Our Dominican family is rich in Saints and Blesseds who have left us heroic examples of fidelity to Christ and His Church.
Saint Catherine of Siena
‘If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!’ — St. Catherine of Siena
‘If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!’ — St. Catherine of Siena
St. Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347 in Siena, Italy. From an early age she was favored with mystical experiences, and vowed to give herself completely to Jesus. At sixteen, she was clothed in the Dominican habit as a third-order member. After a three year seclusion at home in intimate union with Jesus, our Lord bade her to go out and serve Him by ministering to sick, poor and suffering souls. St. Catherine was a spiritual mother to many souls, and despite her lack of formal education, was a prolific writer and a brilliant theologian. Her writings, compiled in The Dialogue on the love and mercy of God are timeless in wisdom. A true daughter of the Church, she labored tirelessly to heal the division of the Great Western Schism. She is one of four women Doctors of the Church and a co-patroness of Europe. St. Catherine is an exemplary model of balancing contemplative prayer and active works of mercy. We emulate our sister Catherine by living our religious consecration fully and pouring ourselves out in the Lord’s service in order to set the world on fire with Divine Love.
An example to us all in his love of Mary and the Most Holy Eucharist, St. Hyacinth, who is known as “the Apostle of the North,” was born to a noble family near Breslau between 1183 and 1185.
He was a pious child, and after being well-educated at Europe’s leading universities, was ordained a priest along with his brother, Ceslaus, also a blessed in the Dominican Order.
While accompanying their uncle to Rome for his episcopal ordination for the Diocese of Krakow, Hyacinth and Ceslaus encountered St. Dominic. They asked to join the Order of Preachers and began a brief novitiate directly under St. Dominic’s guidance, who planned to send them back to Poland as the first Dominicans in that territory. They were soon back in Poland spreading the Gospel. In the course of his missionary journeys, St. Hyacinth evangelized not only Poland, but also the countries from Scandinavia to Northern China.
One of the best-known stories about St. Hyacinth connects him in a special way with our community. While St. Hyacinth was in Kiev, the city was invaded by Tartars. As he prepared to leave the city carrying the Blessed Sacrament, a large statue of Our Lady spoke to him and asked if she was to be left behind. The Saint replied that the statue was too heavy for him to carry, but Our Lady assured him that the Lord would lighten the load. Whereupon the Saint left the city of Kiev with the Eucharist in one hand and the statue of Mary in the other. It is for this reason that St. Hyacinth is depicted in sacred art holding the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Our Lady in his hands.
We imitate St. Hyacinth by striving to bring the Gospel to the world through a love for Jesus present in the Eucharist and through our life of union with Our Lady expressed particularly through our Total Consecration to her according to the formula of St. Louis de Montfort.
Blessed Jordan of Saxony
At the death of St. Dominic in 1221, the question must have arisen: who could be found to succeed such a saintly man as Master General of the Order of Preachers?
This formidable task was given to Blessed Jordan, a former preacher at the University of Paris who had been attracted to the Order by Blessed Reginald of Orleans. Blessed Jordan is, perhaps, best known for his tremendous success in attracting vocations; he is said to have brought more than a thousand young men into the Order. It was his kindness and inspiration of sanctity above all that drew so many to devote their lives in like manner.
As daughters of St. Dominic, we are inspired by the zeal of Blessed Jordan to witness to Christ by his simple holiness of life. With our filial devotion to Our Lady as Patroness of the Dominican Order, we are especially indebted to Blessed Jordan for establishing our well-loved custom of singing the “Salve Regina” each night after Compline.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio was born on Holy Saturday, April 6, 1901, and was raised in Turin, Italy. While not from a devout family, Pier grew up with a certain love and compassion for others that reflected his love for Christ.
Pope St. John Paul II called him the “Man of the Beatitudes”. Throughout his life he was a peacemaker during turbulent times, a pillar of strength with his eyes on the Lord leading others by his example, courage, trust and devotion. He was extremely compassionate to the poor and often performed works of mercy without the knowledge of his family.
Pier Giorgio joined the Dominican Family as a Tertiary on May 28, 1922. He had a very strong devotion to Saint Catherine of Siena. He was known for his athletic ability, and especially enjoyed mountain climbing and hiking. Pier was full of life and loved the Church, marked by a deep faith. This faith was tested when polio rapidly paralyzed him as a young man. He passed away on July 4, 1925. People from all over Turin poured into the cathedral to view his body and show their gratitude and esteem for this man of charity and mercy. His family and many others were surprised by this, learning for the first time of his abundantly generous and compassionate works towards the less fortunate.
He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on May 20, 1990, and is one of the greatest modern Dominican Saints and patrons for youth and young adults.
