The specificity of Dominic`s charism

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The specificity of Dominic`s charism
The specificity
of Dominic’s charism
The sermo sapientiae; the gift of knowing and making known the mysteries of
faith. Rooting out errors. Caritas veritatis is the substance of the Dominican
project. An ideal born in time but projected in eternity. Disciples of the truth in
order to become teachers of truth: preaching. Christ is the saving truth. Contemplation: the mysterious presence of God and his love. Humility.
Sr. M. Aster Rafiq
(original text in Italian)
We can identify the charism in
the sermo sapientiae, the “gift
wisdom” (1 Cor 12:8) which is
the gift of knowing and making
known the mysteries of the faith,
and of knowing and making
known that mysterious and
hidden wisdom which God before the ages had predestined
for our redemption and which
he revealed through his Spirit.
(1Cor 2:6).
“Every Order” said the Lord to
St Catherine of Siena (Dialogue
CLVIII) – “shines for some partic-
ular virtue, though all the virtues
have life from charity… your father Dominic willed that his
brothers should have no
thought but my honour and the
salvation of souls, through the
light of wisdom. He made this
light the main aim of his Order,
so that he could root out the errors of his time. He took up the
office of the Word, my only-begotten Son. He appeared in the
world as an apostle, and with
truth and light he sowed my
word, dispelling the darkness
and giving light. He was a light
that I offered the world through
Caleruega, Spain: mosaic depicting episodes from St Dominic’s life.
Dante Alighieri expressed Dominic’s charism poetically when
he wrote:
“through wisdom there came to
earth a shaft of light from the
cherubs”. (Par XI, 38-39)
La caritas veritatis esprime la
sostanza del progetto di S.
Domenico; è il modo domenicano di amare Dio; costituisce
perciò la nota specifica della
spiritualità dei figli di S.
Domenico ed è il principio informatore di tutta la loro vita: una
vita consacrata al culto della
verità: verità amata, studiata,
contemplata, vissuta, predicata
e difesa
Portrait of St Dominic (Bologna, 1946).
In the time of St Dominic
Even if Dominic’s inspiration
came to him through the needs
of his own time, his ideal lives
on, because it is not bound to
that particular historical moment.
La conoscenza e la diffusione
della verità è il compito precipuo del cristiano di tutti i
tempi perché è il compito che si
prefisse Cristo, il quale venne
nel mondo proprio per rendere
testimonianza alla verità (Gv
Dominicans, men or women, are
first of all contemplatives. Before becoming teachers, they
are disciples of truth; before becoming fathers, mothers, generators of the truth in others, they
themselves are generated by
the truth. This is “living the truth
in love” - as the Apostle Paul
describes it – with the aim of
making humanity grow into
Christ its Head (Eph 4:15). To live
by gospel truth oneself is the
precondition for making others
grow towards Christ.
Humbert of Romans wrote: “We
obtain by contemplation what
preaching... so the more we
contemplate the more we are
fitted for preaching…” . Il
domenicano deve dedicarsi allo
studio assiduo della Sacra Dottrina.
The truth which we love and
which is our passion, our life, is
not a “cold” truth which enlightens only the intellect, but
Christ himself, the Truth who
saves. It is truth which matures in
study, is made living and real
during meditation and is assimilated and experienced in contemplation.
La contemplazione infusa è una
conoscenza intuitiva,
conoscenza viva e concreta di
Dio, che ha il suo principio e il
suo termine nell’Amore
It is not a simple raising of the
mind to God or a speculative
consideration of divine truth; its
object is not God the Creator, it
is not the first cause or last end:
it is God “my Father”, God who
loved me so much that he sent
his own Son; it is Christ my
brother and saviour who suffered and died for me, it is God
the source of my beatitude.
Even if it is an act of the intellect,
contemplation is effected by an
act of love and vital communion
with God and leads to an increase of love. Contemplation
consists in a mysterious perception of God’s presence. It is a
loving and as it were experimental knowledge of God; a
“seeing” of him, a possessing of
God and being possessed by
him; a vision of God possible on
this earth.
“The wisdom that comes from
above is essentially something
pure; it is also peaceable, kindly
and considerate; it is full of
mercy and shows itself by doing
good; there no trace of partiality
or hypocrisy in it” (Js 3:17).
These principles show us the
moral virtues needed by those
who wish to be disciples of
Chi vuole conquistare la
sapienza deve avere la purezza
interiore (incontaminata), deve
essere libero dal peccato e
possedere una trasparenza spirituale .
Wisdom will never enter into a
soul of a wrong-doer, nor dwell
in a body enslaved to sin (Ws
1:4). Those who put themselves
in wisdom’s school must be
workers for peace; mild, yielding
towards others, docile, willing to
be obedient and open to dialogue; humble, and knowing
they can learn from everyone.
They are merciful, charitable, full
of good works, and do not sit in
judgement of others.
Tomb of St Dominic, in his church at Bologna,
Crucifix, with Dominican Saints (Carpentier).
Below: a drawing by Pilarin, illustrating St Dominic’s daily life, centred around Christ.
There are two actions which
spring from love of truth: contemplation and handing on to
others the fruit of contemplation. “Caritas veritatis” is love of
God, the first truth, and love of
neighbour to whom that truth is
passed on. It is conversing with
God in contemplation and
speaking of God in the proclamation of the gospel message,
the “speaking with God or of
God”. This is no abstract love; it
is a living love which drives one
to action, which urges one to
pass on to others that truth and
that divine life which are acquired in contemplation.
It implies taking on the office of
the Word, which St Thomas
Aquinas calls “The Word that
breathes forth love”. Dominican
contemplation is not light which
merely shines; it is a light which
illuminates, which flows out, because it is also love. Just as it is
more perfect to give life than to
have life, so it is better to give to
others the fruits of one’s own
contemplation than just to contemplate.
Dominic was animated by great
apostolic zeal. The testimony of
Jordan of Saxony was quite specific about this: “He worked with
all his strength and with ardent
zeal to gain the greatest possible number of souls for Christ;
and there was in his heart an extraordinary and almost unbelievable desire for everyone’s salvation”.
Dominic’s ardent zeal was born
from his assiduous conversation
with God, in contemplation of
the divine mysteries and from
desire to imitate Christ the Saviour.
(part 2 - to be continued)
1. P. Alfonso d’Amato O. P., II Progetto di
San Domenico, ed. Roma. P. 8.9.10.
2. Ibid;
3. S. Domenico: Profilo Psicologico e Idee
4. P. Alfonso d’Amato O. P., II Progetto di
San Domenico, ed. Roma
5. Ibid.
Sr. M. Aster Rafiq
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