“Francis is the easiest saint to understand and love, while Dominic is the most difficult,” thus saith Chesterton.
This is sadly true for many Catholics and non-Catholics alike. When we think of St. Francis of Assisi: a joyful ever-smiling beggar standing in a lush garden, surrounded by birds, rabbits, and a tame wolf. Everything about Francis has been positive: his preaching to the birds, Canticles of the Sun, and even the newfound love for Pope Francis has propagated this pleasant image of the humble saint.
But then, there is St. Dominic. Who is he? Many, many people have no idea. Isn’t he that stern-faced preacher wearing a regal black-and-white robe who always carries a book? Didn’t the start the Inquisition? He must have been a real piece of work. Maybe he was pretty smart and all, but he doesn’t sound like a real great guy. Was he?
Unknown to many, St. Francis and St. Dominic were, in reality, contemporaries and friends. Surprise!!!! We read the following story:
One summer night in 1215, during his stay in Rome, Francis had a vision: he saw Our Lord prepared to unleash the most terrible chastisements upon the world. His Most Holy Mother was making an effort to placate Him, asking His mercy and forgiveness. For this purpose, she presented two men who would labour for the conversion of the world and return a countless number of lost sheep to the fold. Francis recognised himself as one of these apostles. He did not recognise the other one, however.
The following day, he was in one of the churches of Rome when suddenly an unknown person came up to him, embraced him, and said: “You are my companion, we will work together, supporting one another toward the same end, and no one will prevail against us.” Francis recognised him as the other man in the vision. It was St. Dominic, who had also received a similar vision before the meeting. When he saw Francis in that church, he immediately went to greet him, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
While in reality Dominic loved peace and the poor as much as Francis did (Dominic sold his expensive and rare theology books to feed the victims of famine!), and both had a profound Marian devotion, Francis and Dominic were indeed two very different personalities, and consequently they infused these different characters into their respective orders. The Franciscan Order is known for their simplicity in approach to life and faith. The great conversions of the Franciscans came about through the consideration of the Wounds of Our Lord, His Passion, His poverty and spirit of sacrifice. They preach with zest directly from their fiery souls, for they aim to move the will through the heart.
Meanwhile, the Order of Preachers, the Dominican Order, is the “scholarly order”; to his friars Dominic always emphasised study, because he believed that solid evangelisation wouldn’t be possible if they hadn’t studied first. The Dominican mission is an intellectual work, that is, the study and teaching of philosophy, theology, and apologetics. St. Dominic was known to spend sleepless vigils poring over his books, and later in life these study sessions transformed into nights of thorough preaching and conversions. Indeed, the Dominicans move the will by appealing to the mind.
A great similarity leads to friendship, but so also does a great dissimilarity when it is not the dissimilarity of opposition, but rather one that is complementary. One had something that the other was lacking. Together they constituted a harmonic ensemble. For this reason, they admired one another. These two holy men embraced each other and were enthusiastic for each other’s mission, because although they had different approaches, their end was essentially the same: the conversion of souls and the building of the Kingdom.
To this day, the two orders enjoy a unique and special relationship. The Franciscans celebrate St. Dominic with a Feast, and likewise the Dominicans honour St. Francis of Assisi in their calendar of saints. A Dominican event can be led by a Franciscan friar, and likewise a Franciscan ceremony may be led by a Dominican. Even in the Litany of the Saints: the names of St. Francis and St. Dominic are mentioned together!
Today, we as a Dominican Order not only celebrate our father, St. Francis, we also celebrate our centuries old friendship with the Franciscan Order. We wish you all a very blessed Feast Day!
Feast of Sts Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.
R1: DN 7:9-10,13-14
or RV 12:7-12AB
R Psalm: PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3,4-5
Gospel: JN 1: 47-51
Today we gather as a church to honour and commemorate the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the Archangels of God’s Heavenly Hosts. We only know the names of these three, even though there are believed to be seven Archangels if not more. Let us take a look at what we know from the Holy Scriptures about these three Archangels of God. As St. Michael is the Prince of the heavenly hosts, let us begin with him.
