Reflecting on the life of St. Dominic de Guzman seems particularly timely this year, since precisely 800 years have passed since his death on August 6, 1221.
Let’s take a moment to go back to the time when Dominic lived his extraordinary life on this earth. Historians and others tell us that Dominic was a humble and charismatic person who was very loving and very much loved. He was a deeply contemplative young priest living a semi-monastic life. Yet, he was called to an itinerant life, eventually traveling from his native Spain throughout much of Europe, preaching the Good News of the Gospel to all who were thirsty for it. So many people at that time were living in the midst of a rampant heresy which denied the goodness of creation and the dignity of humanity. Through the grace of God, Dominic became ever more aware of the need to bring the truth of Jesus Christ into the world around him.
Dominic’s was a new vision, different from the long tradition of religious communities living in monasteries at that time. He soon attracted many others to his loving, simple, and prayerful life of preaching. For Dominic, “to be a preacher was to mediate God’s Word in human words: a word of love, mercy, and compassion” (St. Dominic, The Story of a Preaching Friar by Fr. Don Goergen, OP). Dominic’s early companion friars began to travel two by two from place to place, choosing to live with few possessions and giving their lives to prayer, study, and preaching. They returned from time to time to be together to nurture each other in community. They sought to integrate action and contemplation, and they lived a simple, common life in a participative and democratic way. In addition to these itinerant friars, Dominic also saw the need to establish a community in France for women who had been converted from the prevailing heresy. Over time, different groups of contemplative nuns, friars, laity, and apostolic sisters evolved with this vision of Dominic and are now known as the “Dominican Family” throughout the world.
Moving through the centuries, we come to the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill who have grown into a unique expression of Dominic’s vision as apostolic sisters. Continuing to hold in our hearts the Gospel values that he held dear, our Direction Statement of 2016 states in part, “We continue our journey as Dominican women proclaiming the Reign of God through ministry for justice and reverence for all creation…. Faithful to our Dominican charism, we commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth in order to address more effectively the needs of our suffering world.” May the strength, hope, and courage of St. Dominic be ours as we live out our Dominican motto, “To contemplate, and to give to others the fruit of our contemplation.”
– Sister Barbara Paul, OP
Sister Barbara is enjoying her retirement in her native St. Louis.