A "missionary fire must always burn," in the Church which urges us to proclaim the Gospel to all and to live in accordance with what is proclaimed, without the "temptation of career and of power" even though, it is present at times. These are the lessons to be drawn from the life and work of St. Dominic of Guzman, the founder of the Dominicans, whose figure was outlined today by Benedict XVI to eight thousand people present in the Paul VI Hall for the general audience. A meeting also animated by the performance of a group of acrobats, to the Pope’s obvious enjoyment, who applauded them.
Reflecting on the personality of the founder of the Order of Preachers, known as the Dominicans, the Pope also recommended priests and seminarians to lovingly care for the "cultural dimension" of faith "so that the beauty of Christian truth can be better understood and faith can be truly nourished, strengthened and even defended. "
A contemporary of St. Francis, St. Dominic, just like the saint of Assisi, made a major contribution to the renewal of the Church of the time. It was said of him that he "always spoke with God and of God." Dominic, said the pope, was born in Caleruga in Spain around 1170, from a noble family of Old Castile, supported by an uncle, a priest, he was able to attend school in Palencia. As a student he showed a love for the poor to the point of selling his books, which at the time were of great value to help the poor hit by a great famine.
Ordained priest, he was elected a canon of the cathedral chapter in his diocese. "While this appointment may have given him prestige in the Church and in society, he did not interpret it as a personal privilege, or as the beginning of a brilliant career in the church, but as a service to render with dedication and humility. Is it not - said Benedict XVI – perhaps a temptation? A career and power? A temptation from which even those who have a role in animation and Government in the Church are not immune? I spoke of this a few months ago, during the consecration of some bishops: We do not seek power, prestige, esteem for ourselves. We know how things in civil society, and, not infrequently in the Church, suffer from the fact that many of those who have been given responsibility, work for themselves and not for the community. "
Returning to the life of St. Dominic, together with his bishop he went on diplomatic missions to northern Europe entrusted them by the King of Castile. Thus Dominic realized the challenge that nations not as yet evangelized presented for the Church and the laceration that weakened the religious life of the Church in southern France, where heretical groups were at work. "Missionary work towards those who did not know the light of the Gospel and the work of re-evangelization of the Christian communities thus became the apostolic goals which Dominic proposed to pursue. The Pope asked him to devote himself to preaching to the Albigensian heretics "who advocated a dualistic conception of reality, with two equally powerful founding principles, good and evil; and this group despised, therefore, matter, as emanating from the principle of evil, they rejected marriage, denied the incarnation, the sacraments and the resurrection of the body. But they "held a the life of poverty and austerity in high esteem, and in this sense were also exemplary, and criticized the wealth of the clergy of that time."
Dominic "accepted the mission with enthusiasm," a mission he realised "through the very example of his poor and austere lifestyle, through preaching of the Gospel and public debates”. This is how St. Dominic spent his entire life. "His children realized the other dreams of St. Dominic, mission ad gentes, to those who did not yet know Jesus, and mission to those who lived in cities, especially the university, where new intellectual trends were a challenge for the faith of the learned”.
"This great saint reminds us that a missionary fire must always burn in the heart of the Church, relentlessly pushing us to bring the first proclamation of the Gospel and, where necessary, to a new evangelization: Christ, in fact, is the most valuable asset and men and women of every age and all places have the right to know and love Him! And it is comforting to see how many there are in the Church today - pastors and lay people, members of ancient religious orders and new ecclesial movements - who happily spend their lives for this supreme ideal: to proclaim and witness the Gospel. "
Dominic was joined by others: thus, from the first foundation of Toulouse, the Order of Preachers was born, which in "full obedience” to the directives of the popes took the ancient rule of St. Augustine, tailored to the needs time.
It was an apostolic life, leading him and his companions to preach moving from place to place, but returning then to their monasteries, places of study, prayer and community life. Specifically, he wanted to emphasize two values considered essential to the success of the mission of evangelization: the community life in poverty and study. First, Dominic and his preachers, "presented themselves as beggars, that is, without vast ownership of land to administer. This element made them available to study and itinerant preaching and constituted a concrete testimony to the people. "
Secondly, Dominic, "with a brave gesture, wanted his followers to acquire a solid theological formation, and did not hesitate to send them to universities, although many clerics were diffident of these cultural institutions."
Dominic said the Pope, "reminds us that theology has a spiritual and pastoral dimension that enriches the mind and life. The priests, consecrated persons and also all the faithful can find a deep inner joy in contemplating the beauty of the truths that come from God, truth is always relevant and always alive. "
When Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, "his work had already been very successful." Dominic was canonized in 1234, and his life "shows us two essential ways to ensure that apostolic action is effective. First of all, Marian devotion, which he cultivated with tenderness and left as a precious legacy to his spiritual children, who in the history of the Church have had the great merit of spreading the prayer of the holy rosary. " Secondly, Dominic, who took care of some convents in France and Rome, "deeply believed in the value of intercessory prayer for the success of apostolic work. Only in heaven will we truly understand how the prayers of the cloistered effectively accompany apostolic action. "