Church Honours Saint Dominic Guzman – Founder And Patron of Astronomers, Scientists And Falsely Accused People

We know little of the early life of Dominic, and that little is the stuff of legend. It is believed his mother had a dream in which a dog holding a firebrand ran hither and thither setting the world on fire.

The child born was called Dominic, “belonging to the Lord”, and though of noble lineage, wealth and power meant little to him.

Dominic, born in Calaruega, central Spain, in 1170, joined the Benedictine order as a young man.

It was on a journey across southern Europe with his bishop, that young Dominic came across a popular religious movement which changed his life. This movement was the Albigenses, or the “Catharists”: men and women who wished to return to the “purity” of the Gospels, by renouncing wealth, marriage and power. They also believed in a ‘secret doctrine’ which only they claimed to possess.

Various Popes tried to crush this heretical movement by force, and could not succeed. It was the genius of Dominic to realize that a heresy could only be defeated by knowledge of the true faith, and he gathered to himself men and women dedicated to serious theological learning and preaching. Starting in the south of France, his “order of preachers” – the official name of the Dominicans – soon spread across Europe, as Dominicans challenged heresies, lived in exemplary austerity, and took over the centres of learning, the new universities.

As Dominic proclaimed: Contemplata aliis tradere, “share the fruit of contemplative learning with others everywhere.” The Dominicans brought a new scholarship to the Church.

At the same time, they nurtured the popular faith through a practical devotion to the Blessed Virgin – the “Rosary”. Through it, even the unlettered could contemplate the life of Christ by reciting fifty ‘Hail Marys’, surely one of the most popular devotions ever, and one that has lasted centuries.

This was the 12th century in Europe, and two great Christian contemporaries left their stamp on a turbulent age. One was Francis of Assisi, with his emphasis on radical detachment from wealth, a value directly opposed to the early capitalism of his times. The other was Dominic Guzman of Calaruega,Spain, with his emphasis on the serious study of faith and science; and whose order, the Dominicans, dominated the universities of the day.

Great scholars like Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas come from this tradition, but it was Dominic’s charism which gave it form.

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