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

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person compared to the legate, Arnold of Citeaux; but
the Church, in her unerring justice, has raised one to her
altars, and left the other to the mercy and indifference of
future ages ; and this explains what would otherwise
be an unaccountable phenomenon. Arnold of Citeaux,
though a busy man in his time, is in no way a represen-
tative of the Catholic Church; she has not identified
herself with him, and so there is no good reason for
attacking him and his order, and holding up their names
for popular abuse, however deeply they were responsible
for the excesses of the crusade. But it is quite another
thing to vilify a Catholic saint. Dominic bears on his
brow the indelible seal of the Church's canonization, and
therefore no Protestant can touch on the history of the
Albigensian war without assuring us that it was "preached
by the infamous Dominic," with a thousand other like


expressions which would give us to understand that he
was the foremost character in the whole affair, but which
are simply inexplicable to any one who, in studying his
life, fiuds it his chief difficulty to come on any trace
of him during this period.

It must be acknowledged that the perpetual insinceri-
ties of the Count of Toulouse render it difficult to follow,
with anything like clearness, a history which shows him
to us submitting to public penance in the church of
S. Gilles in 1209, and swearing at the same time, on holy
relics and the very body of our Lord, to drive away the
heretic insurgents, to repair the churches, and replace the
lawful bishops in their sees ; then a year afterwards,
evading the^ demands of the council , held at the same
place, which called on him to fulfil his engagements, and
persisting in his refusal, even whilst he supplicates to be
heard in justification of the accusations brought against
him. A little while after, we find him at Toulouse, pre-
paring to take up arms against the Catholic forces whom
he had sworn to assist ; and, in return for this breach of
faith, we have a touching and affectionate letter from
Pope Innocent, calling on him once more to stand to his
plighted word. Then more conferences and more eva-
sions. In 1211, at a meeting held at Montpellier, he
seems about to yield, but suddenly leaves the city with-
out a word of explanation. Then at length the thunder
of excommunication falls on his head a second time ; and
the war begins in earnest.

Raymond had the powerful protection of his brother-
in-law, the king of Arragon, together with many of the
territorial lords of the south. The power of the crusaders
under the leadership of Count Simon de Montfort was
certainly in no overwhelming disproportion, and, we are
told, more than a thousand cities and towns were in the
hands of the heretics. Two of these towns, Beziers and
Carcassona, had yielded to the Catholic confederates,
after a bloody contest at the very commencement of the
war, and before the final rupture with Raymond. The
cruelties practised on the inhabitants of the former, and
the pillage of the latter, gave a vindictive character to the


very .opening of the campaign. For the enormities per-
petrated by the heretics had lashed the Catholics of
Lauguedoc to fury; and when the day of retribution
came, and vengeance was in the power of men who had
so long suffered the worst injuries without redress, it
broke out into the usual excesses. There is no tempta-
tion to justify such excesses, yet surely there is an
astonishing unfairness, may we not say an astonishing
hypocrisy, in those who can find no words to express their
horror at the slaughter of Beziers, yet forget the tortures
of helpless women, the profanation of holy things, the
murders and oppressions of the century which had passed,
the reollection of which was doubtless too terribly alive
in the minds of the crusaders for them to find such mercy
in their hearts for those who were in turn their victims.

Where was Dominic all this time ? Some of his his-
torians gave the year 1207 as the date of the foundation
of his order ; inasmuch as it wae then that he took the
command of that little company of missionaries who re-
mained with him after the departure of Diego. But they
were bound to him by no other tie than a common in-
terest ; and the only ground for the supposition seems to
be, that they lived together in a kind of community-life,
and were known by the name of the Preaching Brothers.
It does not, however, seem that they had anything of the
formation of a regular religious body, and probably no
plan for such a formation had yet been clearly developed
in Dominic's own mind. Of their manner of life we can
form some notion from those scattered anecdotes which
are all that are left us. Even amid the hottest period of
the war, it was the same as it had ever been ; they went
about barefoot from village to village preaching the faith.
The only commission which Dominic held, was the origi-
nal one he possessed in virtue of that first legation to
which he and Diego had been associated before the cru-
sade began. It gave him the power of reconciling heretics,
and receiving them to penance, an office which has ac-
quired him the title of the first Inquisitor. If by this is
meant that the office of the Inquisition, as afterwards
constituted, was established at this tim,e such title is


