Emily M. DeArdo



St. Dominic, the Innkeeper, and Twenty-First Century Preaching

Catholicism, essays, politics, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
El Greco,  St. Dominic in Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic in Prayer

There’s a story about St. Dominic that’s familiar to every Dominican, and I think it has important implications for us today.

Here’s how the Nashville Dominicans tell the story on their website:

Two years later a diplomatic trip brought Dominic into the Albi region of Southern France. A strong zeal for the salvation of souls was enkindled when the young canon encountered an innkeeper who was steeped in the errors of the Catharists, a heresy which threatened the region. Although other religious had been commissioned to preach in the region, little progress had been made. After a long night of intense discussion, the light of truth prevailed and the innkeeper returned to the practice of the faith.

So let’s break this down. Think of a hotel. Imagine you’re in the lobby, getting something to drink before you go to bed, and you start making small talk with the desk clerk. You discover that he’s an agnostic.

You have a few options:

Don’t say anything. Just smile and say good night, but mentally pray for him.

Share that you’re Catholic. Don’t go any father.

Tell him that he’s going to Hell.

Say that you’re Catholic and spend the rest of the night trying to browbeat him into submission!

What did St. Dominic do? He talked to the innkeeper. All night. You can imagine that it wasn’t full of highly charged statements (like, hey, you’re going to Hell! Good night!) or polemics. It was probably logical—because we Dominicans love study—and it was probably methodical. And it was also probably gentle. I doubt the innkeeper would’ve stayed up all night if St. Dominic was banging him over the head with proofs!

There’s nothing wrong with a good discussion, including one that gets a little exciting.

My siblings and I are all half-Italian. When we have discussions, we get loud. We get boisterous. We use our hands! For people new to way we converse, you can think we’re arguing. (Growing up, our mother, who is not Italian, often told us to stop arguing. “We’re not arguing! We’re talking!”) St. Dominic was Spanish, so I wonder if he used his hands, too. Maybe!

But there’s a distinction between passionate arguing and getting personal. And on St. Dominic’s Feast Day, that’s what I want to talk about.

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico

One of the mottos of the Dominican order is “Veritas”—truth. We love truth. We live to spread the truth of the Gospel all over the world! And that’s part of the reason we study, so that we can know what the truth is. Truth isn’t about what you think is true, or a “personal truth". (for example, children believe that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny exist. We could call that their “personal truths.” )

Truth is verifiable. Truth can be known. Sometimes, yes, there is mystery! We will never understand everything—and we’re not meant to. Some things are just beyond our reach on this earth. But we know the truth of faith because it’s able to be studied. It’s able to be seen. We believe in the truth of Jesus Christ. At Mass every week, we say the “credo”—”I believe”. This isn’t what just I believe, or what you believe, or what the pope beliefs, or what Fr. Patrick up on the altar believes. It’s what we have always believed, as a people, a family of faith.

If you are Catholic, you have to know what you believe, and why you believe it—and you have to assent to it. You can’t just say, well, that’s fine for you, but I don’t believe in Transubstantiation. (You would be….wrong!) I don’t believe in the Church’s definition of marriage. I don’t believe in Hell. Etc.

Truth is truth whether you believe in it or not. People believed the earth was flat—but it wasn’t. People believed that slaves weren’t people—but they were. People believe that unborn babies aren’t people—but they are. See how this goes?

It goes without saying that the truth needs to be spread far and wide. That’s part of what Dominicans do.

But, the question is “how to do it.” As the Wicked Witch of the West said, “These things must be handled delicately.” We can’t be too nice that we deny people the truth—because the truth sets them free, and truth is the best thing you can give someone! But we also can’t be so awful and hard-core that we turn people away from hearing the truth and listening to it.

