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1170 A.D.:  Dominic Guzman of Spain is Born!

  Among God's empowered working servants only a scarce number preformed more amazing miracles and bent themselves more assertively to the work of Christ than did Saint Dominic, who began life in Spain in Old Castille in the town of Calarogo (now Caleruega) as Dominic Guzman, a son of noble parentage.

  Of his father's life not so much information survives.  His name was Felix Guzman, and he is agreed to have been a Spanish nobleman.     

  Dominic's mother, Jane of Aca, was of so holy and pure a character that she instilled in her children a great desire to serve God and follow Jesus.  Dominic was her most famous child, but two of his older brothers served the Lord also.  One brother, Antonio, gave up his wealth and dedicated his life to working humbly in a hospital.  Another brother, Mames, decided at a certain point in his life to follow Dominic's lead.  He joined the order that Dominic was to start, and his life was of such noted holiness that he was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI.

  But, it was Dominic that became very famous, and Dominic whose name is known even today through the Dominican Orders of Friars.  His mother may not have been surprised by that.  When pregnant with Dominic she had a dream of a dog with a torch in its mouth jumping out of her womb, and setting the world on fire.  The dog is not always an animal with positive connotations in scripture, but torches often seem to hint at the spreading of the fire of the Holy Spirit, which is very good!  Also, there were more signs of greatness associated with infant Dominic.  It is recorded that people thought they saw visible symbols upon his forehead when he was a newborn.  At his baptism, his grandmother saw a moon on his forehead, though his Godfather claimed he saw a star there.  It seemed he might become something special.   

  Dominic attended a type of elementary school from ages 7 to 14 under an uncle, from his mother's side of the family, who was the arch priest of Gumiel d'Izan.  When he had completed this phase of his schooling, he became a student at the University of Palencia beginning in 1184.  A 14 year old university student.....perhaps that may have been common at the time.  He spent about 10 years at the university, was an excellent scholar and well respected by faculty and class mates alike reports say.  But he was even more notable for the sobriety and thoughtful purity with which he led his life.  He apparently took holiness very seriously, and Jesus' teachings he took to heart.  Not only was he said not to indulge in the sort of frivolous behavior that 'college' has for so long been known for, but he was already taking the burden of the condition of the world deeply to heart. 

  At one point in his schooling a famine of some degree was being suffered in that part of Spain, and he decided to sell his fairly valuable texts and writings so that he might use the money to feed the poor and hungry of the city, though of course that much money could do only so much.  These were paper and vellum (treated skin) documents and texts which were, since Dominic lived long before the printing press, a treasure for a scholar and assumedly the sort that you might keep for a lifetime.  He told perplexed friends that it was better to sell these dead skins so that some of the hungry living poor could keep their own skins.  Others noticed that he was not ordinary in his faith or his zeal.  Amazingly, there are even some who knew him that wrote that he attempted to sell himself into slavery so that the money could be used to free some of his countrymen who were sold into Moorish slavery.  Invading African Moors still occupied much of Spain at this time.

  Sometime near to his graduation from college Dominic was ordained a priest.  But his first assignment was to be an unusual one - not an assignment at a church.  In 1203 the King of Castille wished a wife for his son Prince Ferdinand.  He decided to send someone to ask for the hand of the daughter of the 'Lord of Marche'.  This appears to have been in central France, though some sources refer to the Lord of Marche as Danish Royalty.  Was there Danish Royalty in central France just then?  Or was this 'Marche' place in Denmark?  It's a bit unclear from the sources I looked at just where it was that this princess resided.  But, the King of Castille selected the Bishop of Osma - a man named Don Diego - to go on this mission, and the bishop chose trustworthy young Dominic to accompany him.  It was his first major task for the church as a full fledged priest.

  It was a long trip given the means of travel in those days.  As they passed northward out of Spain and through southern France they passed through Toulouse, and there Dominic encountered the spiritual confusion caused by the Albigensians, whose heretical view ofChristianity was causing a great deal of doubt and trouble in Europe according to old writings.  The Albigensians taught that all material posessions, all matter, was evil.  But, somehow this translated - in their minds - to sinful acts being essentially unavoidable, and not so very bad to commit considering that sin was so unavoidable.  

