Posted by: fvbcdm | August 8, 2014

Feast of Saint Dominic (8 August 2014)

Today is the annual commemoration of Saint Dominic, the founder and father of the Dominican Order throughout the world, and therefore a special day for us Dominicans.

I remember that when I was a child, I was told that the Dominicans write the letters “O.P.” behind their names, meaning “the Order of Preachers.”  And I wondered why.  Didn’t all priests preach?  They did in my experience.  The answer to that question lies in church history.

During the so-called “Dark Ages,” after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Europe was overrun by barbarians: Huns, Vandals, Visigoths, the Norsemen, and so on. The church suffered terribly; her churches were sacked and burned; the monasteries were destroyed and their communities of monks and nuns scattered, and the work of the Church badly interrupted and impeded.  The result was that the education of the clergy was seriously hampered, and the quality of preaching declined notably.

When Saint Dominic came upon the scene about the year 1200, he recognized that good, solid preaching was needed if the Catholic faithful were to learn their faith and practice it properly. He had been living with a group of priests and the bishop of their little city of Osma in north central Spain.  There was time for study there and the support of a kind of community.  When Dominic passed through southern France on a mission of the king, he was appalled at the state of Catholicism there, where many of the faithful had fallen into the errors of Albigensianism, one of the heresies of the time. So he put his experience into action.  He gathered around himself a group of priests of good will.  They lived together, prayed together, celebrated Mass and the sacraments and the liturgy together, and then they went out to preach to the people in small groups of twos and threes. The idea proved successful, and Dominic wanted to expand his work. But for this, he needed the approval of the Pope.  So we went to Rome to place himself and his ideas before the Supreme Pontiff. Pope Honorius III was very favorable, and predicted that this new order of preachers would be champions of faith, and true lights of the world.  It was the first time in church history that a religious order had been established with the specific purpose of preaching.

As time went on, the education of the clergy improved greatly, and soon all priests were competent to preach, and began to do so regularly.  This is why to a child of my time, it seems strange for the Dominicans to call themselves “the Order of Preachers.”  Our Order was approved in 1216, almost 800 years ago.  It is still preaching and doing the work of the Lord in our world.  God grant that it may continue doing so for many centuries to come.  Saint Dominic, pray for your children that they may be truly successful in the  many kinds of preaching that they do. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.

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