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Sanctus Pater Noster Dominicus

Cell 7 of the Convent of San Marcoby Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), 15th Century

Cell 7 of the Convent of San Marco
by Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), 15th Century

Today is the feast of Saint Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Order of Preachers.

As previously noted in Korrektiv, Holy Father Dominic practiced ‘nine ways of prayer’, based on distinct gestures or attitudes of the body. The Nashville Dominicans have a superb illustrated outline.

Blessed Fra Angelico‘s fresco of the mocking of Christ (above) depicts Dominic off to the side, reading — but, it’s safe to suppose from the context, not just reading: In his Eighth Way of Prayer, Saint Dominic integrated the acts of prayer and reading. Dominic’s reading-prayer did not consist only in his meditation on the text, but also in his reverent handling of the book as a physical object, and in his engagement with the Divine Author as a presence in the room. The Nashville Dominicans quote Fr Simon Tugwell, OP’s description of the Eighth Way:

Sober and alert and anointed with a spirit of devotion which he had drawn from the words of God which had been sung in choir or during the meal, [Dominic] would settle himself down to read or pray, recollecting himself in himself and fixing himself in the presence of God. Sitting there quietly, he would open some book before him, arming himself first with the sign of the cross, and then he would read. And he would be moved in his mind as delightfully as if he heard the Lord speaking to him. […] It was as if he were arguing with a friend; at one moment he would appear to be feeling impatient, nodding his head energetically, then he would seem to be listening quietly, then you would see him disputing and struggling, and laughing and weeping all at once, fixing then lowering his gaze, then again speaking quietly and beating his breast. […] The man of God had a prophetic way of passing over quickly from reading to prayer and from meditation to contemplation.

When he was reading like this on his own, he used to venerate the book and bow to it and sometimes kiss it, particularly if it was a book of the gospels or if he was reading the words which Christ had spoken with his own lips. And sometimes he used to hide his face and turn it aside, or he would bury his face in his hands or hide it a little in his scapular. And then he would also become anxious and full of yearning, and he would also rise a little, respectfully, and bow as if he were thanking some very special person for favors received. Then, quite refreshed and at peace in himself, he would continue reading his book.

Comments

  1. Thanks.

    AMDG

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      You’re very welcome.

      • It’s very nice to see these things you post in the middle of a crazy, hectic day–a moment of peace and beauty.

        AMDG

        • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

          Well, that comment makes my day, Janet.

          Even in his most dramatic and expressive work, Fra Angelico never seems to lose that gentle, confident sense of serenity. Cf. that last paragraph above, about how Holy Father Dominic would unselfconsciously express his emotions in prayer, and then return to calm meditative reading. I think this is part of the Dominican charism, going right back to the beginning, and it is, for me, one of the Order’s chief attractions. Something to appreciate in others and try to cultivate in oneself.

          • Yes, when I think about it, serene pretty much describes all of his work. Fra Angelico may be my favorite artist.

            I’ve been surrounded by Dominicans lately. The Nasvhille Dominicans teach at the school at the parish where I work now, I have been going to Mass at a Dominican parish while I’m staying in Memphis waiting for my house to get fixed. (Please pray that it get fixed soon.), I had my old boss, a Dominican priest, over to eat a couple of weeks ago and I spent the evening in a discussion group last night, one of whom was a delightful young Dominican priest named Fr. Augustine.

            AMDG

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

              Janet,

              ‘Gnarly’ doesn’t begin to describe that photo of your freezer. I do pray you get your house fixed soon — and that you can take some satisfaction in reclaiming it. Meanwhile, I hope that the Dominican family continues to surround you and help sustain and strengthen you in whatever ways you may need. (And that includes Blessed Angelico and the art he left behind for us!)

              • Maybe if I look hard enough, I can see Blessed Angelico peeping out from behind one of those sprouts. Probably not. That was a really creepy experience for someone who has watched way too many X-Files.

                AMDG

              • Dominicans on NPR.

                http://www.npr.org/2013/08/13/211639502/life-as-prayer-the-singing-nuns-of-ann-arbor

                “‘Honestly, I don’t listen to very much music, and most of us don’t listen to very much music that’s recorded. Almost all of the music that we encounter on a day-to-day basis is music we make ourselves,’ says Sister Maria Suso…”

                I feeling incredibly jealous.

                AMDG

              • This morning at church there was a sign that said the Lay Dominicans were meeting after Mass and that there would be a slideshow about St. James’ Way and the homeland of St. Dominic. I am planning to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella sometime, so we went. A group from the parish had just returned from a trip to Santiago and Calaruega and I found the slides from Calaruega really interesting.

                AMDG

                • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

                  Thanks much for this, Janet! Did the slides from Calaruega contain any buildings, or portions of buildings, from around Dominic’s own time? Even if not, later monuments are interesting for what they tell us about the lives and times of their makers, as well as their subjects.

                  I hope you do make the Compostela pilgrimage. Hope I do, too.

                  • It was not a very well-presented presentation, so I’m not sure, but I know that there was a slide of Dominic’s mother’s wine cellar, and a fountain that was built at the place where Dominic was born. Most of the slides were from a museum and I wonder if it wasn’t built on the site where his family lived. Most of the building, I think, was later. I’ll have to look into this when I have a minute. Ha.

                    AMDG

  2. Imelda/Sophia, O.P. says:

    Thank you for this, Brother Angelico, and for the link to that magnificent summary.

    Happy Feast Day!

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