Let’s take a story from the Bible. It’s one that’s familiar to everyone—the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’m going to quote it here, so we can all have it freshly before us:

John 8:3-11

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

Do not sin again. That’s the crux, really. We are all sinners. Every single one of us. I am, you are, everyone. None of us is without sin. But Jesus doesn’t say to the woman, “Oh, what you did is fine. Go ahead, go home, it’s all good.” He said, I don’t condemn you. But don’t sin again. That’s what happens when we go to confession—we have to promise to try not to sin again. We can’t just think, oh, I can do what I want, because confession!

Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And because he does, he doesn’t want us to keep messing up. It makes him sad! Do parents like it when their kids make bad choices? No! But are they angry? Maybe. Are they disappointed and sad? I think this is probably more likely. (I mean, they might be angry at first. But I think then it becomes more sad/disappointed.)

When we discuss heated issues in the twenty-first century, we are not good about being gentle about it, like Jesus is here. Now, yes, Jesus also turned over tables in the temple. Sometimes we can be righteously angry. I get righteously angry whenever I talk about disabilities or abortion. That’s my thing. But if I slip and start calling people names, or want to incite violence against them, I am sinning.

We can be preachers of the word. We have to be, both preachers of the word and doers of it. We have to live the life of Christ. Sometimes that means standing up for people. Sometimes that means living a quiet life of witness. Sometimes it means both!

If you want to make your point, if you want to convert people, you aren’t going to do it, usually, by violence or hatred or name calling. We need to stop doing that. We need to do it like St. Dominic did it—gently, with facts, with truth, and then….step back. See how it goes. Conversions aren’t instantaneously. St. Dominic famously cried, “Oh Lord, what will become of sinners?” He cared about them. He didn’t just want to score a point like in a college debate match. He didn’t want to just win. He wanted the other person to see the truth because it would save them.

Politics in America has always been nasty (see the Election of 1800!). But we must stop seeing each other as enemies across a divide. We have to state our position, but also realize that we can be friends with people who don’t vote the way we do. In fact, we are required to love them.

I know things get heated in the public realm. I worked in politics for 10 years. I saw it, up close and personal. We cannot want to kill our opponents, guys. We can’t approve the shooting of congressmen and women because the victim disagreed with us! What kind of people will we be then?

A story was told to me by the first legislative aide I worked with, who had been in the senate a long time. She said that senators used to argue like crazy on the floor, and then go out to dinner together. They were friends with each other. That was becoming rarer and rarer

Christianity isn’t a religion for wimps. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be a doormat. He asks us—and St. Dominic shows us how—to preach the truth, to live the truth with our lives, to pray for our enemies. We can have discussions—even loud Italian ones! We can be passionate! I’ve always been passionate when talking about the Church.

But there’s a fine line between being passionate, and being so whipped up into a frenzy that you can’t see the human being on the other side.

St. Dominic saw the humanity in the people he met. That’s what drove him to preach—his concern for them and his love for Christ.

Does the same thing compel us?

A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican

Catholicism, Dominicans, prayerEmily DeArdo6 Comments
St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s  The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

St. Dominic (detail) from Fra Angelico’s The Mocking of Christ with the Virgin and St. Dominic.

Lots of people, when they hear I’m a Lay Dominican, want to know what that means—and I realized I’d never written a blog post about it! So I’m way overdue to write one about what this vocation actually means. :)

(It’s going to be sort of long. Sorry. But thorough!)

When St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers (that’s what Dominicans are also called—and it's abbreviated OP, so if you ever wanted to know what that means, now you know!)

The “First order” is the friars and brothers—they are priests, or “cooperator brothers”.

The “second order” is the cloistered nuns, who live in monasteries. Yes. Monasteries for nuns.

The “third order” is the laity and the sisters (the sisters live in convents. Nuns are cloistered, which means they don’t go out of their monastery without a good reason and permission. Sisters aren’t enclosed.). Dominican sisters in the U.S. are involved in many ministries.

Now, third order laity members don’t look different than anyone else. We don’t wear a habit or any sort of insignia regularly. (Alas!) We can wear a medal of St. Dominic or another Dominican saint if we want, or a pin that has the shield of the order. But we don’t look any different than anyone else.

