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Saint Dominic
Light of the world.

Portrait by Mrs. Lucille C. Roy. Member of the Mother of God Chapter, West Springfield, Massachusetts, St. Joseph's Province U.S.A. (Copyright 1992).

Brief History of the Founder of the Order of Preachers

Your Father Dominic chose as his special good the light of knowledge so that he might destroy error. He took upon himself the office of the Word, my son, and with much ardor did he sow my Word. He was a torch given to men through Mary. Yes, it was through Mary.
These words of the Eternal Truth to St. Catherine of Siena describe the heavenly calling of him who Dante calls the "hallowed wrestler and friend fast-knot to Christ." The saintís mother, Blessed Jane of Aza might have anticipated her sonís vocation, because prior to his birth, she had a symbolic dream of a white dog with a torch in its mouth illuminating the entire world. Janeís dream took another form in a vision granted to Dominic himself in the Eternal City. "When the man of God Dominic was in the basilica of St. Peter praying for the preservation and expansion of his Order, he saw in a vision the glorious princes Peter and Paul coming toward him. Peter handed him a staff, Paul a book, and they spoke these words. ĎGo and preach, for you have been chosen by God for this ministry.í Immediately he saw as in a single moment of time his sons dispersed throughout the whole world, going two by two an preaching the word of God to the nations."
Our saint was born in Spain in 1170 of the illustrious house of Guzman. After graduation from the University of Palencia and ordination to the priesthood, he became a canon of St. Augustine and superior of the canons in the cathedral of Osma. Passing through southern France with his bishop in the year 1203, the young canon was shocked to witness the spiritual horrors wrought by the Albigensian heresy. It was in this storied domain of the troubadours that our zealous Castilian discovered his vocation and laid the foundation of the Order of preachers. To perpetuate among these benighted souls his future apostolate Dominic founded a three-fold religious Order, one for the converted Albigensian women at Prouille, one for an apostolic band of preachers, and another for men and women known as Tertiaries living in the world as lay Dominicans affiliated with the Order. Dominic, like St. Bernard before him, found the heretics unreceptive, stubborn and hostile, but the barking of the "Watchdog of the Lord" continued loud and clear, while his hunger for souls grew stronger. The saintís humility, fatherly kindness, patience and joyfulness under persecution impressed even his enemies who at times mocked, spit at him and pelted him with stones or mud. Since he could not shed his blood for their salvation, he fasted, took the discipline during his night vigils of prayer, and walked barefoot from village to village preaching the faith. During his lifetime, he healed the sick, raised the dead, multiplied food, and in public debate proved the truth of his doctrine by miracle. When threatened with death, he would reply: "I am not worthy of the martyrís crown." He twice rejected a bishopric, and he enjoyed a warm friendship with the Poor Man of Assisi which is still commemorated in the liturgies of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders. Several times he was consoled and strengthened in his apostolate by apparitions of Christ and His Mother. Four times Dominic journeyed on foot to the Eternal City where Pope Honorius III confirmed his Order and granted him eht convent of St. Sixtus for his nuns, and that of Santa Sabina for his friars. He made foundations in university cities to ensure an adequate education for the brethren. On August 15,1217, he scattered his men to various parts of Europe saying: "If grain is sown it bears fruit, but if it is stored it rots." The Dounder summoned two General Chapters in 1220 and 1221 and lived to witness the amazing expansion of his Order. he was felled by sheer exhaustion after his last mission in Lombardy at the age of fifty-one. After making a general confession, he said to his weeping brethren: "Do not weep, my children, I shall be more useful to you where I am going than I have ever been in this life. I thank God who has preserved me in perfect virginity to this day. Have charity, gurard humility, keep voluntary poverty." he fell asleep in Christ on August 6, 1221, at Bologna where his relics now lie in a marble tomb of exquisite beauty, the work of Nicholas Pisano (1166-1265). The tomb was later embellished by Michelangelo and other artists, and may be seen in the Dominican church at Bologna. Frm heaven, the patriarch fulfills his promist to answer the prayer of all who invok him. Someone summarized the glorious life of Dominic Guzman in these workds: "His thirst for knowledge of the Word was insatiable, and his love for holy books a passion. He was wholly devoted to the pursuit of learning. Why? For the sake of preaching, defending the faith and illuminating the minds of men with sound doctrine."
The following excerpts about the Dominican Laity is written by Anna Donnelly (Lay Dominican-NY)and published in "Project OPUS". You may view more information about Project OPUS by going to the Central Province's site at and click on "Search" on the left side. Type "Project OPUS" [without quotes] in the search box, and the first few results should get you to the info.. Early members of the Dominican Laity The foundations laid by Edward Fenwick included not only friars and sisters, but also members of the Dominican laity, then known as the Third Order. In 1807, the year after the beginnings in Kentucky, Fenwick wrote to Luke Concanen in Rome to ask about receiving men and women as lay Dominicans. He said, "I think the Third Order, if I understand it well, might be established with benefit to the pious people and much honour to our Lord." Little is known about the first lay Dominicans in the United States. Among their sparse records from the early nineteenth century is that of the reception of one Betsy Wells by the Dominican friars at St. Rose in 1826. Another, in 1829, records the reception of two men, George Shock and John Roi, into the Third Order. In 1833 Bishop Flaget of Bardstown praised the Dominican women and men who nursed the cholera victims, including sisters, friars, and "virtuous lay women," presumably tertiaries, at St. Rose Priory. The lay Dominicans at Somerset, Ohio included two named Fanny and Theresa Naughton who served St. Joseph Convent all their adult lives. The early records pertained only to individuals. No references to early chapters or meetings of tertiaries have been discovered. Emerging chapters of Dominican laity Records of Dominican laity in the early nineteenth century are sparse, and limited to the reception or profession of individual women and men. In the second half of the century there are records of chapters of lay Dominicans who met regularly, studied and prayed, and introduced others to the spirituality and apostolic charity of the Order of Preachers. Chapters were encouraged by the Dominican friars in their parishes, and by Dominican sisters and nuns in their institutions or monasteries. Notice of such chapters was given in the Rosary Magazine from the time of its inception in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Large and active chapters of men and women were found during that period in parishes in San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, St. Paul, Louisville, New York City, Lewiston, Maine, and Boston. Records of individual tertiaries are even less available than those of certain chapters, although both were zealous about introducing others to the spirituality and apostolic charity of the Order of Preachers. Laity in the twentieth century The Dominican Laity in the United States, through the leadership of their members, have developed their contemplative-apostolic role in the Order of Preachers within each province of the friars. Chapters are now established in 33 states, and their members collaborate with Canadian laity in the CANAM organization. In 1985 the North American groups welcomed lay Dominicans from all continents to Montreal in 1985 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Third Order in 1285. With a thrust toward the future they emphasized the elements of Dominican spirituality which many lay Catholics seek to live. A broad vision of the laity was proposed at the first International Conference of the Dominican Family in Bologna in 1983. There, led by the Master of the Order, Vincent de Couesnongle, the members enlarged the concept of "lay Dominican" to include all men and women who "look to Dominic and the Order for inspiration." In the United States these include women and men invited to be associates of many congregations of Dominican Sisters.