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St. Dominic

The Adrian Dominican Sisters share in the tradition of the international Dominican order known as the Order of Preachers, founded by St. Dominic Guzman in the 13th century in France. Dominic was born of wealthy Spanish nobility. His mother was Blessed Joan of Aza who, when pregnant, had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with a torch it carried in its mouth. A dog bearing a torch in its mouth became a symbol of Dominic for the Dominicans. When he was 26, Dominic became one of the canon regulars who formed the cathedral chapter at Osma. While traveling through southern France with his bishop, Diego of Osma, Dominic came upon a population almost entirely enslaved by the dualistic heresy known as Albigensianism. Albigensians, also known as the Cathari, taught a doctrine of the evil of created matter denying the goodness of God's creation.

Dominic embraced a life of poverty, prayer and study which appealed to the heretics, through which he was able to preach the truth of God's word and help many to return to the Catholic faith. Among the Albigensian heretics were women who were attracted to Dominic's message, as well as other women in southern France who desired to lead lives of prayer and dedication to God. Dominic formed the first monastery of contemplative nuns in Prouille in 1206.

Dominic believed that preaching should be supported by study so that the preached word would not be an empty word; by community, where the preacher found support and challenge; by a life of contemplation on the Gospel message; and by ministry, especially with those most in need on the margins of society. Study, community, prayer and ministry continue to be the four pillars of Dominican life today.

In 1215, Dominic was able to establish his headquarters in Toulouse, and the idea of an order of preachers began to take shape: a body of highly trained priests on a monastic basis, bound by vows with emphasis on poverty, but devoted to the active work of preaching and teaching anywhere and everywhere. The enterprise was formally approved at Rome in 1216, and in the following year the founder sent 11 of his brothers, over half at that time, to the University of Paris and to Spain. He himself established friaries at Bologna and elsewhere in Italy, and traveled tirelessly to superintend the nascent order, preaching as he went.

Dominic was of medium height, of slight build, with a beautiful face, slightly ruddy complexion, and slightly red hair and beard. His eyes were beautiful. There was a kind of radiance about his forehead and between his eyebrows, which attracted everyone to respect and love him. He was always cheerful and happy, except when he was moved to compassion by any kind of suffering on the part of his neighbor. Dominic had long, beautiful hands, and a powerful, beautiful, resonant voice. He never went bald, but had a complete ring of hair around his tonsure, with just a sprinkling of gray. From The Miracles of St. Dominic, dictated by Blessed Cecilia (1202-1290). Source: Early Dominicans: Selected Writings (Paulist, l982), edited by Simon Tugwell, OP.