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Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe on the Life of Saint Dominic


This summer, the Dominican Order celebrated 800 years since the death of their founder, Saint Dominic. Dominican Priest Father Patrick Mary Briscoe chats with Father Dave about his new book, “Saint. Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God.”

Father Patrick talks about the life of Saint Dominic. “He was born in Spain and started pursuing his vocation from a very young age… There was no wild conversion like Augustine of Hippo, Ignatius of Loyola, or Francis of Assisi. Dominic was raised in a very devout family and interested in religious life as a kid, but his vocation story took a twist when he was traveling through Southern France with his local Bishop Diego. There, he encountered a group of Catholics who had embraced a twist of the faith called albigensian. That’s a long word for heresy. That’s where Saint Dominic comes up with the idea to found a new religious order to meet this crisis of the Church. Saint Dominic cared about the problems of his day, and he spent the rest of his life trying to address them.”

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“There aren’t records of St. Dominic’s homilies,” Father Patrick Continues. “What we have from St. Dominic are the records of his canonization trial. This is where we get a sense of who he was from the people who knew him best. People said he was a man of deep prayer. He was known for his compassion. He was known for always speaking to God or of God. We come to know him from the testimony of others who knew him… The way that you see Dominic most clearly is in the history of the order because he really just kicked something off. He only governed in the Order of Preachers for five years. The order was started in 1216 and Dominic died in 1221. Dominic understood what it means to just give your life over, to give a project over to the Church and then sit back and watch it take form and change. He submitted himself to the rule of the brothers. Dominic was outvoted on stuff. We have historical records of this, and he accepted the decisions of the brethren. So, we see his legacy in what the Dominicans have become 800 years later.”

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Father Patrick explains the relevance of Saint Dominic today. “Dominic was fighting this false view of the human person. I think this is an ever-present temptation of Catholics. You have a big conversion, you start thinking of the spiritual life and all of a sudden, the normal stuff fades. You think you have to stop being a fully formed, fully engaged human being, because now you have this religious life. Part of what Dominic fought was this temptation to over-spiritualize everything, to abandon the goods of the body, or to abandon the goods of human life. And in this way, he was very incarnational. For example, Saint Dominic talked about the goodness of marriage to a sect that didn’t think that marriage was a good or holy thing. The human piece is important particularly in his time because of controversial views, but also something that we carry around with us today.”