We make promises, not vows. They’re not binding under pain of sin, but we do take them seriously.

A “day in the life” of a lay Dominican actually depends on the person! It can look radically different for everyone. The rule of life for Dominicans is very flexible and allows for a lot of adaptation, which is one of its strengths.

However, in that day, the four pillars of Dominican life are probably represented. These are:

  • Prayer

  • Study

  • Community

  • Apostolate

El Greco,  St. Dominic In Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic In Prayer

Prayer is—well, prayer. A lay Dominican prays lauds and vespers from the liturgy of the hours and says a daily rosary. She attends Mass as often as she can, and attends confession frequently. A yearly retreat is a good idea. You’re taught how to pray the liturgy of the hours in your chapter meetings (at least I was), and you can use either the books of the breviary, or an app—whatever works better for you.

Since Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic, of course we are devoted to it! :) We try to say one set of mysteries—five decades—a day. If you can do more, great!

Bernardo Cavallino,  St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin

Bernardo Cavallino, St. Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin

So, how does that look in my day?

I say lauds, generally, right when I get up. I go downstairs, start the coffee, and start lauds. When I was working I said lauds at my desk before the workday began.

I say vespers around 5:00—if I’m going out to eat, or have evening activities, it’ll be later, whenever I get home. The rosary I try to say right after vespers, but if that’s not possible, then I say it before I go to bed. My love of the rosary was an early sign of a Dominican vocation. It’s long been my favorite way to pray!


Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.

Statue of St. Dominic on the motherhouse campus of the Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia, Nashville, TN.

In the above statue, you see St. Dominic holding a book. Study is key to the life of all Dominicans—St. Dominic wanted his family to preach the faith fearlessly. But to do that, they had to know the faith! That meant study. Even today you will find many friars assigned to universities around the world, where they interact with students and teach theology classes. Preaching is at the heart of the Dominican life—the holy preaching of the truth (“Veritas”) of Christ.

St. Albert the Great, a Dominican, gave us the scientific method. The “angelic doctor” of the Church, one of its mightiest theologians, is St. Thomas Aquinas, also a Dominican. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be a genius to be a Dominican. Blessed Margaret of Costello was blind and abandoned by her parents.

What you have to have is a love of study and sacred truth. This can mean daily bible reading, reading spiritual works, taking theology classes—whatever suits your interest. Sometimes chapters will study something together. But to be a Dominican, you have to love to read.

How do I do this? I’m generally always reading at least one spiritual book. I’m working on building the habit of daily bible reading (lectio divina). I love to read spiritual books and look forward to talking about them with my friends or writing about them here. You don’t have to read St. Thomas’ Summa. You can read “popular” theologians, like Scott Hahn or Bishop Barron’s writings. If you want, you can read the Summa! You can dive as deeply as you want. But you should always be learning more about the faith.


St. Dominic.jpg

Community doesn’t really always play a part in daily life—there are monthly/regular chapter meetings (every chapter varies, I think most meet once a month), but in daily life, there’s not a whole lot of contact. Certainly I have Dominican friends, including the friars that I personally know, but this isn’t an area where I have consistent daily contact. Some people probably do. For the friars, sisters, and nuns, of course, community is daily; it’s how they live.


Fra Angelico,  Coronation of the Virgin  (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)

Fra Angelico, Coronation of the Virgin (Fra Angelico was a Dominican friar, by the way!)

Apostolate is “contemplating and sharing the fruits of contemplation”—a twist on St. Thomas’s saying (one of the mottoes of the order: “to contemplate and share with others the fruit of our contemplation.”) My blog is one of my apostolates; I write about the things I discover in prayer and study. The Catholic 101 series and the resulting book are fruits of my study, prayer, and Dominican vocation!

Some Dominicans I know are hospital chaplains; others are CCD teachers, work in homeless shelters, or make rosaries. There are as many apostolates as there are Dominicans. Mine tends to be more on the writing end, so it’s pretty daily for me. I write blog posts, or essays for Take Up & Read, or work on manuscripts that have to do with Christ and the Church. That’s my apostolate.

