R. S Alemany.

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

. (page 8 of 37)
Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 8 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

possession of by the brethren, Dominic prepared to return
to Rome, to lay the result of his consultation with the
other brethren before the Sovereign Pontiff. Before he
did so, the news arrived of the death of Innocent III.,
which took place at Perugia on the 16th of July, and of
the election on the day following of Cardinal Savilli as his
successor, under the title of Honorious III. This seemed in-
deed a severe blow to the hopes of the young order, for In-
nocent had been a sure and faithful friend, and it might well
cause no small anxiety to have to treat with a new Pontiff
for the confirmation of an unknown and untried institute.
He, however, set out, leaving Bertrand of Garrigues to


govern the convent in his absence, whilst he himself made
his third visit to the Roman capital. lie arrived there in
.the month of September, and found the Pope still absent
at Perugia ; this caused him some delay, and during the
interval he lived a poor and unknown life, having no other
lodging at night than in the Churches. It seemed at first
as if many difficulties would stand in the way of the suc-
cess of his enterprise ; for the new Pontiff was engaged
in various troublesome negotiations, and his court was full
of dissensions. Dominic's resource was constant prayer ;
and in spite of all obstacles, he obtained the two bulls
confirming the foundation of the order of the 22nd of
the following December. The confirmation of the Order
of Friars Minor was made at the same time, S. Francis
being at that time in Rome; and by very many the
meeting between him and Dominic is said to have taken
place at this period, and not on the occasion of their
former visit.

The first bull given by Honorius is of considerable
length: it grants a variety of privileges and immunities,
and confirms the order in the possession of all the lands,
ehurches, and revenues with which it had been endowed
by Fulk and other benefactors. The second bull is much
shorter, and we insert it for the sake of a remarkable
expression which it contains prophetic of the future des-
tinies of the order : — " Honorius, bishop, servant of the
servants of God, to our dear son Dominic, prior of S.
Roniain at Toulouse, and to your brethren who have
made or shall make profession of regular life, health and
apostolic benediction. We, considering that the brethren
of the order will he the champions of the faith and true
lights of the world, do confirm the order in all its lands
and possessions present and to come, and we take under
our protection and government the order itself, with all its
goods and rights."

It was at Santa Sabina, then the apostolic palace, that
these two bulls were given on the same day. In neither
of them, however, did the new order receive the title
which had been originally given to it by Innocent III.,
and which was so dear to Dominic, that of Preachers. In


a third bull, however, dated the 26th of January, 1217,
the omission is made up. It begins as follows : — "Honorius r
bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his dear son the
prior and brethren of S. Romain, Preachers in the country
of Toulouse, health and apostolic benediction." Mean-
while Dominic, whose mission at Rome was accomplished
as soon as the two first bulls had been granted, was
anxious to return to Toulouse, but was detained at Rome
by the command of the Pontiff, who had conceived a high
esteem and affection for him. Day and night, therefore,
he commended his children and their work to God, and
specially in those watches which he still continued to
keep in the churches, which were his only lodging. That
of the Holy Apostles was the one he loved the best, and it
was whilst fervently praying for his order at their tomb,
that he was granted a second vision to encourage and
console him. This was the appearance of the apostles
S. Peter and S. Paul, the first of whom gave him a staff,
and the second a book, saying these words: "Go and
preach, for to this ministry thou art called." Then he
seemed to see his children sent forth two and two into
the world, preaching to all nations the word of God.
Some writers add that the Holy Spirit was seen to rest
on his head in the form of a fiery tongue, and that from
that time he was singularly confirmed in grace, and freed
from many temptations; others, that he ever aftewards
bore about with him the book of the Gospels and of the
Epistles of S. Paul. In all his journeys, too, he con-
stantly carried a stick, an unusual thing which he proba-
bly did in memory of this vision. His delay at Rome, if
tedious to himself, was greatly profitable to others. Lent
found him still there ; and during that holy season he
took occasion frequently to exercise his office of preaching.
His success induced the Pope to appoint him to explain
the Epistles of S. Paul in the sacred palace, before the
court and cardinals. An ancient author of the noble
house of Colonna, himself a Dominican, tells us that
" Many came from all parts to hear him, both scholars
and doctors, and all gave him the title of Master." Other
authors, among whom is Flaminius, relate that the origin


