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The life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order online

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assist at the office with the spirit and alacrity which
were so remarkable in him. He was most zealous for the
exact performance of what he considered the primary
duty of a religious, and would go through the choir from
one to another, calling on them to sing with attention
and devotion, and in a loud and distinct tone. He never
passed an altar whereon was the figure of our Lord
without a profound inclination, to recall the sense 0/


his own nothingness. He taught his brethren to do the
same at the repetition of the Gloria, as a homage to the
Most Holy Trinity, and was wont to quote the words of
Judith, "The prayer of the meek and humble shall ever
please Thee." He was accustomed likewise to pray, in
imitation of Christ in the garden, with his face on the
ground; and in this posture he would remain for a long
space, repeating passages from the Psalms of the most
profound abnegation, and accompanied with many tears, so
that the place was often wet where his face had leaned.

Some of his favourite ejaculations are preserved. "0
God, be merciful to me a sinner !" he was heard exclaim-
ing: "I have sinned, and done amiss." Then, after a
little space, "I am not worthy to behold the height of
heaven, because of the multitude of my iniquities, for
Thy wrath is irritated against me, and I have done evil
in Thy sight. Yea, my soul cleaveth to the ground;
quicken me according to Thy word." To move his disciples
to a similar mode of prayer, he would cite the example of
the holy kings throwing themselves at the feet of Christ,
and would say, " Come let us adore, and fall down before
God, and weep before the Lord who made us." " If you
have no sins of your own to weep for," he would say to the
younger novices, "weep after the example of the prophets
and apostles, and of the Lord Jesus ; and grieve for the
sinners who are in the world, that they may be brought
back to penance." Another of his favourite devotions was
to keep his eyes fixed on the crucifix, and meanwhile to
genuflect a hundred times or more ; and so he would pass
many hours, uttering ejaculations from the Psalms; or he
would kneel silently, as if unconscious of aught save the
presence of God ; and then his face, and his whole person,
and his very gestures, seemed as though he would penetrate
the distance that separated him from his beloved; now
beaming with a holy joy, and now sorrowfully bathed in
tears. At other times he was seen to stand up upright
before the altar, with his hands clasped before his breast,
as though holding a book, out of which he had the air of
reading, then he would press them over his eyes, or
raise them above his shoulders. In these postures h«


had the appearance of a prophet, now listening or speak-
ing with God and the angels, now thinking within himself
on what he had heard. He would stand also with his arms
stretched out in the form of a cross, and would so pronounce
steadily and at intervals sentences like these: — "0 Lord
God of my salvation, I have cried before Thee day and
night. I have cried unto Thee, Lord ; all the day long
have I stretched out my hands to Thee. I have stretched
out my hands unto Thee ; my soul graspeth to Thee as a
land where there is no water." This was when he prayed
for any special grace or miracle, as on the raising of Napoleon j
and at such times his face breathed an air of indescribable
majesty, so that the bystanders remained astonished, with-
out daring to question him of that which they beheld with
their own eyes : often in rapture, he was seen raised above
the ground ; his hands then moved to and fro as though
receiving something from God, and he was heard ex-
claiming, " Hear, Lord, the voice of my prayer, when
I cry unto Thee, and when I hold out my hands to Thy
holy temple." As soon as the hours and the grace after
dinner were ended, he would retire alone to some secret
place, where sitting down and making the sign of the
cross, he would meditate on those things which he had
heard read. Then taking out that book of the Gospels,
which he always carried, he would kiss it reverently and
press it to his breast ; and those who observed him could
mark how, as he read, he would seem to fall into argu-
ments with another, smiling or weeping, beating his
breast, or covering his face with his mantle, rising and
again sitting and reading, as the passing emotions of his
soul sought for expression. Nor must we fail to notice
the singular devotion with which he daily celebrated the
holy sacrifice of the Mass, which he almost always sang.
At the Canon and the Lord's Prayer his tears fell in
abundance ; those . who served his Masses noticed this,
and bore witness that it wa3 always the case, and that with
a tenderness of devotion which moved them also to weep
with him.

