Dominicans: Term One / Week Two

Reading and answering question from: Donald J. Goergen O.P. St. Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2016.

In Chapter 1 we learn about Dominic the man and preacher. “To be a preacher was to mediate God’s Word in human words: a word of love, mercy, and compassion. Mercy (misericordia), truth (veritas), and brotherhood (fraternitas), or the vita communis—the common life—were all sacred words for Dominic, that man of the Lord who was filled with God”. Describe the manifestation of Dominic’s sacred words in his mission as a preacher, using examples. What are your own sacred words that guide your life as a Christian? How might they guide you in your preaching life as a Dominican?

The three sacred words of Dominic—mercy, truth, and common life—seem to closely resemble the “three-legged stool” of Anglicanism—Scripture, tradition, and reason—in that they are dependent and integral to the other; for example, can you have a common life without mercy and truth?  Therefore, the examples of these sacred words in Dominic’s life have one dominant trait, but are supported by the other two.

With regard to mercy, I was struck by Dominic’s selling of his parchments during the famine.  “How can I keep these dead skins when living skins are dying of hunger?” (p.14)  Truth can be seen in his willingness to remain up all night seeking the conversion of a single sinner (p.21) and the common life is made evident in not just the need for traveling companions, but also in discerning the need for the common life in others as in the time when land and housing were purchased for the many Cathar women converts so that they would be able to maintain their austere lives. (p. 33)  Such actions demonstrate that these sacred words were lamps on the work, guiding Dominic and the others to “live what they preached.” (p.29)

For my own sacred words, I reflected back on my preaching.  From there, I chose loyalty, peace, and transformation, all of which stem from the first and second greatest commandments: love God, love neighbor (to which I like to add, “Until you figure out how to do these two things, leave the details alone.”)  Of these three, loyalty may be the most difficult for others to understand why I chose, but I have always understood Jesus as King, so even when I fail him or do not love him as I should, I am always loyal.  Although I may not say it directly, this is a trait that I would like to instill in others through preaching.  I’m always struck by Richard Burton’s prayer following his consecration in Becket: “Please, Lord, teach me now how to serve you with all my heart, to know at last what it really is to love, to adore.”

Historical events, politics, culture and the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit impacted Dominic’s formative years in much the same way that they will guide your own formation. Describe an example of how each of these four factors influenced Dominic’s early formation. How will these factors impact your own formation as a Dominican preacher?

September 11 occurred during my first week of seminary.  We all knew the world would never be the same and it set the stage for things to come.  Dominic also experienced such life / world altering events.  

The rise of the Cathars / Albigensians (p.19ff) was a significant historical event in the life of Dominic.  It was from witnessing the heresy firsthand that Dominic was inspired to consider and then begin the mission for correcting the error.  The way into the culture and the fulfillment of the mission was not to adopt the practices of the Catholic Church, but those of the Cathars instead.  “If they were to convey the truth of the Catholic faith, their primary witness to that faith would have to be in their way of life,” (p.28) which would closely resemble that of the Apostles.  

The passion for such a mission does not derive itself from politics or dogma, but through the Holy Spirit.  Dominic was guided by his desire to convert souls to God.  He is said “to have agonized about the fate of sinners in general as well as the heretics,” praying “Lord, have mercy on your people, what will become of sinners?” (p.37)  These words communicate to me the same message as the Fatima Prayer: “O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.”  

Finally: politics.  Politics had as much influence on Dominic as they do us today, but they did not seem to effect his mission or draw him in.  For example, “Whatever he thought of the crusade, we will never know for sure… he never preached it.” (p.38)  Instead, even when he was surrounded by the crusaders, he was “constantly preaching the word of God.” (p.42)

Such a commitment to the Gospel in the face of so many factors will certainly be a guide for me.  The Gospel message is without a doubt the most radical message ever proclaimed and will go much further in converting sinners and sustaining the faithful than any other message.

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