On the feast day of Sto. Domingo de Guzman
The Society of Jesus that was founded by San Ignacio de Loyola in 1534, the religious order to which Pope Francis belongs, has produced notable saints, martyrs and famous men in history.
However, the first Jesuit and Latin American pontiff did not choose a name after any of the Jesuit saints. Instead, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio took a brand-new pontifical name. His veneration of the ever-romantic San Francesco, il Poverello di Assisi, “the little poor of Assisi,” led him tofulfill in the new millennium the very vocation or calling this mendicant friar received in the 13th-century, which was to “repair the Church.”
Three hundred years before the establishment of the Jesuit order, the most influential mendicant movements of the Middle Ages were organized and led by the Spanish Dominican founder Santo Domingo de Guzman (1170-1221) and the Italian Franciscan founder San Francesco di Assisi (1181-1226). The two, who met in Rome in 1216 and who were reckoned as the most venerated preachers, became holy friends since then.
The mendicant preachers were different from the monks (Cluniac, Cistercians, Benedictines, and others). What was unique in their apostolate is this: Mendicancy allowed the Franciscans and Dominicans the freedom of mobility, while monks stayed in one place, in their respective monasteries. Unlike the Benedictine and other monks, the medieval-era Franciscans and the Dominicans were not permanently attached to any particular monastery or territorial parish precisely because they were sent by the pope to cover as much ground as possible – like the early Christian disciples.
Innocent III (reigned 1198-1216), the pope who was made famous by his essay De miseria humanae conditionis, “On the Misery of the Human Condition,” launched an evangelical enterprise to preach against the growing Albigensian heresy in southern France. That was the beginning of the mendicant orders and preachers.
When Santo Domingo de Guzman was made aware of the growing numbers of Albigensian heretics, or Cathari or purists, he thought it wiser to use any and all resources of human knowledge in “evangelical preaching.” Therefore, in 1215, he sought for the papal blessings to organize the dioceses with the objective of establishing what became known as “diocesan preachers” and thus providing aid to bishops who were struggling against the doctrinal attacks of the heretics.
St. Dominic’s utmost desire for the truth (hence, the Dominican motto Veritas) was directed towards the massive evangelization of the peoples. Domingo’s pastoral zeal was contaminating and the young mendicant orders’ fame became widespread. Pope Honorius III (reigned 1216-1227), Innocent III’s successor, summoned him, blessed him, and gave the Order of Preachers freedom from the jurisdiction of the bishops as they travelled far and wide.
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In one of his letters to the Dominicans, Honorius made mention of the burning zeal and holy insistence of young preachers to be appointed and be sent to the Saracens (or the Arabs, Turks, or others who adhered to Islām) to preach the Gospel to them and baptize them. Almost simultaneously, St. Francis would also reach out to the Saracens. The pontiff granted them their wishes, though he warned them of the risks and dangers.
If one can summarize his service to our Mother Church, it is this: Dominic’s love for prayer, study, contemplation, and community led him to design and launch a religious order that was devoted to evangelization. His distinctive focus was to organize a more orthodox theological formation to fully equip his followers – and some diocesan bishops and priests – against the intellectual attacks of heretics.
He thought: How can we serve Christ, if we do not love Him? And how can we love Him if we do not know Him? In response, St. Thomas Aquinas soon verbalized the founder’s aspiration in the following:
Just as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one’s contemplation (contemplata aliis tradere) than merely to contemplate (contemplare).
This verse came to express the essence of the Dominican vocation, spirituality, and the principal motto of the Order: Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere. Ever since the foundation of the Order in 1216, the Dominicans have dedicated themselves to the contemplation and study of Sacred Scripture, keeping in their hearts the explicit objective of serving in apostolic ministry, which for them is the fruit of their contemplative life.
Needless to mention, huge preparation in spiritual, mind, and body was necessary to accomplish Church reforms. Two of the principal Dominican houses were established near the Universities of Bologna and Paris, a matter of fact that at once determined the capital role that the Dominicans would play in the evolution of higher learning and university studies, specifically in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies.
A tribute to the OPs
I pay tribute to Dominicans of today, like Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P., first Asian elected as Master of the Order of Preachers, and Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P, former Rector of the Pontifical and Royal University of Sto. Tomas (UST, established in 1611), my alma mater so named in his honor, where my old gray matter was once trained in the sharpest use of analysis and synthesis.
In my youth, God gave me, though undeserving, a chance to get educated at UST, one of the oldest existing universities in the Asian continent that is older than the famous Harvard University in Massachusetts, USA (established in 1636).
And in paying tribute to my alma mater I also pay special tribute to my Dominican mentors and professors — Fathers Jesus Mancebo, Pedro Luis Gonzales, Luis Diaz, Antonio Cabezon, Mario Jabares, Norberto Castillo, Regino Cortez, Luis Merino, Efren Rivera, Bonifacio Solis, Jose Ma. Tinoko, Braulio Pena, Vicente Cajilig, Fidel Villarroel, Frederick Fermin, Pablo Fernandez, Fausto Gomez, Lucio Gutierrez, Javier Arrazola, Enrico Gonzales, Antonio Gonzales, Angel Aparicio, and Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi — all great Dominicans who once walked with me in my intellectual and spiritual journey at UST.
The good examples and the academic lessons they imparted lingered in my thoughts, particularly those of Thomistic metaphysics and epistemology, even while I was writing my doctoral dissertation at the University of Navarra in Pamplona in the early 1990s. To them I give back my deepest respect and gratitude.
August 8 is the happy feast day of Santo Domingo de Guzman.
Dr. Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano is the Lead Convenor of the Love Our Pope Movement (LOPM) and the author of “Church Reforms – Semper Purificanda” Volume One (Claretian, 2023).