of tliis appointment of S. Dominic was as follows: Ho
was, they say, greatly displeased, on the occasion of his
visits to the palace, to see the followers of the cardinals
idling about the ante-chambers, playing at games of
chance, whilst their masters were engaged on the business
of the Church ; and that he suggessed to the Pope
whether some means could not be devised for enter-
taining them religiously and usefully, by the explanation
of the Scriptures. The Pope, agreeing to his views, laid
the charge on himself, and instituted the office of Master
of the Sacred Palace, which continues even to our own
day, and is always conferred on one of the Dominican
order. This office is not simply a titular one ; its duties
are considerable, and of no small importance, including
the censorship of all books published in Rome ; and its
possessor has been described as the Pope's theologian,
acting as his domestic adviser in all matters of a theolo-
gical character.

Another of those dear and honourable friendships which
so embellish the life of Dominic, was formed during this
visit to the Roman capital. Ugolino Conti, cardinal
bishop of Ostia, and afterwards successor to Honorius,
under the title of -Gregory IX., already the friend and pro-
tector of Francis and of the Friars Minor, now first made
the acquaintance of his brother and rival in sanctity. He
was advanced in age, but a man of warm and enthusiastic
feelings, who ever counted the close personal ties which
bound him to those two great men as among the greatest
privileges of his life. It was at his house that Dominic
met another younger friend, William de Montferrat, who
was spending Easter with Ugolino. The charm of the
saint's intercourse, which indeed seems to have been of a
very peculiar and winning kind, so captivated him that he
was induced to take the habit of his order. He has left
us the account of the whole matter in his own words : —
"It is about sixteen years," he says, " since I went to
Rome to spend Lent there, and the present Pope, who
was then- Bishop of Ostia, received me into his house. At
that time Brother Dominic, the founder and first master
of the order of Preachers, was at the Roman court, and


often visited my lord of Ostia. This gave me an oppor-
tunity of knowing him ; his conversation pleased me, and
I began to love him. Many a time did we speak together
of the eternal salvation of our own souls, and those of all
men. I never spoke to a man of equal perfection, or one
so wholly taken up with the salvation of mankind,
although indeed I have had intercourse with many very
holy religious. I therefore determined to join him, as
one of his disciples, after I had studied theology at the
university of Paris for two years, and it was so agreed be-
tween us ; and also, that after he had established the
future discipline of his brethren, we should go together to
convert, first, the pagans of Persia or of Greece, and then
those who live in the southern countries." Once more we
find here the key-note of Dominic's soul, the salvation of
souls, which "wholly took him up;" and how large and
magnificent was that thought of going first to convert
Persia and Greece, and then on to the southern world !
He had the very soul of chivalry under his friar's tunic ;
and we can well imagine the charm which such vast and
glowing thoughts, clothed in the eloquence which was all
his own, must have exerted over the minds of those who
listened to him. He endeavoured also to persuade Bar-
tholomew of Clusa, archdeacon of Mascon and canon •*£
Chartres, one of his own penitents, to enter the new order,
for he clearly discerned that such was God's vocation to
his soul. Bartholomew, however, turned a deaf ear to all
he said, and Dominic predicted that many things would
befall him in consequence of his resistance to grace, which
things, he himself assures us, did really afterwards happen
to him ; but what they were does not appear

Among the incidents of his life at Koine during this
visit, we find mention of several active works of mercy,
both spiritual and corporal. Outside the walls of the city
there resided at that time certain recluses, commonly
called Murati from their habitation. They were a com-
munity of hermits ; each lived in a poor little cell separate
one from the other ; in which they were inclosed, never
leaving them ; being moved to this singular life by a par-
ticular spirit of mortification and solicitude. Almost every


morning, after celebrating mass and reciting the Divine
office, Dominic went to visit them, conversing with them
on holy subjects, and exhorting them to perseverance.
He was also accustomed to administer to them the sacra-
ments of penance and the eucharist, and was, in short,
what would be now called their director. When not
engaged in these duties, of in the public exercise of
preaching, he was to be found in the churches, where he
spent his nights.