To sum up: A Day in the Life of a Lay Dominican is drastically different for every one of us, but it’s always rooted in prayer and study, finds support in community, and brings forth fruit in the apostolate of each member.

Here are links to the Lay Dominican provinces in the U.S.

Eastern (that’s me)




Do you have any questions? Send them to me in the comments!

Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 

Statue of St. Dominic at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville 


Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Here is the Dominican saints series I wrote awhile back, and here is the specific post on St. Dominic, if you'd like to acquaint yourself better with the "preacher of grace." 

One of the mottoes of the Dominican order is veritas--truth--and I think we can all agree that we need truth today (maybe more than ever?). So if you're not already friends with St. Dominic, introduce yourself!

I am blessed to know so many sons of St. Dominic, his friars, and some of his daughters, the nuns and sisters (and of course the laity, of which I am a part). 

If you want to be especially Dominican today--pray the rosary! Yes, the rosary was given to the Dominican order, and spread throughout the Church. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!


Happy St. Dominic's Day!

Dominicans, dominican saints series, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast of St. Dominic! Today is a big day for me since I'm a Lay Dominican, and I intend to make it a good Feast Day!

If you're asking, St. Dominic who? Go here

For more on some of my favorite Dominican saints, go here

And today would be a great day to pray the rosary, since St. Dominic was the one who got it from Mary, and all that. :) From my St. Dominic piece: 

Besides the Dominican order, St. Dominic gave the church another treasure: the rosary. The rosary was given to St. Dominic at Prouilhe in 1214. Bl. Alain de la Rouche, a Dominican priest, spread devotion of the rosary in the 15th century. The habit of Dominican friars, nuns, and sisters includes a rosary worn on the left side of the body, where knights use to wear their swords, since St. Dominic said that the power of the rosary was more powerful than any other weapon. Pope Pius XI said that, "The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." 



Daybook No. 112

behind the scenes, books, Catholicism, current events, current projects, Daybook, Dominicans, fiction, knitting, links, Tidying Up, writingEmily DeArdoComment

Outside my window::

Cloudy, a marked contrast from yesterday's blue skies and sun, but since It's going to be in the 60s, I'll take it. Especially since....gulp.....snow might in the future! 


My PJs--I just got up (it's 8 AM as I'm writing this) 


North and South, Mockingjay, Rising Strong,  and The Betrothed. I really like North and South--Margaret Hale is a great character. I'm late to the Rising Strong party, but better late than never, and I also have Daring Greatly to read.

In the CD player::

Fun Home and Hamilton. No Christmas music until at least after Thanksgiving!

Living the Liturgy::

Today is Lucy Pevensie's feast day! And since she's my Dominican patron, I get to party all day. 


Around the House::

Doing the deep cleaning to get ready for decorating> I don't have much to do--the tree, a few baubles, and my Fontanini creche (one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received, ever). The Baby Jesus doesn't go in the creche until Christmas Eve, and the Magi make their way into the set proper by Epiphany. If you're looking for a Nativity set, I highly recommend this one. The figures are made of a type of plastic that means kids can chew on them, play with them, etc., and they won't break!

Speaking of Catholic households, this is a good article from Our Sunday Visitor that's worth a ponder. 

I'm also in the last stages of Tidying Up. I took three bags of books to Half Price books yesterday, so I'm still looking for the book/CD/DVD "click point" that Kondo talks about. I'm sure I'll find it--eventually. :) Until then, I just keep taking books to HPB. 


I have "won" NaNo--but the book's not done. Oh no. I'm going to write a sequel. (I can't believe it either!) Nothing about this book has gone the way I thought it would, but it's been in a great way. My friend Andrea says the "muse has inhabited me", and while that may or may not be true, it sure is fun. I will officially "win" NaNo on the 20th, when you can start verifying word counts. 

