Friday, December 15, 2006

Life of St. Dominic, by Henri Lacordaire

Written in French (1834), an English translation was published in 1880 by Burns and Oats. Dec 17th, 2006, marking the 800th anniversary of the opening of the first convent established by St. Dominic, I return to the Order and to the Church and her children this fine book.

Then, turning [to the Friars] again, bequeathed them the following legacy, saying: “My beloved brothers, this is the inheritance your Father leaves you; love on another, practice humility, and be faithful in the observance of voluntary poverty,”[8] And in order to give greater force to the last clause of this testament, whoever should dare to corrupt his Order by bringing into it any worldly possessions, he threatened with God’s malediction and his own.

The Friars did not yet despair of their Father’s recovery, neither did they believe that God would so soon deprive the Church and themselves of his presence. In compliance with medical advice, and thinking that change of air might prove beneficial, they moved him to Santa-Maria, a church situated on an eminence near Bologna. But prayers and remedies were of no avail. Dominic grew worse, and believing himself near death, summoned the Friars anew. Twenty of them came with Ventura, their Prior, and ranged themselves around the sick man. Nothing has been preserved of the nature of Dominic’s words on this occasion, save that never had more touching, heartfelt utterances issued from his lips. After this he received extreme unction. And learning from Friar Ventura that the monk appointed to the Church of Santa-Maria intended to bury him there, he said, “God forbid that I should be buried elsewhere than beneath the feet of my Friars. Carry me out into the vineyard, that I may die there and be interred in our own church.”[9] then the Friars took him back to Bologna, fearing every moment that he would expire in their arms. As he had no cell of his own, they placed him in that of Friar Moneta. They wished to change his garments, but having none save those which he word, Moneta gave one of his own tunics with which to cover him. Friar Rodolfo supported the Saint’s head, wiping the death-sweat from his brow, the rest of the Friars looking on, weeping. In order to comfort them, Dominic said, “Do not weep. I shall be of more use to you where I am going than I have been here.”[10] One of the Friars asked him where he desired to be interred. He replied, “Beneath the feet of my Friars.”[11] This was about an hour after their arrival in Bologna. Dominic observing that the Friars were so overwhelmed by grief that they were forgetting to pray for his departing soul, sent for Friar Ventura, telling him to “make ready.”[12] They did so at once, and ranged themselves in solemn order around the dying man. He told them to “wait a while;” and Ventura, embracing this last opportunity spoke thus to the Saint: “Father, you know in what grief and desolation you leave us; remember us in the presence of the Lord.”[13] Then Dominic, raising his eyes and hands to heaven, uttered this prayer: “Holy Father, I have accomplished Thy will, and those whom Thou hast given I have kept; I now commend them unto Thee. Do Thou preserve and keep them.”[14] And a moment later he told them to “begin.”[15] They then commenced the solemn prayers for the departing soul, in which, from the movement of his lips, Dominic appeared to take part. When they came to these words, “Let the holy angels of God come forth to meet him, and conduct him to the city of the Heavenly Jerusalem,” his lips moved for the last time; he raised his hands heavenwards, and God received his soul. This occurred at noon on Friday, 6th August 1221.

[8] The Blessed Jourdain de Saxe, Vie de St. Dominique, ch. iv. n. 68.
[9] Actes de Bologne, Friar Ventura’s deposition, n. 7.
[10] Ibid., Friar Rodolfo’s deposition, n. 4.
[11] Ibid., n. 7.
[12] Ibid.

O lumen Ecclesiae
Doctor veritatis,
Rosa patientiae,
Ebur castitatis,
Aquam sapientiae
propinasti gratis,
Praedicator gratiae,
nos junge beatis.

Light of the Church,
Teacher of truth,
Rose of patience,
Ivory of chastity,
You freely offered
The waters of wisdom,
Preacher of grace,
Unite us with the blessed.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

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