certainly an error ; no such office existed before the Lateran
■Council of 1215, and it was not until 1230, nine years
after the death of Dominic, that the Council of Toulouse
gave it a new form, and intrusted a large share of its
government to the recently instituted order of Friars
Preachers. It is singular also, that the first commission
for denouncing heretics to the civil magistrate was granted
to the Cistercians. But, on the other hand, there is no
doubt that the commission of reconciling heretics, held by
S. Dominic, was the germ from which the Inquisition
afterwards sprang ; and so Dominic may be called the first
Inquisitor, in the same sense as the Marquis of Worcester
is called the inventor of the steam-engine, or Roger Bacon
the discoverer of gunpowder ; without supposing that the
marvels of a cotton-mill, or the broadside of a three-decker,
ever crossed the imagination of either.*

His chief residence was at Fanjeaux and Carcassona.
Fanjeaux he chose for its proximity to Notre Dame de
Prouille, and Carcassona for another reason. " Why do
you not live in Toulouse, or the diocese?" was a question
one day asked him. " I know many people in Toulouse,"
he replied, " and they show me respect ; but at Carcassona,
every one is against me." They certainly were: it was

* It is no part of the plan which we have laid down for ourselves,
to enter at any length into the vexed question of the character or
the Inquisition. But we cannot resist referring to one authority,
quoted by Pere Lacordaire, in his well-known " Memorial to the
French People," whose partiality can scarcely be questioned. It is
from the Keport presented to the Cortes, on the character of that
tribunal, which was followed by its suppression, and bears the date
of 1 81 2. Considering thatit proceeded from the party most violently
opposed to the Inquisition, and whose political successors, the Pro-
gressistas of Spain, have succeeded in abolishing all religious orders
in that country, its testimony is of peculiar value. " The early
Inquisitors," they say, " encountered heresy with no other arms
than those of prayer, patience, and instruction ; and this remark
applies more particularly to S. Dominic, as we are assured by the
Bollandists, with Echard and Touron. Philip II. was the real
"founder of the Inquisition." For a minute and careful account of
the change introduced into the character of the tribunal by the
royal influence, we must refer the reader to the celebrated work
of Baimez, on " Protestantism and Catholicity compared in their
Effects on the civilization of Europe.'*


their diversion to treat the humble barefooted friar who
was to be seen about their streets as a fool; rather let us
say, they gave the truest testimony to his likeness to his
Lord by the likeness of their treatment of him. They
were wont to follow him, throwing dirt at him and spit-
ting in his face; tying straws to his cloak and hat, and
pursuing him with shouts of derisive laughter. He never
seemed to heed them, or to let the singular quietude of
his soul be once disturbed by these affronts. Sometimes
their insults were accompanied with blasphemous oaths
and threats of death : "I am' not worthy of martyrdom,"
was the only answer they were able to draw from him.
He was warned once of a party of heretics who lay in
ambush in a certain place to assassinate him. He treated
the information with his usual indifference, and passed
by the place singing hymns with a joyful aspect. The
heretics, who were probably not prepared for the actual
execution of their threat, accosted him on their next
meeting in their usual style. " And so thou dost not
fear death? tell us, what wouldst thou have done if thou
hadst fallen into our hands?" Then the great and cou-
rageous spirit of Dominic spoke in a memorable reply:
" I would have prayed you," he said, "not to have taken
my life at a single blow, but little by little, cutting off
each member of my body, one by one ; and when you had
done that, you should have plucked out my eyes, and then
have left me so, to prolong my torments, and gain me a
richer crown." It is said that this reply so confounded
his enemies, that for some time afterwards they left him
unmolested, being convinced that to persecute such a man
was to give him the only consolation he desired. The
place of the intended attempt on his life is still shown,
half-way between Prouille and Fanjeaux, and its name
" Al Sicari," in the dialect of the country, commemorates
the event.

