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History of St. Dominic

10/3/21 | Church Articles | by Meg Picciolo

History of St. Dominic

    Dominic Guzman was born in the year 1170 in Caleruega, Spain. His parents were Blessed Jane or Joan of Aza, renown for her charity to the poor and her miracles, and a nobleman, Felix de Guzman. As a boy, Dominic was sent to his mother’s brother to receive instruction for seven years. His uncle was a parish priest. Even as a child, Dominic denied himself the comfort of a bed to sleep on the floor.

    In 1184, Dominic went to the university in Palencia. During this time, there was a terrible famine. He sold his possessions, even his annotated books to give alms to the poor. He loved to sing. His study of the arts lasted 6 years.

    In 1203, Dominic accompanied his bishop to the Marches in France. In this region, people were adopting Albigensianism, which considered all material things to be evil.  About that time, the pope had called the Cistercian abbots to preach against this heresy. Dominic’s bishop convinced them to abandon their retinues and put on the Cistercian habit to join the mission. During one dispute with the heretics, arbiters held a trial by fire for the manuscripts written by Dominic and his adversaries. The one written by Dominic flew out of the flames three times. A similar miracle took place at Montreal.

    On the night of July 22, 1206, the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, St. Dominic saw what appeared to be a globe of fire descending upon a shrine of Our Lady in the town of Prouille. It occurred again the next two nights. From this he understood he was to establish a monastery of nuns in Prouille. This first “Dominican” convent opened on the 27th of December. St. Mary Magdalen would become the patroness and mother of the Order of Preachers about to be born.

    In 1190, Dominic was appointed to the canonry at Osma while pursuing theological studies. About 5 years later he was ordained to the priesthood.

    In 1207, upon the death of Bishop Diego, St. Dominic took charge of the small band of preachers. Already at Prouille, there was a double monastery or priory next to the monastery, but the brothers were not year bound to Dominic canonically.

    In 1215, while in Rome for the Lateran Council, it is believed St. Dominic met St. Francis of Assisi. Both would establish a new kind of religious life. Pope Innocent III was inspired to approve both these new Orders because he saw in a dream one or the other of these saints reaching up to support the tottering Church, lest if fall to ruin. Today, in Peter’s Basilica, colossal statues of Sts. Francis and Dominic flank both sides of the Chair of St. Peter.

    In 1216, Pope Honorius III gave the papal bull of confirmation for the new Order saying, “We, considering that the brethren of the Order will be the champions of the faith and true lights of the world, do confirm the Order…”

    Dominic died in 1221 after preaching throughout France, Italy and Spain and the Order of Preachers having grown to eight provinces.

    Read the full Timeline of the Life of St. Dominic