Dominic returns to Toulouse. He disperses the Community of
S. Romain. His address to the people of Languedoc. Future
affairs of the Order in that country.

It was not until the May of 1217, that Dominic was
able to return to Toulouse. His return was very wel-
come to his children ; yet their joy was, if we may so say,
a little sobered, when, almost immediately on his arrival,
after gathering them together and addressing to them a
fervent exhortation on the manner of life to which they
now stood pledged, he announced his intention of break-
ing up the little community as yet but just formed, and
scattering its members to different countries. The plan
seemed the height of imprudence; all joined in blaming
it, and endeavouring to dissuade him from it. But
Dominic was inexorable; the vision which he had seen
beside the tomb of the apostles was fresh in his eye ; their
voice yet sounded in his ear. Fulk of Toulouse, De
Montfort, the archbishop of Narbonne, and even his own
companions, urged him to pause, but nothing would stir
him from his purpose. " My lords' and fathers," he said,
•' do not oppose me, for I know very well what I am
about." He felt that their vocation was not to one place,
but for all nations ; not for themselves alone, but for the
Church and the world. " The seed," he said, " will fructify
if it is sown ; it will ut moulder if you hoard it up." Some


little time he gave them to consider if they could submit
to his determination, with the alternative otherwise of
abandoning the order. But his followers, whatever had
been their feelings on the subject, had too profound a
veneration for his person and character to oppose their
judgments to his, and soon yielded the point. 1 The event
showed how entirely his resolution had been guided by
the spirit of God.

Meanwhile, in the preparation which he made for this
dispersion of his children, he showed how great was his
anxiety for the preservation among them of the observ-
ance and spirit of their rule. The convent of Toulouse
he designed to be the model which was to be followed in
all later foundations, and made several regulations to ren-
der it more perfect in its arrangements. He thought it
well that the brethern should from time to time meet to-
gether for mutual counsel and encouragement. With
this idea lie caused two large additional rooms to be built,
one for containing the habits of the community, the other
for the brethren to assemble in ; for until now they, like
the Cistercians, had had no rooms but their cells and the
refectory. These two additions to their little convent
added materially to the comfort of those who were to be
left to inhabit it, and were doubtless the more welcome
to them as proofs of the watchful thoughtfulness of their
father. He was very earnest in enjoining upon them the
strict observance of that part of S. Austin's rule which
forbids all private appropriation of the smallest article.
Even in the ehurch itself he desired that the spirit of
holy poverty should never be forgotteu ; and though he
constantly insisted on its being kept a mirror of cleanli-
ness, yet he forbade all elegancies and curiosities, and
even ordered that the sacred vestments should not be
made of silk. As to the cells of the brethren, the
poverty he enjoined was absolute : a little cane bedstead,
and a miserable bench were the only furniture he allowed.
They had no doors, in order that the superior might
always be able to see the brethren as he passed along;
the dormitory resembled, as closely as possible, that of
an hospital.


Blessed Jordan tells us, that it was whilst engaged in
these regulations, that the holy father had the vision which
foretold to him the death of the Count De Montfort. He
seemed to see an immense tree, in whose branches a
great quantity of birds had taken refuge; the tree was
luxuriant and beautiful, and spread out its arms over the
earth : suddenly it fell, and the birds all took flight, and
Dominie was given to understand, that this represented
the fall of him who had been known in a special manner
as the proteetor and "faiher of the poor." This was
accomplished in the following year, when the two Ray-
monds regained possession of Toulouse, and the Count
de Montfort fell at the siege of that city. It is probable
that his knowledge of the approaching return of war
hastened Dominic in the execution of his designs. He
fixed the feast of the Assumption for the assembly of all
his brethren at Notre Dame de Prouille, previons to
their departure for their different missions; and these
missions were to include Paris, Bologna, Rome, the two
convents of Toulouse and Prouille, and Spain ; whilst he
himself was letting his beard grow, with the intention,
when things were fairly put in train in Europe, of setting
out to the countries of the infidels. And all this was to
foe accomplished with sixteen followers : such was the
largeness of Dominic's confidence in Grod.

