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

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as utterly unfounded, chiefly from the entire silence of F. Bernard
concerning the whole matter; and as he was Inquisitor of Toulouse
during fourteen years, if any such crucifix had been preserved by the
Institute in his day, he could hardly have failed noticing it. Pere
Lacordaire, in his eloquent life of S. Dominic, has followed the
same argument On the other hand, in the chapel of our Lady in
the church of S. James at Muret, which was built as a memorial
of the victory in the course of the same year, we see a picture
representing the Blessed Virgin giving the Rosary to S. Dominic,
who holds in his right hand a crucifix pierced with three arrows :
on the other side of our Lady, kneel Simon de Montfort and Fulk
of Toulouse. A fac-smile of this picture, and of the same date,
was long kept in the Dominican church at Toulouse. Whether
this picture alluded to any circumstance which really took place,
or was itself the origin of the tradition, we do not pretend to


attributing his success, under God, to the intercession of
Dominic, his love and gratitude to the saint knew no
hounds. It has always been so associated in the traditions
and chronicles of the time with the institution of the
Rosary, as to make many affirm that the first propagation
of that devotion must be dated from this time.

The battle of Muret was a fatal blow to the cause of
the count of Toulouse. Very shortly after, Toulouse
itself opened its gates to the victorious arms of De Mont-
fort; and a council,* which assembled at Montpellier in
the following year, decided that the sovereignty of the
country should be intrusted to him, until the general
council, about to assemble at Rome, should declare" fur-
ther. Cardinal Benvenuto, who reached Toulouse just as
the decisive blow had been struck, was commissioned to
receive the elder Raymond to absolution, and to put a
stop to further hostilities; but the question as to his
future enjoyment of the temporal rights he had forfeited by
breach of engagement, was still deferred.

Twice again Dominic's name occurs among the busy
scenes of De Montfort's career. He was called on to
baptize his daughter, and to celebrate the marriage of his
eldest son with the daughter of the dauphin of France.
But the favour of the victorious chieftain, and the dis-
tractions of the camp and court, were scarcely felt by him
at this moment. The shifting chances of the war, guided
by the hands of Providence, were opening to h'im, after
long waiting, the way to that design which had ever
floated before his mind's eye. The clouds which had so
long hung over that distant horizon rose at last; and
when Toulouse opened her gates, and the storm of the
combat was lulled, and the favour of man was at hand to
help on the will of God, Dominic, in his forty-sixth year,
prepared to lay the foundation of that order which was
to bear his name to future ages so long as the world and
the Church should last.

* In the Life of S. Francis we are informed, that the holy founder
of the Friars Minor was present at this council, being then on his
return from Spain. He had, however, no opportunity of meeting
S. Dominic, as the latter was then absent at Carcassona, and took
no part in the proceedings.

. E 2



Dominic commences the foundation of his order at Toulouse. The
grant of Fulk of Toulouse. Dominic's second visit to Rome.
The Council of Lateran. Innocent III. approves the plan of the
Order. Meeting of Dominic and Francis

Dominic came to Toulouse soon after the Crusaders
had entered it, and was joyfully received both by Fulk
and by the count de Montfort. Neither of these distin-
guished persons were, however, destined to be the imme-
diate co-operators with him in the foundation of the
order. Peter Cellani, an opulent citizen of Toulouse,
and another of the same rank, known to us only under
the name of Thomas, presented themselves to him shortly
after his arrival at Toulouse, and placed themselves and
all they had at his disposal. Peter Cellani offered his
own house for the use of the few companions whom
Dominic had gathered together to commence his work.
They were but six in all, and in after years Peter was
accustomed to boast, that he had not been received into
the order, but that it might rather be said he had re-
ceived the order into his own house. With these six
followers, whom he clothed in the habit of the Canons
Regular, which he himself always wore, Dominic accord-
ingly commenced a life of poverty and prayer under rules
of religious discipline.