Of his manner towards his subjects, we read that its
undeviating rule was charity. He was their loving


father, even whilst he knew how to reprove and correct
them. The following are the words of Rodolph of Fa-
enza: — He was ever kind, cheerful, patient, joyful, mer-
ciful, and the consoler of his brethren. If he saw any
of them fail into a fault, he would seem as though he
did not at the time observe it, but afterwards, with a
serene countenance, and with gentle speech, would say,
4 Brother, you have done wrong, but now repent;' and
so did he bring all to penance. And yet though he
told them of their faults with such humble words, he
could gravely punish them." " He punished transgressors
of the rule with severity, and yet with mercy," says
John of Navarre, " and greatly did he grieve when he
had to punish any." Brother Frugerius, another of the
eye-witnesses of his life, says, " He was rigid himself in
the observation of the rule, and would have it observed
also by others ; yet did he punish transgressors with
meekness and sweetnesss. He was kind and patient in
trouble, joyful in adversity, loving, merciful, and the con-
soler of his brethren, and of all men." To which test-
imony Brother Paul of Venice adds, " So sweet and
just was he in correction, that none could ever be troubled
by a punishment or reproof received from him." An-
other of his disciples adds, " Although like a father,
he could use the rod of correction ; yet also as a
mother he could give the breast of consolation ; and
so sweet and efficacious was his way of comforting
those who came to him, that none went away without
solace and relief. And if he saw his brethren at any
time sad or afflicted, he would call them to him, and
condole with them, and ofttimes deliver them by his

We may draw the reader's attention to the striking
similarity of the character sketched by so many different
hands. Indeed, when we read over " the Acts of Bo-
logna, as these evidences for his canonization are entitled,
we are immediately struck with the exact resemblance
they bear to one another. We see, as it were, the
portrait of one whose features were too marked not
\o be instantly caught by the painter ; they were the


outlines of the most perfect form of charity- And the
mother of his charity was a profound humility. " Nevei
did I see a man so humble in all things as was Brother
Dominic," is the language of one of the witnesses on
his canonization ; " he dispised himself greatly, and
counted himself as nothing; he was the example to his
brethren in all things — in words, gesture, food, clothing,
and manners. He was generous, too, and hospitable,
and gladly gave all he had to the poor. He passed
his nights without sleep, praying for the sins of others,"
And blessed Jordan, on the last-mentioned quality
(zeal for souls), says, f It was the trait in which lie
most desired to resemble his Lord." With the beautiful
eulogy which is given by this holy writer, the worthy
successor and biographer of his great patriarch, we must
conclude this chapter : " The goodness of his soul, and
the holy fervour with which he acted, were so great,
that none could doubt him to be indeed a chosen vessel
of honour adorned with precious stones. He had a par-
ticular firmness of spirit, always equal, save when moved
to pity or compassion. The peace and quietude of his
heart was manifest in his gentleness and his cheerful
looks. And he was so firm and resolute in the de-
terminations he had taken after just reflection, that
never, or almost never, did any succeed in making him
change his mind. The holy joy which shone in him had
something singular about it, which drew all men's affec-
tions to him so soon as they had looked upon his face.
He embraced all in great charity, and so was loved of
all ; and his rule was to rejoice with them that rejoiced,
and to weep with them that wept. He was all love for his
neighbour, all pity for the poor ; and the simplicity of his
conduct, without a shadow of insincerity either in word or
deed, made him dear to all."

With this portrait in our mind, sketched by the very eye-
witnesses of his daily life, we shall now proceed to give
some of those legends attached to the period of his residence
at Rome, to which we have before referred-


