Saint Dominic is the founder of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominican Order. He was born at Calaroga, in Old Castile, around the year 1170. He died August 6, 1221.
From age seven to fourteen St. Dominic pursued his elementary studies under the tutelage of his maternal uncle, the archpriest of Gumiel d’lzan. In 1184 Saint Dominic entered the University of Palencia. Here he remained for ten years, pursuing his studies with such ardor and success that throughout the university he was admired by his teachers and peers as a true scholar.
Amid the frivolities and dissipations of a university city, the life of the future saint was characterized by seriousness of purpose and an austerity which singled him out as one from whom great things might be expected in the future. However, more than once he proved that under this austere exterior he had a most tender heart. On one occasion, he sold his books-which were dear to him and annotated with his own hand-in order to relieve the sufferings of the starving poor of Palencia. His biographer and contemporary, Bartholomew of Trent, states that twice he tried to sell himself into slavery to obtain money for the liberation of those who were held in captivity by the Moors.
Although Dominic’s biographers are silent about the date of his ordination, we know that after university, he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
In 1203 the King of Castile, Alfonso IX, deputed the Bishop of Osma to demand on behalf of the king’s son, Prince Ferdinand, the hand of the Lord of the Marches’ daughter. (The Lord of the Marches was presumably a Danish prince.) For his companion on this embassy, Bishop Don Diego chose Saint Dominic. Passing on their mission through Toulouse, the bishop and Dominic witnessed with amazement and sorrow the work of spiritual ruin wrought by the Albigensian heresy. Contemplating this scene, Dominic conceived for the first time the idea of founding an Order that would combat heresy and spread the light of the Gospel by preaching to the ends of the then known world.
The life of St. Dominic was one of tireless effort in the service of God. This athlete of Christ always conquered himself before attempting the reformation of others. While he journeyed from place to place, he prayed and preached almost uninterruptedly. His penances were of such a nature as to cause the brethren, who accidentally discovered them, to fear the effect upon his life. While Dominic’s charity was boundless, he never permitted it to interfere with the stern sense of duty that guided every action of his life. If he abominated heresy and labored untiringly for its end, it was because he loved truth and loved the souls of those for whom he labored. He never failed to distinguish between sin and the sinner.
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“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!”