Saint Dominic (1170-1221)

"He always spoke with God and of God."

Dominic de Guzmán was born at Caleruega, Spain, in about 1170. He belonged to a noble family of Old Castile and, supported by a priest uncle, was educated at a famous school in Palencia. He distinguished  himself straight away for his interest in the study of Sacred Scripture and for his love of the poor, to the point of selling books, that in his time were a very valuable asset, in order to support famine victims with the proceeds.

Ordained a priest, he was elected canon of the Cathedral Chapter in Osma, his native diocese. Although he may well have thought that this appointment might bring him a certain amount of prestige in the Church and in society, he did not view it as a personal privilege or as the beginning of a brilliant ecclesiastical career but, rather, as a service to carry out with dedication and humility. ...

The Bishop of Osma, a true and zealous Pastor whose name was Didacus, soon spotted Dominic's spiritual qualities and wanted to avail himself of his collaboration. ...

It was the Pope, to whom the Bishop Didacus and Dominic went to seek advice, who asked Dominic to devote himself to preaching to the Albigensians, a heretical group which upheld a dualistic conception of reality, that is, with two equally powerful creator principles, Good and Evil. This group consequently despised matter as coming from the principle of evil. They even refused marriage, and went to the point of denying the Incarnation of Christ and the sacraments in which the Lord "touches" us through matter, and the resurrection of bodies. The Albigensians esteemed the poor and austere life in this regard they were even exemplary and criticized the riches of the clergy of that time. Dominic enthusiastically accepted this mission and carried it out with the example of his own poor and austere existence, Gospel preaching and public discussions. He devoted the rest of his life to this mission of preaching the Good News.

His sons were also to make St Dominic's other dreams come true: the mission ad gentes, that is, to those who do not yet know Jesus and the mission to those who lived in the cities, especially the university cities where the new intellectual trends were a challenge to the faith of the cultured. ...

When Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, the city that declared him its Patron, his work had already had widespread success. The Order of Preachers, with the Holy See's support, had spread to many countries in Europe for the benefit of the whole Church.

Dominic was canonized in 1234 and it is he himself who, with his holiness, points out to us two indispensable means for making apostolic action effective.

- In the very first place is Marian devotion which he fostered tenderly and left as a precious legacy to his spiritual sons who, in the history of the Church, have had the great merit of disseminating the prayer of  the Holy Rosary, so dear to the Christian people and so rich in Gospel values: a true school of faith and piety.

- In the second place, Dominic, who cared for several women's monasteries in France and in Rome, believed unquestioningly in the value of prayers of intercession for the success of the apostolic work. Only in Heaven will we understand how much the prayer of cloistered religious effectively accompanies apostolic action! To each and every one of them I address my grateful and affectionate thoughts.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the life of Dominic de Guzmán spur us all to be fervent in prayer, courageous in living out our faith and deeply in love with Jesus Christ. Through his intercession, let us ask God always to enrich the Church with authentic preachers of the Gospel.

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Pope Benedict XVI General Audience, Wednesday, 3 February 2010