Pope Saint Pius V
Pope St. Pius V is known as the “Pope of the Rosary” for his courageous leadership at the Battle of Lepanto, when he called for Forty Hours Devotion to be held in Rome, and the Rosary to be recited on board ships.
On October 7, 1571, by miraculous intervention, the small Christian fleet defeated the powerful Turks in the Bay of Lepanto and safeguarded the faith of Christendom. Under Pius V, the Church also fought the heresies of Luther, Calvin and the Lombards that were rampant throughout Europe. He issued the Catechism of the Council of Trent in 1566, the first definitive and systematic presentation of the deposit of Faith for the Universal Church. He was known for his heroic charity towards the poor.
Upon his election to the papacy he immediately sent the money for his banquet to hospitals and the poor of the city. St. Pius V is indeed a great model of the love of God, defense of the truth, and trust in our Mother Mary against all odds.
Blessed Reginald of Orleans
Reginald was a man of great intelligence and an eloquent preacher, but perhaps his greatest quality was the love and devotion he had for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To many people, he appeared to have everything necessary in this earthly life, but Reginald desired more, to consecrate his life completely to God. Before his entrance into the Dominican Order, Reginald fell deathly ill and was healed by Mary after she presented to him the white scapular. Reginald received the Dominican habit from the hands of St. Dominic and after zealously laboring for the salvation of souls was the first Dominican to enter paradise wearing the beautiful garment of white.
As Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we are grateful for the gift of our holy habit and humbly realize the responsibilities that come with so wonderful a privilege. The scapular reminds us of Mary protecting us and spurs us on to imitate her perfect obedience and fidelity to the Father. Like Reginald, we take Mary as our mother, offering all things to God through her hands, and strive to advance in our devotion to her daily.
Blessed Sadoc and Companions
At the death of every Dominican a song to his Beloved Mother is sung to usher him into her arms – the ‘Salve Regina’ (or ‘Hail, Holy Queen’).
But where and when did this tradition start?
In 1260, as the Tartars invaded Christian Sandomir in Poland, a community of Dominicans was praying Matins while a novice read the martyrology for the next day: “the 49 martyrs of Sandomir”. When the friars realized they were being warned of their death, they spent the remainder of the night and all the next day preparing to meet the Lord. At last, after the brethren had finished praying Compline, and as they processed singing the ‘Salve Regina’ to Mary, the Tartars broke through the church door. While the Tartars intended to bring death to these Dominicans, they actually brought them great gifts – crowns of martyrdom.
We can learn a great deal from the faithful witness of Blessed Sadoc and his brother friars. Mary will be equally faithful to us. Mary is our Mother and the Queen of Martyrs. She will accompany all of us at the hour of death, and even in our little everyday deaths to self, through which the bride of Christ becomes more conformed to Jesus, her Spouse, on the cross. Who but Mary can teach us how to proclaim “Fiat,” when it means our hearts are joined to His with the lance, that our blood may run together as one oblation to the Father?
Saint Rose of Lima
Born in Lima, Peru on April 20, 1586, St. Rose of Lima was a beautiful and gifted child, who from an early age began to practice the virtues of humility and obedience.
She undertook great penances for the conversion of sinners. At twenty, she took the habit of the Third Order of St. Dominic. She consecrated all her time to God by working tirelessly for the salvation of souls and the good of her country. Her intense prayer life was the foundation on which all her activities were based.
Following the example of St. Rose of Lima, we build our active life upon the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary. By these means we give our daily work to God for the conversion of sinners.
Saint Thomas Aquinas Angelic Doctor
St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., is arguably the greatest theologian God has given to the Church.
He is an incomparable philosopher and teacher, and a radiant light among the illustrious saints of the Order of Preachers.
To this gentle saint, however, there is a depth and holiness that is often overlooked. When one peels off centuries of commentary and interpretation, the person and sanctity of this great saint emerge. So often Catholics and non-Catholics alike associate St. Thomas with a motionless placid-like spirituality. On the contrary – St. Thomas’ spirituality was one of vitality and ardent longing for God. The question of his childhood: “What is God?” was the throbbing force in his life, compelling him toward union with the Beloved.
His was a Eucharistic spirituality, evident in his hymns that were, in effect, love-poems to the Hidden God. And what zeal for souls – his entire life was given to the good of souls by the preaching of Truth.
The Angelic Doctor has much to teach us still, nearly 800 years after his death, by his writings, preaching and teaching. His title was “Master” in all these aspects.
We can also learn from him as “Master of the Spiritual Life.” These are St. Thomas’ most difficult lessons to learn, because he teaches by silence and humility, the watchwords of his spirituality.