But this alone did not satisfy him; the first design
which he had conceived, and which had never left his
mind, had pre-eminently as its object the salvation of
souls, by means of such a ministration of the Divine
Word as should proceed from a knowledge of sacred
science, large enough for the defence of the Christian
dogmas against all the assaults of heresy and infidelity.
The whole future scope of the Friars Preachers was in
the mind of Dominic at the moment of their first founda-
tion. That it was so is evinced by his first step after


assembling these six brethren in the house of Peter Cel-
lani. He explained to them the extent and nature of his
design; and showed them that, in order to carry it out
and fit themselves for the task of teaching truth, they
must first learn it. Now it so happened that there was
then in Toulouse a celebrated doctor of theology, named
Alexander, whose lectures were greatly admired and fre-
quented. It was to him that Dominic resolved to intrust
his little company. On the same morning Alexander had
risen very early, and was in his room engaged in study,
when he was overcome by an unusual and irresistible in-
clination to sleep. His book dropped from his hand, and
he sank into a profound slumber. As he slept he seemed
to see before him seven stars, at first small and scarcely
visible, but which increased in size and brightness, till
they enlightened the whole world. As day broke he
started from his dream, and hastened to the school where
he was to deliver his usual lecture. Scarcely had he
entered the room when Dominic and his six companions
presented themselves before him. They were all clad
alike, in the white habit and surplice of the Augustinian
canons, and they announced themselves as poor brothers,
who were about to preach the gospel of Christ to the
faithful and heretics of Toulouse, and who desired first of
all to profit by his instructions. Alexander understood
that he saw before him the seven stars of his morning
dream ; and many years after, when the order had indeed
fulfilled the destiny predicted, and had covered Europe
with the fame of its learning, he himself being then at the
English court, related the whole circumstances with an
almost fatherly pride, as having been the first master of the
Friars Preachers.

These first steps of the brethren were marked by the
bishop, Fulk of Toulouse, with unmixed satisfaction. The
piety and fervour displayed by them, and their exact fol-
lowing in the footsteps of Dominic, for whom he had
ever entertained a peculiar reverence, determined him to
give the infant order the support of his powerful protec-
tion. With the consent of his chapter he assigned the
sixth part of the tithes of the diocese for their support,


and the purchase of the books necessary for their studies.
The document in which he makes this grant will not be
without its interest : — " In the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. We make known to all present and to come, that
we Fulk, by the grace of God the humble minister of the
see of Toulouse, desiring to extirpate heresy, to expel
vice, to teach the rule of faith, and recall men to a holy
life, appoint Brother Dominic and his companions to be
preachers throughout our diocese; who propose to go on
foot, as becomes religious, according to evangelical poverty,
and to preach the word of evangelical truth. And
because the workman is worthy of his hire, and we are
bound not to muzzle the mouth of the ox who treadeth
out the corn, and because those who preach the gospel
shall live by the gospel, we desire that, whilst preaching
through the diocese, the necessary means of support be
administered to them from the revenues of the diocese.
Wherefore, with the consent of the chapter of the church
of S. Stephen, and of all the clergy of our diocese, we
assign in perpetuity to the aforesaid preachers, and to
others who, being moved by zeal for God and love for the
salvation of souls, shall employ themselves in the like
work of preaching, the sixth part of the tenths destined
for the building and ornamenting all the parochial
churches subject to our government, in order that they
may provide themselves with habits, and whatsoever may
be necessary to them when they shall be sick, or be in
need of rest. If anything remain over at the year's end,
let them give it back, that it -may be applied to the adorn-
ing of the said parish churches,' or the relief of the poor,
according as the bishop shall see fit. For inasmuch as it
is established by law, that a certain part of the tithes
shall always be assigned to the poor, it cannot be doubted
that we are entitled to assign a certain portion thereof to
those who voluntarily follow evangelical poverty for the
love of Christ, labouring to enrich the world by their ex-
ample and heavenly doctrine; and thus we shall satisfy
our duty of freely scattering and dividing, both by our-
selves and by means of others, spiritual things to those
from whom we receive temporal things. Given in the


year of the Word Incarnate 1215, in the reign of Philip
king of France, the principality of Toulouse being held
by the Count de Montfort." Neither was .De Montfort
wanting in a like liberality tow ards the young order. He
had already made many grants to the house of La Prouillc,
and in this year we find him making over the castle
and lands of Oassanel to the use of Dominic and hi3

