Dominic

1170-1221. Founder of the Order of Preachers, generally known as Dominicans* or Black Friars. Born at Calaruegan in Old Castile, he was educated at the University of Palencia which was later moved to Salamanca. In 1199 he was appointed a canon by the bishop of Osma, who strenuously enforced the Rule of St. Augustine on his canons. Dominic rose quickly to a position of subprior. In 1203 he accompanied his bishop, as chaplain, on a royal embassy to the south of France which had been greatly infected by the Albigensian heresy. Challenged by the need to combat heresy, they obtained papal permission to stay in Languedoc to preach. They went barefoot, practicing great abstinence. In 1206, with the support of Fulk, bishop of Toulouse, Dominic opened a house at Prouille where girls and women might be taught under strict supervision. This was the first Dominican convent.

During the seven years' crusade against the Albigensians,* launched by Innocent III in 1208, Dominic worked with great zeal to bring the heretics back into the church. He felt he must bind his helpers to him to give stability and unity of purpose to his work. At the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, therefore, Dominic laid before Innocent his scheme for an order of well-educated preaching friars, directly subject to the papacy. Innocent approved, but the council refused. Dominic then placed his sixteen brethren under the Rule of St. Augustine. Their first monastery was built at Toulouse.

In 1216 Honorius III granted a bull legalizing the order. It was to be a mendicant order, devoted to preaching and the conversion of heretics. Dominic met Francis of Assisi* in Rome in 1218. Adept at organization, Dominic traveled tirelessly in Italy, France, and Spain for the rest of his life, establishing and consolidating. The first general chapter of the order was held in Bologna in 1220. In the same year he became ill on his way to preach in Hungary and, returning to Bologna, died there, after encouraging his brethren “to show charity, maintain humility, and accept poverty.” He was canonized in 1234. Dominic was a determined leader of men, devout in life, of firm faith, and with a passion for winning souls. His refusal three times to accept a bishopric was typical of his humility and austere self- negation.

See B. Jarrett, Life of Saint Dominic (1924); and M.H. Vicaire, Saint Dominic and His Times (2 vols., ET 1964).