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We celebrate St. Dominic's feast day on August 8. Lay Dominican Meg Herriot introduces St. Dominic's work and some well-known Dominican saints.

What do a beautiful woman who tried to make herself ugly; a poor humble friar; a woman who, in loose terms, told the Pope to "man up;" a handsome 24-year-old man; an extremely talented artist whose work appears in most major art museums with images of the Rosary; and a saint known as the “Dumb Ox,” who is a brilliant Doctor of the Church, have in common?

Here are some more hints to the question:

1) The group they belong to are well known for their love of wine from the very beginning. It is said they learned to drink deep from the wine of God’s Word.

2) Founded December 22, 1216. They’ve been around for over 800 years.

3) Legend has it that the founder's mother (who is a blessed) had a dream about a dog leaping from her womb with a torch in its mouth and spreading fire to the Earth. This may be one of the reasons this group is sometimes referred to as the "Hounds of The Lord."

4) The group is known as the "Order of Preachers."


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Why, they are Dominicans, of course! Their names in order of the above description include: St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin dePorres, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Fra Angelico, and St. Thomas Aquinas. There are well over 300 saints and blesseds that belong to the Dominican order.

Who was St. Dominic and how is he relevant today? Well, I will give you a layperson's "Readers Digest" version of his story. He was born in the Middle Ages, in times of great turmoil, when Spain and Europe were being overtaken and there were wars and more wars between Christian Europe and Muslims, the time known as the Crusades.

St. Dominic didn't fight those battles, though. Instead, he fought against the Albigensian heresy. Now the following is an oversimplification, but let me go ahead and phrase it in the following way. The Albigensian heretics were people who thought: "Spirit good/body bad." While you can probably figure out that there are some religious groups today that believe that, the ones who think the body is where all sin comes from and people don't have control over what their body does, as well as those who rationalize that whatever the body does/decisions it makes it doesn't matter because the spirit is good and has no control over the body (could be a comparison to some New Age beliefs).

Today, in our society one could argue there is another type of Albigensian heresy where instead of just the spirit mattering and not the body, the opposite is true. Who cares about the spirit and just do what the body says because there is no spirit and we just live in the now. According to Catholic teaching. Jesus came to us as divine God and Man, Son of Mary, so thus, he redeemed us both body AND soul. This has so many implications.

St. Dominic didn't fight this heresy on the battlefield. He fought it in taverns and on the street, wandering through Europe teaching, listening, and instructing, and he calls his followers to do the same. Dominicans search for Truth; they search by academic study, conversation, and more. Their 4 pillars include Prayer, Common Life, Study, and Preaching, and this is how they divide their days. Dominicans can be priests, sisters, friars, and lay people (meaning just like you and me: I am a Lay Dominican, as a matter of fact).

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Learn more about St. Dominic and Dominicans. #catholicmom

I once heard a joke where a priest said he wanted to "live like a Jesuit and die like a Dominican." Well, I won't comment on the Jesuit part, but the Dominican part may be because the Dominicans "look after their own" and many others, of course. A Dominican charism is to daily pray for their deceased Dominicans and St. Dominic actually told his friars that he would "do far more for them when he died than he did when he was alive."

There are MANY wonderful books much more scholarly than I am who share oodles of information about St. Dominic. Please consider reading them. There's also a great podcast on Catholic Answers Focus which is a great interview with Kevin Vost, a Dominican biographer.

Hopefully this blog has lit a small fire to your desire to learn more about St. Dominic and Dominicans! Happy Feast of St. Dominic!

Copyright 2021 Meg Herriot
Image: Pixabay (2018)