On the appointed day, the little company all met to
keep the festival of the Assumption with an unusual
solemnity in the church of their mother-house of Prouille.
It must have been a deeply touching spectacle to all
present, and to Dominic himself one of profound and
singular emotion. Great numbers of persons from the
surrounding country, who knew the circumstances which
had gathered the brethren together, came to witness the
ceremony of the day ; among them was De Montfort
himself, and several- prelates, all anxious to ascertain the
final determination of S. Dominic as to the destination of
his little flock. It was he himself who offered the Holy
Sacrifice, and who, still habited in the sacred vestments,
preached to the assembled audience in language some
of which is still preserved to us. We are compelled,


from the severity of his tone, to draw conclusions un-
favourable to the people of Languedoc; for it was them
whom he thus addressed: "Now for many years past,"
he said, "have I sounded the truths of the Gospel in
your ears, by my preaching, my entreaties, and my
prayers, and with tears in my eyes. But, as they are
wont to say in my country, the stick must be used when
blessings are of no avail. Lo ! princes and rulers will
raise all the kingdoms of this world against you; and
woe be unto you ! they will kill many by the sword, and
lay the lands desolate, and overthrow the walls of your
cities, and all of you will be reduced to slavery ; and so
you will come to see, that where blessings avail not, the
stick will avail." These dismal announcements were too
truly fulfilled when the army of the French king was
sent against the people of Toulouse ; and they seem to
indicate that the evils under which the unhappy country
had so long laboured had produced an effect which not
even the twelve years labour, of an . apostle had been able
to counteract : it was a solemn farewell which framed
itself, almost unintentionally, into words of prophetic
warning. He then turned to his own brethren, and
reminded them of the first origin of their order, the end
for which it was instituted, and the duties to which they
stood pledged. Above all, he exhorted them to confidence
in God, and a great and unflinching courage, always to
prepare for wider and wider fields of labour, and to be
ready to serve the Church, in whatever way they might
be called to work for the conversion of sinners, heretics,
or infidels. His words had an extraordinary effect on
those who listened ; any lingering feelings of dissatis-
faction they might have felt were dispelled by this
appeal to the heroism of their natures. Like soldiers
harangued by a favourite leader on the battle-field, they
seemed all kindled with a spark of his own chivalrous
ardour, and were impatient to be led on to the enterprise
which awaited them.

But another ceremony yet remained to be performed.
When Dominic had concluded his address, the sixteen
brethren knelt before him, and made their solemn vow3


in his hands, binding themselves to the three obligations
of the religious state ; for until then they had been bound
to him by no other tie than their own will. The nuns
of Prouille, in like manner, all made their profession on
the same day, adding the fourth vow of inclosure. When
this ceremony was over, he declared to each of them the
quarter to which they were destined. The two fathers,
who had until then had the direction of the convent of
Prouille, were to remain there as before, whilst Peter Cel-
lani and Thomas of Toulouse were to continue at S. Ro-
main. A large section of his little company were appointed
for the establishment of the order in Paris; these were
Matthew of Prance, Bertrand, Oderic, Manez the saint's
brother, with Michel Fabra and John of Navarre, the
last of whom had but just received the habit, and our
own countryman Lawrence. Stephen of Metz he reserved
as his own companion, and the four remaining Spaniards
were sent to Spain. Before they separated to their dif-
ferent parts, Dominic determined to provide for the future
government of the order in case of 'his death or removal,
for he still cherished the secret design of himself depart-
ing for the countries of the infidels, and finding perhaps
a martyr's crown among them. It was the old dream
planned so long ago with Diego of Azevedo, and never
laid aside. He therefore desired them to make a canoni-
cal election among themselves of some one who should
govern the order in his absence, or in case of his death.
Their choice fell on Matthew of France, who received the
title of Abbot, a designation never continued in the order ;
after his death the brethren were content with the title
of Master for him who held the chief authority, whilst
the other superiors were called priors and sub-priors,
names chosen as best befitting the humility of their state.
This election being finished, Dominic committed the bull
of confirmation to the keeping of the new abbot, that it
might be solemnly published in the capital of France, and
gave them a parting exhortation to keep their vows, and
be diligent in founding convents, preaching God's word,
and following their studies; and so dismissed them with
his blessing.