His name means “Who is like God”. (This is a rhetorical question, as obviously means nobody is like God as God is the highest there ever was or ever can be).
St. Michael is mentioned by his name in three books of Holy Scripture:
In Daniel, he is described as “one of the chief princes” in the heavenly hierarchy (Dan. 10:13). He is also described to Daniel as “your prince” (Dan. 10:12). The meaning of this phrase is later clarified, and Michael is described as “the great prince who has charge of your people” (Dan. 12:1). He is thus depicted as the guardian angel of Israel. These same passages also refer to Michael doing battle against the spiritual forces at work against Israel.
In Jude 9, Michael is said to have contended with the devil over the body of Moses. On this occasion, we are told, “he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”
In Revelation, Michael and his angels are depicted fighting the devil and casting them out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-8). He is also commonly identified as the angel who binds the devil and seals him in the bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), though the name “Michael” is not given on this occasion.
His name means “God is my warrior” (meaning, essentially, “God is my defender”).
St. Gabriel is mentioned in two books of Holy Scripture:
In Daniel, he is assigned to help Daniel understand the meaning of a vision he has seen (Dan. 8:16). Later, while Daniel is in a prolonged period of prayer, Gabriel comes to him (Dan. 9:21) and gives him the prophecy of “seventy weeks of years” concerning Israel’s future (Dan. 9:24-27).In Luke, he appears to Zechariah the priest and announces the conception and birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-19). Later, he appears to the Virgin Mary and announces the conception and birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:26-33).
His name means “God heals.”
St. Raphael is mentioned in only book of Scripture: Tobit.
In Tobit, the blind Tobit and the maid Sarah, whose seven husbands have been killed by the demon Asmodeus, pray to God.
The prayer of both was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent to heal the two of them: to scale away the white films of Tobit’s eyes; to give Sarah the daughter of Raguel in marriage to Tobias the son of Tobit, and to bind Asmodeus the evil demon, because Tobias was entitled to possess her (Tob. 3:16-17).
Raphael thus becomes a travelling companion of Tobias, posing as a relative named Azarias son of Ananias (Tob. 5:12). He eventually binds the demon, enabling Tobias to safely marry Sarah, and provides the means for Tobit to be healed of his blindness.
Afterward, he reveals his true identity, saying:
I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One (Tob. 12:15).
These Archangels serve the will of God by protecting , guarding and healing us at God’s request. God has ensured his children always have the full protection not only of God himself, but also from all the hosts of heaven. Our Father loves and protects his children, only ensuring all is best for them. Let us give our thanks and praise for the wonderful gift of His Archangels, and of all the hosts of heaven to our God and heavenly Father.
Let us end with the prayer of St Michael:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
One of the outstanding characters in the Dominican reform of the late fourteenth century was Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta, who was novice-master of several saints and blesseds of our Order.
Lawrence was born in the fortified city of Ripafratta, in 1359. His noble family had the duty of guarding the outer defenses of the city of Pisa against the depredations of its powerful neighbor cities. It was a warlike place and time to come into the world, but Lawrence gave early evidence of being a man of peace. At the age of twenty, after innocent and promising youth, he entered the convent of Saint Catherine, in Pisa. He made rapid progress, both in prayer and in study, and busied himself with the works of the Order for several years before being called upon to help in the reform movement that was headed by Blessed John Dominici.
In 1402, Lawrence was made novice-master in the novitiate of the reformed congregation of Tuscany, in Cortona. Here the novices were to be trained in the primitive rigor of the Order, in an attempt to by-pass the destructive elements of the past half century, which had reduced religious observance to an alarming state of indifference. Plague and schism had taken toll both in numbers and quality of the religious orders, and the remaining houses were living under a relaxed observance of the rule, in a struggle for survival. John Dominici, under the inspiration of Raymond of Capua, felt that the time had come to tighten up the observance once more and return to the first practices of penance and silence. His suggestions were not popular among those who lived in the relaxed convents. The only alternative was to begin again, with a new novitiate, and hope that the idea would take hold gradually and effect internal reform among the other houses.