In the autum of the same year Fulk of Toulouse set
out for Rome, to attend the approaching council cf the
Lateran, and Dominic was his companion. Eleven years
had passed since his first visit in company with Diego:
they had been years of hard and solitary labour, and the
work, the plan of which had even then been formed
within his mind, was now but just developing into actual
existence. Most surely he had within his soul the prin-
ciple of a far higher strength than mere human enthu-
siasm, or he might well have been daunted, as coming for
the second time within sight of the eternal city, the forty-
six years of his life lay before him, so full of patient
work, and, as it seemed, blessed with so little fruit. And
something more than human enthusiasm was needed, to
look forward to the task of the future — the task of teach-
ing and reforming a world ; whilst all the materials which
he had as yet gathered for the struggle were to be found
in the six unknown and unlettered companions whom he
had left behind him at Toulouse.

Innocent III. still filled the Papal chair, and the Council
of Lateran formed almost the closing scene of a Ponti-
ficate which must be held as one of the greatest ever
given to the Church. On the 11th of November, 1215,
nearly 500 bishops and primates, above 800 abbots and
priors, and the representatives of all the royal houses of
Europe, met in that ancient and magnificent church, the
mother church of Rome and of the world. Few councils,
save that of Trent, have higher claims on our venera-
tion ; for in it were defined some of the highest articles of
Catholic faith. The Albigenses, like so many other here-
tical sects, were the involuntary means of drawing forth
an explicit declaration of the Church's doctrine and disci-


pline, and eliciting regulations of reform <ind Christian ob-
servance, which have probably contributed more than any
other to the well-being of the whole ecclesiastical body,
as well as to each individual member thereof. We allude
to the decrees concerning the nature of the Sacraments,
and in particular of the Holy Eucharist, and to the esta-
blishment of those two binding obligations of yearly con-
fession and communion, which, whilst they do indeed
attest the lamentable decay from primitive fervour which
could have rendered such regulations necessary, yet placed
a barrier against farther relaxation which no future
age has been able to overstep. This council has always
called forth the bitterest rancour from the supporters of
heresy ; a result which was but natural, considering the
vigour and success with which ii not only opposed itself
to the evils which existed at the time, but, with an asto-
nishing spirit of discernment, provided defences for the
future, which have lost nothing of their power and stabi-
lity even at the present day. In fact, the singular energy
displayed by this celebrated council, and the very nature
of its decrees, are a sufficient proof of the state in which
the world and the Church were then found. There was
everywhere a decay and a falling off. Old institutions
were waxing effete, and had lost their power; whilst in-
dications were everywhere visible of an extraordinary acti-
vity and restlesness of mind, which was constantly break-
ing out into disorder for want of channels wto which it
might be safely guided. Europe had takm some cen-
turies to struggle through the barbarism whi«h had fallen
on her after the breaking up of the Roman Empire. As
the waters of that great deluge subsided, life mme back
by degrees to the submerged world, and just at this period
was quickening into a vitality which, in the s»?-eeeding
century, was manifested in what we might caU a luxuri-
ance of growth. It was just one of those j?inc*.wes in
the world's history, when God is wont to raise w> preat
men who lay their hands on the human elements «f con-
fusion, and fashion them into shape. And it is na+- too
much to reckon among these the founder of the INfrai


