August 8: Dominic, Priest and Friar, 1221

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration


Dominic was the founder of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as Dominicans. In England they were called Blackfriars, because of the black mantle they wore over their white habits. Dominic was born about 1170 or shortly thereafter, in Spain.

Influenced by the contemporary search for a life of apostolic poverty, Dominic is said to have sold all his possessions to help the poor during a famine in 1191. Ordained in 1196, he soon became a canon and then sub-prior of the Cathedral of Osma, where a rule of strict discipline was established among the canons.

In 1203 he began a number of preaching tours in Languedoc, a region in Southern France, against the Albigensian heretics, who held Manichaean, dualistic views. He kept himself aloof, however, from the repressive crusade which was instigated against them. In 1214, his plan to found a special preaching order for the conversion of the Albigensians began to take shape, and in the following year he took his followers to Toulouse.

At the Fourth Lateran Council in October, 1215, Dominic sought confirmation of his order from Pope Innocent III. This was granted by Innocent’s successor, Honorius III, in 1216 and 1217.

Over the next few years, Dominic traveled extensively, establishing friaries, organizing the order, and preaching, until his death on August 6, 1221. He is said to have been a man of austere poverty and heroic sanctity, always zealous to win souls by the preaching of pure doctrine.

The Dominican Constitutions, first formulated in 1216, and revised and codified by the Master-General of the Order, Raymond of Peñafort, in 1241, place a strong emphasis on learning, preaching, and teaching, and, partly through the influence of Francis of Assisi, on absolute poverty.

The Dominicans explicitly gave priority to intellectual work. They established major houses in most university centers, to which they contributed such notable teachers as Thomas Aquinas. Their Constitutions express the priority this way: “In the cells, moreover, they can write, read, pray, sleep, and even stay awake at night, if they desire, on account of study.”

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, whose servant Dominic grew in knowledge of your truth and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the good news of Christ: Give to all your people a hunger for your Word and an urgent longing to share the Gospel, that the whole world may come to know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


2 Samuel 22:22–29

Romans 10:13–17

John 7:16–18

Psalm 112:4–9

Preface of a Saint (2)

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

8 thoughts on “August 8: Dominic, Priest and Friar, 1221

  1. Regrading the new Hebrew Reading and Psalm: These readings seem to fit the commemoration well.

  2. Dominic was in the PCB Calendar quite deservedly. I’m not sure whether ths new collect is better tan the one in LLF

  3. Very good to have the dates and historical context. I’m glad for the clarity of his preaching and respect for sound doctrine, but also that he “kept himself aloof” from the persecution of the Albigensians. The persecution was a dark page in French and church history, and it was partly political; the northern part of the country, seat of the monarchy, vs. the southern part, the “langue d’oc” (the southerners said “oc,” the northerners said “oui”)–the monarchy wanted to consolidate their control.

    • Arnaud Amalric (or Amaury), Abbot of Citeaux, was a Cisterian monk who did not practice poverty. He apparently travelled with the retinue of a prince, causing the people of Langue d’oc to laugh at him, saying that he needed to give up his wealth or give up making sermons. It is to this man is credited the phrase “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius ” (Kill them all. For the Lord knows those who are his.) [The modern version is “Kill them all. Let God sort them out.”]

      I am far from certain the the following statement is accurate: “He (Dominic) kept himself aloof, however, from the repressive crusade which was instigated against them.” Dominc Guzman was a friend and companion of Simon de Montfort.whose barbarism was notorius. Please ask a historian of this period about Dominic’s relationship was with de Mortfort and the crusader army directed against the Albigenians. I think there is some whitewashing going on to minimize Dominic’s complicity with a period of atrocities.

      • I’ve gone and re read most of my research on the Albigensians. The role of King Philip in starting the Crusade and then turning it to his own ends needs to be outlined better, but is beside the point at hand. Dominic was interested in the conversion of the Albigensians to more orthodox belief (for example that God created matter, and not some lesser power). He was eventually escorted out of the region since he denounced the obvious political aims of the Royal Army and sent reports of the brutality of the army to the outside world. He was interested in wining souls, not killing people.

  4. In London, there’s a Blackfriars Bridge and a Blackfriars Station, but this was not the form in which Dominicans were known originally. There should be two words (Black Friars).

    In line 4 of the first paragraph, I suggest deleting either “about” or (preferably) “shortly thereafter”. (“About” makes it clear enough that we don’t know the precise year. )

    I find the opening of the final paragraph a bit misleading, with its implications that the Order’s emphasis on intellectual pursuits was just in the past. This could be avoided in several ways, the simplest being to change “gave” to “give”. A minor rewording might be better, such as:

    1. The Order has always given priority…
    2. The Constitutions have always given explicit priority… (assuming that they have: this should be checked. The rest of the paragraph certainly implies that this has always been part of their Rule).

  5. About a historian’s answer to the possibility Suzanne mentioned that “there is some whitewashing going on to minimize Dominic’s complicity with a period of atrocities”: from what I was able to Google just now, there’s diversity of opinion among students of the period, and there is current interest in the events because the 800th anniversary of the burning of Bézier was in 2009. I spent a month in Toulouse in 1988 with a program for French teachers, and had French hosts–one an art historian, the other an aerospace engineer, both devout Catholics and both very interesting to talk to. We discussed the Albigensian heresy my first day there, and I just wrote to them to ask for some recent opinion. I hope to hear from them soon. Back to the Googling results: the word “merciful” was often used of Dominic. What might be considered complicitous was the fact that he did question people about their beliefs (he had gone to Languedoc in the first place to teach why manicheeism and Christianity were incompatible–the former set of teachings had a very strong hold there), and courts used his testimony against those they wished to convict. What I most remember from studying the issue back in 1988 was that Dominic’s great wish was to preach and teach–he thought that was the way to spread the truth. Was it complicitous with atrocity to question people when their answers could be used against them in cruel ways, even though he himself was not cruel? Just what did he do? I hope my friends can point me to some recent scholarship.

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