Today is the feast of St. Dominic, another of the great founders of religious communities. Dominic’s religious order is called the Dominicans but the formal title is “Order of Preachers,” thus the sometimes puzzling designation “O.P.” after their names. Dominic was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi and much like Francis in his asceticism and his desire to spread the Gospel. Reminiscent of the love Francis had for the poor, Dominic sold all of his books to help his neighbors who had survived a great famine. Like Francis, Dominic saw the need for a new type of religious organization, one whose members did not stay behind the cloistered walls of the monastery but rather traveled among the people, in the way of the first apostles, to spread the good news.
I am always in awe, living in the 21st century, to think of these men and others whose mission was to travel far and wide in their day to preach and to battle the great heresies of their times. Dominic was born in 1170 and died in 1221, five years before Francis. Travel was primitive and slow but their vision was vast and both of their communities garnered large numbers of members in the first century of existence.
Thinking of these two charismatic men, my thoughts float back to the sense of charism. Each had a different gift and focus – Francis, “the little poor man of Assisi,” preaching poverty and simplicity in his personal life, shining always with the love of God, and Dominic, powerful preacher of the Word of God in Scripture. Such great complementarity! What gifts to the world that still have an effect today!
In our daily activities and in all our words spoken today, let us mirror God’s action in the world for the good of all!