Browse by Topic: Dominican History

Br. Ambrose Sigman, O.P.'s picture

Feast of our Holy Father Dominic

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On the evening of August 6th, 1221, the founder of the Order of Preachers, Dominic de Guzman, lay dying. Surrounded by the brothers of the priory of Saint Nicholas in Bologna, Dominic ordered them to begin the prayers for the commendation of his soul. As the brethren were singing the words “Come to his aid, saints of God. Hasten, angels of the Lord. Receive his soul and offer it before the face of the Most High,” Saint Dominic breathed his last. Today, August 8th, the Universal Church celebrates the feast of our Holy Father Dominic.<--break->

The Dominican Order has never had the same cult of personality surrounding its founder as has some other religious orders, such as the Franciscans, a fact made painfully aware to anyone who knows the story of the canonization process of our founder. Instead, Saint Dominic left something much more valuable than his personal example, as noble and fitting as that example was. Saint Dominic left to his children a dream, a vision of a way of life dedicated to a simple purpose, to preach and to defend the Truth, who is Jesus Christ. For 800 years this need, this desire, has continued to inspire generation after generation.

The beauty of this vision, whose relevance never fades (the world always needs the Truth), has sustained Saint Dominic’s order for eight centuries. We have endured much, suffered much, for the sake of that vision. We have seen ourselves grow at tremendous rates and found great success in our work, yet we have also come face to face with the possibility of our own extinction on more than one occasion. We stand on the shoulders of giants who have forged paths for us through the wildernesses of our mind, our soul, and our world (how many still remember the Unifying Friars of Saint Gregory the Illuminator from Armenia, the Fratres Unitores?). Even though his current sons and daughters may, on occasion, seem like a lesser breed than those who came before, yet we continue to work just as tirelessly, and pray that, by the grace of God, Saint Dominic’s vision may become a reality.

As Saint Dominic lay dying, surrounded by the brethren, he turned to them and said, “Do not weep. I shall be more use to you and bear more fruit for you after death than I ever did in life.” The past 800 years have proven the truth of these words.

V. Ora pro nobis, beate Pater Dominice.

R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Br. Ambrose Sigman, O.P.'s picture

Blessed Anthony Neyrot

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Very soon now, April 10th in fact, we Dominicans will celebrate one of the more unusual blesseds on our calendar, Blessed Anthony Neyrot (d. 1460). Bl. Anthony was the only Dominican blessed ever to renounce his faith, and yet in the end return to the faith and die a martyr’s death. Bl. Anthony is a reminder to us that nothing is lost which cannot be found again, and no one can stray so far that the Good Shepherd cannot bring him or her home.

Not much is known about the youth of Bl. Anthony, only that he was from Rivoli in Italy. He was received into the Order by the great Dominican, Saint Antoninus. After his studies and ordination, Anthony was assigned to the convent of San Marco in Florence. Being somewhat wayward and impatient, Anthony quickly grew tired of this and asked for a change of scenery. He was sent first to Sicily, about which he was not thrilled, and then to Naples. While sailing to Naples, Anthony’s ship was captured by pirates, and he and the other passengers were taken to the city of Tunis in North Africa.

 At first, Anthony was well-liked by the emir in Tunis and was allowed a measure of freedom. His continuing arrogance, though, quickly brought the wrath of his captors and Anthony was put in prison and given only bread and water. Anthony eventually gave in, denying his faith in order to obtain his freedom. Anthony quickly embraced his new faith, even going so far as to attempt a translation of the Qur’an. Soon, he was adopted by the emir and married a high-born Turkish lady.

 Anthony’s newfound complacency, though, was quickly shattered. Into his life came the news that his beloved teacher and mentor, Saint Antoninus, had died. Love for his old master stirred in Anthony’s heart a desire for the Truth which he had abandoned. He resolved very quickly to return to the Christian faith. Anthony decided to make his return publicly. In private, he confessed and was reconciled to God. Then, during one of the emir’s public processions, Anthony appeared on the palace steps wearing again his Dominican habit, and proclaiming his faith in a loud voice, and his sorrow at ever having abandoned it. Failing to change Anthony’s mind, the emir ordered his death. Anthony died under a shower of stones, proclaiming his faith and his sorrow on Holy Thursday, 1460. His body was eventually returned to Rivoli, where it still rests.

 Holy Mary, Searcher for the Lost, pray for us.

 Blessed Anthony Neyrot, pray for us.

Br. Ambrose Sigman, O.P.'s picture

Blessed Reginald of Orleans

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This Saturday, February 12th, we Dominicans honor the memory of one of the most important early members of our Order, Blessed Reginald of Orleans (ca. 1183-1220). Blessed Reginald was born in France, in the city of Orleans, and received his education in Canon Law at the University of Paris. Blessed Reginald was renowned as a brilliant teacher, and because of his talents and virtues he was made dean of the cathedral chapter at Orleans. He was known both for the brilliance of his mind and the eloquence of his preaching. He also was deeply devoted to Our Lady.

The zealousness of young Reginald soon led him to desire to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. On his way to Jerusalem, he stopped in Rome and paid a visit to Cardinal Hugh de Segni, to whom he explained his desire for a more ascetic way of life. Cardinal de Segni told Reginald he knew exactly what he was looking for, and so sent him on to St. Dominic. Thus Reginald became an early member of the Order of Preachers.

Reginald had scarcely entered the Order when he became deathly ill. St. Dominic, knowing that this bright young man would be an invaluable asset to the fledgling Order, prayed earnestly for his recovery. It was the Queen of Heaven herself who responded to the prayer. In a dream, Reginald had a vision of Mary, accompanied by St. Cecilia and St. Catherine of Alexandria. Our Lady anointed Reginald with a heavenly perfume. She also showed to Reginald a long white scapular and told him it was to be part of the habit of the Order. The friars, who up until that time (1218) had worn the garb of Canons Regular, gladly changed to the scapular designed for them by the Mother of God. Reginald wore this new habit for two years, preaching to huge crowds in Paris and Bologna, drawing many to follow his footsteps into the Order, famous professors and doctors of law, including a young German, Jordan of Saxony. He was dubbed a kidnapper of souls for the service of God. After two years Reginald died, having the honor of being the first friar to wear the distinctive Dominican habit and the first one to die in it.

Blessed Reginald remains for us one of the great models of our way of life. He was a man of great intellect, one of the leading academic lights of his day, yet these talents were always put to the service of God. His eloquence as a preacher and his life of virtue has rightly earned him a place among the greatest of Dominicans.