Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Dominic of Silos, Abbot and Confessor

detail from 'Saint Dominic of Silos enthroned as Abbot', by Bartolomé Bermejo, worked 1474 to 1495; currently in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Saint Dominic, the Benedictine Abbot, celebrated on account of the many miracles that he performed, was born at Canas, a village in Spain, of indigent but virtuous parents. In his youth, he guarded his father’s sheep, and led a very innocent life, occupying much of his time in prayer and devout meditation. Thus the desire grew slowly on him to leave all temporal affairs and serve the Almighty in a desert. In consequence of this, he left his home, chose a convenient place, built a small hut and there passed some time in great peace and calmness of heart. God, however, inspired him with the thought that it would be much more beneficial for his soul, if others were to guide him in the path of virtue which he had resolved to pursue. Hence Dominic left his solitude, went to the monastery of Saint Aemilian, where he was received into the Order of Saint Benedict. In a few years, he made so much progress, both in virtue and learning, that he was ordained priest, and some time later was elected Abbot of the monastery. He administered his functions most perfectly, until the despotism of an avaricious king banished him from Navarre. The occasion of this was as follows: The treasures of this monastery, or rather of its church, had so dazzled the king’s eyes, that he was continually occupied with the thought how to get them into his possession. At first, he demanded them with civility of Dominic as the Superior. Seeing however, that he could not prevail on him, he began to threaten. Dominic remained unmoved, and declared publicly that he would rather give his life than permit anything consecrated to God to be so unjustly taken away. The king was so violently enraged at this, that he banished the Abbot and some other religious from the country, and took undisturbed possession of the monastery. Dominic went to the king of Aragon and Castile, Ferdinand I who joyfully received him, having heard much of his virtues and holiness. He gave him the monastery of Silos, which, having formerly enjoyed a great reputation, then stood empty on account of the unfavorable times. The holy Abbot repaired the monastery and church as well as he could, and occupied it with his religious, in the name of the Lord. God sent him several persons, partly youths, partly men of riper years, who desired to lead a religious life. Dominic led them to perfection, not only by instructions, but much more by his example. For twenty-three years he governed this monastery as Abbot, and all who knew him, honored and admired in him, a most perfect example of all virtues. The fame of his holiness spread over all Spain, and the Almighty increased it by several miracles. Not to mention the blind whom he restored to sight, the dumb to whom he gave speech, the deaf to whom he gave hearing, he had an especial gift to free captives. At that period, many Christians were held in captivity by the Moors, and their miserable condition was an object of great compassion to the holy Abbot, not so much for the hardships they endured, as for the danger in which they were to abandon their faith. Many prayers, holy Masses, and penances did he offer to the Lord on their behalf; and he was greatly rejoiced, whenever he was able to assist in their liberation. Some of these captives had known the holy Abbot before their captivity, and had seen or heard of his miracles; others became acquainted with him through what the former told them. All these captives had great confidence in his intercession with God, and invoked him, although he was still alive and far away, to redeem them from their captivity. Others represented to the Almighty the services of this His faithful servant, and prayed humbly to be released by his merits. After such prayers, though the captives were ever so closely watched, and far from him, they were freed by divine power, and without knowing how it came to pass, they found themselves before the gates of the monastery of Silos. Almost daily some of them were seen to joyfully cast themselves at the feet of the Saint, giving thanks to God and to him for their liberty, and hanging the chains, with which they had been bound, in the church, as an eternal remembrance of the miracle. The walls of the church were entirely covered, even in the lifetime of the Saint, with these tokens. After his death, this miracle continued, and many churches and chapels, erected in honor of the Saint, were adorned with the chains of captives who had invoked him. One of these is yet to be seen at this day, not far from Loranca de Tajuna. This account may seem incredible; but it is attested by numerous persons who were eye-witnesses of the miraculous occurrences. The Almighty desired to make His faithful servant glorious in a special and unusual manner. The hour of his death was revealed to him long before it came. The Saint prepared himself for this supreme moment with great fervor, exhorted those under him to constancy in virtue, foretold many future events, and calmly expired, in the year of our Lord 1073. In his last sickness, he held the crucifix, which during life he had always desired to have before him, almost constantly in his hands, and while devoutly embracing it, he fell asleep in the Lord. It is noteworthy that the mother of another Saint Dominic, who was to be the founder of the Dominican Order, went to the tomb of our Saint, before the birth of her child, to implore his protection The holy Abbot appeared to her. and assured her that his prayer would be granted. In gratitude for this favor, she called her son Dominic, a name which, in later years, gave such splendor to the whole church of Christ

Practical Considerations

• Saint Dominic offered to the Almighty many prayers, masses and penances for the deliverance of captives, on account of the danger they were in of abandoning the Christian faith and thus losing their salvation. Many are prisoners in our days, most of whom, no doubt, deserve to be imprisoned on account of their crimes; but experience also shows that many are innocent. Their sufferings are very great; and woe to those by whose fault they have been made unhappy. The evil one tempts prisoners sometimes most violently in order to cause them to murmur against God, or to bring them to despair. If you can assist such poor people with alms, or in any other manner, do not neglect it. Think that it is a work of charity which Christ accepts as if it were done to Him. If you can do nothing else, pray for them that God may bestow upon them the grace to bear their imprisonment with Christian patience. “Remember those that are in bonds as if you were bound with them;” says Saint Paul. (Hebrews 13) He praises also the Christians for having followed his admonition: “For you had compassion on them that were in bonds.” (Hebrews 10)

• Saint Dominic, during his last sickness, held the crucifix almost constantly in his hands, and while embracing it most devoutly, he calmly expired. He knew that Christ alone can aid the dying. Have you, my reader, ever meditated upon the last moments of life? “My kinsmen have forsaken me, and they that knew me have forgotten me,” says Job. (Job 19) The dearest friends leave him who is dying. But should they stand in crowds around the bed, they would be more a burden than a comfort to him. They cannot relieve his sufferings, nor for one moment keep death away. Not one of them goes with the departing soul to the judgment-seat of the Most High. No one can speak for him, no one can help him. Those for whose sake he perhaps frequently offended the Almighty, remain and say silently, what the Pharisees said to the traitor Judas: “What is that to us? look you to it.” (Matthew 27) And yet there is no time when man needs more help, than in the time of sickness and of death. If you therefore desire to act sensibly, seek in time a friend who will not leave you, who can and will help you. This friend is Christ, who was crucified, your Saviour, your Redeemer. “Choose Him as a friend before all,” admonishes Saint Augustine, “who alone will remain faithful to you on the day of your death. He will not leave you when all others forsake you.” Gain His friendship now and endeavor to retain it. For no one’s sake ever offend Him, who alone can assist you in your last hour. Do not forsake Him now, by committing sin, by whom you will not be forsaken in death; otherwise what is written will become true of you: “You have left me and I have left you.” (Paralip. Chapt. 12) Take now the crucifix in your hands and say trustingly with David: “Thou art my God! depart not from me: for tribulation is very near; for there is none to help me but Thou!” (Psalm 21)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Dominic of Silos, Abbot and Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 17 November 2018. <>