On another occasion a great conference was appointed
to be held with the heretics, at whieh one of the neigh-
bouring bishops (who, some writers tell us, was Fulk of
Toulouse) was to attend. He came in great pomp, to the
great displeasure of Dominie. " Then the humble herald


of God spoke to him, and said, ' My father, it is not thus
that we must act against this generation of pride. The
enemies of the truth must rather be convinced by the
example of humility and patience, than by the pomp and
grandeur of worldly show. Let us arm ourselves with
prayer and humility, and so let us go barefooted against
these Goliaths.' " *The bishop complied with his wishes,
and they all took off their shoes, and went to meet the
heretics singing psalms upon the way. Now, as they were
not sure of their road, they applied to a man whom they
met and believed to be a Catholic, but who was in truth a
concealed and bitter heretic; and who offered to be their
guide to the place of meeting, with no other design than
that of embarrassing and annoying them. He led them,
therefore, through a thorny wood, where the rough stones
and briers tore their naked feet, and caused them to dye
the ground with their blood. The bishop and his suite were
a little disconcerted at this, but Dominic encouraged them
to persevere. Joyous and patient as ever, he exhorted
his comrades to give thanks for their sufferings, saying,
" Trust in God, my beloved ; the victory is surely ours,
since our sins are expiated in blood ; ' is it not written,
' How beautiful are the feet of them who bring the gospel
of peace?' " Then he intoned a joyful hymn, and the
hearts of his companions took courage, and they also sang
with him ; and the heretic, when he witnessed the patience
and courage of the saint, was touched to the heart, and,
falling at his feet, confessed his malice, and abjured his

As we have said, these anecdotes of Dominic's apostolic
life in Languedoc can hardly be given in successive order
as they occurred ; the most ancient writers tell us only in
general terms, that during this time he suffered many
affronts from his enemies, and overcame their wiles by
his patience, giving these disconnected stories without
anything to guide us as to the particular times when
they happened. One anecdote, however, in which the
miraculous powers of the saint are first exhibited to us,
is given with greater exactness. It was in 1211, whilst
* Theodoric of Apoldia.


the crusaders were under the walls of Toulouse, and just
after open hostilities had for the first time broken out
with Count Raymond, that the course of Dominic's
apostolic wanderings led him to the bank of the river
Garrone. Whilst he was there, a band of English pil-
grims also arrived in the neighbourhood. They were
about forty in number, bound to the shrine of S. James
of Compostella. In order to avoid the town, which lay
under the Papal interdict, they took a boat to cross the
river ; but the boat, being small and overladen, was upset,
and all those who were in it sank to the bottom. Dominic
was praying in a small church which stood near the scene
of the accident, but the cries of the sufferers and some of
the soldiers who saw their danger roused him from his
devotions. He came to the river's bank, but not one
of the pilgrims was to be seen. Then he prostrated him-
self on the earth in silent prayer, and, rising full of a
lively faith, " I command you," he cried, " in the name
of Jesus Christ, to come to the shore alive and unhurt."
Instantly the bodies rose to the surface, and with the help
of the soldiers, who flung them their shields and lances,
they all safely reached the bank, praising God and his
servant Dominic.

Several other miracles are related as having happened
at this period, they are the only footprints left us of his
apostolic journeys over Languedoc. At one time we hear
of him dropping his books into the river Ariege as he
forded it on foot, and after three days they are recovered
by a fisherman, and found perfectly dry and uninjured.
At another time he is crossing the same river in a little
boat, and being landed on the opposite shore, finds he has
no money to pay the boatman. The boatman insisted on
his fare: "I am," said Dominic, " a follower of Jesus
Christ ; I carry neither gold nor silver ; God will pay you
the price of my passage." But the boatman, being angry,
laid hold of his cloak, saying, " You will either leave your
cloak with me, or pay me my money." Dominic, raising
his eyes to heaven, entered for a moment into prayer;
then, looking on the ground, he showed the man a piece
of silver which lay there, which Providence had sent, and


said to him, " My brother, there is what you ask, take it,
and suffer me to go my way."