So I have to put an ending on this guy (a cliff-hanger, of course), and then start the new document for book two, maybe do some outlining--and then touch nothing until January. This is what usually happens with my NaNo books--I finish them in November and then don't touch them until January. That gives them, and me, a nice break before I begin revising/editing. 

And I can purl! You'll see the proof tomorrow in the Yarn Along. 



In light of the attacks on Paris, this is an excellent read. It's long, but it's well-worth the time it takes. 

There are so many problems in our world that are new, and all colliding at once--fighting a war against an enemy we can't see (as Judi Dench said in Skyfall), the Syrian refugees, elections, earthquakes in Mexico and Japan....

The only solution I can see to it is to pray more intensely. 


Plans for the week::

Not much, which is nice. CCD on Sunday, when we'll talk about Jesus' birthday (we talked about Advent last week). And then it's Thanksgiving week, and then we're into December! Holy cow!


This Week's Question: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in your family? 






{P, F, H, R} 7: Retreat time!

Catholicism, Dominicans, PFHREmily DeArdo1 Comment

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter. 

{Pretty, Happy, Real}

 I spent last weekend in retreat. It was the annual Lay Dominican retreat, which is held every October, either here in Columbus or in Cincinnati, and chapter members from four states come and spend the weekend together. I've been to St. Therese's (this retreat house) many times for silent retreats, but never for our Lay Dominican Regional Retreat. I'm going to write more about the retreat experience tomorrow, but here are some of the photos from the weekend. 

Our Lady of Lourdes in the retreat house grotto. 


St. Therese Reliquary off the main chapel. 


The chapel before vespers. 

Back wall of the chapel 



Why I'm a Dominican

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdo2 Comments
dominicans tag.jpg

(For How a Lay Dominican Prays, go here

So, all throughout this long Dominican saints series, you may be wondering why I'm a Dominican. Well.....that's sort of an accident. 

I was unknowingly surrounded by Dominicans in elementary school. My favorite elementary school teacher had been a Dominican sister. The sisters at the convent on our parish grounds? Dominicans. My family always had a devotion to the rosary, which was given to us by....Dominicans. (You should know that by now, at least!) I always have a rosary in my purse, and my bedposts have always bedecked with rosaries. The rosary is my favorite prayer. If I say I'm praying for you, it usually means you're getting a decade of the rosary, or, in some cases, my entire rosary. 

I had always been drawn to the Liturgy of the Hours. I remember reading about them in one of my prayer books as a teenager, and I wished I knew how to pray this mysterious set of prayers. Back then, there wasn't internet like there is now--there were no websites to visit. 

I've always loved reading and study. Well, OK, not math study. (Sorry, Dad.) But learning has always been fun for me. I read our World Book Encyclopedia for fun. Sometimes I click around on Wikipedia for fun. I'm a nerd, yeah, but I like expanding my knowledge. Unless it's math. :) 

My patron saint for Confirmation was St. Therese, and I was definitely drawn to the Carmelites. As a child of John Paul II, the idea of redemptive suffering, of the meaning of suffering, was something I was attracted to, and something the Carmelites seemed to know a lot about. St. Teresa of Avila is also a saint I admire. 

So, all of this was sort of conspiring to lead me to the Dominicans--even the Carmelites. :) 

In 2010, I was looking for a way to deepen my spiritual life. I wanted more than just the prayers I was saying. I wanted a deeper, more cohesive prayer life. I knew some orders had third orders or lay associates. So I began to do a little web searching. 

I found the third order Dominican website (now we're called Lay Dominicans, but I still like being called Third Order Dominicans...I'm old-school). It talked about the four pillars of the life: prayer, study, community, apostolate. A lay Dominican prays a daily rosary, and the liturgy of the hours. A Lay Dominican loves study and the pursuit of truth. Apostolates bring the truth we study out into the world, and community binds us together. 

This sounded pretty good. Where could I find a chapter? 

Oh, two miles from my office. Really. 

