Dominican Vignette Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 08 August 2007 10:19
Many know that the Dominican Order is distinguished by its commitment to evangelistic preaching informed by study. The early Dominicans were remarkable for many things, among them

1) being nearly all literate (lay brothers might not be literate) in a time when the vast majority of Europeans were not.

2) preaching was their primary mission. At that point in Catholic history, preaching was regarded as a bishop's province, not that of a priest. Dominicans did not run parishes. In fact they were forbidden to take on parishes. Their call was not liturgical preaching as we know it today but evangelistic preaching, directed especially to those outside the Church or on the margins.

3) Possessing books - hand copied editions of a gospel, for instance, that they carried around with them on their preaching tours. This was extremely rare since printing had not yet been invented and books were expensive and rare.

If you know the above, you'll grasp the significance of this vignette from St. Dominic's life more clearly.

In 1191, when Spain was desolated by a terrible famine, Dominic was just finishing his theological studies. He gave away his money and sold his clothes, his furniture and even his precious manuscripts, that he might relieve distress. When his companions expressed astonishment that he should sell his books, Dominic replied: "Would you have me study off these dead skins, when men are dying of hunger?"

This utterance belongs to the few of Dominic's sayings that have passed to posterity.