Our Order is a part of the world wide followers of Saint Dominic, otherwise known as the Dominican Order. In some areas, especially in Europe, Dominicans are also known as the “black friars” because of the black cappa (cape) and Cappuce that the friars and religious wore for travel, during services, and during Lent.
The Dominican Order was founded in 1203 when St. Dominic of Guzman was sent with his bishop to arrange a marriage between the son of the king of Castile and the daughter of the Lord of the Marches. While travelling through southern France, Dominic was appalled at the major inroads a heresy known as Albigensianism was making in that part of the world, (so named because it originated in the town of Albi). Albigensianism taught that all matter was evil and all spirit was good, and that the “good” God created the spirit realm while a demon god created and reigned over the physical world, meaning that all material things and pleasures were evil and had to be rejected.
As soon as his mission was completed, and with the permission of his superiors, St. Dominic returned to Southern France and worked to counteract the Albigensian heresy with the preaching of the truth. At this point in history, it was not common for any priest to preach – only the Pope and bishops were permitted to do so. Through his preaching, Dominic attracted many men and women to him. The lay people that followed Dominic were at first known as the “Militia of Christ,” and would soon be given a rule and became known as “The Order of Penitents.” This was the beginning of the “Third Order” or more commonly known today as “the Dominican Laity,” which is now the largest branch of the Order. As time went by Dominic realized that it was not just Southern France that needed the preaching of the truth but rather the entire world. With the approval of the Pope, he began to put together the Order of Friars Preachers and dedicate it to this work of preaching and winning souls for Christ through reason.
St. Dominic also placed great emphasis on study. A preacher needed to be educated to know what he was talking about before he got into the pulpit. This is the origin of one of the 4 Pillars of the Dominican charism.
At the same time as St. Dominic was gathering a group of men around him to form his Order, he also founded a monastery of cloistered nuns in Prouille near Toulouse. Most of these were women who had been Albigensians and who had returned to the Church and wanted to continue to serve God in some kind of religious life. It was through the work of Saint Dominic that the Friars, the Laity, and the nuns came into being at roughly the same time.
The Domincan Order of the Unified Old Catholic Church, known as The Order of Preachers, Independent, is a continuation of St. Dominic’s Order, and we strive to bring Dominic’s unique charism into the world today, through our studies, our ministries, through prayer, and through our communities.