Attacks of the Devil. Legends of S. Sabina and S. Sixtns

On the second Sunday in Lent, being the first after
the settlement of the nuns at S. Sixtus, Dominic preached
in their church, standing, as it is said, " at the grating,"
that is, so as his discourse should be heard both by them
and by the congregation assembled in the public parts of
the church. As he did so, a possessed woman who was
in the midst of the crowd interrupted the sermon, " Ah,
villain !" cried the demon, speaking through her voice,
" these nuns were once all mine own, and thou hast robbed
me of them all. This soul at least is mine, and thou shalt
not take her from me, for we are seven in number that
have her in our keeping." Then Dominic commanded her
to hold her peace, and making the sign of the cross, he
delivered her from her tormenters in the presence of
all the spectators. A few days after this she came to
him, and, throwing herself at his feet, implored to be
allowed to take his habit. He consented to her request,
and placed her in the convent of S. Sixtus, where he gave
her the name of Amata, or, as we used to call her, Amy ;
to signify the love of God displayed in her regard.
She afterwards removed to Bologna, where she died
in the odour of sanctity, and lies buried in the same tomb
with Dominic's two other holy daughters, Cecilia and
Diana, the latter of whom was foundress of the convent of
women in that place.

In speaking of this and other examples of the malice
of the demon, which are narrated in the history of
S. Dominic, we cannot but observe something perhaps
a little distinctive about them. Never do we find one
instance in which Satan was permitted the least power
to vex or trouble him. Never, as with so many othef


saints, was he suffered to do him bodily harm, or to
assault him with grievous temptations. The evil one
appears to us always baffled and contemptible, as in the
power of one who is his master, the very Michael among
the saints. Yet though always petty, and as it were
ridiculous, he ceased not in his efforts to thwart and
disturb him, and chiefly directed his malice against the
friars and sisters of S. Sixtus, grievously trying them
by perpetual distraction, as though he hoped thereby at
least to diminish something of the fervour of their devo-
tions. Once indeed he made a more serious attempt
against Dominic's life. One night, as he prayed in the
church of Santa Sabina, a huge stone was hurled at him
by an invisible hand from the upper part of the roof,
which all but grazed his head, and even tore his hood,
but falling without further injury to the saint, was
buried deep in the ground beside him. The noise was
so loud that it awoke several of the friars, who came
in haste to the spot to inquire the cause ; they found
the fragments of the broken pavement, and the stone
lying where it fell ; but Dominic was kneeling quietly
in prayer, and seemed as if unconscious of what had

Another story, of a similar character, is told as follows :
" The servant of God, who had neither bed nor cell
of his own, had publicly commanded his children in
chapter, that in order that they might wake the more
promptly, to rise to matins, they should retire to bed at
a certain hour, in which he was strictly obeyed. Now,
as he himself abode before the Lord in the church, the
devil appeared before him in the form of one of the
brethren, and though it was past the prohibited time, yet
did he remain in the church with an air of particular
devotion and modesty. Wherefore the saint, judging
it to be one of the friars, went softly up to him, and
desired him to go to his cell, and sleep with the others.
And the pretended friar inclined his head, in sign of
humble obedience, and went as he was bid; but on each
of the two following nights, he returned at the same hour
and in the same manner. The second time the man of


God rose very gently (although, indeed, he had reason to
be somewhat angry, seeing he had at table during the day
reminded all of the observance of that which had been
enjoined), and again desired him to go away. He went ;
but, as we have said, returned yet a third time. Then,
it seemed to the saint that the disobedience and pertinacity
of his brother was too great, and he reproved him for the
same with some severity ; whereat, the devil (who desired
nothing else, save to disturb his prayer and stir him unto
wrath, and move him to break the silence) gave a loud
laugh, and, leaping high into the air, he said, 'At least
I have made you break the silence, and moved you to
wrath !' But he calmly replied, ' Not so, for I have power
to dispense, neither is it blameworthy wrath when I utter
reproofs unto the evil-doers.' And the demon, being so
answered, was obliged to fly."

On another occasion, as he was by night walking about
the convent of S. Sabina, guarding his flock with the
vigilance of a good shepherd, he met the enemy in the
dormitory, going like a lion seeking whom he might
devour ; and recognizing him, he said, " Thou evil beast,
what doest thou here ?" "I do my office," replied the de-
mon, "and attend to mygains." "And what gains dost thou
make in the dormitory ?" asked the saint. " Gain
enough," returned the demon. " I disquiet the friars in
many ways ; for first, I take the sleep away from those
who desire to sleep in order that they may rise promptly
for matins ; and then I give an excessive heaviness to
others, so that when the bell sounds, either from weariness
or idleness they do not rise ; or, if they rise and go to
choir, it is unwillingly, and they say their office without
devotion." Then the saint took him to the church, and
said, " And what dost thou gain here ?" " Much, an-
swered the devil; " I make them come late and leave
soon. I fill them with disgusts and distractions, so that
they do ill whatsoever they have to do." " And here ?"
asked Dominic, leading him to the refectory. " Who does
not eat too much or too little ?" was the reply ; " and
so they either offend God or injure their health." Theu
the saint took him to the parlour, where the brethren


