Today the church celebrates the founded of the Dominicans (canes Domini – the dogs of God), St. Dominic of Guzman.
What is striking about his life of faith is how he saw the need of a serious intellectual life combined with a life of poverty and identification with the poor.
As a young man he sold his books in the face of a famine: “I will not study on dead skins while living skins are dying of hunger.”
When he accompanied his bishop in southern France, among the ascetic and world-denying Albigensians, he noted that the Cistercians had little effect on them since they traveled and preached surrounded by power and wealth. He also rejected use of violence to try to convert the heretics: “Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes.”
As he lay dying, he left a simple testament to his friars: “Have charity, guard humility, and make your treasure out of voluntary poverty.”
Though I find myself spiritually more a follower of Francis of Assisi than of Dominic, I find the two of them complimentary, offering us varied ways to live out our following of Christ.
There is a legend that Dominic met Francis one day after having a dream of an ill-clad beggar. They embraced and a tradition has ensued that the Dominicans and Franciscans visit each other on the feast of their founders.