Photo: 2399_StDominic-22 by Dominican University  /  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

On August 8, Dominicans celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic!

Dominic is our patron and the founder of our Dominican Order (the Order of Preachers). Dominic was described as joyful and prayerful, one whose preaching challenged the heresies of his day. The Dominican motto is Truth (veritas) and it is as powerful and relevant today – perhaps more relevant and needed in our time, than it was in the time of Dominic.

A brief background for the readers who are just meeting Dominic:

Dominic was born in Spain in 1170 CE. In his early adulthood, he became an ordained canon regular (a type of religious community attached to the cathedral of Osma). While on a mission into France with his bishop (1203), Dominic learned that a dualistic heresy was spreading among the Catholic faithful. The Cathari elite espoused things spiritual as good and rejected the body and all things material as evil. Papal legates were appointed to combat the heresy, but they traveled like princes and their preaching was uninspired and unconvincing.

Dominic understood that the heretics would be regained only by an austerity equal to their own; the preachers must walk the roads barefoot and in poverty. They were to be a new model, based on the example of the original apostles. Dominic received papal authorization for a preaching mission and this became the foundation for the Dominican Order.

Dominic urged his friars to study theology and to form schools of theology. He sent them out 2 by 2 into the cities and universities with the charge to study, to pray, to preach truth, and to model holiness. Dominicans are the Order of Preachers, preaching truth that is informed and supported by prayer, study, and community.

Dominic died on August 6, 1221. August 6th is also the day we commemorate the transfiguration of Jesus, and it is the anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima. It seems strangely symbolic to remember Dominic on a day when we hear God affirm Jesus as “beloved son,” and we witness a sign of the modern heresy that proclaims that might and violence lead to peace.