wore allowed to speak with seculars, and to take their
recreation. And the devil began maliciously to laugh,
and to leap and jump about, as if with enjoyment, and he
said, " This place is all mine own ; here they laugh and
joke, and hear a thousand vain stories ; here they utter
idle words, and grumble often at their rule and their
superiors ; and whatsoever they gain elsewhere they lose
here." And lastly they came to the door of the chapter-
room, but there the devil would not enter. He attempted
to fly, saying, "This place is a hell to me ; here the friars
accuse themselves of their faults, and receive reproof and
correction, and absolution. What they have lost in every
other place they regain here." And so saying, he dis-
appeared, and Dominic was left greatly wondering at
the snares and nets of the tempter ; whereof he after-
wards made a long discourse to his brethren, declaring
the same unto them, that they should be on their

But if, at the risk of wearying the reader, we have
given these instances of the infernal malice, it is time
for us to present him with other and more lovely pictures,
as they are left us in the relation of Sister Cecilia. The
first, as is fitting, shall be of the maternal love of Mary.
Before reading it, we must remember that Dominic never
had cell or bed of his own, and slept, when he slept at
all, in the church or the dormitory. "One night,
Dominic having remained in the church to pray, left it
at the hour of midnight, and entered the corrider where
were the cells of the brethren. When he had finished
what he had come to do, he again began to pray at one
end of the dormitory, and looking by chance towards the
other end, he saw three ladies coming along, of whom
the one in the middle appeared the most beautiful and
venerable. One of her companions carried a magnificent
vessel of water, and the other a sprinkler, which she
presented to her mistress, and she sprinkled the bre-
thren, and made over them the sign of the cross. But
when she had come to one of the friars, she passed him
over without blessing him ; and Dominic having observed
who this one was, went before the lady, who was in the


middle of the dormitory, near to where the lamp was
hanging. He fell at her feet, and though he had already
recognized her, yet he besought her to tell him who she
was. At that time the beautiful and devout anthem
of the Salve Regina was not sung in the convents of
the friars or of the sisters at Rome ; it was only
recited, kneeling, after compline. The lady who had
given the blessing said therefore to Dominic. ' I am she
whom you invoke every evening, and when you say < Eia
ergo advocota nostra,' I prostrate before my Son for the
preservation of this order.' Then the blesssed Dominic
inquired who were the two young maidens who accom-
panied her, and she replied, ' One is Cecilia, and the other
Catherine.' And the blessed Dominic asked again why
she had passed over one of the brethren without blessing
him ; and he was answered, ' Because he was not in a
fitting posture;' and so, having finished her round, and
sprinkled the rest of the brethren, she disappeared. Now
the blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place where
he was before, and scarcely had he begun to pray when
he was wrapt in spirit unto God. And he saw the Lord,
with the Blessed Virgin standing on His right hand ; and
it seemed to him that our Lady was dressed in a robe of
sapphire blue. And, looking about him, he saw religious
of every order standing before God; but of his own he
did not S3e one. Then he began to weep bitterly, and he
dared not draw nigh to our Lord, or to His Mother; but
our Lady beckoned him with her hand to approach.
Nevertheless, he did not dare to come until our Lord
also in His turn had made him a sign to do so. He
came, therefore, and fell prostrate before them, weeping
bitterly. And the Lord commanded him to rise ; and
when he was risen, He said to him, * Why weepest thou
thus bitterly?' And he answered, 'I weep because I
see here religious of all orders except mine own.' And
the Lord said to him, ' Wouldst thou see thine own ?'
And he, trembling, replied, 'Yes, Lord.' Then the
Lord placed His hand on the shoulder of the Blessed
Virgin, and said to the blessed Dominic, ' I have given
thine order to my Mother.' Then He said again, 'And


