Saint Dominic (patron saint of the Dominican Republic)
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Saint Dominic:

Saint Dominic as part of The Mockery of Christ
painted in 1441 by Fra Angelico.
Presently housed in the Museo di San Marco,
cell 7, Florence, Italy

Saint Dominic was born Dominic de Guzman (1170?-1221), circa 1170, in Calaruega, Castile, Spain.. He was of "blue-blooded" stock.. His father's name was Felix de Guzman. Felix was known as a gentle knight. His mother, Joanna d'Aza, was also of Castilian noble blood. Joanne was beautified by Pope Leo XII. One of Dominic's two siblings, called Mannes, was beautified as well. At age seven, Dominic was placed in the care of his maternal uncle, a parish priest at the collegiate church of Gumiel d-Izan (near Calaruega). At age fourteen, Dominic left his uncle's care and went to school in Palencia. At this time, Palencia was considered the best edu cational center in Spain. Dominic studied in Palencia for about ten years. He first studied medieval arts, including logic, and then theology. Dominic relieved the poor of Palencia, by selling hand-written books. This was when the city was also stuck with the deadly plague.

It is thought that Dominic was ordained in 1194, and he soon was canon of Osma Cathedral. He worked under Didacus d'Azevedo, bishop of Osma Cathedral, as his prior. In 1205, Didacus (Diego) and Dominic arrived in Montpelier while Cisterian missionaries were holding a conference.

In 1203, they met some Albigensian heretics. Since there was so much evil in the world the Albigensians did not believe that there could be just one Supreme Being. Instead they thought there were two rival forces: good and evil. Good was thought to dominate the soul, whereas evil dominated the body, meaning everything to do with the body was evil. As heretics the Albigensians were terrorized for their beliefs. Dominic felt that persuasion was better than punishment, and he preached to them about Christianity. Alfonso IX, King of Castile, chose Diego d' Azevado to go to Denmark as his ambassador for the marriage of Alfonso's son. Dominic accompanied him. They came across some Cathor/Albigensian heretics in Languedoc, France, on the trip. Normally, an individual or community practicing Catharism/Albigensianism were put to fire and sword. In 1206, the first community of Our Lady of Prouille was established as the home of the first Dominican sisters. He also established the Ordo Praedicatorum of First Preachers. They originated in Casseneuil, a castle given to the Order by Simon de Montfort, in 1214, This group was recognized by the Bishop of Toulouse in 1215. Pope Innocent III named Dominic's Order. Pope Innocent III died in July, 1216. Honorius III took his place, and on December 22, 1216, a Bull was approved and signed:

Honorius Bishop, Servant of the servants of God, to our dear Son, Dominic, prior of Saint Romain of Toulouse, and to your brethen who have made or will make profession of regular life, health, and Apostolic benediction.

We are considering that the brethen of your Order will be the champions of the faith and true light of the world, do confirm the Order in all its lands and possessions, present and to come, and we take the Order itself, with all its goods and rights, under the protection and government.

Given at Santa Sabina, at Rome, on the 11th of the lalends of January, this first year of our Pontificate."

...................................Honorius

After receiving this Bull of Approval, Dominic spent the winter in Rome. Italy. During this time he preached incessantly. He gave lectures on the Epistle of Saint Paul to the servants idling in the corridors of the Papal Palace. He was labelled the "Master of the Sacred Palace." And later he was called the "Pope's Theologian." Cardinal Ugolino, who later was Pope Gregory IX, befriended Saint Dominic during his winter stay. At the Cardinal's home, Dominic met Francis of Assisi for the second time. These two saints were great friends.

After his last preaching of Lent in 1217, in Rome; Dominic went back to Languedoc, France. He spent his summer at Prouille. He visited the nuns at the monastery and instructed them in his spirit and tone of the Order. On August 15th, Dominic received the profession of sixteen friars. They would be sent around Europe with his word. By 1219, a number of Dominican friaries were established in Italy, France, and Spain. Saint Dominic told them this was with the prudence of the Holy Ghost. These friars were of Castilian, Navaresian, Norman, French, Lauguedocian, English, and German blood. Four went to Spain, Seven went to Paris, two remainded at Toulouse, two stayed in Prouille, and Dominic and Stephen of Metz went to Rome.

