, the bishops, the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitutions and authorities of the Order. His obedience to the Church connected him with the apostolic tradition. While the heretics practiced poverty – often better than bishops and official and papal legates (these could only have 30 mules in their entourage!) -, they were not in communion with the apostolic tradition.

Freedom: Cardinal Villot described our Father Dominic as “truly a free man”: detached, trusting in God and in people who fed him) and in his companions.

St. Dominic was also a great leader – democratic and Christian. As Christian: we considered authority as a service – a shared service.

On July 21, 1587, a galleon arrived in Cavite from Acapulco, Mexico. Among the passengers, there were 15 Dominicans: members of the Province of the Holy Rosary who were previously in one of the three Spanish Dominican Provinces, namely the ones of Castilla, Andalucia and Aragon. The 15 had come freely and had committed themselves in Mexico to fulfill strictly the Dominican Constitutions and the Fundamental Ordinations they had all promised to carry out to the letter; to be followers of St. Dominic in mission land and under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary, the patroness of the new Missionary Dominican Province.

From Spain, through Mexico, to the Philippines, and from the Philippines to different Asian countries. The Dominicans’ mission in the Philippines, in China, in Tonkin (Vietnam), in Japan, in Taiwan, and later on in Korea, Singapore, Myanmar and East Timor

The first Dominicans in the Philippines and later on in other Asian countries were told in Spain of the hardships that they would certainly encounter. They were asked to reflect prayerfully and deeply and afterwards sign a statement stating that they were totally free and that they committed themselves to live a strict Dominican life in the Philippines and elsewhere:

In times of great hardships and trials, they will remember that they offered themselves freely to this service for the love they have to Our Lord Jesus Christ and the zeal of souls and as penance for their sins.

Those who signed in Spain were asked: “Are you ready to live a life of penance, austerity and service?” They were substantially successful because they were faithful to their commitment. They were strict observers of religious life. The civil and ecclesiastical authorities were so happy with the first group of Dominicans that they – the Cabildo of Manila- asked the King of Spain to send them more, many (muchos). Why? “Because they live in these lands very much as sons of their Father Dominic.” Similarly, our brothers and sisters in the different countries of Asia lived and live as true sons and daughters of our Father Dominic. We are a cog in the long and wonderful chain of missionaries of our Province and of our nuns and sisters and lay faithful on the wave-length of St. Dominic.

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