St. Dominic and Dominican Order
Dominican Order, often called so by its founder’s name, or more officially “The Order of Preachers” is a Roman Catholic order founded in 1206 by Saint Dominic de Guzman, who was born in Caleruega, in Spain in 1170. In Spain he is also known as Domingo Félix de Guzmán.
At age of twenty-four or so he was a canon of cathedral in Osma, distinguished for his humility and virtues. And perhaps for this reason his bishop Diego de Acebes took him on a trip to Denmark (around 1203). When they both crossed the Pyrenees, they discovered two things: Many Christians were victims of the Cathar heresy that spread to the south of France and preaching of Divine gospel had not reached yet the pagans in Eastern Europe. During this trip Dominic and bishop were stopping in a hotel and Dominic realized that the landlord himself was infected by heresy.
Due to his apostolic zeal he became interested in landlord’s soul and, after a long night of compelling discussion, the heretic returned to faith :)
Dominic never had thought about founding a religious order, but this adventurous journey made him aware of problems that have been outside his scope earlier. He discovered his new vocation and many likeminded people around. Along with his bishop he took the first steps towards a mission that led him towards founding a new order – Order of Preachers or Dominican Order – whose communities would be inspired by the very first community of Jerusalem, with a truly fraternal love and fully dedicated to the praise of God and studies about God. A quasi-monastic life but open to the missionary, preaching the Gospel for the salvation of souls. It was rather a new approach at the time, until then only bishops had to preach and monks were practicing behind the walls of monasteries. Dominic’s intention was to devote his life to studies of God’s Holy Scriptures and Christian philosophy, so members of Dominican Order would be able to prove and protect their faith and doctrine. The motto of Dominicans was “to talk with God in prayer and to speak about God while preaching”. And Saint Dominic was trying to be an example of this. His contemporaries were spending his nights praying and speaking with God and his days speaking with people about God. Dominic made a great synthesis between contemplative and apostolic life. The whole program of Dominican Order was to study, preach and pray.
God has inspired Dominic’s heart for compassion to sinners, for those who according to his view were living in illusions and sins. He was fighting for the faith and peace much like Crusaders, but not with the sword but with God’s word, example of life and prayer. During nights he was praying and crying “My God, what will happen with sinners?!”
It is said by Dominic’s contemporaries, that he has been leading a very ascetic lifestyle, abstaining from meat, observing all fasts and periods of silence prescribed by Catholic Church and during his extensive and often exhausting travels across Europe he was always selecting the worst accommodations and dress and never using the luxury of bed.
The headquarters of Dominican Order since early times have been in Rome. In 1219 Pope Honorius III invited Saint Dominic and his companions to take up residence at the ancient Roman basilica of Santa Sabina, which they did by early 1220. Before that time the friars had only a temporary residence in Rome at the convent of San Sisto Vecchio which Honorius III had given to Dominic in 1218.
Many have been trying to depict St. Domenic as an inquisitor, but actual historical sources don’t tell anything about it. Inquisition was established by Pope Lucius III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1184. And he couldn’t even take part in the real Roman Inquisition which was started by Pope Gregory IX in 1233, since Dominic had died twelve years ago, in 1221. He died on August 6, 1221, at age of fifty-one and his final teachings to his followers were to do charity, observe humility and to make their treasure out of poverty.
St. Dominic was definitely a fighter for faith and defender of truth, but no contemporary document even suggested that he would be participating in any violent repressions against heretics. Instead he was recommending “To do a lot of charity to heretics, to talk and teach them and lead to penance and to convert them in faith.”
Sadly enough in latter days many of Dominicans took an active part in inquisition. And were nicknamed as “God’s dogs” derived from the meaning of their name in Latin, “Domini” – God’s and “cane” – “dog”.
But this was not all. Members of Dominican Order where actively involved around Universities, as professors and teachers. They have been the leading light of European philosophy since the middle ages. Dominicans where studying Aristotle’s philosophy and over-working it for Christian needs and works of other Christian philosophers. Among active Dominicans has been St. Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great. Actually, I always have been wandering why Albert the Great is considered Catholic at all, since he is world’s famous mostly about his works and practice in Jewish Kabala, spiritism, astrology and magic pentacles to call spirits. If you can explain me how such a men in Medieval Ages was considered a Catholic, let me know.
Oh, Well! While I believe St. Dominic’s intentions and livelihood has been good and could be considered inspiring to some extent, I have to conclude that such an emphasis on preaching and other transient things that could be considered as dependent on God’s will only, are not very healthy, not for him nor for the Europe’s future. It would have been much better if he would have joined some more contemplative order, like Franciscans or Carmelites, for example. Sadly enough in our days some charismatic sects are trying to copy something similar today and most often without any profound holiness or inner wisdom.
This was the story about Dominican Order. I don’t think I will return to it a lot, if only in relation to philosophy and especially Aquininan philosophy, which can be very entertaining.
St.Dominic is recognized as the patron of Astronomers and falsely accused persons.