Saint Dominic was born into a rich, noble Spanish family. But by the time he was 21, he had sold everything he owned so that he could help feed the homeless population of Spain.
The founder of the Dominic order was friends with Saint Francis Assisi. He pursued a life of humility, poverty, and obedience. When he died at the age of 51, he turned to his followers and said, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”
Here are five things you may not know about this great saint:
1. His mother had a vision about Dominic’s birth
Saint Dominic was born in 1170. His parents were Felix Guzman and Juanna of Aza. Before conceiving Dominic, the couple experienced infertility. Juanna took a pilgrimage to the Abbey at Silos, and there she received a vision. In the vision, she saw a dog leap from her womb. The dog was carrying a flaming torch and Juanna said that the dog “seemed to set the earth on fire.” Later in his life, Dominic went on to found the Dominican order – Dominicanus in the Latin translation. The order’s name is seen on a play on words. Domini Canis is Latin for “Dogs of the Lord.” Dominic’s mother was beatified by Pope Leo XII in 1828.
2. He sold his school textbooks for money to donate to the poor
When he grew up, Dominic was educated in Palencia. He studied theology and the arts, spending ten total years studying. He was known as a fantastic student by his teachers.
When he was 21 years old, a famine struck Spain, leaving many of Spain’s population out on the streets with nothing to their name. In response to seeing the poverty in the streets of the city, Dominic sold everything he owned. He sold the furniture out of his house and the clothes off of his back. With the money he received in exchange for his worldly possessions, he bought food for the homeless of Spain.
Despite his love for his studies, Dominic also sold his manuscripts that he used to study. When his fellow students asked him why he did not keep what he needed for his education, he responded, “Would you have me study from these dead skins when people are dying of hunger?”
3. A road trip introduced him to his vocation
At 33, Dominic traveled with the Bishop of Osma, Diego de Acebo. They were on a diplomatic mission to find a bride for the crown prince Ferdinand. Although the marriage negotiations were successful, the princess passed away before journeying back with the envoy.
However, on the trip with the bishop, Dominic met the Albigensians (also known as the Cathari). This heretical group believed that any human matter was evil. As a result, they denied the Incarnation. The group also took little food and water, and practiced harsh fasts. Christians who encountered the Albigensians were impressed with their fasting and lifestyle. Meanwhile, they saw Catholic priests and preachers dressing in expensive clothing and traveling in style.
In response to the heresy, Dominic realized that preachers who were truly holy and humble could win over those who believed in the Albigensian heresy.
4. Dominic is the patron saint of astronomers
Dominic is the patron saint of the Dominican order and of those falsely accused, but he is also the patron saint of astronomers. What does this saint and those who study the stars have in common?
At Dominic’s baptism, his mother saw a star shining on his chest. Often, artists depict Dominic with stars.
5. The founder of modern sculpture carved Dominic’s shrine
Dominic passed away to his Heavenly reward when he was 51 years old. Author Jean Guiraud wrote that Dominic was “exhausted with the austerities and labors of his career.” His brother monks lay him on the ground. Even when he was dying, Dominic continued his preaching. He told his brothers to be humble and to treasure their poverty.
After his death, his body was moved to a simple coffin. Thirteen years after his death, Pope Gregory IX canonized Dominic in the year 1234. In 1267, Dominic’s body was transferred to an official shrine, which was carved by Nicola Pisano. Pisano was an Italian sculptor who was known for his classical Roman sculpture styling. He’s also known as the founder of modern sculpture.