As yet the Church possessed only the more ancient,
forms of monasticism, with some institutes of later creation,
which had, however, but a limited object, or a merely
local iufluence; for the Friars Minor, though they pre-
ceded the Preachers by several years, could not as yet be
said to have been formally established as a religious order.
Dominic's idea included a much wider field than any of the
more modern founders had attempted. He had designed
an order for preaching and teaching ; which for that pur-
pose should apply itself to the study of sacred letters,
with the express object of the salvation of souls. But
preaching and teaching had hitherto been considered the
peculiar functions of the episcopate, and one of the de-
crees of this very council of Later an, after enumerating
the evils flowing from the neglect or inability of the
bishops in respect to these offices, empowers them to
choose fit and proper persons in each diocese to discharge
the " holy exercise of preaching" in thei* stead. This
decree, however, in nowise contemplated the establish-
ment of any body of persons exercising the ofiice as an in-
dependent right, or in any other way than as deputies to
the bishop, and the plan was, therefore, one full of
novelty, and, as it seemed, of difficulty and even danger.
But, apart from every other consideration, we may ob-
serve in it its admirable adaptation to the peculiar wants
and feelings of the time. The world was like an un-
trained, untaught child, just rising into manhood, and
ready to learn anything. It wanted teachers, and whilst
the want was unsatisfied, it made them for itself. During
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, one wild sect after
another had risen, and counted its followers by thousands,
with scarcely any other reason for its success than the
favour which was ready to attach to a popular leader.
Dominic determined on nothing less than to give them
truth in a popular form, and from the mouths of popular
teachers ; he felt that it had too long been buried in the
cloister or the hermit's cell, and that the time was come
for the world also to have evangelists. In short whilst
his idea was directly aimed at the guidance and taming
of the wild spirit of the day, it had in it not a little of the


prevailing tone of enterprise and enthusiasm. It was the
very chivalry of religion.

His reception by the fathers of the council, and by the
Pope himself, was cordial and flattering. Met as they
were, in a great measure, to discuss the questions which
had arisen out of the state of the French provinces,
Dominic's name, and the part he had taken during the
last ten years, were not unknown and unappreciated by
them. Before the formal opening of the council, Pope
Innocent granted him an apostolic brief, by which he
received the convent of Prouille under the protection of
the pontifical see, and confirmed the grants made to it.
But when the plan for the foundation of the order was laid
before him, its novelty and the vastness of its design
startled him. It seemed to encroach on the privileges of
the episcopate, and its boldness seemed dangerous at a
moment when men's minds were so powerfully agitated.
The troubles of the Waldenses were fresh in his mind, a
sect which had grown out of the simple abuse of this
same office of preaching, when usurped by men without
learning or authority. The Church, in short, was jealous
of innovation, and had just ruled, in the council then
sitting, that no more new orders should be introduced or
allowed. In the face of this fresh regulation, it certainly re-
quired no small degree of boldness and confidence to pre-
sent the scheme of a new foundation for approbation, and
to perseverve in the request ; yet Dominic did so, and. the
result proved not only the strength of his confidence, but
the source from whence it had been derived. Five years
previously, when Francis of Assisi had visited Rome to
solicit the approbation of his infant order from the same
Pope, the like objections and difficulties had been raised ;
and we are assured that, on both occasions, they were re-
moved by a similar interposition of Divine Providence.
Pope Innocent, doubtful as to the reply he should grant,
saw, in a vision of the night, the Lateran Basilica about to
fall, and Dominic supporting it on his shoulders. An
exactly similar dream had before decided him to listen to
the petition of S. Francis; and it is probable that the
coincidence of the two visions had an additional weight

The pope approves the order. 59

in determining him on this occasion to favour that of

Yet the language of the council was too strong to be
entirely evaded ; it was as follows : — " In order that the
too great diversity of religious orders be not a cause of
confusion in the Church of God, we strictly prohibit that
any one do for the future form any new order ; whoever
desires to become a religious, let him do so in one of those
already approved. In like manner, if any one desire to
found a new religious house, let him be careful that it
observe the rule and constitutions of one of the approved
orders." Not, therefore, to act in positive contradiction
to a principle so recently and distinctly laid down, Inno-
cent sent for the servant of God, and, after commending
his zeal, and assuring him of his approval of the design,
he desired him to return to France, that, in concert with
his companions, he might choose one out of the ancient
rules already approved, which should seem to them the
best fitted for their purpose. When the selection was
made he was to return to Rome, with the assurance of
receiving from the apostolic see that confirmation which
he desired.