  Albigensians lived in a mendicant way, owning little or nothing, and spoke of themselves as followers of Christ, in a day when the common man did not own a Bible and when the representatives of the Catholic church often lived lax and sometimes overly self-indulgent lives, the humble appearing lives of the Albigensians caught people's attention.  And the people were often easily convinced of their heretical theology, a way of practicing Christianity which allowed for a lot of sensual living, and which effectively professed to take away a lot of the guilt associated with sin.  Dominic quickly noticed the harm that the doctrine had done in the spiritual lives of the people.

  It is noted that they stayed at an inn when in Toulouse, France, and Dominick found that the innkeeper was convinced of the Albigensian way.  So, Dominic spent all night engaging him in a polite but very thorough discussion concerning why the Albigensian theology was incorrect, and by morning the innkeeper was convinced he had been wrong.  Dominic would, as it turned out, spend an important amount of his life opposing this spreading heresy, and the battle essentially started that night....with a win!

  As for their trip's actual purpose, they did gain an agreement that the young woman would accept the marriage proposal, and returned successful.  But, when they were sent a second time to actually bring the betrothed young princess to her wedding, she had sadly died.

  Unable to complete their mission, they had to choose their own next steps, and they decided to accompany each other to Rome.  Bishop Don Diego had come to desire a change of assignment, wishing to give up his place as Bishop and to travel to foreign lands to convert men to belief in Jesus.  Dominic probably had something like that in mind as well, and accompanied Diego in 1204 A.D. to Rome to see the Pope, Innocent the III, and to ask permission to persue their plans.  But upon arriving, the Pope was not amenable.  He had other bigger fish to fry.

***The young Italian Pope named Innocent III was no ordinary Pope, and for the approximately 18 years of his papacy was a huge influence in Europe.  Small, dark, and a dynamic speaker by report, he saw the role of Pope as an extremely powerful and authoratative position.  'Above man and below heaven'.  He spoke Jeremiah 1:10 when he was ordinated:

"See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

  That may have sounded a little frightening, given the power of the Church at that time! 

  Despite his high estimation of his own power and authority, His Papacy is regarded by some as the shining moment of the medieval age Papacy. The papal power, for good or bad, reached a zenith under his 18 years in the Seat of Peter.  He was very supportive of both Dominic, who would soon be seeking his approval for a new order of friars, and of Saint Francis of Assissi, who was doing the same.  Merely by sponsoring these two orders he did a very great deal to spread and strengthen the faith, and in addition to this, he also sent out strongly scriptural preachers and theologians to opposes heresies where ever they were taking root, and he was often successful in wiping out the support of heretical groups in this way by having their scriptural errors pointed out. 

  On the worldly front, Innocent III had his hand in many a political pie in Europe, trying to swing all things to the benefit of the Catholic church, and to promote the spread of Catholic Christianity.  He was, whatever else someone might think of him, a force to be reckoned with.  He made the role of the church quite large on the spiritual front, which it ought rightly to be, and on the temporal front, which perhaps is another matter.  But right or wrong, he did it, and by doing so caused historical impacts upon his world and his times that echoed on for several centuries.***

  Sent to Languedoc, France to work against heresy they identified one of the chief problems to be the laid back style of living then favored by the most powerful religious influence in the area...the Cistercians.  These monks came from a very good and widely influential order, one with hundreds of essentially self-sufficient monasteries based on praise, prayer, and manual labor (usually agriculture of some type, even beer brewing in cases) but the monks at that particular time and place had taken to living in such a casual and materialistic manner that they were not trained or educationally equipped to confront the Albigensians.  Diego and Dominic met with them and managed to convince them that they had let themselves relax a little too much, and exhibited too much pomp and splendor in their retinues as they traveled, which looked bad when compared to the apparent austerity shown by the Albigensians.  The chastized local Cistercians became galvanized to greater piety and action. After all, as steel sharpens steel, so do men sharpen men.  They humbled down, studied up, and went out as soldiers of God to confront the heretics in their own region.  Soon, they began to be seen differently by local Christians.   

