A. Beginnings

Dominic was born in Calaruega, Spain in 1170 to the holy household of Blessed Jane of Aza and Felix Guzman. In a prophetic vision before his birth, Jane saw a black and white dog with a flaming torch in its jaws, setting the world on fire. His godmother had a dream in which the child appeared with his forehead lighted by a radiant star whose brilliance filled the world. The dog signified the preacher barking the message of salvation to the world. The star indicated that he would be the light of the world. He would light the way for those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. (In Iconography, both the lighted torch and the brilliant star are used as symbols of St. Dominic.)

He began a priestly education under his uncle, a priest, at the age of seven. Later he went to the University of Palencia where the foundations for his life were laid. His studies were focused on art and theology, but his time was spent predominately learning and studying Sacred Scripture.

Following his ordination to the priesthood In about 1195, he joined the Chapter of Augustinian Canons at Osma. These were important years of formation for Dominic. They were his contemplative years. He experienced life In a religious community and dedicated himself to prayer and theological studies. (Dorcy, 1-5)

B. Dominic and the Albigensians

Dominic accompanied his bishop, Don Diego of Osma, on a diplomatic mission possibly to Denmark. They encountered the Albigensian heresy while passing through southern France. At Toulouse, he spent the night In argument with the heretic innkeeper and after winning back his host for God, he realized the need for "some religious body consecrated to the defense of the Church and the exposition of truth." Thus began his active apostolate. (Dorcy, 6-14)

C. Founding of the Order of Preachers

Acutely aware of the religious ignorance and the loose morality of the people and the clergy, Dominic saw the necessity of well trained holy men to combat the heresies of his day. In 1215, he and his companions were confirmed by Bishop Fulk of Toulouse as diocesan preachers leading an apostolic way of life. Shortly thereafter, Peter of Seila joined Dominic and made vows of religion to him. Peter also made his properties available and the group took up residence in one of them forming a fixed community for the first time.

Dominic set out for Rome where he requested and ultimately obtained permission to establish an Order of Preachers. A Bull was issued by Pope Honorius III to that effect on December 22, 1216. These mendicant preachers would model their lives after the apostles in order to be more effective in combating the Albigensian heresy and in winning souls for God. The houses he founded were used as places of prayer and study. (Dorcy, 36-63)

C. Dispersal of the brethren

Not long after establishing the Order, Dominic announced that the brethren were to be dispersed throughout Europe. His companions and friends tried to disuade him from such an action. However, he countered their objections with "seed when scattered fructifies, when hoarded, rots." Some of the brethren were sent to Paris, which was at that time the center of the intellectual and theological life of Europe. Dominic knew that If the work of preaching was to be successful, it would need to be undertaken by men who were well versed In the study of scripture and the traditions of the Church. These men must also lead an upright and a holy life. These friars were to study, preach and found houses. Other brethren were sent to Spain. In the true spirit of the Gospel, the men were sent out in pairs, traveling by foot, and "neither accepting nor carrying gold, silver, money or gifts, except for food and books." (Dorcy, 53-56)

E. Death

After a life of Intense dedication to God through prayer, preaching and study, Dominic died at Bologna on August 6, 1221, the Feast of the Transfiguration.

(August 4th assigned as feast day of St. Dominic by the Pope.) Dominic had spent more than thirty years preparing for his great task. The foundations of the Order of Preachers were solidly laid and the Order has been able to persevere despite persecution and trouble. Dominic ignited a flame that still burns centuries later. (Dorcy, 133-139)


A. To establish a group of preachers who would be well prepared through prayer and study to preach effectively inorder to confront error and ignorance.

"Dominic realized that only a religious order could give the Church the continuous supply of trained preachers it needed." He had observed that the Albigensian leaders were educated men who were well versed In the Scriptures. This combined with their austere life-style made them convincing preachers. Dominic saw the necessity for the friars to systematically study the Scriptures. He constantly urged them to study the Old and New Testaments. He always carried Matthew’s Gospel and Paul's Epistles with him.

To Insure adequate theological training for his friars, he founded houses in university cities. He also sought to enroll university students in the Order.