Besides this encouragement and promise of future pro-
tection, Innocent was the first who bestowed on the order
the name it has ever since borne. The circumstances
under which he did so were a little singular, and have
been preserved with unusual exactness. Shortly after
granting the above favourable answer to the prayer of
Dominic, he had occasion to write to him on some
matters connected with the subject, and desired one of
his secretaries to despatch the necessary orders. When
the note was finished, the secretary asked to whom it
should be addressed. " To Brother Dominic and his
companions," he replied; then, after a moment's pause,
he added, " No, do not write that ; let it be, ' To Brother
Dominic, and those who preach with him in the country
of Toulouse;'" then, stopping him yet a third time, he
said, " Write this, ' To Master Dominic and the Brothers
Preachers.' " This title, though cot at first formally given,
by his successor Honorius in the bulls of confirmation,,


was, as we shall see, afterwards adopted, and has always
continued to be used. It was one to which Dominic himself
was attached, and which he had always assumed. So early
as the June of 1211, when he was in the midst of his
solitary missionary labours in Languedoc, we find a
document bearing his seal, attached to which are these
words, "The seal of Brother Dominic, Preacher?''

The object of his visit to Rome was now fully accom-
plished; yet he did not return to Languedoc until the
spring of the following year. The council still sat, and
it is probable that he was present at those deliberations
concerning the future settlement of the French provinces,
which terminated in the formal declaration that Raymond
of Toulouse had forfeited his rights, and in the definitive
transfer of them to the Count de Montfort. But we do
not feel that these transactions require any further notice
in a biography of S. Dominic. His connection with the
history of the Albigensian struggle was now at an end;
henceforth he was to belong, not to Languedoc or to
France alone, but to the world. During his stay in Rome
his first acquaintance with S. Francis was formed under
the following circumstances. One night, being in prayer,
he saw the figure of our Lord in the air above his head,
with the appearance of great anger, and holding three
arrows in his hand, with which he was about to strike the
world in punishment of its enormous wickedness. Then
the Blessed Virgin prostrated herself before him, and pre-
sented two men to Him whose zeal should convert sinners,
and appease His irritated justice. One of these men he
recognised as himself; the other was wholly unknown to
him. The next day, entering a church to pray, he saw
the stranger of his vision, dressed in the rough habit of a
poor beggar, and recognising him as his companion and
brother in the work to which both were destined by God,
he ran to him, and, embracing him with tears, exclaimed,
"You are my comrade, you will go with me; let us keep
together, and nothing shall prevail against us." This
was the beginning of a friendship which lasted during the
remainder of their lives. From that time they had but
one heart and one soul in God; and though their orders


remained separate and distinct, each fulfilling the work
assigned to it by Divine Providence, yet a link of fra-
ternal charity ever bound them together : " brought forth
together," in the words of Blessed Humbert, "by our holy
mother the Church," they felt that "God had destined
them from all eternity to the same work, even the salva-
tion of souls." In the following century the storm of
persecution bound these two orders yet closer together;
the blows aimed at the one fell on the other, and when
they eventually triumphed over their enemies, the de-
fence which so successfully silenced all attacks came from
the lips of the two greatest doctors of either order,
S. Thomas and S. Bonaventure; men who revived in their
own day the friendship and the saintliness of their two
great patriarchs.*

In the Life of S. Francis it is said, that Angelus the
Carmelite, afterwards a martyr of his order, was likewise
in Rome at this time, and preached in the church of
S. John Lateran, in the presence of the two holy founders,

•::- The friendship between the two orders was not a mere matter
of sentiment. It was considered of sufficient importance to be
noticed in their very rule. In the Chapter of Paris, held in 1236,
the following was ordained, and still continues in the Constitutions
of the Friars Preachers : —

"We declare that all our Priors and Brethren should have a
diligent care that they always and everywhere bear, and heartily
preserve, a great love to the Friars Minor; let them praise them

Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 6 of 37)