  Debates of an essentially public nature began occurring throughout the towns of the region....Cistercian v.s. Albigensian.... and people began to be convinced, through scripture, that the Albigensians were in the wrong and should not be followed.  Diego and Dominic spoke out right beside their brothers in Christ, even wearing the clothing of the Cistercian Order during this time...which was a white frock with a black overgarment.  Sometimes Cistercians are known as the White monks. 

  Dominic was exceptionally well educated and intimately familiar with scripture, a good speaker, and a likeable personality; he became very skillful at refuting heresy.  He worked well with the white monks.   

  And there were also miracles.  At the town of Fanjeaux and also at Montreal a strange trial by fire was agreed to, in which the manuscripts of the Albigensians and then the manuscripts relied upon by Dominic were tossed into the fire - apparently to be devoured if they were erroneous.  In both places, it is recorded that Dominic's documents (his speech papers, so to speak) repeatedly floated back out of the flames unharmed when they were thrown in, but his opponents documents did not.  And his reputation grew.

  To speak briefly of miracles which occurred around Dominic, though more will be mentioned later, Dominic once needed to pay a ferry toll. Having no money, he prayed, and a coin appeared at his feet, with which he paid.

   Once, when Dominic was praying in a church in Castres in France in the Mid-Pyrenees region of Languedoc, a man came to the chapel to call him to dinner, but saw Dominic floating above the floor as he prayed.  He quickly ran to bring the prior to see, who did arrive in time to see it also, and that prior, who was named Matthew of France, later became one of Dominic's first followers.

   In 1206 A.D. Dominic received a vision that he should form a convent for local French women so that they would be able to do God's work effectively while also being taught sound doctrine, free of Albigensian influence.  Many of the local women already were strong Albigensian supporters, and since they often ran schools they were teaching the children to be also.  He received support for the idea from the local Bishop of Toulouse, Foulques.  The institution was built in Prouille, and is today called the Second Order of Saint Dominic.  They have been greatly successful. 

  The efforts to overturn the Albigensian heresy, so deeply embedded in portions of France, continued on.  But in 1208 A.D. it took a turn from rhetoric to warfare when a Cistercian named Pierre de Castelnau was assassinated by Albigensians.  Forces under crusader Simon de Monteforte, responding to that, came and began to battle the Albigensian forces from town to town.  Dominic and his group continued to be very active in treating the wounded and in preaching.  They also prayed for victory for Monteforte's Catholic forces, and when he would take a city, the Cisterians and Dominic and his group would go in and work to establish rightful doctrine and preaching among the conquered citizens of the town and area.

  In September of 1213 A.D. as Monteforte fought enemy forces at Meret, Dominic prayed fervently for his victory, and such an unlikely victory was won that day that Monteforte considered it a miracle.  In a show of gratitude to God and for Dominic's prayer Monteforte built a chapel in the local Church of St. Jaques.  It is of historical record that it was dedicated to 'Our Lady of the Rosary' which shows a connection between St. Dominic and the Rosary in the early days of its use.  Many credit Dominic with the inception of Rosary use, based on his having a vision in which the Virgin Mary told him how to worship in a rosary-type way in order to obtain better succcess in his spirtual efforts.  Others claim that the rosary existed and was in use prior to Dominic.  Several Popes have credited Dominic with instituting its use, but since it is a contested matter I won't focus on it here in this brief account of Dominic's life.  Obviously if it did originate through him, it was an notably historic developement in prayer, though I've never known what to think of rosary use personally.  I suspect that direct, once-voiced prayer is better, but am no qualified judge of the matter.  All genuine praise and prayer to God is good, right?

  Dominic was of such reputation before long that again and again he was asked to be a Bishop of one area or another, but he avoided the idea with a vengeance, saying that he would rather take flight with nothing but his staff than stay and be a Bishop.  He felt chosen for other type work!

  He had long dreamed of forming an officially sanctioned order devoted to preaching and fighting heresy, and in April 25, 1215 A.D. he finally made progress.  The local French Bishop Foulques assigned him as priest to one of the local churches so that he would have an income stream, and then he allowed the formation of a group, the Order of Preachers, under Dominic's leadership, that would be an evangelistic preaching order moving about freely from diocese to diocese.  It was exactly what Dominic had hoped for, and a home was also donated at this time by a Toulouse resident named Peter Seiler; it was the man's own home.  He had decided to follow Dominic.  So, they had a place to live.  