The first general chapter of the friaries was held in Bologna in 1220. The Dominicans were intellectual priests who lived on a communal basis. They were teachers and preachers. The largest houses were established in Paris, France; Cologne, Germany; and Oxford, England. The Dominicans followed the Augustian rule: the friars lived lives of chastity, poverty, and humility.

Dominic was known for his even temper and kindness. He was stricter on himself than his brothers and his cult was very popular in Italy.

Fra Angelico (1395-1455) made many paintings that included St. Dominic (see above). Fra Angelico was a Dominican monk. He was born Guido di Petro, Vicchio di Mugello, in Tuscany, and he died in Rome in 1455. Guido entered the convent of San Domenico, in Friesole, with his brother, Benedetta, who was a scribe. The small Dominican convent in Fiesole (near Florence) was founded, in 1406, by Giovanni Dominici. Fra Angelico painted religious subjects and was said to not have been able to paint a crucifix without tears coursing down his cheeks.

Pope Eugenius IV (r.1431-1447) asked Fra Angelico to paint frescoes for him, and he also served Pope Nicholas V (r.1447-1455). It is legend that Pope Eugenius offered Fra Angelico to become archbishop of Florence, which he declined out of humility. All of the Fra's works are considered masterpieces. They are all executed with intricacy, beauty, and piety. Fra Angelico died at La Minerva Friary in Rome, on February 18, 1455. He was buried in Santa Maria Church in the Eternal City. Fra Angelico's life has been compared to that of a saint. His nickname was "Beato" but it took a long time (527 years), before he would be beautified. After a long wait, Pope John Paul II beautified him, on October 3, 1982. Fra Angelico was then declared the parton saint of Catholic artists.

Dominic de Guzman instituted the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Mother, as a combination of vocal and mental prayers about the fifteen mysteries of the Catholic Faith. He was said to have been given this idea by Mary, the Mother of God.

For the last five years of his life, Dominic worked on organizing his new order. Dominic died on the way to convert the Hungarian pagans, after contracting a fever. He died August 6, 1221, in Bologna, surrounded by his followers. Dominic was fifty-two years of age, at his death. Bernard Guidonis recorded: "He died in Brother Moneta's bed, because he had none of his own; and he died in Brother Moneta's tunic, because he had not another with which to replace the one he had long been wearing." Dominic was enshrined in his present tomb, in Bologna, at St. Niccola's.

Thirteen years after his death, Saint Dominic was canonized by his friend, Cardinal Ugolino, as Pope Gregory IX. The ceremony was held on July 13, 1234. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers, the Dominican Republic, and Cologne. His emblem is the star, which was reported to have been seen at his baptism.

Saint Hyacinth of Poland, Blessed Sadok, Blessed Bronislawa, Blessed Chester, Blessed Wit, Blessed Janusz, St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Raymond of Pennafort, St. Agnes of Montepulciano, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Vincent of Ferrar, St. Antoninus, St. Pius V, St. John of Cologne, St. Louis Bertrand, St. Catherine de Ricci, St. Rose of Lima, St. Margaret of Hungary, and Blessed Martin de Porres, are a few Dominican saints. It was only natural that both Spain and France would name their colonies after Saint Dominic, for he inspired many of the faithful.

*****

SOURCES USED:

Bonfante-Warren, Alexandra. Saints: Seventy Stories of Faith. Philadelphia, PA.: Courage Books, 2000, 101-102.

Bunson, Matthew, Margaret Bunson, Stephen Bunson. John Paul II's Book of Saints. Huntington, IN/: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1999, 155.

Dominican Novices. Dominican Saints. Rockford, IL.: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1921, 13-42.

Jockle, Clemens. Encyclopedia of Saints London: Alpine Fine Arts Collection Ltd., a995, 129-130.

Kelly, Sean and Rosemary Rodgers. Saints Preserve Us. New York: Random House, 1933

McNeill, John. Illustrated Lives of the Saints. New York: Crescent Books, 1995, 51-52.

Mulvihill, Margaret. Treasury of Saints and Martyrs. New York: Viking, 1999, 56.

Szarnicki, Rev. Zygmunt V. Introducing the Saints of Poland. Pittsburgh, PA.: J. Phl Associates, 1996.

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