FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
I spent the second week of July on my annual silent retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I took along a biography of St. Dominic by Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P. as supplemental reading. St. Dominic and I go way back. When I was twelve and preparing for confirmation, I read a children’s biography of the saint and was inspired to take him for my patron. I was the only girl choosing a male saint and got some ribbing for it. Nonetheless, I was confirmed Dominica. For years afterwards I ignored poor St. Dominic and even mentioned to a Franciscan seminarian, chaplain to our Christian Family Movement group that I didn’t know why I chose him. His reply startled me. “He’s perfect for you with all your speaking on pro-life issues.” (At the time I was giving many slide presentations on fetal development and abortion.) I immediately apologized to St. Dominic and thanked him for his intercession during all the years I snubbed him.
Reading his biography I realized how perfect he is as an intercessor for our sinful age. In fact, we desperately need him! His efforts to woo people away from the Albigensians are well known and fighting the heresy actually inspired him to found the Order of Preachers to address their arguments. What did the Albigensians believe? John C. Rubba, O.P. describes it in a short pamphlet on St. Dominic: “Its philosophical basis was nihilistic, sacrilegious, revolutionary and seditious – worship of the devil who is master of the world; matter, procreated by marriage, is evil; infanticide, adultery, fornication and suicide are praiseworthy; there is no heaven, no hell, no moral code.” Wow! Doesn’t that sound like a description of our own depraved age and the culture of death? Dominic also would have been the ideal cleric to address the problems with rebellious groups within the Church like the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and their attack on Church authority. In the 13th century, Pope Honorius gave Dominic the difficult task of organizing a group of religious women scattered around Rome who were completely ungoverned and living worldly lives. Sr. Mary Jean says, “They were members of powerful families, and their relatives urged them to resist every curb on their liberty as an act of tyranny.” (Sound familiar?) The nuns resisted all efforts at reform and had “popular clamor on their side….They had only to receive visitors all day long, and keep up the excitement by perpetual talking, and the Pope and cardinals were held at bay.” (Sounds like the 13th century version of the “nuns on the bus.”) To sum up, Dominic by his wit, charm and holiness gathered the women together, gained a promise of obedience, and formed the second convent of nuns living under the Dominican rule.
St. Dominic is credited with establishing seminary formation and promulgating devotion to the rosary. A miracle worker, he believed poverty was fundamental to converting heretics. In his threadbare habit made more so by the faithful who snipped off bits to keep as relics he exemplified poverty. Dominic didn’t even have a bed to call his own and often slept in the Church worshiping at the tabernacle until he lay down on the floor to snatch a few hours of rest. When he was dying his spiritual sons had to put him in the borrowed bed of one of the brothers. He ate little and practiced stringent penances that he discouraged in others.
St. Dominic and St. Francis shared much in common and are often honored together among the Spanish in an annual ceremony called “The Embrace” commemorating their meeting. Pope Innocent III, in a prophetic vision, saw the two mendicant friars holding up the pillars of the collapsing Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. It was heaven’s message that they would renew a Church suffering from the attacks of heresy and scandal.
The motto of the Order of Preachers is veritas, truth. St. Dominic dedicated his life to it sending out his little band in small groups to spread it everywhere. When his spiritual sons objected that it was too soon to break them up, he firmly stated, “I know very well what I am doing. The seed will moulder if it is hoarded up; it will fructify if it is sown.” Let us call on St. Dominic to intercede for us in our faithless age and bring about the same harvest of souls he gathered so abundantly into God’s house in the 13th century. St. Dominic, pray for us.
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