Excellent novices soon made their appearances at Cortona: Saint Antoninus and Blessed Peter Capucci, and the artist brothers, Fra Angelico and Fra Benedetto. Several others who were to attain fame in the order came under Lawrence’s influence and were shaped by him and to saintly and useful members of the apostolate, not all in the same fashion- Saint Antoninus was to become Archbishop of Florence, Fra Angelico and his brother made San Marco world famous for its art. Blessed Lawrence is, indeed, an interesting study; a severe and exacting man when it came to keeping the rule, a man of broad vision and great resourcefulness in carrying out the work of preaching. He was obviously not at all afraid of talented people going astray if they were allowed to use their talents for God, and he displayed great insight into the development of each of his novices as individuals.
Eventually, Blessed Lawrence was appointed vicar-general of the reformed congregation and moved to the convent of St. Dominic of Pistoia. Here he preached almost continually, and had a reputation for compassion to the poor whom he tended, taught and visited, even in time of plague.
Lawrence of Ripafratta lived to be ninety-eight, and in his old age we have a touching picture of his novices-now men of distinction and authority- coming back to consult him about this or that detail of their work. He wrote often to St. Antoninus, perhaps feeling that being archbishop of Florence was a job with many worries.
Lawrence of Ripafratta died in 1457, and was beatified, after a long history of miracles at his tomb in 1851.
Born: in Ripafratta in 1359
Died: He died at Pistoia in his 98th year in 1457
Beatified: Pope Gregory XVI confirmed his cult in 1851
This Dominican Blessed, who was noted particularly for his observance of poverty, lived in the early years of the Order and helped to establish the high reputation of the Spanish religious.
Blessed Dalmatius was born in Aragon, in 1291, and we know nothing else about his life before he entered the Order. He was a member of the province of Aragon and gave a perfect example of strict observance of the rule and the spirit of religious detachment from things of earth. All that we know about him, are a few anecdotes, none of which can be fixed with certainty as to date or place.
We read that his spirit of poverty was so extreme that he never wore a habit or cappa that was not in tatters. He picked up his wardrobe from the cast-offs of his brethren, and, since the spirit of poverty was quite rigid in this providence, the cast-off clothes must have looked a sight. Dalmatius seemed to make a virtue of this, since all the records we have make mention of it. As to food, he never ate fish or eggs, and lived on a diet of hard bread and unseasoned vegetables, to which he added a few ashes during Lent. The beds in the house were hard enough for most people, but not for him. He slept on the bare earth when he could not get into the church to pray and take an occasional nap, his head rested on the altar step.
Dalamtius is credited with several miracles, which included healing and spiritual assistance. At one time, a novice was tempted to leave the Order. Dalmatius, going about it without being told, sought out the novice and solved his difficulties. At another time, a mother whose small child had a serious eye disease came looking for Dalmatius to heal her child. The friar refused, because, he said, this affliction would save her child from serious sin, and that God was waiting till some time in the future to heal him.
During the last forty years of his life, Dalmatius lived in the cave of Saint Mary Magdalene, in the south of France, where he had gone on a pilgrimage of devotion. Here he was favored with numerous ecstasies and great spiritual insight. One time, while he was in the cave, a group of friars from his own province where lost in the woods in a bad storm. They prayed to him to help them, and a young man came with a lantern and guided them home.
Dalmatius died in his own convent in the presence of all the friars and provincials who had gathered for a chapter. He was declared blessed in 1721.
