Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar
In honor of the 800th
anniversary of the Order of Preachers, Donald J. Goergen, OP, offers a new
look at the life of its founder—St. Dominic: The Story of a Preaching
Friar. The book reads more like a memoir than a biography, feels more
like a family photo album than a history. Full of well-researched details
and rich with the chronology of events in Dominic’s life and preaching
career, Goergen makes it easy to imagine meeting Dominic for ourselves.
Here is a man who gave birth to a family of which Goergen is a part, a
family of friars and religious women, of priests and theologians, of active
sisters and committed lay people. He makes it clear that Dominic’s story is
kept alive in its telling and retelling, and in Goergen’s accessible account
we find a Dominic very much alive in his own time and place, authentically
human on his way to sainthood.
Familiar legends appear alongside
facts adding savor to the text. We hear about the dream Dominic’s mother
received before his birth and Dominic’s famed encounter with the Albigensian
innkeeper. But whether Goergen is discussing a detail of Dominic’s life
supported by research or debated by scholars, he puts them squarely in the
context of the social, economic, religious, and political context of the 13th
century. Our portrait of Dominic is not singular. We meet communities of
preachers and members of popular religious movements outside the church,
popes and landowning benefactors, bishops and lay women with whom Dominic
spent his days. It becomes very clear that Dominic’s formation in a life of
prayer and contemplation led to his life of active ministry, always in
cooperation with other people who believed in the preaching.
To facilitate our entry into the times, Goergen includes
sidebars along the way with helpful definitions and introductions to key
historical figures. Though themes can be somewhat repetitive, Goergen’s
exploration of Dominic’s interior life and possible motivations, of what the
saint was doing during years when his actions and whereabouts are uncertain,
compels us to reflect on the life of a man who was fully responsive to God
and committed to preaching the Gospel. Whether Dominic intended to found an
international religious movement remains open to question. What we know is
that Dominic’s service to the preaching led to changes in the Church
at a time when the world was ready for an expansion of the Gospel. Through
it all, Dominic remained a friar among friars, a humble servant of the
preaching and of those who would also serve it. Goergen’s St.
Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar celebrates the Order of
Preachers’ inheritance: the dynamic history of its first members and the
preaching life the worldwide Dominican family continues to share.