Taken from The Dominican Life by Ferdinand Donatien Joret 1883-1937
He was great amongst men. What was the nature of his greatness ? Greatness of temporal power? Greatness of intelligence and genius? Greatness of virtue and sanctity ? To which of these three orders of greatness which Pascal has taught us to distinguish does the greatness of St. Dominic belong? Temporal power descended to him by right of birth. On the summit of Caleruega his grandfather had built a fortress for the protection of the countryside against the raids of the Moors. The Senor de Guzman ruled the village which grew up at the foot of this castle. Dominic might, like his father, have sallied forth at the head of his men on a crusade against the Moors, who were ravaging the south of Spain, or he might have imitated his friend, Simon de Montfort, the commander of the crusade against the Albigenses who infested the South of France. There were actually some religious amongst those who shared with Simon the direction of the crusade. Several of them were advanced to bishoprics. Powers and honours of this kind Dominic refused consistently to the end, in spite of much pressure. After he had founded his Order he attempted more than once to pass on to another his office of Superior General. He despised "worldly greatness," and all that resembled it.
Dominic is great with that higher greatness which is greatness of spirit. Before he was born, his future was foreshadowed to his mother, Jane of Aza. In a vision she seemed to see that she had given birth to a dog, which proceeded forthwith to run about with a torch in its mouth to give light to the world. As a young man he one day appeared to his mother with a bright star shining in his forehead. Others, especially Sister Cecilia, afterwards saw that star, and it became a tradition. Fra Angelico, in his representations of our Father, never failed to place the star on his brow as his special attribute.
How fully these portents were realized, history can tell us. Pierre Larousse in his great dictionary describes St. Dominic as having been the first European Minister of Public Instruction. It is indeed a fact that, by his own efforts and by those of his sons scattered over Europe and even beyond its borders, he made provision for the instruction of the world.
Only it was primarily religious knowledge that he was concerned to impart, at a time when Christendom was foundering on the shoals of ignorance and heresy. Others trusted only in the force of arms to bring the Albigenses back to the Catholic truth. He tried to do so by reasoning in public conferences and private interviews. The first time he met a heretic, in the person of the innkeeper who was his host at Toulouse, he spent the whole night convincing him of his error. When the sun arose, another light had risen, dispelling darkness from that soul. In that famous night the vocation of Dominic was revealed his vocation as a Preacher and as founder of the Preachers. The spiritual sons he was to form to his own likeness were to be " champions of the faith and the lights of the world " according to the prophecy of the Pope who approved his Order.
The most magnificent eulogy ever pronounced upon our Patriarch was delivered by the Eternal Father Himself to St. Catherine of Siena, and may be read in her celebrated Dialogue. " Dominic," said God the Father, " has taken on him the office of the Word, of My only-begotten Son. ... He was a light which I gave the world through the intervention of Mary." On another occasion God told her : "I have two sons : I have begotten the one by the generating act of My nature and the other by a free and loving adoption." And in one of her visions the saint beheld St. Dominic emanating from the heart of the Eternal Father as the Word proceeded from His lips. ... She was able to contemplate them both. St. Dominic's very face resembled that of Our Lord. No doubt it was not the bodily face of the Holy Patriarch, now in his tomb, that St. Catherine saw, but the countenance of his soul, if I may so express myself. By a special divine favour, the spiritual features of the holy Patriarch were revealed to her in a manner calculated to impress her imagination, o "My only-begotten Son," said the Eternal Father, " devoted His whole life, all His acts, His teaching and His example to the salvation of souls. Dominic,
my adopted son, had directed all his mind and all his efforts to saving souls from the snares of error and vice : that was the chief object which led him to plant and to train his Order. Therefore I tell you that in all his acts he may be compared to My Begotten Son."
Indeed I do not know that any man has ever come nearer than St. Dominic to the greatness which is manifested in the life of the Incarnate Word. Read the sworn deposition supplied for the process of his canonization. I will give a few verbatim quotations selected from amongst them. Delator animarum, Delator maximus anima rumthsit (The greatest informer of souls) is how one witness after another describes our Blessed Father. Delator salutis generis humani (The informer of salvation to the human race), says William of Montferrat, one of those who had been admitted to his special intimacy. His burning zeal extended to the entire human race. His charity embraced the faithful, the unbelieving, and even lost souls, said Brother Ventura. As he thought about them, he shed many bitter tears. Their sins tortured him peccata aliorum cruciabant eum. (the sins of others tortured him)
Nearly the whole night long he used to pray in church pernoctans in oratione, (continued all night in prayer) and at times would utter cries of agony which recalled those of Gethsemane. " Saviour, have pity upon Thy people ! " " What will become of sinners ? " On their behalf he scourged himself till the blood ran, after he had used the discipline for himself : and then he would return to the charge and lash his body a third time for the souls in Purgatory. Afterwards he would resume his prayers, leaning his forehead against the altar when sleep overtook him.
Daily in the Convent he delivered moving exhortations to his brethren. Every tempted soul found a consoler in him. When he was amongst strangers, either as the guest of a humble household or in the palace of some prelate or prince, his conversation always turned upon the love of God and the vanity of the world. To .every person he met as he tramped the roads he longed to convey the gospel message. One day, when he had as fellow-wayfarers foreigners whose language he did not know, his missionary zeal was rewarded by a celestial miracle which enabled him to make himself understood
by all. Even while he was walking he would study the Sacred Scriptures which he carried in his knapsack, or he would meditate, gesticulating as though he were talking to an unseen interlocutor ; above all he meditated with love on Him Whose work of redemption he was carrying on.
" Go on ahead," he would say to his friars, " and let us think about God." Imitating the example of Jesus, he spoke only of God or to God, and he wished this practice to be incorporated as a rule in the Constitutions of his Order.
That was St. Dominic's way of life one which enabled him to identify himself in a sense with that Christ Who is revealed by the gospel as dwelling eternally in the intimacy of the Father and as being incessantly concerned for the salvation of the human race which He incorporates into Himself, member by member. With no less reason than the great Apostle could St. Dominic say : "I live, now no longer I, but Christ liveth in me." He was indeed well named Dominicus ; that is to say, " the Lord's man." Even as Sunday is preeminently the Lord's day amongst the days of the week, so also is Dominic pre-eminently " the Lord's man " amongst his fellow-men. Therefore all Christians owe a great respect to St. Dominic something of the religious respect which we render to Christ Himself, since the great saint so closely resembles Him.