Today the church remembers St. Dominic, Priest and Friar.
This 13th Century contemporary of St. Francis would blaze a similar path through the church and the world as his animal-loving brother, taking action against the corruption and laxity he observed in the religious halls of power through a call to renewed living, teaching, and love.
Wealth had, in his estimation, jeopardized the church and its ability to speak truthfully and honestly in the world. He was also alarmed at the number of Christians subscribing to the belief that Jesus only existed in spirit, and therefore was never incarnate. This belief encouraged the faithful to see all matter as inherently evil, denying the goodness of creation.
In response he organized a movement of poor, itinerant preachers who took quite seriously Jesus’ words in Matthew 10. These women and men (Dominic also started an order of nuns along with his male devotees) went throughout the world preaching and teaching, extolling the beauty and wonder of creation and incarnation, combating the heresy through conversation, sermons, and faithful living.
Meanwhile, the Pope began a crusade of fear-mongering and violence to tamp out those viewed as heretics, padding his coffers as he did so.
These opposing approaches to the same issue presents a clear ideological divergence that, unfortunately, still presents itself today in the world. Will issues be tackled through force, “law and order,” and intimidation? Or will leaders raise up more leaders to pave paths of peace in the midst of confusion?
Dominic’s order was eventually blessed by Pope Honorious III in 1216, and is officially known as the Order of Friars Preachers (hence why Dominicans have “O.P.” following their name in official documents, “Order of Preachers”). You’ll know a Dominican because they wear a black robe over a white tunic, which got them their other name, “Black Friars.”
Dominicans are known for being cerebral and pious, and the best known product from this order is probably St. Thomas Aquinas.
As I noted above, Dominic is a reminder for the church, and the world, that power cannot be overcome by more power, in the end. There is always someone more powerful, Beloved…or one who will become more powerful.
Power must be outsmarted not by dominating through the muscles of the arm, but by being wooed through the muscle that is the heart.
-historical bits gleaned from Pfatteicher’s “New Book of Festivals & Commemorations”