Cardinal Ranieri Capocci, who lived during the time of
S. Dominic, in a sermon preached shortly after his canon-
ization, relates the following fact which had come to his
own knowledge. A certain religious chanced to be the
companion of the saint on a journey of some days, but
being of another country, and neither of them under-
standing the language of the other, they were unable to
hold any conversation together. Desiring very much,
however, to profit by the time he should spend in his
society, this religious secretly prayed to God that, for the
three days they should be together, they might be intel-
ligible to one another, each speaking in his own tongue,
and this favour was granted until they reached their
journey's end. We read also that, after a night spent in
long disputes with the heretics, Dominic left the place of
conference in company with a Cistercian monk, and de-
sired to retire into a neighbouring church, in order,
according to his custom, to spend the remainder of the
night in prayer. They found the doors locked, and were
therefore obliged to kneel outside. But scarcely had they
done so, than, without being able to say how, they found
themselves before the high altar inside the church, and
remained there until break of day. In the morning the
people found them there, and crowding together, brought
them the sick and infirm in great numbers to be healed.
Among these were several possessed persons, whom the
holy father was intreated to restore by his touch. He
took a stole, and fastened it on his shoulders as if about
to vest for mass ; then throwing it around the necks of the
possessed, they were immediately delivered.

These miracles, some of which are mentioned in the
process of his canonization, were commonly known and
talked of both by the crusaders and by the people of
Toulouse. Among the latter their effect was sensibly
felt, and in no sniall degree aided the success of his
preaching. Yet the marvels produced by his simple elo-
quence were, perhaps, as great in their way as those
directly supernatural gifts communicated to him by God.
d 2


One day, as he prayed in the church of Fanjeaux, nine
women who until then had been of the heretical sect,
came to him, and threw themselves at his feet in great
anguish. "Servant of God," they cried, "if what you
preached to us this morning is true, we have till now
been living in horrible darkness ; therefore have compas-
sion on us, and teach us how we may be saved." The
holy man looked on them with a bright and cheerful
countenance, and comforted them with words of hope.
Then he prayed awhile, and turning to them bade them
be of good heart, and not be afraid of what they should
see. Scarcely had he spoken, when they saw in the
midst of them a hideous animal, of a ferocious and hor-
rible aspect. It fled from among them, and seemed to
escape from the church through the bell-tower. The
women were greatly terrified, but Dominic spoke and re-
assured them. " God has shown you, my daughters," he
said, " how terrible is the devil whom till now you have
served; thank Him, therefore, for the evil one has from
this moment no more power over you." These women,
who were all of noble birth, he afterwards caused to bo
instructed in the faith, and received into the monastery
of Prouille. Miracles and preaching, however, are not
the only means, scarcely the most powerful, by which the
saints of God extend the kingdom of their Master. The
silent eloquence of a holy life has a larger apostolate than
the gifts of tongues or of healing ; and we find some re-
cords of the harvest of souls which were gathered to the
faith solely by the example of the servant of God. There
were living, near Toulouse, some noble ladies who had
been led to join the heretics, being seduced into this error
by the show of pretended austerity which their preachers
affected. Dominic, who had their conversion greatly at
heart, determined to preach there that Lent; and, going
thither with one companion, it chanced, by the providence
of God, that they were received to lodge in the house
occupied by these ladies. He remained there during the
whole time of his stay, and they saw with wonder the
reality of that life of penance which differed so widely
from the empty professions of the heretics. The soft


beds which had been prepared for them were never used,
for Dominic and his companion slept upon the ground.
Their food was scarcely touched; until Easter time they
took only bread and water, and that in scanty measure.
Their nights were spent in prayer and austerities, their
days in labours for God; and so new and wonderful did
this life seem to those who beheljd it, that it opened their
eyes to the truth of the faith which inspired it ; and the
whole household made their recantation in his hands be-
fore the time of his stay was ended. In after days he
was often accustomed to exhort his brethren to this, as
the best method of preaching, reminding them that it was
by good works, and by the outward habit, even more than
by holy words, that we must let our light shine before
men to the glory of God.