At St. Patrick Church, which was run by Dominicans, there was a Lay Dominican chapter. I had also been toying with the idea of a new parish. 

So on my lunch hour that day, I went to St. Patrick's, and attended Mass. I loved the priests. I loved the way the Mass was said, reverently and prayerfully. I loved that confession was offered every day!

I went into the office and filled out a registration form. Two weeks later, I went to my first Lay Dominican meeting. 

I made life promises to the order last December, so they can't kick me out now! 

So, yes, I made up my mind quickly. But I'd been around Dominicans all my life, and hadn't known it. I knew, instinctively, that my personality and temperament fit into this order the best. Third Order life, to me, is a deepening of my instinctual desires. I have the Liturgy of the Hours, I have the richness of Dominican community--which is almost 800 years old!--and I have a place where my spiritual life can flourish under the rule St. Dominic gave his first followers.  It may not be as easy to identify as Franciscan or Carmelite or Benedictine spirituality, and one of the reasons I wrote the series on Dominican saints was to get some of them out there. We can be sort of forgotten. But Dominicans really are deeply embedded in the history of the church. 

For more Dominican saints and blesseds, you can go here.. If you'd like to investigate being a Lay Dominican, you can go here





St. Thomas Aquinas: The Angelic Doctor

dominican saints series, Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment

If you've read the writing of Aquinas, angelic may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Frustrating? Yes. Deep? Yes. Angelic? Um....maybe not. But we'll get to why he's called that. 

As you also may have guessed, St. Thomas joins St. Catherine of Siena as one of the Dominicans who have been named Doctors of the Church. You shouldn't be surprised by that. Anyone who wrote as much as Thomas wrote and inspires an entire study of theology (called "Thomism", or "Thomists", for those who subscribe to his views) should definitely be ranked s one of the Church's greatest teachers. 

But in his time, St. Thomas was kind of an odd duck. Called "the dumb ox" by his brethren, because he barely spoke, Thomas was born on January 28, 1255, in Italy. Hi parents, Lundolf and Theodora, wanted Thomas to follow his uncle into the abbacy of a local Benedictine monastery. But Thomas had other ideas. 

At the age of 19, he resolved to join the newish Dominican order. His parents, displeased with this idea, tried to dissuade him, finally locking him up in his room for a year in order to prevent him being given the habit. He used this year to tutor his sisters and communicate with members of the order. Finally, his brothers smuggled a prostitute into his room, hoping she would tempt him; Thomas drove her out of the room with a flaming poker (something I always thought was a bit hard on the poor woman). That night, two angels appeared to him as he slept and gave him the grace to always remain celibate. 

Finally, in 1244, his mother relented and arranged for Thomas to "escape" his room via the window one night. Thomas escaped, and finally joined the order. The order sent him to the University of Paris, where he was a student of another great Dominican, St. Albert the Great. While there, he picked up the "dumb ox" nickname from his fellow students. Since he didn't talk much, his fellows thought he was stupid. Upon hearing this, St. Albert said,

"You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world." 


Thomas taught in Cologne as an apprentice professor, teaching students about the books of the Old Testament, and writing commentaries on the books of  Isaiah, Lamentations, and Jeremiah. He received his master's degree from the University of Paris and continued to write various theological works, including Summa Contra Gentiles, one of his most famous works. 

In February 1265, Thomas was summoned to Rome to serve as the papal theologian (a post first held by St. Dominic, and held by Dominicans ever since) for the newly-elected pope, Clement IV. Thomas also taught the students natural and theological science at Santa Sabina. He traveled between Paris and Rome many times over the years, filling various posts and teaching. 

In 1272, Thomas retired from teaching at the University of Paris and returned to Naples, where he lived the rest of his life. Here, he worked more on his greatest work, the Summa Theologica, and gave lectures. One night during prayer, he had a vision of Christ. "You have written well of me, Thomas," Christ said. "What reward would you have for your labor?" Thomas answered, "nothing but you, Lord." After this, Thomas had a vision of some sort, but he never told anyone what it was--only that after the vision, everything he had written suddenly seemed "like straw" to him, and he abandoned the Summa, never finishing it. He died on March 7, 1274, while giving commentary on the Song of Songs. Thomas was canonized 50 years after his death by Pope John XXII. 