  A year later Bishop Foulques moved them to the Saint Romanus church to live, and there they stayed.  That was 1216 A.D., the year that Rome officially sanctioned Dominic's preaching order, after they had adopted the rules for living of Saint Augustine.  Rome wanted their order's rules of conduct to fit within some pre-existing structure, and Augustine's rules allowed them the most effective freedom to do their intended work. 

  In 1217 A.D. Dominic was away from his small group of followers quite a lot, preaching in Rome and even preaching before the Pope.  So greatly did he impress that he was pressed into service as the Pope's Theologian, or Master of the Palace....essentially like a personal priest and theological expert for the Pontiff.  He did so well that Dominican friars have held that position every since, even today.

  By the end of 1217 Dominic was allowed back to his order in Prouille, and he made a surprising decision.  Though only 17 members in number, he determined that they should now go out from their 'incubator' and begin the work they had trained for, though their training had been fairly brief.  But he told them that the seed of the Gospel would moulder if stored, but fructify if spread, and so his decision was made.  He decided that three of them would go to Paris and establish a convent there near the university so that in the future their order could send out the most educated brothers possible. 

 The new Pope Honorius III was a great supporter of Dominic's new order, and helped arrange the needed buildings wherever Dominic's order spread to.  These first official workers went out and met with great success.  The Pope issued Papal bulls saying that churches where ever Dominic's people went should support such Dominicans as came to their area with such things as they needed, and of course this helped a great deal.  Dominic set up a second educational convent in Bologna, Italy and also had to find larger living quarters for the first one, in Paris, within a very short time.  Pope Honorius was very helpful in accomodating all of this, as he seemed to have a special affinity for this new order.

  Dominic received a vision at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome while praying.  Saint Peter and Saint Paul  appeared to him, and told him "Go out and preach because you have been chosen by God for this work."  Peter handed him a staff, and Paul a book.  So, after that, Dominic habitually traveled with a staff and the Gospel of Matthew, and Paul's epistles.  He was said to be very familiar with these.

  In 1219 A.D. the first General Chapter meeting of the order was held in Bologna.  Dominic had been appointed the official Master General of the Order, and he humbly resigned the position at this first meeting with his followers, as it was an unasked for honor, not granted by those who belonged to his order.  They immediately insisted that he accept it back, of course.  But he truly was a humble man. 

  During these years a miracle of tongues once occurred to Dominic.  Traveling between his convents with some of his brothers he happened upon some German's going his way, and prayed he might be given the ability to speak in their tongue.  He was given this gift, and so spoke German with them as they traveled. 

  The next years saw many from his order, including himself, going to Lombard to fan out and preach against extreme heresy that had arisen there.  So many were his miracles and so effective his preaching that it is estimated that around 100,000 people were converted by their group effort.  Who knows what the population base was there, at that time, almost 800 years ago.  But 100,000 people certainly must have had a giant impact for the Kingdom of God. 

  At the 2nd Chapter meeting in Bologna in 1221 A.D. the life of this pivotal saint came to an end.  He caught a sickness, fought it for several weeks, and then died there among his friars.  As found at www.3op.org/stdominic.php his last words were as follows:

"Till this day, God, in His mercy, has kept my virginity pure and unstained. If you desire this blessed gift of God, hold yourselves apart from everything that can conjure up evil, for it is by watchful care in this that a man is loved by God and revered by man. Be eager in your service of God; strengthen and widen this newborn Order; increase your love of God and your keen observance of the Rule; grow in holiness."

  And Dominic was careful of his soul.  Many people might be a little startled to hear that some of his biographers claimed that, at least during some portions of his life, he 'mortified' his flesh 3 times a day to the point of blood.  He would whip himself once for his own soul, once for sinners, and once for the souls of the departed.  He wore coarse and very rough shirts to inure himself to discomfort.  He wore a chain around his waste under his clothing, he walked barefoot most of the time, and he even slept on the floor a great deal.  He was not a man that coddled his worldly flesh, and so his followers, seeing his example, did not either, though they did not usually go so far as Dominic.

