St. Dominic, who’s feast is August 8th, is a saint universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. Why is he universally celebrated?
Dominic, who lived at the beginning of the 13th century, faced the Albigensians , a gnostic movement strongly entrenched around Toulouse in France that was drawing believers away from the church. Dominic gathered preachers to bring the teaching of the gospel to the area. Preaching the gospel, according to Dominic, meant not only to understand your faith, but to know what those who differ from you believe. He established communities of followers, the Dominicans, near universities such as Paris and Bologna.
They were to study and pray. Study and prayer and a simple life would help them know the truth and bring it to their world. His community still has that vital role in the church today.
The prayers for Dominic’s feast ask that the gifts of study and prayer and a simple life remain in the church. We need people who think and pray and preach.
One of Dominic’s biographers mentions something about him that’s true of all the saints, I think. Saints look redeemed. Dominic’s face was joyful, which came from a joyful heart and a soul at peace. He believed God was with him.
“He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animate the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.”
That same “cheerfulness of countenance” seems to be what people remark about Pope Francis. That doesn’t mean smiling continuously, but that joy is our “default,” it’s the attitude usually there. Fra Angelico seems to capture the peacefulness of Dominic in his portrait of the saint. (above)