Born: in 1291 near Gerona in Spain
Beatified: Pope Innocent XIII confirmed his cult in 1721
Mark was born in Modena and entered the convent of the order there in young manhood. He observed the rules with great fidelity, and became noted both for his learning and his holiness, which is a sentence that would fit into nearly every Dominican biography written, and tells us nothing in particular about Mark as a person. However, when we recall the times in which he lived , it becomes clearer to us that anyone who kept the Dominican Rule in its entirety is truly to our notice . The abuses which stirred Savonarola to thundering speech in the pulpits of Ferrara and Florence could not have been absent from all of Italy. It look solid virtue to hold out against the opulent worldliness of the times, and Mark of Modena apparently did a thorough job of it, since he has been beatified.
Mark was made prior of the convent of Pesaro, and the only miracle we have on record (he is supposed to have performed many) took place at his convent. A woman’s little boy had died, and she pleaded with Mark to restore the child’s life. After praying for awhile, Mark turned to her and said, “Madam, your little boy is in paradise. Do not try to get him back again, for his second loss will be worse than this one.” However, she insisted on his working the miracle, and he did so. The child returned to life, and, ten years later, covered with disgrace and opprobrium, died a second time, leaving his mother in worse grief than ever.
Mark of Modena died in 1498, the year that the city of Florence burned Savonarola at the stake. It was a time of terrible happenings in Italy and all Europe. The people of Modena mourned the death of Mark, and went to pray at his tomb. Many of their needs were answered there, and a number of prodigies were reported in connection with the translation of his relics to the Rosary chapel of the church. The bells were said to have rung by themselves, and sweet perfume filled the air. Until recently, his relics were still exposed yearly for veneration during the week of Whitsunday.
Born: in Modena at the beginning of the 15th century
Died: in at Pesaro in 1498
Beatified: by Pope Pius IX in 1857
Few Dominicans have had more difficulty getting into the Order than Blessed Francis de Posadas, and he was one of the glories of the convent of the Scala Coeli, in Cordova. It is embarrassing for us to read that the reason for his exclusion was plain and simple snobbery on the part of the superiors of the convent of St. Paul, in Cordova.
Francis was born of a poor young couple who were war refugees, and who had been shunted from place to place until, when Francis was very small, his father’s health failed, and he died in Cordova. The young widow tried several types of work, and finally she was reduced to selling eggs and vegetables at a street stand. She tried to educate her child, for she knew he was very talented, but, without money, it simply was not possible to send him to school. She encourage him to go to the Dominican Church of St. Paul, and he served Mass there every morning from the time he was six or seven years old.
While he was still a very tiny child, he used to gather the other children together for rosary processions or other devotions. The smile of God seemed to rest upon him. For all his poverty, he was a very happy and attractive child, like by everyone; and he was a natural leader among his fellows. Twice during his childhood, he was miracuously saved from death. This fact and his undoubted piety, should have seemed sufficient reason for admitting him into a religious order. However, by the time Francis was old enough, there were two reasons to make his entry difficult: his mother had remarried, and the step-father would not permit him to enter. The Dominicans, moreover, would not have him. They said that they did not want the son of a street peddler.
Francis had friends in the Order, but the prior of the house he wished to enter took a violent dislike to him. It was several years before the young man could overcome the resistance of this man, who, having some influence with the provincial, was stubbornly determined that Francis should not be allowed to enter. Even when the fathers in the convent of Scala offered to take the boy and train him in Latin- so that he could qualify for clerical studies-the vindictive dislike of the prior followed him and almost prevented his acceptance.
Francis was finally accepted, made his novitiate, and gradually overcame all dislike and distrust by his charming manner and his unquestioned talents as student and preacher. After his ordination, he was sent out to preach, and he earned the reputation of being a second St, Vincent Ferrer. His talents as a preacher were rivaled only by his gifts as a confessor. He not only could read hearts and discover sins that had been willfully concealed, but sometimes he was called to one place or another by an interior spirit and shown someone badly in need of the sacraments.
Francis hated the thought of holding authority in the Order. When appointed prior of one of the convents, he remarked that he would much sooner be sentenced to the galleys. He twice refused a bishopric, and he skillfully eluded court honors.
