Saint Dominic

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Eighteenth Wednesday of the Year I

Numbers 13:1-2, 25--14:1, 26a-29a, 34-35
Psalm 105: 6-7ab, 13-14, 21-22, 23 (R. 4a)
Matthew 15:21-28

The Mercy of God

Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, "What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?" Saint Dominic's great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics: humble adoration, heartfelt pity for sinners, and exultation in the Divine Mercy. Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching had to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means -- humble and adapted to our weakness -- produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, "five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death." The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic -- that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin -- and, at the same, full of hope -- that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God's mercy.

The Naysayers

In today's lesson from the Book of Numbers Moses sends spies into the Promised Land to see what it is like. They return from their mission with a single cluster of grapes; it is so enormous that they carry it on a pole between two of them. "We came to the land to which you sent us," they said, "it flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit" (Num 13:27). Then, what happens? They say that, in the presence of the inhabitants of the land -- veritable giants -- they felt like mere grasshoppers. They turn into naysayers, pessimists, cynics. They spread discouraging reports among the people, causing them to lose hope in the plan of God. This causes the people to wail and weep.

Two Sins

The Responsorial Psalm tells us exactly what the two sins of the people were. "They forgot the works of God; they did not wait for His counsel" (Ps 105:13). The remedy for these two sins is found in the rosary because in the rosary we remember the works of God and wait for His counsel. The rosary is an unfailing support for the theological virtue of hope. The rosary silences naysayers, pessimists, and cynics, because it immerses the soul in the remembrance of the works of God, and quiets the soul in the presence of the Virgin full of grace. In times of crisis -- and at all times -- hold fast to the rosary as to a lifeline. The rosary is a way of waiting for the counsel of God.

Crying After the Lord

The merit of the woman in the Gospel is, as the disciples said to Jesus, that she kept on "crying after them" (Mt 1523). Jesus was silent, saying not a word to her, but she cried all the more. She was a Canaanite. Jesus tested her by saying that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. What did she do? "She came and knelt before Him, saying, 'Lord, help me'" (Mt 15:25). Jesus tested her again. "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." The woman had an answer ready: "Yes, Lord, yet even the puppies eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" (Mt 15:27). With that, Jesus lets her win. "'O woman, great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt.' And her daughter was cured from that hour" (Mt 15:28).

The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary has all the attributes of the Canannite woman's pleading. It is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother "subsidizes" it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: "Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt" (Mt 15:28).

The Triumph of Grace

The Gospel ends with a healing obtained by persevering prayer and by faith. Saint Dominic's Nine Ways of Prayer -- and his tenth, the rosary -- lead to our own healing and to the healing of those for whom we pray. We need to be healed of our inclination to be naysayers, to disparage the possibilities opened by grace, to spread gloom and discouragement, to foment murmuring and pessimism. We need to be healed of our forgetfulness of the mercies of God and of the restlessness that keeps us from waiting upon His counsel. Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.

1 Comments

I learn so much here at Vultus Christi...I was educated by Dominican nuns and an earlier post here rang bells. Our school consisted of one central building and a cluster of local houses bought as the need arose, blessed by names like St. Catherines, Blessed Imelda's, St. Martin in-the-field and in the main building, St. Dominic's corridor,which was where the library was situated and where the sixth formers gathered. It would be a great shame if the names of our Saints faded into the past, but a glance at any birth registrar statistics does not augur well.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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