wouldst thou really see thine order?' And he replied,
1 Yea, Lord.' Then the Blessed Virgin opened the
mantle in which she seemed to be dressed, and extending
it before the eyes of Dominic, so that its immensity
covered all the space of the heavenly country, he saw
under its folds a vast multitude of his friars. The
blessed Dominic fell down to thank God and the Blessed
Mary, His Mother, and the vision disappeared, and he
came to himself again, and rang the bell for matins ; and
when matins were ended, he called them all together, and
made them a beautiful discourse on the love and venera-
tion they should bear to the most Blessed Virgin, and
related to them this vision. It was on this occasion that
he ordered his friars, wherever they might sleep, always to
wear a girdle and stockings."

Another story we give in the words of the same writer :
" It was the constant habit of the venerable father to
spend the entire day in gaining souls, either by continual
preaching, or hearing confessions, or in other works of
charity. And in the evening he was accustomed to come
to the sisters, and give them a discourse or a conference
on the duties of the order, in presence of the brethren ;
for they had no other master to instruct them. Now,
one evening, he was later than usual in coming, and the
sisters did not think he would come at all, they having
finished their prayers and retired to their cells. But, lo !
suddenly they heard the little bell, which the friars were
used to ring to give the sisters a signal of the approach
of the blessed father. And they all hastened to the
church, where, the grating being opened, they found him
already seated, with the brethren, waiting for them.
Then he said, t My daughters, I am come from fishing,
and the Lord has this night sent me a great fish.' He
spoke of Brother Gandion, whom he had received into the
order; he was the only sen of the Lord Alexander, a
Roman citizen, and a man of consequence. Then he
made them a long discourse, which gave them great con-
solation. After which, he said, ' It will be well, my
children, if we drink a little.' And calling Brother
lloger, the cellarer, he bade him go and bring a cup and


some wine. And the friar having brought it, the blessed
Dominic desired him to fill the cup to the brim. Then
he blessed it, and drank first, and after him also the other
friars who were present. Now they were of the number
of twenty-five, as well clerks as laics; and they drank as
much as they would, yet was not the wine diminished.
When they had all drunk, the blessed Dominic said, 'I
will that my daughters drink also.' And calling Sister
Nubia, he said to her, ' Come in thy turn, and take the
cup, and give all the sisters to drink.' She went there-
fore, with a companion, and took the cup, full up to the
brim, withont a drop having been poured out. And the
prioress drank first and then all the sisters, as much as
they would, the blessed father saying to them, 'Drink
at your ease my daughters.' They were a hundred and
four, and all drank as much as they would ; nevertheless
the cup remained full, as though the wine had just been
poured into it ; and when it was brought back, it was
still full. This done, the blessed Dominic said, ' The
Lord wills me now to go to Santa Sabina.' But Brother
Tancred, the prior of the brethren, and Odo, the prior of
the sisters, and all the friars, and the prioress with the
sisters, tried to detain him, saying, 'Holy father, it is
near midnight, and it is not expedient for you to go.'
Nevertheless he refused to do as they wished, and said,
' The Lord wills me to depart, and will send His angel
with me.' Then he took for his companions Tancred and
Odo, and set out. And being arrived at the church-door,
in order to depart, behold ! according to the words of the
blessed Dominic, a young man of great beauty presented
himself, having a staff in his hand, as if ready for a
iourney. Then the blessed Dominic made his com-
panions go on before him, the young man going first, and
he last, and so they came to the door of the church of
Santa Sabina, which they found shut. The young man
leaned against the door, and immediately it opened; he
entered first, then the brethren, and then the blessed
Dominic. And the young man went out, and the door
again shut ; and Brother Tancred said, ' Holy father, who
wa3 the young man who came with us ? ' And ho


replied, l My son, it was an angel of God, whom He sent
to guard us. Matins then rang, and the friars descended
into the choir, and were surprised to see there the blessed
Dominie and his companions, for they knew that the
door had been left shut."

Such are some of the legends of these times. Traces
of them may yet be found on the spots they have enriched

Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 13 of 37)