Dominic de Guzman was born around 1170 in Caleruega, Spain, where his parents, noble Castilians, own many properties. From his childhood, Dominic was destined for church life and his parents entrusted his education to his uncle, an archpriest. In 1187, he left to study theology in Palencia. Then, a great famine beset the country. Dominic, upset by the distress, sold all his books and gave the money to the poor, saying: "I don't want to study dead skin while men starve."
The prior of the city of Osma was looking for clerics ready to follow the Augustinian Rule that prelates must not be rich in possessions. He saw in Dominic a young man willing to follow this rule. Dominic therefore became a regular canon of Saint Augustine in Osma. He led a life of contemplative prayer. The life of a canon was, at the time, punctuated by daily singing, the common prayer of the hours, meditation and spiritual reading in private. In 1197, he was ordained a priest. The reading of the Conferences of the Desert Fathers, the work of the Italian monk John Cassian, inspired Dominic greatly and raised him spiritually.
Dominic, now an under-prior, accompanied his bishop to Denmark, crossing the south of France, where they saw the extent of the heresy of the Albigensians and Cathar, and decided to act. Having obtained the permission of Pope Innocent III, they set out in 1206, to travel the regions of southern France where heresies were raging to bring back the true faith. Their means was preaching as well as an exemplary life. Following the example of the Apostles, the preachers went in pairs, living in evangelical poverty and preaching the doctrine of the Catholic Church. After the death of his bishop in 1208, Dominic, based in the monastery of Prouille, continued the work of preaching alone. In 1213, now well established in the region of Toulouse, he was appointed vicar of the bishop of Carcassonne. He and some collaborators lived in poverty, practicing charity to the inhabitants and praying a lot. Dominic had the qualities required to be a good preacher: a solid theological education, a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, clear speech, and above all a talent for touching hearts.
In 1216, Pope Honorius III approved his work and the small community of Toulouse became the Order of the Brotherhood of Preachers. In 1217, at Pentecost, Brother Dominic invoked the Holy Spirit on the community and decided to send the brothers around the world. From then on, the father of the Order traveled the roads of Spain, France and Italy, supporting the newly established communities. In Madrid, he founded the first convent of Dominican nuns, which was followed by many others. Dominic's health was soon weakened by these continual journeys on foot, and he decided to settle permanently in Bologna, Italy, to take care of the young brothers of the convent of Saint Nicholas. It was there that he died, on August 6, 1221, surrounded by his community. The tomb of Saint Dominic is still in this city. Dominic was canonized on July 3, 1234 by Pope Gregory IX, his feast day is today celebrated on August 8.
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Saint Dominic de Guzman is the founder of the Order of Preachers, whose vocation is to work for the salvation of souls through preaching. Following the example of Saint Dominic, the brothers are called to proclaim the Gospel through a life in accordance with its teaching. In addition to their role as preachers, Dominicans devote themselves to teaching and studying.
The Order of the Brotherhood of Preachers is a beggar order, it incorporates the rule of evangelical poverty, meaning that the brothers renounce any income. In addition to the vow of poverty, they vow chastity and obedience. In each convent, the Brotherhood of Preachers founded a school of theology. Brothers must give intellectual work a fundamental place but are not subject to the obligation of manual labor.
When Dominic died in 1221, the order consisted of twenty convents of brothers and four of sisters, spread throughout Spain, France and Italy. Today, the brotherhood is established on all continents. The Order has 247 monasteries with nearly 6,000 brothers and more than 3,000 nuns. There are also 40,000 Dominican Apostolic women in 119 congregations, and about 100,000 people belonging to the lay fraternities (also known as the Dominican Third Order).
Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Dominica's successor at the head of the Order, presents a complete portrait of the saint. Here are his words: "Inflamed by the zeal of God and by the supernatural ardor, by your endless charity and the fervor of your vehement spirit, you have consecrated yourself entirely by the vow of perpetual poverty to apostolic observance and to evangelical preaching." He testified that the holy founder "always spoke with God and of God."
In 1363, the future Saint Catherine of Siena, then 16 years old, had a vision of Saint Dominic. As a result, she entered the Dominican Third Order where she did her great work.
Saint Dominic was a man of prayer from his youth and he deepened his prayer throughout his life. He proposes nine ways of praying that he himself practiced before Jesus on the cross. His bodily attitude united with the spiritual attitude favors recollection and fervor. Saint Dominic always kept his gaze on the crucified Lord.
During these last two forms of prayer, Saint Dominic extended his encounter with the Lord. Witnesses recount that he sometimes entered into a kind of ecstasy, his face transfigured, then immediately and humbly resumed his daily activities, strengthened by the force that comes from God.
While Saint Bernard of Clairvaux had been one of the first to develop this prayer to the Blessed Virgin, Saint Dominic of Guzman spread the use of the Rosary around him, he ordered his monks to wear a rosary on their belt. It was the Virgin Mary who gave this way of praying to Saint Dominic in 1214 in order to convert the Albigensian heretics and sinners. When he had just spent three days and three nights in prayer, begging for the conversion of heretics, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Dominic. She said to him: "Do you know, my dear Dominic, what weapon the Holy Trinity used to reform the world? The brother replied, "Madam, you know this better than I do, for after your Son, Jesus Christ, you were the main instrument of our salvation." The Virgin added: "Know that the main piece of battery has been the angelic psalter, which is the foundation of the New Testament, therefore, if you want to win to God these hardened hearts, preach my psalter." At the time we speak of the psalter of Mary to designate the knotted cords then the grain abacuses invented, to count the psalms and the Our Father, and used to count the Hail Marys. The recitation of the Rosary, in the current form and method, began with Dominic and bore much fruits throughout his life, including many miracles and conversions.
"O glorious Saint Dominic, an example of penance, chastity and true love, obtain for us the grace to keep the purity of heart with a sensitivity filled with new life. You who have kindled the fire of the love of God, were a man of great prayer, capable of an intimate union with God, obtain for us fidelity to daily prayer to nourish our life in goodness. You, who preached the Gospel with diligence and founded the Order of Preachers for the salvation of souls, for the defense of true faith and for the conversion of sinners, pray for us so that we may sincerely love our brothers and lead them to salvation. You, who taught us the prayer of the Rosary, help us to pray to him so that we may walk with Mary every day towards His Son Jesus.
Let us pray: "God, you have deigned to enlighten your Church by the merits and lessons of Blessed Dominic, your Confessor: by his intercession, let her not be deprived of temporal help, but let her always make further progress in the spiritual paths. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."