The Summa, while unfinished, is one of the greatest theological works of all time, and one of the classics of western literature. It was intended as a guide for theology students (that's right, beginners!), and was a compendium of all the teachings of the Catholic Church. It includes topics such as the existence of God, creation, man, man's purpose, Christ, and the sacraments. It's broken into three major parts: 

  1. The first part: Prima Pars: God's existence and nature; the creation of the world; angels; the nature of man
  2. The second part: Secunda Pars: broken into two subparts:
    1. Prima Secunda: general principles of morality and a theory of law
    2. Secunda Secundae: morality in particular, especially virtues and vices
  3. The third part: Tertia Pars: the work and person of Christ; the sacraments; the end of the world (unfinished)

His feast day is January 28, and he is the patron of academics, apologists, protection against storms, book sellers, Catholic schools, chastity, learning, pencil makers, philosophers, publishers, students, and theologians. He's called the angelic doctor because of his angelic purity, his writings on the angels, his angelic wisdom, and angelic piety. 

St. Dominic: Preacher of Grace

Dominicans, Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdoComment

As Maria says in The Sound of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning." If we're going to talk about Dominican saints--and we are, oh boy!--we need to start with the founder of the order, and that's St. Dominic. 

St. Dominic was born in Caleruega, Spain, in 1170, to Bl. Jane of Aza and Felix Guzman. Before his birth, his mother had a dream of a dog emerging with a torch in his mouth, which seemed to set the earth of fire. The dog in the dream is seen as a play on words: "dog" in Latin is "canis" and Lord is "Domini"--thus, "dominican"="hound of the Lord."  At his baptism, his godmother saw a star on his forehead, hence the reason the saint is often depicted with a star about his head in sacred art, and why he is the patron of astronomers. 

St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Our Lady. Notice the dog with a torch in its mouth at his feet. 

St. Dominic receiving the rosary from Our Lady. Notice the dog with a torch in its mouth at his feet. 

St. Dominic received his schooling in Palencia, where he spent six years studying the liberal arts, and four years studying theology. In 1191, when a famine was raging throughout the country, St. Dominic sold his precious textbooks, clothes, and furniture to help feed the hungry. "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?" he asked his astonished friends. 

In 1194, around the age of twenty-five, he joined the canons regular of in the Diocese of Osma. Canons regular were men who followed the Rule of St. Augustine and lived in community. Unlike monks, the canons were engaged in public works and ministry around the diocese. 

Ten years later, when Dominic was around thirty-five, he joined the Bishop of Osma on a diplomatic mission for the King of Castile. The mission itself failed, but it brought St. Dominic to the event that would lead to the foundation of his new order. 

In the South of France, Dominic and the bishop entered the Albi region of the country, where a heretical sect, the Albigensians, had taken root. (Albigensians were also called Catharists, in some places). Briefly, the Cathars believes that there was both a "good" and a "bad" God. All visible matter, including the human body, was created by the "bad" God, and thus was full of sin. Thus, even the body of Christ, the Incarnation of Jesus, was sinful in their beliefs. The "Good" God was the New Testament God, and the 'bad" God was the God of the Old Testament. Of course, this is directly opposed to the idea of one God that the Catholic Church teaches. 

St. Dominic, upon meeting an innkeeper who held these beliefs, stayed up all night discussing the errors and the True Faith with him. At dawn, the innkeeper realized his error and returned to the church. St. Dominic's zeal for the salvation of souls. But as St. Dominic traveled throughout Southern France alone (the bishop having returned to Osma), he saw the devastating effects of the heresy, and knew that he had to combat it. But how? 

