August 5, 2018: The Solemnity of Holy Father Dominic - Pastor’s Corner
Happy Feast of St. Dominic!
This weekend we celebrate the feast of our patron and founder of the Order of Preachers. While there are many saints that are well known in the devotional and imaginative life of the Church, I have discovered that the story of St. Dominic is not usually among them. This past April, I was blessed to lead a pilgrimage to Spain and France to follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic. Over the course of the month of August, I hope to share the story of St. Dominic, in order to bring his life alive in our hearts.
Story of St Dominic: The Beginnings
St. Dominic de Guzmán was born around 1171 in a village named Caleruega in the region of Castile in Spain. Dominic’s father, Felix, was very likely from the noble family of Guzmán and he was respected for his fairness and judicious rule as a magistrate. Dominic’s mother, Jane, was most likely from a noble family as well, the family of Aza. She was considered “virtuous, chaste, prudent, full of compassion for those who were unfortunate and in distress, and was outstanding among all the women in the neighborhood for the excellence of her reputation.” Because of the holiness of her life, she was beatified in 1828 by Pope Leo XII.
Dominic had at least two siblings. One was named Antonio. He was said to have been a priest at a hospice who devoted himself unreservedly to works of mercy in the service of the poor. Apparently, miracles made him famous both before and after his death. His other sibling, Mannes followed Dominic at least from the founding of the Order and perhaps much earlier. He was still alive when St. Dominic was canonized. He too lived a holy life and was beatified in 1833 by Gregory XVI.
Two powerful stories of St. Dominic’s birth give shape to his vocation. First, when Jane was pregnant with Dominic, she had a dream that a dog with a burning torch in its mouth would come forth from her womb and set the world on fire. Somewhat distressed by this dream, she sought the council of her Benedictine spiritual director who lived at the nearby monastery of St. Dominic de Silos. He advised her not be afraid, but instead to rejoice because her child would dedicate his life to lighting the world aflame with God’s love. Because of this dream, a dog bearing a burning torch is a symbol of St. Dominic, and the Dominican Order. (In fact, in Latin the word for dog is “canes”, so “Domini-canes” might be translated “Dogs of our Lord.”)
Second, at Dominic’s baptism, his godmother saw a bright star descend upon him in the moment when the water touched his forehead. (Accordingly, St. Dominic is the patron of astronomers and his icon often includes a star above his head.) Once this story became known, the baptismal font was uprooted from its rural habitation in Caleruega and moved to Madrid, in order that all future kings and nobles could be baptized in this same font. One of the highlights of our pilgrimage was to see the font where it resides at the Royal Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns. Our group was able to meet the nuns and renew their baptismal promises.
These two images of the flaming torch and the bright star inspire us to respond passionately to Christ’s impossible mission of discipleship. Let all that we do and say give witness to the light of God’s love. May our heart be aflame with the divine fire of love! -Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P., Pastor