It was this singular holiness of life which endeared him
so wonderfully to all those among whom he was thrown.
Three times the episcopal dignity was offered to him, but
he refused it with a kind of horror. He was used to say
he would rather go away by night with nothing but his
staff than accept any office or dignity. He could not,
however, succeed in avoiding a temporary appointment as
vicar to Guy, bishop of Carcassona, during the time that
the latter was absent from his diocese preaching the cru-
sade, and gathering together fresh forces to join the army
of the Count de Montfort. He held this charge during
the Lent of the year 1213, during which time he resided
in the episcopal palace, and discharged all the duties of
the office, without, however, suffering them to interfere
with his customary occupation of preaching and instruct-
ing in the faith. During this Lent we again find him
spoken of as fasting on bread and water, and sleeping on
the ground. "When Easter came," says his historian,
" he seemed stronger and more vigorous than before, and
of a better aspect." We may remark in this appointment,
how entirely distinct Dominic's mission was from the
military or political affairs in which many other of the
Catholic clergy and prelates took their share. So far
from being himself the preacher of the crusade, we see
him taking the place and duties of another who is engaged

33 1.1? £ OF 8. DOMINIC.

in that undertaking, as if the purely spiritual character
(f his ministry were generally recognised. Once, and
once only, do we find his name in any way associated
vith any of the judicial severities of the time; it is in an
anecdote given by Theodoric of Apoldia, hut it will be
hard to draw from it the conclusion that Dominic was the
bloody persecutor represented in popular fiction ; for as
we shall see, his part was to release, and not to condemn
the prisoner in question. " Some heretics," says the his-
torian, " having been taken and convicted in the country
of Toulouse, were given over to secular judgment, because
they refused to return to the faith, and were condemned
to the Haines. Dominic looked at one of them with a
heart to which were revealed the secrets of God, and said
to the officers of the court, ' Put that man aside, and see
well that no harm befall him.' Then, turning to the
heretic, he said with great sweetness, 'My son, I know
that you must have time, but you will at length become a
saint.' Wonderful to relate, this man remained for
twenty years longer in the blindness of heresy, till at
length, touched by the grace of God, he renounced his
errors, and died in the habit of the Friars Preachers, with
the reputation of sanctity."

The presence of Dominic at this execution will be un-
derstood, if we remember that, before the diliverance of
any heretic to the secular arm for punishment, every
effort was made, by the exhortations of persons appointed
for that purpose, to convince them of their errors, and
reconcile them to the Church; in which case their sen-
tence was rescinded, and they were admitted to canonical
penance. This course was always followed in the later
proceedings of the Inquisition; the part of the Church
was to reconcile and convince, and not to condemn;
in the instance just quoted, we might call it to pardon.
This office was exercised by Dominic in virtue of the
powers he held from the Papal legates; two letters prov-
ing this fact are giving us by Echard, but have no date
attached, although there is little doubt they belong to this
period of his life. They are as follows: "To all the faith-
ful in Christ to whom these presents may come, Brother


Dominic, canon of Osma, the Humble minister of preach-
ing, wishes health and charity in the Lord. We make
known to your discretion, that we have permitted Ray-
mund William de Hauterive Pelaganira to receive into
his house of Toulouse, to live there after the ordinary
life, William Huguecion, whom he has declared to us to
have hitherto worn the habit of the heretics. We per-
mit this until such time as it shall be otherwise ordered
either to him or to me by the Lord Cardinal ; and this
shall not in any way turn to his dishonour or prejudice."
If it seems singular to us in those days that a written
permission was necessary in order to allow any man to
receive into his house a reconciled heretic, we must re-
member the double character attaching to these people.
They were not merely heretics, but the disturbers of
the public peace; and, as the authors of every kind of
outrage against society, it is not singular that some kind
of pledge for their future good conduct was reasonably

Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 4 of 37)