The first people to join the order were women, who wanted to return to a strong practice of their faith. St. Dominic established a monastery for these woman at the church of St. Mary of  Prouilhe. These women became the first nuns of the order. 

On the night of July 22, 1206, St. Dominic saw a a globe of fire descend from the sky and and rested above the church. He saw this sign (called "Seignadou--"Sign of God") as a confirmation of his work. He would form an order of itinerant preachers who would go all over the world, combating heresy and bringing the truth of the gospel to the people. His friars would live in community, but not in monasteries, and they would devote much time to study, because in order to preach the truth, one must first know the truth. They would preach in the language of the people, so that everyone, from prince to peasant, could understand them 

It took several years, but in 1214 St. Dominic established the first religious community of his new order in Toulouse. It would be governed by the Rule of St. Augustine, the same rule he'd followed as a Canon Regular, and which gave a lot of flexibility to its members. The Order was founded for two purposes: Preaching and the Salvation of Souls. This is why members of the order have O.P. after their names--it stands for Ordo Praedicatorum, "Order of Preachers." 

The Dominican seal, with the motto "To praise, to bless, to preach" around the shield. 

The Dominican seal, with the motto "To praise, to bless, to preach" around the shield. 

The order was formally approved by Pope Honorius III on on December 22, 1216. 

St. Dominic founded convents and friaries (the priests are called friars) throughout Europe, mostly in University towns, such as Paris and Bologna. The pope invited St. Dominic and his friars to take up residence at the Church of Santa Sabina in Rome, which is still the headquarters of the order and the home of the Master General today. 

St. Dominic abstained from meat, and undertook long periods of fasting and silence. He "never allowed himself the luxury of a bed", and often stayed up all night, or late into the night, praying for sinners. He died at the age of 51, on August 6, 1221. His feast day is August 8 and he is the patron of astronomers, astronomy, and the Dominican Republic. 

Besides the Dominican order, St. Dominic gave the church another treasure: the rosary. The rosary was given to St. Dominic at Prouilhe in 1214. Bl. Alain de la Rouche, a Dominican priest, spread devotion of the rosary in the 15th century. The habit of Dominican friars, nuns, and sisters includes a rosary worn on the left side of the body, where knights use to wear their swords, since St. Dominic said that the power of the rosary was more powerful than any other weapon. Pope Pius XI said that, "The Rosary of Mary is the principle and foundation on which the very Order of Saint Dominic rests for making perfect the life of its members and obtaining the salvation of others." 

he habit of the Dominicans is representative of white for purity, and black for penance. There are three "orders" in the Dominican order: the friars are the first order; the nuns, who live in monasteries, are the second, and the sisters and laity are the third. 


St. Dominic

Catholicism, DominicansEmily DeArdo2 Comments
St. Dominic performing penance; the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

St. Dominic performing penance; the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Today is the feast day of my "spiritual father", St. Dominic. As a Third Order/Lay Dominican, I am always happy to celebrate his feast day, and glad that God has given me a vocation to this great order. 

Here's Pope Benedict XVI on St. Dominic and his friars. Here, the Pope talks about St. Dominic and prayer.  

Dear friends, St Dominic reminds us that prayer, personal contact with God is at the root of the witness to faith which every Christian must bear at home, at work, in social commitments and even in moments of relaxation; only this real relationship with God gives us the strength to live through every event with intensity, especially the moments of greatest anguish. This Saint also reminds us of the importance of physical positions in our prayer. Kneeling, standing before the Lord, fixing our gaze on the Crucifix, silent recollection — these are not of secondary importance but help us to put our whole selves inwardly in touch with God. I would like to recall once again the need, for our spiritual life, to find time everyday for quiet prayer; we must make this time for ourselves, especially during the holidays, to have a little time to talk with God. It will also be a way to help those who are close to us enter into the radiant light of God’s presence which brings the peace and love we all need. Thank you.

There are three branches of the order: the friars, the nuns, and the sisters/laity. The order is celebrating its 800th anniversary next year!