Feast day August 8
At 25 years old, Dominic realized his walk was not as a secular priest but as a religious. At that time, Dominic’s bishop Martin Bazan voiced a desire to bring about reform; he wanted the canons of his cathedral to live a shared life as religious, as part of a community. He and the new prior of the canons, Don Diego de Asevedo, had heard of Dominic’s piety and wisdom, and his desire to be a religious. Their hope was that he could convince these self-absorbed, strong-willed clerics into coming together and join the Canons Regular; they summoned Dominic! So after he was ordained a priest, Dominic was vested in the habit of the Canons Regular of Osma, made his profession to that Order, and for the next nine years faithfully followed the Rule of St. Augustine. One of his companions said of him, at this time,
“Now it was that he began to appear among his brethren like a bright burning torch, the first in holiness, the last in humility, spreading about him an odor of life which gave life, and a perfume like the sweetness of summer days. Day and night he was in the church praying without ceasing. God gave him the Grace to weep for sinners and for the afflicted; he bore their sorrows in an inner sanctuary of compassion which pressed on his heart, flowed out and escaped in tears. It was his custom to spend his nights in prayer and to speak to God behind closed doors.” Dominic consecrated himself, dedicating his life to the salvation of souls for Christ. He was happy! He thought this was where God had placed him, but that was to come to an end, when Don Diego, now Bishop of Osma, chose him to accompany him on a mission to Denmark, which would be the first leg of a long journey of suffering, pain and torment.
As they traveled through southern France, Dominic’s heart felt like it would bleed to death, as he encountered the enormous suffering brought about by a new threat against the Church and her children – the Albigensian Heresy. The churches were empty; the bells no longer tolled; Sunday you could see people working in the fields. There was a funereal spirit over the villages, as if God Himself was moaning over the death of His children’s souls. They were like men, women and children walking in their sleep through a dark cloud shutting out all sun.
Tired and downcast, Dominic and the bishop stopped at an inn in Toulouse, only to discover that the innkeeper was a heretic. Dominic could not go peacefully to sleep, while there was the danger that a soul could be lost. He talked to the man throughout the night, showing him the error of this heresy and the long-range effects disobedience has first on one soul and then on those he encounters. Dominic, clarifying the errors put forth by the heretics, and bringing him the true teachings of the Faith, when dawn came peeking into the dark of night, the innkeeper’s heart and soul were filled with the same light which flooded the room; he renounced the heresy and pledged to follow the true teachings of Mother Church.
Was it here that the seed to start a religious Order, dedicated to defending the Church, correcting errors and bringing the Truth to the faithful, was planted in Dominic’s heart?