One of them, and one only, showed evident signs of
reluctance to obey. This was the newly-clothed brother,
John of Navarre. He strongly shared in the sentiments
of those ecclesiastics who solemnly condemned the holy
patriarchs for imprudence. He ventured, before depart-
ing, to ask for a little money for his expenses on the way.
The request seemed reasonable ; but Dominic's discern-
ment saw clearly the secret feelings of distrust and dis-
content which prompted it. He sharply reproved him,
and set before him the example of the disciples whom
their Lord sent forth, "having neither scrip nor purse;"
then, quickly exchanging severity for the paternal tender-
ness which was more natural to him, he threw himself at
his feet, and with tears in his eyes besought him to lay
aside his cowardly fears, and to arm himself with a
generous trust in God's Providence. But John still con-
tinuing stubborn in his view, and unconvinced of the
practicability of travelling two hundred miles without
funds, Dominic desired them to give him twelve pence,
and then dismissed him.

We are told that some Cistercians who were present
expressed their surprise in no measured terms, that he
should send out these ignorant, unlettered boys to preach
and teach; their criticism was something more than free,
it was even contemptuous. Dominic bore the officious
remarks with the equanimity which he never failed to
exhibit on such occasions, the virtue for which the Church
has so worthily designated him "the rose of patience."
"What is it you say, my brothers," he replied with his
accustomed sweetness; "are you not a little like the
Pharisees ? I know, nay I am certain, that these ' boys'
of mine will go and come back safe, but it will not be so
with yours." As for himself, when his little flock was
dispersed, he still lingered awhile at Toulouse, and, be-
fore he left, he gave another token of his disinterestedness
and magnanimity. The two brethren of S. Romain be-
came entangled in some disputes with the procurators of
the bishop's court, about the portion of tithes granted to
the order by Pulk of Toulouse. Dominic settled the
matter by causing an instrument to be executed in ac-


cordance with the views of the procurator, without further
controversy; this paper is dated the 11th of September,
1217. He left for Italy soon after its execution, but not
till he had received several new sons into his order;
amongst these were Poncio Samatan, afterwards the
founder of the convent of Bayonne; Raymond Falgaria,
a noble of the neighbourhood, and successor to Fulk in
the bishopric of Toulouse ; and Arnold of Toulouse, first
prior of the convent of Lyons. From this time we shall
not have much occasion to speak of Languedoc; for, in
following the future course of S. Dominic's life, we shall be
led forward to other countries ; the bright star which had
risen in Spain, and spent its long meridian in France, was
to shed its setting splendour over the fields of Italy.

Simon de Montfort perished the following year under
the walls of Toulouse, as foreseen by Dominic. His death,
like his life, was that of a brave and Christian knight.
The victorious arms of the two Raymonds had stripped
him of the greater part of the provinces with which he
had been invested; and, urged to a last effort for their
recovery, he laid siege to Toulouse with a force wholly
unequal to the enterprise. It was sunrise on the 25th of
June, when word was brought him of an ambuscade of the
enemy. He received the message with tranquillity; and
arming himself with his usual composure, he went to hear
mass before going to the field. Another despatch arrived
in the middle of the ceremony; they had attacked his
machines of war, would he not hasten to their defence?
" Leave me !" was his reply, " I stir not till I have seen the
sacrament of my redemption!" Yet once again another
messenger rushed into the church; the troops could hold
out no longer; he would surely come to their aid. He
turned to the speaker with a stern and melancholy air:
"I will not go," he said, "till I have seen my Saviour."

Online LibraryR. S AlemanyThe life of St. Dominic and a sketch of the Dominican Order → online text (page 8 of 37)