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‘Let Him Not Lose What He So Dear Hath Bought.’

From Cell 25 of the Convent of San Marco, by Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), 15th Century

Think on the very làmentable pain,

Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,

Think on His blood beat out at every vein,

Think on His precious heart carvèd in twain,

Think how for thy redemption all was wrought:

Let Him not lose what He so dear hath bought.

–Pico della Mirandola (translated by St Thomas More)

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.