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Contemplata Aliis Tradere


“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” ~ Meister Eckhart

As Catholics, many of us look to the lives of the Saints as role models, people we aspire to emulate. It was Pope John Paul II who said: “If we truly start out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he himself wished to be identified.” On this 8th day of August, we look to and celebrate one of the true greats in Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170–1221).

Dominic’s mother, Blessed Jane of Aza, prayed at the church of Saint Dominic Silos to conceive a male child. Her first two sons had entered the priesthood. In a dream, she envisioned a dog leaping from her womb and carrying a torch in its mouth which set the world ablaze. This would be young Dominic’s life work; to be on fire for the faith, salt and light in a bland and confused world, a vocation we are all called to as Jesus explains in today’s appropriately selected Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16)

Dominic showed signs of great holiness and intellect at a young age. He would go on to become the Patron Saint of scientists and astronomers, a nod perhaps to his lifelong love of learning and teaching. There is no evidence that he ever studied astronomy himself. When Dominic was baptized as a baby, his Godmother reportedly saw a star shining from his chest. This too could have contributed to his stargazer patronage.

The priesthood would ultimately be his calling, following in the footsteps of his two older brothers. Heresies were the norm during his time, particularly in Southern France. The hearts of many Europeans had grown cold and they had fallen away from God and the Church. This inflamed Saint Dominic’s desire to devote his life to apostolic preaching for the salvation of souls,

With Pope Honorius III’s blessing, he founded the Order of Preachers, or theDominicans, The Dominican Order declared from its onset that their mission was the salvation of souls through preaching. Furthermore, the assiduous study of sacred truth was to replace some of the monastic traditions of religious life such as prayer and labor which were in place for many centuries. In this respect, the Dominicans were quite revolutionary..Contemplata aliis traderewas their credo, Latin for “To contemplate and to hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.”

Saint Dominic knew the Scriptures, and he knew them well. Matthew’s Gospel and Saint Paul’s Epistles were his go-to resources. In fact, he carried them with him constantly. Legend has it that he memorized them. But far more importantly, he authentically lived what was contained in them while tirelessly counseling others so that they could do the same. It was during a period of prayer at a small abbey in Prouille in the year 1214 that Saint Dominic received the Holy Rosary during an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Similar to Saint Paul in today’s 1st Reading (2 Timothy 4:1-5), a passage which some Biblical Historians have labeled Paul’s last will and spiritual testimony, Saint Dominic urged those in his midst to bear fruit in and out of season. He would convince, exhort, and at times rebuke. He was bold and to the point, once again channeling his inner Saint Paul in that respect. But he was also unfailing in his patience, charity, and humility. "Arm yourself with prayer rather than the sword," he would say "and be clothed with humility rather than fine raiment."

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Saint Dominic resided over the Dominican Order that he founded in the year 1216 for only five years. The Lord called him home in the year 1221. Unlike Saints Thomas Aquinas, Alphonsus Liguori and his other contemporaries, he left behind no vast deposit of his works. Perhaps this was due in part to the fact that he wanted his fellow Dominicans to think for themselves, to learn a form or way of thinking rather than to simply revert back to his works, thus relying strictly on them. Of course the fact that he traveled thousands of miles every year in support of his evangelical exploits could have been a contributing factor as well.

Saint Dominic’s legacy remains with us however, made manifest in the great work of the Dominicans and the countless Rosaries offered by the faithful. As Father Patrick Briscoe points out in his book Saint Dominic's Way of Life - A Path to Knowing and Loving God, "By following in Dominic's footsteps, we too can discover how to live with a heart that is undivided, seeking God first in all things."

Saint Dominic, pray for us..

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