B. The salvation of all souls by preaching the Word of God

Dominic founded the Order of Preachers for the salvation of souls. This apostolate is the only aim of the Order. He possessed an unquenchable thirst for souls. His inability to successfully convert the Albigensians at Languedoc back to God made him all the more determined to conquer the world for Him. When he sent the brethren out to preach, he used Jesus' own words "Go therefore into the whole world preach the Gospel to every creature." Christ had died on the cross to redeem man. This redemption being accomplished, Dominic burned like a flame to bring to God all for whom his Son had died. This apostolic work had its beginning in Dominic's heart. It was nurished by his prayer, study and contemplation. "To sum up: the two characteristics which mark St. Dominic's apostolate concern its quality and extension. Thanks to him, the apostolate has again become what it was to St. Paul - dogma quickened to life and action; divine truth, loved and taught for its own sake; contemplation and mystical life overflowing into wondrous activity; supernatural revelation ordering towards its end all branches of natural knowledge; the unity and happiness of mankind bound up with the unity of the Church."


A. Intense love for God and a burning desire to know more about Him

The spirit of Dominic was modeled on the spirit of Christ. He was a man of prayer and penance. As a canon it was said of him "day and night he frequented the Chuch, ceaselessly devoted to prayer, scarcely venturing beyond the cloister walls, the more to find leisure for his lone thoughts with God. This spirit of prayer and penance persisted throughout his life. His great love for God is exemplified in his spirit of poverty and penance as described by Augusta Drane:

"It was this same spirit of poverty that induced him never to have any cell or bed of his own. He slept in the church. If he came home late at night drenched with rain, he would send his companions to dry and refresh themselves, but himself would go as he was to the church. There his nights were passed in prayer, or, if overcome with fatigue, he would sleep leaning against the altar steps, or lie on the hard stone floor. If, when he traveled, they stopped where there was no church, he slept anywhere, on the floor, on a bench, or sitting in his chair and always dressed in his habit as during the day. Thrice every night he disciplined himself to blood; the first time for himself, the second for sinners, the third for the souls in purgatory... After compline, when others were dismissed to rest, he remained behind, visiting each altar in turn..., praying for his Order and for the world. Sometimes his tears and prayers were so loud as to awaken those who slept near He was accustomed to pray In the garden in Imitation of Christ with his face to the ground, and in this posture he remained a long time repeating passages from the psalms with many tears...

Dominic took every opportunity to speak about God and exhorted his brethren to 'talk always about or to God'.

B. Ardent desire to Imitate the life of the apostles

Dominic believed that the Gospels themselves offered the best plan of action for a preaching mission. Since preaching was an apostolic ministry, it was necessary to live like the apostles, vita apostilica. This included life with the community based on Acts 4:32-35. (Read cited text.) However, the greater emphasis was placed on what the apostles actually did - itinerant mendicant preaching as described in Matthew 10. (Read cited text.) He successfully combined mendicant poverty and preaching with the monastic life.

C. Salvation of mankind while maintaining a strong unity with the established Church

The apostolic form of preaching was not new with Dominic. It was the inspiration behind several reform movements. The Poor Catholics and the Humiliati were two of these movements that found a place within the Catholic Church. Other groups the Cathars, Albigensians, and the Waldensians drifted into heresy. The apostolic ideal was also behind some developments in regular religious life. Dominic's acheivement was that he established apostolic mendicant preaching as an official mandate of the church, sanctioned and authorized by the pope.

From the beginning, Dominic sought episcopal approval. Bishop Fulk of Toulouse established Dominic and his companions as a preaching brotherhood in his diocese.

When Dominic petitioned Pope Innocent III for papal confirmation, it was not granted immediately. The Fouth Lateran Council ordained that no new foundations were to be established unless they were a part of an already approved congregation or followed an already approved rule. Dominic obediently followed the Pope's suggestion that he gain the consent of his brethren to accept a rule already in existence. They chose the Rule of St. Augustine.


1. If this is your first introduction to St. Dominic, what has impressed you most about him?

2. Why do you think St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers?

3. Would you like to aquire the "spirit " of St. Dominic?


Dorcy, O.P, Mary Jean SAINT DOMINIC St, Louis: Herder Book Co. 1959 pg. 6-35, 50-63, 131-144

Hinnebusch, O.P., William A. THE DOMINICANS A Short History New York: Alba House, 1975, pg. 3-18

Rubba, O.P., John C. THE DOMINICANS A Brief History (Combined volume) pg. 1-11

Tugwell, O.P., Simon SAINT DOMINIC AND THE ORDER OF PREACHERS London, Ludo Press, 1981

Suggested reading material for the postulant

Tugwell, O.P., Simon SAINT DOMINIC AND THE ORDER OF PREACHERS London, Ludo Press, 1981


Rubba, O.P., John THE DOMINICANS A Brief History (Combined volume)


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