Several remarkable conversions are credited to Francis Posadas. His last tears were a series of miracles wrought in the souls of his penitents. People followed him about to hear him preach, regarding him as a saint and miracle worker. One of his most noted converts was a woman more than one hundred years old- a Moor- with no intention of deserting Mohammedanism.
Francis of Posadas was the author of a number of books which he wrote to assist him in his apostolate. One was a life of St. Dominic. and several were biographies of other saintly people.
After a life filled with miracles, Francis died in 1713. Being forewarned of his death, he made private preparations, but to the last minute he was busy in the confessional before dying suddenly. By the time of his death, not only the Dominicans of Cordova, but the people of all Spain were happy to have him as a fellow countryman. He was beatified a century after his death, in 1818.
Born: Cordona in Spain in 1644
Died: In 1713 of natural causes
Beatified: He was declared Blessed by Pius VII in 1818
John Masias was born in Ribera, in Spain, and, when very small, he was left as orphan. He was adopted by a kindly uncle who set him to herding his sheep. The little boy was naturally pious, and passed his spare time in sayingthe Rosary. Our Lady and the Christ Child appeared to him several times, and he was often visited by his patron, St. John the Eveangelist, who once showed him a vision of heaven, telling him: “This is my country.”
When John was about twenty, he went to Mass in the church of the Dominicans in a neighboring city. For the moment, it seemed to him that vocation was joining the Friars Preachers now, but St. John appeared to him, telling him he must go elsewhere. In 1619 he embarked for the Indies, where many Spaniards were going, either to convert the natives or to seek a fortune. After a long and hazardous journey, he arrived in Lima.
There were at the time four convents of the Friar Preachers in Lima: the College of St. Thomas; the house of St. Rose, where Sister Rose of St. Mary had died just five years before; Santo Domingo or Holy Rosary, where the holy lay brother, Martin de Porres, was performing such astounding miracles; and the convent of St. Mary Magdalen, which was small and poor. John decided to enter St. Mary Magdalen and, in 1622, he received the habit of a lay brother there. On the night of his profession, devils appeared to tempt and reproach him. He was attacked bodily, and, although he was called on Jesus, Mary and Joseph for help, the demons continued what was to become twelve years of torture, by actually throwing him from one cloister to another.
John was appointed assistant to the porter, and lived in the gatehouse. There the poor came for food, and the rich for advice. He became adept at begging for the poor, always managing to find enough for the more than two hundred people who came daily for help. He had little use for the wealthy and curious, and would sometimes baffle them by simply disappearing while they were looking at hi,. Also, legend relates that he had a little burro that he would send out by itself, with a note asking for what was needed in one of the empty panniers on its back. Told where to go, the burro made his route faithfully; and if the rich man on whom he called was ungracious, or even hid himself to avoid giving alms, the little burro made quite a noise, and it quickly brought the desired results.
Rays of light streamed from the blessed’s face as he taught the catechism to the poor, or prayed by himself in the gatehouse. He said an amazing number of rosaries and made no less than twenty daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He is said to have liberated more than a million souls in purgatory, many of whom came back , while he was at prayer , to thank him for his help.
One day a certain ship captain came to the gatehouse and asked to look around. John took him by the arm and led him to the crucifix, warning him to look well on it and think of his sin. Terrified, the captain fell to his knees, confessing that he was an apostate religious, thirty years away from the sacraments, and he begged for a priest. On another occasion, the brothers were building a flight of steps and, having measured a beam wrong, they were annoyed because it did not fit. John took the beam in his hands and stretched it to fit their needs. These, and many other miracles, led people to venerate him as a saint during his lifetime. His recreation was to talk of the things of God with the other holy lay brother, Martin de Porres
At the time of his death, Our Lady, St. Dominic, his patron, St. John and many other saints, came to accompany him to heaven. They were seen by some of the brothers.
Born: March 2, 1585 at Ribera del Fresno, Estramadura, Spain
Died: September 16, 1645 in Lima, Peru of natural causes
Beatified: In 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI