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The making of a saint

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves." Matthew 10.16

When an energetic pope meets a charismatic preacher in the heat of a crisis great things can happen... Such was the case in the early 13th century when Pope Gregory IX set about ridding Christendom of heresy around the time that Dominic of Caleruega's newly formed Order of Preachers was gaining traction. By this stage Dominic himself was dead but, in Jordan of Saxony, he had a successor who was equal to his legacy.

According to church historian Steven Watts, Jordan's response was to publish a biography of his predecessor, which he called the Libellus ("little book") in order to introduce Dominic to a new generation of aspiring clerics. Libellus amounted to a manifesto for Dominic's canonisation, which was a useful boost both to his own credibility and to the credibility of what became the Dominican Order.

Dominic's personal attributes were three-fold: humility, poverty and compassion. For all his natural gifts, Dominic was reticent about advancing his own reputation, yet he was quick to put his faith into action as his remarkable acts of generosity confirm. In the face of human misery and need, he followed his Master, Jesus, into a life of poverty, giving away his possessions and inspiring others to do the same. His motive was compassion which he demonstrated through his lachrymosity (his practice of the gift of tears). To these virtues he added a disciplined lifestyle and an appetite for learning, which honed his preaching skills.

For Jordan, Dominic epitomised what was required of the true contemporary disciple, which commendation he expressed through the metaphor of light. Light reflecting Jesus as the ultimate "light of the world". But would that put Dominic out of reach, or inspire others to follow his example?



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