Memorial of St. Dominic

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Memorial of ST. Dominic

Scripture Readings: Num 20:1-13; Mt 16:13-23

Dom John Chapman, a Benedictine abbot of Downside Abbey in England, was a great spiritual director.  He said, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”  And, “To pray well is to pray often because the less one prays the worse it gets.”  Just like the less one plays golf the worse it gets. 

An early source of St. Dominic’s spirituality relates that he practiced nine ways of personal prayer.  In humility he would make a profound bow, or lie prostrate on the ground. To express reverence he would frequently genuflect.  If his prayer was penitential he would whip himself.  In adoration he would fold his hands together.  When making a petition he would raise his arms with open hands to receive what he asked. Sometimes he would sit quietly reading the bible and bend forward to kiss the Word of God.  At other times he prayed out loud, exhorting himself to better ways.  Frequently he would pray while walking or pacing back and forth to avoid drowsiness.  And he liked to find deserted places where he could give himself over to quiet contemplation.  His body shared in his life of prayer as much as his spirit.  But above all these ways of praying, his favorite prayer was the rosary.

So, how did St. Dominic pray?  By dancing before the Lord all the day long.  

 

Memorial of St. Dominic

Scripture Readings: Num 12:1-13; Mt 14:22-36        

Imagine a young man preaching on the campus of Catholic University in Washington DC, or at Notre Dame, proclaiming the word of God with such fervor that dozens of students and many professors—like the dean of theology, and the head of the law school—decide then and there to give up their careers and classes to join this preacher.  Picture Archbishop Jackels resigning his office to go with him.  Include the sons of several state governors along with the presidents of General Motors and IBM, plus a renowned opera singer giving up their wealth to be members of a new order called Dominicans.  All that the young man promises them is poverty and martyrdom by preaching Christianity here and in the Middle East.  Say that within twenty-five years he had 30,000 followers.  If such a thing were to happen today it would be an exact reflection of the impact that St. Dominic Guzman had on Europe in the 13th century.  He founded the Order of Preachers to combat error with the word of God.  And true to his promise, within the first hundred years over 13,000 Dominicans were martyred. 

But at the very beginning of his order not everyone persevered.  He experienced great sadness when a large number of novices left because of the austerity of their way of life.  Dominic asked one of the remaining novices, “Will you also go away?”  He replied, “God forbid that I should leave the head to follow the feet.” 1

At first, Dominic’s preaching was also unsuccessful, until Our Lady asked him to combine preaching with praying the rosary.  After that he said, “Arm yourselves with prayer instead of a sword. [For] one day through the rosary and the scapular Our Lady will save the world.”  Not many are called to be preachers, but like Dominic we can all pray the rosary every day for our good and the world’s conversion.   

1. Jennifer Moorcroft, The Hidden Light: A Life of Saint Dominic, p. 103.