Today we honor St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order. Unlike his contemporary, Francis of Assisi, he was a typical priest. The nephew of his Archbishop, at an early age he was put to studying for the Priesthood. But when a famine struck his part of Spain, Dominic showed himself to be more than an ordinary seminarian. He sold his robe and books, dropping out of school to nurse the aged while the famine lasted.
Ordained a priest, he spent many years happily chanting the office in the cathedral. Then, he was chosen by the king of Castile to accompany a bishop on an unusual mission. They were to travel to Denmark to bring back a princess as a bride for the son of the king of Castile.
On arrival in Denmark, they found that the princess had died. So, turning around, and traveling back through France, they came upon an unusual situation. Near the town of Albi they came upon a people who had brought a strange heresy back from the Crusades.
This people were Cathars, or purists, and the Church refers to as the Albigensians, separated themselves from anything of an animal nature. They did not eat animal products, and they would not take part in such animal activities as fighting or having sex.
The French monarchy, anxious to annex the Languedoc region around Albi, tricked the Pope into authorizing the French Crown to conduct a Crusade against the Albigensians.
That poor people saw fighting in their own defense as animal behavior, and so they allowed many of their number to fall before French swords.
When Dominic’s sympathy for those people became known in Rome, the Pope, anxious to undo some of the harm of that mistaken crusade, appointed Dominic to settle with the Albigensians to bring them around to Christianity.
So, Dominic and eight companions settled among those Cathars in Toulouse. They lived just like them, giving up all animal-like behavior. Additionally, by their sweet singing of the Psalms, and by their practices of outstanding Christian kindness, they brought the Cathars away from their mistaken spirituality.
The Dominicans are identified by the letters O.P., standing for Order of Preachers. Dominick showed us that the best kind of preaching is done by good examples.