“By their fruits you will know them” (Mt 12:33)
, Dominic’s claim to fame is his founding of the Order of Preachers (commonly called “Dominicans,” after him); the Order consists in three branches: the first are the friars; the second are the cloistered nuns (whom he established even before the friars because he wanted to have the prayer-support of the nuns for the task ahead); the third are comprised of Sisters in active apostolates and lay people.
If he hadn’t taken a trip with his bishop, Dominic would probably have remained within the structure of contemplative life; after the trip, he spent the rest of his life being a contemplative in active apostolic work.
Born in old Castile, Spain, Dominic was trained for the priesthood by a priest-uncle, studied the arts and theology, and became a canon of the cathedral at Osma, where there was an attempt to revive the apostolic common life described in Acts of the Apostles.
On a journey through France with his bishop, Dominic came face to face with the then virulent Albigensian heresy at Languedoc. The Albigensians–or Cathari, “the pure ones”–held to two principles—one good, one evil—in the world. All matter is evil—hence they denied the Incarnation and the sacraments. On the same principle, they abstained from procreation and took a minimum of food and drink. The inner circle led what some people regarded as a heroic life of purity and asceticism not shared by ordinary followers.
Dominic sensed the need for the Church to combat this heresy, and was commissioned to be part of the preaching crusade against it. He saw immediately why the preaching crusade was not succeeding: the ordinary people admired and followed the ascetical heroes of the Albigenses. Understandably, they were not impressed by the Catholic preachers who traveled with horse and retinues, stayed at the best inns and had servants. Dominic therefore, with three Cistercians, began itinerant preaching according to the gospel ideal. He continued this work for 10 years, being successful with the ordinary people but not with the leaders.
His fellow preachers gradually became a community, and in 1215 Dominic founded a religious house at Toulouse, the beginning of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans.
Dominic’s ideal, and that of his Order, was to organically link a life with God, study, and prayer in all forms, with a ministry of salvation to people by the word of God. His ideal: contemplata tradere: “to pass on the fruits of contemplation” or “to speak only of God or with God.”
The Dominican ideal, like that of all religious communities, is for the imitation, not merely the admiration, of the rest of the Church. The effective combining of contemplation and activity is the vocation of truck driver Smith as well as theologian Aquinas. Acquired contemplation is the tranquil abiding in the presence of God, and is an integral part of any full human life. It must be the wellspring of all Christian activity.
Saint Dominic is the Patron Saint of:
truth does really exist:
“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell
“Truth is its own reward.” – Plato
“While you live, tell the truth and shame the devil.” – William Shakespeare
“The truth is always the strongest argument.” – Sophocles
And think about this trilogy from Cicero:
“Truth is corrupted as much by lies as by silence.”
“Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man.”
“For there is but one essential justice which cements society, and one law which establishes this justice. This law is right reason, which is the true rule of all commandments and prohibitions. Whoever neglects this law, whether written or unwritten, is necessarily unjust and wicked.”
As to the attainability of truth, hear what Sören Kierkegaard has to say: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Now, lest you think this business of truth-telling is easy, heed the counsel of Plato, who warns: “They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.” Or, Lewis Carroll’s realization that people come to believe what they hear repeatedly: “What I tell you three times is true.” That said, Robert Browning offers some consolation in reminding us: “Truth never hurts the teller.”
Finally, truth does win out. “Honest Abe” Lincoln was quite confident of that: “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” He also saw another societal benefit to the truth: “Let the people know the truth and the country is safe.” Epictetus, one of the ancient Greek philosophers, held that “the people have a right to the truth as they have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Now we know where the Founders got that stirring string of rights from. Last but not least, the astute political commentator Thomas Sowell encourages us: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
If secular thinkers can be so sure of the power of truth, we believers have even greater reason to hold fast to that conviction. Of the 93 times that we find the word “truth” in the New Testament, 21 of those occasions appear in the Gospel according to St. John. The Fourth Evangelist, you should remember from our course, has recourse to legal terminology to set up a trial against the world for its refusal to acknowledge the One who declared: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). To those, however, who do take Jesus as the Truth, we hear our Savior give us a blessed assurance: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32).
Today, then, we thank Almighty God for giving us eight centuries ago the man who became the “Lumen Ecclesiae” (the Light of the Church) by founding an Order committed to preaching and holding up for all to see the Light of Truth, who is none other than Jesus Christ, “the Light of the World” (Jn 8:12) .