August 8 is a special day for me because not only is it my birthday, but it is the feast day of one of my favorite saints -- St. Dominic, a Castilian priest and founder of the Dominican Order. Also, the founder of my Oblate community, Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, is a Dominican. This is a special feast day for the Community of St. John.
St. Dominic was a remarkable man – a bold and brilliant priest who is the patron saint of astronomers and scientists. As the saint who preached the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, he converted the Albigensians and set the world on fire with the Truth of the Gospel message.
Dominic Guzman was born in Castile (Spain) in 1170 to affluent aristocrats, Blessed Joan of Aza and Felix Guzman. When she was pregnant, Joan had three dreams. First, she dreamed that she would give birth to a son who would be a brilliant light to the Church. Second, she dreamed that she gave birth to a dog and that it broke away from her, carrying in its mouth a burning torch by which it set fire to the world. A dog with a torch in its mouth later became a symbol for the order which Dominic founded, the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans. Shortly before Dominic’s baptism, Joan had a third prophetic dream. On her baby's forehead appeared a bright star that illumined the world.
Dominic was a brilliant man and an exemplary student. When he was seven he was taught by his uncle, the parish priest at Gumiel d'Izan. At fourteen, he enrolled in the University of Palencia, where he completed his studies within six years. Then, he studied theology for four years.
Dominic demonstrated heroic charity throughout his life. Twice he tried to sell himself into slavery to obtain money for the freedom of those who were held in captivity by the Moors. In 1191, when Spain was devastated by famine, twenty-one year-old Dominic gave away everything he owned – money, food, clothing, and even his valuable manuscripts to help feed the hungry. He told his stunned fellow students: "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?"
At the age of twenty-six, Dominic worked with a bishop whose goal was to bring the heretical Albigensians back to the true teachings of the Church. The Albigensian heresy asserted that there are two Gods, marriage is sinful, and rejected the Trinity, Incarnation, and Redemption.
St. Dominic is the Saint of the Holy Rosary. When he was preaching to the Albigensians, he had worked very hard, but achieved little success initially. However, one day, as he was sharing his frustrations with the Blessed Mother, she appeared to him and gave him the Rosary, requesting that he recite it and encourage others to do so through his preaching.
The place of this revelation was the little chapel of Notre Dame de La Prouille and the year was 1208. Pope Leo XIII affirmed the Dominican origin of the Rosary and in a letter to the Bishop of Carcassone, he accepted the tradition of Prouille as the place where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic and revealed this devotion. Thirteen popes have confirmed the tradition that Mary first revealed the Rosary devotion to St. Dominic.
As a courageous defender of the faith, St. Dominic boldly ventured into the villages of the heretics, gathered the people, and preached to them about the mysteries of salvation. As the Blessed Virgin had taught him to do, he distinguished the different kinds of mysteries and after each short instruction he recited ten Hail Mary’s. St. Dominic found great success with this new devotion, which brought about the conversion of the Albigensians. The late Dominican, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, who was a teacher of Pope St. John Paul II when he was a student at the Angelicum in Rome, stated: "Our Blessed Lady made known to St. Dominic a kind of preaching till then unknown; which she said would be one of the most powerful weapons against future errors and in future difficulties."
St. Dominic, pray for us, for our families and loved ones, and all who have strayed away from the faith, and especially for those in our society today – all our brothers and sisters who perpetuate heresy – those who embrace and spread false doctrine. Enlighten those who are trapped in the lies of relativism and atheism. Lift the veil of darkness and deception which blinds them and lead them into the light and the reality of Truth so they may be set free to return Home to their Heavenly family. Amen.
-composed by Jean M. Heimann
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2016