  But, perhaps God noticed his sincerity.  Dominic's relationship with God was certainly notable.  His prayers were answered as those of few others were. 

  Once, a workman was brought dead to Dominic...a brick wall had fallen onto him....and Dominics prayers produced a full recovery. 

  A Cardinal's nephew was once brought to him, also dead, crushed in an accident involving falling off a horse and being run over by a cart on the road, and Dominic had him laid down.  He gave a mass, and by the time the mass was over, this young man also was no longer dead, and was recovered, wounds healed. 

A woman came to Rome to the church of San Marco to hear Dominic preach. Returned home, she found that her son had died. She rushed with him to church to tell Dominic that he had died at home while she was being faithful and listening to him preach!  Dominic prayed for the young man's soul to be restored, and it was.  He came back to life. 

  People attempted to clip parts of Dominic's clothing off at times, when his stature as a miracle worker had grown widely known, though it was of course God's power and not a man's which worked such wonders.  And Dominic did not try to make anyone believe otherwise from all that I have ever read of him.  He gave God the glory.

  Once a boat full of Englishmen, pilgrims going to St. James Church in Compostela in Spain, was crossing the Garonne River towards a church where Dominic was praying inside.  The boat tipped over in full sight of many witnesses and the noise and commotion brought Dominic running outside.  When he saw so many sinking beneath the water to drown he fell to the grass and began praying that they might be saved, and as a crowd watched the entire group of those already beneath the water rose to the top near the river's bank such that they were easily reached by stretched out poles and brought safely to the bank.  It was a remarkable thing, but seen by a good number of civilians and soldiers that happened to be near.

  A couple of times when Dominic's order was newer the men would come back from begging bread in town to report that there was nothing or almost nothing that had been given them to eat.  On these couple of occasions it was said that Dominic ordered them to set the table and sit down, and when they had done so nearly identicle looking young men unexpectedly entered the room with bread and wine and served them a satisfactory portion onto their plates and into their cups, and then left.  When questioned about what had just happened, Dominic told them not to question it, but to be grateful to heaven for it.  It would seem they were fed by angels. 

****In all the research that I have done writing Deeds of God accounts I have almost invariably read of angels being describes merely as young men, handsome young men, sometimes powerfully built young men, ususally dressed in white and often with a band of gold cloth around their chest.  I don't recall wings being mentioned even once, though perhaps I have forgotten.****    

  And odd stories came from Dominic's companions of several times traveling long distances by foot only to find a closed church door or a closed gate just when they needed a place to stay very badly, but then suddenly they were inside, or on the other side of the gate or door.  They would just suddenly find themselves on the other side.  These miraculous events I have found mentioned, but many others were referred to without giving details.  Dominic was surrounded by miracles in his work.   

  His canonization took place in 1234, and was an easy one.  Pope Gregory the IX said he had no more doubt about the saintliness of Dominic than he did of Peter and Paul.  And it should not go unmentioned that Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, two of the most profoundly affecting church strengthening workers in the last 2,000 years, did much the same work in almost the same area of the world at almost the same time, and are said to have met and very much liked each other.  They are both said to have used the order founded by the other as an example of how diligent and fervent God's workers should be when trying to inspire the brothers of their own order at times.  And even today, both orders survive, and each invites preachers from the other order to guest preach on certain yearly holidays as a continuing show of good will towards each other, carried forward for almost 800 years.

  Saint Dominic may not seem to relate to the 'dog' that his mother saw a vision of (unless it was because dogs are such faithful and loyal servants) but he certainly did carry the torch far and wide in difficult times, placing himself in the path of the insults and deprecations, dangers and animosity of the heretical groups of his time.  But God kept him safe throughout it all, allowing him to build an order which has produced lasting fruit...good fruit we hope, acceptable and pleasing to the Lord and Jesus whom he so loved to serve. 

 

Hello,

  My name is Dan Curry and I just wanted to make brief mention of something to you, if you will in spare a minute. 

  I personally believe that realizing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry

 

                    

     

       

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